Mojo - August 2007

Senator Larry Craig's Real Problem: A "Wide Stance" While Peeing (Just Saying...)

| Tue Aug. 28, 2007 3:52 AM EDT

Ok, I leave it to the boys to sort out plausibility; I report (what the WaPo's OffBeat blog reported), you decide:

Readers probably remember Florida State Rep. and Idiot of the Year nominee Bob Allen (R), who blamed his alleged bathroom solicitation of an undercover male cop on a fear of black people. Craig's arrest seems a little less idiotic, at least thus far. The 62-year-old was merely accused of playing footsie under the stall door (I haven't a square to spare), and then "brush[ing] his hand beneath the partition between them." Craig contends that it's all a big misunderstanding, explaining to police, "he has a wide stance when going to the bathroom."

Update: Craig has withdrawn from the position of Romney co-chair. Too many jokes in that sentence to pick between them.

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Another Larry Craig Thought (and the Senator's Response)

| Tue Aug. 28, 2007 1:17 AM EDT

I posted my somewhat conflicted thoughts on the Larry Craig (R-Idaho) saga earlier today, but I missed one thing.

I really hope that this experience, and the experiences of the other gay Republicans that have been in the news lately, will show members of the GOP that gay Americans come in different shapes, sizes, and styles. Some are the San Francisco drag queens that they seem to think will invade their schools and make out with their children (the gays of red state nightmares), and some are lonely, old, white men in suits who are driven underground for satisfaction of their sexual desires because the culture that permeates the GOP makes a free and honest expression of their sexuality impossible. Gays, believe it or not, are everyday Americans that are respectable members of red state communities. Every once in a while, they lead them.

I hope the Republican citizens of Idaho look at their senator and say, "We were satisfied with this man's work as our representative in Congress before we knew he is gay. And now that we know, nothing changes." There are "moral values" hidden somewhere in that kind of tolerance, I'm sure of it.

Update: Craig's response is to deny, deny, deny.

Senator Larry Craig (R-Idaho) Busted for Public Sex, Continuing GOP Trend

| Mon Aug. 27, 2007 7:07 PM EDT

Republicans are taking the public sex racket to a national level.

Not content to let Florida State Rep. Bob Allen have all the fun, Senator Larry Craig of Idaho was arrested in a public restroom for propositioning a male undercover police officer. This is somehow all old hat: Craig was arrested in June, plead guilty on August 8, paid a small fee, dodged jail time, and was given a year of probation. Craig's staff dismissed the incident as a simple — love this — "he said/he said misunderstanding."

But wait a minute. Any time a man (or a woman) makes his (or her) name and career by being holier-than-Democrats, the blogosphere has a right to some schadenfreude. So, let's do the hypocrisy first, shall we? Atrios found a 1999 Craig appearance on Meet the Press in which Tim Russert asks Craig about censuring the president, as opposed to impeaching him. Craig's response:

...it's a slap on the wrist. It's a, "Bad boy, Bill Clinton. You're a naughty boy." The American people already know that Bill Clinton is a bad boy, a naughty boy. I'm going to speak out for the citizens of my state, who in the majority think that Bill Clinton is probably even a nasty, bad, naughty boy.

Hmmm... well, you're basically asking for this, Senator Craig.

[Undercover cop Dave] Karsnia entered the bathroom at noon that day and about 13 minutes after taking a seat in a stall, he stated he could see "an older white male with grey hair standing outside my stall."
The man, who lingered in front of the stall for two minutes, was later identified as Craig.
"I could see Craig look through the crack in the door from his position. Craig would look down at his hands, 'fidget' with his fingers, and then look through the crack into my stall again. Craig would repeat this cycle for about two minutes," the report states.
Craig then entered the stall next to Karsnia's and placed his roller bag against the front of the stall door.

Florida Dems Rebuked by DNC

| Mon Aug. 27, 2007 3:26 PM EDT

From McClatchy:

The Democratic National Committee stripped Florida of its national convention delegates on Saturday, rendering the state's Democratic presidential primary officially meaningless and delivering a stern message to states looking to bump up their presidential primaries.

There's small print, of course. Democrats in the Sunshine State have 30 days to settle their differences with the national party before the change takes effect. And state party representatives are now saying they were "steamrolled" by Republicans in the legislature who were dead set on changing the primary date. Despite the DNC's punishment for Florida, Michigan still looks likely to reschedule its primary for Jan. 15. That move could also bring retaliation from national party officials. Will Michigan and Florida back down before their attempts to make their primaries more relevant backfire? The Detroit Free Press' Dawson Bell doesn't think so:

No one knows for sure if the DNC will follow through. It's hard to imagine the Democratic nominee next summer telling the voters of the most critical swing state in the country -- Florida -- that their convention votes don't count.

He has a point there.

