Mojo - February 2007

Biden Should Seek Treatment for His (Obvious!) Alcoholism

| Wed Feb. 7, 2007 4:24 PM EST

Mark Foley had e-sex with underage pages for years. Blame alcohol!

Mel Gibson went on a crazy misogynistic and anti-Semitic tirade when pulled over for drunk driving. Seek alcohol treatment, and some counseling from Jews!

Isaiah Washington of "Grey's Anatomy" called his co-star T.R. Knight a "faggot." Seek therapy!

San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom banged his campaign manager's wife. Blame alcohol!

It's obvious, Joe. You have an alcohol problem. Seek therapy!

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Hello Petroleum, Goodbye Forests, Species, Amtrak...

| Wed Feb. 7, 2007 4:13 PM EST

The President's $2.9 trillion budget includes nearly $500 million to fund a nuclear waste dump and $400 million fewer dollars for our poor (literally) national rail service, Amtrak. Oh, and he plans to sell off $800 million worth of National Forest land. More gory details here.

—Jen Phillips

Baghdad's Missing Billions Rediscovered

| Wed Feb. 7, 2007 1:59 PM EST
CPAcash.gif

After former CPA head Paul Bremer got grilled by Henry Waxman yesterday, the press has rediscovered the story of the billions of dollars in reconstruction money that went missing during the heady days after the fall of Baghdad. In particular, it's glommed onto the nifty fact that the U.S. government shipped 363 tons of Benjamins (and maybe some Ulysseses, too) to Iraq—much of which was spread around like play money. In his defense, Bremer explained, "We were in the middle of a war, working in very difficult conditions, and we had to move quickly to get this Iraqi money working for the Iraqi people." Apparently democracy is a lot easier to export than standard accounting practices.

The revealing tale of the cash airlift isn't new, however—we wrote about it in September 2005. It's good to see it being picked up again, though. And it gives me an excuse to post this great photo of CPA officials giddily posing with $2 million in cash, which was given to the security contractor Custer Battles, which was accused ofdefrauding the government.

Update: Post amended in light of Custer Battles' fraud conviction being overturned later today.

Vote: Best/Worst Senators

| Wed Feb. 7, 2007 10:51 AM EST

There are several reasons to take a look at (and maybe even vote in) this "Best Senator" poll.

First, you can see where your senators rank.

Second, you can actually see what these people look like. (The answer, of course: white, male.)

Third, there's the fact that of the first 49 senators ranked by "integrity, honor, dignity and character" only one is a Republican: Chuck Hagel.

Fourth, there's the fact that of all the Democrats, the only two to not crack the top 50 are Hillary Clinton and Mary Landrieu, of Katrina fame.

Fifth, there's the parade of crooks and crazy men who do better than Joe Lieberman and John McCain, Nos. 98 and 99 respectively.

Spotted on a now outdated Wonkette post.

Oh No! Obama Quitting Smoking!

| Wed Feb. 7, 2007 10:41 AM EST

Word comes from the Chicago Tribune that Barack Obama is… quitting smoking! (Can't resist: "Up Next! Hillary Cuts Her Toenails!")

The real issue is, what happens to Obama's smoking advantage?!? You know, the one that was ridiculously overblown, never actually existed, and was just a product of over-caffeinated political junkies looking for any angle at all to write a counter-intuitive story.

DHS, Dysfunctional as Usual

| Wed Feb. 7, 2007 10:30 AM EST

With news that Dick Cheney's son-in-law is the primary culprit in a Department of Homeland Security effort to block any oversight, I thought I'd point you all to this chart we drew up last year. Follow the link and you'll find that many DHS workers are so unhappy with their jobs, they'd probably rather be working fast-food.

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I Hope the Articulate Bill O'Reilly Reads This

| Wed Feb. 7, 2007 9:59 AM EST

Bill O'Reilly and Glen Beck are still covering the Biden/Obama/"articulate" flap that I think a lot of people -- including me -- wish would just go away. O'Reilly and Beck are highlighting it because they feel the whole situation illustrates the plight of beleaguered white people who can't have black friends (honest, this is their argument) because they are afraid they might slip up and say something, maybe even a compliment, that unbeknownst to them is insulting to the black person in the room. The subtext here, of course, is this: "Well, gosh, us white people just try to say nice things about black people, and sometimes black people get all worked up, and we just don't know why, and man, white people just can't get a break."

Look. Just don't be stupid. Is that really so hard? Here's what the New York Times wrote about the issue: "When whites use the word [articulate] in reference to blacks, it often carries a subtext of amazement, even bewilderment." Okay, yes, exactly. Barack Obama is a man of many talents, who has accomplished more in his life than most Americans ever will: If the most you can say about the man is that he doesn't sound like some gang-banger, you're not giving him much of a chance. And you're damning by faint praise. Bill O'Reilly must understand this, and if he doesn't, he would if thought about it for a half-second. As a commenter on this blog wrote in response to one of our previous posts, "When was the last time someone said Chuck Schumer was "articulate"? Or Bill Clinton, or Chuck Hagel? They all are, but people have moved beyond how they talk and onto their other qualities."

The Times continued, "Such a subtext is inherently offensive because it suggests that the recipient of the 'compliment' is notably different from other black people." Again, this should be obvious. If you are amazed that one black man doesn't sounds like a gang-banger, you're letting your assumptions show: You assume that all black men speak Ebonics (or, as I suspect Glen Beck would call it, "jive"). Anyone who doesn't is the "exceptional Negro." (Link again goes to the NYT article, which is well worth reading.)

Allow me to requote a passage I quoted earlier from the Chicago Tribune:

Well-spoken black people hate it when white people call them "articulate." It's the modern-day version of what white people used to say back in the day when they thought that by saying "He's a credit to his race" they were saying something that a black person would welcome hearing.
Those dated words, like Biden's comments, were patronizing at the very least. And they also appeared to carry some pretty negative assumptions about the majority of the race.

The smart, accomplished, and successful Bill O'Reilly is bright enough to understand this, and I suspect he's just playing a dumb-like-a-fox routine. But if he keeps pretending like he's an idiot, I'm going to run out of adjectives to use when blogging about him. I guess the only thing that would left would be...

If Chris Rock Says It, It's Funny; If Sarah Silverman Says It, It's Tasteless

| Tue Feb. 6, 2007 11:15 PM EST

A lot has been written about how women are perceived to be either "not funny" or "not as funny as men." Now that there are a number of respected women comics, that paradigm has changed somewhat in that women can be funny as long as their humor is not aggressive. Ellen DeGeneres, for example, is generally considered funny by anyone who is not a hopeless homophobe, partly because her humor is not at all aggressive (this is not a criticism, by the way--I think DeGeneres is hilarious). Margaret Cho is another story: She says bad words, and she talks about sex in great (and hysterically funny) detail. She not only makes people uncomfortable--she is a woman, she is Asian-American, and she is a member of the LGBT community, to boot.

Perhaps no one, though, has fueled the "women are funny as long as they are 'feminine'" fire as much as Sarah Silverman, whose television series debuted last Thursday night. Both men and women have walked out of her shows, and I have heard many supposedly liberal people call her humor "tasteless" and "disgusting." But the fact of the matter is that Silverman, and other female comics like her, do not push the envelope any farther than a Chris Rock or a Dave Chappelle, whom these same critics admire.

Silverman's humor is not everyone's cup of tea, to be sure. I am not making a case for whether she is a good comic; I am just pointing out that the "shocking" things that come out of her mouth would be considered "badass" if they came out of the mouth of a male comic. Drew Carey says it well: "Comedy is about aggression and confrontation and power. As a culture we just don't allow women to do all that stuff."

Christopher Hitchens, writing for Vanity Fair, recently acknowledged that there are some funny women comics around, but "Most of them, though, when you come to review the situation, are hefty or dykey or Jewish, or some combo of the three." One might just as well say that most of the really funny male comics are black or Jewish (forgive me, those who think Robin Williams is still funny).

Hitchens, to his credit, also says:

Precisely because humor is a sign of intelligence (and many women believe, or were taught by their mothers, that they become threatening to men if they appear too bright), it could be that in some way men do not want women to be funny. They want them as an audience, not as rivals. And there is a huge, brimming reservoir of male unease, which it would be too easy for women to exploit.

The Duke Cunningham of Iraq

| Tue Feb. 6, 2007 9:01 PM EST

Well, maybe slightly worse than Duke Cunningham. He bombed a U.S. embassy, and a French embassy, and maybe killed a Kuwaiti police officer and is maybe spying for Iran. And yep, Jamal Jafaar Mohammed is an elected member of Iraq's parliment. Let's hear it for Iraqi Democracy. Makin' us proud!

Is a Deal with Dingell a Deal with the Devil?

| Tue Feb. 6, 2007 7:55 PM EST

Over the past month, the biggest threat to climate change legislation seems not to come from Exxon Mobil-sponsored think-tanks nor Texas Republicans; rather, it has been infighting between Democrats. Since becoming Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has done everything but challenge John Dingell to a bout of mud-wrestling in order to take control of climate change legislation away from the House Committee on Energy and Commerce the Michigan Democrat chairs.

That's because Dingell is infamous for being in the pocket of the Auto Industry: He has long opposed tougher CAFE standards and his wife is currently a senior executive at GM. Many see him as an obstructionist to action on climate change. (See this interview with Grist, where Dingell expresses Inhofe-esque views on global warming.)

Dingell has been outspoken in his opposition to a new committee, telling the AP in January: "We're just empowering a bunch of enthusiastic amateurs to go around and make speeches and make commitments that will be very difficult to honor."

Bygones may not yet be bygones, but Pelosi and Dingell seem to have come to a compromise, clearing the way for the new committee--albeit a weaker one than Pelosi would probably have liked. In a letter sent to the Speaker yesterday, Dingell agreed not to challenge a new committee on climate change in exchange for Pelosi's concession that the new committee will not be granted legislative authority and will expire in October of 2008. U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman, chair of the Oversight and Government Reform committee, co-signed the letter, agreeing not to challenge the formation of the select committee. You're not alone if you're not sure whether to chalk this one up as a win or a defeat for the planet.

--Koshlan Mayer-Blackwell