2008 - %3, May

What Do Businesswomen Want? More Shoes, Sez the Wall Street Journal

| Wed May 21, 2008 9:22 PM EDT

Oh, dear. I'm not sure my little lady brain can take it, but the Wall Street Journal has created a new page on its website specifically aimed at women. While thankfully the site isn't designed in a Sex and the City shade of pink, it's full of stereotypically female things like shoes, fashion, dieting, and Bonnie Fuller.

While the page does have a few interesting articles, like one on how the termination of your pregnancy may coincide with the termination of your job, the entire idea of a separate ladies section of the Journal is a bit problematic. Doesn't it sort of imply that the big, bad, serious sections of the newspaper are for the big boys? That women aren't interested in scary, manly topics like quarterly earnings or industry mergers? Channeling Carrie Bradshaw, I couldn't help but wonder: can't you have a vagina and a brain too?

I think the tone of the page answers some of those questions. There's an article on "Putting an End to Mindless Munching," another on "Decolletage at a Work Dinner," and the kicker, "High on Heels: How Shoes Affect the Juggle." The last article is a blog post on how high heels look great at the office, but hurt your feet. This is news? Come on, Rupert, we expect better, even from you.

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Breaking News: Arts Coverage Still Hampered by Racism and Homophobia

| Wed May 21, 2008 9:14 PM EDT

mojo-photo-santorausch.jpgDidn't we have a seminar or something to take care of all that? In politics, things seem to be looking up: An African-American has all but wrapped up the Democratic presidential nomination and the California Supreme Court just decided they wanted in on the gay marriage economic boom. But over on the arts and culture pages, where you'd think people would be a little ahead of the game, homophobia and racism are still rearing their ugly heads, in subtle but egregious ways. At issue: can black singers ever avoid being classified under "hip-hop," and when is it okay to posthumously refer to someone as "gay"?

After the jump: let's just agree, "no" and "never."

Syriana: Newly Announced Israel-Syria Peace Talks Run Against Grain of Washington's Anti-Engagement Policy

| Wed May 21, 2008 4:21 PM EDT

Just a week after President Bush, speaking at Israel's Knesset, likened those who would advocate engagement with "terrorists and radicals" to Nazi appeasers, the governments of Israel and Syria—a close ally of Iran—have announced that official peace talks are underway between their nations, mediated by Turkey. "It is better in this situation to speak rather than to shoot," declared Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert in a statement Wednesday. "This is what the sides agreed."

Noted the Syrian foreign ministry in a similar statement: "Both sides have expressed their desire to conduct the talks in good will and decided to continue dialogue with seriousness to achieve comprehensive peace."

The Bush administration, which was informed of the planned talks by Israel and Turkey, offered reluctant support. "It is our hope that discussions between Israel and Syria will cover all the relevant issues," a State Department official, speaking on background, told Mother Jones. He outlined Washington's outstanding concerns with Syria, including its "support for terrorist groups, facilitation of the passage of foreign fighters into Iraq, and intervention in Lebanon, as well as repression inside Syria. An agreement dealing with these issues would be a true contribution to peace."

While Bush-era Washington has been consumed with ideological debates over whether talking to hostile regimes and militant groups rewards or legitimizes them, a parade of veteran senior Israeli security and diplomatic officials has pushed the case, both in Israel and Washington, that engaging adversaries such as Syria and Hamas could advance their nation's security interests. "The alliance between Syria and Iran is mainly one of convenience," Israel's former foreign ministry director general and Mossad official David Kimche told me in January in a suburban Tel Aviv cafe. "There is no deep connection. And it's worth our while, if we could weaken that link."

Randy Scheunemann Needs to Go Anyway

| Wed May 21, 2008 3:07 PM EDT

randy-scheunemann.jpg Forget the almost comically obvious conflict-of-interest lobbying ties. Randy Scheunemann needs to get the boot from the McCain campaign for much more serious reasons.

Scheunemann served as president of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, a neoconservative front group created in 2002. CLI coordinated with the Bush White House to gin up public support for the Iraq war by buttressing and echoing the administration's various dubious claims about the threat posed by Saddam, and the quickness and ease of a war to remove him.
Part of Scheunemann's work for the CLI was promoting convicted embezzler and WMD fantasist Ahmad Chalabi as the "new Iraqi Ataturk," and Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress as a "government in exile." In a 2003 NewsHour interview, Scheunemann defended Chalabi's "vision" for Iraq, claiming that Chalabi was opposed for "ideological reasons" by the State Department and the CIA, who, it turns out, were precisely correct about Chalabi's untrustworthiness.
Scheunemann also managed to convince John McCain that Chalabi was "a patriot with the interest of Iraq at heart."

That doesn't sound like the guy you want as the No. 1 foreign policy adviser to a presidential candidate. Not a lot of good judgment being shown...

Buh Bye Randy Scheunemann

| Wed May 21, 2008 2:57 PM EDT

This USA Today report has to be grounds for firing under McCain's new lobbying policy.

John McCain's top foreign policy adviser lobbied the Arizona senator's staff on behalf of the republic of Georgia while he was working for the campaign, public records show.
Randy Scheunemann, founder of Orion Strategies, represented the governments of Macedonia, Georgia and Taiwan between 2003 and March 1, according to the firm's filings with the Justice Department. In its latest semiannual report, the firm disclosed that Scheunemann had a phone conversation in November about Georgia with Richard Fontaine, an aide in McCain's Senate office.
Orion Strategies earned $540,000 from its foreign clients over the year ending on Dec. 1, reports show. Scheunemann also received $56,250 last year from March to July from McCain, according to campaign finance records.

