Blogs

What NOW? Feminist Fatigue and the Global Quest for Women's Rights

| Tue Dec. 18, 2007 1:41 PM EST

Western feminists can't win for losing.

We're taken to task for not gearing up the war machine against third world countries which, inarguably, treat their women like dogs. You know, since sexism is all under control here. Where, oh where, was NOW when a 16 year old girl in Canada was murdered by her father for refusing to wear the hijab? Anne Applebaum, at Slate, nags us about the Saudi Arabian gang rape victim sentenced to jail and 200 lashes and asks where our campaign on their behalf is. [Salon's Broadsheet adds that though she's been pardoned, it's only because she's suicidal and lost in despair (you might be, too, if your brother had already attempted your "honor killing"). Heinously guilty of being alone with an unrelated man, the "Girl of Qatif" drove those seven male passers-by to rape. She's as guilty as they. Had she not fallen apart emotionally, she wouldn't have been pardoned. Her psychological destruction, says good King Abdullah, is all justice ever required, hence her pardon.] Of course, let's not forget good old FGM. We got all NOW'd up over that one just to find ourselves dismissed, by the very women living with circumcision, as imperialists trying to deprive them of the joy of castration . Damned if we do, damned if we don't.

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From New Hampshire: Rudy Goes Manic as Campaign Fizzles

| Tue Dec. 18, 2007 12:32 PM EST

MANCHESTER—Darting about the room in front of a captive audience of about 100 Goss International employees at the company's Durham plant yesterday, Rudy Giuliani, looking wild and eyes popping out of his head, was making insincere promises to spend part of the Christmas holiday in New Hampshire. He might even do some skiing, he said. Of course, everybody knows the candidate is pulling his ads and heading for Florida, and that his campaign here is in mid-collapse.

Across the cafeteria, people gathered at the windows to watch demonstrators being ordered off the premises by a stout security guard. The cameras raced for the door, where, in typical Rudy style, the Mayor's security staff warned that re-entry would be prohibited should they dare leave the building. The security around Rudy is crazy. No entrance shots. No exit shots. Could we greet the Mayor as he arrived? "Best not to do that," said security. Go here. Not there. When a camerawoman moved through the edge of the audience towards the mayor for a better shot, the security man on her heels ordered her back. Exasperated, the woman stepped away and started shooting the security man. Most of the cameras were lined up at the back of the audience, and their operators stood passively. I never encountered this sort of thing in East Germany where the Stasi stood guard.

Mitt Romney, New Hampshire's Native Son?

| Tue Dec. 18, 2007 11:04 AM EST

MANCHESTER—Mitt Romney may be tottering elsewhere in the nation, but up here he is in top form and surging. (Joe Lieberman's endorsement of McCain didn't raise an eyebrow among the people I met.) There are few evangelicals in New Hampshire which makes the attacks against his Mormon faith scattered and relatively ineffective. More important, he is viewed as something of a native son, having been governor of Massachusetts, where many New Hampshire residents work. In that sense he calls to mind Paul Tsongas, the Massachusetts senator who won the Democratic primary in 1992. People crossed party lines to vote for him against Clinton, even though in the end it was for naught, with James Carville simply claiming a Clinton victory as the "Comeback Kid," and the press taking up the phrase like a chorus line.

Numerous Massachusetts residents had moved to the lightly taxed New Hampshire to avoid high taxes in Massachusetts, but still work there. At a town hall meeting at St. Anselm's College last night, Romney was boring, boring. Yet again he told the story of how he as a young businessman ignored the advice of the canny New England venture capitalists, and backed Staples when it looked like a loser. The company became a huge success, propelling young Romney onto center stage.

Top Ten DJ Mixes/Various Artists Sets of 2007

| Tue Dec. 18, 2007 1:28 AM EST

mojo-photo-rifftoptenweek.jpgOkay. First of all, I know I promised a Riff roundup of MoJo staffers' favorite albums of the year today, but only a few intrepid souls got their lists to me in time, so I'm abandoning my attempt to create an overall list. Instead, welcome to the Riff's Week of Top Tens, where I (and hopefully other Riffers) will be posting some of our favorite stuff 'n' things of the year. To kick it off: various-artist DJ sets.

