Mojo - April 2011

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for April 11, 2011

Mon Apr. 11, 2011 2:30 AM PDT

U.S. Army Sgt. Alex Marsh, Mad Dog Troop, 4th Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment from Vilseck, Germany, provides security for a Human Terrain Team in front of a Stryker armored vehicle in a village near Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, April 3. HTTs are composed of military and civilian personnel that interact with the local populace to gain knowledge, so they may aid in creating a stable environment and learn on how to conduct future military and humanitarian operations. Photo via US Army

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The Week in Sharia: New York's Peter King Hearings

| Sun Apr. 10, 2011 10:22 AM PDT

Let's have an adult conversation:

  • One week after bragging that he would not permit Muslims to serve in his administration, GOP presidential candidate and pizza magnate Herman Cain alleged that Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) has pledged his loyalty to Islamic law, rather than the Constitution. Per the Allen West Theorem—which states that anytime someone says anything that ridiculous, the freshman Florida congressman probably said it first—we'll just note that Allen West said this first.
  • Other people who probably won't be a part of the Herman Cain administration: Herman Cain, who trails President Obama in his home state of Georgia.
  • South Carolina came one step closer to becoming the third state to ban Islam law from being enforced in state courts.
  • The British Royal Family is in on it.
  • Nebraska State Sen. Mark Christensen introduced his state's anti-Sharia bill after a meeting with his local chapter of ACT! for America, reports Salon's Justin Elliott. The Southern Poverty Law Center classifies ACT! as a "hate group."
  • Former Florida House Majority Leader Adam Hasner wants to be the next United States senator from the Sunshine State, which is why he was in the Orlando area on Wednesday warning tea party activists about the threat of "progressive Sharia-compliant Islam." We have no idea what that phrase even means, and Hasner, for his part, hasn't clarified.
  • The New York State Senate held hearings on the threat of Islamic extremism to the Empire State. To demonstrate just how seriously they take the threat of Islamic extremism, senate GOPers selected as their star witness Frank Gaffney, who once wrote an entire column arguing that the Defense Department's missile defense logo is a gateway to Islamic law (heaven forbid Gaffney ever finds out about these). Also testifying: Rep. Peter King (R-NY), who told the committee that 99-percent of American Muslims are "outstanding Americans." 

 

This Week in Collective Bargaining

| Fri Apr. 8, 2011 11:42 AM PDT
Sanitation workers protested in Memphis 43 years ago.

This week's labor battles came from all over the country, with protests timed around the centennial of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. The March 1911 fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory killed 146 garment workers operating in unsafe working conditions and prompted improvements in worker rights.

Last Monday on the 4th, Oakland and San Francisco dock workers shut down Bay Area ports for 24 hours. Also that day, protestors in Madison, Wisconsin, dressed as zombies demanded "Brains!" from Governor Walker. In Connecticut, firefighters protested benefit and pension scale-backs; Vermont bus drivers picketed; and Pennsylvania news workers protested at the Erie Times-News office.

Organizers report thousands of other protests, teach-ins, and rallies were held nationwide. The rallies were in response to 729 collective bargaining-related bills sitting in 48 statehouses around the country. The National Conference of State Legislatures has created a database listing each bill and its (somewhat) current status. For a round-up of state labor battles, check out Matt Hrodey's post at the Milwaukee News Buzz.

Wisconsin

  • The hottest battle remains in Wisconsin, where a Supreme Court race between liberal candidate JoAnne Kloppenburg and conservative incumbent Justice David Prosser is still being hammered out. The election—largely considered more of a vote on collective bargaining than a judicial race—ended with a slim victory for Kloppenburg on Wednesday followed by a recount on Thursday. Kloppenburg kept the lead throughout most of the day. But in the 11th hour, a clerk in southeastern Wisconsin, with a notorious record for shady election-day blunders, declared she had missed more than 14,000 votes, placing Prosser in first place. But surely, that's not the last we'll hear of that.
  • On Wednesday, Wisconsin's Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen filed a petition asking the court to simply dismiss the restraining order that bars enforcement of the collective bargaining bill. The restraining order was issued by lower court Judge Maryann Sumi last month.
  • Wisconsin union organizers claim to have far more votes than needed for a recall of Republican Senators Dan Kapanke and Randy Hopper.

