Mojo - April 2010

Arizona: It Just Got a Lot Worse

| Fri Apr. 30, 2010 4:53 PM PDT

When Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed the nation's most draconian immigration law last week, criminalizing illegal immigration (and, many critics say, being a minority), she had a good political reason for doing so: Joe Arpaio.

Joe's the aging sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona (which includes Phoenix), and his disdain for brown people, civil liberties, federal authority, and Constitutional law are pretty well documented at Mother Jones and elsewhere. A man with a Pravda-esque communications machine that would be the envy of any politician on any level, he lords over Maricopa's swelling prison population with the swagger of an antebellum South Carolina planter driving his slaves. He's made prisoners wear pink panties, stuck them in sweltering tents in the desert, screwed with their food rations, cited fake laws, gone after news reporters, and generally made nativism the reason for his existence on this heavenly sphere.

He made arresting Latinos fashionable and, after many run-ins with the feds over such practices, was likely the main inspiration behind Arizona's new immigration code. In short, Brewer felt she had to sign last week's immigration bill, because she felt Arpaio's breath on her neck. She had to appear as tough on brown people as Arpaio does, lest he decide to challenge her in the GOP primary.

So she signed it. And guess what? Arpaio's still going to run against her. Sources in the sheriff's department, which will likely double as his campaign staff (no new thing there), say his paperwork's filed. And on his Twitter account - where you can read about his Washington Post interview today, or his "crime suppression/illegal immigration" operations briefings, or his anger about "out of town critics" - he recently tweeted that his wife wants him to run. And he's already the frontrunner in Arizona Republicans' minds.

So why not run? What does he have to fear? Latino turnout in the Phoenix metro area? Problem solved!

Here, then, is to Arizona: one of the prettiest states in the union, soon to be the first breakaway republic in the new confederacy of Inner America.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

The Great Crist eBay Selloff!

| Fri Apr. 30, 2010 1:08 PM PDT

Two things you can always count on Republicans to do with astounding alacrity: Burn bridges and turn a quick buck. And thanks to the party defection of moderate Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, GOPers plan on doing both in one swift move!

Crist, of course, announced yesterday he'd run for senator as an independent, sidestepping what by all accounts would have been a GOP primary face-smashing at the hands of babyfaced archconservative and Tea Party darling Marco Rubio. The state Republican apparatus, which had recently been purged of its Crist-friendly chairman, wasted no time in implementing its omerta code against the sitting governor, announcing that they'd take down an oil painting of Crist at the party headquarters and dump it for a quick sale on eBay. "He's been gone a long while," state party commissar chairman John Thrasher complained of Crist, after saying he'd sell the painting. [Full video is below.]

This is no small stunt, mind you. That portrait—a $7,500 rendering of the governor who was once called "Chain Gang Charlie"—is actually the focus of a possible probe into financial misappropriations by the state party. And it's tough to tell whether state GOPers were being sincere, or if they were just trying to fit their size 10s into their mouths as usual—like RNC Chairman Michael Steele did yesterday when he blustered: "There will be no senator Crist." Which, of course, could look really bad if Crist wins...and the GOP seeks his vote in their caucus.

As of this writing, there's no oil painting of Charlie on eBay. But there's lots of great other stuff, forming a fungible, melodramatic narrative of the governor's political life to date: the many faces of Crist! Here's a brief selection:

  • An autographed "Charlie Crist: GOVERNOR" business card, along with some cards signed by some other shlubs who run some other states, but who cares about them? The top bid thus far is $9.39, which is slightly more than a buck per governor!
  • A campaign button from Charlie Crist's gubernatorial campaign, reminding conservatives that he hates crime. "You just can't chain a good man down," it reads, along with a shot of the guv, a set of shackles, and a quote from Crist himself: "Let's bring hard labor back to the penal system." [UPDATE: Sold for $11.61!!]
  • A "John McCain/Charlie Crist" button from the 2008 presidential campaign. Has a reserve price of $1.99. No bids yet.
  • A button calling Crist "The Right Choice" for president in 2012. Available for instant purchase in bulk quantities!
  • Then there's the seller who claims to possess "PICS of FL GOV CHARLIE CRIST snorting lines of COCAINE!" (Why not? After all, he is a graduate of that esteemed party school, Florida State.) They can be yours for a starting bid of $600,000. Hey, the seller's got a 100 percent positive rating. So buy with confidence!

