Political MoJo

North Korea Launches a Dud

| Wed Jul. 5, 2006 1:41 PM PDT

As the headlines are all telling us today, North Korea test-fired a bunch of missiles this morning. And the country's much-rumored and much-hyped long-range missile was, as far as we know, a dud, plopping into the Sea of Japan with barely a whimper. The rest were short-range missiles that have been tested before and pose no threat to the United States. So Kim Jong-Il isn't the all-powerful adversary with the ability to incinerate Los Angeles and Seattle after all.

A few points to note. Obviously North Korea's done a bad thing here, and no one should be happy about anyone firing missiles anywhere anywhere, but all things considered, this seems to augur well. North Korea has now fumbled away one of its few bargaining chips. And the United States can no longer overinflate the threat of North Korea and still be taken seriously. So perhaps this means the two sides can now go back to the negotiating table and try to work out their differences like grown-ups.

The botched test also lays bare the foolishness of various suggestions a few weeks back that we should launch a "pre-emptive" strike against North Korea, which was always a ridiculous proposition. (As Jim Henley put it, William Perry and Ashton Carter were basically envisioning a country "so crazy it might nuke the United States without provocation but so sane it won't retaliate with provocation ") And finally, Philip Coyle of the Center for Defense Information notes the fact that the U.S. military is, at present, apparently unable to tell whether North Korea fired six or ten missiles or what. That hardly bodes well for missile defense advocates, no? Hard to stop incoming rockets if you can't even figure out how many have been launched…

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Editorial pages toe the administration line on Iraq

| Wed Jul. 5, 2006 1:15 PM PDT

Greg Mitchell, the editor of Editor & Publisher, has a strong column out today noting that one month after pundits and editorialists, following the approved administration line, declared that the situation in Iraq was on the upswing, the death toll continues to mount.

One more thing remains stupefying and typical: the refusal of newspaper editorial pages to protest above a whisper or support any kind of plan for withdrawal (slow, speedy or in-between). When the history of this war is written, this editorial lethargy will receive just as much condemnation as the faulty reporting on WMD before the war, I believe. ...

Newspaper reporters in Iraq have provided honest, probing and tough-minded coverage of the occupation, despite the danger and others restrictions that hinder their work. But editorial writers and pundits back home have displayed only a fraction of the reporters' courage. Instead they offer feeble faith in staying the course. When the Democrats finally forced the first real debate on withdrawal in Congress last month, few newspapers bothered to comment editorially -- one way or the other. In a few months we will have been in Iraq as long as we were in World War II.

Worth a read. Meanwhile David Corn, writing at TomPaine.com, swats down the ridiculous (and self-interested) conservative line that the New York Times has "declared war" on the Bush administration. As if! "Only someone who didn't read the newspapers could believe it has."

Hunt for Bin Laden Called Off

Wed Jul. 5, 2006 12:47 PM PDT

NPR reported reported on July 3 that the CIA has closed its bin Laden-tracking unit and reassigned its members to other posts. Intelligence officials told the New York Times that "the realignment reflects a view that Al Qaeda is no longer as hierarchical as it once was… and a growing concern about Qaeda-inspired groups that have begun carrying out attacks independent of Mr. bin Laden and his top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri." Others said the move reflected changing priorities as the war in Iraq "has stretched the resources" of the CIA and other intelligence agencies.

The war on terror has clearly evolved since the days of "wanted: dead or alive." Bin Laden may be less powerful as an individual, though not everyone agrees on that (writing in Terrorism Focus, a former head of the CIA's bin Laden unit said his two recent speeches "strongly suggest that bin Laden remains in control of al-Qaeda"). But as a nation with over 130,000 troops deployed in Iraq, we are also undoubtedly a lot easier to hit. It's good news that the CIA is evolving to stay on top of threats to Americans' safety—just too bad those threats are so much easier to come by these days.

Ann Coulter, Plagiarist?

Wed Jul. 5, 2006 12:43 PM PDT

Move over, Jayson Blair. The New York Post reported on Sunday that Ann Coulter—whom we already knew to be an egomaniacal loon—apparently also holds distinction as a plagiarizer:

John Barrie, the creator of a leading plagiarism-recognition system, claimed he found at least three instances of what he calls "textbook plagiarism" in the leggy blond pundit's "Godless: the Church of Liberalism" after he ran the book's text through the company's digital iThenticate program.

He also says he discovered verbatim lifts in Coulter's weekly column, which is syndicated to more than 100 newspapers, including the Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Sun-Sentinel and Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle. As it turns out, accusations to this effect have been circulating on the web for at least a year. And it is from one of these online muckrakers that we get this humorous follow-up to the Post's story:

So what happens when a columnist is found using other's words without attribution? I called Universal Press Syndicate, which distributes Coulter's column to over 100 newspapers.

What's the story? I asked Kathie Kerr, the company's media relations chief. Is your company considering any action against Coulter? Will there be any fallout? "I think [Coulter] is the one that needs to address this," Kerr told me at first.

I noted that in other plagiarism cases -- Jayson Blair, for instance -- the response was not left up to the writer. Indeed, in that case the New York Times and its editors bore responsibility for his misdeeds.

"After the investigation is complete and the allegations are proven correct, that's right," she told me.

So is there an investigation into Coulter's writings? "Not that I know of," Kerr replied.Meanwhile, Ann Coulter's own website has posted a link entitled "Mallard Fillmore on Latest Accusation Against Coulter." nfortunately for us, the Fillmore cartoon it leads to is in answer to another "accusation" entirely: namely, that Coulter has "been hogging the New York Times bestseller list for the past several years." That line of attack, at least, we can be pretty sure she wrote herself.

