Mojo - November 2008

Lieberman Escapes Dems' Wrath--and That May Be Good

| Tue Nov. 18, 2008 3:43 PM EST

Revenge is for those who don't care about results.

That's the mature message of Howard Dean. Moments after the Democratic Caucus in the Senate decided to keep Senator Joe Lieberman, who had campaigned for John McCain's presidential bid, as head of the Homeland Security Committee, Dean, the outgoing head of the Democratic National Committee told the Huffington Post that the Senate Dems had done the right thing:

You know, the desire of revenge is great, of course. But the truth is public policy doesn't run on revenge very well. And when you see the trouble this country has gotten into in terms of foreign policy, where Bush basically ran a foreign policy based on petulance because he was mad at, for example, Mexico, for abstaining on the Security Council when the Iraq War came up, if you have to actually run the country, it is best not to do it based on feeling of anger towards your enemies....
My point of view is that Barack won. He can afford to be magnanimous. And if we happen to win both recounts and Georgia, Joe is the 60th vote. And the truth is -- and I certainly don't have to defend Joe Lieberman because, you know, we have an interesting history -- but the fact is, he does vote 90 percent of the time with the Democrats. And no, he shouldn't have said all those things. But why not clean the state? Why not start all over again? Why not allow him to vote with us on the 90 percent of the stuff? He will be a good vote on climate change -- and this matters. He may be a good vote on election reform, which I hope we will get to. So, you know, he may end up - though it is a little against the odds -- he may end up being the vote that allows us to conduct business when Mitch McConnell decides we shouldn't.

Dean has a point. Netroots Democrats got whipped up into a frenzy over the Lieberman matter. For many Democrats, excommunicating Lieberman--who is an independent now but who caucuses with the Democrats--would have felt great. They wanted to see the Senate Dems flash some political muscle. But getting personal is not always the way to get ahead. When Obama takes the high road, he can gain political capital. When congressional Democrats help him do that, they will be helping themselves. Lieberman is a sideshow--a sanctimonious, irritating sideshow. But the president-elect and the Democrats in Congress have much bigger fish to fry. They could afford to toss this one back into the pond.

By the way, Kevin disagrees.

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Abortion Access: Bush Administration Continues Its Last Minute Moves

| Tue Nov. 18, 2008 12:28 PM EST

This is not the first time the Bush Administration has tried to tweak policy in these closing days, and it won't be the last. But it is disheartening nonetheless. The Times:

A last-minute Bush administration plan to grant sweeping new protections to health care providers who oppose abortion and other procedures on religious or moral grounds has provoked a torrent of objections, including a strenuous protest from the government agency that enforces job discrimination laws.
The proposed rule would prohibit recipients of federal money from discriminating against doctors, nurses and other health care workers who refuse to perform or to assist in the performance of abortions or sterilization procedures because of their "religious beliefs or moral convictions."
...three officials from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, including its legal counsel, whom President Bush appointed, said the proposal would overturn 40 years of civil rights law prohibiting job discrimination based on religion....

The Civil Rights Act already prohibits employment discrimination based on religion. This is fundamentally about protecting pro-lifers who don't want to hand out contraception or perform abortions. That is, making family planning more difficult in America.

The opponents of the new rule include Democratic politicians (including Obama), abortion rights groups, pharmacies, and many states. Notes the Times, "State officials said the rule could void state laws that require insurance plans to cover contraceptives and require hospitals to offer emergency contraception to rape victims." That's frightening. If this change was so easily done by the Bush Administration, hopefully it will be just as easily undone by the Obama one.

Take This as Tacit Black Support for Gay Marriage

| Tue Nov. 18, 2008 11:53 AM EST

Here's Beyonce, Paul Rudd, Justin Timberlake (he's almost black, right?), and Saturday Night Live working it through, ahem, the 'back door' for gay rights (scroll to last video).

A reach, I know. But Will Saletan at Slate thinks blacks will eventually get religion about homosexuality, too.

Why Rescue Automakers and Other Corporations that Have Been Bad Neighbors?

| Tue Nov. 18, 2008 11:46 AM EST

As Congress ponders whether to bail out the auto industry--and Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson opposes using the Big Finance rescue package to aid the Big Three automakers--a press release put out by a Democratic congressman from Wisconsin, Steve Kagen, illustrates the dilemmas at hand when it comes to assisting multinational corporations that have made their own now-falling-apart beds. Kagen asks why the taxpayers should help out Chrysler when the owner of Chrysler has screwed his constituents by shutting down paper mills in his district and refusing to sell those facilities to others.

