2011 - %3, December

White House: We're Serious About Vetoing The Defense Bill Over Detention

| Fri Dec. 2, 2011 4:48 PM EST

The White House reiterated its threat Friday to veto a defense spending bill that would mandate military detention for non-citizen terror suspects apprehended on American soil.

During Friday's press briefing, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney accused the Senate of engaging in "political micromanagement at the expense of sensible national security policy," adding that "our position has not changed, any bill that challenges or constrains the president's critical authorities to collect intelligence, incapacitate dangerous terrorists and protect the nation would prompt his senior advisers to recommend a veto."

Thursday evening, the Senate agreed on a compromise amendment to the defense bill to avoid deciding whether current law authorizes the indefinite military detention of Americans suspected of terrorism who are apprehended on US soil. That compromise however, did nothing to alleviate the concerns expressed by top national security officials within the administration, who say the provisions mandating military detention for non-citizen terror suspects could interfere with terrorism investigations and jeopardize national security. Later that evening, the overall bill passed the Senate by a 93-7 vote.

The White House is now in a full fledged standoff with the Senate. If the bill arrives at the president's desk unchanged, and the president does not veto after saying publicly that the detention provisions would put American lives in danger, the administration risks not only ensuring their objections will never again be taken seriously by Congress, but the accusation that they, rather than Congress, is playing politics with national security.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Friday Cat Blogging - 2 December 2011

| Fri Dec. 2, 2011 3:54 PM EST

On the left, this is surely what things would have looked like if Inkblot had lived in the Garden of Eden: Innocent, contented, free of all malice, and wanting nothing more than to commune with nature. Unless someone gets in the way of his food bowl.

And speaking of things horticultural, Marian recently constructed a square-foot garden, which I guess is all the rage these days. The one below has eight sections, and as you can see, Domino has her own personal square foot. Seriously. There's nothing planted there because Domino loves it so much she needed to be lured to a spot where she wouldn't crush the actual plants. Not only is it full of nice, lovely dirt, but during the late morning it's also the sunniest patch in the house. For a few hours each day, it's her home away from home.

Week's Image: New Eye in the Sky

| Fri Dec. 2, 2011 3:51 PM EST

Eastern North America from the Great Lakes to Cuba: Credit: NASA/NPP Team at the Space Science and Engineering Center, University of Wisconsin–Madison.Eastern North America from the Great Lakes to Cuba from 512 miles/824 kilometers above Earth. Credit: NASA/NPP Team at the Space Science and Engineering Center, University of Wisconsin–Madison.NASA's newest Earth-observing satellite launched in October and returned its first image in late November: this crystalline view of eastern North America. The satellite is the NPP (NPOESS Preparatory Project), one of a new generation of satellites designed to collect critical climate and weather data. The "first light" image above was captured by the VIIRS (Visible Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite), an onboard instrument that collects in visible and infrared wavelengths from 22 channels across the electromagnetic spectrum. This new view will greatly expand our ability to observe changes on Earth's surface—fires, ice, ocean color, vegetation, clouds, and land and sea surface temperatures—and deepen our understanding of global changes underway, both human-caused and natural.

Quantifying the Blowhard Factor, Newt Gingrich Edition

| Fri Dec. 2, 2011 3:30 PM EST

Jon Chait's move to New York magazine has been annoying for two reasons. First, he doesn't blog as much as he used to. Second, the only way to read his occasional posts is to plow through New York's entire effing Daily Intel blog and pick them out from among the endless Big Apple-oriented detritus that I don't care about. On the bright side, though, all this plowing has introduced me to Dan Amira, who's worth the price of admission.

(But only barely, Dan. Can't you convince the powers-that-be to give you and Chait your own blog so I can more easily ignore the rest of the riffraff?)

Anyway, here he is today with a lexicographic tour of the mind of Newt Gingrich:

By now, we've all become familiar with Newt Gingrich's habit of using a few choice adverbs to make the things he says sound just a bit more intelligent to his listeners. Profoundly. Deeply. Frankly. But none of them are as vital to the Gingrich lexicon as fundamentally (along with its cousin, the adjective fundamental).

....To give you a more complete understanding of how compulsively Gingrich abuses his favorite words, I searched Nexis transcripts and news accounts with the goal of plucking out every single phrase in which he uttered them. I started in the present day, and made it all the way to the beginning of 2007 before I had to stop, for my own health and sanity, which, according to my editors, was beginning to suffer in noticeable ways....Scroll onward, if you dare, to behold all loosely alphabetized 418 entries.

