Mojo - April 2011

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for April 21, 2011

Thu Apr. 21, 2011 5:30 AM EDT

U.S. Army Pvt. 2nd Class Jeff Frizzell, cannoneer, and U.S. Army Sgt. Robert Sullivan, gunner, conduct a proficiency drill demonstration with fellow members of the A-3/321 Field Artillery Regiment Wednesday at Forward Operating Base Salerno. The soldiers performed the drill with a M777A2 howitzer while being observed by U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Marvin Hill, senior enlisted leader, International Security Assistance Force/U.S. Forces-Afghanistan. Photo via US Army.

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Czar Wars

| Wed Apr. 20, 2011 4:18 PM EDT

Here's a fight I'll be keeping an eye on once Congress returns from this week's recess. After Republican leaders hailed the elimination of four of the Obama Administration's controversial "czars" in the budget approved last week, President Obama on Friday issued a signing statement arguing that he does, in fact, retain the ability to appoint special advisers:

The President has well-established authority to supervise and oversee the executive branch, and to obtain advice in furtherance of this supervisory authority. The President also has the prerogative to obtain advice that will assist him in carrying out his constitutional responsibilities, and do so not only from executive branch officials and employees outside the White House, but also from advisers within it.
Legislative efforts that significantly impede the President's ability to exercise his supervisory and coordinating authorities or to obtain the views of the appropriate senior advisers violate the separation of powers by undermining the President's ability to exercise his constitutional responsibilities and take care that the laws be faithfully executed. Therefore, the executive branch will construe section 2262 not to abrogate these Presidential prerogatives.

The "czars" Republicans targeted included:

  • the director of the White House Office of Health Reform (health care czar)
  • the senior adviser on the auto industry (car czar)
  • senior counselor for manufacturing policy (manufacturing czar)
  • White House director of urban affairs (urban czar)

The senior advisor in the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change, or "climate czar," was also a target of Republican ire. But that was already a moot point, since Obama did away with the office following Carol Browner's resignation earlier this year.

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) is already accusing Obama of acting like a "dictator" in defying the czar decree. Whether Republicans will make hay of Obama's override will be worth watching.

Video: Carolina Tea Partiers Love Trump!

| Wed Apr. 20, 2011 3:06 PM EDT

Karl Rove must be horrified at what American conservatism's become. Earlier this week, the master of top-down political messaging took billionaire birther Donald Trump to task for discrediting the Republican Party with his anti-Obama claptrap and joke presidential candidacy. "This is a mistake," Rove said of the Donald's crass tack. "It will marginalize him and he's falling into Barack Obama's trap."

Or, it will make him insanely popular with the base of the base of the GOP. Witness this six minutes of jaw-dropping testimony from South Carolina tea partiers at a rally Monday, where Gov. Nikki Haley and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Nowhere Near South Carolina) spoke to the crowd. Democratic operative Tyler Jones documented the tea partiers' zeitgeist on film. "I interviewed around 25 people total and probably 75 percent of them said they were supporting Donald Trump," Jones told Slate's Dave Weigel, "and just about every single person is a birther. I took two hours of footage and chopped it down to six minutes of mind-blowing stuff."

On one level, not all that surprising. On another level...well, here's what Weigel says:

Remember those interviews with racist Democratic voters in West Virginia back in 2008? Remember the interviews outside McCain-Palin rallies -- that nice gentleman with the toy monkey who called it "little Hussein"? Yeah. Things are not better now. And there aren't any Democratic primary rallies at which conservatives can record competing videos.

Anyway, check out this video. It really has to be seen to be believed:

Florida's Genius Solution to Unemployment: Super-hero Capes

| Wed Apr. 20, 2011 1:20 PM EDT

Forget job retraining or back-to-school money or even another stimulus package. An employment center in central Florida has the answer to ending the Sunshine State's chronic unemployment problem: Red super-hero capes.

Yes, that's right. As WFTV Orlando reports, a new marketing initiative unveiled by an outfit called Workforce Central Florida (self-described as the "region's workforce expert") called the "Cape-ability Challenge" gives red capes to jobless Floridians as a way to boost their job-seeking prospects. The state-funded workforce organization reportedly spent $14,000 on 6,000 capes as part of the campaign, which a state workforce group called "insensitive and wasteful." The capes fit in with Workforce Central Florida's comic book-inspired campaign that features a villain named "Dr. Evil Unemployment."

Now, the state is investigating Workforce Central Florida over the cape campaign. Hmm, wonder why. Here's more from WFTV:

The newest allegation of misspending involves a marketing campaign, in which the chairman of the board for the job agency marches around in a super-hero cape.

[...]

Job-seekers such as Gregory Bryant said the capes are a waste of money and they're offended by the cartoon-like portrayal of being unemployed.

"Would you wear this around?" WFTV reporter Bianca Castro asked Bryant.

"No, I mean, would you?" Bryant answered. "It's a mockery to Americans."

The bizarre campaign, however, didn't last long. In a Wednesday press release, the group announced it was canning the cape idea, which it described as an "admittedly out-of-the-box creative campaign."

All Dems Opposing Medicare Panel Have Major Industry Ties

| Wed Apr. 20, 2011 12:58 PM EDT

A small but growing Democrats are lining up to oppose a major element of Obama's deficit reduction plan—and all have received major campaign contributions to the health care industry. As I wrote last week, Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.) became the third and highest-profile House Democrat to support a GOP bill to repeal a Medicare panel with sweeping authority to make spending cuts to health-care providers and services.

The Medicare panel, known as the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), raised the hackles of health care industry groups that could take a hit from such cuts. Unsurprisingly, all the Democrats who want to repeal the board—including two business-friendly New Democrats and one pro-labor liberal Dem—have received major campaign contributions from the health care industry. 

Health professionals were the top industry donating to Rep. Shelly Berkeley’s campaign committee in the 2010 election cycle, and they’re the second-largest industry to donate directly to her campaign since the Nevada Democrat's election to Congress in 2000. Similarly, as Jonathan Cohn points out, health professionals are the third-largest group to donate to Schwartz, who also receives big donations from the pharmaceutical industry. Finally, Pharma was the fifth biggest donor to Rep. Mike Capuano (D-Mass.), a liberal Dem who received more than $100,000 in 2010 alone from the industry. 

Unlike the Republicans who oppose IPAB, these Democrats don't cite industry concerns in explaining their support for repeal. Rather, they stress the argument that the board—made up of 15 White House-appointed, Senate-confirmed members—goes too far in bypassing Congress. But given the strong industry opposition to the board—and Obama’s recent vow to expand its authority to include Big Pharma, which isn't under the current purview of IPAB—there's no question health care lobbyists are making sure that sympathetic members of Congress are hearing out their concerns. 

Missouri Legislator Still Can't Explain Why He Wants to Ban Shariah

| Wed Apr. 20, 2011 10:45 AM EDT

About a month ago, we told you about a bill before Missouri's legislature to ban Islamic Shariah law from being enforced in state courts. The proposal, introduced by Republican state Rep. Paul Curtman, drew its language from the sample legislation drafted by David Yerushalmi, an Arizona-based attorney who has previously called for Muslims to be deported. Since the beginning of 2009, two dozen states have considered proposals to ban Shariah, many of which have borrowed Yerushalmi's language.

Yesterday, the Missouri bill passed out of committee in the House, after a heated debate. Per KMOX:

"This bill will go to court and you are wasting your ink on this paper. Because this will not be upheld in court," [Democratic Rep. Jamilah] Nasheed said Tuesday. "You're wasting your time gentleman. You're wasting your time in this body."

Nasheed called on Curtman to provide a list of cases in which international law had been used in American courts but Curtman was unable to provide an example of such a case.

Why should that sound familiar? Because this exact same scenario unfolded in March, when Curtman held a press conference unveil the bill. Here was his response then when a reporter asked for examples:

"I don't have the specifics with me right now but if you go to—the web address kind of escapes my mind right now. Any Google search on international law used in the state courts in the U.S. is going to turn up some cases for you."

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Embattled WI GOPer Sends Constituents to Adult Chat Line

| Wed Apr. 20, 2011 6:00 AM EDT

Randy Hopper, a Republican State Senator in Wisconsin, has had a rough few months. The target of a recall effort for his vote in favor of Republican Governor Scott Walker's anti-union "repair" bill, Hopper suffered quite the embarassment in March when protesters arrived at his home in Fond du Lac in eastern Wisconsin. Demanding that Hopper come outside, the protesters instead encountered Hopper's estranged wife, who explained that Hopper actually lived in Madison with a 26-year-old mistress. Next, it emerged that Walker's chief of staff helped land Hopper's mistress a prime job in the Wisconsin state government.

