Mojo - September 2011

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Sharron Angle (Still) Thinks Harry Reid Stole the 2010 Election

| Tue Sep. 6, 2011 8:53 AM PDT
Sharron Angle's "Team Hobbit Express" trailer.

Among the folks I didn't expect to meet in Concord, New Hampshire this weekend? Former Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle, last seen falling flat in her campaign against Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid—a race Republicans almost certainly would have won had the party nominated anyone but Angle.

Angle has been traveling the country this summer with the Tea Party Express, the organization that put together Sunday's rally. She's not riding on the bus, though; she's been following the group's tour bus across the country, from Napa to New England, in a retrofitted SUV-and-trailer she calls "The Team Hobbit Express." The sides of the vehicle are plastered with messages from supporters, Graceland style, urging Angle to give it another go against Reid. The name was inspired by the Wall Street Journal's assertion, parroted by Sen. John McCain, that tea partiers are battling Obama like they're hobbits facing off against Sauron (this is, apparently, a bad thing.) "The hobbits are the heroes of the story and they win," Angle told me. "We're taking a winning vehicle to Tampa Bay, Florida."

Angle was hawking copies of her new memoir, Right Angle, along with lapel pins ($5) and bumper stickers, in the hopes of building up support for her political action committee, Our Voice. "As soon as I get my PAC up and running, then I can turn it over and then I can run," she told a supporter who approached her to tell her he had donated anonymously to her campaign. (Our Voice is a super PAC, which means it can accept unlimited contributions; it can finance independent expenditures but cannot coordinate with any specific candidate—although you would expect Sharron Angle's super PAC to be generally pretty supportive of whatever she does.)

Ron Paul Blasts Rick Perry as "Al Gore's Texas Cheerleader"

| Tue Sep. 6, 2011 8:04 AM PDT
Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas).

Is there a harder slam in the fight for the Republican presidential nomination than accusing a fellow GOPer of being a "cheerleader" for climate change guru Al Gore?

That's the charge leveled at Texas governor and GOP frontrunner Rick Perry in a new ad from the campaign of Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), the libertarian favorite and long-shot GOP candidate. Paul's ad, "Trust," revisits Perry's stint working for Gore's 1988 presidential campaign in Texas. At the time, Gore was an up-and-coming US senator from Tennessee, campaigning on the issues of global warming and AIDS prevention; Perry was a centrist Democrat in the Texas legislature. (He switched parties in 1990.)

Paul's ad slams Perry for serving as Gore's Texas chairman, labeling him "Al Gore's Texas cheerleader." "Rick Perry helped lead Al Gore's campaign to undo the Reagan revolution," the ad's narrator says, "fighting to elect Al Gore president of the United States."

Here's the ad:

Perry, it's worth noting, wasn't the only unlikely supporter of Gore's '88 campaign. Fred Phelps, the patriarch of the controversial Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., housed campaign workers for Gore's presidential bid in 1988. And in 1989 Phelps' son, Fred Jr., threw a fundraiser for Gore's Senate run at his home.

Maybe the Super Committee Should Do Something About Jobs

| Tue Sep. 6, 2011 3:15 AM PDT

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the United States created a net total of zero jobs in August. The 17,000 jobs that were added in the private sector were offset by the 17,000 jobs that were lost in the public sector—which, as Kevin Drum notes, means we actually had negative job growth because the population continued to grow.

So what's to be done about all this? Kevin has some ideas for what Obama should do if he were a dictator (a $1 trillion investment in our crumbling infrastructure), but as has become pretty clear to everyone but this guy, Obama is not a dictator. Congress, meanwhile, is set to embark on another lengthy debate about reining in the deficit and "living within our means," in the form of a bi-partisan "Super Committee." On Friday, Ezra Klein suggested a way out of the mess we're in:

[T]he supercommittee has a design flaw: it's directed to return recommendations on deficit reduction, but not job creation. That doesn't make sense from an economic perspective and it doesn't make sense from a political perspective. If the supercommittee succeeds and a deficit-reduction package passes Congress, Washington will have nevertheless failed to make any progress on the issue that economists consider most important in the near-term and that the American people have named, in poll after poll, as their top priority.

Rep. John Larson is introducing a bill to add a jobs component to the supercommittee's mandate. His legislation suggests three possible ways of doing so: either the existing supercommittee should commit to returning recommendations on jobs, or it should add four new members and create a subsupercommittee on jobs, or it should create a parallel supercommittee on jobs. In all cases, Larson says, failure to return and pass job-creation legislation would mean the trigger goes off.

