Mojo - January 2009

Heather Havrilesky: Our Crush Is Officially Over!

| Fri Jan. 30, 2009 11:15 AM EST

In Salon this week, my FORMER crush, Heather Havrilesky, pushes me too far in the 'who's more screwed and, therefore, more powerful' debate.

It's on, bee-yotch!

What's her pitiful argument for 'her' team?:

President Obama has chosen a sharp and able-bodied team to head his administration, but if he really wants to yank the country out of its dismal state, I suggest he enlist the help of some expectant mothers, preferably in their third trimester of pregnancy.
Because while Obama may have selected an experienced and savvy collection of specialists to lead this nation out of its hard times, no one on Earth has the ability to tackle big, unwieldy problems quite like a woman in the home stretch of pregnancy. In addition to manufacturing a brand-new human being, a feat of nearly supernatural proportions in and of itself, pregnant women also have an uncanny knack for grabbing the most daunting task by the throat, wrestling it to the floor and smashing its face into the carpet until it yells "Mother!"
Take it from me, now seven months pregnant with my second child. Despite my growing resemblance to Jabba the Hutt, I've entered a frenzied state of activity, conquering every task I encounter, big or small, with the focus and determination of a speed-addled jihadist. Each day, I find myself interrupting my furious scrubbing of the stovetop to empty out the fridge, call the plumber, e-mail my boss and complete a 2,000-word treatise on the use of fashion to highlight socioeconomic differences on "Gossip Girl." Those who know me well are astounded by my sudden transformation from sullen sloth to Highly Effective Person. Instead of daydreaming or procrastinating or turning the screw (some favorite hobbies during non-gestational periods), I'm in a constant state of getting things done, whether it's trawling eBay for a replica of the 18-year-old teddy bear my husband lost on an errand with my 2-year-old daughter ("Some guy kidnap Andy the Bear!"—those plaintive words haunt my vivid, pregnant-lady dreams each night) or typing out a five-page letter to my local congresswoman regarding the inefficient traffic patterns in my neighborhood."

Husband? Did that heifer say "husband?" In conjunction with "running an errand?"

Those of us who are parenting alone, for whatever reason, and for however long, might just beg to differ with her 'most powerful' choice.

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Dick Armey Proves Feminism Is Dead

| Fri Jan. 30, 2009 11:12 AM EST

Man, how right is his first name?

Check out his exchange with Joan Walsh (an old pal and former boss).

Phil and Me: Ex-Sen. Gramm Says of the Economic Collapse, Don't Blame Me (Video)

| Fri Jan. 30, 2009 11:03 AM EST

Last year, I wrote an article explaining how former Republican Senator Phil Gramm had helped grease the way to the subprime meltdown in 2000 when he was chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. Gramm wouldn't talk to me for the article. At the time, he was a close adviser to presidential candidate John McCain, and his past support of financial deregulation and his subsequent work as a lobbyist for UBS, the Swiss banking giant, became a campaign issue. Neither McCain nor Gramm addressd these matters publicly. And then Gramm generated further controversy when he dismissed Americans worried about the economy as "whiners." After that, McCain distanced himself from Gramm, who faded from the campaign trail.

Now, Gramm is back--at least to defend himself. Last week, he spoke at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. The subject of his talk: was deregulation responsible for the current financial disaster? The real subject: was Gramm responsible for the current financial disaster? Mother Jones and the American News Project filmed Gramm, and I was able to pose a couple of questions to him. See what happened below in a video that was edited by Tay Wiles.

Note to Trophy Wives: This Feminist Has Your Back

| Thu Jan. 29, 2009 7:49 PM EST

The Times ran an article about support groups for the wives/girlfriends of newly dispossessed Wall Street Banker types that bears feminist perusal:

The economic crisis came home to 27-year-old Megan Petrus early last year when her boyfriend of eight months, a derivatives trader for a major bank, proved to be more concerned about helping a laid-off colleague than comforting Ms. Petrus after her father had a heart attack.
For Christine Cameron, the recession became real when the financial analyst she had been dating for about a year would get drunk and disappear while they were out together, then accuse her the next day of being the one who had absconded.
Dawn Spinner Davis, 26, a beauty writer, said the downward-trending graphs began to make sense when the man she married on Nov. 1, a 28-year-old private wealth manager, stopped playing golf, once his passion. "One of his best friends told me that my job is now to keep him calm and keep him from dying at the age of 35," Ms. Davis said. "It's not what I signed up for."