Ohio

In Ohio, collecting recall signatures is far from over. Last week, the state passed a collective bargaining bill that baned public sector striking; eliminated binding arbitration; and restricted collective bargaining. Labor organizers have galvanized efforts to put a referendum vote on the November ballot before the June 30 deadline.

Florida

On Wednesday, Florida teachers, police and firefighters packed the state Chamber of Commerce, irrate that they were used in this anti-union TV ad produced by the chamber:



Maine

In Maine, the Department of Labor has stepped into the battle over Governor Paul LePage's decision to remove a mural depicting the state's labor history from the Augusta Department of Labor building. The DOL says that mural was sponosred by the federal government and Maine has to either replace the mural or return the money, which was $60,000 at the time of the mural's inception. You can see the murals, created by Judy Taylor, on her personal website.

Tennessee, 1968

For a little piece of this week's labor history, listen to the stories of Memphis sanitation workers striking for collective bargaining rights. Monday, April 4th, was the 43rd anniversary of MLK Jr's assassination, the day before he was to march with the sanitation workers.

What Social Issues "Truce"?

| Fri Apr. 8, 2011 8:16 AM PDT

For the newly empowered Republicans, the budget fight was supposed to be about the numbers: slashing government spending, bringing down the deficit, and restoring the country to fiscal sanity. But a government shutdown now appears to hinge on the GOP's decision to slash subsidies for gynecological exams and local funding for abortions in the District of Columbia, as I reported on Thursday evening. It's a replay of the fight over the Affordable Care Act that happened almost exactly a year ago, when anti-abortion Democrats blocked the bill over abortion funding issues. 

The showdown should put to rest the notion that tea party-backed Republicans simply doesn't care about social issues. Since last year's elections, tea party organizers have tried to insist that the grassroots movement cares most about fiscal issues. "People didn’t come out into the streets to protest gay marriage or abortion," FreedomWorks' Brendan Steinhauser told Politico last month. The Christian Right, likewise, has expressed concern that their issues would be left on the backburner.
"There's a libertarian streak in the tea party movement that concerns me as a cultural conservative," said the American Family Association's Bryan Fischer. "The tea party movement needs to insist that candidates believe in the sanctity of life and the sanctity of marriage."

Well, these social conservatives seem to have little to worry about under the new GOP regime. Even if the tea party activists "in the streets" want the Congress to focus on fiscal issues, they've succeeded in electing the same old Republicans with the same agendas. Tea party heroes like Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) haven't abandoned their anti-abortion crusades. "Dems to force shutdown & stop troop funding unless taxpayers forced to fund abortions in DC," DeMint tweeted on Thursday night. Now that the tea party has helped put (or keep) them in power, they have full rein to push an agenda that pleases social conservatives and the Christian right—and use these issues to gain leverage over the Democrats. Whether the GOP's tea party supporters—and independent voters—will be happy about this development is another question altogether.

Oklahoma Birther Bill One Step Closer to Becoming Law

| Fri Apr. 8, 2011 7:22 AM PDT

Big news on the conspiracy theory front: On Wednesday, an Oklahoma House committee approved a bill requiring presidential candidates to present a valid, long-form birth certificate before their names can appear on the ballot in the Sooner State. More than a dozen states have considered "birther" bills since the beginning of 2009, but yesterday's vote puts Oklahoma on track to become the first state to actually enact such a law. The vote means the bill, which has already passed the state Senate, just needs to be approved by the full House before it can go to Republican Governor Mary Fallin's desk.

