Mojo - July 2011

This Week in National Insecurity: Extreme Sports Edition

| Fri Jul. 15, 2011 1:21 PM EDT

We know you're riding high over the women's World Cup soccer team, America. But how does our military measure up to its own league rivals? Let's check the weekly scorecard! In this installment: gays get shafted, kids (may) get drafted, the ACLU gets lucky, hackers stay plucky, and Afghans play with a headless goat carcass. Yeah, nothing rhymes with that.

The sitrep:

  • Hackers 90,000, Pentagon 0. If you're keeping score with stolen email accounts, that is. (Mother Jones/New York Times)

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Herman Cain Takes on the First Amendment

| Fri Jul. 15, 2011 1:09 PM EDT

GOP Presidential candidate Herman Cain has an Islam problem. The former Godfather's pizza godfather put his foot in his mouth early in his campaign when he told Think Progress he wouldn't appoint any Muslims in his administration (which would be unconstitutional), and again when he said Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) wasn't loyal to the Constitution because he's Muslim, and again when he said he has never encountered an American Muslim who is loyal to the Constitution, and then again when he denied ever saying any of those things and blamed the media.

Now he's given up on walking back his statements and returned to his roots. On Thursday, Cain made a campaign stop in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, the Nashville satelite that's become a ground zero for the anti-Islam jihad. At the center of the controversy is the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, a local mosque that has been trying to expand its facilities. Opponents have alleged that the the mosque is secretly waging a (very, very) stealth jihad against the people of Middle Tennessee. The construction site has been subjected to arson, and the project itself was challenged in court by opponents who argued that Islam is not a religion and therefore is not entitled to First Amendment protections (The Justice Department said otherwise). Cain, evidently, agrees with the Murfreesboro anti-mosque activists:

Cain didn't bring up the controversial facility in a campaign rally on Thursday, but told reporters afterward that he's concerned about the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro.

"It is an infringement and an abuse of our freedom of religion," he said. "And I don't agree with what's happening, because this isn't an innocent mosque."

Cain decided very early in his campaign that to have any sort of impact, he needed to stake out a position on the far right. But now, as Politico notes, he's now gone so far to the right he's gone back in time to August, 2010, when the number-one threat to the country was the construction of a mosque in downtown Manhattan.

A Tea Party Debt Ceiling Ad

| Fri Jul. 15, 2011 11:34 AM EDT

Amy Kremer, the chairwoman of the Tea Party Express and co-founder of the American Grassroots Coalition, wants to take the fight over raising the debt ceiling directly to the people. Her coalition has been secretly cooking up a new TV ad designed to simplify the debate into tea party terms any school kid could understand. In an email Thursday promoting the "big reveal," Kremer says that the ad is the first the fledgling group has done. Of course, the ad hasn't actually made it on to TV. Kremer's group needs a lot more money to move the ad from YouTube to your tube, and she's asking for donations to make that happen.

The ad plays on the tea party movement's favorite theme, which is that, by failing to rein in the national debt and radically cut spending, we are pushing the burden onto future generations. It's a pretty slick production for a group with no money, but so far, it doesn't seem to have hit the viral sweet spot. (Kremer got a lot more attention—and criticism—after she declared on Fox News that the tea party would back whichever candidate the GOP nominated, including Mitt Romney.) The video had only been viewed 364 times by Friday shortly before noon. Check it out here:

Corn on Hardball: Steele Agrees GOP's Discrediting GOP

Fri Jul. 15, 2011 10:59 AM EDT

David Corn and former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele joined Chris Matthews on MSNBC's Hardball Thursday to discuss the current debt ceiling impasse. At the end of the clip, Steele agrees with Corn that GOP hardliners have been "delegitimizing themselves by the minute" during negotiations.

Watch the video below:


Michele Bachmann: The First 2012er to Get Koch Cash

| Fri Jul. 15, 2011 10:50 AM EDT
Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) at CPAC earlier this year.

The billionaire Koch brothers, Charles and David, spread their money far and wide. They fund free-market think tanks, right-leaning academic organizations, and conservative political advocacy groups, such as the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, which helped cultivate the tea party. The political action committee for the Kochs' massive conglomerate, Koch Industries, has also given generously to big-name conservative politicians throughout the country at both the federal and state level. But when it comes to the 2012 presidential race, the Kochs have been more selective with their giving, with only one presidential candidate so far benefiting from their largesse: Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.).

