Mojo - October 2011

Conservative Pundit Says, "Get a Job Hippies!"

| Tue Oct. 11, 2011 10:01 AM EDT

The phrase "work three jobs" appears frequently in stories about economic malaise. It generally refers to people whom are underemployed and working many labor-intensive, low-benefit, low-paying jobs in order to pay their bills and get by. Of course, part of the reason it comes up so much is that the economy is so bad that there really are a large number of people working multiple jobs to pay their bills and still struggling.

Conservatives, seeking to dampen the message of the "We are the 99 Percent" message put forth by the Occupy Wall Street protesters, started a tumblr of their own titled "We are the 53 percent." While the 99 percent refers to the overwhelming majority of Americans who have watched government prop up financial institutions while taking half-measures to help ordinary citizens through a punishing recession, the "53 percent" refers to the percentage of Americans who pay federal income taxes, the implication being that those Americans who don't make enough money to pay income taxes are scofflaws living lives of lavish comfort. People who don't pay federal income taxes nevertheless pay other kinds of taxes, state taxes, payroll taxes, and the like, but why get bogged down in the details when you're trying to portray half the country as a bunch of shiftless freeloaders?

Conservative blogger Erick Erickson, in the tumblr's first post interprets the "work three jobs" thing somewhat differently than we've seen it used before:

Erickson's three jobs? I emailed him to ask but he didn't respond. Based on his various online biographies, however, he's managing editor of a blog, he hosts a radio show, and he's a CNN contributor. He's the hardest working man in America since all the other media personalities you see on cable television every day, giving their opinion on stuff.

"Get a job hippies!" Erickson advises. No seriously.

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Did Rick Perry Really Qualify for Tonight's GOP Debate?

| Tue Oct. 11, 2011 9:51 AM EDT

For GOP candidates to earn a spot in tonight's Bloomberg/Washington Post-sponsored presidential debate, they needed to clear a couple of hurdles. According to the published criteria, they had to win measurable support in some polls, raise more than $500,000 by the second quarter of 2011, and have participated in at least three nationally televised presidential debates. Most of the eight candidates on stage tonight make the cut, but one definitely doesn't: Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

GOP candidate Fred Karger, who won't be in the debate tonight and who's been shut out of all the others as well, in part because he's gay, sent a letter to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg this weekend complaining about Perry's special treatment. Karger argues that Perry doesn't qualify for the debate because, among other things, he wasn't even a declared candidate before the end of the second quarter of 2011 and he has yet to file a single campaign disclosure form with the Federal Election Commission. Karger says that if Bloomberg is going to let Perry into the debate even though he doesn't qualify, then the debate sponsors have an obligation to let in all the other candidates who don't quite make the cut either, including Karger, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, and former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer. Karger writes:

Mayor Bloomberg, since the debate organizers are not sticking to their own rules, then how about letting all serious Republican candidates for President on the stage to debate and talk about our ideas to fix the economy?

Let in former Governor’s Gary Johnson, Buddy Roemer and me. We all have much to add to this all important discussion.

Otherwise, under the organizers "pre-established objective criteria," Mr. Perry should not be allowed to debate Tuesday at Dartmouth.

It's a classic catch by Karger, who spent more than two decades specializing in the dark art of opposition research with such luminaries as the late GOP bad boy consultant Lee Atwater. Karger has used such skills to dog Mitt Romney, whom he accused of potential voter fraud earlier this year after discovering that Romney had voted in Massachusetts while apparently living in California. (Romney claimed to be residing one of his kids' basements in Massachusetts.)

But as for the debate, Karger may have a point. Bloomberg and the Washington Post are giving Perry special consideration they refuse to give to the other candidates. Why not let the other guys in? Karger and Johnson are no more hopeless than Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum or Jon Huntsman, but they at least offer a different perspective that might make the debate far less scripted than it's likely to be. Imagine watching Karger respond to Santorum's gay bashing or Johnson bringing up the merits of pot legalization with straight-laced Mitt Romney. Now that's a debate that might be fun to watch. If nothing else, Bloomberg should think of the ratings!

Rick Scott to Liberal Arts Majors: Drop Dead

| Tue Oct. 11, 2011 9:15 AM EDT

Florida's unpopular tea party governor, Rick Scott, wants more of the state's youths to pick up college degrees... but only if the degrees are useful to corporations and don't teach students to question social norms. "You know what? They need to get education in areas where they can get jobs," Scott told a right-wing radio host Monday morning. He continued:

"You know, we don't need a lot more anthropologists in the state. It's a great degree if people want to get it, but we don't need them here. I want to spend our dollars giving people science, technology, engineering, math degrees. That's what our kids need to focus all their time and attention on. Those type of degrees. So when they get out of school, they can get a job."

