Political MoJo

We're Here to Pump You Up!

| Thu Aug. 24, 2006 8:05 PM EDT

OK, one more penis pump story and the New York Times style section will be running a trend piece about them. Today's news brings us the story of Mardin Amin, a hapless 29-year-old Iraqi American janitor who was stopped at Chicago's O'Hare airport on August 16 because, prosecutors say, he told officials that the suspicious black rubber device they had plucked from his backpack was a bomb. In fact, it was a penis pump, and his lawyer attributes his less-than-clear enunciation to the fact that he was traveling with his mother and two small children.

Standing next to his mother, an embarrassed Amin whispered out of one corner of his mouth that it was a "pump"—as in a penis pump. The guard misunderstood the Iraqi man and thought she heard the word "bomb," Amin's attorney told a Cook County judge Wednesday.
"He told her it's a pump," attorney Eileen O'Neill-Burke said as a cluster of burly, snickering police officers watched the court proceedings. "He's standing with his mother. Of course he's not going to shout this out."

Two days later an Oklahoma judge was sentenced to four years in prison on four counts of indecent exposure for using a penis pump under his robes over a period of two years.

All this would be nothing more than snicker-worthy were it not for the fact that prosecuting Iraqi Americans for carrying penis pumps is apparently considered a legitimate use of airport security and law enforcement resources.

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Out-wit, out-last, out-race! Literally.

Thu Aug. 24, 2006 6:17 PM EDT

CBS show Survivorannounced yesterday that it would divide this season's 20 contestants into tribes based on race: there'll be African American tribe, Asian American tribe, Hispanic tribe and White tribe. Which means that in an amazing twist, in addition to subsiting on grubs and subjecting themselves to humiliating displays of desperation, cast members will also have to be super self-conscious when hurling insults at other tribes. Apparently inspired less by neo-Darwinism than pure cluelessness, host Jeff Probst (a non-Hispanic White) appeared on "The Early Show" today to explain the organic process by which this amazing moment in American popular culture came about:

"It wasn't until we got to casting and started noticing this theme of ethnic pride . . . that we started thinking, wow, if culture is still playing such a big part in these people's lives, that's our idea, let's divide them based on ethnicity."

70% of Post-Katrina Contracts Awarded Without Full Bidding

| Thu Aug. 24, 2006 2:29 PM EDT

Hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars were wasted by FEMA in the awarding of Katrina recovery contracts, according to a U.S. House of Representatives study released today by House Democrats. Audits show that of $10.6 billion worth of contracts awarded, more than $7.4 billion were given with either no bidding or limited bidding. In addition, nineteen contracts worth $8.75 billion wasted taxpayer money in part through double-billing or non-use of purchased items.

While acknowledging that some of the contracts needed to be awarded on an emergency, no-bid basis, Democrats pointed out that, as time passed, the number of no-bid or limited-bid contracts actually increased. Bechtel, CH2M Hill Inc. and Fluor--companies with strong political connections--were found by auditors to have wasted post-Katrina recovery money. These same companies were just awarded millions of dollars worth of temporary housing contracts by FEMA.

Yoga for Warmongers

| Thu Aug. 24, 2006 1:38 PM EDT

As the Associated Press pointed out recently, yoga has expanded so far beyond the hippie realm that it has finally touched the polar opposite: the military. The August issue of Fit Yoga Magazine features a photo of two Naval aviators doing yoga in full combat gear on the tarmac of an aircraft carrier. They are, of course, doing a pose known as Warrior II. "And on their faces," wrote Fit Yoga editor Rita Trieger, "their serene smiles relayed a sense of inner calm that only yogis can truly understand."

An op-ed in the Los Angeles Times today suggests that if yoga can benefit warriors, maybe it should also be administered to other violent professions:

Yoga could really help predatory tow-truck drivers; maybe they could start with something familiar, like the locust pose. . . . Aggressive drivers and tailgaters might try the wind-relieving pose, which closely resembles an appendicitis attack — on your back with your arms clutching your knees — but feels much nicer.

