Will Hillary Clinton Be Taking Those 3:00 am Calls After All?

| Thu Nov. 13, 2008 4:18 PM EST

While Sen. Hillary Clinton has been discussed as a possible contender for various appointments in an Obama administration, her name didn't officially enter the short list of those reportedly under consideration to serve as Obama's secretary of state until today. The Washington Post reports:

There's increasing chatter in political circles that the Obama camp is not overly happy with the usual suspects for Secretary of State these days and that the field may be expanding somewhat beyond Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Gov. Bill Richardson (D-N.M.), Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) and maybe former Democratic senator Sam Nunn of Georgia.
There's talk, indeed, that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) may now be under consideration for the post. Her office referred any questions to the Obama transition; Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor declined to comment.
The pick of the former presidential contender and Senate Armed Services Committee member would go a long way toward healing any remaining divisions within the Democratic Party after the divisive primaries. Also, Clinton has long been known for her work on international women's issues and human rights. The former first lady could also enhance Obama's efforts to restore U.S. standing amongst allies worldwide.

While the appointment might rub some Obama partisans still bitter over the prolonged nomination battle the wrong way, Hillary Clinton would have many advantages for the post. The Clintons are revered and familiar faces abroad, the appointment would please her own partisans, and one of the most coveted cabinet jobs would go to a woman.

It also would solve one possible problem. Senate staffers say if Obama picks Sen. John Kerry to be secretary of state, Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI) would be next in line to become chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and that might cause the new administration something of a problem, as Feingold has voted differently from Obama and Biden on key issues in the committee.

Similarly, if Obama asks Robert Gates to stay on as Secretary of Defense (for a year or more), he might not want to give a second top cabinet post to a Republican, that is, retiring Sen. Chuck Hagel. Every appointment has its repercussions.

And that sometimes makes it hard to figure out what moves are under way. But more to come as we hear it.

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The Christmas Wars MMVIII: Attack of the Atheists

| Thu Nov. 13, 2008 3:52 PM EST

mock_interior.pngSeems like every year Christmas decorations in stores go up earlier. Even the Banana Republic across the street from Mother Jones' offices has installed its celebratory, yet demure, holiday displays well in advance. Appropriately, the "War on Christmas" is also getting an early start this year. Already a pro-atheist group, the American Humanist Association, has launched a literally godless ad campaign that's riling up the pro-Christmas soldiers at Fox News and other conservative outlets. The ads (seen left) are shamelessly posted on 200 secular buses throughout D.C. In addition, the American Humanist Association will post billboards in Lamb's-blood-red Colorado Springs and Denver that say, "Don't believe in God? You are not alone."

The congenial press contact for the campaign, Fred Edwords, says he will appear on CNN and Bill O'Reilly's show tonight. That promises to be interesting since O'Reilly prophesized that a lack of a properly Christian Christmas could lead society to embrace other "...secular progressive programs, like legalization of narcotics, euthanasia, abortion at will, gay marriage, because the objection to those things is religious-based, usually." Instead of leading to gay marriage, O'Reilly would prefer Christmas lead to religious celebrations and the purchase of specialty, fleur-de-lis emblazoned doormats sold on his site which boldly proclaim "We Say Merry Christmas."

Bill O'Reilly isn't the only one worried about Christmas, though. The book publishing world is pinning its hopes not on a Jewish guy in sandals, but on a blonde British woman in pointy boots: J.K. Rowling. Her new book, The Tales of Beedle the Bard, is reportedly the shining hope of what promises to be an otherwise rather gloomy time for Border's. Christmas will also be not-so-fun for folks at Hearst. And Morgan Stanley. And Viacom. Merry Christmas!

Of Mortgages and Macoutes

| Thu Nov. 13, 2008 2:49 PM EST

ConstantResizedGood.jpgIn a surprising twist in the American housing crisis, Judge Abraham Gerges in Kings County, New York, handed down a stiff sentence to Haitian-born Emanuel "Toto" Constant on October 29: 12.3 to 37 years for mortgage fraud.