Larson, a Connecticut Democrat, has since introduced his bill. But even if it does gain traction, I'm not totally sure I share Ezra's optimism that anything will come of it. That's because Congressional Republicans' ideas for job creation are more or less the opposite of Larson's (or Kevin's, for that matter)—if you listen to Paul Ryan and his fellow GOPers, you'll realize that slashing government spending is their job creation strategy.

Exclusive: The Koch Brothers' Million-Dollar Donor Club

| Tue Sep. 6, 2011 3:00 AM PDT

Read our inside account of the Koch brothers' Vail seminar, and listen to the exclusive audio.

Twice a year, the billionaire industrialist brothers Charles and David Koch host secretive retreats for an exclusive list of corporate America's rich and powerful to strategize and raise money for their right-wing political agenda. Mother Jones has obtained exclusive audio recordings that shed some light on the brothers' latest retreat, held at a resort near Vail, Colorado, in late June.

In a speech that is part of these recordings, Charles Koch thanks donors who gave more than $1 million to the cause. We checked the audio against a list of participants at the Kochs' 2010 seminar in Aspen that was obtained by ThinkProgress.org and did additional research on these individuals. Below are the names Koch read that appeared on the previous guest list.

John Childs: Childs is the founder and CEO of private equity firm JW Childs Associates. In 2006, Boston Magazine placed the "notoriously media-shy" magnate—a.k.a. "the Republican ATM"—among the city's wealthiest residents, reportedly worth $1.2 billion. Childs donated $750,000 to outside political expenditure groups in 2010. He's also been involved in Florida wetlands conservation efforts.

The Cortopassis: Dean "Dino" Cortopassi and his wife, Joan, hail from Stockton, California. This article, which identifies the pair as philanthroposts, calls Dino a "wealthy self-made agribusinessman who is Stocktonian of the Year for 2005." He is suing the state of California for its failure to dredge streams in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for September 6, 2011

Tue Sep. 6, 2011 2:57 AM PDT

Herding Sheep

Spc. Robert Ryder and Spc. William Chavez, automated field artillery tactical data systems specialists with Battery B, 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, escort sheep out of harm's way during an air re-supply in Bala Marghab District, Aug. 23. Soldiers from Forward Operating Base Todd receive most of their supplies using air drops because of the tough terrain in the area. Photo by the US Army.

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Tea Party Takes On Utah's Last Congressional Dem

| Mon Sep. 5, 2011 3:23 AM PDT

Utah is one of the nation's most conservative states. Barack Obama won only 34 percent of the vote there in 2008. The Mormon-dominated western outpost, which also happens to be my home state, hasn't had a Democratic senator in about 40 years. It hasn't had a Democratic governor since 1985. So in that climate, Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson is a bit of an outlier. He has had a few things going for him—mainly his name. In a state with few Democratic scions, the Matheson family is practically synonymous with Democrat in Utah; Jim's father Scott Matheson, served as the state's last Democratic governor. But for the past decade, Republicans have been trying hard to oust the younger Matheson, namely by redistricting him out of office.

In 2002, Republicans redrew the boundary of Matheson's 2nd district, which had been mostly confined to the more liberal Salt Lake City area, and extended it so that it was glued to some ultra-right wing rural counties in far southern Utah near the Nevada border. The change made him famous as the Democrat representing the most Republican district in the country. (To see how bad this is, take a look at the map of his district here.) Republicans are targeting his district again this year for another boundary change.

So far, Matheson, a member of the Dem's centrist Blue Dog contingent, has managed to survive the gerrymandering and stay in office for a remarkable 12 years,calibrating his votes carefully to acknowledge the precariousness of his situation. He was one of a handful of Democrats, for instance, who voted against Obama's health care bill and raising the debt ceiling.

But even those sorts of hedges may not save him in the next election. Things have changed significantly in a state that I didn't think could get any more conservative. Last year, angry tea party activists managed to bump off Republican establishment figure Sen. Robert Bennett, whose father also represented the state in the Senate. Bennett was a rockribbed, popular Republican, but still not conservative enough for the tea partiers, who ended up electing tea partier Sen. Mike Lee (R).

