Mojo - October 2008

Vladimir Putin Would Totally Kick Your Ass

| Tue Oct. 7, 2008 2:15 PM EDT

Yep, that's our favorite despot Vladimir Putin getting shown who's boss by an opponent half his size. But don't be fooled: Putin is a badass, and he wants you to know it. We've all seen the pictures of him fly-fishing with his shirt off and, more recently, of him taking aim at a wild boar and saving an imperiled group of scientists. The macho media campaign continues with this latest installment. In honor of his birthday, Putin has released a 75-minute DVD called Learning Judo with Vladimir Putin. It follows a 2004 book the Russian president (then prime minister) co-authored with judo partner Vasily Shestakov. "The book sold very well, and I think there will be a big demand for this film," Shestakov told the The Times (London). "Putin demonstrates five or six moves from the book, and he also explains his philosophy and outlook on judo... He is a very successful master, a 6th Dan, and he gives very clear demonstrations of technique, of movement and grip. Russia lost a great judo player, but found a great leader."

As for Putin, one of the things that attracts him to judo is the premium placed on softness and finesse. "The name of the sport, 'the gentle way,' reveals the fundamental principle—an opportunity to gain the upper hand by soft but effective actions," he says in the video.

Makes you wonder what Georgia's Mikheil Saakashvili would say about that. As The Times points out, Putin is probably the "only world leader who is as skilled at self-defence as his bodyguards." But maybe not for long: last month, Putin told a French newspaper that Nicolas Sarkozy expressed an interest in judo. "We have decided to do some training together," he said. Oh, how I would love to see that.

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That National Conversation About Race Is Actually Happening...

| Tue Oct. 7, 2008 12:40 PM EDT

But, boy, do we have a long way to go. Check out this article about Obama organizers doing their best in Buchanan County, Virginia. Here's an excerpt:

...Obama's supporters, as they push to win this dead-even battleground state, are talking directly about race, betting that the best way to raise their neighbors' comfort level with the prospect of the first black president is to openly confront their feelings.
When Cecil E. Roberts, president of the coal miners union that shapes politics in much of this mountain region, talks to voters, he tells them that their choice is to have "a black friend in the White House or a white enemy." When Charlie Cox, an Obama supporter, hears friends fretting about Obama's race, he reminds them that they pull for the nearby University of Tennessee football team, "and they're black."
Union organizer Jerry Stallard asks fellow coal workers what's more important: improving their work conditions or holding onto their skepticism of Obama's race, culture or religion. "We're all black in the mines," he tells them.

Not everyone is enthusiastic. ('Course we knew that.) See the full story for more.

New Army Doctrine Emphasizes "Stability Operations"

| Tue Oct. 7, 2008 11:42 AM EDT

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Today, the U.S. Army released it's "Stability Operations Field Manual" (.pdf), which places humanitarian and relief work at the center of its strategic focus. The manual follows two earlier documents issued in 2005 (National Security Directive 44 and Department of Defense Directive 3000.05), which first paid institutional attention to the need to adjust the military's approach to 21st century conflicts—both issued amid widespread criticism that the Bush administration did not adequately prepare for its occupation of Iraq. (Read my piece about Directive 3000.05 here.) But the new Army field manual solidifies these earlier orders and will shape how GIs are deployed for years to come.

The manual had been in the works for 10 months and was shepherded to completion by Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, commander of the Army's Combined Arms Center at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. His predecessor was none other than David Petraeus, who authored the Army's new counter-insurgency manual and went on to implement it in Iraq.

Can the Fed Stop a Bank Run?

| Tue Oct. 7, 2008 10:34 AM EDT

The Fed Reserve, in a desperate action this morning to stop a bank run and preserve commercial liquidity, is pouring money into short term markets. As the AP reported an hour ago:

The US Federal Reserve opened up its coffers Tuesday to companies hit by the credit crunch with a new program that will buy up commercial paper, short-term debt critical for many corporate operations.
The latest effort in an all-out war against the credit crunch creates a new "liquidity backstop" for corporate finance and was established after the US Treasury determined it was "necessary to prevent substantial disruptions to the financial markets and the economy," the central bank said.

"Substantial disruptions to the economy" is a nice way of saying that without access to commercial paper, commerce in the the United States would grind to a halt.

Two days ago, Nouriel Roubini, the respected NYU economics professor, market expert, and editor of the RGE Monitor, had already made these urgent recommendations to stop a liquidity run. In an October 5 interview with the Council on Foreign Relations, Roubini advised the following moves:

Will McCain Go Negative In Tonight's Debate?

| Tue Oct. 7, 2008 10:15 AM EDT

That's the question of the day. The McCain campaign has decided to go negative on Barack Obama in the last month of the campaign, invoking Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright in recent days. It's easy, though, to raise attacks like those at a campaign rally filled with sympathetic listeners or in a newspaper column with one sympathetic listener. It's much harder to do so while standing face to face with your opponent, in front of a neutral crowd. It took a number of debates before Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Edwards had the famous slugfest in South Carolina in which Clinton dropped the Rezko bomb and Obama taunted Hillary for her husband's antics by saying "I can't tell who I'm running against sometimes."

But McCain knows how to get rough. In a Republican debate in New Hampshire, he took the lead in a tag team assault on Mitt Romney, sticking the shiv in so many times that Romney was left pleading for civility, saying, "Senator, is there a way to have this about issues and not about personal attacks?"

