Mojo - October 2011

Who is Herman Cain's Brain?

| Tue Oct. 11, 2011 8:55 PM EDT
2012 GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain.

Answering a question about who he takes economic advice from, Herman Cain unveiled his secret weapon: A man named Rich Lowrie.

Last month, Comedy Central did the legwork on tracking down who, exactly, Lowrie is: a management adviser with Wells Fargo. The same Wells Fargo that received $25 billion in TARP money.

How exactly does that jive with Cain's free market economic philosophy?

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No, Michele Bachmann, Fannie and Freddie Didn't Cause the Financial Crisis

| Tue Oct. 11, 2011 8:39 PM EDT
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.)

At Tuesday evening's GOP presidential debate at Dartmouth, Michele Bachmann was asked by the Washington Post's Karen Tumulty whether she believed Wall Street had ever really paid for the financial crisis it caused. The Minnesota congresswoman, whose campaign has hit a rut of late, rejected the premise. She argued instead that the financial crisis had been created by the policies of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the quasi-governmental housing agencies.

It's an enticing narrative for conservatives—pin the blame on government lending money to poor people—but it's not true. My colleague Andy Kroll explained over a year ago why exactly this is wrong:

Perry: If You Drill It, The Jobs Will Come

| Tue Oct. 11, 2011 8:22 PM EDT

In the opening minutes of tonight's debate, Rick Perry teased his jobs plan: Drill. Drill. And drill some more.

Which would be a great start, if energy companies hadn't been doing gangbusters over the past decade, while doing close to nothing to help the economy get back on track:

Perry's plan won't be ready for a few days yet. But, evidently, it'll keep corporate profits high and employment numbers low.

Flashback: Perry Endorser Says Obama Might be a Muslim

| Tue Oct. 11, 2011 8:20 PM EDT
Dallas Pastor Robert Jeffress said in April that Americans had good reason to suspect that President Obama is a Muslim.

Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress, as you might recall, endorsed Rick Perry on-stage at Friday' Values Voter Summit in DC with Perry's approval, and then proceded to call Mormonism a "cult" and argue that Mitt Romney's faith was a strike against him as a candidate. Mitt Romney has since called on the Texas Governor to repudiate Jeffress's comments, and the Perry campaign has responded by essentially shouting "Romneycare!" really loudly.

But Jeffress has taken shots at more than just the LDS Church. He also said that Islam causes pedophilia, and that the Catholic church and Jewish faith are both paths to eternal damnation. He's speculated as to whether President Obama is a Muslim. Here's an interview Jeffress did with Steve Doocy of Fox News, back in April, after President Obama (like President Bush before him) declined to produce a formal White House proclamation celebrating Easter. Why would Obama do something like that? Jeffress, starting at about the 53-second mark, says it mights be because he secretly still harbors Muslim sympathies:

US Busts Iran-Connected Bomb Plot

| Tue Oct. 11, 2011 5:00 PM EDT
Attorney General Eric Holder.

The Iranian government directed, sponsored and coordinated a plot to kill the Saudi Ambassador to the United States, top US law enforcement officials alleged Tuesday. According to the Justice Department, two men, Iranian American Manssor Arbabsiar, 56, and Iranian Gholam Shakuri, worked with members of the powerful Iranian Revolutionary Guard on a plan to bomb the Saudi embassy in Washington, DC. Arabsiar is in US custody and has been charged in federal court in New York; Shakuri remains at large in Iran.

The elaborate "murder for hire" plot "reads like the pages of a Hollywood script," Robert Mueller, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said in a Tuesday afternoon press conference. The government believes the planning for the plot began this spring, when Arabsiar, who lives in Texas, met with a Drug Enforcement Administration informant in Mexico who was a member of a "violent international drug trafficking cartel," according to Mueller. Arbabsiar supposedly intended to gain the man's support to bomb the Saudi Embassy in Washington, and the informant requested $1.5 million to carry out the plot. Arbabsiar agreed and, according to the Justice Department, sent "two overseas wire transfers totaling approximately $100,000" to an "undercover FBI account."

Arbabsiar was denied entry into Mexico on September 28th and sent back to New York, where federal agents arrested him the next day. The FBI says that Arbabsiar admitted to the assassination plot during interrogation after waiving his Miranda rights. He claimed that his cousin is a "senior member" of the Iranian Quds Force, a unit of Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard, and that he recruited Arbabsiar while he was in Iran, intending for Arbabsiar to kidnap the Saudi Ambassador to the US.

Arbabsiar claims to have met with "senior" Iranian officials and the other man charged in the plot, Shakuri, during his time in Iran, according to the Justice Department. While he was in custody last week, Arbabsiar, at the "direction" of Federal Agents, called Shakuri, who was in Iran, and discussed the plot. Shakuri instructed Arbabsiar to go ahead with the plot: "[J]ust do it quickly, it's late..."

Scott Walker Recall Campaign Is On

| Tue Oct. 11, 2011 2:20 PM EDT
A movie theater marquee in downtown Madison catches the Recall Scott Walker spirit.

The group United Wisconsin has announced it will launch a recall effort targeting Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker beginning next month.

United Wisconsin, a political action committee formed by grassroots organizers to recall Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, says it will file papers on November 15 with Wisconsin's Government Accountability Board to begin the recall effort. Organizers will have 60 days to collect 540,208 signatures to trigger a recall election, but they hope to gather 700,000—enough to withstand legal challenges by their opponents. In its release announcing the recall effort, United Wisconsin says it has already gathered more than 200,000 pledges from Wisconsinites saying they'd sign a Walker recall petition. The release describes the recall effort as a collaboration between United Wisconsin and "numerous other grassroots groups, political leaders of all stripes, seniors, educators, veterans, and religious leaders of all faiths."