It's no idle sound bite. The governor, an ex-corporate CEO with a checkered business past, is pushing a plan that would all but kill liberal arts and social sciences at the Sunshine State's public universities—and he's got support from the Legislature's psychology-hatin' GOP majority. He explained the strategy Monday in a separate interview with the Sarasota Herald-Tribune:

Scott said Monday that he hopes to shift more funding to science, technology, engineering and math departments, the so-called "STEM" disciplines. The big losers: Programs like psychology and anthropology and potentially schools like New College in Sarasota that emphasize a liberal arts curriculum.

"If I'm going to take money from a citizen to put into education then I’m going to take that money to create jobs," Scott said. "So I want that money to go to degrees where people can get jobs in this state."

"Is it a vital interest of the state to have more anthropologists? I don't think so."

Hugo Chavez Endorses #OccupyWallStreet

| Tue Oct. 11, 2011 5:40 AM EDT
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

In a moment that Sean Hannity couldn't have scripted better himself, #OccupyWallStreet just found itself a new ally: Hugo Chavez. Venezuela's leftist leader threw his support behind the protesters during a televised palace meeting on Saturday, denouncing the "horrible repression" of the American people. #OWS has picked up praise and appearances from other controversial figures like demagogue Louis Farrakhan, professional alienator Michael Moore, and, uh... that Kanye West guy. But this is the first instance of a foreign strongman going to bat for the fledgling movement. Chavez also made sure to toss in a brief jab at President Obama's policy fumbles, Reuters reports:

"This movement of popular outrage is expanding to 10 cities and the repression is horrible, I don't know how many are in prison now," Chavez said in comments at a political meeting in his Caracas presidential palace shown on state TV..."Poverty's growing, the misery is getting worse," he said, referring to the causes of the U.S. protests. "But that empire is still there, still a threat ... [President Barack] Obama is on his way down, for lots of reasons. He was a big fraud."

In his long, thuggish political career, Chavez has successfully cast himself as a populist, anti-imperialist crusader battling the purveyors of "savage capitalism"; so it's no huge shock that the Venezuelan president would jump at a chance to further highlight the consequences of capitalist excess. It's no shock, either, that the right-wing commentariat are giddily starting to seize the chance to tie #OWS protesters to the socialist authoritarian.

Obviously, Chavez's statement doesn't actually say anything about #Occupy Wall Street, as much as pundits on the right would like it to. Trying to discredit the entire protest movement as communist infiltration based on the comments of one Latin American head of state is almost like saying Nelson Mandela got it wrong because he palled around with Fidel Castro.

Given the fiercely anti-Wall Street nature of the protests, levelheaded progressive supporters would be foolish not to expect more unwanted endorsement from less-than-savory fellow travellers on the left. But as MoJo's Kevin Drum noted in a recent post, advocates of #OWS should learn to do what conservatives do when linked to extremists in the Tea Party: ignore, ignore, ignore:

If you go to any tea party event, you'll hear some crackpot stuff and see some people dressed up in crackpot costumes (tricorner hats etc.)...But does this scare off anyone on the right? It does not. They ignore it, or dismiss it, or try to explain it away, and then continue praising the overall movement...They know whose side they're on...[L]iberals need to take the same attitude. Are there some crackpots at the Occupy Wall Street protests who will be gleefully quoted by Fox News? Sure. Are some of the organizers anarchists or socialists or whatnot? Sure...But so what. Ignore it. Dismiss it. Explain it away...But don't let any of this scare you off.

Arrests and Pepper Spray at Occupy Des Moines; Governor Faults Protesters

| Tue Oct. 11, 2011 5:00 AM EDT

#OccupyWallStreet came to Iowa last week, with organized efforts in at least seven cities to date. It all began without incident in a park in Iowa City, where police checked in only to "protect us from possible drunk students walking by," according to one participant. But Sunday night, outside the state Capitol in Des Moines, officers arrested at least 30 adults and two minors after protesters refused to vacate a swath of state property they'd temporarily claimed as "People's Park." Claims of police misconduct were promptly flying about on Twitter.

At around 10:30 p.m., witnesses say, some 200 Iowans were peacefully protesting the cozy relationship between government and corporate America (not to mention the Fed) when two dozen Iowa State Patrol and city police announced that they intended to enforce an 11 p.m. curfew on state property.

When the officers returned half an hour later, about 100 people locked arms, says David Goodner, a longtime social-justice activist. Goodner was the first person arrested when police began to forcibly subdue protesters, at least one of whom was pepper-sprayed. Others, according to people at the scene, received scrapes and bruises as police dragged them away.