Doonesbury Continues the Crusade

| Tue Oct. 7, 2008 10:06 AM EDT

We mentioned yesterday that Doonesbury is running with a theme Mother Jones wrote about a few weeks back, namely that John McCain slams the role lobbyists have played in the financial meltdown while keeping dozens of Wall Street lobbyists on his campaign payroll. Here's yesterday's strip:

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Doonesbury © 2008 G. B. Trudeau. Used by permission of Universal Press Syndicate. All rights reserved.

Today, strip author Garry Trudeau continues the theme. Trudeau is naming, on average, 7.5 lobbyists in each strip. One wonders if he's in this for the long haul...

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Anti-Obama Book Author Corsi Arrested in Kenya

| Tue Oct. 7, 2008 9:54 AM EDT

Kenyan authorities have arrested Jerome Corsi, the author of a hit book on Obama, "Obama Nation," on immigration violations, the AP reports:

The American author of a best-selling book attacking Barack Obama is being detained in Kenya because he does not have a work permit, a senior immigration official said Tuesday.
Jerome Corsi, who wrote "The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality," was being held at immigration headquarters in Nairobi after police picked him up from his hotel Tuesday, said Carlos Maluta, a senior immigration official in charge of investigations.
"We still haven't decided what to do with him," Maluta told The Associated Press. ...

A Paleo-Feminist on Transgender Sexism Studies

| Mon Oct. 6, 2008 5:49 PM EDT

An extremely 'well intentioned' young white guy I work closely with said to me the other day that, appalled as he was by this "new" notion of white privilege he'd just heard of, thank god he'd never been its beneficiary. Others had, of course, but not him and man! would such a thing suck if it actually did exist.

While trying not to either laugh at him or slit his throat, I informed him about a study done by U of Chicago and MIT professors. In that study, identical resumes were sent in response to their local papers' want ads. Identical, that is, but for names like "Jennifer" v. "Tanisha," and "Jamal" v. "Joe". Let's just sum it up thusly:

The authors find that applicants with white-sounding names are 50 percent more likely to get called for an initial interview than applicants with African-American-sounding names. Applicants with white names need to send about 10 resumes to get one callback, whereas applicants with African-American names need to send about 15 resumes to achieve the same result.

"Testers" (fake applicants sent out to rent apartments, buy cars, etc.) find basically the same results.

He could only stare at me in silent bewilderment that his white skin had ever, ever helped him. Him, with his Martin Luther King T shirts, pants sagging off his ass, and tongue stud but white bread name, let alone skin. I love the kid but he doesn't yet know that anybody can cover up their piercings, but only some of us can lose melanin for the brief duration of an interview. C'mon white folks. Tim Wise can't do it alone. Get a clue already.

Now comes an equally delicious way of proving that sexism and male privilege are all too alive and well (hat tip: Andrew Sullivan.) From Time:

Sarah Palin, Unguarded

| Mon Oct. 6, 2008 3:37 PM EDT

armstrongwilliams_palin250x200.jpg In August 2007, Sarah Palin sat down with controversial conservative columnist and TV/radio host Armstrong Williams in Palin's Anchorage offices. In the 35-minute long interview, which is available on YouTube and was taped for Armstrong's TV show The RightSide, Palin sits on a couch bearing a full-length bear skin, speaking naturally and easily. Unencumbered by tough questions—Armstrong asks how Alaskans deal with the long hours of darkness they face in the wintertime, for example—and the glare of the national spotlight, Palin comments intelligently on a variety of topics but also says a number of things she would think twice about saying today.

Armstrong notes repeatedly that at the time of the interview Palin is the most popular governor in the country. When he asks Palin for the secret to her success, she says, "The biggest mistake that a politician can make is trying to fake it, trying to pretend you know more than you know. You know, voters are smarter than that. The public in general is much smarter than that and they know when you're trying to fake it, so just be honest with people."

The comment is ironic considering Palin's performance in the past few weeks, which has even conservatives like David Brooks and George Will admitting that Palin is in over her head. Her attempts to bluff her way through questions on subjects like the Supreme Court and the Bush Doctrine appear to be the definition of "trying to fake it."

Following up on the subject of Palin's popularity, Williams asks what the success women are seeing in politics—the interview takes place with Hillary Clinton leading in the Democratic primary—says about the country. Palin responds by echoing Barack Obama's rhetoric. "It's also, I think, a message that many Americans are just really hungry for something different, for a change."

McCain Has a Decision to Make on Jeremiah Wright

| Mon Oct. 6, 2008 3:13 PM EDT

In April, John McCain condemned a TV ad released by the North Carolina Republican Party that tied Barack Obama to his former pastor Jeremiah Wright.

The ad, which called Obama "too extreme for North Carolina" because of his long-time association with Wright, drew McCain's ire. "It's not the message of the Republican Party," he said. "It's not the message of my campaign. I've pledged to conduct a respectful campaign." He added that he wanted to "disassociate myself from that kind of campaigning."

Will McCain disassociate himself from his vice presidential choice? Sarah Palin brought up Obama's connection to Wright in the New York Times yesterday. And is the McCain campaign, in its efforts to get nasty, going to run with this topic despite McCain's earlier statements suggesting Wright is off-limits?