Mojo - August 2009

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for August 24, 2009

Mon Aug. 24, 2009 6:03 AM EDT

U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Michael Lally, left front, and Col. Dan Hokanson, behind Lally, lead Soldiers down steps of the Ziggurat of Ur during a tour outside Camp Adder, Iraq, July 31, 2009. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Cory Grogan.

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My Lai Massacre Leader Speaks

| Sun Aug. 23, 2009 11:18 AM EDT

Forty-one years after leading his Army unit in the massacre of between 300 to 500 unarmed old men, women, children and babies in the Vietnamese village of My Lai, the former Lieutenant William Calley spoke publicly for the first time about the killings.

"There is not a day that goes by that I do not feel remorse for what happened that day in My Lai," he said. "I feel remorse for the Vietnamese who were killed, for their families, for the American soldiers involved and their families. I am very sorry."

Several years ago, pursuing the project I discussed here recently, I managed to reach Calley on the phone. Brusque, but not rude, he made it clear that there would be no interview. He left open the possibility that that could change. If it did, he’d call.

I didn’t expect he’d ever talk to me or any other journalist, so, I was surprised Friday when I read that he had done an interview of sorts – answering questions at his local Kiwanis club and from the lone reporter invited, last Wednesday.

What are we to make of Calley’s contrition?

Benefit for Emilio Gutiérrez Soto

| Fri Aug. 21, 2009 8:11 PM EDT

Remember Emilio Gutiérrez Soto? He is the Mexican journalist Charles Bowden profiled in "We Bring Fear," the feature story in our July/August drug war issue. The short version is that Emilio was forced to flee the Mexican Army and seek asylum in the U.S., where he was separated from his son and detained by the ICE for 7 months. He literally escaped from the Army by sneaking out the back of a grocery store and hiding out on a friend's farm for 2 days before booking it to the border.

Needless to say, Emilio was unable to bring very much with him and lost nearly all of his possessions. After he was released from the El Paso Processing Center he joined his son in Las Cruces at the home of some kind friends. While he waits for his much-delayed asylum trial he has been unable to sell his home in northern Chihuahua, where the housing market has totally collapsed. To make matters worse he has still not been granted a work permit to legally make money here. This is a talented journalist, a regional bureau chief of the biggest newspaper in Juarez, and he can't even work a menial job to pay for basic necessities like school supplies for his son. He is caught in a limbo between the violence of Mexico and the bureaucratic inhumanity of the U.S.

Molly Molloy, who played a huge part in reporting and translating "We Bring Fear," and other good folks in the Las Cruces community are throwing a fundraising benefit for Emilio tonight. Please think about joining their efforts and sending a check to help alleviate the suffering while Emilio waits for his trial. If you believe in supporting journalism then there is no better way than supporting a journalist in his time of need.

SUGGESTED DONATION: $25

If you cannot attend, but would like to make a donation, please send in care of:
Molly Molloy
New Mexico State University Library
Box 30006 Dept 3475, NMSU
Las Cruces, NM 88003

Steele Goes Postal on Health Care Reform

| Fri Aug. 21, 2009 11:39 AM EDT

Since becoming the chair of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele has not acquired a reputation for the cogency of his arguments. It's hard to pick a favorite from among his many asinine comments, but mine is probably the time he countered Obama's suggestion that empathy is an valuable quality in a federal judge with this sparkling bon mot: "I'll give you empathy. Empathize right on your behind!" (His remark that Perez Hilton is the posterchild of "what an empathetic judge looks like"—he was presumably referring to the beauty pageant judiciary—was also pretty classic.)

But I digress. Today, David Corn takes issue with yet another of Steele's poorly thought-out comparisons—this time, his assertion that government-run health care is "inefficient, limits choices, and hemorrhages taxpayer money like the Post Office." David asks the obvious question: don't most people have an infinitely more positive experience with the Post Office than they do with private insurance companies? 

 

 

Fear in the Heartland

| Fri Aug. 21, 2009 11:20 AM EDT

The health care “debate” has been transformed into a confusing screaming match fueled by wild nativist fears. As Senator Chuck Grassley has found out at town meetings in Iowa, health care really is not the issue that’s on the minds of many. Instead, it’s all about the nation’s economic turmoil: People are hurting, and don’t see the stimulus plan helping them. From there, its a short leap to attacking the Federal Reserve, and what many perceive as a threatening, directionless federal government that is bent on controlling their daily lives.  And Grassley appears to be ready to capitalize on the anger:

Not everyone is coming to the town hall meetings because of health care. It’s kind of the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Grassley said. “They’re seeing the stimulus not working. They’re seeing the Federal Reserve shoving money out of the airplane not working. They’re seeing big increases in the deficit coming. Then they see a trillion-dollar health-care bill, and they think it’s not good for the country.”