"fundamentally a falsehood"
"fundamentally a lie"
"fundamentally a violation of international law"
"fundamentally about reassessing our entire strategy in the region"

[410 more....]

"fundamentally wrong with it"
"fundamentally wrong with the current system"
"fundamentally wrong with the system"
"fundamentally wrong with weakness in America"

Now that's what Lexis was invented for and what blogging is all about: to quantify just how big a blowhard Newt Gingrich is. Kudos.

War, Endless War

| Fri Dec. 2, 2011 2:21 PM EST

A few days ago I brought up the idea that the original Authorization for Use of Military Force, passed a week after the al-Qaeda attacks of 9/11, was obsolete. The AUMF authorizes action against those responsible for the 9/11 attacks and anyone who harbored them, but it was al-Qaeda central that was responsible for 9/11, and the CIA says that we've now killed all but a couple of their leaders and a few dozen of their foot soldiers. All that's left is the Taliban, which is the target of a very specific military campaign in Afghanistan.

I didn't take any of this too seriously, figuring that no one in Congress really seemed to care. They'd just go on assuming that the AUMF authorizes anything the president feels like doing, and since there's no one who can stop them, it was all a moot point. But no! I didn't realize this, but the terrorist detention bill sponsored by senators Carl Levin and John McCain specifically renews and expands the AUMF to include anyone who "substantially supports" al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or "associated forces." Glenn Greenwald is predictably appalled:

There are several very revealing aspects to all of this. First, the 9/11 attack happened more than a decade ago; Osama bin Laden is dead; the U.S. Government claims it has killed virtually all of Al Qaeda’s leadership and the group is “operationally ineffective” in the Afghan-Pakistan region; and many commentators insisted that these developments would mean that the War on Terror would finally begin to recede. And yet here we have the Congress, on a fully bipartisan basis, acting not only to re-affirm the war but to expand it even further: by formally declaring that the entire world (including the U.S.) is a battlefield and the war will essentially go on forever.

Indeed, it seems clear that they are doing this precisely out of fear that the justifications they have long given for the War no longer exist and there is therefore a risk Americans will clamor for its end. This is Congress declaring: the War is more vibrant than ever and must be expanded further.

As before, I don't know how much concrete difference this makes. Congress hasn't made a peep over our Yemen operations and only barely roused itself to notice the Libya war. But Glenn is right: apparently some of them have noticed an embarrassing loose end or two, and they want to make sure no one can pester them over it. From now on, military force will be perpetually pre-authorized against anyone who "supports" any group "associated" with something that looks like al-Qaeda. In other words, pretty much anyone at all.

Republicans Agree: Newt Is a Walking Time Bomb

| Fri Dec. 2, 2011 1:37 PM EST

Hooray! We have bipartisan agreement at last. Political insiders on both sides of the aisle agree: Newt Gingrich would be a disaster for Republicans. National Journal quantifies this for us today:

This comes via Jonathan Bernstein, who gleefully passes along the following quotes:

  • “Winning the presidency is all about discipline, focus, and organization,” said one Republican Insider, “none of which are strong suits for Gingrich.”
  • “With Newt, we go to bed every night thinking that tomorrow might be the day he implodes,” said another Republican. “Not good for our confidence — or fundraising.”
  • A third Republican stated plainly, “Gingrich is not stable enough emotionally to be the nominee — let alone, the president.”
  • “Bigfoot dressed as a circus clown would have a better chance of beating President Obama than Newt Gingrich, a similarly farcical character,” quipped a Republican.
  • “Come on,” sighed another GOP Insider, “the White House is probably giving money to Gingrich as we speak.”

I guess Newt still has a wee bit of confidence building to do. But he's a master of language as a key mechanism of control, so I'm sure he's up to the job.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Chart of the Day: Net New Jobs

| Fri Dec. 2, 2011 1:13 PM EST

The chart below shows net job growth every month since 2008. Why net? Because the U.S. population increases every month, which means you need a certain number of new jobs just to tread water. This chart subtracts that out to show the true net growth in employment.

I've run this chart before, but there are a couple of changes this time. First, per Dean Baker, I'm now using 90,000 as the number of jobs needed to keep pace with population growth. Second, I finally got off my ass and automated the whole thing on FRED instead of redrawing it every time I do this. You can link to it here and juggle the numbers yourself if you feel like it.

