Mojo - October 2008

Bush the Deregulator: A Final Push

| Fri Oct. 31, 2008 8:05 PM EDT

bush-environmentalist.jpgLest the energy of this momentous election make you forget about the sitting President's catastrophic reign of error, the Washington Post reports that the White House is pushing through new federal regulations that would relax current rules on everything from mining to drinking water to greenhouse gas pollutants.

Bush is rushing to make certain his legacy as a pro-industry deregulator goes down in history. These rules will be difficult for the next administration to reverse, and Bush knows all too well the cost of waiting. The very afternoon of his January 20, 2001 inauguration, Bush issued a memo that halted the implementation of incomplete federal regulations from Clinton's waning days. To avoid repeating this, the White House has determined that all "significant" rules must be completed by Nov. 20, early enough for the rules to take legal effect before Bush steps down.

White House employees and watchdog groups alike agree that these new rules, roughly 90 in all, will have long-lasting effects. One recent rule would allow natural gas pipelines to operate at a higher pressure, increasing the risk of rupture. Another due out soon would ease requirements for environmental impact assessments for ocean fishing. A third would rewrite the process for cleaning up oil spills, while yet another would relax pollution standards on power plants, leading to the emission of millions of tons of additional CO2. The list goes on.

And who's writing these new rules? The citizenry? The public?

Hardly. From the Post:

The burst of activity has made this a busy period for lobbyists who fear that industry views will hold less sway after the elections. The doors at the New Executive Office Building have been whirling with corporate officials and advisers pleading for relief or, in many cases, for hastened decision making.

According to the Office of Management and Budget's regulatory calendar, the commercial scallop-fishing industry came in two weeks ago to urge that proposed catch limits be eased, nearly bumping into National Mining Association officials making the case for easing rules meant to keep coal slurry waste out of Appalachian streams. A few days earlier, lawyers for kidney dialysis and biotechnology companies registered their complaints at the OMB about new Medicare reimbursement rules. Lobbyists for customs brokers complained about proposed counterterrorism rules that require the advance reporting of shipping data.

Photo courtesy of whitehouse.gov.

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Your Friday Laugh at Palin's/Wall Street's Expense

| Fri Oct. 31, 2008 6:55 PM EDT

Hilarious!

Also from Salon: An alleged hockey mom disses Palin to the tune of Don't Cry For Me Argentina. Bonus: Chick can actually sing and the lyrics are deadly. "My kid plays hockey, and I wear lipstick/ but I'm a thinker, and you're a dipstick."

And for the love of "god" don't miss Wanda Sykes on the "welfare for the rich" that the $700 billion dollar bailout is.

You're welcome.

Will a Record Black Turnout Doom Proposition 8?

| Fri Oct. 31, 2008 6:16 PM EDT

Uh oh.

For all the joy some feel at the notion of legions of hitherto apolitical blacks energized to get out and vote for Obama, here's a wrinkle they might not have considered. Having gotten out to vote for their boy, will they also vote for homophobia and pass Prop. 8? One black lesbian activist has her fingers crossed they won't, as does an LA Times op-ed. But I'm not so sure. Remember Ohio in 2004? That's when black voters remained immune to the siren call of black hyper-religious/socially conservative GOP candidates but, since they were already in the booth, also helped kill gay marriage rights.

See that op-ed for an argument that blacks are not the leading purveyors of homophobia in America (something I thought true and will now have to investigate). A recent PEW study showing across the board declines in opposition to gay marriage backs them up.

According to PEW, Black opposition decreased by 6 percent: In 2004, 24 percent supported gay marriage while 56 percent opposed it. In 2008, the numbers are 26 percent and 56 percent. The study doesn't account for Hispanic (or Asian) opinion, a factor which will definitely matter with California's Proposition 8.

Also, hopefully, the wording of the Prop will make black knees jerk:

By invoking rights, the ballot's wording on Proposition 8—the title reads "Eliminates Right of Same-sex Couples to Marry"—could turn off black voters. Proposition supporters sought a different heading, "Limit on Marriage," but a judge dismissed their case last week.