The bill's sponsor, Republican state Sen. Ralph Shortey, explained to The Oklahoman that under the proposed legislation, President Obama's certificate of live birth would be insufficient—even though not all states provide long-form birth certificates. He also took pains to note that this isn't a birther bill:

"A lot of people are classifying this as a birther bill which I don't think it is," Shortey said. "The concern has stemmed from the questions that have arisen from President Obama."

It's a bill that arises out of concerns that the President of the United States is ineligible for office because he was born in a different country, and therefore requires him to present a valid birth certificate, which he has already done. But it's not a birther bill; where would anyone get that idea?

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for April 8, 2011

Fri Apr. 8, 2011 2:30 AM PDT

U.S. Army Pfc. Ben Bradley (left), 7th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, ducks away from small arms fire, as fellow scout Sgt. Jeff Sheppard, launches a grenade at the enemy’s position, during a combat engagement in northern Bala Murghab Valley, Baghdis Province, Afghanistan April 4, 2011. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kevin Wallace

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The GOP's Phony Troop-Pay Ploy

| Fri Apr. 8, 2011 12:14 AM PDT

House Republicans want you to know what this budget battle and government shutdown are all about: screwing soldiers over. Many service members live paycheck to paycheck on modest incomes, and if no budget agreement is reached after Friday, a good number of them may be serving in a war zone for no pay until the Hill denizens are done duking it out. Hence the new GOP meme, typified in Suzy Khimm's excellent shutdown update:

Faulting Democrats for pushing the country toward a shutdown, Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.) noted that soldiers won't get paid unless there's a budget agreement. "You've got kids in the military serving in Afghanistan and Iraq whose wives are going to be wondering, 'Why didn't we get paid this month?'" Young said. "If they want that on their conscience, we're covered."...

When pressed about the bill's policy riders, however, House Republicans demurred—and simply continued bashing Democrats for harming America's troops. Asked whether the provisions were a dealbreaker, Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) replied: "Not at this point. We're going to pay attention and see what happens." Instead, Scott—who's one of two freshmen elected to be part of the GOP leadership—reverted to the GOP's mantra of the day. If Obama's "vetoing the troops, that's his decision," Scott told Mother Jones. "If he's willing to leave the troops without a paycheck, that's his decision."

Republicans have stuck to this message with a singular discipline rarely seen since the heyday of Newt. Except this message doesn't pass the smell test. The very same GOP congressmen crying "save the troops" are the ones who've been playing politics with the livelihoods of our (largely underpaid) serving men and women: For more than a week, they've had a bill, proposed by one of their own, that would keep soldiers' paychecks flowing in a shutdown. And they've sat on it.

Clerk's Error Gives WI Conservative Lead In Heated Election

| Thu Apr. 7, 2011 4:59 PM PDT
Conservative incumbent David Prosser.

In a stunning turnaround, the county clerk for Waukesha County, a heavily Republican district in southeast Wisconsin, announced on Thursday evening that she'd failed to count more than 14,000 votes cast in Tuesday's state Supreme Court election. The error, disclosed by a former state GOP lawmaker who's been criticized for her handling of local elections, handed conservative incumbent David Prosser a lead of 7,582 votes, flipping the result of the race after an initial tally put liberal JoAnne Kloppenburg ahead by a mere 204 votes.

The Waukesha clerk, Kathy Nickolaus, a Republican, said in a press conference that the new votes, all of which were cast in the city of Brookfield, were missed because of human error that's "common in this process." Nickolaus apologized for the mistake, saying, "The purpose of the canvas is to catch these kind of mistakes."

This isn't the first time Nickolaus' role in overseeing elections in Waukesha has been engulfed in controversy. In 2010, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that she bucked the traditional election results system in Wisconsin and instead kept the county's election results on "stand-alone personal computers accessible only in her office." Nickolaus cited security reasons for her unorthodox method. Not surprisingly, she received plenty of criticism for her unique handling of elections:

Director of Administration Norman A. Cummings said because Nickolaus has kept them out of the loop, the county's information technology specialists have not been able to verify Nickolaus' claim that the system is secure from failure.

