Mojo - November 2010

Jon Stewart vs. Rachel Maddow: It's On

| Wed Nov. 10, 2010 12:25 PM EST

On Monday, I suggested that Jon Stewart should go on Rachel Maddow's show so that they can hash out the ongoing argument over Stewart's "sanity" rally. Like Bill MaherTa-Nehisi Coates, and just about everyone at MSNBC, I thought at the rally Stewart was a bit too quick to suggest that the left and the right in America are equally reasonable and "sane," and too quick to imply that MSNBC folks like Maddow are basically doing the same thing as, say, Glenn Beck. On Monday night, Stewart used the top of his show to push back at his critics:

Here's the key bit:

Contrary to what people may believe, I do think the rally was about something, just not necessarily what they wanted it to be about, or what they think it was about. If we were inartful in that message, we were inartful. I disagree with their classification of it, but I'm sure we'll all have a chance to clarify on each other's programs for the next ten years.

Ah, foresight. Stewart will make his first appearance on "The Rachel Maddow Show" on Thursday. I imagine that they'll talk about the rally—and the notion of "sanity." I'm looking forward to watching. 

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Can Rubio Republicans Save the GOP?

| Wed Nov. 10, 2010 11:39 AM EST

Latino voters dashed Republican hopes for a full takeover of Congress last week by swinging for Democratic senators in Nevada, California, and other key states. But the Wall Street Journal's John Fund thinks that there's still hope for the Republican Party to win back Latinos, pointing out that there will be a record number of Hispanic Republicans in the next Congress:

Two are from Texas and defeated Democratic incumbents - Bill Flores of Bryan and Quico Conseco from San Antonio. Jaime Herrera was elected to an open seat in Washington state. Raul Labrador defeated a Democratic incumbent in Idaho. David Rivera won an open House seat in Florida, just as Marco Rubio won that state's vacant U.S. Senate seat. In addition, Republicans elected two Hispanic governors -- prosecutor Susan Martinez in New Mexico and Brian Sandoval, a judge, in Nevada.

In fact, the national GOP made a concerted effort to diversify its ranks and recruit minority candidates who were still hardline conservatives. Some of the Latino Republicans who won—including Martinez, Sandoval, and Rubio—ran openly as immigration hawks, managing to win Hispanic votes even as they voiced vocal support for the Arizona law and tougher border security. Fund adds that Texas Gov. Rick Perry managed to win 38 percent of the Latino vote this year even as he hewed to a similar line, while Rubio netted 40 percent of the non-Cuban Hispanic vote. Meanwhile, more moderate types like Labrador—a former immigration attorney—could help the GOP's Latino outreach.

But though the next Congress will bring greater diversity to the GOP's ranks, there's little sign that the party will stem its divisive, inflammatory attacks on immigrants and immigration. Incoming House leaders Steve King and Lamar Smith have put an immigration crackdown at the top of their agenda for the House Judiciary Committee, as I explain in my latest story. King is especially infamous for using noxious rhetoric to describe immigrants and will have a bigger bully pulpit than ever in the next Congress. If John Boehner lets them have their way, the Republican Party may only continue to alienate the Hispanic voters—unless, perhaps, some of its newly anointed Hispanic lawmakers decide to stand up their own party.

Actually Amusing: Five Years of Bloggingheads.tv [VIDEO]

| Wed Nov. 10, 2010 11:33 AM EST

As we noted last week, Bloggingheads.tv is celebrating its fifth anniversary. This is pretty clever:

The GOP's Earmark War

| Wed Nov. 10, 2010 11:20 AM EST

Now that the Republicans have won a majority in the House, it looks like their first fight will be against…Republicans? The Hill reports that Oklahoma's arch-conservative senator, Jim Inhofe (who received a perfect score from the American Conservative Union in 2009), intends to fight Sen. Jim DeMint's (R-SC) proposed ban on earmarks. DeMint's ban, Inhofe argues, unconstitutionally cedes congressional spending power exclusively to the executive branch.

Odds are, Inhofe admits, that DeMint's moratorium will pass. But he's determined to go down swinging, and call out DeMint and others for earmark hypocrisy. He told The Hill:

I know politically it’s the dumbest thing for me to say I’m for earmarks, but it would cede authority to President Obama. But McCain and DeMint are not being honest about how they define them. I’ve been ranked as the most conservative member of the Senate, so this is coming from a conservative.

I have quotes, and I’ll use them on the floor to make sure McCain and DeMint can’t wiggle out of how they define earmarks. This is an Obama-DeMint-McCain effort… I’ll lose on this, but I want to be on the record.

