Mojo - June 2009

Von Brunn: More Warning Signs

| Fri Jun. 12, 2009 11:15 AM EDT

Easton, Maryland is a summer spa for yuppies from Washington and a popular retirement destination for former law enforcement officials. It is just down the road from St. Michaels, site of Dick Cheney’s country estate and a spread purchased not long ago by Donald Rumsfeld. For some years Easton was also home to James von Brunn, who has now been formally charged with the murder of a security guard at the Holocaust Memorial Museum on Wednesday. A look at his history in Easton makes it clear that von Brunn's racist outbursts had taken on violent overtones before, although locals tended to look the other way.

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Bermuda Now Showing More Moral Courage Than America

| Fri Jun. 12, 2009 11:15 AM EDT

Ben Smith relays that Bermuda, which is taking four Uighurs off our hands, is getting nothing in return:

A spokesman for Bermuda Premier Dr. Ewart Brown, Glenn Jones, emails that Bermuda got "nothing" from the negotiations with the United States, which he said began last month.

The country "believes this was the right thing to do from a humanitarian perspective," he said.

The Bush administration eventually determined the 17 Uighurs it held in Guantanamo Bay for nearly a decade were innocent (i.e., not terrorists). But it couldn't release them because they would face arrest and possible execution if returned to China. America often offers asylum to people who face persecution in their own countries. It would be nice if we could let the Uighur detainees live in the US, near the pre-existing Uighur community near Washington, DC. Unfortunately, our politics are too screwed up to allow us to try to even begin to make up for the years that the Uighurs have spent wrongfully imprisoned.

No one in government—including President Obama—has the political and moral courage to do right by these people. So we're relying on Bermuda and Palau to clean up our mess—and leaving the Uighurs to start new lives on remote islands where they will have very little, if any, contact with their culture and traditions.

Update: Oh, how I overestimated politics. Bermuda Premier Ewart Brown didn't consult the British or other Bermudan politicians before deciding to accept the Uighurs. They're all throwing a fit. Well, at least Brown has some moral courage on this issue, even if some other Bermudans don't. He's way ahead of Obama on that front.

Letterman Owes Palin a Thank-You

| Fri Jun. 12, 2009 11:09 AM EDT

Whether David Letterman owes an apology to Sarah Palin for joking about her daughter or not, he sure should send her and her conservative comrades one big thank-you.

The Letterman-Palin tussle has been under way since the late-night comic cracked that Palin's daughter got "knocked up" by A-Rod on a recent trip to New York City. He also said that Palin had to keep her daughter away from Elliot Spitzer. Since then, conservatives have been demanding Letterman's head. Todd Palin accused him of joking about rape. Michelle Malkin has branded Letterman a misogynist and called for CBS to get him a therapist. Team Sarah, a conservative outfit that fancies Palin, has pushed for boycotting Letterman's advertisers. ("The continual presence of personal attacks on both Governor Sarah Palin and her family indicates that she remains a threat to the liberal political establishment," huffed Team Sarah cofounder Jane Abraham.) And on Friday morning's Today Show, Sarah Palin said Letterman ought to apologize to young women across the country. (Letterman offered a jokey explanation, not an apology, after the Palins first complained.)

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for June 12, 2009

Fri Jun. 12, 2009 9:36 AM EDT

Today's photo is from Iraq.Stephen Colbert takes a photo op with servicemembers at Camp Victory's Al Faw Palace in Baghdad, Iraq on June 5. (Photo courtesy army.mil)

Haiku Review: The Inheritance, by David Sanger

| Fri Jun. 12, 2009 7:30 AM EDT

David Sanger, a 26-year veteran of the New York Times, and the paper's chief Washington correspondent, has shared in two Pulitzer Prizes. His eye-opening book on the state of the world that Obama inherits was published in January by Random House. It retails for $26.95 ($32 in Canada). Book length: 464 pages. Review length: 74 words.

Part I
Bush was distracted
Iran took full advantage
Got all they needed

Part II
A false Marshall Plan
Jihadists without borders
Pray for the Afghans

 

 

Part III
Prez backed the wrong horse
Are their nukes under control?
Musharraf played us

Part IV
Kim won't use his bombs
He sells to the Syrians
"Let's Eat Two Meals!"