Bottom line: the number of net new jobs added in November was about 30,000. That's better than zero, but not a lot better.

Herman Cain's Latest Attempt at Damage Control is Amazing

| Fri Dec. 2, 2011 12:48 PM EST

Herman Cain's presidential campaign is all but over. The latest Des Moines Register poll puts his support in the critical early caucus state at just 8 percent—down 15 points from last month. Also: He's been accused of various forms of misconduct by a bipartisan coalition of five different women, ranging from alleged sexual assault to an alleged 13-year extramarital affair, somehow managing to make Newt Gingrich look like a family man in the process.

On Thursday night, Cain told Sean Hannity that he would decide whether or not to quit the race by Monday. On Friday, he decided the timing was perfect to launch a new website, "Women for Herman Cain." This is the logo:

What is this I don't even.What is this I don't even.If that seems like some sort of stock image, it's because it is. Here's the exact same shot in an ad for a South African sugar company ("pure sweetness," I'm told, was a rejected Cain campaign slogan). Here are those four women, in a photo titled "four happy young women with many colorful balloons." Here are those four same women, with balloons, but without birthday presents:

Courtesy of ShutterstockCourtesy of ShutterstockThe fact that these women can summon such enthusiasm for multicollored balloons sort of puts their energetic support for Cain in perspective.

Scott Walker Wants to Charge Protesters to Protest in State Capitol

| Fri Dec. 2, 2011 12:05 PM EST

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and his Republican allies in the legislature are using every tool in their kit to clamp down the unions, progressives, and otherwise pissed-off citizens aiming to recall the governor. They've tried to throw up more hurdles in the signature-gathering process in a recall, and angled to implement new, GOP-friendly districts to help state senators withstand new recall efforts.

Now, as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports, the Walker administration wants to make protesters pay to protest inside the state Capitol, a move that one legal expert calls "put[ting] a price tag on the First Amendment":

Gov. Scott Walker's administration could hold demonstrators at the Capitol liable for the cost of extra police or cleanup and repairs after protests, under a new policy unveiled Thursday.

The rules, which several legal experts said raised serious free speech concerns, seemed likely to add to the controversy that has simmered all year over demonstrations in the state's seat of government.

The policy, which also requires permits for events at the statehouse and other state buildings, took effect Thursday and will be phased in by Dec. 16. Walker administration officials contend the policy simply clarifies existing rules.

State law already says public officials may issue permits for the use of state facilities, and applicants "shall be liable to the state...for any expense arising out of any such use and for such sum as the managing authority may charge for such use."

But Edward Fallone, an associate professor at Marquette University Law School, said the possibility of charging demonstrators for police costs might be problematic because some groups might not be able to afford to pay.

"I'm a little skeptical about charging people to express their First Amendment opinion," he said. "You can't really put a price tag on the First Amendment."

You can understand why Walker might feel defensive. This week, United Wisconsin, the group spearheading the effort to recall Walker, announced it had gathered more than 300,000 signatures in 12 days. The group only needs 540,208, and it has 60 days to gather them. United Wisconsin, which has signed up 20,000 volunteers, says it wants to collect upwards of 700,000 or 800,000 signatures by the mid-January filing deadline.

For his part, Walker says he's not worried about the recall. He told CNBC on Wednesday, "I look forward to [a recall election]. I'd love to have the chance to talk to the voters of Wisconsin again to tell that story."

Good News Today, But Not Quite as Good as You Think

| Fri Dec. 2, 2011 11:56 AM EST

The unemployment rate fell last month to 8.6%. Hooray! But that seems odd since the country added only 120,000 new jobs, which should be just barely enough for us to keep treading water. Phil Izzo tells us what happened:

In October, the household survey showed the number of people unemployed fell by 594,000, but the labor force — the number of people working or looking for work — fell by a little more than half that amount. That means that though the number of employed people rose, a large group just stopped looking for work. That could be due to discouragement of the long-term unemployed or by choice over retirement or child care. So the decline in the unemployment rate to 8.6% was about half due to people finding jobs and half people dropping out.

There's enough slop in the difference between the establishment survey (which gives us the number of new jobs) and the household survey (which gives us the unemployment number) that there's a fair degree of uncertainty here. But the establishment survey is bigger and generally more accurate, and it just doesn't support the idea that there's been a huge uptick in employment. So take this as good news, but probably not quite as good as the headline number suggests.