Also on the record: the statement released on Tuesday by Jim DeMint publicly announcing his plan to suspend earmarks, co-signed by ten Republicans including tea party-backed Marco Rubio and Rand Paul (who's wasted no time playing both sides on the issue), Texas' John Cornyn, and Inhofe's fellow Oklahoman Tom Coburn. Inhofe says the tea party-backed senate newbies have been misled. "These [earmarks] have been demagogued for two years now," he said. "It’s been presented in such a way that this is somehow conservative." Luckily for Inhofe, he has some powerful friends on his side. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also rejects an earmark ban, citing the same argument as Inhofe: that it wouldn’t address the problem of congressional spending sprees, and would hand spending authority over to President Obama. DeMint is, effectively, picking a fight with his boss.

Meanwhile, over in the House, Speaker-in-waiting Boehner has pledged to suspend all earmarks, positioning the issue as a key plank in the GOP's agenda for the 112th congress. It's not clear, though, that all House Republicans are on board.

On something as central to the conservative dogma as government spending, the brewing debate in the Republican caucus is curious. It rips a gaping hole in the portrait of party unity that last Tuesday's midterm rout seemed to paint. The lesson here: if you're going to be the Party of No Earmarks, make sure everyone's on board.

Joe Miller's Spell-Check Lawsuit

| Wed Nov. 10, 2010 10:40 AM EST

Joe Miller, Alaska's GOP candidate for US Senate and a tea party darling, is taking his election battle to the courts. On Tuesday, Miller, who trails write-in candidate and incumbent Lisa Murkowski, filed a suit in federal court asking a judge to bar Alaska election officials from counting any votes for Murkowski that don't spell her name correctly. Miller's suit claims the only acceptable write-in names are "Lisa Murkowski" or "Murkowski," and any write-in vote even slightly different should be discounted. In response to the suit, a Murkowski campaign manager told the Daily Press that the Miller campaign was "trying to discount as many votes as possible from Alaskans."

What remains to be seen is if Miller's suit is too little, too late. Alaska elections chief Gail Fenumiai says she's planning to begin counting the 92,000 write-in ballots cast in last Tuesday's Senate election, featuring Miller, Murkowski, and Democrat Scott McAdams, suggesting she won't wait for Miller's suit to play out. So far, Miller trails Murkowski by more than 10,000 votes, according to the Anchorage Daily News; McAdams is a distant third. 

The fate of Miller's suit, and thus that of his candidacy, hinges on what's called "voter intent." That means accepting minor misspellings of a write-in candidate's name, provided it's plainly clear which write-in candidate that voter intended to support. Here's from more the Daily News on this brewing legal battle:

Lt. Gov. Craig Campbell, who oversees Alaska elections, has indicated that he will accept minor misspellings of Murkowski's name as long as the "voter intent" is clear. "The courts have been very clear for the last 25 years that voter intent is important," Campbell said in an interview this week with KENI radio host Mike Porcaro. "You do not want to disenfranchise voters over a technicality."

But Van Flein, Miller's lawyer, is arguing that nothing in state law allows for that kind of discretion. "The statute does not allow for the election board to weigh 'voter intent,' 'voter feelings,' or 'voter hopes,' " Van Flein wrote in a letter to Fenumiai.

Here's what the law says:

"A vote for a write-in candidate, other than a write-in vote for governor and lieutenant governor, shall be counted if the oval is filled in for that candidate and if the name, as it appears on the write-in declaration of candidacy, of the candidate or the last name of the candidate is written in the space provided."

Miller's lawsuit argues the state waited until this week—"the eleventh hour"—to release a written policy saying it would weigh voter intent in the counting process.

Consider Miller's suit a Hail Mary pass to salvage his campaign, a highly unlikely one at that. If Alaska election officials do follow the "voter intent" idea, and Miller's suit fails, we could see a winner announced in Juneau, where votes are currently being tallied, in the next day or two.

Closing the Achievement Gap: Race Still Matters

| Wed Nov. 10, 2010 7:06 AM EST

istockphoto.comistockphoto.comMore bad news for folks, who think that Obama's election landed us in a post-racial America. A new report (PDF) looking at math and reading proficiency among young black males in urban public schools concludes they're doing even worse than is generally known, and poverty alone doesn't explain it.

Race still matters. Case in point: African American boys who are not poor get the same test scores as white boys who live in poverty.