Part V
Partner or rival?
Chinese talk green, export smog
We're reasonably screwed

Part VI
Three scenarios
Loose nukes, germs, cyber attacks
Defenses feeble

Takeaway Message
These are scary times
Can Obama save us all?
Shit or get off pot

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Corn on "Hardball": Calling Out Limbaugh on the Holocaust Museum Suspect

| Thu Jun. 11, 2009 9:31 PM EDT
It's not every day you get a chance to go on television and call Rush Limbaugh a fool. But on Thursday night, I was asked on Hardball to comment on the big-mouth's claim that James von Brunn is a "leftist." So what choice did I have?

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Homeland Security High

| Thu Jun. 11, 2009 4:23 PM EDT

Back in 2007, Mother Jones reported on Maryland’s Joppatowne High School, the first school in the country to offer a homeland security curriculum. Today, the L.A. Times reports on nearby Meade High School, which started a similar four-year program this year. According to the article, areas of study include Islamic jihadism, nuclear arms, cyber-crime, and domestic militias. But that’s not all:

New themes even were added to their science, social studies and English classes.

"There's a lot of homeland security issues in 'Romeo and Juliet,' " said Bill Sheppard, the program coordinator. "Like, how do you deal with infiltration in your own family?"

Cringe. Aside from these tortured efforts to give everything a security spin, here’s what bugs me: The L.A. Times describes Meade as a “long-troubled public high school.” According to the website Public School Review, almost a third of Meade’s 2,150 students qualify for free or reduced lunch, and its graduation rate is just 82 percent, lower than the district average. The program’s website says part of its mission is to give students skills they need to “seek employment and/or postsecondary education in the homeland security career field.” I just can’t imagine a well-off school justifying what is essentially a political agenda with the promise of jobs. And it’s working. To wit:

"This course will help me get a top-secret security clearance," said Darryl Bagley, an eager 15-year-old. "That way I can always get a job."

Sort of chilling, right?

Bailout Watchdogs to the Rescue?

| Thu Jun. 11, 2009 3:17 PM EDT

What’s worrisome about the bailout repayments is that banks might buy back their government-held warrants on the cheap. If the ten big banks that have been in the headlines this week after the Treasury announced they could pay their way out of TARP get discounts like multiple smaller banks before them, taxpayers will be on the losing end...again.

But there's good news: Two bailout watchdogs, the Special Inspector General for TARP (SIGTARP) and the Congressional Oversight Panel, announced today in a letter to the Senate that they intend to zero in on the sale of warrants in order to protect taxpayers and shed some much needed light on these transactions.

 

Obama's Progressive Health Care Pitch Draws Cheers

| Thu Jun. 11, 2009 3:09 PM EDT

The biggest applause that President Barack Obama received on Thursday, while speaking about health care reform at Southwest High School in Green Bay, came when he said that health care coverage should not be denied due to pre-existing conditions, that there ought to be a public health insurance option for all, and that taxes should be raised on the well-to-do to finance changes in the health care system. In other words, some of the most progressive elements of his speech drew the most enthusiastic response from the crowd.

Here are those excerpts:

Somali Pirates Marauding Even Farther From Shore

| Thu Jun. 11, 2009 2:16 PM EDT

Hungry for some pirate news? Who isn't? The latest is that Somalia's ocean-going scourge is increasing its reach into new areas, threatening vessels even farther from shore. Their so-called "mother ships" essentially act as floating bases, enabling pirates to stay at sea longer. But on the bright side for mariners, monsoon season is almost here, so we can expect pirate attacks to subside, at least temporarily. From allAfrica.com:

Somali pirates are extending their activities further out from the Somali coast, beyond the Seychelles in the east and to the Red Sea in the north, warns an international naval task force.

The force has urged mariners to take advantage of the monsoon season about to  begin, which will hinder pirates' activities until September.

In a special advisory issued to shipping Wednesday, the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) of a number of Western powers noted that most attacks on ships in the past two years have taken place during daylight hours in the Gulf of Aden.

"However, recently pirates have attacked vessels at night and have conducted attacks far off the eastern coast of Somalia," the CMF said. Using "mother ships" as staging platforms, they are able to operate much further from the Somali coast than before.

The force also said a confirmed pirate attack in the southern Red Sea created "a new area of potential risk."