Fiore Cartoon: Arizona's Police State

Fri Apr. 30, 2010 12:39 PM PDT

Arizona's new draconian immigration bill has been in the news recently. President Obama called it "misguided" and our own Adam Weinstein described it thusly: "Arizona has opened US culture to two words that previously were the exclusive province of Nazi Germany and the communist bloc: 'Papers, please.'" As basic notions of fairness crumble in Arizona, Mark Fiore imagines a future in which even Governor Jan Brewer herself is arrested under suspicion of foreign citizenship.

This cartoon requires Macromedia's Flash Player. If you don't see the cartoon above, download the player here.

Mark Fiore is an editorial cartoonist and animator whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Examiner, and dozens of other publications. He is an active member of the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists, and has a web site featuring his work.

Politicians, Disclose Thyself!

| Fri Apr. 30, 2010 9:22 AM PDT

This week, a group of senators and representatives introduced a measure dubbed the DISCLOSE Act to counteract the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision that opened the door for free-wheelin' corporate spending related to elections. The transparency-loving folks at the Sunlight Foundation note that the bill:

does shine a powerful light on new spending and activities related to corporate political expenditures. Many of the provisions echo the recommendations Sunlight made shortly after the decision came down. For example, the bill creates new stand-by-your ad provisions requiring the leaders of corporations, unions and other organizations to appear in their campaign ads and state they approve the message. It goes even further towards uncovering the true power (and money) behind the ads by also requiring the top funder of an ad to make a stand-by-your-ad disclaimer and by requiring the top five donors to the organization that purchases the ads to be listed on the screen.

But they also have a major gripe about the measure: "the light fades to a little more than a flicker when it comes to disclosing the information about the activities of members of Congress and lobbyists who attempt to influence them." The group explains:

While the bill rightly requires lobbyists and lobbying entities to disclose details about the electioneering expenditures they make, it should also require disclosure of the names of the officials who were lobbied. Current law does not require lobbyists to say they lobbied the office of Senator Smith. Instead, lobbyists are only required to report that they lobbied the House, the Senate, or the executive branch.  But, without knowing who the lobbyist reached out to for a significant government action, there is no way for the public to know if there is a link between lobbying activities, the votes or other actions taken by a member of Congress, and when that member of Congress becomes the focus of corporate electioneering expenditures.

Forcing more information into the public realm about the activities of lobbyists who scurry through the hallways of Capitol Hill has long been a goal of Washington's good-government advocates. But, of course, legislators don't want to tell the public about the lobbyists they and their staffs are meeting with. After all, that might actually give citizens some insight into how decisions are made in Congress. So it comes as no surprise that even reform-minded lawmakers left this out of the DISCLOSE Act. These officials are only willing to show so much.

Goldman Gets the Criminal Treatment

| Fri Apr. 30, 2010 8:08 AM PDT

If you're Rep. Marcy Kaptur or the 61 other congressmen—or, for that matter, the 140,000 petition signers—then you've got to feel pretty powerful right now. Yesterday, Kaptur hand-delivered a letter to the Justice Department calling for a criminal investigation of Goldman Sachs, the besieged investment firm facing fraud charges for a complicated 2007 deal gone bad. Less than 24 hours later, reports emerged that the federal prosecutors have opened a preliminary criminal inquiry into Goldman's trading activities.

The case was referred to the Southern District of New York prosecutor's office by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which filed a securities fraud suit against Goldman two weeks ago. The SEC's suit alleges that Goldman misled investors by not disclosing that a hedge fund trader who wanted to bet against a product of Goldman's making had influenced what went into the product, called a synthetic collateralized debt obligation (CDO). Essentially, the SEC says that the hedge fund trader, John Paulson, got to rig the CDO so that his bet against it was almost certain to pay out. (It did: Paulson ended up making $1 billion, while the two investors who invested in the CDO, called Abacus, lost roughly the same amount.)

