2011 - %3, July

The Ft. Hood Suspect's Alleged Antiwar Links

| Thu Jul. 28, 2011 2:48 PM EDT

This story has been updated. Please scroll down for the latest.

Last night an Army private was apprehended last night near Fort Hood, Texas, allegedly in possession of bombmaking materials. Early reports say Pvt. Nasser Abdo, a Muslim-American, was slated for discharge as a conscientious objector (CO). But his separation was held up because of child pornography charges, and he'd gone AWOL from his base in Kentucky. He appears to be the same soldier interviewed by Headline News in this clip:

And according to a right-wing military blog, Abdo also may have connections to a prominent antiwar advocacy group. John Lilyea of This Ain't Hell says he's written about Abdo before as well as an attorney connected with Iraq Veterans Against the War who worked with Abdo on his bid for CO status, which included a now-defunct fundraising website, Freenasserabdo.org. (The video above was posted by a YouTube user freenasserabdo.)

Additionally, IVAW appears to have featured Abdo on its website and used his writing about about Islamophobia in the military in a press release. One commenter on This Aint Hell has identified himself as an IVAW member who "read Abdo's statement" at a public event put on by the antiwar group. "I have never met him and don't know him," the commenter—who calls himself Army Sergeant—writes. "I don't remember how the statement came to us. He is not an IVAW member, and I did not know him—he was at that point just a random Muslim CO. Maybe there's a good lesson there not to promote people you don’t actually know, and I’ll be thinking about that one."

The full story isn't clear yet. The "bombmaking devices" Abdo possessed apparently amount to "firearms and smokeless powder," which aren't all that uncommon among folks in Texas (no, seriously). And This Ain't Hell certainly has an axe to grind when it comes to Muslims, the military, and antiwar groups. Nevertheless, if Abdo had bad intentions, the pacifist left will likely be the subject of some serious attacks from the right. Or perhaps even Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.).

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"There is Zero Equivalence Here"

| Thu Jul. 28, 2011 2:42 PM EDT

Joe Klein admits today that he loves himself some good old-school Democrat bashing, but he's just not up for it these days:

And so, here we are. Our nation’s economy and international reputation as the world’s presiding grownup has already been badly damaged. It is a self-inflicted wound of monumental stupidity. I am usually willing to acknowledge that Democrats can be as silly, and hidebound, as Republicans — but not this time. There is zero equivalence here. The vast majority of Democrats have been more than reasonable, more than willing to accept cuts in some of their most valued programs. Given the chance, there was the likelihood that they would have surrendered their most powerful weapon in next year’s election — a Mediscare campaign — by agreeing to some necessary long-term reforms in that program. The President, remarkably, proposed raising the age of eligibility for Medicare to 67.

The Republicans have been willing to concede nothing. Their stand means higher interest rates, fewer jobs created and more destroyed, a general weakening of this country’s standing in the world. Osama bin Laden, if he were still alive, could not have come up with a more clever strategy for strangling our nation.

I don't think that most Republicans, or even most tea partiers, actively want the American economy to tank. At the same time, an awful lot of them sure don't seem to care very much. They're more focused on getting Obama out of the White House, and the truth is that a little bit of economy tanking makes that goal a little easier to achieve. And so, here we are.

Bachmann on Reparative Therapy: Still No Comment

| Thu Jul. 28, 2011 2:28 PM EDT

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) visited the National Press Club in Washington on Thursday for a speech and question-and-answer session. The GOP presidential contender's remarks focused mostly on her opposition to raising the debt ceiling under any circumstances. She did field one question on an issue we've covered: reports that the Christian counseling clinic she co-owns with her husband tries to cure gay people of homosexuality. Bachmann has repeatedly dodged questions on the issue, and even gone so far as to cut off interviews with Iowa reporters who broach the subject; when I caught up with her outside the MoJo DC office recently, she was a no comment (literally, she didn't say anything).

On Thursday, Bachmann was asked if she believes homosexuality is a lifestyle decision that can be cured. So, with her husband sitting to her left at the Press Club, how'd Bachmann respond? By dodging the issue entirely and declaring her spouse, her children, her foster children, and her business off limits:

I'm extremely proud of my husband. I have tremendous respect and admiration for him and we'll celebrate our 33rd wedding anniversary this coming September. But I am running for the presidency of the United States. My husband is not running for the presidency, neither are my children, neither is our business, neither is our foster children, and I am more than happy to stand for questions on running for the presidency of the United States.

