2011 - %3, March

The GOP's Russell Pearce Problem

| Fri Mar. 25, 2011 6:23 AM PDT

The latest Census data has prompted a flurry of speculation about the Republican Party's future amid the country's increasingly diverse and increasingly Hispanic population. "We are increasingly metropolitan today, our country is becoming racially and ethnically more diverse over time... and geographically, there are a lot of areas of the country growing in number that have large minority populations," concludes Census Bureau director Robert Groves, as the Washington Post notes. The nation's Hispanic population, in particular, has grown much faster than expected—rising 43 percent to 50.5 million in 2010—and now makes up 16 percent of the country's population. 

The changing demographics cast a shadow over the GOP's prospects, particularly given the party's hard right turn on immigration in recent months. And there's no better example of this Republican conundrum than Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce, the author of the hardline anti-immigration law in the state that set off a political firestorm last year. Pearce hasn't let up on his crackdown on illegal immigrants in the state, and his extreme views have since moved to the mainstream of the GOP as some of his counterparts in Washington have embraced his proposals. The booming Hispanic population could even prompt the party's immigration hardliners to double down—even though rising numbers aren't just a result of illegal immigration, which has actually declined in the last two years.

But in Arizona itself, Pearce is starting to experience a backlash that could foreshadow some of the party's problems ahead. A handful of non-partisan groups have launched an effort to recall the Arizona Senate leader, scrambling to collect thousands of signatures around the state. The groups' members say that Pearce's extreme tactics have gone too far, according to The Mesa Legend:

"We're trying to recall Senator Russell Pearce because he's voted to terminate health care for hundreds of thousands of Arizona families and senior citizens and kids. He slashed public education, and he's just had a general disrespect for the United States constitution," said Geoff Esposito, a member of Citizens for a Better Arizona, while collecting signatures in front of the Mesa Public Library.

The recall effort could send a warning shot to Republicans across the country who've adopted a similarly hardline stance against immigration—a position that could not only alienate Hispanics, but also non-Hispanic swing voters who are put off by the party line. 

That being said, Republicans still have a chance to turn things around. Within Arizona, an anti-Pearce recall movement has also surfaced among moderate Republicans who have been also been put off by his extreme views toward immigrants, including some Mormon leaders—who've generally been more sympathetic toward Hispanics, along with a number of other religious groups. It was only four years ago that George W. Bush tried to pass a comprehensive immigration bill. While the party has taken a hard right turn since Obama's election, moderate voices could still prevail—at some point.

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Indiana Prosecutor Suggested Fake Attack on Gov. Scott Walker

| Fri Mar. 25, 2011 5:30 AM PDT
Flickr/jonbloy

Buried among the 50,000 emails sent to Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker during the fight over his anti-union "budget repair" bill, the two-paragraph message from Carlos Lam on February 19 stood out. After praising Walker, Lam wrote: "If you could employ an associate who pretends to be sympathetic to the unions' cause to physically attack you (or even use a firearm against you), you could discredit the unions." Law called the stunt a "false flag" operation, going on to say that such a move "would assist in undercutting any support that the media may be creating in favor of the unions. God bless, Carlos F. Lam."

As the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism reported, Lam was no ordinary citizen. He was a deputy prosecutor in Johnson County, Indiana, in the heart of the Hoosier state. When the Wisconsin Center's Kate Golden asked Lam about the incendiary email, he denied sending it, saying he was "flabbergasted and would never advocate for something like this." He said he was mini-van shopping when the email was sent. But not long after distancing himself from the email, Lam fessed up as the message's sender. He resigned on Thursday.

A spokesman for Walker told the Wisconsin Center that no one in the governor's office had read the email. "Certainly we do not support the actions suggested in [the] email," the spokesman, Cullen Werwie, said.

Lam's email was one of more than 50,000 that flooded Governor Scott Walker's inbox during the early weeks of the protest over his "repair" bill, which would ban collective bargaining for most public-sector unions. A Wisconsin Center analysis found that emails supporting Walker and his controversial legislation outnumbered opposing emails by a two-to-one margin; about one-third of supportive emails came from outside of Wisconsin. A judge last week blocked publication of the bill while the court reviews whether lawmakers violated state open meetings law when they passed the measure in early March.

