Mojo - February 2013

Minimum Wage Boost Would Help Women Most

| Thu Feb. 14, 2013 8:06 AM PST

In his state of the union address Tuesday, President Obama called for an increase in the federal minimum wage, and on Wednesday, he took his pitch on the road to a factory in North Carolina. There's no guarantee that GOP opposition will be overcome, but if Congress does grant his wish, this income bump would most dramatically impact women and their families, according to a new study.

Last year, 64 percent of workers who earned the minimum wage or less were women, according to the report, put out Wednesday by the liberal think-tank Center for American Progress. CAP found that if wages were upped from $7.25 to $9 an hour, as Obama proposed, nearly 9 million women who are paid hourly wages would see their earnings directly increased. Another 4.2 million women would get a wage hike because of a "spillover effect," in which companies boost wages for higher earners as well in order to maintain the same pay hierarchy in the firm.

Center for American Progress

"Raising the minimum wage would be a step in the right direction to ensuring that women are properly compensated for their work, as it would disproportionately help low-wage female workers," write the report's authors.

And since the workers that would be affected are largely adults, a higher minimum wage would help whole families in a big way. Seventy-nine percent of minimum wage earners are over 20 years old, according to the report. Nine dollars an hour would mean more money for macaroni and cheese, gas, diapers, and shoes.

Over the past three decades, the super rich have grabbed the largest share of economic gains in the United States. Meanwhile, the purchasing power of the minimum wage has fallen by 13.5 percent, according to CAP.

Mother Jones

As Obama said in his address Tuesday night, "Let's declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full time should have to live in poverty."

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Obama Issues Cybersecurity Order, Does Not Seize Control of Internet

| Wed Feb. 13, 2013 9:57 AM PST

Largely overlooked among President Obama's State of the Union policy moves was a push to protect US infrastructure from cyberattacks. Earlier on Tuesday, the president signed an executive order that expands information-sharing between the government and private companies to, as he said in Tuesday night's address, develop "standards to protect our national security, our jobs, and our privacy." Conservatives and big business are warning of executive overreach—but in fact, the cybersecurity program gives companies more information than it requires from them, relies heavily on congressional support, and even makes civil liberties advocates happy

Under the order, companies that provide vital services like electricity and water—many of which are considered highly vulnerable to attacks—will be able to view classified government information on cyberthreats, but they aren't required to share information when they get hacked. The order doesn't require companies to participate, nor does it provide any financial incentives (yet), but that didn't stop House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. John McCaul, R-Texas, from warning that it could "open the door to increased regulations that would stifle innovation [and] burden businesses." The U.S. Chamber of Commerce called the program "unnecessary."

By contrast, civil libertarians such as the ACLU were relieved that the order emphasized privacy and civil liberties safeguards. Lee Tien, a senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told Forbes that “We definitely like the executive order better than last year's Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act... The executive order can’t change any federal rules. It just changes the way the executive branch chooses to do things.”

In other words, Obama didn't take over the Internet (that's what Facebook is for.)

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for February 13, 2013

Wed Feb. 13, 2013 9:14 AM PST

U.S. Army Sgt. Kyle Zeller (right) and Cpl. Brian Ori, 3rd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment review the situation during squad level training at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany Feb. 12, 2013. U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach.

 

Obama's Empty Promises of Transparency on National Security

| Tue Feb. 12, 2013 10:32 PM PST

During his first term in office, President Barack Obama often pledged to honor American 'values'—especially transparency—in the war on terror. During the first State Of The Union address of his second term, Obama returned to that theme, promising to "enlist our values" while killing suspected terrorists.

This time, Obama spoke of past accomplishments as well as future commitments, and responded, perhaps for the first time, to critics of the administration's largely opaque targeted killing program:

[M]y Administration has worked tirelessly to forge a durable legal and policy framework to guide our counterterrorism operations. Throughout, we have kept Congress fully informed of our efforts. I recognize that in our democracy, no one should just take my word that we’re doing things the right way. So, in the months ahead, I will continue to engage with Congress to ensure not only that our targeting, detention, and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world.

Obama is acknowledging critics who argue that his use of targeted killing has caused the deaths of innocent people—not just terrorists. It's  likely the first time Obama has spoken of the necessity of "checks and balances" on the targeted killing program. But Obama's definition of checks and balances probably doesn't include a targeted killing court that would independently evaluate whether or not someone should be placed on a "kill list." Instead, he may simply mean that he will tell certain members of Congress after he orders the deaths of suspected terrorists.

Obama's past record, however, suggests that his promises of transparency will be unmet, and his promise to "continue to engage with Congress" implies that he believes his administration is already meeting most of its transparency obligations.