Most K-12 data is usually broken up by race or ethnicity, but not gender. What this sharpened interpretation reveals is that young black males face more obstacles to graduating from high school than any other subgroup, from living in a household without a male guardian, to more frequent encounters with overzealous cops, to higher dropout rates and more suspensions.
 

Advertise on MotherJones.com

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for November 10, 2010

Wed Nov. 10, 2010 6:30 AM EST

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jeremy Fehr, right, from the Iowa National Guard's 734th Agri-Business Development Team (ADT), speaks with Afghan children and their grandfather Oct. 24, 2010, during a veterinary outreach sustainment program in Marawara District, Kunar province, Afghanistan. Local veterinarians treated nearly 200 goats, sheep and cattle. The Iowa ADT provided financial support, quality control and security during the event. DoD photo by Capt. Peter Shinn, U.S. Air Force

Corn on "Hardball": Bush Still Spinning Lies on WMDs

Tue Nov. 9, 2010 7:18 PM EST

David Corn and Tom DeFrank joined Chris Matthews on MSNBC's Hardball to discuss George W. Bush's recent sit-downs with Matt Lauer and Oprah Winfrey and his persistent lies about Saddam Hussein's ability to manufacture weapons of mass destruction.

David Corn is Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief. For more of his stories, click here. He's also on Twitter.

DOJ: No Charges for 2005 Destruction of Interrogation Tapes

| Tue Nov. 9, 2010 3:50 PM EST

The Justice Department just announced that prosecutor John Durham won't bring any charges for the 2005 destruction of 92 videotapes allegedly showing the torture of terrorist suspects Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. More here.

The Coming Assault on Climate Science

| Tue Nov. 9, 2010 1:25 PM EST

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has made no bones about the fact that he plans to "investigate" climate science and climate scientists when he chairs the House Oversight Committee in the next Congress. Same goes for Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.), who wants to keep the Select Committee for Energy Independence and Global Warming alive only so he can make a mockery of the science.

So it was somewhat bizarre that Greg Sargent headlined a post yesterday, "GOP leadership cool to hearings into 'scientific fraud' underlying global warming." The post says that Joe Barton (R-Tex.), who hopes to chair the Energy and Commerce Committee, doesn't plan to hold hearings on the science of climate change—only on the Environmental Protection Agency's planned regulations for greenhouse gases, the stuff that's warming the planet.

Where to begin? Well, first, this ignores that Issa has stated very clearly that he intends to hold hearings on the subject, among the 280 hearings he has planned for 2011. We also have Sensenbrenner looking to rehash the science, though he, too, framed it as a regulatory oversight mission rather than an investigation of the science in an op-ed in Roll Call yesterday. "Now that Republicans have retaken the House, the Select Committee is more qualified than any other Congressional institution to ensure the administration doesn't bend to unrealistic international demands—and that the EPA doesn’t attempt to do what Congress wouldn't," he wrote.

Here's the deal though. The idea that hearings about EPA regulations are not going to be about the underlying science is patently absurd. Barton and Sensenbrenner want to paint this as all about jobs and whether greenhouse gas regs are worth any possible cost to the economy. But neither Sensenbrenner, nor Barton, nor the vast majority of their Republican colleagues think that the planet is warming due to human activity. Thus, they will never agree that the EPA is right in their finding that greenhouse gases are a threat that needs to be regulated, or that any action is "worth" it, whether from the EPA or Congress. Barton and friends reject the fact that, under the direction of the Supreme Court's decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, the EPA determined that greenhouse gases do in fact pose a threat to human health and well-being and thus the agency is legally obligated to take action to reduce those emissions. Barton has been clear that he wants to go after the endangerment finding—which, by nature, is an assault on the scientific conclusion that these gases are warming the planet and putting humans in harm's way.

Sargent's post hints at the fact that the economic approach is just a different, more strategic way of coming at the issue, without recognizing that these same Republicans don't think global warming is an issue in the first place:

Separately, the GOP leadership is apparently aware what a circus hearings into the allegedly fraudulent science underlying global warming would be -- and how it would play into Dem efforts to paint Republicans as hostage to extremists.
"It's just not the best strategy," a senior GOP aide says. "The most effective way to fight the national energy tax is to talk about the economic effect and jobs."

So GOP leaders realize that painting this as an assault on the science will only come across as loony to the American public, most of whom recognize that climate change is a threat. They're shrewd enough to recast it as an economic issue, but all that doesn't change the fact that we're endangering ourselves by not taking action. Denying that is an assault on science, no matter how they frame it.