For those keeping track, Lam is the second Indiana prosecutor to resign for making controversial statements about the Wisconsin protests, which have roiled the capitol, Madison, for more than a month. In February, Mother Jones broke the story that Jeff Cox, an Indiana deputy attorney general, tweeted that Wisconsin police should use "live ammunition" to clear protesters from the state Capitol. Our story went live on Wednesday morning; by Wednesday afternoon Cox had been terminated.

Lam wasn't alone in proposing to undermine unions with sleazy tactics during the Wisconsin protests. The day after Lam sent his email, radio talk show host Mark Williams wrote a blog post urging his followers to cause trouble at a Sacramento solidarity event by wearing Service Employees International Union T-shirts and say outrageous things to embarrass the union. "If I do get the 'in' I am going to do my darnedest to get podium access and take the mic to do that rant from there," Williams wrote. "With any luck and if I can manage the moments to build up to it, I can probably get a cheer out of the crowd for something extreme." This, of course, was the same Mark Williams who infamously wrote a blog post in the voice of black slave who said that slavery was "a great gig."

You expect such buffoonery from Williams. But from a deputy attorney general and a county prosecutor? All in all, it's been a rough month or so for prosecutors in the great state of Indiana.

Animals at Play

| Fri Mar. 25, 2011 4:12 AM PDT

This post courtesy BBC Earth. For more wildlife news, find BBC Earth on Facebook and Posterous.

Throughout the theme Life Is... New, we've observed countless young animals being supported by their parents to survive the first few difficult days of existence and become strong enough to join the race of life. But what happens after that? The most important skills, such as those that teach us exactly how to survive can only be learned one way... through play! Interestingly enough, skills are not the only thing that can be achieved through social activity, especially in the case of the elephants!

Here are ten animals that use play to get more out of life.

1. Playing mum: Langhur Monkey

Studies have found that while juvenile female monkeys do enjoy equal amounts of male to female social activity, when an infant appears within the group their attention will be almost immediately focused on any opportunity to touch, cuddle, carry, or groom the new arrival. This leaves the new mother with quite a fan club.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Playing it safe: Tiger

Although they love water, tigers will go to any lengths not to get it in their eyes. So much so that they will enter backwards to avoid any chance of it happening.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Playing dirty: Horned Lizard

A lizard with more than one trick! Not only can this lizard fake its own death by flipping onto its back when a predator appears. But if attacked, it can assert enough pressure in its sinuses to burst the blood vessels in its eyes, effectively squirting its attacker with blood!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Players not fighters: Grizzly Bear

From afar, bear's play-fighting can sometimes look a little like real confrontation. But the best way to tell is by looking at the hairs around the neck and shoulders. If it lies flat, then it's harmless fun. However if it's erect, then that's the signal to move well away!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Water sports: Red Lechwe

It’s clear to see that the red lechwe of Botaswana enjoy running and jumping for fun. But for survival it's actually the swimming they rely upon, choosing in the heat of the chase to take to the water rather than try and outrun their pursuer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. More than play: Elephant

Elephants been studied for their ability to, and enjoyment of, playtime. But it's also been discovered that they cry, have remarkable memories, and laugh.

7. Playmates: Humpback Whale

Humpback whales are well known for their love of diving and breaching, and their general acrobatics in the water. But did you know that there's a considerable amount of sea-life that love their behavior too? Dolphins and pilot whales are just two examples of gentle giants appreciators who will swim and play alongside them for no other reason than the joy of each other's company.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8. Play... or else: Eider Duck

The Eider duck is so keen to be part of a flock, that it actually suffers if it lacks companionship or social activity. Also, ducks raised in captivity have been found to start believing that the humans that are around them and care for them; are their flock.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9. Really wild playgroup: Wild Dogs

African wild dogs are such sociable animals that they not only play, but live in groups of up to 20 dogs! Playing games, wrestling, and hunting all go hand in hand within the life of a pack.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10. Just for fun: Dusky Dolphins

It's not just in play that these dolphins exert wild and free behavior, but in mating too! In fact, a large majority of mating between the adult males and females takes place simply as a means of socializing and having fun.