So far, Obama has disclosed few details of the targeted killing program to Congress, let alone to the public. Until last week, the Obama administration had never shared any of the Department of Justice legal memos justifying the use of targeted killing against American terror suspects abroad. Only recently did the congressional intelligence committees begin monthly visits to CIA headquarters to observe videos of targeted killing operations, and that only began at the insistence of Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the chair of the Senate intelligence committee. As the American Civil Liberties Union's Chris Anders told me last July, when Congress was considering compelling the administration to share the targeted killing memos with Congress, "The key committees of Congress don't even know what the legal standard [for targeted killing] is or how they're applying it. So how can they do meaningful oversight?"

Obama's broader record on national security transparency is unimpressive. His administration has consistently invoked the state secrets doctrine to block judicial scrutiny of Bush-era abuses and national security practices. It has resisted legal efforts by civil libertarian groups to shed light on Obama administration policies such as targeted killing, calling them "secret" even when they are public knowledge. When it comes to the Freedom of Information Act, the Obama administration's promises of transparency have gone unfulfilled.

A promise to be "even more" transparent from an administration that has been anything but has little meaning.

Tea Party Group: Obama's State of the Union Address Will Be "Hitlerian"

| Tue Feb. 12, 2013 5:31 PM PST

President Barack Obama's state of the union address Tuesday night will be a "Hitlerian screed attacking Republicans, Conservatives, The Tea Party, and anyone who dares to disagree with him," Judson Phillips, the founder of Tea Party Nation, warned in an essay posted to the group's website Tuesday. "Liberals," he argued, "are the new Nazis."

Tea Party Nation, which also sent Phillips' screed to its email list, calls itself the "leading Tea Party organization in the nation." But the group, which is a for-profit corporation, is most famous for a sparsely attended$549-per-person tea party convention (featuring Sarah Palin) that Phillips held in Nashville in 2010. Since then, Phillips has become embroiled in several legal battles, including one with a former investor who told Mother Jones Phillips snookered him into paying Palin's speaking fee. Last August, a judge ordered Phillips to pay a Las Vegas casino $748,000 for a 2011 tea party convention he planned and then canceled.

Phillips is also known for inflammatory comments: in 2011, he said that "the Left" had "killed a billion people in the last century." He has also argued that the Founding Fathers' original plan to only allow property owners to vote "makes a lot of sense." And in calling for the ouster of Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) a couple of years ago, Phillips cited Ellison's Muslim faith: "There are a lot of liberals who need to be retired this year," he wrote in a post picked up by the Maddow blog, "but there are few I can think of more deserving than Keith Ellison. Ellison is one of the most radical members of congress. He has a ZERO rating from the American Conservative Union. He is the only Muslim member of congress."

Tuesday, Phillips said the Boy Scouts are an example of how liberals are like Nazis:

The Boy Scouts are... [a] good example of what happens to groups that dare to defy the liberal orthodoxy. The Boy Scouts, for very good reasons, exclude gays as scoutmasters and volunteers. For two decades the left has been engaged in a full frontal assault against the Boy Scouts for their position of not allowing homosexual scoutmasters...

This is the tyranny of the left.  There is no room for disagreement.  If liberals disagree with the Boy Scouts' policy they could start their own group. They could create the gay scouts or the diversity scouts or what ever else they wanted to call it.

But no, liberals do not want to do that. They want to destroy anyone or anything that dares to offer a contrary opinion.

Tea Party Nation is the only tea party group listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

World Leaders React to North Korea Nuclear Test

| Tue Feb. 12, 2013 12:06 PM PST

North Korea conducted a third nuclear test on Tuesday, the first since the country's leader Kim Jong-un took power in December 2011. Though it is still unclear whether the test was successful, experts say it could bring the country closer to its goal of building nuclear-tipped missiles designed to strike the US. Official state media characterized the test as a response to US hostility, and warned of "second and third measures of greater intensity" in the future if Washington doesn't back down. (The UN imposed sanctions on the country after a December 2012 rocket launch that the UN and Washington said was a cover for a banned missile test.)

The United Nations Security Council called the test, which is in defiance of existing UN resolutions, "a clear threat to international peace and security," and said it would "begin work immediately" on further punitive measures against Pyongyang.

The test also prompted an outcry from leaders around the world: Here are some of them, via CNN:

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We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for February 12, 2013

Tue Feb. 12, 2013 10:20 AM PST

Tahachee Appodaca, a Wasco, Calif., native and platoon sergeant with 1st Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, orders his Marines to push forward during company-sized assault training, as part of Exercise Iron Fist 2013, aboard Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., Jan. 31, 2013. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Christopher O’Quin.

 

 

 

Fox News Makes Odd Use of Lesbians Kissing

| Tue Feb. 12, 2013 5:21 AM PST
Traditional gender roles get an ironic twist in a Fox News column.

The culture wars are as American as apple pie. According to Suzanne Venker, author of "How to Choose a Husband and Make Peace with Marriage," one of the more pressing issues in modern culture is the dissolution of traditional gender roles. The culprit, Venker argued in a recent column for Fox News, is feminism.

"Feminism didn't result in equality between the sexes," Venker wrote, "it resulted in mass confusion. Today, men and women have no idea who's supposed to do what."