Ken Lay dies...

| Wed Jul. 5, 2006 12:43 PM PDT

..."from what appears to have been a heart attack." (Bloomberg)

enron.jpg

So much for the nest egg...

"God has no pleasure in the legs of a man"

| Wed Jul. 5, 2006 12:40 PM PDT

Via the Center for Media and Democracy, a good Australian piece on the Exclusive Brethren, a religious group that forbids involvement in worldly politics, but has in recent years ventured into electioneering and campaign giving in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States (three guesses at which presidential candidate they liked in '04). It helps that quite a few members of the group are loaded and while historically publicity-shy, have felt more and more comfortable speaking out about their particular beliefs, which among other things proscribe movies, TV, college, and shorts (thus the bit about manly legs). So let's see your nominations for best photo of Bush in Brethren-prohibited attire.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

No helping hand for West Coast commercial fisherman

| Wed Jul. 5, 2006 12:25 PM PDT

First, West Coast fishermen lost 90 percent of their salmon season, which amounts to an estimated $81 million loss. Then lawmakers tried to get federal disaster assistance to help the industry survive. They received $2 million.

At the core of the fishermen's struggle is the protection of Klamath River Chinook salmon, whose numbers have plummeted due to low water flows, unusually warm water, parasites, and dams. Congressman Mike Thompson, (D-St. Helena), has been fighting for disaster assistance for California and Oregon in Congress. He holds the Bush administration is responsible for the loss of fish, and he finds it particularly galling that the government now refuses to declare the situation a disaster, let alone deal with it. Listen to an interview with Mike Thompson.

Duncan MacLean is a salmon troller working out of Half Moon Bay, California. The slashing of his season and disaster relief is threatening his livelihood. Listen to MacLean on his boat 5 miles off the coast collecting his crab gear.

Zeke Grader, Executive Director of Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Association (PCFFA) says the situation for fishermen this year is disastrous and will be continue to be so for years to come if the Klamath River doesn't get fixed. Listen to Zeke Grader here.

(You can read more about the Klamath in Mother Jones' 2003 article "What's a River For?" and about the fishermen's efforts to organize in protest here.

What the confrontation with Iran is really about

| Wed Jul. 5, 2006 11:47 AM PDT

The Bush administration's building conflict with Iran is about nukes, right? Well, yes and no. As Robert Dreyfuss argues in the current issue of Mother Jones, it has more to do with Great Power politics, 21st century style.

The logic of the Bush administration is inexorable. Its ironclad syllogism is this: The United States is and must remain the world's preeminent power, if need be by using its superior military might. One of the two powers with the ability to emerge as a rival—China—depends vitally on the Persian Gulf and Central Asia for its future supply of oil; the other—Russia—is heavily engaged in Iran, Central Asia, and the Caucasus region. Therefore, if the United States can secure a dominant position in the Gulf, it will have an enormous advantage over its potential challengers. Call it zero-sum geopolitics: Their loss is our gain.

Read the full article here.

Lakoff: Dems trapped in "fallacious war frame"

| Mon Jul. 3, 2006 7:33 PM PDT

Writing at the Rockridge Institute's site, George Lakoff finds (not entirely surprisingly) that "[o]ur nation has been held trapped in a fallacious War Frame that serves the interests of the Bush administration and the Republican Party." The frame goes like this.

There is a war against evil that must be fought. Fighting requires courage and bravery. Those fully committed to the cause are brave. Those who "cut and run" are motivated by self-interest; they are only interested in saving their own skins, not in the moral cause. They are cowards. And since those fighting for the cause need all the support they can get, anyone who decides to "cut and run" endangers both the moral cause and the lives of those brave people who are fighting for it. Those who have courage and conviction should stand and fight.

This seems as true as it is obvious. But what to do? Time for a new setup: The Occupation Frame.

Our troops were trained to fight a war, not to occupy a country where they don't know the language and culture; where they lack enough troops, where they face an anti-occupation insurgency by the Iraqis themselves; where most of the population wants them out; where they are being shot at and killed by the very Iraqis they are training; and where the U.S. has given up on reconstruction and can't do much positive good there. ...

The Occupation Frame fits a politically inconvenient truth. Most people don't want to think of our army as an occupation force, but it is. An occupying army can't win anything. The occupation only helps Al Qaeda, which Iraqis don't want in their country since [the conflict] attracts foreigners who have been killing Iraqis.

Okay, fine. Then what? "[C]ertainly Congress and most Americans should be able to agree on 'End the occupation soon.'" Back to square one, no?

Read the full column here.

"...crime-ridden, obsessed with money and led by an incompetent hypocrite."

| Mon Jul. 3, 2006 7:06 PM PDT

Some special relationship. According to a new poll British folks have never had such a low opinion of the leadership of the United States, with only 12 per cent of Britons trusting them "to act wisely on the global stage." (Twice that number had faith in U.S. leadership in 1975, Vietnam notwithstanding.) Reports the Telegraph.

Most Britons see America as a cruel, vulgar, arrogant society, riven by class and racism, crime-ridden, obsessed with money and led by an incompetent hypocrite. ...

More than two-thirds who offered an opinion said America is essentially an imperial power seeking world domination. And 81 percent of those who took a view said President George W Bush hypocritically championed democracy as a cover for the pursuit of American self-interests.

A U.S. embassy spokesman offered this response: "With respect to the poll's assertions about American society, we bear some of the blame for not successfully communicating America's extraordinary dynamism. But frankly, so do you [the British press]."