Congress Update

| Fri Oct. 17, 2008 12:26 PM EDT

CONGRESS UPDATE....Via email from Congressional Quarterly:

Illinois 14th – CQ Politics has updated this race from Leans Democratic to Democrat Favored (less competitive).
Indiana 2nd – CQ Politics has updated this race from Democrat Favored to Safe Democrat (less competitive).
Indiana 3rd – CQ Politics has updated this race from Republican Favored to Leans Republican (more competitive).
Indiana 7th – CQ Politics has updated this race from Democrat Favored to Safe Democrat (less competitive).
Indiana 8th – CQ Politics has updated this race from Democrat Favored to Safe Democrat (less competitive).
Iowa 4th – CQ Politics has updated this race from Safe Republican to Republican Favored (more competitive).
Minnesota 1st – CQ Politics has updated this race from Leans Democratic to Democrat Favored (less competitive).
Nebraska 2nd – CQ Politics has updated this race from Republican Favored to Leans Republican (more competitive).

Every single change favors the Democrats, and there are 16 more that they'll cover in a separate story tomorrow. Details here. And Karen Tumulty reports that trends are similar in Senate races. Bottom line: If you're a Republican, life really sucks right now.

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McCain Now Using Robocalls He Once Condemned

| Fri Oct. 17, 2008 12:05 PM EDT

As John McCain robocalls sweep the country, accusing Barack Obama of literally murdering newborns and associating with a group that "killed Americans," keep in mind that when John McCain was a victim of Bush robocalls in the 2000 Republican primary he had a very different view of the tactic. Back then, he slammed slimy robocalls as "hate calls."

Evidently, he is willing to use "hate calls" in the service of his campaign. But who knows? As I've postulated before, the image of McCain as a saintly campaigner that emerged out of 2000 might have been very different if he had won the primary and went on to a bruising general election. If McCain were losing by 10 points in October 2000, whose to say he wouldn't be acting the same way he is now?

The Right's Final Attack: Obama is a Black Muslim, Anti-Christian Socialist Plotting with an Evil Jewish Billionaire

| Fri Oct. 17, 2008 11:51 AM EDT

With less than three weeks to go before Election Day, time is running out on the rightwing effort to delegitimize Barack Obama. At the last debate between John McCain and Obama, McCain finally confronted his opponent directly with the Bill Ayers charge. It was a half-hearted effort: he noted that he didn't "care about an old washed-up terrorist" but insisted that "we need to know the full extent" of Obama's relationship with the former Weather Underground radical, who has since become an education expert. Though McCain succeeded in appeasing conservatives who demanded he pounce on the Ayers matter, the polling evidence has indicated that whining about Obama's casual association with Ayers has not yet become a winning tactic for McCain and Republicans trying to depict Obama as an untrustworthy pol outside the American mainstream. But Ayers is not the only ammo for rightwingers striving to brand Obama as anti-American. Various conservatives are pushing other lines of attack to achieve this goal. And as they mount various ploys, their desperation is showing. Here are some of the last-minute blasts being waged by conservatives hoping to convince voters that they ought to be afraid--very afraid--of Obama:

Mohamed Atta's Driver License. An outfit called the National Republican Trust Political Action Committee has sent out an email to potential conservative donors calling Obama "dangerous" and boasting that it has hit on the killer issue that "will nail him." That issue: Obama supports allowing undocumented aliens to obtain driver's licenses. This means, the group says, that the next Mohamed Atta could obtain a valid driver's license--and somehow make use of it in a plot to kill thousands of Americans. "We are days away from our new TV ad exposing Obama's support for driver's licenses for illegals," the email says. Message: Obama doesn't understand the dangers facing the country and will help terrorists conspiring to destroy the United States.

