Mojo - August 2009

Secrets of the White House, Via Flickr

| Fri Aug. 14, 2009 11:05 AM EDT

I think the White House Flickr feed is a cool idea and staff photographer Pete Souza has taken some great shots since it launched. Sometimes, though, his images can be a little self-consciously tricky for no apparent reason, as Ana Marie Cox and Jason Links have hilariously documented over at The Awl. For instance, this rather arty shot symbolizes...that the cleaning staff does an awesome job of polishing the tables?

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Rove's Lies

| Fri Aug. 14, 2009 9:58 AM EDT

The House Judiciary committee investigation has now confirmed that Karl Rove flat-out lied about his role in the mass firings of US attorneys. Of course, as MoJo bureau chief David Corn reminds us, this is hardly the first time that Rove has been caught in a bald lie and brazened it out with spin and bluster:

During the CIA leak affair, then-White House press secretary Scott McClellan— after speaking to Rove—took the unusual step of publicly declaring that Rove was not tied to the leak that had outed Valerie Plame Wilson as an undercover CIA officer.

But that was not true. ("I had unknowingly passed along false information," McClellan later said, blaming Rove and others for that.) Rove had indeed been part of the leak. He had told Matt Cooper, then of Time, that Valerie Wilson was a CIA employee, and he had confirmed Wilson's CIA connection to Robert Novak, the conservative columnist who published the initial leak about her. And as Mike Isikoff and I detailed in our book Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War, Rove came perilously close to being indicted after failing to tell a grand jury that he had spoken to Cooper about Wilson. Though he ultimately escaped indictment, Rove for years let stand the public lie that he had nothing to do with the Bush administration slipping classified information about Wilson to reporters.

David has more thoughts here on what this means for the media outlets that rely on Rove as a source and commentator.

 

Town Hall Meetings and the Far Right

| Fri Aug. 14, 2009 9:38 AM EDT

It’s one thing to forcefully argue for health care reform, including dramatic changes to Obama’s proposals—and quite another to join in activities that threaten physical harm. It's becoming increasingly clear that some of the tactics and violent rhetoric employed by far-right extremists is now being directed at members of Congress at town hall meetings on health care reform.  Below the jump, a report from the Washington Post on one of these confrontations, with newly minted Democratic Senator Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania:

Need to Read, August 14, 2009

| Fri Aug. 14, 2009 8:00 AM EDT

Must-reads from around the web:

The secret memo behind the White House's drug industry deal?

The women who write Mad Men.

What will Obama do about all those other Gitmos?

How McDonalds beat the recession.

White supremacists say birthers are helping their recruiting drive.

MoJo responds to Fiji Water's response to our cover story investigation.

David Corn, Mother Jones' DC bureau chief, is on twitter, and so are my colleagues Daniel Schulman, Nick Baumann, and our editor, Clara Jeffery. You can follow me here. The magazine's main account is @motherjones.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for August 14, 2009

Fri Aug. 14, 2009 6:59 AM EDT

Soldiers with Battery C, 1st Battalion, 321st Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 18th Fires Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg, N.C., fire 155mm rounds using an M777 Howitzer weapons system, July 6, on Forward Operating Base Bostick, Afghanistan. The Soldiers were registering targets so they will have a more accurate and faster response time when providing fire support. (Photo courtesy army.mil.)

John Edwards To Admit Paternity?

| Thu Aug. 13, 2009 5:08 PM EDT

Well, you could have seen this coming. CBS News and its affliate WRAL News of Raleigh, NC, are reporting that former Senator John Edwards will admit to being the father of a daughter born to his mistress Rielle Hunter. When there's a grand jury involved, no secret will stay secret for long. Details here.

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Obama's Health Insurance Plan Channels...The Heritage Foundation?

| Thu Aug. 13, 2009 3:41 PM EDT

During his New Hampshire town hall meeting on health care reform in mid-August, Obama explained that under his plan, people who lack health insurance would be able to purchase it in a new exchange that offered a similar “menu of options that I used to have as a member of Congress.” Obama said that by creating a big pool of potential customers, the exchange would allow the uninsured and even small businesses to shop around, easily compare various private health care plans and get a better deal than they could on their own.

Most of the health care reform bills circulating in Congress contain some form of this concept. The exchange, in fact, is now the centerpiece of proposed plans drafted mainly by Democrats. It’s a curious development, because the concept was largely popularized by the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank best known in recent years for advocating Social Security privatization during the Bush administration. Its track record ought to make Americans more wary of Obama's proposals than any talk of "socialized medicine."
 