The notion that spouses should be immune to scrutiny represents something of a shift for Bachmann, who last February bashed Michelle Obama for supporting breast-feeding (as part of an anti-obesity initiative).

But Bachmann's small business is part of her stump speech; it's how she sells herself to voters. And opposition to homosexuality, which she once warned was being forced on children in public schools, was the cornerstone of her political career as a state senator in St. Paul. Moreover, the question of whether homosexuality is a choice is an issue that weighs on public policy at the federal level, and it's the kind of thing you'd expect a presidential candidate to be able to speak publicly about. If Bachmann no longer thinks being gay is a health hazard and an affliction that can be cured, that would represent a profound change in her worldview. Until then, her refusal to say anything at all about the issue is pretty powerful.

Do Voter ID Laws Target Women?

| Thu Jul. 28, 2011 2:04 PM EDT

Abundant evidence demonstrates that although voter ID laws don't do anything to curtail fraudulent voting, they do reduce election participation by ethnic minorities, the poor, and the young. This might seem like an unfortunate side effect to you, but to the Republican activists behind these laws it's a feature, not a bug. Why? Because ethnic minorities, the poor, and the young tend to vote for Democrats, and Republican activists find it remarkably easy to live with the prospect of fewer Democrats voting when election day rolls around. For more, see here, here, here, and here.

But guess which other demographic group tends to vote Democratic? Women. I have to say that this one hadn't occurred to me, but Megan Devlin takes a closer look at the fine print of some recent voter ID laws:

Here's where women get stuck. American women change their names in about 90 percent of marriages and divorces. So newly married and recently divorced women whose legal names do not match those of their current photo ID will face opposition when voting, especially in the seven states with the stricter voter-ID rules. They cannot provide personal information like a birthday or take an oath swearing to their identity in lieu of showing a photo ID. Instead, they will have to fill out substitute ballots and later return with valid documentation like a certified court document showing a divorce decree or marriage license.

Since only 66 percent of voting-age women have easy access to proof of citizenship and documentation with their current legal name, a significant number of women could be disenfranchised by the new laws.

By February 2012, these stricter laws will be in effect in seven states, just in time for the spring primaries.

I'm sure some enterprising political scientist will examine the evidence after next year's election to see if women really have been disproportionately affected by these new laws. But if they are, I'll bet the Republicans behind them will consider it acceptable collateral damage. Why wouldn't they, after all?

Tea Party Congressman Protects US From Manatee Overlords

| Thu Jul. 28, 2011 2:00 PM EDT

At least we have Rep. Rich Nugent (R-Fla.) to protect us from the manatees.

Nugent, a first-term congressman representing Citrus County, has filed an amendment to a Department of the Interior appropriations bill that would bar the agency from protecting the manatees of Kings Bay in Florida. As I reported several weeks ago, local tea party activists, who propelled Nugent to victory last fall, are incensed about proposed protections that would make the entire bay a sanctuary for the for the giant sea mammals. Some have gone so far as to allege that the manatee protections are part of a greater, more insidious plan to instate a One World Order of sustainability.

Nugent's proposed amendment, highlighted by Brad Johnson of Think Progress, joins a long list of other measures Republicans are proposing to block government action on a variety of environmental issues. Some others that he notes:

Scott (R-Ga.): None of the funds for climate change research.
Fahrenthold (R-Texas): None of the funds to interfere with States' efforts to regulate hydraulic fracturing.
Blackburn (R-Tenn.): Prohibits the appropriated agencies from buying compact fluorescent light bulbs.
Blackburn (R-Tenn.): Bar funding for the SunWise Program, an EPA program to teach parents, teachers, and children about what they should do to protect kids from overexposure to the sun.
Fleming (R-La.): Eliminate funding for the Energy Star program.
Flores (R-Texas): None of the funds to enforce section 526 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 to prohibit federal purchases of high-carbon fuels.
Lankford (R-Okla.): None of the funds for the President's Council on Environmental Quality.
King (R-Iowa): None of the funds to enforce the Oil Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure Program.
Stivers (R-Ohio): None of the funds to regulate stationary source greenhouse gases for two years.