Obama is a Socialist. McCain came close to saying this at that final debate, when he derided Obama for wanting to "spread the wealth" and maintained that Obama's plan to raise taxes on the well-to-do to help finance tax cuts for the middle class was "class warfare." But McCain did not use the S-word. Others are not so reticent. Richard Viguerie, chairman of and a founder of the modern conservative movement, proposes that Obama be slammed in a simple manner. "The Obama economic policy," he says, "can be summed up in two words: Marxism/Socialism." In Viguerie's view, the McCain campaign and others must reveal that Obama wants to "re-make America along the lines of socialist countries in Europe, most of which are headed toward collapse." Drop the S-bomb, he urges. Message: Obama is a commie who hates the rich and wants to kill the American Dream.

Obama Is a Secret Muslim Plotting With an Evil Billionaire. Human Events, a leading conservative magazine, sent out a promotional email the other day for an anti-Obama book co-written by Floyd Brown, a conservative activist infamous for having cooked up the Willie Horton ad during the 1988 presidential election. The email notes that there are "many Islamofascists who are sworn to the destruction of America" who are "actively campaigning for Obama" and that Muslims would demand and receive "special rights" from a President Obama. The email asks, "Being a Black Muslim doesn't disqualify [Obama] from running for President, so why won't he be honest about it?" In other words, yep, he's a covert Muslim. But beyond circulating this canard, the email claims that George Soros, the Hungarian-born billionaire financier who has supported Democratic and liberal causes, is "planning to sack the US economy, make himself billions richer, and put Obama in the White House marching to his mad tune." Message: A black Muslim in league with an evil Jewish billionaire--you do the math.

Obama Is Fronting for Islamic Jihadists. Writing in The Washington Times this week, former Reagan Pentagon official Frank Gaffney, charges that Obama's campaign has received "between $30 million and $100 million" from the Mideast, Africa and other places [where] Islamists are active." He asserts it "seems likely" that "these funds come not only from Wahhabis, Muslim Brotherhood types and jihadists of other stripes but from non-U.S. citizens." (His evidence? Don't be so picky.) Gaffney adds that "Obama hopes to win the White House by relying, in part, on the Jihadist vote." He writes: "The next three weeks afford the American people--and the media, the courts and the [Federal Elections Commission]--an opportunity to get to the bottom of Barack Obama's ties to and affinity for jihadists who have their own reasons for relishing his promise of 'change]' for this country. Unfortunately, the change his Islamists supporters have in mind is for global theocratic rule under Shariah, and the end of our constitutional, democratic government." Message: Obama will destroy Christianity in the United States and enslave you within an Islamic dictatorship.

List of Republicans Calling BS on ACORN Voter Fraud Allegations Growing

| Fri Oct. 17, 2008 11:21 AM EDT

First the Republican Governor of Florida broke with Republican talking points on this ACORN voter fraud business (here's a primer on the ACORN kerfuffle). Now fired US Attorney David Iglesias, who got the boot in part because he refused to pursue trumped up voter fraud charges against groups like ACORN, agrees.

David Iglesias says he's shocked by the news, leaked today to the Associated Press, that the FBI is pursuing a voter-fraud investigation into ACORN just weeks before the election.
"I'm astounded that this issue is being trotted out again," Iglesias told TPMmuckraker. "Based on what I saw in 2004 and 2006, it's a scare tactic." In 2006, Iglesias was fired as U.S. attorney thanks partly to his reluctance to pursue voter-fraud cases as aggressively as DOJ wanted -- one of several U.S. attorneys fired for inappropriate political reasons, according to a recently released report by DOJ's Office of the Inspector General.
Iglesias, who has been the most outspoken of the fired U.S. attorneys, went on to say that the FBI's investigation seemed designed to inappropriately create a "boogeyman" out of voter fraud.

Let's call this what it is: a massive and well-coordinated attempt to (1) discredit groups that register low-income voters and (2) lay the groundwork for a post-election delegitimization of Obama's victory. It's pre-spin.