— Nick Baumann

New Warning from Turkish Generals

| Mon Aug. 27, 2007 1:40 PM EDT

In anticipation of tomorrow's parliamentary vote in which Turkish lawmakers are expected to elect Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul to the country's presidency, a largely ceremonial position, the Turkish military has again warned that it may oppose the move. The military considers itself the inheritor of Kemal Ataturk's legacy and the protector of Turkey's secular system. Gul is a devout Muslim, whose wife wears a head scarf, a particularly polarizing symbol in Turkish society. Although the foreign minister says he supports Turkey's secular system, few in uniform appear to take him at his word. General Yasar Buyukanit, the chief of the country's armed forces, has warned that "centers of evil" are "trying to corrode the secular nature of the Turkish Republic." He did not name any of these centers of evil, but his meaning was clear enough.

The military issued a similar warning on its website last April during Gul's first run at the presidency. The resulting furor led to early elections in July, which reaffirmed the ruling AK Party's popularity. The party then renominated Gul for the presidency over the military's objections.

There have been four military coups in Turkey since 1960.

Gonzales' Resignation Statement, Clement Acting AG, Chertoff AG Likely Nominee

| Mon Aug. 27, 2007 11:41 AM EDT

CNN:

Embattled U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announced his resignation Monday in a brief statement at the Justice Department.

"Yesterday I met with President Bush and informed him of my decision to conclude my government services as Attorney General of the United States effective September 17."
He did not take questions from reporters.
Bush will likely nominate Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to the position, senior administration officials said.
Chertoff has headed Homeland Security since 2005. He served as a federal appellate court judge, a federal prosecutor and as special counsel for a Senate committee investigating President Clinton's involvement in the Whitewater land development.
Solicitor General Paul Clement will serve as acting attorney general, the White House press office said.
President Bush is expected to make a statement about Gonzales at 11:50 a.m. from his ranch in Crawford, Texas, where he has been vacationing, but will not announce a replacement, two senior administration officials said.

More here and here.

Late Update: Hold off on the Chertoff speculation, CNN's Suzanne Malveaux now told.

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Is the Enemy of Your Enemy Really Your Friend?

| Mon Aug. 27, 2007 10:25 AM EDT

Much has been made (and, come September 15, will be made) of the new U.S. alliance with Sunni tribesmen in Iraq's Anbar province. The fragile union aims to rid the area of al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). And, indeed, the new tactics appear to be working, at least in the short term: Between December 2006 and June 2007 (the most recent month for which numbers are available), insurgent attacks in Anbar province declined by 34 percent. As the Pentagon described in its most recent report to Congress, "In Anbar province, anti-AQI sentiment is widespread, with growing tribal influence as the primary driver of decreasing violence levels."

But, as the new NIE warns, the relative calm in Anbar could be shortlived:

Sunni Arab resistance to AQI has expanded, and neighborhood security groups, occasionally consisting of mixed Shia-Sunni units, have proliferated in the past several months. These trends, combined with increased Coalition operations, have eroded AQI's operational presence and capabilities in some areas... Such initiatives, if not fully exploited by the Iraqi Government, could over time also shift greater power to the regions, undermine efforts to impose central authority, and reinvigorate armed opposition to the Baghdad government.

Did we really need the NIE to tell us that arming Sunni tribesmen carries risk of blowback? More importantly, should we consider the recent gains in Anbar to be anything other than illusory? From Walter Pincus in this morning's Washington Post:

Fourteen months ago, a 300-page Defense Department-sponsored research paper titled "Iraq Tribal Study: Al-Anbar Governorate" was completed and delivered to the Pentagon. That report -- put together by a distinguished group of retired military counterinsurgency specialists and academics, each with Iraq experience -- was circulated in the Army's Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., at the time led by then-Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus, now the top U.S. commander in Iraq. The study proposed changing how the United States interacts with Sunni tribal leaders, eventually contributing to winning their support in fighting al-Qaeda in Iraq forces...
The study summed up how the Sunni tribes viewed the conditions that Washington established in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein. "Throughout the modern history of Iraq, the Sunni tribes have occupied a privileged position in Iraq society and enjoyed wealth, autonomy and political clout," the report said. "To lose those advantages in a system of proportional representation that empowered the Shia, or in a truncated Iraq with a Kurdish autonomous province, would bring shame to a long and prosperous Sunni history."
It also cautioned that the main themes of the U.S. message in Iraq -- "freedom and democracy" -- do not resonate well with the population "because freedom is associated with chaos in Iraq." In addition, the Sunnis "are deathly afraid of being ruled by a Shia government, which they believe will be little more than a puppet of the Shia religious extremists in Iran."
The study identified three tribes in al-Anbar province, all of which initially fought as insurgents against U.S. forces. But more recently, all three tribes -- or "significant parts of them" -- joined the movement against al-Qaeda in Iraq. "This presents a window of opportunity for engagement and influence of the tribes by the coalition," the study stated.
However, the study warned that with two of the tribes, such cooperation "should not be considered as support for, or even acceptance of, coalition activities." Instead, it occurs "for no other purpose but to rid the area of a common enemy, al-Qaeda and its allies." With the third, it cautioned, "the recognized leadership plays both ends of the insurgency, coalition versus the insurgents, against the middle while maintaining a single motive, to force the coalition to leave Iraq."
In short, the study's experts pointed toward what has become a short-term U.S. success, while warning more than a year ago -- as the intelligence community did last week -- that it is all temporary.

