Mojo - January 2009

Republicans Playing Nice, Cont'd.

| Fri Jan. 16, 2009 11:04 AM EST

In my post yesterday about House Republicans trying to answer Obama's call for stimulus ideas, I mentioned that the Big O is getting something of an era of good feeling from his congressional opposition. MSNBC's First Read points out more examples, this time from the Senate.

Here's Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, after voting against releasing the $350 billion remaining in TARP:

"Again, I want to express my appreciation to the incoming administration for its responsiveness to Republican concerns. Every time we asked a question it was promptly answered. So far, Republican interactions with the incoming administration have been quite encouraging and appreciated. While I voted on the losing side, I hope the new administration will consider some of my concerns, and we hope their stewardship of these funds is successful in stabilizing the markets according to the original purpose of the TARP."

That attitude probably won't last, but for one day at least, Obama has managed to change the tone in Washington. And here is Senator Bob Corker, a Republican from Tennessee:

"This was a painful vote for me. I greatly respect President-elect Obama's economic team, Larry Summers and Tim Geithner, and I look forward to working with them in any way I can."

Not bad, huh? Not even president, and he's done what George Bush admits he couldn't do in eight years.

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Hero Pilot Faces Mandatory Retirement, Reduced Pension

| Fri Jan. 16, 2009 2:05 AM EST

At age 57, Chesley Sullenberger hardly qualifies as a geezer in my book. But as commercial airline pilots go, the man who is being hailed for his flawless emergency landing of a U.S. Airways jet in the Hudson River is certainly getting up there in years.

The San Francisco Examiner summarized their local hero's extensive background:

If a Hollywood producer called central casting in search of an actor to play a pilot in a disaster movie, he would probably wind up with somebody who looked a lot like "Sully" Sullenberger: the silver hair of experience, the trimmed mustache of precision and the kind of twinkly, fatherly eyes that lend confidence when accompanying a friendly "Welcome aboard."
Sullenberger has decades of experience not only flying planes–first F-4's for the US Air Force and since 1980 all kinds of aircraft for US Airways–but of studying and teaching how to fly them more safely. His resume shows experience flying everything from a glider to a jumbo jet.

After both engines blew, Sullenberger reportedly told his 150 passengers to "brace for impact because we're going down" before maneuvering over a bridge and between skyscrapers to land the plane safely on the river. He walked the legnth of the sinking jet twice to verify that noone was aboard before exiting himself. The Wall Street Journal described Sullenberger's handling of what it called "one of the rarest and most technically challenging feats in commercial aviation":

What Bush Left Out of His Flat Farewell

| Fri Jan. 16, 2009 12:03 AM EST

George W. Bush gave his final speech to the nation on Thursday night. I skipped it to see my daughter, who has known no other president, perform with her school chorus. But when I later sat before my television to see how the speech was being punditized on the cable news shows, I was surprised. The water-landing of a US Airways flight in New York City dominated the coverage. There was little chatter--almost nothing--about Bush's farewell.

After watching the speech on the White House website, I understood why. It was flat and short. Bush said little of interest. He dwelled mostly on 9/11 and the so-called war on terror, once again (and for the last official time) characterizing the invasion of Iraq as part of his effort to take "the fight to the terrorists." He suggested that although the Iraq war was the subject of "legitimate debate," there "can be little debate about the results. America has gone more than seven years without another terrorist attack on our soil."

Was the nation's safety ensured because Bush invaded Iraq and did not finish the fight in Afghanistan? No doubt, he and his ever-dwindling band of defenders will continue to insist that it is so--just as a rooster might insist there is a connection between his crowing and the rising of the sun. And Bush defended himself for having been "willing to make the tough decisions"--as if making hard choices is the same as making wise ones.

House GOP Brainstorms Economic Ideas: All Dressed Up With Nowhere to Go

| Thu Jan. 15, 2009 5:59 PM EST

Maybe Washington is embracing bipartisanship. Or maybe Barack Obama is too popular to be opposed.

At an "economic recovery working group" held Thursday for members of the House Republican Caucus, the top two Republicans in the House, Minority Leader John Boehner and Whip Eric Cantor, both thanked President-elect Obama for reaching out to them for ideas to add to the stimulus. "Much to his credit, the President-elect has made clear he wants input on this effort not just from members of his own party, but from the Republican Party and from all Americans," said Boehner, sitting at the front of a large meeting room in the Cannon office building stuffed with congressmen, staff, guests, and members of the media. Mitt Romney, who delivered a short prepared statement, echoed their goodwill sentiments.

The rhetoric stood in stark contrast to the Republican opposition faced by former President Bill Clinton. Upon taking office in 1992, Clinton faced steadfast and united opposition from Republicans in Congress, one of several reasons why his presidency got off to a rocky start that included defeats on gays in the military and health care.

MoJo Video Contest: Goodbye, George W. Bush

| Thu Jan. 15, 2009 4:44 PM EST

If you had 30 seconds to say goodbye directly to Bush, what would you say?

We asked MoJo readers in December for their YouTube video responses to this question; today we'll start posting our favorites on motherjones.com.

You can still participate: Just put your 30-second (or so), PG-13 video on YouTube labeled "Mother Jones Goodbye Bush Video" and send us the link at:

mojobushvideo@gmail.com

All styles of video are welcome, from simply talking at the camera to fancier stuff. Bring it on, we say. Just don't forget to include your snail mail address when you email us if you want to win MoJo swag.