These are in addition to dozens of anti-environmental riders already included in the appropriations bill, like one that would open up the Grand Canyon for uranium mining.

House Dems: Want a Gov't Contract? Reveal Your Political Donations

| Thu Jul. 28, 2011 12:55 PM EDT

A bloc of more than 60 House Democrats wants President Obama sign an executive order forcing contractors to disclose their political contributions when applying for government contracts.. Their plea, outlined in a letter sent to the White House on Thursday, concerns a draft executive order leaked earlier this spring. The order is one course of action mulled by the Obama administration to minimize the impact of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision. It's also a response to the failure of the DISCLOSE Act, a Democratic-backed bill that would've required similar disclosure by government contractors. That bill failed in the Senate last year.

"Any business that is paid with taxpayer dollars should be required to disclose their political expenditures to the taxpayers," Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), a chief supporter of the executive order, said in a statement today. "In the aftermath of the Citizens United decision, it’s even more important today to stand up for transparency and disclosure."

Republicans and big business groups vehemently oppose the draft executive order. On Thursday, the US Chamber of Commerce urged members of Congress to support amendments by Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) to a defense appropriations bill that would preclude any donation disclosure requirement by federal agencies. It comes as no surprise that the Chamber, 60 Plus Association (known as the conservative answer to AARP), and conservative political advocacy groups oppose the order; if enacted, it would shed some light on what contractors help fund these groups, information kept confidential right now.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chair of the powerful House oversight committee, also opposes the executive order, and threatened to use his subpoena power to bring an Obama administration official before Congress to explain the order. It would have been the first time House Republicans subpoenaed a White House official to come before Congress. In the end, the administration defused the showdown by dispatching Daniel Gordon, a federal procurement official who proved a frustrating witness by deflecting some questions and offering narrow, technical answers to others demanding information on the administration's plans.

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Chart of the Day: The Great Speedup

| Thu Jul. 28, 2011 12:15 PM EDT

During the recession, men lost far more jobs than women. Since the recovery began, though, that's reversed: women are recovering jobs at a much slower pace than men. Partly this is related to job cuts by state and local governments, but Bryce Covert and Mike Konczal write today that it's also related to what MoJo editors Clara Jeffery and Monika Bauerlein called "The Great Speedup" in the current issue of the magazine. Here are Bryce and Mike:

Women have been brutally hit when it comes to a category called “office and administrative support occupations," i.e. those who make workplaces run smoothly....It falls on other workers to pick up the slack in offices where assistants have been let go. Americans have been working harder without seeing better pay or even new titles. Mother Jones recently reported that Americans put in an average 122 more hours than British workers and 378 more than Germans. As companies trim budgets, employers are “rationalizing” far more positions than usual. This leaves everyone else to pick up the remaining work. In a recent survey by Spherion Staffing, 53 percent of workers said they’ve taken on new roles. Just 7 percent got a raise or a bonus for doing so.

The chart below tells the story. For the most part, though, I think it just puts some numbers to something all of us knew was happening already.

More Awesomeness from the Rachel Maddow Lawsuit

| Thu Jul. 28, 2011 11:50 AM EDT

We told you yesterday about Minnesota anti-gay heavy-metal evangelist Bradlee Dean's—cue Doctor Evil voice—$50 meeelion lawsuit against Rachel Maddow, which his attorney promises will "end her career." We only skimmed the complaint though, and glossed over the best part: Apparently Dean is upset that Rachel Maddow made fun of his first name. From the complaint: 

On or about August 9, 2010, Defendants Rachel Maddow, MSNBC and NBC broadcast a segment on The Rachel Maddow Show that outrageously disparaged Bradlee Dean's physical appearance, his first name and his profession as a heavy metal entertainer and his standing in the community and represented that he and YCR had advocated the execution of gays.