The McCain campaign wouldn't answer questions about Scheunemann, except to say that McCain's new lobbying policy, which prohibits any staffer from serving on the McCain campaign while an active lobbyist, is "not retroactive."

Hagel: I Can Haz Vice Presidency?

| Wed May 21, 2008 2:30 PM EDT

Try to be a little more subtle about it, Chuck.

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James Baker: Negotiation Is Not Appeasement

| Wed May 21, 2008 11:23 AM EDT

John McCain has called James Baker, former chief of staff to Reagan and former Secretary of State to George H. W. Bush, "the smartest guy I know."

I wonder how smart McCain thinks these comments from Baker are. Baker said them in October 2006, but they're increasingly relevant today.

By the way, McCain also called Brent Scowcroft, former National Security Adviser to Gerald Ford and H. W. Bush, "the smartest guy I know." Scowcroft recently took apart McCain's Cuba policy.

Carving Black Defiance in Stone

| Wed May 21, 2008 10:27 AM EDT

How ironic that just as the Jeremiah Wright flap is dying down, we find yet another instance of America insisting that its black folk be happy. Or, failing that, demonized and rejected.

The long awaited, hotly fought for Mall memorial to Dr. King has encountered a hitch: the Chinese sculptor commissioned for the project (and didn't that piss Negroes off!) has submitted plans for a statue which is "too confrontational" and makes King look more like "the head of a socialist state than a civil rights leader". King's not smiling (weird, since that's how we all remember him.) so King is Stalin. Please.

You see, folks, as planned, King looks like a judge, intense and determined, when he 'should' be looking all delighted, like most of those who were assassinated for being a harsh critic of a country which abused him and his people. That's why all our renderings of Washington and Jefferson show them playing hopscotch and break dancing to harpsichord music, right?

Murat Kurnaz Details His Plight Before House Subcommittee

| Wed May 21, 2008 10:05 AM EDT

murat-kurnaz250x200.jpgMurat Kurnaz, a young Turkish citizen born and raised in Germany, traveled to Pakistan to learn more about Islam in October 2001, weeks after the September 11 terrorist attacks against the United States. In short order, arrested and held by US forces in Kandahar, and then shipped off to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Bad timing was his only crime. (See here for MoJo's coverage of Kurnaz's plight, based on interviews with German intelligence officials and exclusive documents. See here for a timeline of Kurnaz's Kafkaesque odyssey.)

By 2002, according to documents obtained by his attorneys, both the US and German governments had determined conclusively that Kurnaz was neither a terrorist, nor a terrorist sympathizer or supporter, but American military officials nonetheless refused to release him and instead held him in solitary confinement for five years. For much of that time, he was unaware that anybody in his family knew where he was or if he was alive. And for the entire stretch he was subjected to torture.

In his account before the House Foreign Affairs' Oversight Subcommittee on Tuesday, Kurnaz detailed a technique visited upon him in Kandahar called "water treatment"—a perverse twist on a more widely known technique called waterboarding—wherein the victim's head is forced into a bucket of water while he's punched repeatedly in the stomach, causing him to inhale water.

Obama in Iowa: On His Way, But Not Without Hurdles

| Wed May 21, 2008 12:41 AM EDT

barack-obama-indianapolis-250x200.jpgReflect for a moment on how serendipitous it is that Barack Obama is where he is today. As a 46-year-old half-black presidential candidate who was a newcomer to Washington and a believer in transparency and government reform, Obama's only natural message was one of change. He and his advisers decided not to modulate or moderate that message: every sign at every stop had a single word in bold type: "Change." The full sentence may have been "Change you can believe in," but there was one key word that was branded on everything the campaign said, did, and produced.

And wouldn't you know it, after eight years of disastrous leadership abroad, a lack of serious solutions to health care and economic challenges at home, and a thorough politicization and perversion of the federal government, voters were looking for exactly one thing. The same thing Obama was offering.

And now that he's got the primary wrapped up, Obama is smart enough not to change. In what could reasonably be seen as his first speech of the general campaign, Obama used the word "change" over twenty times Tuesday night in Des Moines, Iowa. Instead of fine-tuning his message to appeal to a general election audience, Obama is pulling John McCain and George Bush into his preexisting frame. As Obama tells it, McCain, with his long career in Washington and his willingness to embrace Bush Administration policies on taxes, health care, and the war in Iraq, is part of what the American people are so desperately seeking change from. The political gods would have a hard time deliberately crafting a political climate better suited to Obama's unique persona and message.

And so in the state where his unlikely but strangely inevitable presidential campaign began, Barack Obama moved to the next phase. He had kind words for Senator Clinton, calling her "one of the most formidable candidates to ever run for this office" and a woman who "has shattered myths and broken barriers and changed the America in which my daughters and yours will come of age." He congratulated her on her victory in Kentucky but he made it clear that the time for a transition had come. He reminisced about the wintertime Iowa caucuses that legitimized him as a candidate and said, "tonight in the fullness of spring… we have returned to Iowa with a majority of delegates elected by the American people, and you have put us within reach of the Democratic nomination for President of the United States."

John McCain was not treated as well as Senator Clinton.