Mojo - October 2011

Rick Santorum Still Thinks Sodomy Should Be a Crime in Texas

| Tue Oct. 25, 2011 9:00 AM PDT
Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Penn.)

Just in case you thought he'd had a change of heart, GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum went on Minnesota rap-core evangelist Bradlee Dean's radio show on Saturday to double down on his belief that states should be able to make anal and oral sex illegal: 

Santorum pointed to the landmark case, Lawrence v. Texas, where the U.S. Supreme Court overturned sodomy laws that were used to imprison gays and lesbians.

"And I stood up from the very beginning back in 2003 when the Supreme Court was going create a constitutional right to sodomy and said this is wrong we can’t do this," Santorum said. "And so I stood up when no one else did and got hammered for it. I stood up and I continue to stand up."

You know the rest. Asked to defend his comments back in 2003, Santorum went a step further, arguing that allowing two men to have sex would be akin to "man on dog." In response, sex columnist Dan Savage held a contest to come up with an alternative definition for Santorum, and redefined it as—NSFW!—"the frothy mix of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the by-product of anal sex." As MoJo's Stephanie Mencimer has chronicled, the alternative definition has became a serious problem for the candidate because it's the first thing that comes up when you Google his name. (The second result is a Wikipedia entry about Savage's "Santorum" campaign.)

But what's really interesting here is the venue: When last we heard from Dean, he was suing Rachel Maddow, MSNBC, and the American Independent News Network for $50 million for quoting him, with some caveats, suggesting that the execution of gays was "moral." (Dean has explicitly condemned the execution of gays, but has, like Santorum, called for sodomy to be outlawed and gays to be banned from public office.) The crux of the lawsuit was that Dean believed liberal media outlets were using him as a proxy to assassinate Rep. Michele Bachmann's character, because Bachmann has raised money for Dean and praised (and prayed for) his ministry. He also was upset that Maddow made fun of his name. So has Dean given up on Bachmann? If the polls are any indication, he wouldn't be the only one.

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Chart of the Day: Reagan Loved Tax Hikes

| Tue Oct. 25, 2011 8:40 AM PDT

The next time you hear Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor, Michele Bachmann, or Rick Perry wax nostalgic for the good old, tax-cutting, government-drowning Reagan days of yore, consider tweeting the following, via Bruce Bartlett:

As Bartlett, a former Republican budget official, notes, the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982 was the single largest peacetime tax increase in history. But he also points out that there was still a net tax cut during the Regan years, with revenue nearly $265 billion lower in 1988 than it would have been without the sweeping tax cuts he introduced in 1981's Economic Recovery Tax Act—half of which he'd taken back by the end of his administration.

That set the stage for...the next twenty-five years of broken tax policy:

It was their inability to simply cut taxes that really made Republicans interested in tax reform, which had historically been of more interest to Democrats. It was only by pairing tax increases with tax cuts that Republicans could keep alive their goal of reducing statutory tax rates. Their ultimate goal has long been to abolish progressivity by having a single tax rate that applies to everyone. . . .

As the Republican tax guru Grover Norquist put it last week, when taxes are on the table there are no spending cuts. "When taxes are off the table, you get spending cuts," he said.

My friend Grover is factually wrong. Spending as a share of the gross domestic product fell after both the 1990 and 1993 budget deals, in large part because of tough budget controls that Republicans abandoned in 2002 so that they could cut taxes without restraint. And contrary to Mr. Norquist’s theory, the tax cuts of the George W. Bush years did not constrain spending, which rose as a share of the G.D.P. almost every year of his administration (as the raw data confirms).

The false mythology of the single tax rate for all, or flat tax, lives on in the campaign promises of Rick Perry, the Texas governor and GOP presidential contender. Perry's tax plan, which he rolled out this morning in the Wall Street Journal, is to give Americans a choice between a flat tax of 20 percent or their current income tax rate. Kevin Drum already called BS, branding the scheme as a grotesque giveaway to the rich (not unlike Herman Cain's 9-9-9 and 9-0-9 plans). That, of course, is the point: Republicans haven't cared about reducing spending for a long time. What they do care about is cutting taxes on the rich.