In late May, KochPAC, as Koch Industries' PAC is known, donated $10,000 in one day to Bachmann-linked committees—$5,000 to her 2012 congressional re-election committee and $5,000 to her political action committee, MICHELE PAC, according to the most recent records available. (That's short for Many Individual Conservatives Helping Elect Leaders Everywhere PAC.) The two checks weren't KochPAC's first contributions to Bachmann. According to federal campaign records, the committee has given $25,000 to the Minnesota congresswoman since 2006, excluding the May donation.

It's unclear whether KochPAC has also donated to Bachmann's presidential committee, which was created in June after she officially unveiled her candidacy. Her campaign has yet to report contributions and expenditures to the Federal Election Commission. But it is worth noting that Bachmann can, under FEC rules, transfer her congressional campaign funds into her presidential war chest, since she suspended her congressional fundraising operation last month. When Bachmann does reveal her latest fundraising haul, a large chunk of it is expected to come from her congressional campaign.

According to campaign records, Bachmann is the only Republican in the presidential race who has received any money from KochPAC in 2010 and 2011. In 2010, the committee did give $50,000 to Texans for Rick Perry, a PAC that supports Texas Republican Gov. Rick Perry, who is flirting with the idea of a presidential run but has yet to decide. Indeed, the only other Republican candidate with a history of KochPAC support is hard-line former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. Between 1999 and 2005, federal records show, Santorum election committees received $16,000 from the committee.

Election Day, of course, is more than 15 months off, which is plenty of time for the Koch brothers to shower other GOP presidential candidates with cash. The candidate who previously appeared to closest to the billionaire brothers was former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. It's been previously reported that Romney counted David as a supporter; according to iWatch News, David and his wife even hosted an event at their Hamptons home last August in support of Romney. In April, Romney spoke at a GOP presidential cattle call hosted by Americans for Prosperity, the political advocacy group David founded. And in the last presidential election, David and his wife each gave the maximum $2,300 donation to Romney's campaign. (FEC records don't turn up any donations by Charles Koch to a 2008 presidential candidate.)

So far, Romney's been the most prolific fundraiser within the GOP field, netting $18.25 million in the second quarter of this year. Even so, he may be wondering if his own KochPAC check is in the mail. 

Vintage Bachmann: Pawlenty's a Communist

| Fri Jul. 15, 2011 10:35 AM EDT

Walter Shapiro has an excellent profile of Tim Pawlenty over at The New Republic. The most immediate takeaway—literally, it's in the lede—is Pawlenty's shift in tone when he starts talking about his fellow Minnesota Republican, Rep. Michele Bachmann:

[Midway] through the interview, desperate for a headline-making morsel about his home-state rival, I asked Pawlenty to respond to the assessment that he was the establishment and Bachmann was the outsider in Minnesota politics. To my surprise, Pawlenty sprang to life. He spent the next four minutes vehemently disputing my premise.

"Pawlenty has always been the establishment in Minnesota and Bachmann has always been the renegade," says University of Minnesota political scientist Larry Jacobs. "Pawlenty thought that she was kind of a crackpot. He would roll his eyes when her name came up." Democrat Roger Moe—the former longtime majority leader of the state Senate who lost the 2002 gubernatorial race to Pawlenty—describes his rival as "the kind of guy you can have a beer with" despite their political differences. But Moe cannot resist chuckling: "I can just tell you—I know for sure on the inside of him—that Tim Pawlenty is just seething over Bachmann. I bet they have to lock him in a room some days when he reads about her."

Pawlenty's biggest flaw, in the eyes of media types, is that he has no discernible edge. As one Minnesota Republican told me last month: "He should hire someone to give him a personality." And she was a supporter! When Bachmann becomes part of the conversation, though, Pawlenty shifts immediately from Minnesota Nice to Minnesota Passive-Aggressive.

But the iciness goes much deeper than superficial jealousy. When the two were both in St. Paul, Bachmann attacked Pawlenty with a nearly identical arsenal of barbs that she currently directs at President Obama—right down to the allegations of Soviet-style economics. As we've reported previously, Pawlenty's signature jobs program as governor, which he likes to talk about on the stump, was a system of of tax-free zones designed to keep local businesses from leaving for neighboring states. The program, called JOBZ, was kind of a flop. But Bachmann saw something far more sinister: As she told a conference in 2003, "Tax-free zones are meant to be the catalyst to put the final nail in this system to have a state-planned economy." She railed against the plan as a redistribution of wealth, and framed it in the larger context of a push for what she called a "Soviet-style" economy, in which bureaucrats, businesses, and public schools would work together to create an economy that matched their own globalistic vision.