Kagen explains:

Congressman Steve Kagen, M.D. says no taxpayer money should be given to Chrysler until after Wisconsin papermakers go back to work. Cerberus Capital Management, L.P., one of the largest private equity investment firms in the United States, owns many corporations including automaker Chrysler and NewPage Corporation, which recently closed two paper mills in Northeast Wisconsin putting over 750 people out of work.
"If Cerberus needs to raise cash to bailout Chrysler, then they should sell our idle paper mills in Kimberly and Niagara," said Kagen. "Local community leaders have given them opportunities to sell - they have turned them down - and now hard working families in Wisconsin are being asked to help the very people who have taken away their jobs. Outrageous. I am strongly against any taxpayer funds being given to Chrysler until their parent company gives us our jobs back. Cerberus already has millions of dollars of assets in these mills which they can sell tomorrow, putting my friends and neighbors back to work, and generating the capital necessary to keep Chrysler afloat."
Kagen spoke this weekend at the dedication of Camp Kimberly, an area set up across the street from the quiet NewPage paper mill. Former mill workers are holding daily vigils to urge NewPage executives to run the mill, or sell it.
....The closure of the mill in Kimberly caused the loss of over 450 papermaking jobs and the Niagara mill closing put over 300 people out of work. Both closures were due to unfair competition from foreign-made paper.

Whether Kagen is right or not about what Cerberus has done--or not done--regarding the paper mills in his district, this situation shows a fundamental problem. Troubled corporations deemed too big to fail are running to the government for handouts, and it may be best of bad options to use taxpayer dollars to prevent their collapse. But these same corporations have often showed disregard for their workers, their consumers, and the communities in which they have thrived. That is, they haven't made decisions to advance the greater good--after all, that's not been their mission. (Their top job has been to make money for the shareholders and owners.) Yet once they hit trouble, they plead that it serves the greater good to keep them afloat. It's a basic asymmetry. To compensate, taxpayers and legislators ought to apply public interest standards for any bailouts that do proceed.

Would a Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Be a Return to the Past? No. Here's Why

| Tue Nov. 18, 2008 11:34 AM EST

So far, no one has confirmed the Guardian report that Hillary Clinton will accept the offer to become Barack Obama's first Secretary of State, which suggests to me the Guardian got a little more out-front on that story than was appropriate. But what does it mean if she takes it? After appointing a top Clinton aide to chief of staff, putting what seemed like the entire Clinton economic team on his economic advisory board, and choosing Hillary for State, has Obama returned the country to the 90s and broken his promise to bring a new direction to Washington?

I don't believe so, and (I can't believe I'm saying this) I'm turning to Maureen Dowd for back-up. In a recent NYT column, she wrote:

If Barry chooses Hillary as secretary of state, a woman who clearly intimidated him and taught him to be a better pol in the primaries, it doesn't signal the return of the Clinton era. It says the opposite: If you have a president who's willing to open up his universe to other smart, strong people, if you have a big dog who shares his food dish, the Bill Clinton era is truly over.
Appointing a Clinton in the cabinet would be so un-Clintonian.

And the distinction isn't just with the Clinton Administration. Bringing strong voices unafraid to dissent into the inner circles of power is very different from the early Bush Administration, which famously refused to hear viewpoints that didn't agree with Bush and Cheney. And not insisting that all power reside in the White House (instead, allowing some to sit in Foggy Bottom) is also very un-Bushian.

It's part of an early Obama pattern. Forgiving Joe Lieberman his transgressions by allowing him to keep his chairmanship and place within the caucus, which Senate Democratics appear ready to do in part because of a nudge from Obama, is a refreshingly grudge-free approach to managing Washington. (Though, I'll admit, it is hard to see Joe get off scot free.) Forgiveness, power-sharing, brooking discussion and possibly dissent — it's all very new around here.

Prop 8: Mormons For Gay Marriage

| Mon Nov. 17, 2008 6:34 PM EST

prop8little.jpgIt's been widely reported that the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints (the Mormons) helped tip the balance in favor of California's Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in the state. But not all Mormons voted yes. On the site Seeking Forgiveness, LDS Church members apologize on behalf of their church to the gay community—and express their regret that Prop 8 passed.

The apologies are worth a read. After the jump, I'll quote a few that moved me:

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"Hundreds" of Hate Crimes Under the Radar, Post-Obama Victory?

| Mon Nov. 17, 2008 5:50 PM EST

Am I the only one who has missed news of this? The AP:

From California to Maine, police have documented a range of incidents, including vandalism, threats and at least one physical attack. There have been "hundreds" of incidents since the election, many more than usual, said Mark Potok, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate crimes.
In Snellville, Ga., Denene Millner said that a day after the election, a boy on a school bus told her 9-year-old daughter that he hoped "Obama gets assassinated." That night, Millner said, someone trashed her sister-in-law's front lawn, mangled the Obama lawn signs and left two pizza boxes filled with human feces outside the front door.
"It definitely makes you look a little different at the people who you live with," said Millner, who is black. "And makes you wonder what they're capable of and what they're really thinking."
Potok, who is white, said he thinks there is "a large subset of white people in this country who feel that they are losing everything they know, that the country their forefathers built has somehow been stolen from them."

