Mojo - October 2007

U.S., the Biggest Global Arms Dealer

| Tue Oct. 2, 2007 9:18 PM EDT

We're leaders in everything, from outsourcing to having the highest rate of child poverty among industrialized nations. We are also, according to a Congressional Service Research (CRS) report released yesterday, the top seller of arms to the developing world, followed by Russia and Great Britain. Its biggest recipients are Pakistan and India.

With this $28.8 billion market, the U.S. is effectively fueling a long standing rivalry between two nuclear states on the Indian subcontinent by arming both sides and pushing along a regional arms race. By selling F-16's to both sides, the Bush administration claimed back in 2005, it was "trying to...solidify and extend relations with both India and Pakistan, at a time when we have good relations with both of them...and at a time when they have improving relationships with one another."

This is certainly nothing new: the U.S. doesn't hesitate to arm both sides of a conflict. Let us remember Turkey and Greece, as well as Iran and Iraq.

—Neha Inamdar

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Jena Just Isn't Enough: Protest or Participation?

| Tue Oct. 2, 2007 2:24 PM EDT

In the wake of news, both good and bad, about minority crime, Congress finally coming to grips with the crack/powder cocaine sentencing travesty, and actionable analyses of the prison-industrial complex gaining traction, the question remains one of finding a way forward to inner city uplift. (Of course, for some, the question remains "how can we get those ig'nent black people to accept that all their problems are entirely of their own making. That they, and they alone, live in a socio-historical vaccuum, untouched by the doings of the dominant group.")

White apologists to the contrary, and except in Louim-ian circumstances, we do not need a "21st Century Civil Rights Movement." Not if that means an emphasis on marching, protesting and denunciations of racism. Been there. Done that. Move along, now. Whites' consciousness isn't going to be raised any higher until the black one undergoes some major renovations and maybe not even then; people see what they want to see. In fact, we'd do best to assume whites will never be any more enlightened than they are now because, to paraphrase Chris Rock, it wasn't the white media chasing him home from the subway.

Is it whites' fault that Ray-Ray was chasing Chris? Ok, let's go with that, but to stop there is to fetishize white people. It's to assume that whites are all-malevolent, all-powerful and there's nothing blacks can do to protect, let alone better, themselves. On the other hand, to procede to figuring out a way to reach Ray-Ray is to love black people and the black future. It's to believe in them. And, here's the hard part: believing in someone or something has to mean a willingness to critique it closely for flaws, for failing to live up to its potential, then working to correct those flaws.

So when I hear of organizations like this one, I know I've encountered a true "nigger lover." They didn't just harp on blacks' disproportionate unemployment levels and how the prison-industrial complex keeps black men forever on the margins; they opened the "Homeboy Bakery" and created jobs with futures for America's despised. And talk about a work ethic when you know your boss, and your clientele, wants to see you shine. Leaders like this talk about "watching people become the truth of who they are." The other kind talk about white people.

Here's another way forward vice back, yet again, to whites:

The plan to put 10,000 men on the streets for an initial period of 90 days starting late this year is the latest effort by Philadelphia's black community to curb violence that drove homicides to a nine-year high of 406 in 2006.
Groups of volunteers will be stationed on drug corners and other trouble spots in a bid to stop the shootings and other crimes that have given Philadelphia the highest homicide rate among the nation's 10 largest cities. They will not be armed, will not have powers of arrest, and will be identified only by armbands or hats during their three-hour shifts.
They will be trained in conflict resolution, and are intended to be peacekeepers and mentors rather than law enforcers. Each patrol, however, will include a police officer.

Sure would be a lot easier to walk a picket line once a year or so and yell stuff at TV cameras.

Needless to say, the folks who secretly believe that all the lies are true, that black dysfunction and underachievement is the truth of who we are, are putting far more effort into derailing the plan than volunteering for it: "Critics say the plan will fail to meet its recruitment goals, partly because it is too closely identified with the police, who will be responsible for selecting the areas to patrol and who are distrusted in many neighborhoods." It doesn't take a CIA analyst to see who here is invested in black progress and who in preserving a status quo that enables their fascination with Anglos and absolves blacks of any responsibility for their own uplift.

My frustrations with the problematics of the Jena protests has me stuck on this topic, I know, but never fear: I'll move on. I'd planned to today; my umbrage isn't even close to fully taken and it's a target-rich environment out there. But then I happened upon the following article early this morning. One participant at a recent conference of marginalized black/migrant European women summarized their goal thusly: "We don't want to protest, we want to participate." Sounds good to me. It also sounds like a critique.

Hillary's Fundraising Numbers

| Tue Oct. 2, 2007 12:59 PM EDT

I brought you Obama's numbers yesterday, so here are Hillary's.

In comparison to Obama's 93,000 new donors this third quarter of 2007, Clinton had 100,000.