So they get together, have (still) expensive cocktails and bemoan the halving of their monthly Bergdorf allowances while their men fall apart. Bien sur, they have a website defensively described as "free from feminist scrutiny." Well, this feminist feels you.

It would be inhuman not to expect someone whose living standard was suddenly pulled out from under them to bemoan its loss. If I can feel the pain of a recently laid-off Michigan autoworker's wife, why not that of a Bear Stearns' wife? Or the ex, with kids, who'd been living on alimony and child support from one of those Wall Street 'wunder kinds'?

Obviously, they should have saved, given that they had so much. But these women bemoan the loss of formally vital, go-getting men as much (ok, maybe as much?) as the lost ducats:

"It's a big blow to their egos and to their self-esteem," [one scholar] said of the endless stream of economic bad news, "and they may take it out on their partners and children."
Ms. Petrus, a lawyer, and Ms. Crowell, who works for a fashion Web site, started the support group when they realized that they were facing similar problems in their relationships with bankers last fall.
"We put two and two together and figured out that it was the economy, not us," Ms. Petrus recalled at a recent meeting in the lobby bar of the Bowery Hotel. "When guys in banking are going through this, they can't handle a relationship."(She and her boyfriend split up last year; he declined to discuss it.)
Many of the women said that as the economic crisis struck last fall, they began tracking the markets during the day to predict the moods that the men they loved might be in later. On big news days, like when the first proposed government bailout failed in Congress, or when Lehman went belly-up, they knew that plans to see their partners would be put off.
"I was like, 'O.K. I signed up for that, it's fine,' " said Ms. Cameron. "But all of a sudden," she said, her boyfriend "couldn't focus. If he stayed over he'd be up at some random hour checking his BlackBerry, Bloomberg, and CNBC."
One frequent topic among the group is the link between the boardroom and the bedroom. "There's actually the type of person who has a bad day on the trading floor and they want to have sex more," Ms. Spinner Davis offered as she sipped a vodka gimlet, declining to say how she knew.
Ms. Petrus chimed in.
"If you're lucky you'll get that guy," she said, not revealing whether she considered herself lucky. "Middle-case scenario: It gets relegated to the weekends.
"Worst-case scenario," she began, and then took another sip of her drink.

Is a fired steel worker, or Dollar Store worker, much different?

Granted, their men put us in the situation we're in. But we're all in free fall now. Resuming my humorless feminist persona, I'll just say that maybe now more women will make sure they have a financial fall back plan. All our hearts,of course, remain on their own.

Take a Sneak Peek at MoJo.com 2.0 in Beta

| Thu Jan. 29, 2009 2:34 PM EST

Next week (god willing) we'll be relaunching MotherJones.com. Gone will be the cluttered layout that you see here and the clunky code that we deal with. If you'd like to take a sneak peek, and along the way help us with load testing and bug targeting, go to http://www.motherjones.com. You'll be asked for a login and password. That's mojo/fearless (all lower case). Once you're in the site, you can read about why we did what we did, poke around, register and pimp out your profile, etc. Please bear in mind, however, that:

1) Your username will stay valid after the new site launches, so choose wisely...
2) Content is a few weeks out of date, and some old comments have yet to migrate too. Don't worry, we'll get the latest articles and all the comments moved over when we launch.
3) Comments you leave on the beta site will be overwritten when we switch over. Please do leave comments and try out the discussion system, just remember that if you've written any great pearls of wisdom, you should save a copy elsewhere.
4) Any questions, bug reports, or general input about the site, please leave a comment on our inaugural blog post, or email us at web-feedback@motherjones.com.

Eager to hear what you have to say. (And yes, we know it's slow, we're running compression programs...)

Will Obama Release The Remaining "Torture Memos"?

| Thu Jan. 29, 2009 12:22 PM EST

After 9/11, the Justice Department became a "War on Terror" memo factory, churning out legal justifications for torture, illegal wiretapping, detention of prisoners, and on and on. Some of the memos have been declassified, thanks largely to lawsuits brought by the ACLU. But many have not. ProPublica has assembled a comprehensive list, sorted by author, date, and subject, showing those that have been made public and those that remain state secrets. The question now is whether President Obama, in his efforts to break with past government counterterrorism-related excesses, will choose to declassify the remaining memos. It would surely make compelling reading...

