2012 - %3, January

Pro-Romney Super-PAC's New Ad: Newt = Obama

| Fri Jan. 6, 2012 11:13 AM EST

The pro-Romney super-PAC Restore Our Future, run by a trio of former Romney aides, is out with a new attack on flailing GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich.

The super-PAC's "factual comparison" (its own description) attempts to show how Gingrich, the former House speaker, "has so much in common" with President Obama, and that the two men repeatedly "have stood on the wrong sides of issues," in the words of Restore Our Future treasurer Charles Spies. The ad will appear on Monday in the New Hampshire Union Leader and The State newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina—prominent publications in states hosting the next two presidential primaries.

Restore Our Future spent $4.6 million on advertising in Iowa, most of it attacking Gingrich, who had briefly climbed in the polls. The ads pulled no punches, and almost immediately Gingrich's support crumbled in the Hawkeye State. He ended up finishing a distant fourth in Iowa's GOP caucuses; Romney won by eight votes. Gingrich has lashed out at Romney for the barrage of negative ads lobbed by Restore Our Future. Earlier this week, he called Romney a "liar" for saying he knew nothing about the attack ads, and, on the evening of the primary, Gingrich strongly implied that his campaign was about to go scorched earth on Team Romney. This surely isn't going to help. 

Here's the ad:

 

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Does Jon Huntsman Think Bank of America is a Person? [UPDATED]

| Fri Jan. 6, 2012 10:47 AM EST
Jon Huntsman.

[This post has been updated. See below.]

On Thursday night, Jon Huntsman made his 157th campaign stop in New Hampshire, at a National Guard armory turned rec center in the city of Newport. He noted this fact with the same ease and aplomb that he displayed when answering hours' worth of questions lobbed at him by the audience. But Huntsman did bungle one question—and it was a telling one.

Near of the end of the event, Glenn Kaplan, 42, a cameraman and filmmaker, asked Huntsman if he supported the idea of "corporate personhood"—essentially, that Bank of America and Goldman Sachs have the same rights as people like you and I. "Will you support a constitutional amendment to end corporate personhood?" Kaplan asked.

"On corporate what?" Huntsman replied.

"Personhood," Kaplan said.

Huntsman looked uneasy. He said he'd only been asked this question once before: on the satirical Colbert Report. Then Huntsman gave his answer, which was, more or less: Mumble mumble...fix our broken tax policy...mumble mumble...revolving door...level the playing field...mumble mumble...thank you. He didn't come with a cruise ship's distance of answering Kaplan's question. "It was a total cop-out," Kaplan said afterward.

The belief that corporations are people is no small matter. You'll remember in Iowa last fall Mitt Romney caused quite a stir when he said, "Corporations are people, my friend." Democrats and progressives pounced on Romney's remark as ammunition for their attacks on Romney as a candidate in corporate America's pocket, a man bought and paid for by America's 1 percenters. (It is true that 10 percent of America's billionaires have given money to Romney's campaign.)

In Newport, Kaplan specifically raised Romney's belief that corporations are people when posing his question to Huntsman. And Kaplan's mention of a constitutional amendment to roll back corporate personhood, which the Supreme Court furthered with its 2010 Citizens United decision, is especially timely. A coalition of good government groups and grassroots activists is ramping up efforts at the local and state level nationwide to demand that Congress pass legislation taming Citizens United. At the same, there are at least a half-dozen resolutions in Congress that would do just that. On the upcoming second anniversary of Citizens United, on January 20, a wave of events, including occupations of federal courts, are planned to demand an end to corporate personhood.

The fight against corporate personhood and Citizens United is shaping up to be the biggest fight in campaign finance. Jon Huntsman, it seems, can't figure out whose side he's on—Bank of America's or yours.

[UPDATE]: At a Q-and-A Friday morning in Concord, the state capital, Huntsman clarified his position on corporate personhood. "Of course corporations are not people," he said. "Who would say such an outlandish thing?"

