Mojo - December 2010

Crudbump Music Videos, Part II: Winter Weather (NSFW)

| Fri Dec. 3, 2010 4:01 AM EST

Winter weather got you down? We hear you. We're jamming out these days to the synthesized weirdness of this comedian Drew, who recently cut the album Nasty Jams under the name Crudbump. In this, the second half of our featured Crudbump end-of-year reflections, he helps you channel your anger at the slush that soaks your skinny jeans and wintertime Chucks. Enjoy the catharsis!

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Bush Tax Cuts: Progressives Prevail...For Now

| Thu Dec. 2, 2010 5:45 PM EST

On Thursday, congressional Democrats took a big step toward resolving the fiercest battle of this lame-duck session: deciding the fate of the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts. By a vote of 234 to 188, Democrats passed a bill that will permanently extend the tax cuts for couples earning less than $250,000 and single earners making less than $200,000. The bill also slashes the capital gains and dividend taxes for the middle and working classes.

House Republicans vehemently opposed the measure, with House Minority Leader John Boehner calling it "chicken crap." GOPers say the Bush tax cuts should be extended for all earners, while Democrats claimed the GOP was unfairly binding cuts for the middle class to those for the wealthy. As Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.) put it on Thursday, "We must not let middle-income taxpayers remain hostage to a partisan agenda."

It was progressive Democrats who took to the House floor on Thursday to rally behind relief for the middle class. Indeed, the fate of the Bush tax cuts represents progressives' last major legislative effort before their power is curtailed, when the GOP takes control of the House and claims six more Senate seats. And, for the time being, they managed overcome Republican opposition, as well as detractors in their own party, to help the middle class.

Mullen on DADT: Shut Your Trap, McCain (VIDEO)

| Thu Dec. 2, 2010 5:24 PM EST

[For a recap of today's Capitol Hill DADT drama, also read editorial intern Siddhartha Mahanta's take here.]

Honor. Courage. Commitment. These are the Navy core values. And today, discussing his support for a repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Joint Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen exhibited them all, while dressing down one subordinate, Capt. John S. McCain (USN-Retired). Defense Secretary Bob Gates locked sights on the Arizona senator, too. The video:

 

 

In 2006, McCain—whose political career is based on his mythos as a war hero—said this:

I understand the opposition to it, and I've had these debates and discussions. But the day that the leadership of the military comes to me and says, "Senator, we ought to change the policy," then I think we ought to consider seriously changing it, because those leaders in the military are the ones we give the responsibility to.

Yet today, he refused to acknowledge Mullens' and Gates' leadership. And the military men were having none of it. As Armchair Generalist blogger Jason Sigger put it:

SHORTER ADM Mullen: "Listen, old man, don't ever fucking tell me about how to command troops. I've been there, done that, and you never made flag rank in your Navy career."

Top GOPers McCain and McKeon Bucking DADT's Repeal

| Thu Dec. 2, 2010 3:02 PM EST

All that talk of a brewing GOP civil war? Premature, as far as ending Don't Ask, Don't Tell is concerned—just ask Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Representative Buck McKeon (R-Calif.). McCain is the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services committee; McKeon is his counterpart in the House, and the expected pick to lead the committee in the 112th congress. As the top Republican lawmakers on defense issues, they're united their opposition against ending DADT, the policy that prevents homosexuals from serving openly in the military.

After asking hundreds of thousands of servicemen and women for their views on the DADT, the Pentagon released a study on Tuesday concluding that ending the policy wouldn't have negative consequences. But McCain and McKeon don't buy it. At a Senate hearing on Thursday, McCain claimed the survey asked the wrong questions and didn't include enough respondents. Over in the House, it's McKeon said he's "been [in Washington] long enough to know that when you rush things through or jam something through without . . . giving people a chance to really flesh things out and really look at issues in depth, you make some big mistakes." Unlike McCain, McKeon never served in military. But as the future House Armed Services Committee chairman, he'll soon be in a position with considerable influence over issues like DADT.

McCain hopes that "everyone will recognize that this debate is focused on our military and its effectiveness, not on broader social issues being debated in our society at large." McCain and McKeon's outdated responses show how out of step they are with the rest of the country. There's more than readiness and bureaucratic proceduralism at stake here. A military that is tasked with enforcing freedom and equality around the world but doesn’t require the same discipline of itself is a walking, talking, gun-toting hypocrisy. There's no gray area here.

How the GOP Could Steal Xmas

| Thu Dec. 2, 2010 2:03 PM EST

Here's some holiday gloom for you: Two million out-of-work Americans will lose their safety net this month if Congress fails to extend temporary unemployment insurance. Another seven million will lose their benefits within the year. And the economy could shed 0.6 percentage points in gross domestic product if jobless benefits aren't extended. Those are the grim highlights of a new report (PDF) by the White House's Council of Economic Advisers.

The White House's latest report gives supporters of extending jobless benefits, mostly Democrats, more ammunition. For instance, the report found that 14 million jobless Americans received financial support as of October. For some families, these benefits are crucial to staying afloat: In 42 percent of households where there's one earner and that person collects unemployment insurance, the elimination of these benefits would wipe out 90 percent of their income.

By not acting sooner, Congress has already allowed two emergency forms of unemployment insurance to begin to expire on Wednesday. The benefits were originally created in 2008, as the economy collapsed and unemployment soared. Now, however, lawmakers can't reach a compromise on whether to continue them. Republicans refuse to support the benefits because they'd add to the deficit, even though members of both parties have traditionally approved unemployment benefits because they're an "emergency" measure.

When asked on Thursday about Republican intransigence, Austan Goolsbee, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, pointed out the GOP was denouncing the extention of jobless benefits while simultaneously demanding tax cuts for the rich—which would also add to the deficit. "The Republicans arguing that we should pay for emergency unemployment insurance but not pay for high-income tax extensions does not make any sense," he told reporters.

Unlike the tax cuts, Goolsbee said, failing to extend unemployment insurance threatens to derail the economy's tepid recovery. "Letting millions more Americans fall into hardship will hurt our economy at this critical point in our recovery and immediately undermine consumer spending," he said.

What Would You Call Your PAC?

| Thu Dec. 2, 2010 2:02 PM EST

Coming up with names for political action committees is among the odder dark arts practiced in Washington, DC. Unlike most branding excercises, naming a PAC is not about finding a name that's descriptive or catchy. Rather it's about finding a name that most people will read right past. As Nicko Margolies of the Sunlight Foundation writes, "These names are so agreeable, so reasonable, so inclusive, so damned American and yet their names reveal nothing about who funded these groups. It could be your coworkers, a couple billionaires, a band of small business owners, a gaggle of big corporations or maybe that nice fellow who says hello every morning. You just don’t know." And that's how we wound up with hundreds of political fundraising groups with anodyne names like Alliance for America's Future, Progress, Vision & Commitment, Invest in a Strong and Secure America, and Beacuse I Care PAC. (There are some amusing exceptions, such as Lousiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu's Jazz PAC and House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi's PAC to the Future).

So what would you call your shadowy fundraising organization? The Sunlight Foundation has just released this fun widget that generates 28,000 different imaginary PAC names. (My favorites so far: A P.O. Box for America's Founding Fathers, Households for America the Beautiful, and Vampires for Prosperity.) Give it a spin:

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Will the Tea Party Pick the Next RNC Chair?

| Thu Dec. 2, 2010 8:30 AM EST

Picking the chairman of the Republican Party is not the most democratic process. Regular rank and file party members don't have much say over who's in charge. The decision is made by the 168 members of the Republican National Committee. Normally the campaign is highly insular, with lots of backdoor deal-making. But this year isn’t a normal year in politics, in large part because of the rise of the tea party movement—which for the first time this week is trying to play a role in deciding who takes the helm of the GOP.

Despite record Republican gains in elected offices around the country, many influential party members, including Dick Cheney, are deeply unhappy with the current RNC chairman, Michael Steele. Some of those people are attempting to enlist the tea party to help unseat him. The problem? The tea partiers can't actually vote for the RNC chair. So instead, on Wednesday, the conservative advocacy group and tea party supporter FreedomWorks and the Republican National Conservative Caucus hosted a debate among aspiring RNC chairmen who'd like to knock off Steele—and the groups let tea partiers take a shot at vetting them.

Organizers invited tea party members to attend and field questions for the candidates, both by email and Twitter, and the debate was webcast by FreedomWorks so that tea partiers everywhere could watch. (Twenty RNC members were also in the audience.) Whether the grassroots activists will ultimately play a big role in electing the next RNC chair is anyone's guess, but as FreedomWorks VP Max Pappas said, their involvement in such an unprecedented public debate was certainly bringing some transparency to the process.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for December 2, 2010

Thu Dec. 2, 2010 6:30 AM EST

Spc. Joseph Murphy, front, and Sgt. David Shanahan secure a section of canal during a site survey near Highway 1, Zabul Province, Afghanistan, Nov. 27. Specialist Murphy and Sergeant Shanahan are assigned to Provincial Reconstruction Team Zabul's security force. U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson

Kentucky Offers Tax Breaks for Noah's Ark Theme Park

| Wed Dec. 1, 2010 6:00 PM EST

At a press conference in Frankfort today, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear announced his unlikely plan to save the state's economy—by offering a massive tax incentive to the planners of Ark Encounter, an eco-friendly Noah's Ark theme park to be built outside Cincinnati. Building a Genesis-based theme park, during a recession? Shouldn't he be focusing on Job?

Per the Herald-Leader:

During the news conference, Beshear was asked several questions regarding the separation of church and state and whether support of the project was constitutional.

He said the law does not allow him to discriminate against a for-profit business because of the subject matter. Not everyone supports NASCAR, the governor said, but that did not stop him for providing incentives to allow Kentucky Speedway to hold a Sprint cup race next year.

He said there was nothing "remotely unconstitutional" about the business and the economic impact it would have on the state.

A Noah's Ark theme park actually sounds like a lot of fun—animals (x2), water, "replica of the Tower of Babel"—and if it can replicate the success of the nearby Creation Museum (run by the same group, Answers in Genesis), it promises to be an economic boon. Eighty percent of the museum's visitors come from out of state, which means that, sinkholes permitting, they're likely to cram as much into their visit to Kentucky as possible. Beshear's justifications seem legally airtight—even American Atheists couldn't come up with any objections.

But it also amounts to a giveaway (as much as $37.5 million) to AiG, an organization that's committed to defeating secular science education; (the park promises educational exhibits to go with its amusements). And while Beshear says he'd be open to the same kind of deal with any for-profit religious organization, is there any realistic chance of anyone besides AiG creating something of this stature? The market for a Hijra-themed resort in Paducah seems a little dry right now.

Videos: Confederates Are Cool Again!

| Wed Dec. 1, 2010 4:30 PM EST

Are you fed up with the feds? Do you think that 1) Obama is a modern-day Abe Lincoln, and 2) that's a horrible thing?

Are you into celebrating eugenics your heritage, defending slavery your homeland, and denouncing the US Constitution unfair tariffs on your exports?

You might be a neo-Confederate! And brothers and sisters, do we have a club for you! Just in time for the 150th anniversary of the shots that started the Civil War, one longtime Southern—ahem—heritage society, the Sons of Confederate Veterans, is celebrating with a huge membership drive and a bevy of TV commercials...some of which had been airing on the History Channel. Until Monday, that is, when the History Channel figured their ads should probably reflect some basic understanding of, you know, history. (Watch three of the ads, embedded below.)