Political MoJo

Powell Joins Gen. Abizaid in Shooting Down the "Send More Troops" Plan

Colin Powell said on "Face the Nation" today that he believes the U.S. is losing in Iraq, and that sending...

| Sun Dec. 17, 2006 6:53 PM EST

Colin Powell said on "Face the Nation" today that he believes the U.S. is losing in Iraq, and that sending additional troops won't really bring peace to the country or help suppress sectarian violence. He added, "There really are no additional troops" to send, and that the United States Army is "about broken."

So now Powell and Centcom commander Gen. John Abizaid have both shot down the McCain (and Lieberman) proposal to send 20,000-30,000 more troops to Iraq, an idea supported by fewer than one in ten Americans. However, just today an anonymous administration official told the BBC that such an increase is likely. Hold onto your hats, America. George Bush isn't done with us yet.

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NYT Says "Military Taking a Tougher Line (Than What!?) With Detainees": Or the 2016 PBS Documentary on Guantanamo

Someday, not too many years from now, when Ric or Ken Burns or their successors makes the definitive elegiac 20-hour...

| Sat Dec. 16, 2006 7:32 PM EST

Someday, not too many years from now, when Ric or Ken Burns or their successors makes the definitive elegiac 20-hour documentary of the Iraq war and the irreparable harm it did to our country's image and vision of itself I predict the following chapter:

Title Card: "Why Am I in Cuba?" Cue PBS/American Experience Dolorous Male Narrator (hereafter: PBSAEDMN) who will, as "Josephine's Waltz" or some other Irish/Appalachian fiddle lament (hey, maybe the Dixie Chicks) plays in the background, and the camera pans over photos like this and this and this, recount how America, a country founded on the principal of human rights and due process and freedom from tyranny, descended into a pit of barbarity, best exemplified by our treatment of prisoners unlawfully held at Guantanamo Bay.

The PBSAEDMN will explain—along with a gray-haired Michael Beschloss and perhaps an apologetic Peter Beinart or Fareed Zakaria and a still aghast Frank Rich—how the impulse that led to their detentions, their treatment, their lack of legal recourse was perhaps understandable, given how traumatized the nation was after 9/11. The Iraq War; the rush to judgment against Jose Padilla, John Walker Lind, and dozens more U.S. citizens; the enemy combatant limbo imposed upon foreign nationals; the warrantless wiretapping and other corrosions of civil liberties—all these things were supported by good people, smart people, people who went to Harvard.

But then, the PBSAEDMN will explain, the truth about Guantanamo was slowly revealed. The underage prisoners. The chicken farmers sent there because of a bureaucratic mistake or tribal infighting. The torture. The desecration of the Koran. The female guards pretending to smear prisoners with menstrual blood. The rampant depression, psychic breaks, hunger strikes, and suicide attempts—successful and otherwise. The fact that hundreds of prisoners were found to have been misidentified or of "no threat" to the United States (which is to say: innocent).

As the utter miscarriage of justice that was Guantanamo became apparent to the American people and the rest of the world (which was fairly convinced all along) gradually, the PBSAEDMN and various talking heads will explain, the military began to loosen up. Prisoners were divided into population groups depending on their perceived risk and behavior, and scores of non-violent, non-threatening chicken farmers and pencil sellers and taxi drivers and stand-up comedians were quietly released. It seemed, for a while, that some small measure of sanity was creeping into our Guantanamo policy.

But then, in mid December, came news, via the New York Times, that new Gitmo commander Rear Admiral Harry B. Harris—the man who in June told Nightline that, despite all evidence to the contrary, "I believe truly that I am holding no innocent men in Guantanamo" and called the simultaneous suicides of three inmates to be "an act of asymmetric warfare"—had decided that the real problem at Gitmo was that the prisoners had it too easy.

Cue voiceover representing the New York Times:

Security procedures have been tightened. Group activities have been scaled back. With the retrofitting of Camp 6 and the near-emptying of another showcase camp for compliant prisoners, military officials said about three-fourths of the detainees would eventually be held in maximum-security cells. That is a stark departure from earlier plans to hold a similar number in medium-security units.
Officials said the shift reflected the military's analysis — after a series of hunger strikes, a riot last May and three suicides by detainees in June — that earlier efforts to ease restrictions on the detainees had gone too far.
The commander of the Guantanamo task force, Rear Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., said the tougher approach also reflected the changing nature of the prison population, and his conviction that all of those now held here are dangerous men. "They're all terrorists; they're all enemy combatants," Admiral Harris said in an interview. He added, "I don't think there is such a thing as a medium-security terrorist."

Cue PBSAEDMN, who will note that Harris felt confident in asserting that now everyone in Gitmo is a terrorist because "the last of 38 men whom the military had classified since early 2005 as 'no longer enemy combatants,' had just been released."

But, the PBSAEDMN will dryly note, another "100 others who had been cleared by the military for transfer or release remained here while the State Department tried to arrange their repatriation."

