Mojo - November 2007

Romney: No Muslims in My Cabinet

| Tue Nov. 27, 2007 2:10 PM EST

Mitt Romney was recently asked if a Muslim American might serve in his cabinet, considering the magnitude of the threat Romney believes radical Islam poses to America. According to a first-hand account in CS Monitor, Romney responded, "…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."

Muslims are one percent of the American population. Mormons are two percent. Using Romney's weird quota-based system for deciding the ethnic makeup of his cabinet, which he seemingly decried on CNN, Romney would have to discriminate against members of his own faith.

One wonders if a Mormon should be president at all, considering how few members of that faith there are in America. Maybe Romney should run for governor of Utah. The ethnic mathematics make more sense there.

Update: Steven Benen adds, "Open and unabashed discrimination towards certain Americans — Muslims and gays, among others — is not only acceptable to too many conservatives, it's expected. It's why Romney's vow to discriminate against Muslims will probably not hurt him politically."

Update Update: A commentor at Think Progress notes that Romney's cabinet will have to be 51 percent women.

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More Affordable Gift Ideas, Courtesy of Liberal Bloggers Fighting the War on Christmas

| Tue Nov. 27, 2007 12:22 PM EST

If you don't have the big bucks needed to buy anything off of Salon's holiday shopping guide, you might find something more affordable on this list, a real oldie-but-goodie if I do say so myself. All of the George W. Bush action figures (cod pieces included!) listed there are still available, though spending $19.99-$29.99 to buy your dog a chew toy might be a tad steep. Into Salon territory, even.

partridge-pear-tree.jpgUpdate: Speaking of unaffordable gift ideas, anyone looking to buy all of the gifts in The Twelve Days of Christmas better have a serious chunk of change. Swans-a-swimming and lords-a-leaping are all pretty pricey (and just getting pricier): the total cost of all the gifts, according to the PNC Christmas Price Index, is $19,507, a 3.1 percent increase over last year. A partridge, however, might make a nice symbolic gift. You can get one for $15. (Pear tree: $149.)

Update: This isn't the first time we've examined the rising cost of french hens.

DaimlerChrysler Financial Forces Army Reservist to Fight Car Rip-Off From Iraq

| Tue Nov. 27, 2007 12:13 PM EST

On Monday, I posted a story about one of the new hazards of buying a used car, namely the now-common practice by car dealers of forcing customers to waive their rights to access the legal system as a condition of buying a car. The idea is that if the dealership rips you off, you have to submit to private, binding arbitration, conducted by an arbitration firm hired by the dealership instead of filing a lawsuit. The rules in arbitration are a lot different than the regular courts, in ways that create hardships for consumers. Those hardships are a lot worse if you happen to be deployed to Iraq.

Congressmen and Senators: "If You're Really Good, You Can Move Up to Become a Lobbyist"

| Tue Nov. 27, 2007 11:44 AM EST

Politico takes its lumps every now and again, here and elsewhere, but today they shall get their praise. They have a really great piece by Jeanne Cummings on Trent Lott's resignation, which uses Lott's dash for cash as a microcosm for the way in which lobbying has poisoned Washington.

The Lott resignation and its fallout offer a striking, if somewhat unusual, glimpse at how incestuous the relationships between lobbyists and politicians have become in recent years.
In a nutshell, the story goes like this: A U.S. senator resigns to become a lobbyist, a former lobbyist (Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour) is in charge of naming his replacement, and a lead candidate to fill the slot (Mississippi Rep. Chip Pickering) finds himself in a complicated spot, since he recently put in motion his own plan to cash out from the U.S. House.
Maybe it has always been this way, but the dizzying pace of lawmakers-turned-lobbyists these days suggests not.
After all, it was not so long ago that K Street jobs were considered consolation prizes for loser lawmakers — charity cases, if you will, that leaned on the quiet generosity of grateful lobbyists after being rejected by voters or becoming too aged or controversial to remain on Capitol Hill.
Money changed all that. As the jobs became more lucrative, including million-dollar contracts, lawmakers found it easier to get over any squeamishness about pitching a client's cause to a former colleague. It also moved up the timing of such a career change, from the closing days of a political career to its twilight to, in Lott's case, a peak.
"It's very clear that being able to go and lobby is seen as the upward track," said Meredith McGehee, of the Campaign Legal Center. "In the old days, you would make money and do these things and then maybe get to run for Congress or the Senate. Today, you run for Congress or the Senate and then, if you're really good, you can move up to become a lobbyist."

Fed Up With Crisis, Salon Says, Go Shopping!

| Mon Nov. 26, 2007 10:12 PM EST

The world's a rough place. Just today, headlines brought us news of violent clashes between French youth and police, tense talks between the President and the Man-Who-Could-Have-Been about global warming, and a plummeting stock market. Oh, and there's a war on.

Under the circumstances, the good people over at Salon could be forgiven for taking a few hours out of their day to focus on life's pleasures, and so they have—life's very, very expensive pleasures.

Among the offerings on the front-page holiday gift guide:

Massachusetts GOP Bigwig Endorses Romney's Opponent

| Mon Nov. 26, 2007 7:25 PM EST

Former Massachusetts Republican Party Chairman Jim Rappaport endorsed Rudy Giuliani today. Rappaport has long been critical of former MA Governor Mitt Romney (aka Mr. Fantastic). In November 2006 he told the Boston Globe, "Mitt Romney, through his stalwart efforts, has managed to bring our party back to where it was in 1986."

Rappaport's message was no different today on a conference call with the media. "[Romney] has a strong record of showmanship as opposed to actual performance," said Rappaport. "His word is no good…Mitt Romney would say one thing in a meeting and literally go out of the meeting to the press and tell the opposite story. There was no desire in the legislature to be accommodating to him because they couldn't trust him."

Yowza.

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Abortion: Huckabee May Not Be So Consistent After All

| Mon Nov. 26, 2007 6:55 PM EST

Hey, look who hasn't been consistent on abortion: Mike Huckabee!

The Fred Thompson campaign has done some digging and determined that not long ago the strongly pro-life Arkansas Governor, who campaigns on a Constitutional amendment to ban abortions and calls abortions in this country a "holocaust," once held the same federalist position as the former Tennessee senator. As recently as last year!

In a 1995 Washington Times article discussing a possible switch in the Republican Party's official position on abortion, from supporting a Constitutional ban to supporting a federalist let-the-states-decide approach, Huckabee, then Lieutenant Governor of Arkansas, was cited as an example of the federalist position. "That's exactly what we have looked for," said Huckabee. "If it's left up to the states, more of them are going to put some restrictions on abortion."

And there's some evidence that he held that position until recently! In an undated interview with Right Wing News, Huckabee had this to say:

John Hawkins: Switching gears again, do you think we should overturn Roe v. Wade?
Mike Huckabee: It would please me because I think Roe v. Wade is based on a real stretch of Constitutional application -- that somehow there is a greater privacy issue in the abortion concern -- than there is a human life issue -- and that the federal government should be making that decision as opposed to states making that decision.
So, I've never felt that it was a legitimate manner in which to address this and, first of all, it should be left to the states, the 10th Amendment, but secondly, to somehow believe that the taking of an innocent, unborn human life is about privacy and not about that unborn life is ludicrous.

The Fred Thompson campaign says the interview was from April 2006. I've asked the Huckabee campaign for clarification. As Scooby Doo would say, Ruh Roh!

Update: This page on Right Wing News makes it clear the interview occurred on April 10, 2006.

Update Update: Huckabee is seen as the consistent conservative in the GOP race (except maybe on fiscal matters). This revelation, which is relatively minor (Huckabee is strongly pro-life no matter how you slice it), will only turn out to be important if it slows the Huckabee-is-consistent meme. It could also turn into something big if Huckabee is caught on record somewhere saying, "I've always supported a Constitutional ban on abortions." The cheery, quirky, down-to-earth Governor will lose some of his shine if he's proven to be a liar.

Hypocrisy Alert: HRC Attacks Obama For Skirting Campaign Rules She Skirts

| Mon Nov. 26, 2007 6:24 PM EST

You know the one about Caesar's wife?

On the campaign trail, Barack Obama has decried the dirty influence in Washington of lobbyists and their campaign contributions, suggesting that he--not Hillary Clinton--has the desire and ability to clean up Washington. After all, in the Senate, he did manage to pass an ethics and lobbying reform bill, and he has eschewed campaign contributions gathered ("bundled," in political parlance) by lobbyists. At the recent Jefferson Jackson dinner in Iowa, Obama proclaimed:

I am in this race to tell the corporate lobbyists that their days of setting the agenda in Washington are over. I have done more than any other candidate in this race to take on lobbyists -- and won. They have not funded my campaign, they will not get a job in my White House, and they will not drown out the voices of the American people when I am President.

That was a not-too-subtle dig at Hillary Clinton, whose campaign is fueled and guided by lobbyists.

Why Payday Loans Are Better Than Indentured Servitude

| Mon Nov. 26, 2007 5:27 PM EST

For a spot-on spoof of an evil trade group website, visit the Predatory Lending Association, whose stated mission is to "help predatory lenders extract maximum profit from the working poor and retired poor with payday loans." The site includes debt calculators, an interactive "PoorFinder" map, and a helpful explanation of the difference between 450% APR payday loans and old-fashioned debt bondage:

predatory_lending.gif

It's not clear who's behind the parody (a good guess would be the Yes Men, but the absurdity-to-reality ratio is too low), but it seems to be inspired by North Carolina's 2006 decision to outlaw payday loans. That move has proved quite popular, according to a new UNC study [PDF] that found that 90% of respondents, including those who had used check-cashing stores, said payday loans are a "bad thing."

Update: In comments, pablo points to this interview with the site's creator, a "Seattle Internet entrepreneur."

Bush Administration Codifies "Enduring Relationship" With Iraq

| Mon Nov. 26, 2007 5:02 PM EST

George Bush has repeatedly said that if the Iraqis were to ask us to leave Iraq, we would. At a May 2007 press conference, for example, the president said, "We are there at the invitation of the Iraqi government. This is a sovereign nation... If they were to say, leave, we would leave." Nevermind the fact that most Iraqis have long supported an immediate American withdrawal.

According to a White House fact sheet released this morning, the embattled Iraqi government that would be seriously endangered by an American pullout has asked for—surprise!—the exact opposite.

Iraq's leaders have asked for an enduring relationship with America, and we seek an enduring relationship with a democratic Iraq....

The fact sheet also says the U.S. and Iraq will (1) seek another year-long U.N. mandate for foreign troops in Iraq, and (2) hammer out what the long-term future of American-Iraqi relations looks like. Spencer Ackerman believes that this means "the administration will work out the terms of the U.S.'s stay in Iraq in order to, at the very least, seriously constrain the next administration's options for ending the U.S. presence." No mention of the "enduring bases" we started building years ago, but if there was ever a question of those bases' legitimacy, they're now settled.