Mojo - October 2008

Who Benefits From McCain's Proposal to Cut Capital Gains Taxes?

| Wed Oct. 15, 2008 1:47 PM EDT

Surprise! It's the wealthy! Here's TaxVox:

TPC's Katherine Lim has crunched some numbers on John McCain's proposal to temporarily cut capital gains tax rates from 15 percent to 7.5 percent. In 2009, under a plan that lowers taxes on both gains and dividends, those making $1 million or more would get two-thirds of the benefit, and an average tax cut of more than $72,000. Those making less than $50,000 would get, on average, nothing.

The man who stood strong (and largely alone) against the Bush tax cuts because they disproportionately benefited the wealthy is suggesting making our tax code less progressive. Here are the numbers used in the calculations, and here is more on McCain's newly proposed economic policies.

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Drawing Conclusions from Early Voting (Georgia Edition)

| Wed Oct. 15, 2008 1:04 PM EDT

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (via Ambinder), a dispatch on early voting in Georgia:

Just cast an early vote in Cobb County. Only took one hour, forty-five minutes -- exactly three weeks before Election Day.
A long line folded itself three times in a relatively hot October sun, shortly before lunch-time. Perhaps a dozen people couldn't stick it out -- they left before getting to the front of the line.
Every one of those who gave up the effort was white. Once in, not a single African-American walked away while I was there. If voter fatigue becomes a factor over the next three weeks, and on Election Day itself, one has to wonder if Republicans are more likely to lose out than Democrats.

If you remember the Ohio vote in 2004, you know that black voters were faced with hellacious lines while upper-class white neighborhoods encountered few problems. My understanding is that a strong-willed and very competent Secretary of State in Ohio is working to make sure that doesn't happen again, but it may not matter. This report suggests African-American voters nationwide will simply not be deterred this time around.

And, for what it's worth, Obama is dominating early voting.

Bill O'Reilly v. the First Graders

| Tue Oct. 14, 2008 7:01 PM EDT

On Friday my son took a field trip with his first grade class to throw flower petals at his teacher as she exited City Hall in San Francisco, a newlywed. The class took a city bus down, surprised her and her bride, then had pizza. My son described the adventure as mostly boring, waiting around on the steps of City Hall with handfuls of flower petals. But he was very happy for his teacher, who he has quickly grown to love. When asked about the event, he gave a six-year-old's answer about people loving and caring for each other. He then moved on to Legos and more important things.

What my son (and I) didn't understand is that what he took part in was, according to Bill O'Reilly, "A new outrage in San Francisco," and that "opponents of gay marriage are up in arms, but the school administrators say it's no big deal." Ah, a teaching moment. Yes, kids, monsters are real. You'll know them because they'll be the ones taking up "arms" against an elementary school.

A story on the event, which appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on Saturday, has attracted more than 1,400 comments, many of them censored by the Chron—I assume because they contain threats and curse words—as well as homophobic diatribes more suitable for publication, like O'Reilly's. I'd like to thank Mayor Newsom (who performed the wedding) for standing up for the issue of gay marriage, even as I beg his pardon for complicating matters by allowing my kid to play a small, meaningful part in a legal and beautiful celebration.

I also want to be clear to the monsters and bigots out there that you're not scary. Hateful, yes, but you don't scare us.

—Eddie Scher

Report from Las Vegas: Obama Inching Ahead As a "Recession-Proof" Local Economy Falls Behind

| Tue Oct. 14, 2008 5:46 PM EDT

These days, the city that lives off the fat of high-stakes risk is also suffering its consequences. Las Vegans can no longer deny the fact that their major industry is not, as so many once claimed, immune to financial downturns. Casino traffic and income in Nevada are declining. (According to one theory, while people still gamble when they're broke, they do it closer to home.) The foreclosure crisis has hit this state hard; you can now drive by subdivisions in which a majority of the houses look dark and uninhabited. New arrivals are finding that they can furnish their homes with what's been thrown away by departing residents.

The latest polls are showing Obama pulling ahead of McCain in Nevada. Sunday's Las Vegas Review-Journal/Mason Dixon poll of likely voters has 47 percent for Obama, 45 percent for McCain, and 6 percent undecided. According to Hugh Jackson, who runs an excellent local progressive blog, the Las Vegas Gleaner, these local polls are notoriously unreliable. And the narrow point spread may be statistically insignificant. Still Congressional Quarterly's election map just shifted Nevada from the "toss up" category to "leaning Obama." And there's certainly been a big change from the Review-Journal's poll two months ago, which had McCain leading Obama 46 percent to 39 percent, with 15 percent undecided.

The ACORN Controversy: A Tough Nut to Crack

| Tue Oct. 14, 2008 4:14 PM EDT

For years, conservatives have grumbled about voter registration efforts aimed at low-income citizens, particularly those mounted by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), claiming these campaigns are rampant with fraud and corruption that benefits Democrats. On Tuesday, this low-grade battle became a headline-making clash, as the McCain-Palin campaign blasted ACORN and the Obama-Biden campaign and ACORN responded in kind.

At a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, the McCain campaign put the chairmen of its "Honest and Open Election Committee," former Republican Senators John Danforth and Warren Rudman, front and center before the national media. The pair asserted that the election is in danger of being compromised, accusing ACORN of submitting thousands of phony voter registrations nationwide. They noted that they had sent a letter to the Obama campaign, Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean, and top state election officials proposing the creation of joint election observation teams. "Each campaign would list every precinct where either fears there is a potential for voter intimidation, fraud, or mistrust of the tabulation process on Election Day," the letter reads. "Each campaign would be responsible for recruiting a volunteer for each named precinct. The Republican and Democratic volunteers would work jointly as an observation team." (It is already routine for campaigns and parties to send election observers, often trained lawyers, to polling locations on Election Day. Representatives of local media outlets are commonly on hand as well.)

