Mojo - April 2007

Walter Reed Conditions Were Not New News (to DoD), Dpt. Held Focus Groups for Years

| Wed Apr. 25, 2007 12:05 PM EDT

It turns out the Department of Defense held focus groups at Walter Reed Medical Center. The Force Health Protection and Readiness department met with wounded soldiers monthly to "monitor Army healthcare and provide military officials with direct information about it," Salon reports. That's a good thing, right? Well, not exactly. It turns out they've been holding these group discussions since before the start of wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan, yet have neglected to employ the information garnered to affect any real change. But, how could they -- the DoD kept no records of the interviews.

This not only speaks to the blatant neglect on the part of the department to remedy problems within the system but shows that the DoD has not been forthcoming throughout the investigation into the conditions at Walter Reed. In February, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Dr. William Winkenwerder Jr claimed all the accusations being thrown at the facility caught him by surprise. If the DoD was conducting focus groups, I am pretty sure the man tasked with overseeing military medicine would know it. Right? Although, I guess ignorance of your agency's actions is common practice within government departments under the Bush administration. I mean, AG Alberto Gonzales was "not involved" in the firing of nearly 10 percent of the nation's U.S. Attorneys.

In our last issue, Mother Jones provides more insight into the administration's maltreatment of the nation's soldiers.

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OSC Investigation Into Rove Came After Fired U.S. Attorney Filed Complaint

| Wed Apr. 25, 2007 10:37 AM EDT

There has been speculation that because of the Office of Special Counsel's horrible reputation for killing investigations damaging to the White House, the new investigation into Karl Rove might just be a way to obstruct or head off more aggressive congressional inquiries. (Mother Jones covers the OSC's rep in a feature story in our new issue.)

Well, the situation just got more complex. The spark for the Rove investigation may have come when former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias filed a complaint with the OSC charging that Rove violated the Hatch Act when he allegedly engineered the now-famous purge of eight U.S. Attorneys, a group that included the very vocal Iglesias. Iglesias filed the complaint on April 3rd and subsequently spoke with OSC head Scott Bloch, who made it clear an investigation was forthcoming. Iglesias can't say for a fact that his complaint is the genesis for the investigation, but he believes strongly that it was.

This would give hope that the investigation into Rove is legit, and not something dreamed up by the White House to keep other investigations at bay.

The Hatch Act, by the way, prohibits the use of government property for political activities. Like, for example, using the federal email system and tax payer-funded computers and Blackberries to gin up the firing of federal employees who are out-of-step with the White House's political agenda and won't use their prosecutorial power to influence elections directly before a midterm. Or, using work hours to present a PowerPoint presentation on how to reorient the activities of various federal offices to benefit Republicans politically.

We'll continue to follow the story on Mother Jones. Oh, and don't forget, Wolfowitz is still floundering!

Kucinich Moves to Impeach Cheney

| Tue Apr. 24, 2007 8:33 PM EDT

Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich motioned to impeach Cheney today. Cheney, not Bush, he explained, because "if we were to start with the president and pursue articles of impeachment, Mr. Cheney would then become president.... you would then have to go through the constitutional agony of impeaching two presidents consecutively."

This is a one-man move, since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said impeachment is off the table. The party has strongly denied that it would ever impeach, in order to prevent the possibility from mobilizing the Republican base. Even though the motion is dead in the water, it's a powerful political statement.

Since Kucinich is putting himself in the limelight for another presidential run here, it's worth mentioning that he is not the liberal gold standard his radical supporters think. As Katha Pollitt pointed out, he has actually voted pro-life at every opportunity.

Kucinich said the imperative for impeachment is to prevent Cheney from leading us to war with Iran. Maybe this is too optimistic, but at this point, Congress has got to be too Democratic and too jaded to fall for that one again. If not, well, what's the use in cutting off the head of the hydra?