"How does anybody else in the county know, except for her verbal word, that there are backups, and that the software she has out there is performing as it should?" he said. "There's no way I can assure that the election system is going to be fine for the next presidential election."

[…]

Mike Biagioli, the county's manager of information technology, sees risk in Nickolaus' action.

"What happens if something goes wrong on election night? We don't support her at all on election night. She was pretty clear about that. If something goes wrong, what do you do?" he said. "I would love to be able to go in and verify that everything is OK."

Other counties in Wisconsin also discovered additional votes throughout the day as they check their totals, but none of the changes were as drastic as Waukesha's. For instance, Winnebago County amended its vote total earlier on Thursday, giving Prosser a razor-thin 40-vote lead. Then Grant County released its revised totals, subtracting 113 votes from Prosser and restoring Kloppenburg's lead.

It's been a wild day in Wisconsin, and with further recounts and legal challenges likely to come, there's a ways to go before a winner is officially crowned. But the sudden revelation of more than 14,000 previously untallied votes in Waukesha is sure to fuel plenty of conspiracy theories and Gore-Bush 2000 comparisons in the days to come.

KBR Named "Top Employer" for Women?! (Video)

| Thu Apr. 7, 2011 4:18 PM PDT

Jaw, meet floor.

According to a company press release, war megacontractor KBR was voted one of the 50 top companies for women by readers of Woman Engineer magazine, one of several diversity-recruitment mags published by Long Island, New York-based Equal Opportunity Publications. "The readers of Woman Engineer magazine selected the top companies in the country for which they would most prefer to work or believe are progressive in hiring woman engineers," KBR said in its statement. The company came in at No. 46.

Wisconsin Recall Campaigns Bag Record Number of Signatures

| Thu Apr. 7, 2011 12:17 PM PDT

On the heels of liberal JoAnne Kloppenburg's stunning upset victory in Wisconsin's Supreme Court election on Tuesday (though a recount is forthcoming), the campaigns to recall Republicans in the Badger State are cruising, with enough signatures already gathered to trigger a recall of two Republican senators in the Badger State.

As Greg Sargent reports today, Wisconsin Democrats collected nearly 22,561 signatures in their effort to recall Sen. Dan Kapanke. That's nearly 7,000 more than they needed to launch a recall, and insurance against efforts by Kapanke's lawyers to challenge and potentially throw out some of the collected signatures. In a sign of buyer's remorse among Wisconsin voters, the time it took gather enough signatures to recall Kapanke was the fastest in Wisconsin history.

The next Wisconsin senator to face a recall effort is Republican Randy Hopper. In the Hopper recall effort, Sargent writes, progressives have collected almost 24,000 signatures—150 percent of the necessary 15,629 signatures, a staggering feat that comes scarcely a month after the Wisconsin Senate first passed Republican Governor Scott Walker's controversial anti-union bill.

Here's more from Sargent:

The news comes amid other signs that Hopper may be particularly vulnerable in a recall election. Two recent polls—one by the Dem firm Public Policy Polling, and another by Survey USA, commissioned by MoveOn—both showed Hopper trailing in a recall matchup against a theoretical Dem rival.

What's more, in a sign that Hopper himself recognizes the precariousness of his position, he recently brought in a national caliber campaign manager to handle the recall fight. Adding more potential fuel to the recall fire, Hopper's estranged wife recently alleged that he had an affair with a young GOP aide and now lives mostly in Madison, outside his district.

The results of Tuesday's Supreme Court race offers hints as to how successful the recall votes of Kapanke and Hopper could be. The majority of Kapanke's district voted for Kloppenburg, the liberal candidate, while David Prosser, the conservative incumbent, won out in Hopper's district. Tossing out either candidate will prove a mighty challenge—voters have successfully recalled sitting legislators only twice in Wisconsin history—but the momentum from Kloppenburg's likely win and the legal battle against Walker's bill, which is currently on appeal, could make the difference in the ongoing recall efforts.