Fox News Is Critical of McCain? "Elites!"

| Fri Oct. 17, 2008 10:41 AM EDT

Here's a lesson in how right-wing messaging works. Rush Limbaugh and Fox News are obviously simpatico most of the time. But of late Bill Kristol, a regular Fox News contributor, has been critical of McCain, and a panel of Fox News pundits including Kristol, Nina Easton, Mort Kondrake, and Juan Williams panned McCain's recent debate performance. So what is Limbaugh's reaction?

LIMBAUGH: The Fox All-Stars, they're not America. They have become elites.

Let's get real. Nothing fundamental has changed about Kristol, Easton, Kondrake, and Williams in the last two weeks. They are the same people with the same political principles. But they are no longer full-throated supporters of the cause, so they get labeled elites. Regardless, of course, of the legitimacy of the term. This is how the right operates.

You know what's particularly funny? Limbaugh immediately follows his accusation about the Fox News contributors by saying this: "You don't know how hard this is for me to say folks, Roger Ailes is one of my closest friends. … Saw him this weekend, I spend a lot of social time with him." You can see the video here.

Roger Ailes is the president of Fox News and a former media consultant for Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush. Sounds like pretty elite company to me, Rush.

Would Republicans Accuse Joe the Plumber of Voter Fraud?

| Fri Oct. 17, 2008 3:32 AM EDT

Originally published on the Guardian's "On the Road to the White House" blog, a project of Guardian Films

Under the GOP's current vote suppression strategy in Ohio, McCain's now famous icon might have had a hard time casting a ballot. In a case that has now gone to the Supreme Court for review, Republicans in the state are challenging the registrations of all new voters whose names and other information do not exactly match those in government databases. It turns out that one of the present Ohio voters who could have fallen into this category is Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher—or is it Worzelbacher?—otherwise known as Joe the Plumber.

The man John McCain lionized in Wednesday night's debate has since had every aspect of his life scrutinized by the media. They've uncovered some contradictory facts, to say the least: He's not really a plumber, he probably wouldn't pay more taxes under Obama if he bought his business, and he hasn't actually paid some of the taxes he already owes. He's also registered to vote under a different name.

The New York Times politics blog The Caucus yesterday included the following piece of information:

Mr. Wurzelbacher is registered to vote in Lucas County under the name Samuel Joseph Worzelbacher.
"We have his named spelled W-O, instead of W-U," Linda Howe, executive director of the Lucas County Board of Elections, said in a telephone interview. "Handwriting is sometimes hard to read. He has never corrected it in his registration card."
The records, she said, showed he voted Republican in the March primary.

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Last Stronghold For Chimps Fails

| Fri Oct. 17, 2008 1:07 AM EDT

490px-MattiParkkonen_chimpanze1.jpg Some days you just gotta cry.

A population survey of West African chimpanzees living in Côte d'Ivoire found 90 percent fewer animals than 18 years ago. The remaining few are highly fragmented, with only one viable population living in Taï National Park.

What's happened? Well, the human population in Cote d'Ivoire has increased nearly 50 percent in 18 years. Add to that a civil war since 2002, and the end of surveillance in the protected areas, and, voilà, the sad end of our closest relatives.

Côte d'Ivoire was one of the final strongholds for West African chimps. Geneviève Campbell of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology suggests their status should immediately be raised to critically endangered on the IUCN Red List. The study appears in Current Biology.

This is one of those days.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the Kiriyama Prize and the John Burroughs Medal Award.

Antidote to Too Much Politics on the Riff: M.I.A. Update!

| Thu Oct. 16, 2008 10:11 PM EDT

mojo-photo-miapreg.jpgSure, I'm as guilty as anyone. All of us here tend to get all whipped up into a frenzy every time something silly about Palin pops up over at HuffPo, for instance, but come on, doesn't that say "Arts & Culture" up there under "The Riff"? Commenters (and even other MoJo contributors!) may find this arty little blog a lightweight intrusion into their serious non-profit matters, but I say we take a breather from the campaign and focus on what's really important: what M.I.A.'s been up to. OMG, she's got a wee Arulpragasam in the oven! The singer confirmed her pregnancy to Pitchfork, naturally, over the weekend, saying she's "creating a baby," assumedly with the help of her fiancé Ben Brewer. By the way, not only is Brewer the singer for New York band the Exit, he's also the son of Warner Music Group CEO Edgar Bronfman. Hmm, is M.I.A. pulling a McCain, marrying up, for a little bit of—oh, damn, sorry, I promised I wouldn't talk about politics.

