Overturning Prop. 8: No Court-Ordered Equality!

In response to California Attorney General Jerry Brown's assertion that the state Supreme Court should overturn Proposition 8, both George Will (who is not gay) and Andrew Sullivan (who is) argue that the best move for the gay community is to wait for a legislative or ballot-based solution. Here's Will:

Just eight years ago, Proposition 22 [defining marriage as between a man and a woman] was passed, 61.4 to 38.6 percent. The much narrower victory of Proposition 8 suggests that minds are moving toward toleration of same-sex marriage. If advocates of that have the patience required by democratic persuasion, California's ongoing conversation may end as they hope. If, however, the conversation is truncated, as Brown urges, by judicial fiat, the argument will become as embittered as the argument about abortion has been by judicial highhandedness.

And here's Sullivan:

Party News

PARTY NEWS....Sarah Palin won't be attending an inaugural dinner in honor of John McCain next week. But was she not invited? Or did she decide not to come? Turns out no one knows.

TARP App Update: MoJo Interns Still Waiting for a Bailout

Last week Mother Jones conducted an experiment in which we discovered that it takes a whopping 27 minutes to apply for money under the federal bailout program's astonishingly short application.

Many Mother Jones readers were under the impression that MoJo interns actually submitted our app for TARP funding on Friday afternoon. We did not. We just timed how long it took to fill out the application.

But then we got to thinking, well, why not apply for a bailout? While it's hard to argue that Mother Jones, a nonprofit outfit which employs about 50 people, is too big to fail, the magazine industry in general could certainly use some help. And size hasn't deterred other small institutions from taking advantage of recent federal largess. Plus, if a bank fails, that makes it hard for bank employees to give a small percentage of their income to a nonprofit mag like Mother Jones, right? It takes a village.

Though we were a bit late jumping on the bailout bandwagon, apparently we weren't alone: Treasury's extended the TARP deadline to January 15th for any dawdling financial institutions.

The guidelines for TARP funding explain that:

The maximum amount of capital eligible for purchase by the Treasury under the CPP is the lesser of (i) an amount equal to 3 percent of the Total Risk-Weighted Assets of the applicant or (ii) $25 billion.

While we redacted the amount of total Risk-Weighted Assets from the application posted here, let us assure you that the Foundation for National Progress falls into the (i) category.

The completed information, which we've provided below, has been submitted to two of the institutions that distribute funds: the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Office of Thrift Supervision. We'll keep you posted.

TARP-pdf.png

—Alexis Fitts and Daniel Luzer

Going Back for More

GOING BACK FOR MORE....Last night I read in the New York Times that a mere 20 months after triumphantly nationalizing several massive oil projects in the Orinoco Belt, Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez is inviting foreign oil companies back in to bid on a few new projects. The plummeting price of oil explains Chávez's U-turn, but on the other side of the table I had about the same reaction as Dan Drezner:

The willingness of the oil companies to re-enter the fray in Caracas is more intriguing. In recent years there has been a lot of loose talk about how holders of capital also hold the levers in a bargaining situation with debtors, because the latter must do what they can to please the former.

In fact, recent research suggests that when debtors violate their contracts, the price to be paid is often much less than anticipated. Chávez certainly seems quite aware of this fact.

What puzzles me is that Chávez's reputation does suggest that the moment oil prices go up again, he'll reverse course yet again and put the screws on his foreign investors. I understand that exploration opportunities are scarce, but the willingness of these firms to go back is item #345 on Things I Do Not Understand About Energy Markets.

Count me among the puzzled too. I suppose the companies who are bidding on the Orinoco projects may be counting on Chávez failing in his attempt to become president for life, and are thus figuring they won't have to deal with him in the long term. And as the Times points out, oil companies are pretty desperate for projects these days since there just aren't many big new fields left to open up.

Still, it seems kind of masochistic, doesn't it?

Another Way to Lessen the Inauguration Day Crush

White people: Stay home. This blogger's logic is flawless:

Chances Whites have had to go see the inauguration of a White president: 43
Chances Blacks have had to go see the inauguration of a Black president: 1

So, white folks: Do the right thing.

[UPDATE: Read this follow-up post for Sister Toldja's response to Jezebel commenters.]

Palin to be No Show at Obama's Dinner for McCain

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On the night before Barack Obama is sworn in as the nation's 44th President, his inaugural committee will host a series of dinners honoring public servants it deems champions of bipartisanship. To be feted are Vice President-elect Joe Biden, Colin Powell, and John McCain, whom Obama vanquished last November. At the McCain dinner, the GOP senator, who managed to suppress his bipartisan tendencies during the hard-fought 2008 campaign, will be introduced by one of his closest Senate confidants: Senator Lindsey Graham. But McCain's No. 1 booster during the last year will not be among those hailing McCain. Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, his controversial running-mate, will not attend the dinner, Bill McAllister, a Palin spokesman tells Mother Jones.

Can true tribute be paid to McCain without Palin's presence? Picking her for his party's veep nomination was McCain's most decisive and significant action of his campaign. And she spent weeks praising him as an American hero, a man the country desperately needed as president. True, the Palin and McCain camps have bickered with each other since the election about some of the campaign's miscues. But shouldn't she be part of any celebration of McCain?

According to McAllister, Palin will spend next week in her home state preparing for the legislative session, which begins on Tuesday, and for her State of the State address on Thursday.

Oscar Grant

OSCAR GRANT....I've been following this story but haven't posted about it, so here's the latest:

A former transit police officer seen on video shooting an unarmed man in the back has been charged with murder and could face up to life in prison in a racially tinged case that has sparked outrage and street protests in Oakland.

....The shooting occurred two weeks ago, early on New Year's morning. Grant and his friends were heading home to the East Bay aboard a BART train after celebrating New Year's Eve in San Francisco when a fight broke out between two groups of riders. BART police met the train at Oakland's Fruitvale station and demanded that passengers disembark.

In videos that have been broadcast on television and viewed hundreds of thousands of times on the Internet, a uniformed officer later identified as Mehserle stands over a prostrate Grant, pulls his gun and fires point-blank into Grant's back.

If you watch the video, it looks for all the world as if transit officer Johannes Mehserle, who quit the force shortly after the incident, does indeed simply pull out his gun and shoot Grant in the back while he's prostrate on the floor and being held down by three officers (at about the 0:30 mark in the video above). It's just stunning.

What's equally stunning is that, as near as I can tell from watching several videos of the shooting, the other officers don't really appear to be all that taken aback by what happened. They don't grab Mehserle or yell at him (in the videos with sound) or anything like that. They seem to treat it like a fairly routine thing.

On another note, the LA Times tells us that "There has been some speculation that Mehserle meant to stun Grant with a Taser, not shoot him with his gun — a confusion that has occurred before." If that's really true, that's as good a reason for banning Tasers as I've ever heard.

Conservative Punditry's Leading Lights

Our new Prez is just too cool for school. He had dinner the other night with the leading lights, such as they are, of the conservative punditry. One doubts how much he was able to eat, or keep down, with George Will, Bill Kristol, and (possibly) Rush Limbaugh at the same table, but I'm quite sure they came away thrilled and at least somewhat likely to tone down the rhetoric.

I know from personal experience that it's much harder to savage someone in print if they're a 'real' person to you, someone you've chatted with, someone with whom you have mutual friends. Certainly the conservatives must find this to be true of the suavest president since JFK.

This guy is the bomb. Now if he'll only give an inauguration interview to the cutest, most persistent reporter on the planet.

Looks Like Geithner Is a Shoo-In

LOOKS LIKE GEITHNER IS A SHOO-IN....Although even most Republican senators think Tim Geithner's tax problems aren't a very big deal, McClatchy claims to detect hints of heartland rebellion against his nomination as Secretary of the Treasury:

However, there were some signs of broader public reaction against Geithner. The Competitive Enterprise Institute, a research group in Washington that opposes federal regulation of business, issued a statement against Geithner on Wednesday.

Ah, yes. The Competitive Enterprise Institute. The wingnut outfit that came up with the slogan "CO2: We Call It Life" as part of an advertising campaign designed to convince the public that rising levels of greenhouse gases are actually good for us. If that's the best dirt McClatchy can come up with, I'd say the public is probably pretty unruffled about Mr. Geithner's tax troubles.

No More GWOT

NO MORE GWOT....Britain's foreign minister, David Miliband, writes today that it's past time to ditch the phrase "war on terror":

The idea of a "war on terror" gave the impression of a unified, transnational enemy, embodied in the figure of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida. The reality is that the motivations and identities of terrorist groups are disparate. Lashkar-e-Taiba has roots in Pakistan and says its cause is Kashmir. Hezbollah says it stands for resistance to occupation of the Golan Heights. The Shia and Sunni insurgent groups in Iraq have myriad demands.

....The more we lump terrorist groups together and draw the battle lines as a simple binary struggle between moderates and extremists, or good and evil, the more we play into the hands of those seeking to unify groups with little in common....We must respond to terrorism by championing the rule of law, not subordinating it, for it is the cornerstone of the democratic society. We must uphold our commitments to human rights and civil liberties at home and abroad. That is surely the lesson of Guantánamo and it is why we welcome President-elect Obama's commitment to close it.

The Guardian reports that British officials "cannot wait" for the Bush administration to finally leave town. "The new administration has a set of values that fit very well with the values and priorities I am talking about," Miliband told them.