Mojo - December 2008

George Bush's New Neighborhood Doesn't Care About Black People

| Mon Dec. 8, 2008 11:13 AM PST

President Bush's future neighborhood, the wealthy Dallas area called Preston Hollow, has some unfortunate secrets:

Until 2000, the neighborhood association's covenant said only white people were allowed to live there, though an exception was made for servants.
Enacted in 1956, part of the original document reads: "Said property shall be used and occupied by white persons except those shall not prevent occupancy by domestic servants of different race or nationality in the employ of a tenant."

I'll add this thought. The president bought his ranch in Crawford just before running for president and will move to a swanky suburban neighborhood just after leaving office. It's almost like his cowboy image was an affect cultivated for maximum political gain. Imagine that.

And here's the inspiration for this post's headline:

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The "Structure Dodge": Incompetence Dodge, Version 2.0?

| Mon Dec. 8, 2008 8:40 AM PST

Consider these comments from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on yesterday's Fox News morning show:

QUESTION: Do you — and this will be a tough one to get into a quick answer. Did Donald Rumsfeld mismanage the Iraq war in the beginning?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think the Iraq war, in the beginning, we did very well. I don't—
QUESTION: I'm talking about the occupation.
SECRETARY RICE: Look, I don't think we had the right structure. I'll be very, very blunt. We tried in Afghanistan to use a kind of UN structure with countries adopting ministries. We tried in Iraq to give it to a single department, the Department of Defense. That's why the President has now said that we need a Civilian Response Corps that can do those activities. But clearly, we didn't have the right structure.
QUESTION: And is that Donald Rumsfeld's responsibility?
SECRETARY RICE: No, I — look, I take responsibility for that, too. We just didn't have the right structure.

This is a new version of the "incompetence dodge". For years, when those on the right (and some on the left) wanted to defend preemptive war and aggressive uses of military force while simultaneously acknowledging that those things had turned out disastrously in Iraq, they would say that the idea behind the Iraq War wasn't a bad one, but the execution had been terrible. If the folks running the war at DOD or State had simply been more competent, Iraq would be a flowering garden today.

Rice's argument here is similar. She isn't saying that if the people in charge (that would be her) had been more competent, things would be better. But she is saying that if the execution of and preparation for the occupation had been handled differently, Iraq would be better off today.

Of course, I'm not going to deny that execution, preparation, personnel, and competence were all problems. But suggesting that these were the only factors that contributed to the quagmire in Iraq refuses to acknowledge that occupations in the modern world are not sustainable, even for the largest and best-equipped military in the world. Nor does it acknowledge that wars that are not launched because of truly exigent circumstances are fundamentally imperialist and, as the history of imperialism illustrates, fated to fail. The failure in Iraq was not created by incompetence or a faulty "structure." The failure in Iraq was the inevitable outcome of the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

The Auto Industry's 15 Billion Point Turn

| Sun Dec. 7, 2008 3:56 PM PST

Below is a guest blog entry by Nomi Prins:

Perhaps jarred by the November unemployment report, Congress offered a $15 billion olive branch to the Detroit Three Friday night. (Note: You can keep calling them the Big Three if you want, but it's a bit of a misnomer these days, isn't it?)

The loan, stressed House Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), will provide "short-term and limited assistance" to the D-3, though there is some ambiguity about what she meant. She also promised the money would be repaid "within a matter of weeks." But given the absence of inventory movement, and lack of cash flowing through the D-3's books, it's not clear exactly how that's going to happen.

Nonetheless, this loan will allegedly keep the auto industry on a ventilator until March, when the Obama administration and new Congress can take another pass at determining what to do. Until that point, the auto-execs will supposedly go about executing their multi-hundred page restructuring plans. Will they address the core problems that plague the auto industry? Let's hope.

—Nomi Prins

Nomi Prins is a former Wall Streeter and frequent contributor to Mother Jones.

Battleground "Ad" Nauseum

| Sun Dec. 7, 2008 9:34 AM PST

Despite the fact that as a presidential candidate Barack Obama ran several national ad buys that brought campaign advertising to California, Utah, and a number of other states that hadn't experienced the excitement/overkill of campaign season in quite a while, battleground states still dominated ad purchases. According to Fair Vote:

Percent of all presidential campaign related television ads that took place in [Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvani and Vriginia] from September 24 to November 4 – 54.5%

The campaign was consolidated in other ways as well:

Percent of all 300 campaign events by major party presidential candidates between September 5 and November 4, 2008 that took place in the states of Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and Virginia – 57%
Number of states where 99% of all campaign visits and 99% of all campaign spending took place: 16

And the effect of this? Just over 10 percent in voter turnout.

