Mojo - February 2008

Bush's Newest Secret: Who's Funding His Library?

| Thu Feb. 28, 2008 9:38 AM PST

southern-methodist-university250x200.jpg

At a White House press conference on Thursday morning, George W. Bush was a bit too cute when it came to an important matter: the funding of his presidential library.

News reports have noted that the library, to be set up at Southern Methodist University, will cost more than $200 million. The question is, who will pay for it? The tabs for presidential libraries are not covered by the taxpayers. They are picked up by nonprofit foundations, and these foundations have no obligation to disclose their sources of money. Bill Clinton has refused to say who is funding his library through the William J. Clinton Foundation, though the Washington Post reported that the royal family of Saudi Arabia contributed $10 million to the Little Rock facility.

It is troubling when the spouse of a presidential candidate receives millions of dollars secretly from one or more overseas sources. But what's more problematic is the prospect of a sitting president obtaining foreign cash for a pet project and not disclosing it. (The Saudis reportedly also gave the presidential library of the first President Bush millions of dollars. After being generous to George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, it's unlikely they will stiff the younger Bush)

Advertise on MotherJones.com

GOP: "We're Subverting the Constitution, Can't We At Least Get Paid?"

| Thu Feb. 28, 2008 8:47 AM PST

capitol_hill_phone.gif Love this story from Roll Call (sub. required). Apparently, members of the GOP are angry because the telecom companies they are trying to protect with immunity in the FISA fight aren't rewarding them for their efforts with increased donations.

"It's quite discouraging," said one GOP leadership aide, referring to the disparity in giving from the telecommunications industry in light of the FISA debate, but also the broader lack of support for Republicans from the business community in general.
"These companies just won't do anything," the aide said. "Even when you have the Democrats working against their bottom line."
...Another leadership aide concurred, arguing that business groups vowed to hold Republicans' feet to the fire when they were in the majority while the Democratic leadership seems to be getting a free ride.
"They're funding the campaigns of people who want to put them out of business," the aide said, adding that business groups often rationalize their giving because they think Democrats will be willing to work with them.

Quit yer bellyaching. If you actually believe the telecom companies should not be held culpable for enabling the federal government's warrantless wiretapping program, then you shouldn't expect cash payments in return. Or was this whole thing about money all along?

"John Sidney McCain"

| Thu Feb. 28, 2008 8:37 AM PST

Quick thought. I think Obama should combat the increasing use of his middle name by right-wingers and some portions of the official Republican Party by making a joke out of it. Whenever referring to John McCain from now on, Obama should use McCain's middle name, Sidney. And he should really hit the emphasis on Sidney — the stupid among us will hear vaguely feminine undertones; the intelligent among us will see the absurdist joke. Most of all, it will likely disarm Obama's critics and make them look silly.

Think you know a better way Obama can handle the issue? Let me hear it in the comments.

New Abu Ghraib Pictures Released

| Thu Feb. 28, 2008 8:20 AM PST

AbuGhraib.jpg
Wired magazine just released a batch of ten new Abu Ghraib photos (warning, they're graphic), among them a picture of a naked detainee bleeding profusely from his left leg and another of a female soldier smiling and giving the thumb's up sign next to a corpse. The magazine obtained these photographs from psychologist Philip Zimbardo, an emeritus professor at Stanford University and an expert witness for one of the soldiers accused of abusing detainees at Abu Ghraib, Sgt. Ivan "Chip" Frederick. In 1971, Zimbardo conducted what is now popularly known as the "Stanford Prison Experiment," in which a group of college students were assigned the role of guards or prisoners—an experiment that was stopped when the "guards" took to their roles with too much gusto. When asked how the results of his experiment compared with what transpired at Abu Ghraib, the psychologist told the the magazine:

The military intelligence, the CIA and the civilian interrogator corporation, Titan, told the MPs [at Abu Ghraib], "It is your job to soften the prisoners up. We give you permission to do something you ordinarily are not allowed to do as a military policeman —to break the prisoners, to soften them up, to prepare them for interrogation." That's permission to step across the line from what is typically restricted behavior to now unrestricted behavior.

In the same way in the Stanford prison study, I was saying [to the student guards], "You have to be powerful to prevent further rebellion." I tell them, "You're not allowed, however, to use physical force." By default, I allow them to use psychological force. In five days, five prisoners are having emotional breakdowns.

The situational forces that were going on in [Abu Ghraib]—the dehumanization, the lack of personal accountability, the lack of surveillance, the permission to get away with anti-social actions—it was like the Stanford prison study, but in spades.

Civil Rights Hero Makes It Official: I'm Dumping Clinton for Obama

| Wed Feb. 27, 2008 2:06 PM PST

Two weeks ago I identified a possible tipping point for Barack Obama: Representative John Lewis's statement that he probably would vote for Obama as a superdelegate at the Democratic convention.

Now the civil rights hero has made it official by actually endorsing Obama.

Lewis has a lot of cred among House Democrats, among African American Democrats, among superdelegates. His move is an indicator that Clinton, who has a lead in committed superdelegates at this point, may not be able to count on that support. Lewis's announcement--even though it's not so newsy given his previous statement--is rather bad news for the Clinton camp.