(Fiddle swells…)

"A few days after Harris made his statement," the PBSAEDM concludes, "another 15 detainees were sent home to Saudi Arabia, where they were promptly returned to their families."

(Fade to black.)

Democratic Primary 2008: Edwards In, Bayh Out

News has leaked from the John Edwards ur-campaign that the former North Carolina senator and vice presidential candidate will launch...

| Sat Dec. 16, 2006 4:01 PM EST

News has leaked from the John Edwards ur-campaign that the former North Carolina senator and vice presidential candidate will launch a run for president later this month. Edwards, Clinton, and Obama will likely outclass the other contendors for the Democratic nomination, including Al Sharpton, Dennis Kucinich, Tom Vilsack, Joe Biden, Bill Richardson, and others. (And don't forget the ghosts of elections past, Al Gore and John Kerry, who haven't put an end to speculation that they may be running.) To watch John Edwards talk about labor and the economics of the middle class, see this video from Hardball. He's a charming bugger, that Edwards.

One man who won't be running is Indiana Senator and former Indiana Governor Evan Bayh, who people have been discussing as a potential presidential candidate for years. Bayh didn't use the old "more time with family" line when announcing his non-run. He was actually quite forthcoming about the reason: he just couldn't win.

"And whether there were too many Goliaths or whether I'm just not the right David, ... the odds were longer than I felt I could responsibly pursue," Bayh's statement continued. "This path -- and these long odds -- would have required me to be essentially absent from the Senate for the next year instead of working to help the people of my state and the nation."

Bayh has spent a lot of time in Iowa and New Hampshire over the last year or so, which makes this decision to drop out at this point a little curious. Best wishes for continued success in the Senate, Mr. Bayh.

Pink Elephant, In Utero

This ultrasound from the journal Nature captures an 165-pound elephant fetus, already decked out with footpads, a trunk, and fur....

| Fri Dec. 15, 2006 9:18 PM EST

This ultrasound from the journal Nature captures an 165-pound elephant fetus, already decked out with footpads, a trunk, and fur. Due in about three months, it has been gestating for almost 19 months and kicking for probably 14. How did scientists get close enough to get a good image?

Ultrasonographers donned shoulder-length gloves and gave the pregnant mother an enema before inserting an ultrasound probe up the length of her rectum.

Not so cute. But still, the image is breathtaking. Check out that serpentine umbilical chord and the wiry elephant fur. Click on the image to see it up close.

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-- April Rabkin

The End of Lethal Injection?

Florida death row inmate Angel Nieves Diaz was pronounced dead at 6:36 pm on Wednesday evening ? 34 minutes after...

| Fri Dec. 15, 2006 9:17 PM EST

Florida death row inmate Angel Nieves Diaz was pronounced dead at 6:36 pm on Wednesday evening — 34 minutes after the first needle carrying the standard lethal injection chemicals designed to kill him was inserted into his arm. The procedure took twice as long as usual and required a rare double dose of the toxic cocktail. The needles, which were supposed to be inserted directly into Diaz's veins, tore through his veins and went into the inner tissue of his arms. One reporter who witnessed the execution observed Diaz shuddering, licking his lips, blowing, and grimacing as he lay strapped onto the gurney. In the end, his lifeless body was marred with two grisly reminders of the ordeal — 12 and 11 inch burns on his arms.

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Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who has overseen over 20 executions while presiding over the state that ranks fifth highest in number of people killed, responded to Diaz's bungled execution by calling for a moratorium on all executions in Florida until a commission is able to report its findings on March 1. And it's about time. This isn't the first botched execution in Florida's history — two inmates' heads caught fire while being put to death in the electric chair in the 1990's. It also isn't the first time that an execution has lasted longer than it should. It took Crips founder-turned-Nobel Peace Prize nominee Tookie Williams 36 minutes to die in December of 2005. You can learn more about his execution, and the vigils and demonstrations that accompanied it, here.

Jeb Bush's decision is just one of the recent developments in the debate over lethal injection, which intensified in February when the execution of California inmate Michael Morales was put on hold pending further investigation into whether the condemned suffer unconstitutionally painful deaths. Also today, in a move that is arguably more monumental than Florida's moratorium, U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel ruled in the Morales case that California's method of lethal injection is unconstitutional because it classifies as cruel and unusual punishment.

So is this the end of lethal injection in the United States? Ty Alper, visiting professor at UC Berkeley Boalt Law School's death penalty clinic, called today's events "indications of the further scrutiny that lethal injection is getting nationwide." He said, "No longer can we continue to pretend that lethal injection is painless and humane. In fact, to the contrary, it now appears that we have been torturing at least some inmates as we put them to death. At this point, we can hope that officials in both states will take these events seriously and either come up with a way to execute people humanely or abandon the enterprise altogether."

