Political MoJo

Copyright? Right, Right, Viacom and Google Are Both Bullies

| Thu Mar. 15, 2007 6:55 PM EDT

We won't bore you with another news article about Viacom lunging at Google's YouTube jugular. But there's oh so much more to learn about these finicky media giants beyond copyright squabbles.

Dollars may be at issue with this lawsuit but its content that's the real battleground. With each merger or media consolidation and with each ownership change, content is owned and determined by fewer, wealthier folks. News organizations are dealing with content wars in all kinds of ways, such as buying out older employees and investing more in online and niche operations. Eric Klinenberg offers, another take on the media melee, arguing that the hunt for larger profit margins among traditional media companies, not the Internet and its subversion of original content, is what is in fact killing the news. And for well over 25 years Viacom has been trying smash the little guys with media mergers.

What do DreamWorks, Infinity Broadcasting, King World, BET, Blockbuster, Paramount, Showtime, UPN, and VH1 all have in common? They are all part of the Viacom/CBS media machine. Google, too, is not exactly an innocent bystander in the media intimidation game. The gobbler in many a merger, the fledgling giant runs fast and loose with that little thing called privacy. So we'll see how things play out with this lawsuit, but truth be told they might just end up being one company someday, all owned by Time Warner maybe?

For a doomsday scenario for media in general check out the Museum of Media History's mockumentary EPIC 2012 that predicts the final collapse of the Fourth Estate.

--Gary Moskowitz

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Obama's Poor Showing on the Gay Immorality Question

| Thu Mar. 15, 2007 5:34 PM EDT

This morning, I wrote about Hillary Clinton's refusal to give a straight answer to a question about whether she agreed Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who got in hot water for saying homosexuality is immoral. Instead of saying, "No, I don't agree with General Pace. I am a long time supporter of gay rights," Clinton said, "I'm going to leave that to others to conclude." Realizing the insanity of the situation, Clinton's campaign later released a statement saying that Clinton does not agree with the General.

Looks like Obama did the same thing, at least sort of. A Newsday reporter caught Obama as he was leaving Capitol Hill and asked him if he agreed with Pace. Obama said, "I think traditionally the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman has restricted his public comments to military matters. That's probably a good tradition to follow." When asked for a straight answer, the senator from Illinois, in an attempt to reframe the question as one about "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," said, "I think the question here is whether somebody is willing to sacrifice for their country."

Actually, the question is, "Do you think homosexuality is immoral?" And the answer is "Of course not." Recognizing that, the Obama campaign did like the Clinton one and released a statement later in the day saying Obama disagrees with Pace.

I truly look forward to a time a generation from now when America will have politicians who will face questions like the ones Obama and Clinton faced today, and say, "Don't be ridiculous." I know homophobia won't be stamped out, but at least being a homophobe won't be acceptable publicly and even desirable (!) politically.

Emergency Contraception, Is It Just Around Your Corner?

| Thu Mar. 15, 2007 2:01 PM EDT

I love Feministing for finds like this. They call it "Head-banging emergency contraception." Ha. It's a Planned Parenthood commercial for ec.

More on the KSM Confessions

| Thu Mar. 15, 2007 1:17 PM EDT

In addition to Jonathan's post below, there are other reasons to think something is fishy with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's confessions. Kyle Hence at the 9/11 Citizens Watch puts it this way: "For a number of reasons I am just not buying this so-called confession by KSM. Why can't we hear the audio of the so-called confessions? And why is it no one in the media or general public, not a single person, has a seen but two photos of this man and not a single clip of video? Think about it. It's been three years since his capture and we have only two photos of the man whose story was at the core of the 9/11 Commission Report. Why are there no cameras, even military ones, in the tribunal courtroom? Were there no photographers, even military photographers, on the flight that transferred him to Guantanamo? What national security concerns could possibly nix cameras or digital audio recorders from documenting the professed 'mastermind' of the worst terrorist attack in history?"

Readers: Any idea what's going on here?

KSM Admits to Planning 9/11 and Every Terrorist Act Ever: Should We Be Suspicious?

| Thu Mar. 15, 2007 11:37 AM EDT

So it looks like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the al Qaeda No. 3 long-reputed to be the mastermind behind 9/11, was a worse dude than anyone thought. Last night, the Pentagon released a 26-page transcript of a closed hearing in which KSM (as he's called) admitted to planning or executing 31 terrorist acts, some successful and some unsuccessful. I think it's safe to assume he's sealed his death sentence.

From the AP, snippets of things KSM reportedly admitted to:

- The 9/11 attacks.

- The 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

- The failed Richard Reid shoe bombing.

- The beheading of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

- Attempted assassinations of Pope John Paul II, President Clinton and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.

- The 2002 bombing of a Kenya beach resort.

- The 2002 nightclub bombings in Bali, Indonesia.

- Planned but unexecuted attacks on the Sears Tower, the Empire State Building, the New York Stock Exchange, the Panama Canal, the Big Ben clock tower in London, and Heathrow Airport.

The two questions I have are:

(1) Were these admissions the product of torture? I mean torture in the immediate sense and in the "KSM has been through the black site prison system for three years and has probably been tortured dozens of times, creating a lasting psychological effect that might impair his ability to think, judge, and communicate." If KSM were to be tried in a court of law, would his confessions hold up?

(2) Should we be suspicious of the timing? Who knows when these admissions were actually made. All we do know -- as Josh Marshall points out -- is that their release is timed to knock Alberto Gonzales and the Attorney General flap off the front pages. Remember when Jose Padilla's arrest was announced? John Ashcroft interrupted a trip to Russia to declare that the U.S. had arrested a domestic terrorist and heroically stopped his "dirty bomb" attack. As it turned out, Padilla had been arrested a month before and Ashcroft's announcement was timed to knock a bunch of bad news out of the headlines. And the government could never prove the "dirty bomb" charge.