Obama-Edwards Feud Brewing?

| Tue Dec. 18, 2007 1:12 AM EST

As we near the Iowa caucuses, Senator Obama and former Senator Edwards have taken a break from bashing Senator Clinton to bash one another just a bit. (Making this scenario a little less likely.)

Obama had this to say about Edwards:

"The reason now that I raise this issue of the special interests is because everybody now in the campaign talks about how I am going to fight for you. Like Sen. Edwards, who is a good guy—he's been talking a lot about, 'I am going to fight the lobbyists and the special interests in Washington.' Well the question you have to ask is: Were you fighting for 'em when you were in the Senate. What did you do?"

I was at Edwards events all day today, so I found an opportunity to get the candidate's thoughts while at Coe College in Cedar Rapids. Here's what he said in response to Obama's comments.

"I spent 20 years fighting these powerful corporations in courtrooms and winning over and over again. In public life, I've carried on the same cause. One of the most obvious examples is I co-authored the patients' bill of rights, one of the biggest pieces of legislation taken on by the Democrats after we took over the United States Senate. I, Senator Kennedy, and Senator McCain were the cosponsors of it. We beat back the insurance companies and the HMOs and got the patients' bill of rights passed in the United States senate."

Edwards declined to go negative, as you can see. We'll see where this goes. I'll have more on Edwards in the next day or so.

My crude photographic representation of this situation after the jump.

Huckabee Says: Have You Heard That I Like Christ?

| Tue Dec. 18, 2007 12:12 AM EST

Four mentions of Christmas, Christ, and God. One Christmas tree. Get the message?

As one-note as John Edwards, you might argue.

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John McCain: Everyone's Second Choice

| Mon Dec. 17, 2007 11:43 PM EST

mccain_blackandwhite.jpg I know, I know, the thought-process that goes into one pundit's endorsement isn't particularly interesting. But Andrew Sullivan's endorsement of Ron Paul in the GOP race illuminates something about the Republican field more generally.

The top-line summary of Sullivan's politics is that he's a small-government conservative. As such, it's no surprise that he supports the libertarian in the race. What's interesting, though, is that Sullivan's second choice is McCain, a man who strongly supports a war Sullivan hates and is frequently at odds with Sullivan's social views.

According to Sullivan the explanation is McCain's integrity, a trait he shares with Paul. "They have both said things to GOP audiences that they knew would offend," writes Sullivan. "They have stuck with their positions despite unpopularity. They're not saints, but they believe what they say." He lists McCain's status as a war hero and his willingness to consider issues through a fundamentally serious and apolitical lens.

This is a phenomenon I'm seeing a lot when speaking to Republican voters here in Iowa. McCain is the second choice of many, many people. A number of folks I've spoken to say that they wish they could caucus for the man. Thompson supporters, Huckabee supporters, and Romney supporters have all said to me that they respect and like John McCain, but that their man wins for some other reason (usually, he's right on the issues where McCain is wrong; McCain's advocacy for a moderate immigration plan is often cited as a huge problem).

There is a thirst, I think, for honesty in politicians. When I ask supporters of any candidate here, Democrat or Republican, what they look for in a candidate, 75 percent of the time the first thing they say is "honesty," or some variation thereof. That's a rough number, of course, but I assure you it is stunningly high. The fact that Clinton supporters, Obama supporters, and Romney supporters—supporters of anyone at all—say that honesty is their number one priority indicates that people can convince themselves that basically anyone is "honest." But somehow, deep down, they realize that John McCain is the real deal.

Sullivan and Iowa's Republicans aren't the only ones. I'm prey to this as well.

Keeping the Obama-Muslim Smear Going: What on Earth is Bob Kerrey Doing?

| Mon Dec. 17, 2007 11:00 PM EST

bob-kerrey-head.jpg When former Nebraska Governor and Senator Bob Kerrey endorsed Hillary Clinton yesterday at a campaign stop in Iowa and added these lines about Barack Obama—"It's probably not something that appeals to him, but I like the fact that his name is Barack Hussein Obama, and that his father was a Muslim and that his paternal grandmother is a Muslim. There's a billion people on the planet that are Muslims, and I think that experience is a big deal"—I was willing to give him a pass. Sure, it seemed like a sneaky way to work the Obama-is-a-secret-Muslim falsehood back into the media and into the consciousnesses of Iowa voters (Obama is a regular Christian churchgoer), but Kerrey has been a loose cannon throughout his career. And following so closely after the Obama-is-a-drug-dealer fiasco from a different Clinton campaign surrogate... it would just be bad, bad politics for the Clinton campaign to coordinate something like this in Iowa's friendly confines.