In a review of the impeachment lit, Tim Dickinson wrote last fall, "There's little doubt that, both legally and morally, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have earned an early retirement. Hell, the administration has even lost the father of modern conservatism, William F. Buckley Jr., who said of Bush in late July: 'If you had a European prime minister who experienced what we've experienced, it would be expected that he would retire or resign.' " .....[But] I'm confident the American people would far prefer a porn star or a midget, fairly elected—or, for that matter, two more years of the disastrous presidency of George W. Bush—than to see the White House change hands in what could only be described as an administrative coup." Read on....

Wall Street and the Rest of Us

| Tue Apr. 24, 2007 7:04 PM EDT

Tony Soprano is right about the stock market: "You have to be high up in the corporate structure to make that sh-t work for you." Or, as economist Ilene Grabel of the University of Denver told me, "Stock markets prove profitable for a small proportion of the U.S. and global economy, but the relationship between the stock market and the underlying economy has never been established."

Have you ever wondered how the world might be a different—and better—place if Wall Street didn't demand ever-widening profit margins? The income gap would likely shrink, making 90 to 99.9 percent of Americans happier. And a broader view of corporate success might lead corporations to show some respect for the environment and their workers.

The New Yorker brings a little good news on this front (caveat: It's the magazine's job to make New Yorkers feel good about themselves). James Surowiecki calls bullshit on the "7 percent rule," a handy rule of thumb that sprung up during the dotcom boom, suggesting that any company announcing layoffs would see a 7 percent rise in its stock value.

Surowiecki argues that layoffs only make long-term financial sense when demand changes significantly—not, as they have become of late, as "a default business strategy, part of an inexorable drive to cut costs." Stock prices may feel as cold and hard as a surgical knife, but Surowiecki claims they generally reflect what you know is true if you've ever worked through a round of layoffs: "Downsizing may make companies temporarily more productive, but the gains quickly erode, in part because of the predictably negative effect on morale."

Stock prices consider my feelings? That feels a bit too cheerleader-y, so let's get back to the bad news. The flies in the ointment are, you guessed it, C.E.O.s and analysts. (What would the world look like without them?) Many analysts push companies to downsize, and companies have to act like they're listening even though the analysts aren't always right. And C.E.O.s are all about quick and dirty: "The average C.E.O.'s tenure today is just six years, long enough to see the benefits of downsizing (like a lower payroll) but not long enough to suffer costs that may appear in the long term."

Assuming no one will take my suggestion to abolish the stock market seriously, here's a few quick partial fixes that are good for the rest of us. Can you say labor unions, where wages are higher and layoffs more difficult? We could also stop paying C.E.O.s so much, at least in stock options. And less golf for bigwigs.

Castro: Not Dead Yet

| Tue Apr. 24, 2007 6:15 PM EDT

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It's been nearly 9 months since Fidel Castro was seen in public, but new photos released Saturday suggest that Castro's health is getting better not worse. The photos show Castro wearing his now ubiquitous Adidas track suit and speaking with Chinese official Wu Guanzheng.

The news has thrown a wrench into preparations being made in this country for Castro's death. As word spread that Castro was ill and relinquishing most of his power to his brother Raul in July, American nightclub owners squealed with delight about the possibility of building Cuban outposts of their clubs. In August, Tommy Puccio, co owner of several hotels and clubs in Miami told the New York Daily News that he wanted to be "the first one to serve Jell-O shots in Cuba. Here it is 2006, and it might just be reality now." And in late January, the city of Miami announced plans to throw a huge "Castro is dead" party at the Orange Bowl, complete with souvenir t-shirts and live entertainment.

It's still unclear how Castro's health or his brother's planned economic changes will affect Cuba in the long run, but for now at least, the Jell-O shots will have to wait.

--Amaya Rivera

You Ordered Lube Online in 2003? We Know

| Tue Apr. 24, 2007 6:03 PM EDT

About 250,000 people will think twice before ordering free sex products at the next giveaway. Ryan Singel at Wired has been unraveling the latest case of a leaked customer database. "There's no such thing as a free lubricant," he writes. All too true. Way to stay on top of the story, Ryan. Customers are worried about what will come out of their next prospective employer's Google search, but I think the Astroglide corporation is going to have to do the biggest reputation clean-up of all. Bloggers: hurry and get your lewd puns in now before the story goes cold.