 

Rick Santorum's Big—and Pointless—Whopper

| Fri Jan. 6, 2012 10:40 AM EST
2012 Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum

It's hard to figure why political candidates frequently say things that are not true—especially when often it is easy to check their comments. Newt Gingrich said he was retained by Freddie Mac as a historian. Mitt Romney insisted he hasn't done backflips (or front-flips) to become more conservative. On Thursday, Rick Santorum, the former Republican Pennsylvania senator, while talking to a conference of college students in Concord, New Hampshire, was insisting that voters should elect candidates whose values and judgment they can trust, because you never know what issues will emerge and confront the nation's chief executive. And he was ready with a dramatic example:

The presidential debates the last time around, you know how many questions there were on health care in all the debates—one.

His point: No one could know at the time that health care would become such a central focus of the years after the 2008 campaign. So, conservatives, you better pick a loyal and unwavering right-winger who will be ready to take on whatever materializes.

Well, by now you've guessed the ending. Santorum was wrong. Throughout the GOP debates during the 2008 presidential contest, health care was frequently raised in questions posed by the moderators to the candidates. My colleague Adam Serwer pulled together a partial list.

* May 3, 2007, debate: "Gov. Romney, a year ago, it seemed that you couldn’t wait to tell the world about your health care experiment in Massachusetts. Since then, it’s been criticized by conservatives as something Hillary Clinton could have devised. You hardly mention it on your website. What's changed?

* June 5, 2007, debate: "Millions of Americans are dissatisfied with the current state of our health care system, and US employers are at a disadvantage due to the high cost of health insurance. What would you do to fix the health care system? And would you support implementing a single-payer system, in which the government acts as the insurer in order to save enough money to cover the millions of uninsured and to lower premiums for the rest of the US population?"

Image-of-the-Week: Sweden's Green Veneer

| Fri Jan. 6, 2012 7:04 AM EST

Virgin spruce forest in Fulufjället National Park, Sweden.: Credit: Vilseskogen via Flickr.Virgin spruce forest in Fulufjället National Park, Sweden. Credit: Vilseskogen via Flickr.

Sweden is renowned for its beautiful boreal forests of spruce and pine—and for its sustainable environmental policies. But an article by photojournalist Erik Hoffner in Yale Environment 360 sheds light on its dark forestry practices. Surprisingly lax Swedish forestry laws leave many logging decisions to the appetites of timber companies, with 37 percent of forestry operations now prioritizing production over conservation. As a result, Sweden's forest is rapidly "younging," with nearly half its woodlands too immature to harvest. The latest trend is to log old diversity-rich forests in the Arctic north, where regeneration is glacially slow. "[T]he country's supposedly sustainable forestry practices are little more than a green veneer," writes Hoffner. "Large areas of forest, particularly the oldest tracts in the north, are being felled with little regard for the biodiversity they harbor."

Book Review: A Universe From Nothing

| Fri Jan. 6, 2012 7:00 AM EST

A Universe From Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing

By Lawrence M. Krauss

FREE PRESS

For particle physicist Lawrence Krauss, the revelation that the universe is expanding ever more rapidly reinforced a more basic question: How did it first come into being? Here he seeks clues on scales impossibly small (the insides of protons) and unimaginably large (the shape of the heavens). With its mind-bending mechanics, Krauss argues, our universe may indeed have appeared from nowhere, rather than at the hands of a divine creator. There's some intellectual heavy lifting here—Einstein is the main character, after all—but the concepts are articulated clearly, and the thrill of discovery is contagious. "We are like the early terrestrial mapmakers," Krauss writes, puzzling out what was once solely the province of our imaginations.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for January 6, 2012

Fri Jan. 6, 2012 6:57 AM EST

Soldiers, serving with the Kentucky National Guard Agribusiness Development Team 3, Task Force Hurricane, inspect a greenhouse in Mahmod-e Raqi district, Kapisa province, Afghanistan, on December 28, 2011. The purpose of the mission was to insure that progress was being made in the local Afghan's efforts to improve their agricultural growth. Photo by Spc. Amber Leach.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Predict the GOP Primaries and Win Prizes!

| Fri Jan. 6, 2012 6:30 AM EST

How good are your political punditry skills? I've already made my basic prediction for the Republican presidential race: Mitt Romney is going to win, and he's probably going to win fairly quickly. But anyone can say that. If you really want prognostication glory, you need to put some numbers to your predictions.