The most immediate irony of the piece as originally published was its inclusion of an image of a newlywed lesbian couple, apparently by accident. The photo was of Lela McArthur and Stephanie Figarelle of Anchorage, Alaska, according to Buzzfeed. The image has since been removed, but Venker's arguments against sexual equality deserve their own response.

Michigan Republicans Really, Really Want to Allow Concealed Guns in Schools

| Mon Feb. 11, 2013 1:39 PM PST

Damn the veto, full speed ahead for more guns in schools!

That may as well be the rallying cry for some Republican lawmakers in Michigan. GOP Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed legislation in mid-December that would have allowed concealed guns on the grounds of schools, churches, and daycare facilities. But State Rep. Greg MacMaster (R) is undeterred. He recently introduced the "Michigan School Protection Act," which would allow licensed teachers and administrators to carry concealed pistols at school, the Associated Press reports. MacMaster, whose legislation has the support of numerous state GOP lawmakers, told the AP that his bill would let schools decide how to implement on-campus concealed carry policies. The speaker of the Michigan House, Republican Jase Bolger, has yet to embrace the new bill, saying lawmakers need to "take a breath" before moving ahead on the measure. But Bolger has also questioned the wisdom of making schools gun-free zones, suggesting he might be open to MacMaster's legislation.

On December 13, the day before the school shooting in Newtown, Conn.the GOP-controlled Michigan legislature approved concealed-carry legislation for schools, churches, and daycare centers. Post-Newtown, citizens barraged Snyder's office with emails and phone calls urging him to veto the bill, which he did. "While we must vigilantly protect the rights of law-abiding firearm owners, we also must ensure the right of designated public entities to exercise their best discretion in matters of safety and security," Snyder said in a statement. "These public venues need clear legal authority to ban firearms on their premises if they see fit to do so."

Snyder did sign two other gun-related measures at the time, one streamlining the background check process for handgun purchases and another easing the sale of rifles and shotguns between buyers and sellers in states bordering Michigan. During a recent visit to an elementary school, Snyder sounded bearish on the idea of more guns in schools. "I don't view dwelling on guns as the big conversation we should be having," he told MLive.com. "If you look at the tragedy at Sandy Hook and the issues there, one of the big things we need to look at is the issue of mental health, and the issues of how do we help kids that have needs and different challenges in their life."

MacMaster's isn't the only divisive gun bill introduced by Michigan GOPers lately. In mid-January, 13 Republican state senators offered the "Michigan Firearms Freedom Act," a measure that would exempt guns or ammunition made in Michigan from federal regulations. Michigan joined nearly three-dozen other states in introducing such legislation. The measure is, for now, a purely symbolic one: There are no gun or ammo makers in Michigan.

In the Context of "1,000 Years" of Warfare, Drones Are "More Humane"

| Mon Feb. 11, 2013 12:59 PM PST

Last week, Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) gave a sort of backhanded defense of the Obama administration's controversial targeted killing program.

"To be honest, I believe that drones are a lot more civilized than what we used to do, you know, when Sherman shelled Atlanta or when the Allies firebombed Dresden in World War II, it was all collateral damage. It was virtually all civilians. And that was the way of war until very recently," King said on Friday's episode of MSNBC's Morning Joe. "The drones, although there is some collateral damage, basically is a very smart artillery shell...[I]f you put it in a context of 1,000 years of war, I think it's actually a more humane weapon because it can be targeted to specific enemies and specific people."

Of course, that doesn't have much to do with drone critics' actual arguments, and Sen. King was wise enough to point that out during his interview: "Now, I do think there’s a problem...about targeting Americans. There is this little item of the Fifth Amendment that says no person shall be denied life, liberty or property without due process of law."

But King's initial point is unimpeachably true: When you look at the history of warfare between 1013 A.D. and now, it's hard to come to the conclusion that drone warfare is any more barbaric or indiscriminate than what humanity has become used to over the past ten centuries. For instance:

when the normans invaded ireland in 1169

norman invasion ireland
Land was taken, the regime was changed, and much brutality was exacted with swords. Via the University of Alabama at Birmingham

 

 When Pope Innocent III launched the tw0-decade Albigensian Crusade

cathars crusade albigensian crusade
It's this particularly horrific crusade that gave birth to the phrase, "Kill them all; let God sort them out." Via Wikimedia Commons

 

that time the Qing Dynasty put down the Taiping Rebellion between 1850 and 1864

taiping rebellion
20 million killed, mostly civilians. Via Wikimedia Commons

 

when america went to the philippines...

philippine american war atrocities
Click here for a rundown of American atrocities during the war. Via New York Journal

 

napalm

napalm vietnam us
Napalm during the Vietnam War has a remarkably ugly legacy.

 

US-backED death squads

el mozote massacre memorial


IRAQ

iraq war
Staff Sgt. Sean A. Foley/US Army