Fiore Cartoon: Health Care Hysteria

Thu Aug. 13, 2009 2:30 PM EDT

Health care reformers pretend they want to make you healthy. Really, they want to sell your organs to China. And slay your grandma. And murder cute puppies.

Watch satirist Mark Fiore take on these and other horrors of health care reform below:

Mother Jones Responds to Fiji Water

| Thu Aug. 13, 2009 1:39 PM EDT

Fiji Water spokesman Rob Six has posted a response to our story at the company’s blog. Writer Anna Lenzer replies:

Six’s key points are the same he and other Fiji executives have repeatedly made, and which are reflected in detail in my story: Donating money for water access projects or kindergartens is laudable, and I discuss Fiji’s charitable projects in Fiji (despite numerous requests, Fiji wouldn’t disclose how much it spends on most of these projects). The piece also makes it clear that Fiji Water accounts for significant economic activity in Fiji, and company executives are quoted to that effect.

Six doesn't address the key questions raised in my Mother Jones story, from the polluting background of Fiji Water’s owners past and present, to the company’s decision to funnel assets through tax havens, to its silence on the human rights abuses of the Fijian government. My piece doesn’t argue that Fiji Water actively props up the regime, but that its silence amounts to acquiescence.

"We cannot and will not speak for the government," Six writes. I didn't ask them to speak for the government, I asked them to comment on it. Though Fiji Water casts itself as a progressive, outspoken company in the US, it has a policy of not discussing Fiji’s regime “unless something really affects us,” as Six was quoted in the story.

The regime clearly benefits from the company's global branding campaign characterizing Fiji as a "paradise" where there is "no word for stress." Fiji's tourism agencies use Fiji Water as props in their promotional campaigns, and the company itself has publicized pictures of President Obama drinking Fiji Water. This is a point repeatedly made by international observers, including a UN official who in a recent commentary (titled "Why Obama should stop drinking Fiji water”) called for sanctions on Fiji, and singled out Fiji Water as the one company with enough leverage to force the junta to budge. Yet the most pointed criticism the company has made of the regime was when it opposed a tax as "draconian;" it has never used language like that to refer to the junta's human rights abuses.

It’s worth remembering that there aren’t very many countries ruled by military juntas today, and Americans prefer not to do business with those that are. We don't import Burma Water or Libya Water.

As to Six’ point that the company didn’t know I was in Fiji: I did contact Fiji Water before my trip, and Six mentioned that the company was "thinking about taking a group of journalists to Fiji"; I didn't follow up about joining such a trip. Despite news reports showing that Fiji wouldn’t cooperate with journalists who went there independently, I chose to do so and visited the factory on a public tour. I had planned to speak to Fiji Water’s local representatives, and to visit the surrounding villages, afterward. But it was at that point that I was arrested by Fijian police, interrogated about my plans to write about Fiji Water, and threatened with imprisonment and rape. After that incident, personnel at the US embassy strongly encouraged me not to visit the villages. I did discuss my trip to the islands with Six after I returned, and had extensive correspondence with him on numerous questions, many of which he has not addressed to this day. Here are some issues Fiji Water could address in public:

- Why won't the company disclose the total amount of money that Fiji Water spends on its charity work? Do its charitable contributions come close to matching the 30 percent corporate tax rate it would be paying had it not been granted a tax holiday in Fiji since 1995? 

- Will Fiji Water owners Lynda and Stewart Resnick, who in the company’s PR materials contrast our tap water supply with the “living water” found in their bottles, disclose the full volume of pesticides that their farming and flower companies use every year? Could limiting those inputs create better water here at home?

- Fiji touts its commitments to lighten its plastic bottle (which is twice as heavy as many competitors’) by 20 percent next year, to offset its carbon emissions by 120 percent, and to restore environmentally sensitive areas in Fiji, but its public statements never acknowledge that these projects are, in many cases, still on the drawing board or in the negotiating stages. Why?

Read Six' post after the jump.

Monika Bauerlein and Clara Jeffery are the Co-Editors of Mother Jones. You can follow them on Twitter here and here.
 

How America Can Win in Afghanistan's Elections

| Thu Aug. 13, 2009 1:20 PM EDT

It's too easy to tune out news about Afghanistan's impending elections. They might be corrupt, they're in the midst of disarray, mm-hm, that sounds about right for that faraway fucked-up place. For a more gorgeous and engaging primer, check out the piece by the talented Mr. Tamim Ansary on The Rumpus. The author of Destiny Disrupted, who recently spoke with Mother Jones about his country and his newest book, makes the case for what's at stake not just for Afghanistan but for America's image there--perhaps a more accessible cause for concern.