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Blackwater To Lose Iraq Operating License

| Thu Jan. 29, 2009 12:19 PM EST

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The Iraqi government, taking advantage of the autonomy granted by the Status of Forces Agreement that went into effect January 1, has informed US officials that it will not be renewing Blackwater's operating license, according to this morning's Washington Post. This does not come as a shock—the firm has been in Baghdad's sights since at least September 2007, when its contractors opened fire in a traffic circle, killing 17 and wounding 24 others. The Iraqi government's first attempt to boot Blackwater from the country came just days after the shootings when it revoked the company's license, but US officials (enjoying a bit more authority at the time) simply ignored the order and went on to reaffirm Blackwater's presence the following April, much to the Iraqis' displeasure.

Blackwater has a short grace period as Baghdad finishes a draft of new guidelines that will govern the operations of private contractors. As Interior Ministry spokesman Major General Adbul-Karim Khalaf told the Post, "When the work of this committee ends, [private firms] will be under the authority of the Iraqi government, and those companies that don't have licenses, such as Blackwater, should leave immediately."

Don't expect Blackwater to cry in its milk. The firm foresaw the eventuality of leaving Iraq and is in the throes of planning new lines of business, particularly in the area of military training. Guarding VIPs in war zones, as it turned out, was a politically dodgy business, despite the fact that Blackwater has never lost a client. As a pair of Blackwater execs told me a few months ago, the firm will be only too happy to move on to less controversial work.


Photo used under a Creative Commons license from abej2004.

So Every House Republican Voted Against Stimulus. What Do We Learn?

| Thu Jan. 29, 2009 10:52 AM EST

barack-obama-sad-250x200.jpg Right now, the new era of bipartisanship in Washington is unilateral.

The massive stimulus package passed the House yesterday with zero Republican votes. Obama, who had hoped for a widely supported bill, got stonewalled despite doing three things: (1) fashioning roughly 1/3 of the package out of tax cuts, which the GOP loves; (2) going to the House Republican caucus and asking for their input; and (3) pulling provisions from the bill that Republicans didn't like (see previous post). House Republicans acknowledged all of this, thanked the President, talked smack about the House Democrats, and voted against the bill anyway.

So what does Obama do now?

About that Much-Maligned Birth Control Provision In the Stimulus...

| Thu Jan. 29, 2009 10:17 AM EST

You know, the one that the White House had removed from the bill after everyone on the Right mocked it for funding condoms instead of economic recovery. (Democrats should have just left it in; taking it out enticed exactly zero House Republicans to vote for the bill.) Turns out, it would have saved the states $200 million that they could budget for other things. Here's the New York Times:

The White House encouraged other gestures as well. As the House version of the legislation came to the floor on Tuesday, Democrats stripped from it a provision that Republicans had ridiculed as having nothing to do with economic stimulus, one expanding federal Medicaid coverage of family planning services. (The Congressional Budget Office had estimated that the provision would actually save the government $200 million over five years by reducing pregnancy and postnatal-care expenses.)

But hey, Drudge put up a big headline making fun of it and the Republicans are really, really good at choosing one provision of a massive bill and using it to play PR games. So don't try to defend it. Just back down. Much less trouble that way.

Update: All sarcasm aside, Katha Pollitt has some very wise things to say on this subject.

White House and NY Times Face Off: Has Obama Opted for Hard Power in Afghanistan?

| Wed Jan. 28, 2009 4:43 PM EST

Those folks who bother to worry about the war in Afghanistan--not a large slice of the population--had reason to fret on Wednesday morning when they picked up (or clicked on) the New York Times and read a front-page story noting that President Barack Obama is adopting a new "approach to Afghanistan that will put more emphasis on waging war than on development." The piece cited unnamed senior administration officials.

At a press briefing on Tuesday, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs had said that the administration was in the early stage of reevaluating Afghanistan policy. He had noted that Obama intended to meet with US Army General David McKiernan, the commander of the NATO-led forces in Afghanistan, to discuss the course ahead. It seemed as if no decisions had been rendered about Afghanistan.

Yet the Times indicated key calls have already been made: