Mojo - November 2007

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Won't Disclose Donors Without a Fight

| Wed Nov. 28, 2007 2:18 PM EST

For years, big (and often unpopular) corporations like drug and tobacco companies, have used innocuous-sounding trade associations to lobby on their behalf, without having to disclose who picks up the tab. But a new law Congress passed earlier this year is designed to put an end to the practice. Under the threat of criminal penalties, the lobbying reform act requires trade groups to disclose members who contribute more than $5,000 in a quarter and who are involved in planning or directing lobbying activities. Not surprisingly, big businesses are not happy about this, particularly the criminal penalty part.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers fired the first shot across the bow yesterday, sending a letter to the Secretary of the Senate and the clerk of the House asking for "guidance" on how to interpret the new reporting requirements. They're essentially asking to exempt a lot of people who might otherwise be outed by the new law on the grounds that the law is an unconstitutional intrusion into their inner workings.

The chamber isn't fond of disclosure. For instance, the Institute for Legal Reform, the chamber's $40 million-a-year tort reform lobbying arm, failed to disclose to the IRS four years and millions of dollars worth of taxable spending on political races. A few years ago, it secretly bought its own newspaper in Madison County, Illinois, where it was spending millions to defeat liberal state court judges. The paper generated a regular stream of chamber propaganda that got treated like bona fide news until its owners got outed by the Washington Post. Despite the chamber's complaints about the evils of the American legal system, yesterday's letter is a pretty good indication that it will spend some time there before it ever gives up exactly how much radioactive industries contribute to its lobbying efforts.

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Huckabee Gets the Falwell Endorsement

| Wed Nov. 28, 2007 2:07 PM EST


According to an email that landed in my email box moments ago, Mike Huckabee just secured the endorsement of Jerry Lamon Falwell, Jr., better known as Jerry Falwell's son. Falwell Jr. is the chancellor of Liberty University, a post he took over after his father, who founded Liberty U, died earlier this year.

Having Falwell Sr.'s endorsement would have undoubtedly packed a greater punch, even though Falwell's influence waned before his death due to a number of crazy comments he never lived down. But an endorsement from Lynchburg is signficant nonetheless because it marks Huckabee's official entry into the top tier. This is the sort of endorsement Huckabee likely couldn't have gotten a few months ago, or even a few weeks ago.

To wit. Almost exactly two weeks ago, National Right to Life endorsed Fred Thompson, even though Thompson would let the states decide how to handle abortion and Huckabee wants them banned by the Constitution. What was NRL's explanation for choosing Thompson over Huckabee? "Our endorsement is a testament to Senator Thompson's long-standing pro-life record, his commitment to unborn children, and our belief in his ability to win." (Emphasis mine.)

Thus far, Huckabee has only scored endorsements from the likes of Chuck Norris and wrestler Ric Flair. Now he's playing in the big leagues.

New Scandal: Obama Can't Decide on a Favorite TV Show

| Wed Nov. 28, 2007 1:25 PM EST

obama-maaah.jpg According to TV Guide, which did a survey of the presidential candidates to identify their favorite TV shows, Barack Obama prefers M*A*S*H* and The Wire.

Except on Facebook (login required), Obama lists his favorite show as Sportscenter.

This is a HUGE issue. Stop the presses.

Actually, don't. Some junior staffers screwed up, no biggie. But let's try to get it straight, guys.

More seriously, though, Obama messed up in a recent speech when he claimed (1) Bush never traveled abroad prior to being elected, and (2) the deficit will be twice as high upon Bush's exit as it was upon his entrance. Both are false, according to the WaPo's very good FactChecker feature.

This post was basically an excuse to use this sentence from TV Guide, which obviously doesn't try to hide its priorities: "The complete "Presidential Candidate Edition" column is in the Dec. 3 issue of TV Guide (Desperate Housewives' Dana Delany is on the cover)."

Mike Gravel's Campaign Spins Off into Psychedelic Wonderworld

| Wed Nov. 28, 2007 12:55 PM EST

Mike Gravel's campaign has a history of awesome videos, so it's tough for him to raise the bar. But I think he has with what you'll find below.

I sincerely hope that Gravel keeps producing stuff like this through the general election and into the next presidency. You'd have CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and crazy uncle Mike and his badass videos.

Just Your Everyday $1 Million Bill Forgery Case

| Wed Nov. 28, 2007 11:42 AM EST

one-million-dollar-bill.jpg This made my day:

Man with $1M bill busted at bank
AIKEN, S.C. - A bank teller had a million reasons to deny this transaction.
Police say a man tried to open an account with a $1 million bill, which does not exist. The teller refused and called police while the man started to curse at bank workers, said Aiken County Sheriff's spokesman Lt. Michael Frank.
Alexander D. Smith, 31, of Augusta, Ga., was charged with disorderly conduct and two counts of forgery, Frank said.
The second forgery charge came after investigators learned Smith bought several cartons of cigarettes from a nearby grocery store with a stolen check, Frank said.

If you had created a fake $1 million bill, who do you think would be most likely to notice the forgery? A bank, right? Wouldn't it be smarter to head to 7/11 and try to purchase 600,000 slurpees?

Also, as the photo above shows (that's the actually bill, by the way), the teller actually tried to use the forgery pen that determines if a bill is real or not. So a random dude walks in with a crumpled million dollar bill, and the teller actually tests to see if it's real? That teller really believes in the good in people. I wish I had that much faith in humanity.

(H/T Wonkette)

Romney Digs Himself Deeper on "No Muslims" Statement

| Wed Nov. 28, 2007 9:50 AM EST


Mitt Romney recently said that he would not have any Muslims in his cabinet because their population in the United States isn't large enough. His exact words were: "…based on the numbers of American Muslims [as a percentage] in our population, I cannot see that a cabinet position would be justified. But of course, I would imagine that Muslims could serve at lower levels of my administration." The various idiocies of that statement were previously discussed on MoJoBlog here.

Romney tried to defend himself by saying:

"[The] question was did I need to have a Muslim in my Cabinet to be able to confront radical Jihad and would it be important to have a Muslim in my Cabinet," said Romney. "And I said, 'No, I don't think that you have to have a Muslim in the Cabinet to be able to take on radical Jihad anymore than during the Second World War we needed to have a Japanese-American to understand the threat that was coming from Japan or something of that nature.' I just rejected that argument..."

That seems to misrepresent what the questioner asked. The questioner describes his own question thusly: "I asked Mr. Romney whether he would consider including qualified Americans of the Islamic faith in his cabinet as advisers on national security matters, given his position that "jihadism" is the principal foreign policy threat facing America today."

Now the original questioner, an American born Muslim named Mansoor Ijaz (full disclosure: Ijaz is or was an occasional commentator for Fox News, CNN, and other places) is lashing out at Romney's dissembling. Via Huffington Post:

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Troubled Army Recruits Become Soldiers, More Troubled; Who's Responsible?

| Tue Nov. 27, 2007 9:44 PM EST

The Boston Globe reports that 11 percent, more than 1 in 10, of Army recruits this year were given waivers because they have criminal records (more than 6,000 soldiers). Now this is hardly news, the Army has been systematically lowering standards for years—aptitude and fitness levels, health status, moral conduct, down; age and bonuses, up—in fact each year more and more recruits with waivers (and tattoos) join the ranks.

But the coverage is missing the mark somewhat on the full extent of what these lowered standards mean. Partly they mean what the media is focused on, that we have a compromised armed force, that we are putting men with guns in combat situations, where some of our fighters five years ago wouldn't have been considered fit for such a battle. After all, the Pentagon established standards, whether it be for asthma or high school diplomas, for reasons, reasons they also let slide during Vietnam, under similar circumstances.

Casting the First Stone Very Precisely: Keep Your Religion Private or Publicly Defend It

| Tue Nov. 27, 2007 9:16 PM EST

Not to mention: live by it.

I'm with Hitch: Mitt Romney, let alone any publicly religious person running for office needs to tell us exactly what it is that they believe. Especially the bits that infringe just a tad on others' freedom (gay rights comes to mind).