Back to M.I.A.: while the singer grabbed headlines when she appeared to announce her retirement onstage at Bonaroo in June, she emerged from this brief hiatus on Saturday at a Diesel-sponsored shindig in New York to do a few numbers as well as her part in T.I.'s amazing "Swagga Like Us." The party, which also featured Franz Ferdinand and N.E.R.D., was apparently the hottest ticket of the year, with thousands (!) of partygoers reduced to tears when they couldn't get in. Vulture's roundup of the event positively oozes with self-satisfaction at being one of the lucky V.I.P.'s who made it inside, but I admit I'm secreting massive amounts of jealousy. Ahem.

After the jump: More about M.I.A.!!!

The Shah and Us

| Thu Oct. 16, 2008 9:54 PM EDT

THE SHAH AND US....Here's a bit of interesting historical work on the roots of the Iranian revolution:

A new report based on previously classified documents suggests that the Nixon and Ford administrations created conditions that helped destabilize Iran in the late 1970s and contributed to the country's Islamic Revolution.

....The report, after two years of research by scholar Andrew Scott Cooper, zeros in on the role of White House policymakers — including Donald H. Rumsfeld, then a top aide to President Ford — hoping to roll back oil prices and curb the shah's ambitions, despite warnings by then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger that such a move might precipitate the rise of a "radical regime" in Iran.

....Analysts and historians often contend that President Carter, a Democrat, fumbled Iran, allowing the country to eventually become one of the chief U.S. opponents in the region. But the report suggests that his Republican predecessors not only contributed to the shah's fall but also were inching toward a realignment with Saudi Arabia as the key U.S. ally in the Persian Gulf.

....We should get credit for what happened at [OPEC's Doha summit in December 1976]," Kissinger told Ford. "I have said all along the Saudis were the key. . . . Our great diplomacy is what did it."

But it would prove to be a Pyrrhic victory....The shah's government, shaken by the loss of oil revenue, imposed a harsh austerity budget that threw thousands out of work, collapsed investor confidence and panicked middle-class Iranians. Economic chaos and unemployment quickly spread.

Within a year of the Doha summit, the first mass demonstrations that grew into revolution broke out on the streets of the Iranian capital.

The collapse of oil prices in the mid-80s, also engineered by the Saudis, was one of the key factors in the disintegration of the Soviet Union. So apparently Saudi Arabia can claim at least partial credit for both the rise of the Iranian revolution and the fall of communism. Not bad for a country with a population of 20 million or so.


| Thu Oct. 16, 2008 9:18 PM EDT

RECAPITALIZATION....Via a link from John Quiggin, here's some raw data for you. It's several years old (too old to include data on Japan's banking crisis), but it includes historical data on the initial cost of recapitalizing banking systems after most of the other financial crises of the past few decades. Given the different nature of every crisis, and the different nature of small countries vs. big countries, it's hard to suggest that there's any kind of "average" recapitalization required after a banking collapse. Nonetheless, the historical records suggest that 5% of GDP would be a reasonable guess and 10% would hardly be out of line, especially given the epic nature of our current meltdown.

And how are we doing in comparison? So far the Treasury has committed $250 billion as part of the Paulson bailout plan and another $100 billion or so to Bear Stearns, AIG, and Fannie/Freddie. To get to 5% of GDP we'd need to increase that to $700 billion. To get to 10% we'd need to increase it to $1.4 trillion. Just some benchmarks to keep in mind.