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McCain Camp Tries To Spin Away "Disgrace" Comment

| Wed Jul. 9, 2008 5:32 PM EDT

On Monday, at a town hall meeting in Denver, John McCain said this:

Americans have got to understand that we are paying present-day retirees with the taxes paid by young workers in America today. And that's a disgrace. It's an absolute disgrace, and it's got to be fixed.

In this quote, McCain was essentially saying that the problem with Social Security is that Social Security is Social Security, instead of something else. He is attacking the basic funding mechanism for the 75-year-old program. But now, with the McCain "disgrace" comment being picked up all over the web, the McCain campaign is trying to backtrack. ABC's Jake Tapper spoke with a McCain spokesman, Brian Rogers, who said this:

[T]he disgrace is our failure to fix the long-run imbalance in Social Security—a failure of leadership evidenced by our willingness to kick to problem to the next generation of leaders. He's also describing the looming and increasing demographic pressures confronting the Social Security system and Washington's utter failure to address it.

In essence, Rogers is claiming that McCain's "disgrace" comment was taken out of context—that he was not applying the word "disgrace" to Social Security's funding mechanism, but rather to the "demographic pressures confronting the Social Security system and Washington's utter failure to address it."

Unfortunately for the McCain campaign, which is beginning to realize the mistake it made by attacking Social Security, Rogers' argument doesn't hold up under scrutiny. The Denver town hall wasn't the only place McCain attacked Social Security this week. From yesterday's post:

Now, before you think, "Wow, that must be a slip of the tongue, he can't possibly mean that," please note that McCain said essentially the same thing to John Roberts on CNN this morning. From the transcript:
On the privatization of accounts, which you just mentioned, I would like to respond to that. I want young workers to be able to, if they choose, to take part of their own money which is their taxes and put it in an account which has their name on it. Now, that's a voluntary thing, it's for younger people, it would not affect any present-day retirees or the system as necessary. So let's describe it for what it is. They pay their taxes and right now their taxes are going to pay the retirement of present-day retirees. That's why it's broken, that's why we can fix it. [Emphasis added.]

McCain said the same thing on CNN that he did in the town hall: the problem with Social Security—"why it's broken"—is that young people, "pay their taxes and right now their taxes are going to pay the retirement of present-day retirees." That's not out of context. It's what he said. McCain's problem with Social Security is with its basic structure.

The DNC held a conference call today about McCain's comment. It seems smart to pick up on this—it's the real thing. With this comment showing his antipathy toward the fundamentals of Social Security, McCain has indeed touched the "third rail" of American politics. On the DNC call, Ed Coyle, the president of the Alliance for Retired Americans, referred to McCain's comment as "anti-senior" and said he hopes the press will ask McCain to elaborate on what he could have meant. That's a reasonable request.

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Warm, Fuzzy Satanists

| Wed Jul. 9, 2008 5:30 PM EDT

satanist150.jpgSome divorced couples argue over whether their kids should have dessert. Some over homework.

And some argue over whether their kids should be brought up Satanist.

From the Chicago Tribune comes the story of an Indiana mom who wants a court to make her Devil-worshiping ex-husband take her kids to Christian church. Long story short, Satanists are not exactly the role models she had in mind for her offspring. But the Beelzebub fans themselves say she's got them all wrong. From a related Trib blog post:

"Some of your readers might wonder what exposure to Satanism might do to a developing child," Gilmore said. "I recognized myself as a Satanist at age 13 and was subsequently the valedictorian of my high school class in 1976, being quite open about my religion."

Uh, yeah, Gilmore? Chris Kattan wants his material back.

Will Rove Show?

| Wed Jul. 9, 2008 4:57 PM EDT

Karl Rove has already gone on TV to blab about the Justice Department's prosecution of former Alabama governor Don Siegelman. Now, the House Judiciary Committee just wants him to come up the Hill to talk to Congress. The committee was nice enough to include a subpoena with its invitation. Tomorrow, the Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law will assemble in the Dirksen Office Building at 10 a.m. to see of Rove actually shows up. His lawyer has basically told Judiciary Committee chair John Conyers to fuck off, Rove's not coming. The legendary political consultant has already dissed the Senate Judiciary Committee, looking into similar matters, so the odds of anything exciting happening tomorrow aren't worth the trip up Independence Avenue for the live show. But Conyers has shown a little more moxie than his colleagues in the Senate. He's already suggested that if Rove isn't sitting in front of him tomorrow morning, he will take further legal action to compel his testimony, which he's done for other recalcitrant White House witnesses. It's entirely possible that Rove will one day, years from now, have to sit in the congressional hot seat. The question, of course, is whether anyone will still care what he has to say?

Top Five: Music for a Heat Wave

| Wed Jul. 9, 2008 4:38 PM EDT

mojo-photo-top5-070908.jpg

Since everybody's so into lists these days, I figured I'd bring back my Top Five mini-countdown of fun stuff 'n' things, with the added conveneince of an Imeem widget for your listening pleasure (see below). This week, as we in California roast under triple-digit temperatures, why not celebrate with some tunes that either take explicit pleasure in the heat, or at least sound really good on a warm night.