 

Eco-News Roundup: Friday March 25

| Fri Mar. 25, 2011 3:57 AM PDT

News on health and the environment from our other blogs.

Family Values: GOP wants to cut food stamps, Medicaid to save money.

Where's the Beef: New ad mocks Republican attacks on food safety agencies.

Stand-Up Guy: A Republican stands up in support of Planned Parenthood.

Baby Steps: Public opinion of the health care bill has changed little.

Caged Beasts: Cats are responsible for many bird deaths, but not all of them.

Scent of Fear: Nuclear power kills fewer people than coal, but it's more feared.

Looking Back: Kids should stay in rear-facing car seats longer, says the AAP.

Wind Fall: Wind power installments are tumbling.

Open for Business: Oil and gas drilling gets re-started in the Gulf of Mexico.

Backwash: Oil and tarballs are washing up on the Louisiana coast again.

 

MoJo's Abortion Top 10

| Fri Mar. 25, 2011 3:30 AM PDT

Since the midterm elections this past November, a reenergized Republican party has forged ahead with plans to dismantle abortion rights on every front, at both state and federal levels. The developments are coming so fast and furious that it can be a little overwhelming, but here's a recap of some of the recent highlights, in order of publication date. 

1. "The Man Who Loved Women Too Much" — Contributor Sara Blustain profiles Harold Cassidy, the lawyer behind a legal strategy that reframes abortion restrictions not as simply protecting the unborn, but rather as protecting women from the consequences of their decisions—in other words, chipping away at a woman's right to choose in the name of…women's rights. (January/February issue

2. "Are You Sure You Want an Abortion?" — Using information provided by the Guttmacher Institute, I put together these maps showing which states have imposed abortion restrictions such as waiting periods, obligatory ultrasounds, or mandatory counseling that includes discredited medical information. (January/February issue)

3. "The House GOP's Plan to Redefine Rape" — Pretty much all abortion restrictions, in this case a ban on the use of federal money for abortions, contain a rape exemption. But DC-based staff reporter Nick Baumann exposed a recent Republican attempt to redefine rape as only "forcible" rape. Boy, did that piss people off. Baumann's story spread like wildfire—even showing up (hilariously) on Jon Stewart. The GOP caved on that provision. (Jan. 28, 2011)

4. "Is Providing Abortions Creating a 'Nuisance'?" — In Wichita, Kansas, ground zero in the abortion wars, Dr. Mila Means wants to replace the murdered Dr. George Tiller as the area's last remaining abortion provider. But thanks to threats from anti-abortion groups, and the ruling of a judge who had previously donated to pro-life causes, nobody will rent Means any office space. Kate Sheppard reports from MoJo's DC bureau. (Feb. 4, 2011)

5. "If You Thought the GOP's 'Rape Redefinition' Bill Was Bad..." MoJo editorial fellow Maddie Oatman reports on a proposal that would let doctors refuse to abort a woman's fetus even if an abortion was necessary to save the life of the mother. (Feb. 8, 2011)

6. "South Dakota Moves To Legalize Killing Abortion Providers" — Kate Sheppard reports on a bill under consideration in the Mount Rushmore State that would have made preventing harm to a fetus a "justifiable homicide" in many cases. Her story caused a national uproar, forcing state legislators to table the bill. Nick Baumann later reported on similar bills introduced in Nebraska and Iowa. (Feb. 15, 2011) 

7. "Revealed: The Group Behind the Bills that Could Legalize Killing Abortion Providers" — Nick Baumann and Dan Schulman, our DC-based senior editor, show us who's pushing all these "justifiable homicide" bills. (Feb. 28, 2011)

8. "Texas Considers Bill to Ban Almost All Abortions" — DC staff reporter Tim Murphy reports on a mind-bogglingly restrictive bill that was penned by anti-abortion activists and introduced in the Lone Star state without even the usual exemptions for rape and incest. Christ. (March 11, 2011)