Obama Nets Millionth Donor; Makes Public Financing Irrelevant?

| Wed Feb. 27, 2008 12:09 PM PST

In an impressive feat, Barack Obama has surpassed the one-million donor mark. Marc Ambinder has a pretty good explanation for why that negates all of John McCain's bellyaching about Obama reneging on his public financing pledge.

In essence, the argument is: when one million people donate to your campaign in increments of roughly $110 each, that is public financing.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

McCain Making Talk Radio Hate Him Even More

| Wed Feb. 27, 2008 10:38 AM PST

mccain_closeup_250x200.jpg This is awesome.

At a recent Ohio rally, John McCain was introduced by right-wing radio nutjob Bill Cunningham. Cunningham spent his introduction slamming Obama, repeatedly referring to him "Barack Hussein Obama" and calling him a "hack, Chicago-style, Daley politician." He made reference to "CBS the Clinton Broadcasting System, NBC the Nobody But Clinton network, the All Bill Clinton channel ABC, and the Clinton News Network."

The nutjobbery was bad enough that McCain immediately approached reporters after the event and denounced Cunningham's comments. His statement:

Freedom's Watch Backer to Take Stand in Israeli Lawsuit

| Wed Feb. 27, 2008 8:40 AM PST

Casino mogul and Freedom's Watch backer Sheldon Adelson, who's being sued in Israel, takes the stand tomorrow, Ha'aretz's Yossi Melman reports. Among the allegations in this case and related law suits, Melman reports: Adelson helped the Chinese government derail Congressional human rights legislation that would have called for Beijing not to get the 2008 Olympic games. In exchange, the law suits allege, Adelson received Beijing's nod to open a casino in Chinese-controlled Macau. Various businessmen along the way claim that Adelson cut them out of the deals. Melman:

... Besides Moshe Hananel's suit, there are another four against Adelson for hundreds of millions of dollars that were submitted to American courts about the concession granted to companies he owns for the operation of a hotel and casino in Macau. The suits were filed a few years ago by Chinese and American businessmen and by a New York investment house and a Taiwan bank. All parties claim Adelson promised to compensate them for assistance they had given him to gain the Macau franchise. ...

"Adelson, his assistants and companies deny the claims," the paper reports.

Obama and Clinton Debate in Cleveland: No Pain, No Gain

| Tue Feb. 26, 2008 10:40 PM PST

If the political winds in Ohio and Texas are blowing in Barack Obama's favor—and polls in each state show Obama gaining strength—Hillary Clinton did little during Tuesday night's debate in Cleveland to change the weather.

With a week to go before primaries in those important states, this debate was much a repeat of last Thursday's face-off. The two remaining Democratic candidates once again got hot and bothered over the issue of health care insurance mandates. But neither had anything new to say. The Clinton campaign has been pounding Obama for weeks on this front, but the wonky issue has not provided her any traction. And after 16 minutes of grueling back and forth—much of which was devoted to each candidate insisting that unnamed experts had pronounced his or her plan the best—Clinton did not achieve any breakthrough. She claimed the difference between their two health care proposals—she's for a comprehensive mandate that would force all Americans to purchase health insurance; he's for a limited mandate covering insurance for kids—is the defining issue of the Democratic presidential contest. His response: not really. He minimized the gap between their plans. And it's hard for a candidate to have a battle royale with a foe who deftly maintains, we ain't got that big of a dispute here, let's move on. By now it should be clear: mandates are not going to save Hillary Clinton.

The other big squabble of the night came right after the mandates mudwrestle, and it focused on NAFTA, which has emerged as an issue in the past week, with Clinton and Obama competing for blue-collar Democratic voters in Ohio. As part of this tussle, Clinton has in recent days complained that Obama has unfairly tarred her as a flip-flopper on NAFTA. (Her current position: the trade accord is flawed, needs to be renegotiated, and there should be a time-out in negotiating similar treaties.) At the debate, she declared that she's been a critic of NAFTA "from the very beginning." Obama called her out on this—and simultaneously, his campaign sent reporters a link to a YouTube video in which she praises NAFTA. (Obama's campaign website conveniently features a list of Clinton's pro-NAFTA remarks over the years.)

Financial Aid at Top Private Universities May Be Kiss of Death for Public Schools

| Tue Feb. 26, 2008 5:38 PM PST

Last week Stanford University jumped on the ever-growing financial aid bandwagon, announcing the the school would extend support to middle- and upper-middle-class income families—a trend initiated by Harvard University and one that is quickly being adopted by top universities nationwide. Whether prestigious universities with bulging endowments are spreading the wealth to level the playing field for the socioeconomically disadvantaged or to gain prestige to further pad their endowments, lessening the financial burden of higher education is undeniably a great direction in which to head.

What's worrisome about this recent trend is what it implies for public universities around the nation, whose student bodies represent more diverse and democratic socioeconomic backgrounds. At UC Berkeley—a state school with bragging rights of its own for its quality of faculty, students, and research—the estimated cost of attendance (including tuition, room and board, and additional fees) is $25,000. This, of course, isn't cheap, but with Stanford's and many other top universities' estimated cost of attendance topping out at an astronomical $50,000, it has always seemed like a bargain.