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Tax Repatriation Holiday: Still A Bad Idea

| Tue Oct. 11, 2011 12:50 PM EDT
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

Democrats appear to have all-but-conceded defeat on President Obama's $447 billion jobs bill, which calls for new spending on construction and tax incentives for hiring. It also includes 5.6 percent surtax on people making over $1 million a year.

But there's a Plan B, as Politico reports. Senate Democrats have begun drawing up a series of smaller bills that could actually pass Congress. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) plans to bring a number of trade agreements to the floor, as well as a bipartisan bill to push back against Chinese currency policies.

But Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wants to bring another, discredited notion back to the table: a tax holiday for corporations to bring home their overseas profits, an idea known as repatriation. Schumer's hope is to couple this with a plan for a national infrastructure bank (which Republicans hate). Schumer's thinking here is that marrying a GOP hobbyhorse like the repatriation holiday to a Democratic winner like an infrastructure bank is a surefire recipe for success.

There's a serious problem with tax repatriation holidays: They don't work, as Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and former economic advisor to Vice President Joe Biden, explained back in June:

Repeating the tax holiday would increase incentives to shift income overseas. If Congress enacts a second tax holiday, rational corporate executives will conclude that more tax holidays are likely in the future. That will make corporations more inclined to shift income into tax havens and less likely to make investments in the United States.

The claim that a tax holiday would increase domestic investment by freeing multinationals from cash restraints is extremely dubious. U.S. non-financial corporations currently have $1.9 trillion in cash and other liquid assets, the highest level as a share of total corporate assets since 1959. The ten companies lobbying hardest for a new tax holiday alone have at least $47 billion in cash and other liquid assets that could be used for domestic investments—without triggering additional tax liability.

Some of the biggest beneficiaries of a tax holiday would be firms that have aggressively shifted income overseas. Companies in the technology and pharmaceutical industries have been particularly aggressive in shifting income abroad because they rely on intellectual property, which is relatively easy to shift to other countries as a tax avoidance strategy. Half of all repatriations from the 2004 tax holiday came from companies in these two sectors alone. The same corporations and sectors would stand to benefit disproportionately—and enormously—from a second tax holiday."

Repatriation rewards corporations for hoarding cash and dodging US taxes, and sets a dangerous precedent for future tax holidays.

If Schumer's using the tax holiday proposal to bring Republicans to the table, then okay; but it's a dangerous carrot to dangle, and it sets the stage for an even more prolonged economic malaise.

Rep. McKeon's Culture War

| Tue Oct. 11, 2011 12:05 PM EDT

Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House armed services committee, says he won't budge on a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act that bans military chaplains from officiating at same-sex marriages of servicemembers.

Most of the fight in Congress over the military spending bill has centered on defense cuts and provisions governing the detention of suspected terrorists, but last Sunday, in an exchange on C-SPAN flagged by Politico's Josh Gerstein, Rep. McKeon also insisted that the chaplain ban remain in the bill.

VIDEO: Police Arrest #OccupyBoston Protesters, Including Veterans, in Late-Night Clash

| Tue Oct. 11, 2011 11:50 AM EDT

In the early morning hours on Tuesday, Boston police officers clashed with Occupy Boston protesters demonstrating in the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway. Police had surrounded the park and demanded that the protesters leave, but after they did not, law enforcement arrested nearly 100 people.

Among those protesting was a contingent from Vets for Peace, an anti-war organization made up of US veterans. The following video shows police dragging protesters to the ground and hand-cuffing them with plastic flexi-cuffs. You can see an American flag knocked to the ground during the scuffle, and Boston police also collected crumpled tents, signs, and other materials and tossed them into nearby garbage trucks.

Here's the video:

Boston wasn't the only site of conflict in recent days. In Des Moines, activists defying an 11 p.m. curfew to continue their own Occupy protest were pepper-sprayed and arrested by police. Read more about that confrontation, including video of the arrests, here.

A key point to bear in mind: As Nate Silver points out, police clashes like those in Boston and Des Moines result in more press coverage, and so more momentum, for the Occupy movement. In the case of Occupy Wall Street specifically, Silver found, news coverage jumped after clashes between protesters and New York cops, including the use of pepper-spray and mass arrests of protesters on the Brooklyn Bridge. Given widespread coverage of the Boston arrests, it's likely the same effect will play out in that city as well.

It's a Trap! Conservatives Come to Grips With #OccupyWallStreet

| Tue Oct. 11, 2011 11:07 AM EDT
The Occupy Wall Street protests have entered their second month.

The Occupy Wall Street movement is so unlike the tea party movement in so many ways it's almost worth dismissing the comparison entirely as a totally contrived media-generated narrative. Almost. But there is one key similiarity: Both groups have become, in the eyes of their opponents, a symbol for everything that's wrong with American politics. They are their brothers' punching bags. Which is why Occupiers and tea partiers sort of freak out when you make the comparison; it's like being told to look in the mirror and finding out that you've suddenly sprouted three heads.

The protesters weren't the number-one topic of discussion at the Values Voter Summit in DC—that would probably be President Barack Obama's continued assault on American values. But the nationwide demonstrations were a recurring theme on stage and among the rank-and-file attendees. Over the course of the weekend, a consensus began to form about who these protesters were and what shadowy groups might be behind them.