If almost four decades in prison seems rather severe for white-collar crime, observers point out that, as Mother Jones wrote of Constant, he was also a violent criminal, responsible for numerous beatings, kidnappings, rapes and murders in his native Haiti during the early 1990s. Constant founded the Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti (FRAPH), which can be characterized as part political faction, part charity, part gang, and part terrorist organization whose goal was to intimidate supporters of Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Leaving Haiti when the situation became politically difficult, Constant sometimes bragged that he enjoyed a close relationship with the CIA. A federal immigration judge signed an order to deport Constant to Haiti in September 1995 but the Clinton Justice Department later ordered the INS to release Toto. After 1996 the former torturer lived openly in Queens. Many believed the American government protected Constant because of his role in suppressing supporters of Aristide. Free from legal pressure, Constant went into real esate. He also got involved in new and more complicated crimes. Apparently while working as a real estate agent in Queens, he took part in a scheme that defrauded several banks of more than $1 million.

Like Al Capone, sentenced to 11 years for tax evasion in 1931, the judicial system has now nailed Constant for the least of his crimes, but nailed him all the same. Judge Gerges reportedly took Constant's crimes against the Haitian people into account when determining sentencing. Jennie Green of the Center for Constitutional Rights said of Constant's jail time: "One day, when the Haitian government and courts are in the position to hold him accountable, Constant will return to Haiti to be tried for murder, rape and other torture in his campaign of terror as head of a paramilitary death squad."

Anyone want to bet on when that will happen?

—Daniel Luzer

Image by flickr user CCRPics

Never-Nudes Rejoice: Arrested Development Movie In the Works?

| Thu Nov. 13, 2008 2:30 PM EST

mojo-photo-arresteddev.jpgSo much good news! Obama wins, and now this—can the discovery that donuts are good for you be far behind? Some website called has video of Jeffrey Tambor saying that an Arrested Development movie "is a go." Eeee! The details are sketchy but Tambor seems pretty confident, claiming that "when the writer and the director calls you it's a pretty good sign." Also, last night Keith Olbermann reported that David Cross has also confirmed he got the same call. It all seems so real, but maybe this is just a bunch of fake mini-actors meant to fool Japanese investors?

After the jump: the long, Bluthian saga

Financial Meltdown Blogging

| Thu Nov. 13, 2008 2:12 PM EST

FINANCIAL MELTDOWN BLOGGING....Hi there. Kevin here. Turns out the jury room here in the Orange County Superior Court has free WiFi and plenty of desks and carrels to work at. Hooray! So, since my number hasn't been called yet, here's some miscellaneous financial meltdown blogging for you. Today, Atrios says:

I think it's important to keep in mind the fact that this looming economic disaster was preventable. The Wise Old Men of Washington and Wall Street have fucked everything up due to a combination of greed and and adherence to ideology regardless of what the facts are. There were many moments in the past few years when something could have been done to at least minimize the problems, and at every step they've done the wrong thing.

No argument on the greed and ideology front, but I'm curious: was there really anyone who made the right call on all this at a policy level? There were, of course, plenty of people who recognized the housing bubble for the idiocy that it was (Alan Greenspan notably not one of them), but were there any major voices making specific policy proposals to slow down the bubble? Or rein in the mortgage market? Or regulate the CDO/CDS market in a way that would have prevented some of the damage? I'm talking specifics here, not just general observations that the FIRE sector was out of control. Arguments about interest rates being too low count, if they were made for the right reason, but I'm interested mainly in more detailed recommendations.

I don't have any big point to make here. I'm genuinely curious. There were many moments in the past few years when perhaps something could have been done, but what? And who was proposing serious measures that would have helped? Any major Dems? Economic pundits? Wall Street mucky mucks? Who were the unsung heroes? Help me out here.

By the way, I'm typing this on the netbook I bought yesterday, an MSI Wind U100. About 400 bucks, the size of a trade paperback, decent keyboard (slightly smaller than full size), good battery life, readable 10" screen, and — annoyingly but not surprisingly — it outperforms my desktop PC in almost every way. So far, the only drawback is that the touchpad is maddeningly sensitive, but hopefully I'll eventually figure out a way to tweak that. More later after I've used it more.

Revitalized Public Financing

| Thu Nov. 13, 2008 2:01 PM EST

REVITALIZED PUBLIC FINANCING... I have a post on that subject up now on what Kevin calls the mother blog (aka MoJo Blog). Fred Wertheimer, president of good government group Democracy 21, takes to the Washington Post today to sketch out what a functioning public financing system looks like in the next decade. I point out the highlights.