Army Ranger Dies on 14th War Deployment

| Tue Oct. 25, 2011 8:00 AM PDT
Sgt. 1st Class Kristoffer B. Domeij

As right-wing pundits decry the end of one US war and the conduct of another, they'd do well to consider the case of Sgt. 1st Class Kristoffer Bryan Domeij. The 10-year veteran of the elite Army Rangers was killed, along with two of his comrades, in an IED attack in Afghanistan on October 22. But Domeij's situation was special: He perished on his 14th war deployment since 2002.

Domeij's commanding officer, Col. Mark Odom, called him "the prototypical special operations" leader whose special skills—he was one of the first soldiers qualified to coordinate Air Force and Navy air attacks from his ground position—made him a hot commodity in the war zones. Domeij, he said, was a "veteran of a decade of deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan and hundreds of combat missions."

After MoJo Report, US Probes Tech Company Linked to Syria

| Tue Oct. 25, 2011 7:49 AM PDT
Protesters wave Syrian flags at a May anti-government rally in San Francisco.

The US State Department is looking into allegations—first reported by Mother Jones last week—that the Syrian regime is using a California company's internet-filtering technology to aid its crackdown on dissidents.

The company, Blue Coat Systems, denies selling its products to Syria. But that hasn't been enough to head off a government probe into the matter. "The issue of Blue Coat's technology being used in Syria is one that the State Department is taking very seriously and is very concerned about," a State Department official told the Washington Post on Saturday. State Department officials are "reviewing the information" they have about Syria's use of US technology and "monitoring the facts," a spokeswoman told the BBC on Monday.

Tech experts say that electronic records released by the hacktivist collective Telecomix earlier this month prove that Syria is using Blue Coat's technology. "Every IP address in all of the information released is registered in Syria," Jacob Appelbaum, a computer science researcher at the University of Washington, told Mother Jones last week. "Every IP address routes from Syria or from known Syrian equipment with the expected latency of machines run in Syria." 

Appelbaum believes the technology is capable of more than just blocking particular websites and search results: "It's a super policeman with a general warrant who spies on every person, records everything about that person and their activities and then it acts as the judge, jury and executioner," he said.

Selling internet-blocking devices or software to Syria directly would likely violate harsh US sanctions against the country. But if Syria obtained the technology through an intermediary, Blue Coat could be in the clear—provided that the transfer of the equipment happened without Blue Coat's knowledge or consent. A Blue Coat spokesman told Mother Jones last week that the company forbids its customers from reselling its products to embargoed countries. The company has opened its own investigation into the allegations, a spokesman told the BBC. 

Kansas Missing Key Files in Abortion Case

| Tue Oct. 25, 2011 4:00 AM PDT

Earlier this month, a disciplinary board in Kansas voted to suspend former Attorney General Phill Kline's license to practice law in the state indefinitely after he repeatedly violated the rules of conduct in his investigations of abortion providers. Despite that, Planned Parenthood of Kansas  and Mid-Missouri is still stuck in court fighting criminal allegations that Kline raised against the clinic back in 2007.

The case before the judge accuses doctors at Comprehensive Health, the Planned Parenthood office in Overland Park, of not properly determining the gestational age of fetuses before performing an abortion, and therefore carrying out illegal late-term abortions. The prosecution has accused Planned Parenthood of not keeping proper records, and of covering that up by creating fake records. 

Planned Parenthood was supposed to be back in court on Monday to defend itself against those charges, which include allegations that the clinic falsified patients' medical files that he subpoenaed back in 2004. But last week it came to light that the prosecution doesn't have the abortion records that IT planned to use as evidence, because the Kansas Department of Health and Environment shredded the files in 2005.