"I've never seen that many people arrested for an act of conscience in all my time working for social change in Des Moines," says Ed Fallon, a local radio show host and former Democratic state legislator who was among those arrested. (Disclosure: I volunteered on Fallon's gubernatorial campaign in 2006.) "What's unique about this is the Occupy Wall Street movement has spread to the heartland."

IowaPolitics.com shot this video of the arrests. Fallon is the man in the cap being arrested 15 seconds in.

Terry Branstad, the state's Republican governor, defended the officers' actions. At a statehouse news conference Monday morning, he said the police "acted in an appropriate and restrained manner." (Iowa State Patrol Sergeant Scott Bright told me that officers "didn't have any conversation with the governor" prior to the arrests.) Branstad went on to criticize the protesters. "I think we've got to be careful about casting blame and attacking people who we want to invest and create jobs," he told reporters. "I'm very concerned about not sending the wrong signals to the decision makers in business."

NY City Councilman Says Feds Should Provide NYPD Counterterrorism Oversight (UPDATED)

| Tue Oct. 11, 2011 4:59 AM EDT
NYC Councilman Peter Vallone, Jr.

When the Associated Press' story on the CIA-assisted NYPD surveillance program targeting the city's Muslim enclaves first broke in August, City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. dismissed concerns about oversight out of hand, telling WNYC that "We have done extensive oversight of the NYPD’s terror activities and that oversight includes confidential briefings by the commissioner to myself... So they left all of that out of the article.”

Since then, the AP has done several pieces following up on its original reporting—prompting some harsh questioning of NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly in a recent city council meeting and a lawsuit from the New York Civil Liberties Union. Now Vallone is saying that the City Council actually can't oversee the NYPD.

Peter Vallone, the chairman of the council's Public Safety Committee, said the council doesn't have the power to subpoena the NYPD for its intelligence records. And even if it did, he said the operations are too sophisticated for city officials to effectively oversee. More oversight is likely needed, he said, perhaps from the federal government. "That portion of the police department's work should probably be looked at by a federal monitor," he said after Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly testified Thursday at City Hall.

Despite the breadth of the NYPD's operational capabilities—in a bafflingly uncritical 60 Minutes profile that included an exaggerated claim about the NYPD's um, anti-aircraft capabilities, Kelly bragged that the NYPD actually has agents in foreign countries collecting intelligence—there really isn't any established system of oversight comparable to the one that exists for federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies. The CIA began an Inspector General investigation into its own connection to the program shortly after its existence was revealed by the AP.

Vallone's statement is a departure from his earlier statements suggesting there's "nothing to see here," but Faiza Patel, Co-Director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center, says that federal oversight is not an appropriate solution.

"If you're going to have a counterterrorism force that is so sophisticated, then you have to have an equally sophisticated oversight method, it's irresponsible if you don't," Patel says. "The U.S. has a decentralized system of policing where local police are accountable to local populations. that's the way our system works. At the end of the day, the NYPD, despite its counterterrorism operations, is a local police force." Patel offered one caveat: It's possible that the federal government could oversee the NYPD in some circumstances, such as when NYPD officers are stationed in foreign countries.

The only possible model for the kind of federal intervention Vallone is talking about is the kind that occurs through a consent decree, such as the one being hammered out by New Orleans and the Justice Department following an investigation that revealed massive, systemic abuse of civil rights by the New Orleans Police.

Given that the NYPD's position is that the AP is mischaracterizing the nature of its counterterrorism efforts, which department officials claim is consistent with the law and civil liberties protections, a consent decree is probably not what Vallone had in mind.

UPDATED: Vallone's Office sent over a statement saying that the AP took his remarks out of context:

“The ‘portion’ I was referring to was the overseas activities of the NYPD which NYC money is not used to fund. I have stated multiple times that those activities are a new frontier in local law enforcement and new oversight methods need to be looked at, including federal. I have not and will not call for any additional federal monitors for the NYPD’s activities in New York City.”

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

Tue Oct. 11, 2011 4:57 AM EDT

Staff Sgt. Peter Jensen collects straps that restrained airdrop bundles in the back of a C-17 Globemaster III on Sept 30, 2011. Jensen and the crew of the C-17 air dropped 40 bundles to a remote outpost in Afghanistan. Jensen is a loadmaster assigned to the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron. (US Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen)

Charts: Who Are the 1 Percent?

| Mon Oct. 10, 2011 5:39 PM EDT

Occupy Wall Street has focused national attention on the vast majority of Americans who have been left behind by the economic growth of the past few decades. But if OWS is the voice of the 99 percent, who exactly are the 1 percent?