But then Kerrey went and did it again. He went on CNN today and tried to backtrack on the first comment—"He is a Christian. Both he and his family are Christians. They've chosen Christianity."—but couldn't help stirring the pot some more. "I've watched the blogs try to say that you can't trust [Obama] because he spent a little bit of time in a secular madrassa," he said. "I feel quite opposite. I think it's a tremendous strength whether he's in the United States Senate or whether he's in the White House."

Jee-bus. A "secular madrassa" is not an oxymoron, by the way: the word Arabic word madrassa indicates a school of any kind. But as Bob Kerrey darn well knows, the American conception of a madrassa is as an extreme Islamic indoctrination camp in which children are taught how to kill Americans by old men with long, white beards.

As should be well-established by now, for the four years he lived in Indonesia as a child, Obama attended a public school that incorporated the mores of the largely Islamic Indonesian society but did not focus on religion. The teachers wore western clothes. The students were of mixed faiths.

So Kerrey didn't say anything factually inaccurate, but it still stinks. If this is what Obama is getting now, can you imagine what he'll endure in the general, when he's facing off against Republicans? And by the way, this whole episode, intentional or not, will almost certainly hurt the Clinton campaign, as all of Senator Clinton's recent attempts to go negative have.

W-T-Effing-F? Worst Present Ever: Siamese Fighting Fish Trapped in Your iPod Speaker

| Mon Dec. 17, 2007 9:53 PM EST

ipond1_wideweb__470x298%2C0.jpg

Condemned to the throb of your musical bad tastes. No room to even turn around. Can this be real? Apparently it's so real and so desired that some Australian pet stores can 't keep it in stock, reports the Sydney Morning Herald. The iPond—yes, that's right, the iPond, surely an epitome of parasitic marketing—is one-fifteenth the recommended tank size for its miserable inhabitant. The tank's water capacity is about 22 ounces. A Melbourne Aquarium spokesman said Siamese fighting fish require a minimum tank size of 2.5 gallons.

All I want for Xmas is a better world for fish.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

Even a Stopped Clock...: George Will on the Subprime Mortgage Scandal

| Mon Dec. 17, 2007 9:29 PM EST

When George Will starts sounding good to you, is it time to pack it in?

Reading him today on the subprime mortgage collapse, I found myself experiencing some serious cognitive dissonance; rather than turning my stomach, he messed with my mind. He's got me seeing the problem from a different angle. What were people thinking signing up for mortgages the rates of which increased astronomically, far beyond their ability to pay, capped off by balloon payments of tens and hundreds of thousands? Brokers shouldn't have dangled the loans in front of our eyes but once dangled, who's really at fault for borrowers having bitten? I rent and I got all those "magic bean" mortgage emails. I deleted them.

The Democratic candidates are talking about 90 day moratoriums on foreclosures and 5-7 year interest rate caps on these ridiculous mortgages. Which leaves out in the cold homeowners who scrimped and saved for a down payment and religiously make their monthly mortgage (93% according to Will). It also leaves out those who invested in mortgage-backed securities who will now have no say in the future of their investment.

Senator Clinton is arguing that this 5-7 year freeze remain in place until the borrowers can have been transitioned to "affordable" loans. Which means what, when you live paycheck to paycheck, have crappy credit and never had a prayer of affording the house you then sucked all the equity from and which is now worth nowhere near what you agreed to pay? Far from worries that the subprime mess will make homeowners renters again, is it even arguable that "renters" is all they ever effectively were? Yup, neighborhoods will crumble as foreclosures mount, local business will fail. But what about our whole system of contract law, not to mention how much more difficult, and costly, it will be for even the credit-worthy to get a mortgage after this.

Will is on much less firm ground in scoffing at the notion that "predatory" and "aggressive" brokers and mortgage companies are in anyway culpable: