Mojo - January 2007

MLK Jr's Estate Charges Academics $50 Per Sentence to Reprint "I Have a Dream" Speech

| Mon Jan. 15, 2007 2:59 PM EST

That's one of the more outrageous examples of "Intellectual Property Run Amok" that I put together last year. (Source: McLeod, Kembrew. Freedom of Expression®: Overzealous Copyright Bozos and Other Enemies of Creativity, Doubleday: 2005.)

THE CLASSIC civil rights documentary Eyes on the Prize can't be aired or sold because much of its archival footage is copyrighted. (This has since been resolved, read letter to that effect here.)

AFTER ROSA PARKS sued OutKast for using her name as a song title, the group and their label settled by paying for a Parks tribute CD and TV special.

THE VILLAGE PEOPLE refused to let their songs be used for a documentary called Gay Sex in the '70s because they want to be thought of as "mainstream."

Not all the examples are related to Civil Rights, but they're all loony. Read the whole thing here. Sources here.

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Dobson: "I Would Not Vote for John McCain Under Any Circumstances"

| Mon Jan. 15, 2007 2:56 PM EST

Bad news for John McCain. His very high profile attempts to make nice with Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson have not quieted the ire of James Dobson.

Dobson, who is not allowed to pass judgment on political candidates in his capacity as the head of a non-profit ministry, instead passes judgment as a private individual. Thus, we get sentences from a new article that include, "Speaking as a private individual, I would not vote for John McCain under any circumstances," and "Well, let me say that I am not in the office. I'm in the little condo so I can speak for myself and not for Focus on the Family... [but] I pray that we won't get stuck with him."

Does Dobson know that as America's most prominent evangelical leader, his thinking on politics is respected and sought out by thousands, maybe millions, of evangelical Christians? Of course. Is it legal for him to do this sort of wink-wink political punditry? Kind of, yeah. We addressed all this and more in our 2005 special issue called "God and Country: Where the Christian Right is Leading Us."

This all has to do with John McCain's former support of gay unions and abortion rights, and statements during the 2000 campaign that the leaders of the religious right are bad for America. Not easily undone, it seems.

(Hat Tip, AMERICAblog)

Update: For Dobson's place in the evangelical universe, see this nifty spread.

Hagel and Lieberman: Just Switch Parties Already

| Mon Jan. 15, 2007 2:48 PM EST

The war in Iraq's unexpected consequence at home: the complete blurring of the line between Republicans and Democrats.

Gates Admits Purpose of Surge is to Scare Iran

| Mon Jan. 15, 2007 2:31 PM EST

The Guardian is on a roll today. In my last post, I mentioned that they sent a man behind the lines of the insurgency to give the public an honest look at what Sunni fighters are up to. Now they're carrying the story that the movement of 21,500 troops to Iraq and an aircraft carrier in the gulf are just chest-puffing intend for Iran.

The defence secretary, Robert Gates, told reporters that the decision to deploy a Patriot missile battalion and a second aircraft carrier to the Gulf in conjunction with a "surge" of troops in Iraq was designed to show Iran that the US was not "overcommitted" in Iraq.
...
The increasingly confrontational pose struck by the US is a repudiation of one of the key recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, which called for the start of a dialogue with Iran and Syria in an effort to extricate the US from Iraq.

Analysis from Daily Kos:

It's all a game of chicken with Iran, you see, to show the U.S. is not overcommitted, that we're still the baddest ass superpower on the block. There's no talk in the story of anything resembling military strategy; it's the traditional show of force to get the bad guy to back off (with the emphasis on "show") -- and to "soften up" the American public for war with Iran.
Let's get this straight: President Bush lied just five days ago when he told the American public the troop escalation was devised to help secure a chaotic country and protect its civilians. Of course, many observers suspected as much. And military families will have the comfort of knowing their loved ones in service are in the line of fire, not for an achievable strategic goal but for show – or to provoke a military confrontation over a problem that the Iraq Study Group and most sane Middle East watchers advised should be solved diplomatically.

A Look Inside the Sunni Insurgency

| Mon Jan. 15, 2007 2:19 PM EST

An excellent article from the Guardian today on how the Sunni insurgency in Baghdad really works. Lots of excellent details, like the fact that arms for the insurgency are gained through corrupt contacts in the Iraqi government, or that many Sunni insurgents now blame al Qaeda for indiscriminately killing Shiites and bringing the wrath of the Shiite militias down upon them. Most of all -- and this may be clever PR work -- the Sunni insurgency seems less concerned with killing Americans than with defending their neighborhoods, which now have "defence lines, trenches and booby traps," against the Shiites.

Read the whole thing. It's good.

The Swag Loophole, Filled

| Mon Jan. 15, 2007 9:35 AM EST

Okay, so the Golden Globes may be happening tonight, and the ladies may be dripping in diamonds, but they won't be marching home with swag, not like yesteryear. Turns out that freebie goodies doled out to presenters at awards' shows (last year's Globes' offerings were worth $40,000) caught the attention of the IRS, and the Globes, Oscar and Emmy are all having to pay up.

Last week the Globes' Hollywood Foreign Press Association announced that they would forego the basket distro altogether (instead giving each attendee $600 worth of gifts). The announcement came soon after they agreed to pay all back taxes on the gifts handed out until 2005 and provide celebrities who received goodies in 2006 with the appropriate income tax forms (that's gonna be an awkward handoff). No word on how much loot the IRS collected from the Globes, but it was likely enough to outfit Scarlett underwear to earrings in Harry Winston.

The swag loophole fails thusly: vendors write off the items as the cost of doing business, fine, but A-listers technically receive the "gifts" in exchange for appearing at an event—thus they're taxable income.

In August the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences' settled up with the IRS for past swag ($1.2 million for 2005 alone) and said it would no longer shower Oscar presenters with loot that ranges from perfume to cruise tickets to Antarctica. And last year's Emmy presenters got a letter along with their $33,000 swag bags explaining the ensuing tax obligations.

Last summer Clara pointed out the swag-bag trend in her coverage of the perks of privilege (along with a whole lot of other ways the rich stay that way). One for the irony stack:

For performing in the Live 8 concerts to "make poverty history," musicians each got gift bags worth up to $12,000.

Read the rest of Clara's picks here, with sources here.

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Our Educator-in-Chief Leaves Us All Behind

| Mon Jan. 15, 2007 1:35 AM EST

In tonight's interview on 60 Minutes - one which the Administration might rethink the wisdom of allowing - Bush, along with the stream of consciousness Clara details below, essentially told the American public, Congress, the military, the international community, all those who have questioned his latest strategy, to sit down and shut up.

"Scott, sometimes you're the commander-in-chief, sometimes you're the educator-in-chief, and a lot of times you're both when it comes to war."

Well, if he's anyone's educator, we're in for a hard lesson.

A telling moment in the interview (this one's not in the transcript, perhaps because it was not in the formal sitdown session) came when Pelley asked Bush whether multiple deployments, two, three, four of them for some, were fair to the troops and their families. Bush answered saying, "this military is motivated," (meaning, and I'm guessing here, that soldiers are more than happy to leave their families and return again and again to Iraq?).

But the toll it's taking on soldiers, pushed Pelley, who then referenced Bush's brief service in the National Guard:

Pelley: In Vietnam as you know, you served 365 and you were done.

Bush: This is a different situation. This is a volunteer army. In Vietnam, it was, 'We're going to draft you and you're going to go for a year.'

Hmm, so if we had a draft (which would be political suicide for the Administration and any Republicans hoping to trail it), then we could relieve our "volunteer" soldiers who are serving mandatory tours over and over again. I wonder why, Mr. President, it came to that, that we had a draft during a long, protracted war that called for more and more ground troops?

A draft, says Rep. Charles Rangel, who has repeatedly introduced a bill for one in Congress, just might shake our nation and its leaders into seeing the true cost of "acheiving success" in Iraq. But now it seems that those in need of convincing are few. On this the Administration stands relatively alone. Alone and in charge.