9. "GOP Bill Would Force IRS to Conduct Abortion Audits" — Were you raped? Was it incest? These are the types of questions the government's tax police would have to ask women who've terminated pregnancies if Congressional Republicans have their way, Nick Baumann reports. (March 18, 2011)

10. "The Limits of Tax Jihadism" — Citing the article above, political blogger Kevin Drum makes the case that Republicans are willing to push their anti-abortion agenda even at the expense of their anti-tax orthodoxy. (March 18, 2011)

Late-breaking honorable mention: "Ohio's 'Heartbeat' Abortion Bill Moves Forward" — Jen Phillips digs into the details of a pending Ohio bill that would outlaw abortions after six weeks of gestation, a point at which point many women haven't even confirmed that they're pregnant. In other words, it more or less outlaws abortion. This one is even making anti-abortion activists nervous, because they're afraid the courts will smack it down, setting a precendent that might come back to haunt them. (March 29, 2011)

Click here for more Mother Jones coverage of reproductive rights.

 

Who Screwed the Middle Class?

| Fri Mar. 25, 2011 3:00 AM PDT

I've written several times before about Winner-Take-All Politics, in which Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson argue that middle-class wage stagnation and growing income inequality are due as much to political decisions over the past 30 years as they are to broad economic trends. I find their arguments persuasive, but there's no question that it's a tough case to make. After all, exactly which political decisions are we talking about? Can we point to specific pieces of legislation or specific agency decisions that have retarded wage growth? In fact, we can—things like tax policy, financial deregulation, the decline of antitrust enforcement, and anti-union rulings by the NLRB all played a role. By themselves, though, these just aren't enough to account for what's happened. So what's the smoking gun when it comes to the impact of politics on wage stagnation and growing income inequality?

I think Lane Kenworthy fingered the right culprit a few weeks ago: the abandonment in recent decades of full employment as even a rhetorical goal of American economic policy:

The post–World War II experiences of the rich democracies suggest three routes to rising working- and middle-class wages. One is an environment in which firms face only moderate competition in product markets and limited pressure from shareholders, allowing them to pass on a significant share of growth to their employees. This characterized the period from the late 1940s through the mid 1970s, but it’s now long gone. The second is strong unions. I see little hope of that in America’s future. The third is full employment.

But full employment is only possible if the Federal Reserve is committed to it, and this is decidedly no longer the case: "Since the late 1970s, independent central banks such as the Fed almost always have prioritized low inflation, rendering low unemployment difficult to achieve. If the Fed isn’t on board, even a workable plan for full employment supported by the American public and our elected officials probably won’t be enough."

Following the stagflation of the 70s, conservatives decisively took over Fed policy and put it in the service of the wealthy, prioritizing low inflation over low unemployment and tacitly promising bailouts whenever Wall Street found itself in danger (a practice charmingly known as the "Greenspan put"). Matt Yglesias has a useful piece in Democracy this month arguing that progressives need to take the Fed far more seriously if we ever want to have any chance of reversing this:

Central banks and monetary policy are the primary determinant of short-term economic conditions—of the unemployment rate, and thus of workers’ ability to bargain for wages. This is, clearly, a hugely important subject in its own right. But it’s also a critical determinant of overall political conditions.

....But when Barack Obama was elected in 2008, he rather hastily chose to reappoint [Ben] Bernanke, creating a situation in which no Democrat has held the most important domestic policy job in the land since 1987. He inherited two vacancies on the Board of Governors that he left open for over a year, only putting names forward after a third vacancy emerged in 2010....Of course, no one can know for sure what the Fed would have done had Obama picked someone other than Bernanke to chair it or filled the vacancies more rapidly. But it’s certainly plausible that different personnel would have led to swifter and more forceful moves toward monetary stimulus, a more rapid end to the recession, and a lower unemployment rate.

A lot has happened over the past 30 years, but if you're looking for a single political sea change that's had the biggest impact on middle class wages—more important than union decline, more important than NAFTA, more important than the end of Glass-Steagall—it's the political consensus that underlies the Fed's reluctance to allow labor markets to stay tight enough to generate wage increases in the real economy. And it's something we're seeing all over again right now, as the DC chattering classes have almost unanimously decided that inflation is our real enemy right now, even though core inflation is running around 1% and unemployment is still near 9%.