So yeah, Pawlenty likely thought Bachmann was a crackpot. And there was one more thing. One of Pawlenty's sore spots from his time as governor was his tax hike. As part of a deal he struck to end a government shutdown in 2006, he agreed to an extra 75-cent/pack charge on cigarettes, which he called a "health impact fee." Conservatives read that as a tax (which it was), and hammered him for it, but Pawlenty doggedly stuck with the name and hoped that Republicans would cut him some slack, considering he was governor and he had to cut some sort of deal with the Democratic legislature. He wasn't going to get it from Bachmann, who almost immediately introduced a bill to repeal the tax. Salt, meet wound.

Another way of thinking about this? Tim Pawlenty is Frank Grimes:

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House GOP Moves to Gut the Clean Water Act

| Fri Jul. 15, 2011 8:00 AM EDT

On Thursday, the House passed a bill that effectively eliminates federal oversight on water standards. The bill rolls back the Clean Water Act,  returning most oversight to the states, and passed with almost all Republicans and a handful of Democrats supporting it.

The measure has a title that sounds kind of pleasant—the "Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011"—but when you read it you realize it's really just an effort to return us to the days of the Cuyahoga River fire and Love Canal.

The House passed the bill by a vote of 239 to 184 on Wednesday, but like many of the assaults on EPA authority this year, it's unlikely to go anywhere in the Senate. Nearly every Republican supported the provision, along with 12 Democrats—most of them from coal states.

MAPLight.org crunched the numbers and found that interest groups that supported this motion—like the National Mining Association and the West Virginia Coal Association—gave 94 percent more money to House members who voted in favor of the bill than they did to those who voted against it. Those interest groups gave 61 times as much money ($13,588 total) to Democrats who voted for it as they gave to Dems who voted against it (just $224).

Were this to become law it would, of course, be a very bad thing in many states—particularly those where fossil fuel interests and industrial polluters already have a track record of ignoring protections for humans and the environment. There's a reason that a federal clean water protection plan was signed into law in 1972: States weren't doing a particular good job of keeping their rivers from catching fire as it was.

Muammar Qaddafi Builds a Doomsday Machine

| Fri Jul. 15, 2011 7:15 AM EDT
Muammar Qaddafi

As the civil war in Libya approaches its sixth month, Muammar Qaddafi is reportedly sitting on a contingency plan that could make Dr. Strangelove blush.

According to Russian envoy Mikhail Margelov, the embattled despot has said that if rebels were to capture Libya's capital, Tripoli, he would respond by completely leveling the city. The Daily Telegraph has the story:

Mikhail Margelov, in an interview with the Russian Izvestia daily, said: "The Libyan premier told me: if the rebels seize the city, we will cover it with missiles and blow it up."

Mr Margelov met Libyan Prime Minister Baghdadi al-Mahmudi last month.

"I imagine that the Gaddafi regime does have such a suicidal plan," he added…

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for July 15, 2011

Fri Jul. 15, 2011 6:00 AM EDT

U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Robert Russell, platoon sergeant, crosses the Tarnek River in Qalat City, Afghanistan, July 9. Russell is a member of Provincial Reconstruction Team Zabul's security force. PRT Zabul is comprised of Air Force, Army, Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development of Agriculture and U.S. Army Corps of Engineer personnel who work with the government of Afghanistan to improve governance, stability, and development throughout the province. Photo via US Army.

Wall Street on the West Bank

| Fri Jul. 15, 2011 6:00 AM EDT
Ahmad Aweidah, the CEO of Palestine Exchange.

As the Arab Spring spread throughout the Middle East, the economic casualties began to mount in a predictable pattern. Trading in major Arab stock markets took a tumble. Oil prices shot up. Scores of foreign workers fled the scene.

But one Middle Eastern stock exchange managed to weather the storm.

The Palestine Securities Exchange (PEX), founded in 1995 and operating out of the northern West Bank city of Nablus, doesn't seem at first glance like anything formidable. It posts a modest $6 to $7 million daily turnover, with fewer than 50 companies traded (among them Palestine Electric, Jerusalem Cigarette, Bank of Palestine, and Jerusalem Real Estate Investment).

But from January to April, as revolution spread throughout the region, PEX's shares still increased 1.4 percent, surpassing the performance of nearly every major index in the Middle East and North Africa during that same period. Due to its reported growth and size, PEX is beginning to catch the attention of Western and foreign investors as one of the Middle East’s "frontier markets" and has just wrapped its second road show in London.