History lesson: Lethal injection was first adopted by the state of Oklahoma after local legislator Bill Wiseman introduced it as an alternative to electrocution. Thirty-seven of the 38 death-penalty states now use it as their main method of execution. Courtesy of Mother Jones, you can read or listen to why Bill Wiseman regrets promoting lethal injection and is now an Episcopal priest who advocates against the death penalty.

-- Celia Perry

Earth Hour

At 7:30pm on March 31, 2007, the lights of Sydney will go dark for one hour. It's the brain child...

| Fri Dec. 15, 2006 9:12 PM EST

At 7:30pm on March 31, 2007, the lights of Sydney will go dark for one hour. It's the brain child of Sarah Bishop, 22, who wants Australians to think about global warming, and to look at the stars:

I am 22 years old. These statistics [about climate change] represent my future.

Can we get that going elsewhere on the same night, same time? Think of it as casting a ballot in the first global election.

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Military's Map-Making Supremacy Remains Unchallenged

Buried in a very good story about sectarian violence and the breakdown of civil society in Baghdad, the London Times...

| Fri Dec. 15, 2006 7:03 PM EST

Buried in a very good story about sectarian violence and the breakdown of civil society in Baghdad, the London Times scored itself a little scoop. It publishes a (really cool) U.S. military map deconstructing Baghdad by ethnic neighborhoods and degree of danger.

The US military has drawn up a new map of Baghdad to reflect its ethno-sectarian fault lines. Published here for the first time, it lists the mixed neighbourhoods considered to be most explosive. Four of the five are on the western bank of the Tigris, called Karkh, where mixed neighbourhoods are still prevalent. Predominently Shia Kadhamiya and the largely Sunni areas of Qadisiya, Amariya and Ghazaliya have become the deadliest battlegrounds, according to US forces.

Also interesting is that part of the Green Zone seems to be under Sunni control.

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Larger version here. H/T Kevin Drum.

MoJo: It's Elementary

A San Francisco area elementary school recently had its fourth grade class do a project on Mother Jones -- both...

| Fri Dec. 15, 2006 6:17 PM EST

A San Francisco area elementary school recently had its fourth grade class do a project on Mother Jones -- both the early 20th century labor leader and our little rag. See below for what really ought to be MoJoBlog's Christmas-Diwali-Kwanzaa-Hanukkah card. From us (and our adorable friends) to you: happy holidays.

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PS - You can read the issue on display here (November/December 2006) online.

Apple's Rotten Environmental Record

Apple, though beloved by progressives, hipsters, and their favorite rockers (John Mayer in October's Esquire said, "it's got us by...

| Fri Dec. 15, 2006 6:05 PM EST

Apple, though beloved by progressives, hipsters, and their favorite rockers (John Mayer in October's Esquire said, "it's got us by the balls."), is nonetheless looking a little bit brown these days, like a Granny Smith or Delicio, sliced, and left on the kitchen table too long. The company's dirty little secret, known to enviros and few consumers, is that it's way behind the curve in the race to build a personal computer that doesn't make people sick, especially when recycled, as is the tendency these days, by kids rummaging through e-waste dumps in Asia and Africa.

To highlight the gap between the San Francisco-area company's squeaky clean image and dirty electrical components (which include substances being phased out by rivals such as Dell), the folks at Greenpeace bathed Apple's Fifth Avenue store in New York in a green spotlight yesterday, sending the light refracting through store's slick glass façade. A press release called the display, "a symbol of the 'green' Apple that is needed this holiday season."

Compelling Apple to go green, whether it wants to or not, are new environmental rules passed by the European Union this week (see the post below). Still, Greenpeace deserves props for shining a spotlight on unsavory practices that Apple would just assume hide under its crisp white casings.

Given Chance to Make History, New Jersey Punts

Well, knock me over with a feather! Faced with a high court mandate to create either civil unions or gay...

| Fri Dec. 15, 2006 4:07 PM EST

Well, knock me over with a feather! Faced with a high court mandate to create either civil unions or gay marriage, New Jersey legislators opted yesterday for civil unions. Civil unions in New Jersey will now reap all of the benefits of marriage except the name.

Can you sense my surprise emanating from your screen?

There are only a few noteworthy things to say about yesterday's developments.

First, a few Republicans were bold enough to vote against the measure even though the court ruling demanded it.

Second, Senator Loretta Weinberg (D), who sponsored the civil unions bill, implied that the court had not left marriage-rights advocates enough time to take the more difficult route. Weinberg and Wilfredo Caraballo (D), who introduced the measure in the Assembly, emphasized that the law leaves room for same-sex couples to earn the right to marry down the road. Republicans tried unsuccessfully to preclude that possibility by proposing an amendment defining marriage as the union between a man and a woman.

Finally, gay rights advocates aren't having it, and are planning to protest the enactment of the law.

New Jersey will become the third state in the union—with Vermont and Connecticut—to recognize civil unions with all of the privileges (but none of the gravitas) of marriage. Only Massachusetts allows gay marriage. (See my posts here and here to see how hoppin' mad the state's homophobes are.)