In the latest juicy news on Sen. Hopper, Raw Story reports that a letter from Hopper's office lists for constituents a contact number that is in fact an adult chat line. Callers to the number are greeted with a voice saying, "Hey there, sexy guy..." It's unclear how Hopper managed to send constituents to a service that bills itself as "the country's favorite live talk," but the gaffe is yet another headache for the embattled Republican.

Not as big a headache, of course, as Hopper's impending recall election. Democrats gathered more than 23,000 signatures on their recall petition targeting Hopper, well over than necessary amount needed to trigger a new election. Hopper's opponent in the recall election will be Jessica King, the deputy mayor of the city of Oshkosh. Hopper is one of four Republican State Senators who will face a recall election this year.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for April 20, 2011

Wed Apr. 20, 2011 5:30 AM EDT

Army Sgt. Derric Byrd, a sling load technician with Okinawa, Japan, 35th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, sling loads a pallet of water to a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter at Ishanomki, Japan, April 11. The sling load Byrd and his other soldiers prepared was delivered to residents in some of the most remote areas of the tsunami ravaged areas of Japan. Photo via US Army.

Mitch Daniels Was Once Caught With 2 Shoeboxes Full of Weed?

| Wed Apr. 20, 2011 3:01 AM EDT
Mitt and T-Paw Go To White Castle.

When it comes to pot, we've come a long way from the days of "I did not inhale." Fifteen states (plus the District of Columbia) currently permit the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, and according to a recent Pew survey, 45-percent of Americans say they'd support legalizing marijuana outright—a 29-point increase from just two decades ago. Cannabis is fast losing its political stigma, too: The GOP might march in lockstep on abortion and tax cuts, but when it comes to pot, things get a bit hazier. Some of the party's presidential candidates have never touched the stuff; more than a few of them inhaled; one of them even got nabbed in a drug bust. In honor of 4/20, here's a quick guide to where the GOP's 2012 contenders stand on pot:

Mitch Daniels: As a student in Princeton, the Indiana governor was arrested in a police sting that netted two size-12 shoeboxes worth of marijuana, along with LSD and drug paraphernalia. Daniels was cited for pot possession but got off with a $350 fine for "maintaining a common nuisance." He told the Daily Princetonian in 1988 that because of the arrest "any goal I might have had for competing for public office were shot," and later called the incident an "unfortunate confluence of my wild oats period and America's libertine apogee" (far out!). As governor, Daniels has endorsed alternative sentencing for non-violent offenses like pot possession as a way to reduce prison overcrowding.

Jon Huntsman: In 1978, the US ambassador to China dropped out of high school to play in a prog rock band called "Wizard." As Politico noted, two of his bandmates were "very active in drugs," but Huntsman, who is Mormon, never joined in, and a friend says he "never saw him inhale." Medical marijuana is not legal in Utah, where Huntsman was governor for four years.

Mike Huckabee: He opposes marijuana legalization in any form, but did invite Tommy Chong (of Cheech and Chong fame) on his TV show to discuss pot policy, for a segment called "Is Pot Ruining Our Kids?" Chong ended the segment by calling Huckabee a "mushroom farmer," because "you keep 'em in the dark and throw [expletive] at them":

BP's Back in the Electoral Game

| Tue Apr. 19, 2011 3:13 PM EDT

Three hundred and sixty-four days after the explosion that caused the largest oil spill in US history, BP is back in action in electoral politics. The Hill reports that the company has made generous contributions to a number of House lawmakers and congressional campaign committees, with all but one of those donations going to Republicans:

BP Corp. North America gave $5,000 contributions to [House Speaker John] Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) through its political action committee, according to a campaign finance report filed with the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday.

BP's PAC also gave $5,000 to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.), House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), the National Republican Congressional Committee, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Only one Democrat—Rep. Pete Visclosky of Indiana—received a donation ($3,000).

In the wake of the spill, BP's federal contributions basically stopped; the one check the company did cut to a House member was refused. BP did, however, make some contributions to state-level candidates. Buta year after the spill, it's apparently acceptable to take BP's campaign cash once again.

UPDATE: Upton tells The Hill that he plans to return the BP money.