Mojo - July 2009

Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho): Hey MoJo, You're Awesome!

| Thu Jul. 23, 2009 3:32 PM EDT

Mary Harris Jones herself would have gotten a chuckle out of this: We've received a mash note from Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-La.) congratulating MoJo for "successfully using flexibility to meet both business and employee goals." Of course you knew that Crapo and Lincoln's offices coordinate the Senate Staff Work Group on Workplace Flexibility; the letter comes on occasion of the Alfred P. Sloan Award for Business Excellence in Workplace Flexbility, which rewards how well companies deploy things like flex time, family leave, telecommuting, etc. (Yes—MoJo staffers who blog at 2 a.m. have the option of doing it from home!) Worth noting that of the more than 100 honorees, very few (including us and the Girl Scouts) are nonprofits, while most are large companies (primarily tech) or law firms, accounting firms, and such. It's not the only major award we've won or been nominated for lately, and we're proud to add it to our expanding trophy closet.

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Maliki: No Time for a Question on Corruption

| Thu Jul. 23, 2009 2:05 PM EDT

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has been in Washington this week, selling Iraq as a success story of national reconciliation and democracy and looking for businesses willing to invest there. On Wednesday, he met with President Barack Obama at the White House and claimed he was working hard against sectarian conflict--even as he's been criticized for increasingly playing sectarian politics.

On Thursday morning, Maliki spoke to policy wonks and reporters at the United States Institute of Peace. He didn't make much, if any news. He hailed the "democratic process in Iraq," maintaining that all sects are treated equally by his government. Asked whether US military forces will remain in Iraq after the ongoing withdrawal is completed in 2011, he said that Iraq might request that the United States provide military training. He said nothing significant about Iran and the political upheaval there. He did contend that his government had "achieved a great victory" in fighting the corruption that it had inherited from Saddam Hussein's regime.

With that remark in mind, after Maliki concluded his speech, I headed toward the microphone set up for questions. I had a simple query. How could he claim victory against corruption when his own government had chased out of the country the two leading anti-corruption investigators: Salam Adhoob and Judge Radhi al-Radhi? (I've written about each.) These two men have repeatedly blasted Maliki for heading a government rife with corruption, from top to bottom. And how had Maliki and his aides rewarded Radhi and Adhoob for trying to investigate corruption cases that represented what they claimed to be billions of dollars in fraud? Maliki and his crew accused these two men of being corrupt, and the pair were forced to flee Iraq, out of fear of being murdered.

So I was prepped to press Maliki on all this. But several people elbowed me to reach the mike, and with Maliki giving long-winded answers to questions (as do most politicians), time ran out before I could question him. He then scooted off.

As the crowd left the room, I mentioned to another journalist the question I had composed for Maliki. "Or," he said, "you could have asked him how his son got all that money to buy that luxury hotel in Damascus." (It only cost a reported $35 million.) I suppose I could have, had I been given the chance, but no one else had. And by now, Maliki was long gone.

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We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for July 23, 2009

Thu Jul. 23, 2009 2:02 PM EDT

Ensign Jason Revitzer, Supply Officer of the Virginia-class attack submarine USS New Hampshire (SSN 778), kisses his wife during the return of New Hampshire from its maiden deployment. (Photo courtesy navy.mil.)

Fiore Cartoon: Health Care-Exia Nervosa

Thu Jul. 23, 2009 1:33 PM EDT

Do the high costs of health care keep you up at night? Then like millions of people, you too may have health care-exia nervosa.

Watch Doctor Decline, the invention of satirist Mark Fiore, discuss the condition below:

 

Senate Dems <3 Vacation More Than You Need Health Care

| Thu Jul. 23, 2009 1:30 PM EDT

If you are uninsured and were hoping to see action on health care sooner rather than later, you should know that your needs aren't nearly as important as senators' need for vacation and Republicans' pleas that, after 60 years, what they really need is more time to think about whether or not we should have a country where everyone has access to affordable health care.

So yeah, no health care until September. If ever.

Ohio Abortion Bill Requires Man's Written Permission

| Thu Jul. 23, 2009 12:09 PM EDT

WTF.

An Ohio state rep., John Adams (R, for Ridiculous), has introduced a bill that would require a woman to get written consent from the man she had sex with to conceive. And if she doesn't know who the dad is, she has to submit a list of names of men she's had sex with! Scarlet Letter, here we come.

The bill would make it illegal to lie about who the dad is, and would make abortions without consent a crime. No word on instances of rape and incest, would we need to get a permission slip from daddy then, too?

Listen, I get that a father has a vested interest in seeing his progeny thrive, that's a man's most basic evolutionary instinct. But until men have to carry a growing fetus for nine months, sometimes risking their health to do so, and most certainly altering the rest of their lives, until then, the woman has the final say. If she makes the hard decision that abortion is what's best for everyone, well, sorry boys, you're going to have to be live with that. Just like she will.

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Transparency Is Not Situational

| Thu Jul. 23, 2009 9:51 AM EDT

On Wednesday, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a DC non profit, announced it was suing the Secret Service over the Obama administration's inexcusable refusal to publicly release White House visitor logs. The president was asked about his broken transparency promises last night, and made some pretty sorry excuses, explaining he had sent a letter to CREW with some of the names of insurance executives who had visited the White House. That's totally missing the point, of course. The point is that White House visitor logs should be a matter of public record, especially now that The Most Transparent Administration In HistoryTM is in office. Over to CREW:

[T]ransparency is not situational. It is not sufficient for the White House to release certain visitor records shortly before a press conference to avoid distraction... Releasing some records because it is politically expedient to do so is not transparency.

This should be a no-brainer.

It's 3 a.m. Do You Know Where Your Climate Bill Is?

| Thu Jul. 23, 2009 8:00 AM EDT

Kevin is skeptical that we need to worry about the market in carbon derivatives that will be created by cap and trade, observing that most of these instruments will be relatively simple contracts like futures, and that "Waxman-Markey has some pretty good language regulating them in any case."

Well, Waxman-Markey had some good language regulating carbon and other energy derivatives. Most of it was authored by Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan, who wanted to eliminate over the counter (OTC), or unregulated, derivatives altogether and force trading onto exchanges. His measure also called for stricter trading limits and reporting requirements so that no single operator could assume more risk than it could handle or capture so much of the market that it distorted prices.  

However, in the 300 pages of amendments added to Waxman-Markey just after 3.a.m on the night the bill passed, a few new sentences materialized that placed a big asterisk on those safeguards. The final text now says that the sections of the bill regulating carbon derivatives will be overridden by any derivatives legislation that the House passes later in the year.

This wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, if the House enacts tough reforms. But that's not what the lawmakers who engineered the change had in mind: on Wednesday they released a proposal for a far more anemic regulatory regime than the one mapped out by Stupak.

Why Didn't We Torture Bryant Neal Vinas?

| Wed Jul. 22, 2009 5:20 PM EDT

Some devil's advocacy for people who think Jose Padilla was treated fairly: Former Long Island car wash employee Bryant Neal Vinas, 26, has been charged with participating in a rocket attack on US forces in Afghanistan. According to the charges, he's a dangerous terrorist who trained with Al Qaeda and passed on information about the Long Island Rail Road and the New York City transit system. He is apparently cooperating with authorities.

If torture is such an effective tool, why didn't we torture Vinas? How do we know he's not holding something back? Padilla, another American citizen who was accused of conspiring with terrorists, had his mind essentially "destroyed" by sensory deprivation and solitary confinement. Padilla was held without a lawyer for nearly two years. He was allegedly forced to take LSD and PCP as "truth serums." Does Vinas deserve better treatment than Padilla? If so, why? If Padilla did deserve to be treated as well as Vinas, why wasn't he? Isn't Vinas just as much an "enemy combatant" as Padilla was? Why does he deserve rights that Padilla wasn't afforded? Who makes these decisions? Why do they seem so arbitrary?

The Vacation Card: Officially Played

| Wed Jul. 22, 2009 4:53 PM EDT

Earlier today, I wondered whether Sen. Sherrod Brown's mention of working through August and Nancy Pelosi's promise to do the same meant the Democrats were going to try playing the vacation card against the Republicans. It's a great political tool: if your opponents want to delay something (health care, in this instance) until after recess, express your willingness to work through vacation and paint your opponents as lazy. Congressional majorities do it all the time. If that really is the Dems' new strategy, Jane Hamsher at FireDogLake is helping to set them up:

The Republicans, the Blue Dogs and Joe Lieberman want to stall passing a health care bill, because they know that if members go back to their districts in August it gives the health insurance lobby a chance to hammer them with millions in advertising. There's one word for that:  unacceptable.  The House should keep working until they pass a health reform bill - health care is more important than vacation.

FDL has a petition asking the House to stay in session to pass health reform. They've also put together some facts about what three weeks without health care means for Americans: 

  • 143,250 people will lose their health insurance coverage
  • 53,507 people will file for bankruptcy because they can't pay their medical bills
  • 1,265 people will die because they lack coverage

Of course, even if a health care bill is passed, many of the most important reforms won't take affect for years. But talking about the costs of inaction is still important, because they're real. Not passing a health care bill doesn't mean things will stay the same. It means things will get worse. That's probably what President Obama is going to focus on in his press conference tonight: convincing Americans that the status quo is unacceptable. If he can convince Americans that reform has to happen now, he'll have half the battle won. Then he'll just have to convince people that his reforms are the right ones.