This is a policy beloved of the business community, which prefers loose labor markets that keep wages low and executive compensation high, but it hasn't always been the Fed's policy and it's not written in stone that it has to be now. Tight labor markets and rising middle-class wages are, to a large extent, a choice we make. Politics took them away 30 years ago, and politics can return them to us if we want.

Front page image: Celine Nadeau

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We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for March 25, 2011

Fri Mar. 25, 2011 2:30 AM PDT

Soldiers from headquarters company, 172nd Separate Infantry Brigade listen closely as the safety brief is given for the rollover trainer. Photo via US Army.

Does America Put "Illegal Aliens" to Death?

| Fri Mar. 25, 2011 1:01 AM PDT

Q. What does the U.S. do with illegal aliens?

A. The U.S. puts them to work in the army.
B. The U.S. shoots them into outer space.
C. The U.S. puts them to death.
D. The U.S. sends them back where they came from.

This was one of the multiple-choice questions on a homework assignment, a story entitled "What Is an Illegal Alien?" recently given to a bunch of third graders at Chesney Elementary in Duluth, Georgia. (The teacher, by the way, was hispanic.) Apparently, nobody noticed how inappropriate this was until Kelly Avalos, the elder sister of one of the third graders, alerted a local TV station.

Some of us, apparently, have never recovered from our own experiences on the playground.

Okay, trolls. Have at it.

Is This 95-Year-Old WWII Vet an Anchor Baby? (Video)

| Fri Mar. 25, 2011 12:55 AM PDT

If this won't make a birther's head explode, nothing will.

Meet Leeland Davidson, 95, of Centralia, Washington. He was a cracker-jack sailor for Uncle Sam's Navy in the big one, Double-You Double-You Eye-Eye. He's made his home in the Pacific Northwest forever. He's on Social Security. And he recently looked into getting an "enhanced driver's license" so he could trek over the border to visit a Canadian cousin, who's the same age, according to KOMO-TV and Yahoo.

Davidson didn't get the license. Because he's not a US citizen. And the old man's been told that if he presses the point, he could be deported...to Canada.

Bachmann's First 2012 Hire: An Iowa Birther

| Fri Mar. 25, 2011 12:01 AM PDT

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) has previously said that if she ran for president, the "first thing" she'd do at the first debate would be to present her birth certificate. Not that she would have much of a choice, if the state lawmaker she's expected to hire to manage her operations in Iowa has his way. Bachmann, who has all-but announced she's running, is reportedly planning to bring on Iowa state Sen. Kent Sorenson—the author of a recent birther bill—as her political director in the presidential bellwether state.

Introduced in early March, Sorenson's bill, SB 368, would require "birth certificates to be filed with affidavits of candidacy for presidential and vice presidential candidates." The legislation, which died in committee, was one of more than a dozen similar pieces of legislation that have been filed since the start of 2009, arising from the conservative conspiracy theory that President Obama was born in Kenya and is therefore not eligible for office. (The President was born in Hawaii and has released a birth certificate, which you can view here). Sorenson has not commented publicly about the legislation and could not be reached for comment.

But that's not the only conspiratorial view Sorenson shares with his would-be boss. He's also sponsored SF 347, a bill that would designate silver and gold as legal tender in the state of Iowa. The bill, which asserts that Iowa's economic downturn has been "caused in large part" by the use of federal reserve notes as currency instead of precious metals, would more or less return the state to a gold and silver standard. Taxes, for instance, would be calculated in silver and gold coins, rather than standard US dollars. In 2009, Bachmann introduced a bill to prohibit the United States from switching to a global currency, which she fears is imminent.

For Bachmannn, who once declared, "I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax because we need to fight back," it's a good fit. Sorenson is equally combative. As the Iowa Independent notes, Sorenson has previously stated that he was sent to Des Moines by his constituents to "burn this place down. They want me to do battle. And I understand that."