Ad Nauseam: The New York Times Notices, Too

| Mon Jan. 15, 2007 1:31 AM EST

This story in today's NYT repeats a theme (and several of the actual examples) of "Ad Nauseam" a piece that Dave and Elizabeth did in our current issue on how "Madison Avenue is scrambling to stick ads anywhere it can, from children's books to bathroom stalls."

My personal favorite examples of product placement include:

After Israel bombed Lebanon last summer, Johnnie Walker put up billboards in Beirut showing a damaged bridge with the slogan "Keep Walking." A spokeswoman said the ads were meant to "capture a popular mood about moving forward."

A recent Broadway production of Sweet Charity was rewritten to plug Gran Centenario tequila. José Cuervo described the change as "elegant, organic, not forced."

In Instant Def, an online movie made by Snickers, members of the Black Eyed Peas work in a Snickers factory and battle an evil rapper who is a "fabrication justification of some corporation's imagination."

But the whole thing is a hoot. Read it here. And sources here.

Bush Says Iraqis Not Grateful Enough

| Mon Jan. 15, 2007 12:08 AM EST

That's what he just said on 60 Minutes.

SCOTT PELLEY: Do you think you owe the Iraqi people an apology for not doing a better job?
BUSH: That we didn't do a better job or they didn't do a better job?
PELLEY: Well, that the United States did not do a better job in providing security after the invasion.
BUSH: Not at all. I am proud of the efforts we did. We liberated that country from a tyrant. I think the Iraqi people owe the American people a huge debt of gratitude, and I believe most Iraqis express that. I mean, the people understand that we've endured great sacrifice to help them. That's the problem here in America. They wonder whether or not there is a gratitude level that's significant enough in Iraq.
PELLEY: Americans wonder whether . . .
BUSH: Yeah, they wonder whether or not the Iraqis are willing to do hard work.

Here's a question for Emily Post: What level of gratitude is appropriate when your country has been invaded under false pretenses, tens of thousands of your fellow citizens have been killed, and hundreds of thousands have fled the country due to the very real fear of assasination? Will a muffin basket do it?

Bush then goes on to repeat a whole bunch of canards about Saddam "rushing to compete with Iran for a nuclear weapon" and that "everybody was wrong on weapons of mass destruction." (Uhhh, for the record, not everybody.)

After listening to Bush and Cheney (who seems raring to invade Iran, btw.) do the talk shows today, I'm left wondering: Do these guys really believe their own bullshit? Or is it all just cynical doublespeak? And which is worse? Morally, and for the future of the American and Iraqi people?

For the definitive chronology of the lies the Bush administration told to get us into the war see our our Iraq War timeline, "Lie By Lie: Chronicle of a War Foretold." For a timeline of Bush's own illustrious history of personal military service see "We Were Soliders Once?"

Get Naked, Get the (Military) Boot

| Sun Jan. 14, 2007 11:52 PM EST

An Air Force Seargent who posed nude for Playboy has been relieved of her duties. The pictures, under the headline "Tough Love" apparently feature the staff seargent, Michelle Manhart, in uniform, partially clothed with dog tags, and completely nude. The military has discharged her while they "investigate" (whatever that means), saying, ''This staff sergeant's alleged action does not meet the high standards we expect of our airmen, nor does it comply with the Air Force's core values of integrity, service before self, and excellence in all we do."

Our military is not necessarily in a position to be choosy, and how is posing naked for a magazine justify discharge? As for "integrity, service before self and excellence," Manhart has been in the Air Force since 1994, she served in Kuwait, and trains airmen for a living. Besides, she's even married with two children, none of this don't ask don't tell business even.

A Playboy spokeswoman told the BBC that two serving women have posed nude in the past, and both were eventually discharged. Manhart told Playboy that she considers herself as standing up for her rights saying, ''I didn't do anything wrong, so I didn't think it would be a major issue.''

Maybe she should consider joining the Army, where enlistees with felony records are signed up by the thousands each year, so they should let her in too, right?

Interesting sort-of side note, the February issue of Playboy with the aforementioned photos has a great article (yeah, I know, that's what they say) on Lockheed Martin and how the defense contractor hit the jackpot with 9/11. You can avoid having to skip all those pages of filler and just read the article, "Lockheed Stock and Two Smoking Barrels," online here.