Mojo - September 2009

Podcast: Kevin and David on 9/11, Health Care, and the GOP

| Fri Sep. 11, 2009 11:44 PM EDT

For more free Mother Jones podcasts, subscribe here, or in our iTunes store.

If you're not yet a subscriber to MoJo's Kevin Drum and David Corn political week-in-review podcasts, the one below might change that. This week: Kevin and David bat around Obama's speech timing, Joe Wilson, and the weirdest thing about Twitter. Plus: David doesn't really like to talk about the truthers, which makes his latest take on Van Jones and 9/11 conspiracies all the more interesting. And is that a dog in the background chez Kevin? Give a listen: Kevin and David's 9/11 Week-in-Review podcast.

Laura McClure hosts weekly podcasts and is a writer and editor for Mother Jones. Read her recent investigative feature on lifehacking gurus here.

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Why I Was So Wrong on September 11th

| Fri Sep. 11, 2009 3:56 PM EDT

On September 11, 2001, a fellow New Yorker and friend of mine, a public health historian who knew instantly what the dangers were, bicycled directly into the smoke, ash, and chemicals that hung over lower Manhattan searching for his daughter whose school was only blocks away from the collapsed buildings. She was, it turned out, “safe” in that same pall of dangerous smoke. She had been evacuated to the street with her class in time to see people leaping or falling to their deaths from the upper floors of one of the crippled towers. You probably couldn’t live in New York City that day and not be connected, however indirectly, to someone who died. In my case, it was the father of a classmate of my son’s, a photographer, who also advanced into the chaos near one of the towers, leaving behind an eerie, moving trail of photographs.

As for myself, I was on my bedroom floor that morning most undramatically exercising when my wife called to tell me that something was happening. By then, TV cameras were already focused on the first punctured tower and, remembering tales of the B-25 that had hit the Empire State Building in 1945, I assumed I was watching a horrifying accident. Another friend, a rare North American who remembered the first 9/11 -- that day in 1973 when Salvador Allende, the Chilean president, was overthrown and murdered in a U.S.-backed military coup -- thought it might be Chilean payback.

Was An Anti-Abortion Protestor Gunned Down For His Beliefs?

| Fri Sep. 11, 2009 3:24 PM EDT

A 63-year-old anti-abortion protestor named James Pouillon was shot to death this morning outside a high school in Owosso, a small Michigan town not far from Flint. According to news reports, Pouillon—who was carrying graphic photos of aborted fetusus—died after being struck by multiple shots fired from a moving pick-up truck. Already, some pro-lifers have dubbed him a martyr, and Concerned Women for America wants Attorney General Eric Holder to acknowledge Pouillon's death as he did the murder of abortion doctor George Tiller earlier this year. Details are still murky, but local authorities are saying that the alleged shooter was indeed motivated by Pouillon's pro-life protests.

 

Gingrich Hearts Porn Company

| Fri Sep. 11, 2009 2:46 PM EDT

The Washington City Paper reports that the PAC of former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich recently offered an "entrepreneur of the year" award to Allison Vivas, the owner of a California porn company, Pink Visual, whose credits include "Desperately Seeking Cock," "House Wife Bangers," and "Memoirs of a Gusher." CP's Dave McKenna gives the gory details of an apparent fundraising scheme gone awry:

Vivas’ PR representative, Brian S. Gross, is circulating a letter dated Wednesday ostensibly from Joe Gaylord, a consultant working for Gingrich, telling her “Newt’s Business Defense and Adviory [sic] Council” had agreed that she was deserving of the honor in “recognition of the risks you take to ceate [sic] jobs and stimulate the economy.”

“Newt would like to arrange a private dinner with you at the historic Capitol Hill Club on the evening of October 7, 2009 in Washington. You’ll dine privately with Newt at this exclusive venue and he’ll take the occasion to present you with your well deserved award and have your photo taken together.”

Alas, after McKenna's post, American Solutions for Winning the Future, Gingrich's PAC, rescinded the offer.

The 9/11 Questions That Remain

| Fri Sep. 11, 2009 1:53 PM EDT

It’s been five years since the 9/11 Commission released its studious but timid report, and questions still remain. But believing that additional investigation is necessary and vital doesn’t require a subscription to the conspiracy theory about the attacks pushed by the so-called 9/11 Truth movement. In my 2006 book The Five Unanswered Questions About 9/11: What the 9/11 Commission Report Failed to Tell Us, I focused on straightforward, even obvious questions: Why was the airline industry, with its army of well-connected lobbyists, permitted to resist safety regulations that could have saved lives? How did our foreign policy, and "allies" like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, help pave the way for the attacks? Why did a politically driven, Iraq-obsessed administration ignore repeated warnings of the coming danger? Who was in charge as the attacks unfolded?

Some of these questions ought to practically answer themselves. Yet in its 664-page report, the 9/11 Commission managed not to address them—in many cases, by the simple means of not asking them in the first place. The commissioners themselves announced their limited intentions in the report’s opening pages, where they wrote: "Our aim has not been to assign individual blame. Our aim has been to provided the fullest possible accounting of the events surrounding 9/11 and to identify lessons learned." The contradiction inherent in these stated aims is obvious: without blame, there can be no true accountability, and without accountability, there is nothing to ensure that the lessons of 9/11 will be learned.
 