Below, the first MoJo Video community tribute to Bush's departure:

For Election Law Junkies Only

| Thu Jan. 15, 2009 3:30 PM EST

You'll be happy to know that the Federal Elections Commission appears genuinely committed to improving itself. The FEC is conducting what CREW is calling an "unprecedented self-examination of its operating procedures," holding public hearings on its own performance and asking election lawyers from around the country to submit suggestions on its policies and procedures. Marc Elias, a Democratic lawyer who has been lending a hand to Al Franken's Senate bid, said, "What they're asking us to do is to comment on how the agency itself functions, and that's pretty unusual.... The commission should be congratulated for doing this." If you want to read about the most significant suggestions to come out of the public hearings, click here.

Don't get too excited, though. (I know, you were getting really excited.) It's admirable that the FEC is willing to do the hard work to improve itself. But it still suffers from a fundamentally flawed structure. The commission is composed of three Republican operatives and three Democratic operatives (all openly partisan and willing to go to bat for their parties and allied interests) who are put into office by the politicians they are tasked to regulated. The result is a perpetually weak enforcement body that will never really ensure clean elections in this country. More on the FEC here.

PS — Did I guarantee myself zero readers with that headline?

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Judge to Bush Admin: "You Rolled the Dice...and You Lost"

| Thu Jan. 15, 2009 3:12 PM EST

george-bush-computer-250x200.jpg
"You rolled the dice that you'd win, and you lost." That's what Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola told lawyers for the Bush administration at a hearing on Wednesday afternoon in the ongoing case over millions of missing White House emails. By this he meant that if the White House had followed the recommendations [PDF] that the judge had laid out last April—suggesting that the administration search workstations and portable media devices for the missing messages—it might not be in its current predicament. Instead, Bush officials apparently gambled that they would be able to get the case thrown out, an effort that was rebuffed in November. That bet came back to haunt the administration on Wednesday morning when, with days left before Bush officials vacate the White House, it was hit with a last-minute order (issued by Judge Henry Kennedy, who's also presiding over aspects of the case) to search workstations and collect portable memory devices containing saved emails from departing staffers.

During the status hearing before Judge Facciola, government lawyers shed some light on the scope of the missing email problem. In the past, the White House has issued contradictory statements on the subject, once even denying that any emails were missing. "We have absolutely no reason to believe that any emails are missing; there's no evidence of that," White House spokesman Tony Fratto told reporters last January.

Overturning Prop. 8: No Court-Ordered Equality!

| Thu Jan. 15, 2009 2:00 PM EST

In response to California Attorney General Jerry Brown's assertion that the state Supreme Court should overturn Proposition 8, both George Will (who is not gay) and Andrew Sullivan (who is) argue that the best move for the gay community is to wait for a legislative or ballot-based solution. Here's Will:

Just eight years ago, Proposition 22 [defining marriage as between a man and a woman] was passed, 61.4 to 38.6 percent. The much narrower victory of Proposition 8 suggests that minds are moving toward toleration of same-sex marriage. If advocates of that have the patience required by democratic persuasion, California's ongoing conversation may end as they hope. If, however, the conversation is truncated, as Brown urges, by judicial fiat, the argument will become as embittered as the argument about abortion has been by judicial highhandedness.

And here's Sullivan:

TARP App Update: MoJo Interns Still Waiting for a Bailout

| Thu Jan. 15, 2009 1:45 PM EST

Last week Mother Jones conducted an experiment in which we discovered that it takes a whopping 27 minutes to apply for money under the federal bailout program's astonishingly short application.

Many Mother Jones readers were under the impression that MoJo interns actually submitted our app for TARP funding on Friday afternoon. We did not. We just timed how long it took to fill out the application.

But then we got to thinking, well, why not apply for a bailout? While it's hard to argue that Mother Jones, a nonprofit outfit which employs about 50 people, is too big to fail, the magazine industry in general could certainly use some help. And size hasn't deterred other small institutions from taking advantage of recent federal largess. Plus, if a bank fails, that makes it hard for bank employees to give a small percentage of their income to a nonprofit mag like Mother Jones, right? It takes a village.

Though we were a bit late jumping on the bailout bandwagon, apparently we weren't alone: Treasury's extended the TARP deadline to January 15th for any dawdling financial institutions.

The guidelines for TARP funding explain that:

The maximum amount of capital eligible for purchase by the Treasury under the CPP is the lesser of (i) an amount equal to 3 percent of the Total Risk-Weighted Assets of the applicant or (ii) $25 billion.

While we redacted the amount of total Risk-Weighted Assets from the application posted here, let us assure you that the Foundation for National Progress falls into the (i) category.

The completed information, which we've provided below, has been submitted to two of the institutions that distribute funds: the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Office of Thrift Supervision. We'll keep you posted.

TARP-pdf.png

—Alexis Fitts and Daniel Luzer

Another Way to Lessen the Inauguration Day Crush

| Thu Jan. 15, 2009 1:00 PM EST

White people: Stay home. This blogger's logic is flawless:

Chances Whites have had to go see the inauguration of a White president: 43
Chances Blacks have had to go see the inauguration of a Black president: 1

So, white folks: Do the right thing.

[UPDATE: Read this follow-up post for Sister Toldja's response to Jezebel commenters.]