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The Most Twisted, Disingenuous Statement on Iraq Ever Made

| Tue Apr. 24, 2007 12:43 PM EDT

The American people voted for change in the 2006 midterms, right? A change in the culture of corruption in Washington, a change in the lack of checks of Bush Administration overreach, and most of all, a change in Iraq.

Did you know that the "change" Americans wanted in Iraq was more troops? Yeah, that's what Americans wanted when they roundly defeated the president's party. More. Troops.

Honest to god, this statement from President Bush could not be more disingenuous. And that's an incredible statement, all things considered.

Happy Equal Pay Day?

| Tue Apr. 24, 2007 12:29 PM EDT

Today is Equal Pay Day, the day when women's annual wages finally catch up with what men made through December 31 of the last year. Currently, women make 77 cents to a man's dollar, so it takes them an extra 114 days (that's nearly 4 months) to catch up to men's wages.

It's important to note that the 77 cents figure is not, as Carrie "I'm too rich to work" Lukas' insidious Washington Post editorial suggests, due to Ivy League-educated, rich women "choosing" to stay home with their children. The 77 cents figure is only for women working full-time, year-round and is partially due to women making trade-offs—e.g. flexible work hours—at the expense of higher salaries.

Fully 1/4 of the wage gap, maybe more, is due solely to workers being female. The recent Walmart sex-discrimination lawsuit is a great example of how women are being paid less for doing the same work as men, or alternately, are not being promoted at the same rate as men despite being equally qualified.

So why are women paid less? Well, it's certainly not because they're less educated. Women now make up 58% of undergraduates, and do better scholastically than men. Female college students dominate honor rolls, hold more leadership posts, study more, are more involved in student clubs, and logically, are distributed more awards and honors.

But even with superior education, women's wages slip further and further from men's after graduation. One year after graduation, women working full-time earn 80% of men's wages, in part because they choose lower-paying, traditionally "female" fields like healthcare and education. Ten years after graduation, women are only making 69% of men's wages. Even after accounting for hours worked, parenthood, and job choice, the gap remained.

Sadly, even the most elite of workplaces are not immune to sex discrimination and harassment that often prompts women to leave or file lawsuits. From Smith Barney to Walmart, women are paid less for doing the same job. And despite the fact, says AlterNet, that the wage gap "consistently polls number 1 with female voters in election years," it's only been addressed significantly by one 2008 contender: Hillary Clinton. Her Paycheck Fairness Act aims to make employers responsible for promoting and paying employees equally, regardless of sex, by increasing penalties, teaching women negotiation skills, and allowing employees to share salary information.

Speaking of sharing salaries, just for fun, ladies, you can see how much you would make if you were a man here.

—Jen Phillips

Save Small Magazines! Fight Corporate Cronyism!

| Tue Apr. 24, 2007 10:54 AM EDT

A while back, we blogged about the proposed postage rate hike that will imperil small magazines. To summarize:

The founding fathers decided that an active public debate was vital for America, so they intentionally created affordable postal rates for small political journals. Today, the USPS's Board of Governors is set to adopt a new set of rates, devised not by a staff of experts, but by media giant TimeWarner. The new rates may fatally wound the small magazines like Mother Jones, The Nation, and others.

You can learn more by reading this open letter from the president of The Nation to the chairman of the Postal Board of Governors. You can sign a petition and help save the small journals you love at www.stoppostalratehikes.com.

Sudan, Rebels Seek Talks to End Conflict in Darfur

| Tue Apr. 24, 2007 10:22 AM EDT

The U.N. is reporting that the Sudanese government and rebel forces have agreed that there is no military solution to the crisis in Darfur and are hoping for a negotiated settlement. They are in talks to bring about just that. Who knows if this will lead to anything productive. We can only hope.

Mother Jones has run two photo essays illustrating the horror and chaos of Darfur. One is called "Scorched Earth." The other is "Rebels and Refugees." Examples:

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We've also spoken with a special adviser to the International Crisis Group in Darfur about the lack of an effective international response, blogged about the difficulty aid workers in Sudan have, and discussed the possibility that oil is driving the genocide. Get educated!