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McCaffrey Says US in The "End Game" in Iraq

| Thu Nov. 13, 2008 1:41 PM EST


Barry McCaffrey, a retired Army general who now teaches international relations at West Point, has made frequent fact-finding trips to Iraq in the years since the 2003 invasion. A decorated Vietnam veteran, leader of an Army division during the Gulf War, and a former top general of the US Southern Command, McCaffrey's experience has made him a respected voice in military circles, and a guy whose views on the Iraq War are not easily ignored.

Just back from his most recent trip to Iraq, McCaffrey—who in March 2007 characterized the US mission there as being in "strategic peril"—says in an "after action report" (.pdf) to his colleagues at West Point that the US military is "now clearly in the end game in Iraq to successfully achieve what should be our principle objectives." Among these, he includes withdrawing US troops within 36 months and leaving behind an Iraq that has a functioning civil state and security force that is not engaged in war, either with itself or any of the country's six neighboring states.

"The bottom line," McCaffrey writes, "is a dramatic and growing momentum for economic and security stability which is unlikely to be reversible. I would not characterize the situation as fragile. It is just beyond the tipping point." A sampling of recent successes, as McCaffrey describes them:

Imagining a Revitalized Public Financing System

| Thu Nov. 13, 2008 1:25 PM EST

Now that there is an Obama-sized hole in our public financing system, we need to find a new way to fund presidential elections.

The public financing system as it existed pre-Obama gave candidates tens of millions of dollars to use after the conventions (the amount went up each cycle) in exchange for halting direct fundraising (various party organs and committees could keep raking it in). But Obama opted out of that system because he had millions of small donors who could, collectively, give him much, much more than the federal government. And that's a good thing. Legions of small donors getting behind a candidate is a manifestation of democracy that shouldn't be denied. But how do we protect our elections from the influence of large donors while still allowing these small donors their voice?

Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, took a stab at figuring it out in an op-ed in the Washington Post:

Transition Dollars

| Thu Nov. 13, 2008 1:00 PM EST

TRANSITION DOLLARS... You're probably aware that Obama is still using his network of supporters to raise money. The Capital Eye blog at the Center for Responsive Politics tells us how this works:

According to the Presidential Transitions Effectiveness Act, a single donor can contribute a total of $5,000 to the transition effort, even if the donor already gave money to Obama's candidate committee or leadership PAC. Unlike contributions to these committees, however, donations to the nonprofit won't have to be reported to the Federal Election Commission as political contributions because the organization is set up as a 501(c)(4), as designated by the Internal Revenue Service (these contributions are generally not tax-deductible as charitable contributions). Instead, Obama will have to disclose the source, date and amount of each contribution to the General Services Administration by February 20, a month after he's already taken office.
Obama's transition chief, John Podesta, told the Washington Post the team would be disclosing the names of all donors at the end of every month.

Podesta noted in a conference call with reporters earlier this week that the transition will cost a total of $12 million, and that because Obama will receive some assistance from the federal government, he is hoping to raise roughly $7 million. My boss in MoJo's DC bureau, David Corn, asked the appropriate question two days ago: "Given that the nation is spending trillions of dollars to rescue the financial industry, it shouldn't be too hard to fund fully the transition effort. Can't Congress just appropriate another $7 million—which is chump change these days—and let Obama get on with the show?"

The EPA's Head Environmentalist

| Thu Nov. 13, 2008 12:35 PM EST

The mission of the Environmental Protection Agency is to protect public health and the environment. Yet the agency has not done much protection of the environment, public health or the public interest in many, many years. The President-elect's pick for the agency is going to have to turn around an environmental crisis that mirrors the financial one. While Obama's rumored cabinet picks are largely people who cut their teeth in the Clinton administration, or showed rare bipartisanship over the past eight years, one place a centrist will not do is the Environmental Protection Agency.

There are some good environmental laws on the books; the problem is enforcement. The Bush administration has encouraged the worst industrial practices by, for example, refusing to regulate mercury from power plants or allowing mountaintop removal mining—and the incrementalists who ran EPA during the Clinton administration bear at least some responsibility. They should not be invited back.

The new EPA leadership is going to have to do two things.