Big Brother never tires of newspeak, does he?

I hadn't thought to worry about this before, but as (some) blacks make the argument that an Obama win is a win for equality, here's hoping they'll give a thought to equality for all.

We're not big on 'eliminating rights.'

A Black Voter Email Meme

| Fri Oct. 31, 2008 5:42 PM EDT

Just when you think the right/GOP/racists couldn't get any crazier (not to mention, sink any lower) in their hatred of Obama (not to mention losing), they do. Now (via Salon)...wait for it...Malcolm X is Obama's "real" father. (Ta-Nehisi Coates has lots of fun with the insanity of race on this.) Or maybe it's a "commie" named Frank Marshall Davis. He had a Honolulu 'hot dog stand' where baby Barack hung out and watched his 'dad' deal marijuana and cocaine, the real business behind the buns. Oh, also, 'decent' people couldn't really be choosing Obama. The brother is hypnotizing them. You just gotta read the post. Geez.

Many of my black relatives have called, terrified that whites will lose their minds if Obama wins and that the new Prez will be assassinated before the polls close, and we'll all be pogrom'd back into the cotton fields. I've chuckled, but insanity like this is somewhat troubling. Reminds me of the critical race theory of whiteness of property; some of y'all certainly are acting like non-whites have no right to be like, you know, Americans. Like we're stealing something—full citizenship—that's rightly only yours. Well, as my non-cussing sister would say: bump that.

So, here's a handy little guide that's been making the Negro email rounds. If Obama wins, here's how blacks should handle it. Enjoy:

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

| Fri Oct. 31, 2008 4:40 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:

How to Protect Your Vote

| Fri Oct. 31, 2008 4:26 PM EDT

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Groups across the country are taking steps to prevent vote problems from marring the vote next Tuesday. Every year, both sides of the aisle let fly with allegations of voter fraud, voting machine problems, and improperly purged voters. Because of technological developments, voters seeking to publicize problems and groups seeking to address them can do so quicker than ever before.

Crying foul in elections is an American tradition. Instances from recent presidential elections are obvious — belief that Katherine Harris stole Florida in 2000 and Diebold stole Ohio in 2004 persist to this day — but allegations of malfeasance can be found in gubernatorial, Senate, and other downticket races. This election season, like any other, has seen its share of vote-based accusations. The Democratic Party has a younger and poorer base than the GOP, meaning that vote suppression tactics that target transitory or low information voters often succeed as a partisan tactic. In Michigan, the state GOP has been accused of seeking to use foreclosure lists to purge newly homeless voters from the rolls. In Virginia, a phony flier instructed voters that due to heavy turnout Republicans would vote on Tuesday and Democrats would vote on Wednesday. In Florida, voters were informed by an unknown caller that they could vote by phone. In multiple states, college students are being told they cannot vote in the state of their academic institution if their parents claim them as dependents somewhere else. And of course the community organization ACORN may be, in John McCain's words, "on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history," due to its imperfect but wildly successful voter registration drives.

The good news is, voters can use technology to protect the vote. Unlike in any prior election, everyday citizens have the opportunity to report and research problems via hotline, Twitter, blogs, and wikis.

The most conventional way voters can report a problem is through a voter hotline, of which there are several. Several television networks host hotlines because they give the networks an early look at voting irregularities that may become major stories. CNN, for example, is operating 1-877-GOCNN-08, which offers to patch a caller through to his or her local voter registrar if necessary.

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Is it Delusion or Spin When McCain Camp Insists Palin Is No Drag?

| Fri Oct. 31, 2008 3:59 PM EDT

One of the duties of a campaign manager is to spin--that is, not tell the truth. I remember that on Election Day 1992, Mary Matalin, a top aide for President George H.W. Bush's reelection campaign, went on television throughout the day and said that the campaign was going to win. But its internal polls showed Bush I was heading toward a loss to Bill Clinton.