We're here to help. Click here and you can start playing with our shiny new GOP Primary Predictor. The results for Iowa are already locked in (Romney got 13 delegates, Santorum got 12), but you can enter your predictions for every primary after that. We tell you how many delegates are available in each state, and you parcel them out based on how you think each candidate will do. When you're done, enter your name and you'll be eligible for fabulous prizes if you make the closest prediction.1 Click the Twitter button if you want to share your prediction with the world. (Use the hashtag #fantasyGOP to share your results.)

I'll have a go at New Hampshire, just as a test run. There are 12 delegates available. I think Romney will get 6, Santorum 3, Gingrich 1, Paul 1, and Huntsman 1. Anyone care to predict a Santorum sweep?

1And just what are these prizes? Sorry, but if I told you I'd have to kill you.

Pandering to the Rich, Now in Handy Chart Form

| Fri Jan. 6, 2012 12:15 AM EST

As a public service, I've collected charts showing all the Republican tax plans to date in one convenient place. (The Tax Policy Center hasn't yet tried to score plans from Santorum, Huntsman, or Paul.) It's really pretty spectacular seeing them all together like this. It's not just the amount of pandering to the super-rich that's so breathtaking, it's the lockstep unanimity. At all costs, every single Republican candidate knows that he has to promise the ultra-wealthy a huge tax break as the price of staying in the race. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the modern Republican Party in a nutshell.

Get Paid To Say Dumb Stuff About Global Warming on Video

| Thu Jan. 5, 2012 7:07 PM EST

How much does climate denial cost? Apparently it only takes $500. Steve Milloy, the former tobacco lobbyist turned Fox News columnist and global warming denier extraordinaire, is offering that much money to anyone who will make a scene next week at a State Department screening of a new documentary about how climate change is affecting the Himalayan glaciers.

The film is a coproduction of the United Nations Development Program, Arrowhead Films, and Discovery Channel Asia, and will be followed by a panel discussion. Yesterday, Milloy asked the readers of his "Junk Science" blog to show up at the event and film themselves heckling panelists, promising $500 to anyone who does.

Climate-change deniers have been trying for years to argue that the glaciers aren't really melting, or that if they are it's not that big of a deal, and Milloy's certainly a known quantity in the denial world. Let's see if anyone takes him up on his offer.

Chart of the Day: The Cost of Romney's Tax Plan

| Thu Jan. 5, 2012 6:43 PM EST

The sluggards at the Tax Policy Center1 have finally done an analysis of Mitt Romney's tax plan. It's about time. And it's all bad news for Romney.

As the chart below shows, conservatives are right to believe that Romney isn't to be trusted. Sure, he lowers tax rates on millionaires by 9 percentage points, and you may think that's a pretty sweet deal for the rich. But come on. Newt Gingrich would lower them by 24 percentage points. (No, that's not a typo.) Rick Perry lowers them by 20 percentage points. Herman Cain lowers them by 15 points. Frankly, Romney is hardly even trying here.

So this is the worst of all worlds for the Mittster. For the 95% of us who earn less than $100,000, his plan is almost laughably tilted toward the plutocrat set. There's just no way for him to pretend that he really cares about the middle class. But for the plutocrat set itself, his plan seems downright miserly compared to the rest of the GOP field. So in the end, everyone is uneasy about him. Romney's tax plan, it turns out, is a metaphor for the man himself. It's a tough gig being Mitt.

1Just kidding. TPC rocks, and I feel sorry for the poor analysts who had to hack their way through Romney's vague and seemingly endless set of proposals to come up with a final set of distribution numbers.