Even were I not an apostate, I like to believe that I would want others to keep their religion to themselves. Failing that, if you're going to try to score points with it ("Jesus is my favorite philosopher") or try to control others with it (see: 'pro-lifers' who support capital punishment) then defend it. But first, 'fess up. I hear it's good for the soul. At least the Pope has the 'nads to spit directly in womens' eyes with his opposition to birth control, abortion and female priesthood. But if he ran for prez, things would no doubt get all vague. Bump that, especially the godless press's 'deference' to such twaddle.

As usual, Hitch (who's a pal) has his normal great fun with Mormonism but en route makes excellent points:

A New Line Of Attack For Lantos Challenger

| Tue Nov. 27, 2007 8:51 PM EST


The campaign of Jackie Speier, a former California state senator who has all but announced her primary challenge to Tom Lantos' House seat, is going to have plenty of fodder, if she decides to use it, for nasty attack ads. Throughout his 14 terms in Congress, Lantos, 79, has compiled a mainstream liberal record on domestic issues but on foreign affairs—well, to call him "hawkish" would be a gross understatement. Speier, for example, could point to Lantos' starring role in pushing the fabricated Gulf War-era story of Iraqi soldiers removing Kuwaiti babies from their incubators and leaving them to die. She could also quote a report by Ha'aretz, later denied by Lantos, that he told an Israeli lawmaker in 2002, "We'll be rid of the bastard [Saddam] soon enough. And in his place we'll install a pro-Western dictator, who will be good for us and for you." Just as easily, she could point to the shameful hold Lantos put on reconstruction aid for Lebanon in 2006 or the fact that he has ratcheted up tensions with Iran. Indeed, she could highlight his chillingly Bushian turns of phrase, like when he cheered NATO as "the military arm of the civilized world" and called Germany's Gerhard Schroder a "political prostitute" last summer.

Yes, Speier could do any of those things, but I'd like to submit to her an entirely original framework of attack. Call it the Mr. Burns paradigm:

Fred Thompson's New Watergate Ad: Get Me Rewrite!

| Tue Nov. 27, 2007 4:55 PM EST

Fred Thompson has a new ad touting his days as the top Republican lawyer on the Senate Watergate committee's staff:

Click to play

In the ad, he boasts of having "helped to expose the truth during Watergate."

The story is not that simple. As Thompson himself acknowledged in a 1975 book, right after the congressional Watergate investigators learned of Richard Nixon's clandestine taping system, Thompson tipped off the Nixon White House that the Capitol Hill gumshoes had uncovered this big secret. This was not S.O.P. for a prosecutor. (Thompson had been an assistant U.S. attorney previously.) A member of an investigative team usually does not unilaterally rush to tell the subject of a probe--via an unofficial back channel--that he or she has just discovered a possible treasure trove of evidence against the target.

Referring to this episode, Scott Armstrong, an investigator for the Democrats on the committee, in July told The Boston Globe, "Thompson was a mole for the White House. Fred was working hammer and tong to defeat the investigation of finding out what happened to authorize Watergate and find out what the role of the president was."

The Nixon tapes show that Thompson also cooperated behind the scenes with the Nixon White House regarding how to handle the public testimony of John Dean, a White House lawyer who had turned against Nixon and his aides. (On those tapes, Nixon referred to Thompson as not "very smart" but "friendly," meaning friendly to the White House, not to children and puppies.) In a conversation with Nixon on June 11, 1973, shortly before Dean was to testify, J. Fred Buzhardt, a Nixon lawyer, informed the president that Thompson was "now willing to work with us" in trying to undermine Dean. "He was far more cooperative really than I expected him to be," Buzhardt remarked, noting that Thompson "said it's just getting to be a political dogfight." Buzhardt also told Nixon that Thompson was more willing to engage in political battle concerning the hearings than Senator Howard Baker, the top Republican on the Watergate committee, who had hired Thompson, a fellow Tennessean. (The transcripts of these tapes were published in 1997 in Abuse of Power, edited by Stanley Kutler.)

On his website, Thompson neglects to mention his role as a snitch and Nixon comrade. In his campaign bio, only one line describes his Watergate committee service:

He gained national attention for leading the line of inquiry that revealed the audio-taping system in the White House Oval Office.

That's not accurate.