It's a true shame that even when a really nasty guy is caught and proven guilty, alert citizens have to be suspicious and skeptical of the Administration's behavior. But it poisoned the well from which we all drink.

Brownback Doing Just Fine in the Polls, Thank You Very Much

| Thu Mar. 15, 2007 10:54 AM EDT

In an encouraging sign for right-wing Bible thumpers who want to see the American government run like a Christian theocracy, Kansas Senator Sam Brownback ("God's Senator"!) has done surprisingly well in recent head-to-head polls against Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Sen. Hillary Clinton - 46%
Sen. Sam Brownback - 41%

Sen. Barack Obama - 49%
Sen. Sam Brownback - 34%

I hope we can chalk this up to the fact that most Americans don't know much about Sam Brownback. Like how he refused to sign Newt Gingrich's Contract with America because it wasn't conservative enough. Or how his political idol is Jesse Helms. Or how his wife boasts, "Basically, I live in the kitchen." Or how he once stonewalled a judicial confirmation because the nominee had attended the lesbian commitment ceremony of a longtime neighbor's daughter. Or how he said that abortion has become such a problem in America that youth today "feel they're the survivors of a holocaust." Either Americans are willing to answer poll questions about people they are almost completely ignorant of, or there's some divine intervention going on here.

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Prosecutor Purge: Senate Doesn't Care What Bush Says, Going to Subpoena White House Officials

| Thu Mar. 15, 2007 10:19 AM EDT

Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on whether to authorize subpoenas for top White House officials who have been implicated in the recent firings of eight U.S. Attorneys. Throughout his presidency, Bush has asserted his executive privilege often. If Bush denies requests by the Senate and House to speak with Harriet Miers, Miers' top aide William Kelley and Karl Rove, it could get ugly. From TPMmuckraker's news-culling of today's papers, we see that the senate committee doesn't really care whether the president authorizes the officials to explain themselves or not. Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy said, "Frankly, I don't care whether Fielding (White House counsel who will report the President's decision to Congress) says he's going to allow people or not. We'll subpoena the people we want.... If they want to defy the subpoena, then you get into a stonewall situation I suspect they don't want to have."

Did I mention I love divided government?

Giuliani and Hugo Chavez, Quite the Couple

| Thu Mar. 15, 2007 10:18 AM EDT

Found this hilarious: Rudy Giuliani's law firm is paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to lobby on behalf of Citgo, the Houston-based oil company controlled by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Chavez, as you know, refers to Bush as "the devil," once claimed at the U.N. when speaking a day after George W. Bush that the podium shared by both smelled "of sulfur," and lobbed insults at Bush repeatedly as our beloved presidente traveled South America on his recent tour.

Giuliani's people are claiming that even though the law firm is named Bracewell & Giuliani, Giuliani had nothing to do with the account. Whoops!

Seriously, WTF? Hillary Clinton Waffles on Whether or Not Homosexuality is "Immoral"

| Thu Mar. 15, 2007 9:39 AM EDT

What a pathetic little saga. When ABC News asked Hillary Clinton yesterday if she agreed with General Peter Pace's comment that homosexuality is "immoral," Clinton responded, "Well I'm going to leave that to others to conclude." This despite her long history of supporting the gay community and her previously stated opposition to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

It was either the biggest brain fart of the campaign season to date, or a really, really ugly attempt to tack to the center -- what's a little bigotry in the name of campaign-season moderation? I've always agreed with the sentiment that Clinton is running for the general election, not the primary -- everything she says and does is geared towards making her palatable to the country as a whole, not just the hardcore Dems that vote in primaries. But nonetheless, this is insane.

And the Clinton camp thought so too. So later in the day, the communications folks there released a statement from Clinton saying, "I disagree with what [Pace] said and do not share his view, plain and simple.... It is inappropriate to inject such personal views into this public policy matter, especially at a time in which there are young men and women in such grave circumstances in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and in other dangerous places around the world."

There are rumors that Barack Obama also dodged the question when asked about it yesterday. If so, expect another indignant blog post later in the day.

Mother Jones Nominated for Two National Magazine Awards

| Wed Mar. 14, 2007 10:14 PM EDT

Well, the moment long awaited by a couple hundred magazine editors and virtually unnoticed by the rest of the world has finally arrived! Finalists for the 2007 National Magazine Awards (read: stuff we all printed in 2006) were announced today, and Mother Jones scored two nominations, which is less than the New Yorker, but just as many as Time.

We got the big one, General Excellence! Which is sort of like being nominated for Best Picture. OK, in our circulation size (between 100,00 and 250,000), it's probably more like Best Foreign Feature. But still! Our fellow nominees are: Foreign Policy, Philadelphia Magazine, Salt Water Sportsman, Seed. If we get just a little bigger (hint: subscribe, you webbies) we'd be up against the likes of (this year) The Atlantic, New York, Audubon, Texas Monthly, and Cookie (sadly, not as yummy as it sounded).

Check out the three issues that got us this far here, here, and here.

And we were also nominated for Best Interactive Feature, for our fabulous(ly labor intensive) Lie by Lie: Iraq War Timeline. Learn more about it here.

MoJo last won in 2001, for General Excellence. Last year we were nominated for Public Interest for our ExxonMobil exposé.

A list of the mags that got multiple nominations is after the jump. You can go to the full breakdown here.

Meanwhile, thanks to everyone involved. Staff, former staff, writers, illustrators, photographers, fact-checkers, web designers, subscribers, donors, advertisers, to say nothing of our agents, personal trainers, life coaches, Harvey Weinstein....