Obama Encourages Students to Abandon Hopes of Becoming Great Rappers

| Wed Jul. 9, 2008 3:47 PM EDT

mojo-photo-obamayousuck.jpgBecause, you know, hope is crazy audacious, but not that audacious. Obama was in Georgia yesterday (talk about audacious hopes), and in a speech to a town hall meeting in Powder Springs, gave the mostly African-American audience a message of "tough love." Speaking about the importance of staying in school, he seemingly aimed some comments directly at young black men:

"You can't find a job, unless you are a really, really good basketball player which most of you brothas are not. I know you think you are, but you're not," he said to murmurs and laughter in the crowd. "You are over-rated in your own mind. You will not play in the NBA. You are probably not that good a rapper. Maybe you are the next Lil' Wayne, but probably not, in which case you need to stay in school."

Embattled Judicial Nominee Also Landlord To Sketchy Methadone Clinic

| Wed Jul. 9, 2008 1:59 PM EDT

No doubt Gustavus Adolphus Puryear IV rues the day that he dissed jail-house lawyers in print. The patrician Tennessee Republican who once prepped Dick Cheney for his campaign debates should have been a shoe-in for an appointment to the federal bench.. But as the general counsel of the country's largest private prison company, the Corrections Corporation of America, Puryear has drawn fire from a relentless adversary in his quest for confirmation: Alex Friedmann, a former CCA inmate and one of those jail-house lawyers Puryear once bashed in an interview for allegedly filing frivolous lawsuits.

Friedmann has gotten revenge by flooding the press and the Senate Judiciary Committee with a host of negative information about Puryear, reminding the Senators of Puryear's membership in an exclusive all white country club that doesn't allow women to become members, among other things. The latest installment comes via the Tennessean, which reports on Friedmann's discovery that Puryear is landlord to Nashville's only methadone clinic, which was recently caught throwing out patient records without shredding them first, leaving all their pertinent digits in the trash for anyone to find. Puryear is only the landlord, and he's not implicated in any misdeeds, but clearly the story can't help his fight for confirmation, which looks dimmer and dimmer by the day.

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Viral Videographers Finding Endless Bush-McCain Connections

| Wed Jul. 9, 2008 12:23 PM EDT

I think the intention of this video is to point out that John McCain and George Bush are so similar that they use the same examples of business success in their speeches. In reality, all it does it illustrate the President's old-man fashion sense (black socks with presidential seal + rubber sandals) and cause the execs at Crocs to reach for the Tums. Another popular thing ruined by George "Anti-Midas" Bush.

I get to blog about presidential footwear. It really is a ridiculous thing.

Oh, and PS — Bush isn't the only one who needs new shoes. Maybe BHO could get a pair of these.

Obama: Aprende Espanol!

| Wed Jul. 9, 2008 11:49 AM EDT

Jonathan Martin is calling this clip "tomorrow's anti-Obama email today."

McCain, Fiorina, and the Phony Small Business Tax Burden

| Wed Jul. 9, 2008 11:15 AM EDT

I noted yesterday that John McCain spent most of his time in front of the Hispanic organization LULAC talking about the economy. He emphasized repeatedly that Barack Obama, who McCain paints as a classic tax-raising liberal, would be bad for small business. They wouldn't be able to expand or hire with the new tax burden Obama would place upon them. Here's an example from yesterday's speech:

"Keeping individual rates low isn't intended as a favor to wealthy Americans. 23 million small business owners pay those rates, and taking more money from them deprives them of the capital they need to invest and grow and hire. If you believe you should pay more taxes, I am the wrong candidate for you."

This echoes statements made repeatedly by Carly Fiorina, McCain's favorite ex-CEO and a top surrogate for his campaign. For example, she had this to say recently:

"When Barack Obama blithely says only the wealthiest are going to be taxed, he is ignoring the fact that 23 million small businesses file as individuals and those small businesses are the only growing sector of the economy right now."

Here's the problem. Yes, 23 million small businesses file as individuals. But Obama is proposing to raise taxes on individuals making over $250,000. And according to the Tax Policy Center (as reported by Politico) only 1.4 percent of small business owners make the cut. "Most small-business people, like most everyone else, are not really high-income," said Eric Tolder, senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center.

For a breakdown of how McCain and Obama's tax plans would affect you, see this video.

Biofuels & Biodiversity Don't Mix

| Tue Jul. 8, 2008 9:47 PM EDT

349px-Palm_oil_Ghana.jpg Very little can be done to make palm oil plantations more hospitable for birds and butterflies. Consequently rising demand for the biofuel will decimate biodiversity unless natural forests are preserved.

Lian Pin Koh of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich counted birds and butterflies in 15 palm oil plantations in Borneo and found that palm oil plantations supported between 1 and 13 butterfly species, and between 7 and 14 bird species. Previous research found at least 85 butterfly and 103 bird species in neighboring undisturbed rain forest.

The paper, Can palm oil plantations be made more hospitable for forest butterflies and birds?, to be published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, comes at time when rising demand for food and biofuels is squeezing biodiversity. Unless oil palm agriculture is regulated, rising global demand is likely to convert more forests into fuel for your car and mine. Frankly, my dear, neither is worth it.

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