Right now, the criminal investigation of Goldman is in the early stages. It's also worth noting that the burden of proof in a criminal case like this is higher than in a civil suit, like the SEC's, meaning federal prosecutors have their work cut out for them to show blatant wrongdoing by Goldman. Nevertheless, today's reports cap arguably one of the worst weeks in Goldman's history. The firm's top brass were grilled by Senate lawmakers on Tuesday, the company's stock has slumped, and a pair of shareholders filed what's projected to be the first of multiple shareholder suits against Goldman. The worst, it seems, could still be on the horizon.

Has John Boehner Become a Tenther?

| Fri Apr. 30, 2010 8:06 AM PDT

House Minority Leader John Boehner has been trying hard to woo the unruly grassroots activists who make up the Tea Party movement. So far the effort doesn't seem to be going that well, but he is apparently going to keep trying, even it means crossing over into fringe territory. Many Tea Party activists are stalwart believers in the primacy of the Tenth Amendment, that little clause in the Constitution that they see as a powerful bar to federal government overreach. They're using it to fight health care reform, to try to nullify federal gun laws, to launch a host of radical state sovereignty measures, and even to advocate secessionism. For the most part, members of Congress have shied away from this particular element. But on Wednesday, Boehner held a press conference in support of Arizona's draconian new immigration law, and he specifically invoked the Tenth Amendment:

"The people of Arizona have the right under the 10th Amendment to write their own laws -- and they have," Boehner said. "It has a 70 percent approval in Arizona and I think we ought to respect the people of Arizona and everyone should make their own decisions."

But at least one die-hard Tenther wasn't buying Boehner's conversion. Michael Boldin, founder of the California-based Tenth Amendment Center, pointed out in his blog Wednesday that Boehner's track record on Tenth Amendment fealty isn't exactly stellar. He notes that Boehner has voted for a string of federal statutes that Tenth Amendment purists see as massive constitutional violations and illegal federal intrusion into local affairs, including the No Child Left Behind Act, the Real ID Act, the TARP bailouts, as well as the Patriot Act and its reauthorization. Given all that, Boldin concludes:

"it seems pretty clear to me that Boehner, like most of the thugs that occupy D.C. in the name of the people, has almost no respect for the Constitution at all. He just pays it lip service when it serves his purpose."

 

Advertise on MotherJones.com

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for April 30, 2010

Fri Apr. 30, 2010 4:49 AM PDT

 

Sapper competitors complete the rope climbing portion of the obstacle course before sprinting to the finish line. The Best Sapper Competition gives engineers throughout the Army the opportunity to compete in a grueling six phase and three day competition to determine who are the best engineers in the Army. Photo via the Defense Department by Benjamin Faske.

Racist Driver Dupes Washington Post

| Thu Apr. 29, 2010 2:14 PM PDT

[UPDATED] Last week, Mother Jones gave you the rundown on a Virginia motorist who considered the back of his Ford pickup the best forum to display his anger over Islam, the end of the Confederacy, and all things not Aryan and Hitler-related. Yesterday, that driver, Doug Story, sought out reporters at Washington's paper of record to argue he's not a racist—just a NASCAR fan. The Washington Post dutifully played along, printing Story's explanation with few caveats. But if Story thought he could control his public image, perhaps he should have updated his Facebook profile first to conceal his apparent affinity for organized neo-Nazi groups and white-power theories.

Doug Story, a dump-truck driver for the Virginia Department of Transportation and a resident of the Fairfax area in Northern Virginia, told the Washington Post this is all a big misunderstanding. He said the numbers 14 and 88 on his vanity plate—which line up with well-worn neo-Nazi and white supremacist codes—simply refer to the numbers of his favorite NASCAR drivers, Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Which sounds slightly fishy, since fans of one don't generally have much love for the other.)

"There is absolutely no way I'd have anything to do with Hitler or Nazis," Story said Wednesday. He contacted The Washington Post after an article about his plate appeared last week; the state, citing privacy rules, had declined to release the identity of the plate's owner. "My sister-in-law and my niece are Jewish. I went to my niece's bat mitzvah when she turned 13 three years ago. Does that sound like something an anti-Semite would do?"

