Nick Baumann

Nick Baumann

Senior Editor

Nick is based in our DC bureau, where he covers national politics and civil liberties issues. Nick has also written for The Economist, The Atlantic, the Washington Monthly, and Commonweal. Email tips and insights to nbaumann [at] motherjones [dot] com. You can also follow him on Facebook.

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A Report From the Economy

| Mon Nov. 3, 2008 1:57 PM EST

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Something called the Institute for Supply Management's factory index "plunged" to 38.9% in October. In an email, economist Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research tells us why this matters:

[The ISM index] is a pretty good measure of the direction of change in output in manufacturing. The current reading indicates that manufacturing output is falling sharply. That likely means many more layoffs and plant closings. It's pretty bad news.

The index, which used to be called the purchasing manager's index, is now at its lowest level since September of 1982. Numbers below 50% indicate that the economy is contracting. Newly minted economics Nobel winner Paul Krugman says the latest ISM number means "We need a government of national unity to deal with the economic crisis, starting at, oh, around 8:45 PM tomorrow."

Photo from flickr user zengrrl used under a Creative Commons license.


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Is The "Cell Phone Effect" Lowballing Obama's Numbers?

| Mon Nov. 3, 2008 1:35 PM EST

Do pollsters who don't call cell phones make the election look closer than it actually is? Polling maven Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com thinks so. The traditional assumption is that young, cell-phone-only voters probably lean heavily toward Obama. It turns out that the four national polls that include cell phones in their samples are also the four polls that have him with the largest margins of victory. He charted it for you, too (after the jump):

Gun Manufacturer's President Asked to Resign Over Support for Obama

| Mon Nov. 3, 2008 12:25 PM EST

Apparently supporting Barack Obama is enough to cost you your job if your job happens to involve making guns. When Dan Cooper, the co-founder and president of Montana-based Cooper Firearms, told reporters he supported Obama, he probably didn't expect he would be forced to resign. But an internet-fueled uproar and the threat of a boycott led to the Board of Directors asking for Cooper's resignation late last week. Hearing the story, Montana's Democratic governor, Brian Schweitzer (who also supports Obama) interrupted an elk-hunting trip to offer his help:

"I said, 'Look, I will support Cooper Firearms in their sales promotions. I will go to vendors. I will go state to state. I will help you sell the firearms, if you think the governor of Montana can help you close some deals,'" Schweitzer said.
The governor said Friday he will do what he can to help the company and its 40 employees overcome any lingering backlash.
"For the couple of weeks that lead up to an election, it's almost like Halloween, a lot of the goblins are out," Schweitzer said. "Things will cool down, they always will."

Cooper Firearms better hope "things cool down." Many gun dealers, including Cabela's and Sportsman's Warehouse, are already canceling orders after being threatened with boycotts. The canceled orders mean Cooper is now in very serious trouble: losing Cabela's and Sportsman's Warehouse, its two biggest accounts, could threaten the very existence of the 38-employee company. So it's no surprise that the company's board felt it had to ask Cooper to resign.

Gun owners, pushed along by the NRA, have leaned Republican for decades. Obviously they think that protecting their Second Amendment rights is very important. But the attack on Cooper seems like a big overreaction. Second Amendment activists just won a huge Supreme Court case, District of Columbia v. Heller, that will make it very hard to implement any meaningful restrictions on guns, no matter who is President. And Obama, for the record, has said he believes the constitution grants an individual right to bear arms. And even if Obama does secretly want to ban handguns, it seems highly unlikely that it would be anywhere near the top of his agenda. It's just too politically risky. Dan Cooper probably realized all this. But realizing that his Second Amendment rights are more than likely safe under an Obama administration will come as cold comfort to Cooper if his choice for President ends up costing 38 people their jobs.

The Super-Close Senate Race You've Never Heard Of

| Fri Oct. 31, 2008 5:40 PM EDT

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In 2002, Republican Rep. Saxby Chambliss was running against Senator Max Cleland (D-Ga.), in one of the most bitter races of that election cycle. With 9/11 still fresh, Chambliss ran an attack ad featuring a photo of Osama bin Laden that accused Cleland, a Vietnam veteran and triple amputee, of not having the "courage to lead" on national security. The ad worked; Chambliss won. But even Republicans thought the attack on Cleland's patriotism was over the top: Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) called it "beyond offensive." This year, Democrats are looking to get their revenge by kicking Chambliss to the curb. And they think Jim Martin, a longtime state legislator and former candidate for lieutenant governor, is just the man to avenge Cleland.

Can Democrats really pick up a seat in deep-red Georgia? Until late September, it didn't look possible. Chambliss led by a 17-point margin in a poll released on September 16. But as the economy worsened, Chambliss suddenly appeared vulnerable. Now most polls have Martin within a few points. Martin has yet to show a lead in a major non-partisan poll, but Nate Silver of fivethirtyeight.com thinks the polls are "lowballing" Martin and the race is closer than it seems:

MotherJones.com: Like Getting the Paper Six Months Early

| Wed Oct. 29, 2008 1:23 PM EDT

Back in March, Stephanie Mencimer wrote a story for MotherJones.com about Daniel Troy, the former chief counsel to the Food and Drug Administration. As FDA, chief, Troy introduced a questionable legal theory called preemption, in which agency lawyers would show up in state courts and argue that companies whose products had been approved by the FDA were protected from lawsuits even if they injured people in violation of state laws. Today, the House Oversight and Government Reform committee released a report (PDF) revealing that "key FDA career officials strongly objected to Bush Administration drug labeling regulations that would preempt state liability lawsuits." According to the report, FDA career officials said "that the central justifications for the regulations were 'false and misleading'" and warned "that the changes would deprive consumers of timely information about drug hazards." In her story, Stephanie explained how much the FDA's embrace of preemption represented a break from the past:

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