Two weeks ago, one of the tea party candidates who was among those challenging Bennett in the GOP primary last year, Cherilyn Eagar, threw her hat into the ring and announced that she planned to challenge Matheson. Eagar is an example of the marriage of the tea party with traditional evangelical political groups. She's a longtime activist with Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum, where she serves as the national chairman for constitutional studies. Schlafly has endorsed her, along with immigration foe Tom Tancredo (Eagar cut her anti-immigration chops working for Pat Buchannan in 1992.) She's also been active with and endorsed by the founder of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, the kooky doctor's group that opposes vaccinations, thinks it's immoral for doctors to participate in Medicare, believes abortion causes breast cancer but that HIV does not cause AIDS, and has speculated that Obama may have won the presidency by hypnotizing voters through "neurolinguistic programming." AAPS gained notoriety in 2009 after one of its members circulated a photo of Obama dressed in tribal gear with a bone through his nose. 

A graduate of Brigham Young University, Eagar has worked with the school as a parent adviser to its academic freedom committee after she helped root out "pornographic" masters theses, and she's been an outspoken anti-gay activist (despite having a drama degree and having run a musical theater program in New York for a while). Sorry Jim, but with that kind of record in Utah, she's probably a shoe-in.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for September 5, 2011

Mon Sep. 5, 2011 2:57 AM PDT

Air Force Basic Military Training trainee Nicholas Warila low crawls through an obstacle course July 27, 2011, at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, during the Creating Leaders, Airman and Warriors course. CLAW is a three-hour, mission-oriented exercise designed to test teamwork, leadership skills and the ability to perform under pressure. Warila is assigned to the 322nd Training Squadron. US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Marleah Miller.

Mitt Romney Tries to Win Over the Tea Party

| Sun Sep. 4, 2011 11:50 PM PDT

Tea partiers don't really seem to like Mitt Romney. This isn't all that difficult to understand: He is from Massachusetts, has said some pretty liberal things over the years, and was at one point proud of a piece of health care legislation that was eerily similar to the Affordable Care Act signed into law by President Obama in 2010. Those aren't the kinds of things that sell really well at tea party rallies, and Romney, recognizing this, has for the most part avoided those kinds of events.

Until Sunday. The former Massachusetts governor addressed a crowd of about 150 here at a Tea Party Express rally in Rollins Park. Things went, well, better than they could have. Romney, joined by his wife, Ann, spoke for about 15 minutes, delivering a speech that managed to appeal to the crowd without pandering to them too brazenly. He noted—twice—that he's not a career politician (a not-so-veiled shot at fellow candidate Texas Governor Rick Perry) and touted his business experience and work with the 2002 Winter Olympics. He cracked a joke about enticing Californians to move to Massachusetts to enjoy its superior business climate (Perry says the exact same thing about Texas), and he offered up some patriotic red meat by telling the story of the time he received a fallen soldier at Boston's Logan Airport and looked up to see an entire terminal with their hands on their chests. The event's most memorable line might have come from Ann, who said of her initial reluctance for another presidential run, "Mitt knew not to listen to me because I said that after every pregnancy."

10 Eye-Popping Labor Day Stats

| Sun Sep. 4, 2011 7:30 AM PDT

Labor Day was created more than 100 years ago to celebrate the might, ingenuity, and achievements of American workers. But for many, this year's holiday is a painful reminder of how few good jobs are out there. To mark this Labor Day weekend, here's a roundup of 10 eye-popping statistics on the American jobs crisis. It's a sobering snapshot of the issue that worries Americans more than any other—and which hangs over President Obama as he gears up for his big jobs speech on Thursday (not to mention his reelection campaign).

25.3 million Americans: The true size of the unemployment crisis. This figure includes people who are out of work, forced to work part-time, or unable to find a full-time job, as well as those who want to work but have given up searching for a job in the past month, most likely out of frustration.

6.9 million jobs: How many fewer jobs there are today than in December 2007.

0.22 jobs: The number of job openings per one unemployed worker.

Twenty-eight out of 32 months: The number of months since January 2009 that job growth failed to keep up with basic population growth (roughly 150,000 jobs a month). All those headlines saying job growth has stalled are wrong; it's not even doing that.

43%: The percentage of jobless workers who haven't pulled a steady paycheck in more than six months. That's 6 million workers.

16.7%: The jobless rate for African-Americans. Black unemployment is now at its highest in 27 years.

11.3%: The Hispanic unemployment rate. This figure has held steady since February 2009.

17.7%: The unemployment rate for 16- to 24-year-olds of all races, ethnicities, and educational backgrounds. Often overlooked, youth unemployment has a long-term toll; young people who enter a weak job market are almost guaranteed to earn less over their lifetimes than those who find jobs during boom times.

280,000: The number of jobs the American economy needs to add each month to fill its 11.3 million-job deficit by the middle of 2016.

35,000: The average number of jobs the economy actually added in the past three months.