In comparison to Obama's $20 million raised, Clinton raised $27 million. (Just FYI, John Edwards raised $7 million. Richardson raised $5.2 million.)

Clinton's the frontrunner, all right. Overall, she's raised $90 million to Obama's $80 million. What on earth are they going to do with all that money?

New Poll Shows War Opposition

| Tue Oct. 2, 2007 12:44 PM EDT

There's a new Washington Post/ABC poll on Iraq.

The question: Do you think Congress should approve $190 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan over the next year or reduce the amount?

The response:
- Approve all money: 26%
- Reduce somewhat: 23%
- Reduce sharply: 43%
- Approve no money: 3%

It's clear that a majority of Americans oppose constantly handing more money over to George W. Bush to prosecute his wars.

Fred Thompson Thinks Saddam had WMD, Would be Regional Dictator if Not Deposed

| Tue Oct. 2, 2007 11:46 AM EDT

Maybe Fred Thompson thinks he needs to get his crazy on in order to garner attention in the GOP primary race. That's the only explanation for the comments he just made in Iowa about Saddam Hussein:

"Saddam Hussein, today, had we not gone in, would be sitting on this power keg and be in control of the whole thing," Thompson predicted. "He would have been the new dictator of that entire region in my estimation. He is, was, a dangerous irrational man who, by this time, would have been well on his way to having the nuclear capability himself."

This is nonsense and shows a stunning lack of understanding of the power relationships that ruled the Middle East from the first Gulf War until 2003. Saddam Hussein (1) was balanced by Iran, (2) had a pretty pathetic armed forces throughout the '90s and '00s, and (3) never signaled an interest in increased territorial hegemony after the first Gulf War.

Also, this is just ridiculous:

"We can't forget the fact that although at a particular point in time we never found any WMD down there, he clearly had had WMD," Thompson said. "He clearly had had the beginnings of a nuclear program, and in my estimation his intent never did change."

Saddam didn't have WMD in any serious sense. He may have had low-grade chemical and biological weapons programs, much of which were just left over from before the first Gulf War, but if we were to invade every country in the world that had that sort of weapons program, we'd be fighting across the globe. Here's what the Iraq Survey Group, a 1,400-member international team organized by the Pentagon and the CIA to find WMDs, had to say about Saddam's weapons programs in 2004: "While a small number of old, abandoned chemical munitions have been discovered, ISG judges that Iraq unilaterally destroyed its undeclared chemical weapons stockpile in 1991. There are no credible indications that Baghdad resumed production of chemical munitions thereafter."

Read a freakin' newspaper, Fred. Or a book. Or the internet. Or anything.

Doctors Discover Americans Are Uninsured

| Tue Oct. 2, 2007 11:16 AM EDT

Over the past month, the American Medical Association (AMA) has blanketed the D.C. public transit system with a massive advertising campaign to raise the profile of the 1 in 7 Americans who lack health insurance. The three-year, multimillion-dollar campaign is also underway in early primary states like Iowa and South Carolina.

It's nice to see the doctors' lobby using its tremendous political muscle to focus attention on the uninsured rather than, say, injured people who sue them (the AMA has devoted millions of dollars to "medical malpractice reform" over the past few years). But the new campaign seems a little disingenuous. After all, were it not for the AMA, we might have had universal coverage 50 years ago. Way back in 1948, the AMA spent millions on PR to defeat government-run universal health care when it was close to passage in Congress by stoking fears of Communists and socialized medicine. The group even fought the creation of Medicare, which it now lobbies hard to protect. And, it was the AMA and many of its partners in this new effort (like the insurance companies) that worked to kill off HillaryCare in the 1990s.

Not surprisingly, the AMA's "solution" to the health care crisis is based mostly on tax credits that would allow people to buy private insurance rather than a bigger role for government. But hey, at least they've finally stopped ranting about socialized medicine!

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Pakistan's Sham Elections...Again

| Mon Oct. 1, 2007 9:15 PM EDT

Once again, Pakistan is preparing for an election that is suspect, where General Musharraf will seek another five-year term.

The presidential "election," which will take place on October 6, 2007, will be far from fair and free: Pakistan's presidents are selected by an electoral college which is made up of the national and provincial assemblies. Yet the current parliament is a result of the rigged 2002 "elections." The current parliament's term is up come November, making the October date timely for Musharraf.

Musharraf's bid for re-election was approved on Friday by the Supreme Court, which threw out petitions contesting the constitutional legality of Musharraf seeking a re-election while keeping his military uniform on. Upon hearing the verdict, Pakistani lawyers in the courtroom angrily bellowed, "Shame, shame!" and "Go Musharraf, go!" Musharraf claims that if he "wins" (which he most certainly will), he'll take off his uniform before the presidential inauguration. Let's not bet on it.