District District Judge Stephen Tatum delayed the case until a Nov. 9 status conference, but it will be pretty hard to continue without official copies of the records that the clinic is accused of falsifying. Peter Brownlie, the CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, told Mother Jones on Monday afternoon that he was disappointed that there's been yet another delay in a case that has now dragged on for years.

Scott Walker's Recall Plan: Rake in Unlimited Cash

| Tue Oct. 25, 2011 3:00 AM PDT
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R)

The fight to recall Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker begins November 15, when the 60-day window opens for progressives, Democrats, and other Walker opponents to gather the more than half-million signatures they'll need to trigger a recall election. Conveniently for Walker, a loophole in Wisconsin elections law opens up the same day and spans the same 60-day window. For that two-month period, the state's $10,000 donation limit for individuals giving to gubernatorial candidates is out the window. That's right: Walker can raise unlimited campaign cash for his recall defense as his opponents round up support to recall him.

Going on a 60-day money bonanza is at the heart of Walker's recall defense strategy—at least that's how Wisconsin GOP chairman Brad Courtney put it at a GOP event in Milwaukee last Friday. According to an audio clip provided to Mother Jones, Courtney says Walker stressed to him the importance of being able to rake in unlimited funds to run ads defending his record—especially his controversial budget repair bill. That, of course, was the legislation that kneecapped public-sector unions and sparked a month of protest, including an occupation of the state Capitol. "What Scott says is we're gonna raise a lot of money—we can accept unlimited money for a 60-day time period, so you're gonna see a lot of positive, wonderful ads about what's going on in Wisconsin," Courtney told the crowd. (A Walker spokesman didn't respond to requests for comment. A Wisconsin GOP spokeswoman, Nicole Larson, declined to comment.)

Listen to the audio clip:

audio1 (mp3)

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Behind Herman Cain's Smokin' Ad: His Big Tobacco Days

| Tue Oct. 25, 2011 3:00 AM PDT
Herman Cain's campaign manager, Mark Block, stars in the 2011 art house flick, "Now is the time for action!"

This Herman Cain campaign ad, which was released last night, has gotten a lot of people wondering what Cain's been smoking. The Daily Beast's Michelle Goldberg calls Cain's smile at the end "the creepiest fucking thing I've ever seen." MoJo alum Suzy Khimm says Cain must be "clearly a devotee of Ryan Gosling in Drive, with that slooow smile at the end." Long-shot presidential candidate Buddy Roemer, who like the rest of the field is probably wondering why he is is trailing in the polls to Herman Cain, immediately contemplated filming a spoof.*

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for October 25, 2011

Tue Oct. 25, 2011 2:57 AM PDT

Soldiers of Provincial Reconstruction Team Zabul, Agribusiness Development Team, and 489th Civil Affairs Battalion patrol to a village in the district of Mizan, Afghanistan, Oct. 17, 2011. Photo by the US Army.

Herman Cain's Wild West Campaign Spot

| Mon Oct. 24, 2011 9:51 PM PDT

Everyone's talking about Herman Cain's bizarre ad, in which his campaign manager lights a cigarette and Cain flashes a moderately evil grin at the very end. Yes, it's weird. But by any objective metric, this Cain online ad from August, when he was polling at at 5 percent, is actually much, much weirder:

For that matter, this spot, in which Cain announced his candidacy by wandering around someone else's farm, looking lost, is also kind of weird: 

 

Corn on Hardball: Is Rick Perry a Birther?

Mon Oct. 24, 2011 4:40 PM PDT

David Corn and the Dallas Morning News' Wayne Slater joined Chris Matthews on MSNBC's Hardball to discuss GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry's recent comments that it's not definitive that Obama was born in the US. One of Perry's reasons for his uncertainty? "I don't know. I had dinner with Donald Trump the other night," he said.

David Corn is Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief. For more of his stories, click here. He's also on Twitter.