A quick look at the numbers reveals that they aren't all bailed-out Wall Street execs or brokers pulling down fat bonuses. That's just some of them:

Even though the richest 1 percent of Americans don't all work on Wall Street, they do control a disproportionate amount of its wealth, including nearly half of all stocks and mutual funds and more than 60 percent of securities.

But you can't beat this chart for the most dramatic measure of just how wide the gap between the tippy-top and the 99 percent has become. While incomes for the superrich have skyrocketed in the past three decades, most Americans' have flatlined. 

ALSO: Check out our charts on income inequality, overworked America, and six common economic myths.

Sources: Occupations of top 1 percent: John Bakija, Williams College (PDF); asset ownership: Edward N. Wolff, Bard College (PDF); income growth: The World Top Incomes Database

Are You Ready for Some Football-Related Campaign Contributions?

| Mon Oct. 10, 2011 5:06 PM EDT
New York Jets owner Woody Johnson (center) has donated more than $115,000 to the GOP since January 2009.

By now, we've grown used to seeing gridiron stars transition into politics when their playing days are done. And whether it's former Buffalo Bills quarterback (and George H.W. Bush-era housing secretary) Jack Kemp or Hall of Fame wide receiver (and four-term Oklahoma congressman) Steve Largent—to say nothing of Rep. Heath Shuler (a Blue Dog Democrat in North Carolina)—these politically engaged former players have tended to lean right.

So perhaps it's no surprise that, according to a new study by the Center for Responsive Politics, the majority of contributions by NFL teams in the past couple of years have gone to the GOP. Of the more than $1.4 million donated by team executives, players, and coaches since January 2009, some $970,000, or 67 percent, has gone to Republicans, while Democrats have received $420,000.

Here's a look at the NFL's top political contributors, by team:


Courtesy Center for Responsive Politics

The Awlaki Memo Leak

| Mon Oct. 10, 2011 4:15 PM EDT
Suspected terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki was killed in a US drone strike in late September.

Here's something I wrote on January 11:

Sometime during Barack Obama's term in office, there's a good chance an American citizen will be killed on the president's orders.

Perhaps it will be Anwar al-Awlaki, the New Mexico-born Al Qaeda propagandist hiding in Yemen... And when that person meets his fiery end, it's quite possible that the American people still won't have a good sense of exactly why the President believes he has the legal authority to authorize the killing of US citizens without charge or trial.

Awlaki, of course, was killed by just such a strike late last month. And at the time of Awlaki's death, Americans still didn't have a good sense of exactly why the President believed he had the authority to order such an attack. As my January article explained, decisions like the extrajudicial killing of an American citizen suspected of terrorism are almost invariably justified by a memo from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel—the division charged with telling the government what it is and isn't allowed to do. When Awlaki was killed, there was no way of knowing how the OLC justified the strike, because the relevant memo was still secret. 

This weekend, however, we found out quite a bit about what that Awlaki memo says. On Saturday, the New York Times' Charlie Savage published a story laying out the contents of the memo in great detail. Spencer Ackerman and Kevin Drum have more on the actual substance of the OLC's argument, and the Washington Post's Peter Finn had a good story Monday laying out the growing support for releasing the document in its entirety. But the fact the leak happened in the first place is almost as interesting as what was leaked. Here's Lawfare's Ben Wittes on that [emphasis added]:

I doubt very much that this is an entirely unauthorized rogue "leak"—in the sense that there are secrets here that the government very much wants to keep but that some individual decided on his or her own to disclose. I suspect, rather, that this is a situation in which the government–or some senior official therein–has decided to disclose the memo without disclosing it. This approach is fully consistent with the larger strategy of the administration on the subject of drones and targeting killing—to talk about the subject a great deal by way of claiming credit for big counterterrorism successes but to do so without talking about it at all officially. And it’s wrong. Either this program is a secret, in which case the government should stop talk[ing] to Charlie about it, or it’s not a secret, in which case it should figure out what is releasable in the memo and release it. There is no middle ground here—no legitimate middle ground, anyway—in which the right approach is coyness.

There's a point to be made here—one that Wittes alludes to—about the Obama administration's attitude toward leaks of top-secret information. The Obama White House has been extremely harsh in its treatment of government whistleblowers and other spillers of government secrets. But when the government wants to brag about something secret to the press—say, the Awlaki killing, or the fact they targeted him in the first place—or explain its actions behind the shield of anonymity, the normal rules don't seem to apply. I asked the Justice Department on Monday morning if they plan to investigate the Awlaki memo leak, or if they could even tell me generally about which sorts of leaks they choose to investigate. I haven't heard back.