One possibility the story leaves out, however, is using yoga to calm down the likes of Donald Rumsfeld and his fellow warmongers. A New York Times story revealed today that senior Bush administration officials, apparently having learned nothing from the intelligence failures that led to the invasion of Iraq, have been pressuring American spy agencies to give them more of a justification for taking on Iran. To help them ponder the ramifications of such an approach, I'd suggest the Plank Pose (considering an invasion would be akin to walking one), the Noose Pose, or the Corpse Pose, which is, of all the poses, the most relaxing.

FDA Approves Plan B for Over-the-Counter Sale

| Thu Aug. 24, 2006 12:22 PM EDT

Finally. The emergency contraceptive, which can prevent pregnancy if taken up to 72 hours after sex, will be be available over-the-counter to women over 18 as soon as the drug's maker reprints the packaging. This comes nearly three years after an independent FDA advisory committee voted overwhelmingly that Plan B is perfectly safe for over-the-counter sale without age restrictions.

As part of the FDA approval, the drug's maker agrees to "conduct an education campaign ... to raise awareness and knowledge levels about emergency contraception." This is great news, because recent surveys have shown only one in five women is aware that there are effective methods of after-sex contraception.

Now for the bad news: Women under 18 will still have to get a doctor's note to purchase Plan B for themselves, even though all research says that the drug can be safely and effectively used by teens. The age restriction means that Plan B will not be sold in convenience stores, but only at businesses with a licensed pharmacist. In this way, it also affects women 18 and up. Not every town in America has a 24-hour pharmacy, but most have a 24-hour gas station. Pharmacist refusals are likely to remain a huge problem.

And even though the FDA has finally caved to common sense, the Center for Reproductive Rights lawsuit against the agency will continue. Depositions in the case show the White House intervened in the FDA's supposedly independent decision-making process, and the Center has subpoenaed members of the Bush administration. This ain't over yet.

FDA's Missing More Than 9,000 Drugs From its Rolls

| Thu Aug. 24, 2006 11:58 AM EDT

Now that the FDA has finally approved over-the-counter emergency contraception it needs to turn its attention to elsewhere in the beleagured agency. A report released last week by the Department of Health and Human Services found that FDA's current list of 123,856 medications includes 34,257 that are no longer available and is missing another 9,187.

For 16 percent of missing [medications], drug firms confirmed that they did not submit the required FDA forms for listing the drug products. In nearly all of the remaining cases in which drug firms claimed to have submitted listing forms, evidence of submission was not provided or the documentation provided was inconclusive. However, in 9 percent of cases, firms' claims to have submitted forms were corroborated by forms we found in FDA's files. In these cases, FDA had failed to appropriately process the forms.

Currently all 120,000-plus drugs are tracked by a total of 15 staff who manually enter data from paper registrations each time companies file to sell or stop selling certain medications. (They've got to be in a windowless office in a basement somewhere too, right?)

The new system would require companies to provide updates electronically every six months on the drugs they have on the market. Wait, they aren't required to do this already? This is the country's regulatory arm of a multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical industry and in 2006 its proposing that companies check in twice a year.

The FDA might just miss the brouhaha over Plan B; it distracted us all from the rest of their mess.

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Two Female Editors=Cat Fight? (What, Does Hype Stalker Work for Forbes?)

| Thu Aug. 24, 2006 2:05 AM EDT

Ok, not to make too much of this, because, as best as I can tell, Hype Stalker practices a sort of "I wish I worked for Gawker" style of snark. But still, here's what the New York Press' columnist had to say about Monika and I becoming the co-editors of this magazine:

Does anyone really think that Mother Jones appointing two editors-in-chief (Monika Bauerlein and Clara Jeffery) will actually work? (Cue the cat reorws and hisses!)

How about, Cue the misogynistic clichés?