"Bradlee with two E's if you're Googling," is how Maddow put it. She referred to him later in the broadcast simply as "Bradlee with two E's." People have been shot for less! But here's the thing: "Bradlee" is not Bradlee Dean's real name. His legal name is actually Bradley Dean Smith. He goes by "Bradlee" presumably because it's more punk rock; it is, to use his language, a lifestyle decision. As for his appearance, well, we're not passing judgment. But Dean did show up to deliver the opening prayer at the Minnesota House wearing a white track suit, and on Wednesday he arrived at his own press conference to announce said $50 million lawsuit wearing a black Minnesota Twins jersey. In fairness, it was a button-down.

Tea Party Rep Decries Debt... and Owes $100K in Child Support

| Thu Jul. 28, 2011 11:39 AM EDT

The Chicago Sun-Times has some info on a leading tea party congressman:

Freshman U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh, a tax-bashing Tea Party champion who sharply lectures President Barack Obama and other Democrats on fiscal responsibility, owes more than $100,000 in child support to his ex-wife and three children, according to documents his ex-wife filed in their divorce case in December.

"I won't place one more dollar of debt upon the backs of my kids and grandkids unless we structurally reform the way this town spends money!" Walsh says directly into the camera in his viral video lecturing Obama on the need to get the nation's finances in order...

"Joe personally loaned his campaign $35,000, which, given that he failed to make any child support payments to Laura because he 'had no money' is surprising," Laura Walsh's attorneys wrote in a motion filed in December seeking $117,437 in back child support and interest. "Joe has paid himself back at least $14,200 for the loans he gave himself."

In addition to haranguing the president and playing loose with the budget numbers, Walsh has been one of the biggest thorns in John Boehner's side, rebuffing the speaker's entreaties to accept a GOP "compromise" bill on the debt ceiling. But the Sun-Times story suggests Walsh's principled stand on the national debt isn't all that principled. Unless, of course, he were to buck the tea party and argue that the federal budget is nothing like a family's checkbook...

Drama! Where's my popcorn?

John Boehner, the Time Waster

| Thu Jul. 28, 2011 11:34 AM EDT
House Speaker John Boehner.

House Speaker John Boehner's rejiggered deficit reduction bill is set for a vote on the House floor Thursday evening. The speaker suffered a minor setback earlier this week when the Congressional Budget Office said his original bill would save only $850 billion over ten years, not the $1 trillion in cuts he'd hoped for. What remains to be seen is whether Boehner's new bill, expected to cut $917 billion, will win enough GOP votes in the House to pass. At the start of the week, more conservative House GOPers had come out in opposition to the bill, but GOP leaders say they're getting to whipping together enough votes within their caucus.

But here's a bigger question no one seems to be asking: Is John Boehner's bill a waste of time?

All 51 Senate Democrats and independents Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut say they will vote against Boehner's bill if and when it moves to the Senate. (So, for that matter, have a handful of hard-line Senate Republicans, but for a very different reason.) And earlier this week, the White House threatened to veto Boehner's bill should it somehow land on President Obama's desk. On Thursday, Press Secretary Jay Carney called the bill "a political act that has no life beyond its existence in the House." In short, the bill has almost zero chance of ever becoming law.

There's perhaps an argument to be made that by putting his own bill out there, Boehner has more of a shot at getting pieces of it into a possible final compromise bill with Democrats. That would presumably take place during the reconciliation process. But as Greg Sargent at the Washington Post explained, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Co. have no intention of drawing on the substance of Boehner's bill:

Senate Dem aides say they would then use Boehner's bill—which passed the House but died in the Senate—to expedidate their own proposal. Here's how. They would use the "shell" of the Boehner bill as a vehicle to pass Harry Reid's proposal, because for various procedural reasons House messages get expedited consideration. Senate Dems would vote to "amend" Boehner's bill by replacing it completely with Reid's proposal—which the Senate could then pass more quickly than they otherwise could.

After that, Reid's proposal—having passed the Senate—would then get kicked back to the House. Having proved that Boehner's plan can't pass the Senate, Democrats would in effect be giving House Republicans a choice: Either pass the Reid proposal, or take the blame for default and the economic calamity that ensues.

Setting aside the political posturing and gamesmanship, it's hard to see how Boehner's bill is anything but a waste of precious time. Remember: The Aug. 2 deadline is only six days away.