Bloggingheads.tv: Is Obamacare a Secret Scheme for Euthanasia?

| Fri Sep. 11, 2009 11:51 AM EDT

Is Barack Obama's health care plan nothing but an underhanded plot to bring European-style euthanasia to the United States? And have the American people caught on to this nefarious scheme and risen up in protest? That's close to how my Bloggingheads.tv sparring partner James Pinkerton describes what's been going on. Truly. And we discuss—firmly, but courteously—this view of reality in our latest diavlog face-off, as I offer a strong dissent.

Our trigger—so to speak—is Obama's speech to Congress. Jim pans it; I praise it. Which is natural. But then the clash comes, as we explore the opposition to Obama's initiative and whether it's a serious popular uprising in response to a secret plan of social engineering (Pinkerton's view) or the anger of right-wing wackos who would would denounce Obama as a socialist copycat even if he managed to feed thousands of people with one loaf of bread (my view). You can see it all below—and much more, including Pinkerton's frightening encounter with a video camera gone wild:



You can follow David Corn's postings and media appearances via Twitter.

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Is AIPAC Losing Its Mojo?

| Fri Sep. 11, 2009 10:24 AM EDT

Since Barack Obama took office in January, his administration has been plagued by a number of contentious controversies. From the economic stimulus to health care reform, Obama has had trouble maintaining support among liberals and conservatives alike. But the president's most consistent critics have been Jewish moderates and conservatives worried that Obama is more likely to challenge Israel than past presidents have been.

But surging to power with the most impressive following since Ronald Reagan, Obama is well positioned to challenge the Israel Lobby's hard-line stalwart, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). In his latest Mother Jones contribution, "Is AIPAC Still the Chosen One?" Robert Dreyfuss attributes the dwindling power of one of DC's most powerful lobbies to the popular new president and the recent rise of dovish advocacy groups such as J Street and Israel Policy Forum.

"My Name is Betty Ong. I’m Number 3 on Flight 11"

| Fri Sep. 11, 2009 9:48 AM EDT

Take a few minutes to listen to the last phone call of Betty Ong, a flight attendant on American Airlines Flight 11 before it hit the World Trade Center, eight years ago today on September 11, 2001. Ong is calm and matter-of-fact as she describes what was occuring within minutes of the hijacking to skeptical airline personnel on the ground. She was forced to repeat the same basic details again and again: "Ok. Our Number 1 got stabbed. Our purser is stabbed. Nobody knows who stabbed who, and we can’t even get up to business class right now cause nobody can breathe…" She remained on the phone for 23 minutes, calmly relaying information up to seconds before the impact. Just over four minutes of the phone call were replayed at the 9-11 commission hearings. Her last words were "Pray for us. Pray for us."

Obama Dropping "Nation At War" Rhetoric?

| Fri Sep. 11, 2009 9:17 AM EDT

Without talking about it explicitly, President Barack Obama seems to be trying to guide the nation beyond its state of post-9/11 trauma. In the first days of his presidency, I noted that he had cut back—by design—the use of the phrase "war on terror." Now the White House has acknowledged that the Obama administration has purposefully made fewer references to the United States being a "nation at war."

On Thursday, this interesting exchange occurred at the daily White House briefing between a reporter and press secretary Robert Gibbs:

Q: President Bush used to say repeatedly, "America is a nation at war." He did so on 9/11, but other occasions during the year. My impression is that since taking office, President Obama has purposely tried to turn down the heat on the rhetoric.

A: Well, look, I think we've certainly cut down on the use of the phrase, but, again, our focus is on getting the policy right. I don't—I think the President spends part of each of his day in meetings about and thinking about the men and women that we have in Iraq and Afghanistan and that are through— stationed throughout the world to protect our freedom and to address Islamic extremism. And that takes up part of his day and is something that—the sacrifice which he's thankful for and I think all of us are thankful for each and every day. Regardless of how it's phrased, he's mindful of the effort of so many on our behalf.

It was surprising for Gibbs to actually admit that the White House had turned away from using this dramatic rhetoric—it's accurate. The United States is a nation at war twice over. But saying so repeatedly is an exercise in defining the country, and eight years after 9/11, Obama clearly wants to step back from turning "at war" into an essential part of the nation's self-image.

I thought that conservatives who delight in beating war drums would pounce on Gibbs for this remark. And one can easily hear their thunderous argument: Of course, we are a nation at war; why won't Obama and his socialist pals in the White House say so? Yet so far, they don't appear to have zeroed in on this comment.

When Gibbs said this, I thought it demonstrated a certain maturity on the part of the Obama White House. While no citizen should forget that US troops are dying and killing in two countries--and that these wars need to be resolved—is no need to make war a defining characteristic of the United States, not even when the threat from al Qaeda remains, not even on the anniversary of 9/11.

You can follow David Corn's postings and media appearances via Twitter.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for September 11, 2009

Fri Sep. 11, 2009 6:01 AM EDT

People forget what a beautiful morning it was.

Photo by flickr user *Hiro used under a Creative Commons license.