Last weekend, prior to the verdict, Musharraf started locking up opposition members (which some say number in the thousands) in an effort to thwart protests that seized the day when Musharraf filed his nomination. These detentions prompted the normally reticent US Embassy in Islamabad to issue a press release stating:

The reports of arrests of the leadership of several major Pakistani political parties are extremely disturbing and confusing for the friends of Pakistan. We wish to express our serious concern about these developments. These detainees should be released as soon as possible.

Chief Justice Muhammad Iftikhar Chaudhry ordered the government to free hundreds of activists on Thursday. Then on Saturday lawyers, journalists, and activists observed a "black day" to protest Musharraf's bid. The Islamabad police cracked down on the protesters, injuring roughly 83 people. (The chief of police and two senior officials have since been suspended.)

But there are no worries for Musharraf and his allies. Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz claims that this electoral process will put Pakistan on the path of democracy, and Pakistan's friend in need- the US- says that the Supreme Court's verdict was "based on the Constitution and existing laws of Pakistan. We do not want to make any sort of assessments." What was omitted was that the Constitution and "existing laws" of Pakistan have been tweaked by the General in order to allow him to hold both the army chief and presidential posts concurrently.

— Neha Inamdar

Burma: The UN Might Just Be Useful

| Mon Oct. 1, 2007 8:40 PM EDT

Burma is eerily quiet.

Thursday's protests were by far the most eventful yet— an estimated 70,000 people were on the streets demanding democracy. Soldiers fired tear gas and shots on crowds, the government says the death toll is ten; but some estimates put it as high as 200.

So what does the military do in an effort to contain further pro-democracy protests? It blocks the Internet. Since press freedom in Burma is fiercely curtailed, bloggers have played a critical role in showcasing the mayhem. The military government also launched raids on monasteries, beat and arrested at least 1,000 people, locked up tens of thousands of monks within the monasteries, and sealed off five "key" monasteries.

In spite of that, protests have continued- albeit their momentum slowed. Reports the Times, now that the monks have been locked up, the "demonstrations seemed to have lost their focus, and soldiers are quick to pounce on any groups that emerged onto the streets."

Demonstrations have cropped up across Asia, in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines. ASEAN has issued a statement about their "revulsion" towards how "the demonstrations in Myanmar are being suppressed by violent force and that there has been a number of fatalities." India, which has armed the Burmese military regime, has generally remained silent. The UN sent UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari, who arrived Saturday and is due to meet the Burmese senior general on Tuesday. Dana Perino says that "The United States is pleased that U.N. Special Envoy Gambari was able to see Aung San Suu Kyi. Mr. Gambari remains in Burma in order to see the top junta leader, Than Shwe."

At least the UN has some use for the U.S.

— Neha Inamdar

Citigroup Gets What It Deserves

| Mon Oct. 1, 2007 3:27 PM EDT

Citigroup today announced that its third-quarter earnings dropped 60 percent, in large part because of more than a billion dollars worth of bad subprime loans in its portfolio. But no one, especially not Citigroup, should be surprised that its loan portfolio is a minefield of rotten debt.

For years, Citigroup has preyed on the mentally retarded, the elderly, and the illiterate, particularly in the South, to push predatory subprime loans on people most ill-equipped to pay for them. Reporter Mike Hudson, now at the Wall Street Journal, has been chronicling this story for a decade, and in 2003, Southern Exposure magazine won a George Polk award for his investigative package on Citigroup and its history of assembling some of the country's sleaziest subprime lending companies under one roof. Lots of people who got subprime loans from Citigroup and its subsidiaries ended up losing their homes long before the current foreclosure crisis.

Just five years ago, Citigroup agreed to pay $240 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the Federal Trade Commission over its predatory lending practices, and it has settled a host of private lawsuits over similar charges. The lawsuits never seemed to put even a hitch in Citigroup's step, but it looks like all those bad loans are finally coming home to roost. Citigroup deserves to collapse under the weight of its scummy business practices, but it's unfortunate that the reckoning threatens to bring down the rest of the economy with it.

Obama Releases Fundraising Numbers; Has Raised $75M in 2007

| Mon Oct. 1, 2007 3:01 PM EDT

Here are the raw numbers for Obama's fundraising, snatched from a press advisory email his campaign just sent out:

Third quarter totals:
• Primary dollars raised: at least $19 million
• Overall dollars raised (with general election): at least $20 million
• Number of new donors: over 93,000

Total 2007:
• Primary dollars raised: at least $74.9 million
• Total number of donors: 352,000

It's that last one that I find most impressive. If Obama has managed to find 352,000 donors from January 1 to September 30, that's roughly 1,290 new donors every single day.

I'm interested to know what Obama's cash-on-hand is. He may have raised a whopping $75 million up to this point, but how much does he have left to spend? I've placed a call to the Obama press office to find out.

Update: No call back. From other news reports, it looks like they are keeping the cash-on-hand number under wraps.