The rest of the article has more specifics, if you're interested. I know no one actually believed that America would transform into a post-racial paradise because of Obama's victory, but did anyone think we'd see a wave of hate crimes? If that is, in fact, what this is?

Detainees Fear Transfer to Iraqi Government Control

| Mon Nov. 17, 2008 3:59 PM EST

With a draft "Status of Forces" agreement having been accepted by Nouri al-Maliki's cabinet, the timetable for US withdrawal is close to being set. American forces will pull out of Iraqi cities by next June and will leave the country entirely by January 2012. The agreement next must be approved by the Iraqi parliament and a three-member presidential council before it becomes law. But with things seemingly on course for official approval, new concerns have arisen over one of the draft agreement's provisions: the transfer of insurgent detainees form US to Iraqi custody.

Basil al-Azawi, head of the Baghdad-based Commission for Civil Society Enterprises, is calling for amendments to the agreement, ensuring that detainees will be protected from abuse. From al-Azawi:

As parliament represents the Iraqi people, it should act in line with the interests of Iraqis... Absolute justice must be achieved and Iraqi and international laws must be implemented when dealing with those detainees in Iraqi prisons... A suitable life inside the prisons must be guaranteed according to the Iraqi constitution and law. More visits to Iraqi prisons must be allowed by international and local human rights activists, and the treatment [of prisoners] must not be based on their sectarian background.

Under the draft agreement, anyone captured by US forces must be turned over to Iraqi custody within 24 hours. There are already 17,000 detainees in US-run detention centers in Iraq.

Obama Meets McCain: What Will Come of Today's Meeting?

| Mon Nov. 17, 2008 1:09 PM EST

President-elect Obama is hosting John McCain in Chicago as I write this. Over at his other space, David speculates on how that conversation is going. Here's a snippet:

B: Can I get right to the point?
J: Straight talk? Sure, fire away.
B: It was a tough campaign. But now it's over. And as I said on the campaign trail, I respect all you've done for this country. All you have given and sacrificed. I do. But now it's time to talk about what comes next. For you.
J: (Slightly sarcastic.) Thanks for thinking of me.
B: John, you're not going to have a lot of friends back there. There's Lindsey, Joe and...well, that's about it--
J: You don't have to worry about me--
B: I'm not worrying--
J: And you want to be my friend now?
B: Not your friend. Your partner. Listen, there's a lot we disagree on. But there are several big things we see eye-to-eye on. Guantanamo, torture, global warming, political reform. And I'd like to ask you, what would you now like to accomplish? What legislation would you like to pass? What do you want your legislative legacy to be?

I think this raises a great point. What direction does John McCain take in the post-presidential period of his life?

Comparing Obama to Hitler on Right-Wing Radio

| Mon Nov. 17, 2008 1:06 PM EST

Anomalos Publishing, a company that puts out conservative and Christian works and describes itself as "created for authors who...have a talent for writing but have not found a publisher," has announced that one of its authors will appear on right winger Michael Savage's nationally syndicated radio show to compare Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler. From the press release:

Nationally-syndicated talk show host Michael Savage is set to interview former German member of the Hitler Youth, Hilmar von Campe this Tuesday, November 18.
The program will focus on similarities, which von Campe sees between the rise of totalitarianism under Hitler and the current social and political trends inside the United States.
"Every day brings this nation closer to a Nazi-style totalitarian abyss," writes von Campe, now a U.S. citizen, and author of "Defeating the Totalitarian Lie: A Former Hitler Youth Warns America."
"Today in America we are witnessing a repeat performance of the tragedy of 1933 when an entire nation let itself be led like a lamb to the Socialist slaughterhouse. This time, the end of freedom is inevitable unless America rises to her mission and destiny."
Hilmar points to events surrounding the election of Barack Hussein Obama as reminiscent of the way the Nazi regime came to power.

Von Campe was one of a bevy of conservative authors who in the weeks before the election whipped up the fear that Obama was the modern-day version of the Nazi dictator. In an October 28 WorldNetDaily column, he wrote, "Socialist Hitler destroyed free society in a few months. Socialist Obama is close to his steppingstone. The following is an attempt to clarify the issue."

Savage, of course, is an over-the-top purveyor of extreme rhetoric. He recently questioned whether welfare recipients should be permitted to vote. Weeks before the election, he proclaimed, "I fear that Obama will stir up a race war...in order to seize absolute power." In July, he created a fuss when he claimed that autism is a "fraud, a racket. ... I'll tell you what autism is. In 99 percent of the cases, it's a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out."