Danforth and Rudman's letter ends, "Let's talk." The Obama campaign isn't interested. It points out that the campaigns already dealt with this issue in an exchange of letters in September that generated little media attention. At that time, the McCain folks notified the Obama campaign of its joint observation teams idea and a week later the Obama campaign responded harshly: "This seems a starkly political maneuver to deflect attention from the reality of the suppression strategies pursued by national, state and Republican party committees." Nothing further occurred.

PBS's Frontline Special on Obama and "That One"

| Tue Oct. 14, 2008 3:34 PM EDT

Even though yours truly ended up on the cutting room floor, I'm still plugging for y'all to watch tonight as PBS profiles the two presidential candidates. And gets folks who are apparently much smarter than me to opine on the choice. Ahem.

Watch a preview here.

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ACORN's Wild Success Quantified

| Tue Oct. 14, 2008 2:36 PM EDT

I'll have a lot more on this ACORN controversy in bit, but thought I'd point this out now. ACORN claims it has registered 1.3 million new voters this election cycle, mostly low-income people, people of color, and young people. On a conference call hosted by the Obama campaign today, campaign manager David Plouffe said the AP found 9 million newly registered voters across the whole country.

If these numbers are correct, a single organization has registered 15 percent of all new voters this election. That's a simply stunning number.

Anchorage Daily News Calls Palin a Big "Orwellian" Liar

| Tue Oct. 14, 2008 2:03 PM EDT

Hometown audiences can be harsh--especially when they are disappointed. After the Alaska Troopergate report was released and declared that Governor Sarah Palin had abused her office, Palin maintained that she had been exonerated. Not so fast, says the Anchorage Daily News. Here's how the newspaper responded to Palin's claim:

Sarah Palin's reaction to the Legislature's Troopergate report is an embarrassment to Alaskans and the nation.
She claims the report "vindicates" her. She said that the investigation found "no unlawful or unethical activity on my part."
Her response is either astoundingly ignorant or downright Orwellian.
Page 8, Finding Number One of the report says: "I find that Governor Sarah Palin abused her power by violating Alaska Statute 39.52.110(a) of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act."
In plain English, she did something "unlawful." She broke the state ethics law.
....If she had actually read it, she couldn't claim "vindication" with a straight face.
....Palin's response is the kind of political "big lie" that George Orwell warned against. War is peace. Black is white. Up is down.
....You asked us to hold you accountable, Gov. Palin. Did you mean it?
Bottom line: Gov. Palin, read the report. It says you violated the ethics law.

It's hard to accuse the Anchorage Daily News of being part of the Eastern establishment liberal media conspiracy that is supposedly out to destroy Palin. So how will the McCain-Palin spinners spin this one?

Fighting Extradition, "Merchant of Death" Cites Guantanamo

| Tue Oct. 14, 2008 1:50 PM EDT

viktorbout.jpg

The world's most infamous (translation: successful) black market arms dealer was arrested last March in Thailand, taken down by an international sting operation spearheaded by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Since then, Russian Viktor Bout has been held in a Bangkok prison, awaiting extradition to the United States, where he will face terrorism charges. The trial, if it ever takes place, is likely to be somewhat thorny for the U.S. government, which contracted with Bout-controlled firms to transfer weapons and supplies into Baghdad in the months immediately following the 2003 invasion of Iraq. But let's forget about that for now... Bout's attorney is pulling out all the stops in his effort to prevent his client's extradition. The latest tactic? Remind the world of what the Americans have been doing to prisoners held on terrorism charges—namely, locking them up and throwing away the key. Thai lawyer Chamroen Panompakakom today pointed a Bangkok courtroom's attention to the case of Hambali, an Indonesian Al Qaeda leader also captured in a Thailand. In 2003, he disappeared into Guantanamo and has yet to stand trial. There's little doubt of Bout's guilt. He was caught red-handed in the act of selling surface-to-air missiles to what he believed to be members of the Colombian FARC. But if he manages to evade the U.S. legal system, it could well be the latest perversion of law to result from Guantanamo: Bout avoids his day in court, while Guantanamo's inmates would love nothing more than to have theirs. Oh, the irony....

Oversight of Hedge Funds/Top Dem Donors Postponed Until After Election

| Tue Oct. 14, 2008 12:33 PM EDT

On Friday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee announced that a hearing scheduled for Thursday, October 16 on the role of hedge funds in the current financial crisis would be postponed until after the election. The committee, chaired by Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), says the postponement is to "accommodate the schedules of witnesses." Fine. But several of the hedge fund execs asked to testify at the hearing are big Dem donors who the party might not want to embarrass before the election. And by big Dem donors, I mean BIG Dem donors. Here are the numbers for the 2008 election cycle (excluding 527 contributions):

  • John A. Paulson, President, Paulson & Co., Inc: $86,974, $43,400 of that to Democrats
  • George Soros, Chairman, Soros Fund Management, LLC : $111,190, $110,150 of that to Democrats
  • Philip A. Falcone, Senior Managing Director, Harbinger Capital Partners: $0
  • James Simons, President, Renaissance Technologies, LLC: $117,050, $105,050 of it to Democrats (only $2,000 to Republicans—the rest went to a PAC.
  • Kenneth C. Griffin, Chief Executive Officer and President, Citadel Investment Group: $70,100, $60,750 of it to Democrats

That's $385,314 worth of 2008 election cycle donations from five witnesses (one of whom didn't give anything). $319,350 of it, or 82.9 percent, went to Democrats.