Voter turnout in the 15 states with the most campaign activity: 69%. Voter turnout in the remaining states: 56%

Cheering the Ouster of Democrats, Continued

| Sun Dec. 7, 2008 9:13 AM PST

I've called for Charlie Rangel's removal, despite the fact that he's great on the issues. It should be no surprise, then, that I'm cheering "Dollar Bill" Jefferson's defeat. Not a hard decision — anytime someone's been indicted on 16 charges of corruption by a federal grand jury and the FBI has found $90,000 in cash in his home freezer, it's time to go.

Jefferson leaves a very Democratic Louisiana district in the hands of a Republican. Should be a targeted pickup for the Dems in 2010.

Salvation Army Strong-Arms Marriage

| Sat Dec. 6, 2008 3:15 PM PST

red_kettle.jpg Next time you see the dingaling bell ringers on the sidewalk, and before you drop your coin in the red kettle, consider this: If you're an officer for the Salvation Army, you also live Salvation Army. Meaning the country's second largest charity (behind the United Way) mandates that their leaders (not priests, mind you, business professionals) don't drink or smoke, and that they marry only other officers. This all because the charity is a devoutly religious one, founded by an evangelical Christian in 1865. Still, Salvation Army gets a hefty chunk of its budget from government funding (via faith-based funding that Obama says he'll expand) so the marriage restriction seems to fly in the face of employment discrimination principles.

Take Captain Johnny Harsh, the head of Salvation Army's Oshkosh, Wisconsin chapter. His wife, also a captain, died of a heart attack in June. Johnny has since fallen in love with a nurse he met on a Christian online dating site, a nurse who, incidentally, is not a Salvation Army officer. Still, they got engaged. (The harsh consequence after the jump.)

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MOJO VIDEO: Rallying to Unelect Obama

| Fri Dec. 5, 2008 1:52 PM PST

Obama-haters, conspiracy theorists, and old fashioned Constitution devotees that question Barack Obama's eligibility for the White House due to his birth status reached their collective apogee Friday morning in front of the Supreme Court. The justices were considering whether to put on the docket a New Jersey case that alleges Barack Obama was a dual American and British citizen at birth, and that he thus fails the ill-defined "natural-born citizen" standard demanded of presidents by Article II of the Constitution. Legal experts doubt that the case will move forward, but that didn't stop roughly 20 people from gathering on the steps of the Supreme Court building to wave flags, pray, say the pledge of allegiance, and generate as much media attention as they could.

— By Jonathan Stein and Tay Wiles

OJ Lyrics, Anyone?

| Fri Dec. 5, 2008 11:55 AM PST

It's too little, too late, but OJ's finally going to do time. For that stupid, stupid Vegas robbery.

I bet OJ's all kindsa pissed off. He's getting zero points for not murdering all involved, including his fellow jackasses, the room service waiters, the maids on turn-down service, and any passing valets. At other hotels.

Don't Just Limit Executive Compensation. Limit Financial Industry Compensation

| Fri Dec. 5, 2008 11:04 AM PST

Gao Xiqing, president of the China Investment Corporation, speaking to James Fallows:

I have to say it: you have to do something about pay in the financial system. People in this field have way too much money.... It distorts the talents of the country. The best and brightest minds go to lawyering, go to M.B.A.s. And that affects our country, too! Many of the brightest youngsters come to me and say, "Okay, I want to go to the U.S. and get into business school, or law school." I say, "Why? Why not science and engineering?" They say, "Look at some of my primary-school classmates. Their IQ is half of mine, but they're in finance and now they're making all this money." So you have all these clever people going into financial engineering, where they come up with all these complicated products to sell to people.

Another benefit of working in finance, other than the spectacular paychecks? Job security. You create the economic crisis, and people in manufacturing and construction lose their jobs.

Blackwater Shooters To Be Charged Under Obscure Drug Law

| Fri Dec. 5, 2008 10:50 AM PST

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Since September 2007, when Blackwater operators opened fire in a Baghdad traffic circle, killing 17 Iraqi civilians and wounding 24 more, the Justice Department has been struggling to build a criminal case. The challenge is indeed unique: Blackwater employees in Iraq are, like all other foreign contractors in the country, immune to Iraqi law. (This now stands to change under the new "Status of Forces" agreement, which strips contractors of their legal shield.) Because the Blackwater shooters were operating under a State Department contract, they also fall outside the jurisdiction of the US Code of Military Justice, which applies only to military contractors. US criminal and civil law also has yet to catch up to the reality of armed US contractors operating in conflict areas, and the few provisions that do cover such work need further clarification. In essence, the Blackwater operators who opened fire that day fell through the legal and regulatory cracks, effectively rendering them immune to charges of murder.

Well, almost. News reports indicate that the Justice Department, as early as Monday, could charge between three and six Blackwater contractors for the September 2007 shootings under the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988. The law calls for mandatory 30-year prison terms for the use of machine guns in violent crimes. The law was created in response to the crack epidemic of the 1980s, but can apparently be applied more broadly, or so federal prosecutors will argue.