On Friday, Rick Davis, John McCain's campaign manager, offered a similar whistling-past-the-graveyard stretcher. In a conference call with reporters, he talked up Sarah Palin, claiming she was an asset to the GOP ticket. It was a tough day for doing so. The New York Times had front-paged a poll showing that 59 percent of voters believe that Palin is not prepared to be vice president--up 9 points since the beginning of October. A third of the voters polled said that her selection would be a major factor in picking a president--and those voters favored Obama. Can you say, "drag on the ticket"?

Davis couldn't. He told reporters:

Governor Palin's crowds are huge. In fact, she was in a location last night, the same general vicinity of Senator Biden. He had about 800 people at his event, she had 20,000. So, all the talk that we see on television and the newspapers about what a drag Governor Palin is on our ticket can't be further from the truth. She's electrifying crowds all across the battleground states, and we really appreciate the hard work she's putting in.

So Palin is helping McCain? Davis and the McCain crew seem to be alone among the politerati in believing this. No one should call the election before the votes are counted, but it does seem clear (assuming polls mean anything at all) that if McCain does manage to win it will be in spite of--not because of--Sarah Palin.

Ten Most Awesome Presidential Mudslinging Moves Ever

| Fri Oct. 31, 2008 2:45 PM EDT

Sure, this election's candidates have been called some names (lipsticked pig? terrorist? woman?). But however much we complain that this political campaign is sinking to a new low, it is, in fact, not even close to approaching old ones. The 2008 race's relatively unscurrilous insults would've had the 19th-century campaigners, and Karl Rove, calling even Ann Coulter—well, these days, it turns out you have to go into rehab if you use the word "pussy"…

Herewith, in the final ramp-up of negative ads, how far we have (or haven't) come in a couple hundred years of presidential contests:

Putting the Democrats' Impending Congressional Victory in Historical Context

| Fri Oct. 31, 2008 10:05 AM EDT

In 2006, the Democrats picked up 30 House seats. This year, they are slated to pick up anywhere from 15 to 30. Those numbers hold some pretty historic potential. Here's CQ:

The last time a party made a net gain of 15 House seats in consecutive elections was when the Republicans did it in 1978 (15 seat gain) and 1980 (34 seat gain). No party has made a net gain of 20 House seats in consecutive elections since the Republicans accomplished the feat in 1950 (28 seat gain) and 1952 (22 seat gain).

In the Senate, Democrats are poised to pick up anywhere from five to 10 seats. The last time the Senate saw movement like that was 1980, when Republicans picked up 12 seats and Ronald Reagan took the White House. CQ notes that the 19th century saw far more volatility in both chambers, but particularly the House. "It's less common today to see huge seat swings because of demographic shifts and a surgical precision in redrawing congressional district lines to create politically "safe" seats for both parties." Can you imagine what next Tuesday would look like if politicians couldn't gerrymander their way into near lifetime appointments?

Video: McCain Campaign's Khalidi Head Fake Exposed on CNN

| Thu Oct. 30, 2008 3:34 PM EDT

The McCain campaign is pushing hard on the Rashid Khalidi story. Khalidi is a public intellectual and a professor of Arab studies at Columbia University. He has a history of critical statements about Israel and has been accused of serving as a PLO spokesman decades ago. He denies that charge.

He also happens to be a friend of Barack Obama's. They were both at a function that the LA Times has video tape of, which the McCain campaign now wants to see released. The campaign is painting Obama's ties to Khalidi as another example of Obama's "unsavory" associations.

But wait. First of all, John McCain has some awfully bad judgment if Khalidi is so objectionable. McCain served as chairman of the International Republican Institute, which provided grants worth roughly $500,000 to the Center for Palestine Research and Studies, a group Khalidi co-founded.

Second, this Khalidi business is, at its heart, a backdoor way for the McCain campaign to bring up Jeremiah Wright, which its candidate has promised he will not do. "Obama hangs out with multiple dudes who hate Israel! You know who we're talking about!" Today on CNN, a McCain spokesman tried to pull this trick and the anchor asked him to make it explicit. He refused to do so, making his ploy transparent and making himself look like an ass. I was entertained: