Mojo - March 2011

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Tea Party Rally Washout

| Thu Mar. 31, 2011 2:04 PM PDT

Previewing a protest on the Hill targeting the GOP leadership's failure to sufficiently cut the federal budget, the Washington Times ran a front-page, above the fold story headlined "Tea party to storm capital for 'gut check.'" The storm never came—unless you are referring solely to the weather.

Given the weak turnout for the "continuing revolution" event, as the Tea Party Patriots dubbed it, it would be hard to say that any storming occurred at the rally—unless you are solely referring to the weather. Maybe 40 or 50 tea partiers turned out for the "continuing revolution" rally. Granted, it was 40 degrees and raining out, but tea partiers are a hearty bunch who are not usually deterred by bad weather. The problem may lie with the issue at hand: it's awfully hard to mobilize people around yet another "continuing resolution" to keep the government open.

Scott Walker Agrees to Halt Controversial "Repair" Bill

| Thu Mar. 31, 2011 9:48 AM PDT

After a county judge ruled for the second time that Wisconsin's controversial anti-union bill was not in fact law, Republican Governor Scott Walker and his administration agreed to suspend its implementation.

On March 18, Judge Maryann Sumi issued a temporary restraining order blocking the bill until a court decided if Republican legislators had violated a state open meetings law when they originally passed the measure. But the Walker administration went ahead with plans to enforce the law anyway, gearing up to start deducting more money from the paychecks of state workers mandated by the bill. The bill's most controversial provisions, of course, ban collective bargaining rights on health care and pension benefits for most public-sector unions—provisions that have sparked nearly two months of protest in Madison, the state capital.

Early this morning, Judge Sumi clarified that the bill was not law and threatened to sanction on anyone who tried to enforce it. An official with the Walker administration announced soon after that "given the most recent court action we will suspend the implementation of [WI Act 10] at this time."

Here's more from the Associated Press:

Early Thursday morning Sumi added the non-effect declaration to her restraining order clarifying that the law has not been published and is therefore not in effect. She is expected to take more testimony at a hearing on Friday.

Ozanne said Thursday that Sumi's ruling speaks for itself. Justice Department spokesman Bill Cosh had no immediate comment.

A spokesman for Republican Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald said he had nothing new to say beyond his previous statement that he didn't believe the judge had the authority to interject herself into the affairs of the Legislature given the separation of powers.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald had no immediate comment.

The Legislature was scheduled to be in session Tuesday to pass other parts of Walker's plan to balance the current year's budget that faces a $137 million shortfall. There were no immediate plans to take up the collective bargaining piece again. The judge has said lawmakers could avoid the legal fight by passing it a second time, but legislative leaders have said they are confident it was done correctly the first time and it will prevail in court.

The Great Sharia Freakout

| Thu Mar. 31, 2011 9:08 AM PDT

We've reported pretty extensively on recent efforts by conservative politicans to turn Islamic law into a bogeyman (see: here, here, and here). In doing so, it's become pretty clear that much, if not all, of the anti-Sharia movement is based on just plain bad information. How else can you explain the suggestion that Afghan-style tribal courts could somehow be instituted in South Dakota, for instance, or that a judge in Florida crossed any sort of line when he ordered two Muslim parties to settle their matter (per the terms of their contract) through an Islamic arbitrator?

In that vein, Wajahat Ali and Matt Duss at the Center for American Progress have a new report out today that pretty systematically dismantles the basic premise, espoused by prominent conservatives like Newt Gingrich, that Sharia poses an existential threat to the United States. It specifically takes aim at Frank Gaffney's Center for Security Policy, a think tank that's deeply influential in Republican circles, and more or less provides the intellectual clout (such as it is) for the anti-Sharia movement. A sample:

The "Sharia threat" argument is based on an extreme type of scripturalism where one pulls out verses from a sacred text and argues that believers will behave according to that text. But this argument ignores how believers themselves understand and interpret that text over time.

The equivalent would be saying that Jews stone disobedient sons to death (Deut. 21:18-21) or that Christians slay all non-Christians (Luke 19:27). In a more secular context it is similar to arguing that the use of printed money in America is unconstitutional—ignoring the interpretative process of the Supreme Court.

The report (which you can read here) does not address the future scourge of secular atheist Islamists that Gingrich warns could someday lord over the continent. But if Gingrich's recent record is any indication, he'll likely offer his own rebuttal sometime next week.

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Texas Bill Would Ban TSA From Touching Your Junk

| Thu Mar. 31, 2011 3:35 AM PDT

Texas state Rep. David Simpson, a Republican from Longview, has introduced a bill that would make it a Class A misdemeanor for TSA agents to touch your junk. The bill applies to anyone in Texas who, "as part of a search performed to grant access to a publicly accessible building or form of transportation, intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly:

(A) searches another person without probable cause to believe the person committed an offense; and

(B) touches the anus, sexual organ, or breasts of the other person, including touching through clothing, or touches the other person in a manner that would be offensive to a reasonable person.

The Don't Touch My Junk Act of 2011, as it really should be called, does not mince words. The terms "penetration," "anus," and "sexual organ" appear four, eight, and nine times, respectively. Of course, this hasn't stopped the bill from attracting dozens of cosponsors. The governing philosophy (and anti-littering campaign) known as "Don't Mess With Texas" easily finds its analogue in "Don't Touch My Junk."

And what's wrong with banning airport junk touching? Submitting to blatant penile groping surely isn't an indispensable part of getting from Houston to Amarillo. And yet. One libertarian tells the Texas Tribune that messing with the TSA might not be worth it:

Federal employees currently hold immunity for acts they carry out while on duty, he said, and state officials are likely to face criminal charges from impeding TSA agents from doing their job. "And then who pays?" he asked. "Ultimately taxpayers pay."

 In other words, don't touch my wallet.

Another Phony Planned Parenthood Sting

| Thu Mar. 31, 2011 3:00 AM PDT

In February, Lila Rose, a 22-year-old anti-abortion activist, made headlines with a series of undercover videos that purportedly showed Planned Parenthood employees assisting pimps with getting abortions and contraception for their underage sex slaves. It came out that PP had reported Rose's phony sex traffickers to the feds, but no matter. The hoax gave new fodder to the family-planning organization's congressional opponents, and Rose still cites it as evidence that PP has "conceal[ed] statutory rape and help[ed] child sex traffickers."

Yesterday, Rose, a protegé of video-sting provocateur James O'Keefe, released a new video that she claims catches the president of PP in a major lie. Here's what she says she uncovered: In an appearance on the Joy Behar Show, PP president Cecile Richards lied when she said the following about a proposal to cut federal funding to her group:

If this bill ever becomes law, millions of women in this country are gonna lose their health care access–not to abortion services–to basic family planning, you know, mammograms.

That statement, Rose asserts, is "blatantly false" because PP does not offer mammograms. To prove this, her "investigative team" called 30 PP clinics across the country and couldn't find one that provided breast cancer screenings. Based on those surreptitiously recorded calls, Rose concludes, "This is only the latest in Planned Parenthood's abusive and deceptive activity." Andrew Breitbart, who publishes posts by Rose on his Big Government site, has dubbed PP's allegedly false claims a "mammosham."