NYT: Gonzales Resigns

| Mon Aug. 27, 2007 9:28 AM EDT

Here's the story, filed by the NYT's Steven Lee Myers, dateline, Waco, Texas:

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, whose tenure has been marred by controversy and accusations of perjury before Congress, has resigned. A senior administration official said he would announce the decision later this morning in Washington.
Mr. Gonzales, who had rebuffed calls for his resignation, submitted his to President Bush by telephone on Friday, the official said. His decision was not immediately announced, the official added, until after the president invited him and his wife to lunch at his ranch near here.
Mr. Bush has not yet chosen a replacement but will not leave the position open long, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the Attorney General's resignation had not yet been made public.
Mr. Bush had repeatedly stood by Mr. Gonzales, an old friend and colleague from Texas, even as he faced increasing scrutiny for his leadership of the Justice Department, including his role in the dismissals of nine United States attorneys late last year and questions about whether he testified truthfully about the National Security Agency's surveillance programs.
"We're watching a political exercise," Mr. Bush said at a news conference this month, dismissing accusations that the Attorney General had stonewalled or misled a congressional inquiry. "I mean, this is a man who has testified, he's sent thousands of papers up there. There's no proof of wrong."
Mr. Gonzales's resignation is the latest in a series of high-level departures that has reshaped the end of Mr. Bush's second term. Karl Rove, another of Mr. Bush's close circle of aides from Texas, stepped down two weeks ago.
The official said that the decision was Mr. Gonzales's and that the president accepted it grudgingly. At the same time, the official acknowledged that the turmoil over his tenure as Attorney General had made continuing difficult.
"The unfair treatment that he's been on the receiving end of has been a distraction for the department," the official said.

Earlier this weekend, U.S. News' Paul Bedard reported that DHS chief Michael Chertoff was likely to be nominated as Gonzales' successor.

The AP is reporting that "A senior Justice Department official said that a likely temporary replacement for Gonzales is Solicitor General Paul Clement, who would take over until a permanent replacement is found." (Via ThinkProgress).

Vogue Goes Green!!! (No, Not Really)

| Mon Aug. 27, 2007 12:57 AM EDT

Everybody knows that Green is the new Black, and nowhere is the corporate greenwashing trend more annoyingly exploited than in the pages of various Condé Nast magazines. So, for example, in the current issue of Vogue, amid a fashion shoot where models cloy at various "green" items (mostly CFC bulbs and mockups of wind turbines), is a picture of a giant bales of paper, with the following caption:

WASTE NOT, WANT NOT: It looks good on paper! Family-owned since 1896, Chambers Paper Fibres in Brooklyn sorts ten to fifteen tons of wastepaper an hour. Each recycled ton saves seventeen trees and 7,000 gallons of water.

Did I mention that this came on page 722 of the "840-page biggest issue ever!" of Vogue? So the question that leapt to mind (that is, after I contemplated which poor photo assistant had to construct the giant bales of paper so that the logos of the Times and the WSJ were showing) was: So just how much #$%@ing paper does this 840-page issue of Vogue use anyway?

Ok, so I think Vogue's circulation is around 2 million. And that issue weighed about five pounds. Based on those assumptions and on Conservatrees' calculation that "one ton of uncoated virgin, or non-recycled printing and office paper uses 24 trees" then I see the math as following:

2 million issues x 5lbs per issue= 10,000,000 lbs of paper / 2,000= 5,000 tons of paper x 24 trees = 120,000 trees. And if all these issues of Vogue were recycled at Chambers (and Vogue's fact-checking is kosher) it would take the folks there (assuming eight-hour work days with no lunch) 61 days to recycle Vogue alone.

I will eat one of Anna Wintour's least fashionable shoes if I'm wrong, but the post-consumer content for Vogue is negligible to none. Mother Jones, meanwhile, uses 30% post-consumer recycled fiber (and non-chlorine bleach), which allows us to save 432 trees, 89,564 gallons of water, 216 pounds of solid waste, and 33,393 pounds of greenhouse gases per issue. Now no old-media editor should throw stones, and fashion mags, admittedly, have the greatest incentive to print on virgin paper; advertisers demand it. But if every magazine changed its policies just a little—say 10% post-consumer—it would help change the market. And hey, maybe advertisers should demand it too. Especially those whose products are pimped on the facing page, to wit:

Borrow a look from the boys but in a delicate peach and baby blue with subtle luster. Miu Miu silk waffle-knit V-neck ($760), pant ($965), and leather belt: Miu Miu boutiques. LaCrasia pistachio opera gloves. Hermes leather d'Orsay plaforms.

Later this week: The incredible carbon cost of Vanity Fair's green issue. And, why does Condé Nast poly bag every one of its magazines with Fashion Rocks?

Gonzales Finally On the Way Out?

| Sat Aug. 25, 2007 11:48 PM EDT

U.S. News' Paul Bedard: "The buzz among top Bushies is that beleaguered Attorney General Alberto Gonzales finally plans to depart and will be replaced by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. Why Chertoff? Officials say he's got fans on Capitol Hill, is untouched by the Justice prosecutor scandal, and has more experience than Gonzales did, having served as a federal judge and assistant attorney general."