That's all well and good. However, Story's Facebook profile—which confirms his employment with the state—tells a different story. [UPDATE: The original profile has since been taken offline, but a screenshot is available here.] His bio reads:

100% WHITE MAN, 100% ARYAN, 100% PRO-LIFE (Children are innocent), 100% PRO DEATH PENALTY (Criminal Scum aren't innocent).
Over the past 28 years; I, like David Duke, have had an Awakening.

His musical tastes include "white power metal," his favorite book is David Duke's My Awakening, and he lists among his favorite quotations this maxim: "If you can't beat them, arrange to have them beaten." He's a fan of the controversial Facebook group with the horribly misspelled title "DEAR LORD, THIS YEAR YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE ACTOR, PATRICK SWAYZIE. YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE ACTRESS, FARAH FAWCETT. YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE SINGER, MICHAEL JACKSON. I JUST WANTED TO LET YOU KNOW, MY FAVORITE PRESIDENT IS BARACK OBAMA. AMEN."

Most concerning of all, though, is the link he includes as his personal website: He is known as "Confederado" on the site newsaxon.org, which bills itself as "An online community for whites by whites." It also includes banner ads for the National Socialist Movement—that is to say, the Nazis—whose website, nsm88.com, apparently includes a shout-out to Dale Jr. Or, Hitler!

Generally speaking, it's not a standard journalistic practice, for a lot of reasons, to make hay about an individual private citizen and his political activities. But in seeking out a public news forum—and working for the state of Virginia—Story submitted himself to public scrutiny, all the more so because his personal beliefs appear not to square with the persona he sought to project in the Post. And the contents of those beliefs are in the public interest—wishing physical ill on the president, who happens to be multiracial, which happens to offend the sensibilities of David Duke and neo-Nazis, who happen to figure prominently in Story's apparent worldview, which is a worldview widely seen as invalid and threatening to American social and political life.

Story's entitled to any belief; he's also entitled to freedom from harassment. (So please don't go after him.) But in what's been a banner year for nativism, racism, and uncivility in American political life, Story also should be willing to account for those beliefs, and all the baggage that they carry.

When the Tea Party Glove Doesn't Fit

| Thu Apr. 29, 2010 2:01 PM PDT

On Tuesday, MoJo's Adam Weinstein brought you the heartwarming story of Tim James, the Alabama businessman who, if his newest ad is any indication, is running for governor this year on a platform of dramatic pauses and DMV reform. Since then, James's bizarro, race-baiting campaign ad which was produced by the same guy who made DemonSheep has gone viral and the candidate is reaping benefits from the conservative base.

James's ad is pretty awesome. But it might be only the second most interesting spot out of Alabama this month. That's because one of James's primary opponents, former 10 Commandments judge Roy Moore, just cut this track:

 

Catchy! As Moore's site explains: "The Judge's love for music steered him to step outside of the proverbial political ads, and be the first person running for office to utilize music as the sole message for his campaign." The message in this video is really about faith, not race, but still, it's not every day that you see a Republican primary candidate pander to black voters. The fact that Moore's opponent seems to be pandering to the xenophobic wing of his party makes the contrast between the two that much sharper.

David Corn Live-Tweets the British Leaders Debate

Thu Apr. 29, 2010 11:59 AM PDT

For the first time in British history, the contenders for Prime Minister are holding debates in the style of US presidential debates. Today is the third and final face-off for Prime Minister Gordon Brown of the Labour Party, Conservative Party leader David Cameron and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg. The debates have riveted the British public—and have generated much interest in the United States. Not just because newcomer Clegg has surged on the basis of his performances, but also because it has been so darn interesting to see a British twist on an American tradition. With Brown on the ropes—partly because he was caught insulting a Labour voter by a microphone he didn't realize was live—and Clegg seemingly on the rise, this last debate has stirred intense interest on both sides of the pond. The British election is May 6. As he did with the previous debate, David Corn is live-tweeting this one and is expecting a jolly good show. (You can follow him on Twitter here.)