Now, it is fair game to ask, how does a co-editorship work? (To which we say, among other things, it seemed to work just fine at The New York Review of Books for decades.) The question I have is, if the two editors in question were both men, or a man and a woman, would they be subjected to the equivalent of a "Chicks in Chains" stereotype? Or more to the point, bad writing?

Come what may, there will be no hair pulling in this big house. That's a promise.

And while I'm on the subject, the Forbes story, on which Liz has blogged (here and here), just gets better and better. Do not miss the side-by-side comparison of the mind blowingly Neanderthalish Michael Noer article on how career women make lousy wives (!!) with Forbes writer Elizabeth Corcoran's rebuttal, "Don't Marry a Lazy Man." Forbes notes the Noer article has prompted "a heated response, both inside and outside the building." Yeah, from among others, probably any woman, married or unmarried, who's got any personal or professional history with Michael Noer.

For more evidence on that front, follow the jump to a cached version of "The Economics of Prostitution"—another bit of (moldy) "academic analysis" by Noer that Forbes seems to have taken down from its website. Highlights include: "Wives, in truth, are superior to whores in the economist's sense of being a good whose consumption increases as income rises--like fine wine. "

Forbes Pulls Article on Working Women Not Being the Marrying Kind

| Wed Aug. 23, 2006 9:33 PM EDT

Sometime this afternoon Forbes pulled Michael Noer's article on how career women make lousy wives. Here's the cached version if you have yet to see it.

Now there's a link on Forbes.com to the stripped down text of the piece paired with a rebuttal from Forbes reporter Elizabeth Corcoran entitled, "Don't Marry a Lazy Man." The website is also offering a discussion forum, which had more than 180 comments as of this evening.

All this strikes a different tone than the one surrounding the original article, which featured a slideshow called "Nine Reasons to Steer Clear of Married Women," complete with campy photos of women with tear-streaked faces. Maybe the folks at the magazine realized that with half of all U.S. business owned by women, quite a few actually read Forbes, and they may not like what they see. Curiously the page that hosted the original article now reads: Something's gone awry!

Maybe that's Steve Forbes talking?

More News of Sexual Assault in the Military

| Wed Aug. 23, 2006 7:09 PM EDT

On the heels of the revelation that at least 80 military recruiters have been disciplined for sexual misconduct comes a new survey of students at The Citadel. It shows almost 20 percent of female cadets reported having been sexually assaulted at the military college.

Of the 27 sexual assaults against women at The Citadel mentioned in the survey, 17 were never reported to authorities. About half of the women who did not report assaults said they feared ostracism, harassment or ridicule if they did, the survey found.
A survey of the U.S. military academies released last year found that more than 50 percent of female respondents and 11 percent of male respondents experienced some type of sexual harassment since enrolling. That survey also found 64 incidents of sexual assault among the more than 1,900 females at the service academies.

Looks like it probably wasn't such a great idea for the Department of Defense to scrap its plans to create an Office of Victim Advocate. The special office was proposed in March after the DOD's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Office reported 2,374 alleged assaults during 2005, up from 1,700 alleged assaults in 2004-- an increase of almost 40%.

The Citadel recently instituted a Respect and Values Program "to educate cadets on such topics as sexual harassment, alcohol abuse, the honor code and racism." Let's hope it helps.

Inhofe Bashes U.N. Peacekeepers, Sings Bush's Praises

| Wed Aug. 23, 2006 6:06 PM EDT

Senator James Inhofe, in a speech Monday to the Tulsa Metro Chamber, called the situation in Iraq "nothing short of a miracle." In the same breath, he ruthlessly attacked the United Nations, calling the organization an "absolute disaster," whose peacekeepers in Africa go "around teaching girls to be prostitutes." He is asking Washington to withhold money from the peacekeeping organization.

Yet, it appears that many Americans don't agree--65% disapprove of the way President Bush is handling Iraq and a new USA Today/Gallup poll shows that 57% want the U.N. to be in charge of the Peace Agreement between Israel and Hezbollah.