These fears remind me of the fears that ran through the Midwest more than 20 years ago, during the 1984 presidential election. Back then Walter Mondale was vainly fighting Ronald Reagan, against a backdrop of farm foreclosures,bank crackdowns, penny auctions, and fight back by rural people in the heartland. Then as now, people showed up in angry knots–not unlike today’s town meetings–at foreclosure s to shout down the auctioneers, trying to save a farm. The gun of choice at that time was the semi-automatic mini 14, which was held by some in the same esteem as the Colt 45 did back in the day. Some turned to the Bible, watched the skies for Soviet bombers, dug themselves into bunkers.

 

Is Blackwater Too Big to Fail?

| Fri Aug. 21, 2009 10:14 AM EDT

Erik Prince's security enterprise has a division for pretty much everything. Need planes or choppers? See Aviation Worldwide or Presidential Airways. A compliment of Colombian mercs? Greystone at your service. For-hire spooks? Total Intelligence Solutions—emphasis on total—is standing by. And for the super-double-secret covert work—the kind that the CIA keeps even Congress in the dark about—Prince has a division for that too. According to the New York Times, it's called Blackwater Select.

Building on its scoop that the company played a role in the CIA's abandoned program to assassinate Al Qaeda operatives, the Times reports today that this secret division also plays a part in the agency's predator drone program.

The division’s operations are carried out at hidden bases in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where the company’s contractors assemble and load Hellfire missiles and 500-pound laser-guided bombs on remotely piloted Predator aircraft, work previously performed by employees of the Central Intelligence Agency. They also provide security at the covert bases, the officials said.

The role of the company in the Predator program highlights the degree to which the C.I.A. now depends on outside contractors to perform some of the agency’s most important assignments. And it illustrates the resilience of Blackwater, now known as Xe (pronounced Zee) Services, though most people in and outside the company still refer to it as Blackwater. It has grown through government work, even as it attracted criticism and allegations of brutality in Iraq.

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We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for August 21, 2009

Fri Aug. 21, 2009 6:00 AM EDT

Unserviceable captured enemy weapons delivered by Marines with Engineer Ordnance Maintenance Platoon, Maintenance Company, 2nd Supply Battalion Reinforced, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward) to the Taji National Maintenance Depot aboard Camp Taji, Iraq, lay in a pile waiting to be destroyed, July 28, 2009. The depot is responsible for destroying unserviceable weapons and turning over serviceable weapons to the Iraqi government to support the Iraqi Army. (U.S. Marine Corps photograph by Cpl. M. M. Bravo)

Need To Read, August 21, 2009

| Fri Aug. 21, 2009 3:00 AM EDT

Must-reads from around the web:

US General says most of the detainees at Bagram should be released.

About that secret Blackwater assassination program...

Sarah Palin, Facebook queen.

Tom "we don't do politics" Ridge admits he was pressured to raise the DHS color-coded alert in advance of the 2004 election. 

Health care town halls and the LaRouchies.

More fun with interactive maps: this one plots stimulus spending.

Ensign: At least my affair wasn't as bad as Bill Clinton's affair.

Best Twitter feed ever.

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

Fiore Cartoon: Prescription for Rage

Thu Aug. 20, 2009 3:27 PM EDT

Were you born without normal levels of right-wing insanity? Then satirist Mark Fiore has the perfect drug for you: Rage-ex! It's perfect for dealing with the health care debate.

Watch the ad below:

The GOP's Health Care Reform Org Chart

| Thu Aug. 20, 2009 3:22 PM EDT

Yesterday, Republicans annoyed with news reports that Democrats had decided to reform health care without them, released this chart to highlight the new bureaucracy that the Democrats' plan would create. You have to hand it to them. The chart is a pretty good visual of how complex the Democrats' reform plan really is. Health affordability credits? Health insurance exchange trust fund? Huh? You can see the full chart for yourself here (pdf). One notable omission: In perhaps a commendable show of Republican restraint, "death panels" don't seem to have made it on to the chart.