Saturday night's GOP presidential debate in South Carolina focused on foreign policy, which was bad news for Herman Cain. By his own admission, it's a subject he doesn't know much about. And it showed. Taking the first question of the debate, about how he would address the prospect of a nuclear Iran, he offered a solution to a problem that doesn't exist.

Cain's big point—one he's made before—is that he would defeat the Iranian regime by choking their economy. Specifically, he would develop American energy sources (in the form of offshore oil drilling, among other things) so that we're no longer reliant on hostile nations for resources. That sounds nice. He sounded confident enough as he rattled off his talking points.

But there's a problem: The United States doesn't currently get any oil from Iran. If a Cain administration would try to curb Mahmoud Ahmedinejad's power by increasing domestic oil production, that wouldn't have any impact on the Iranian economy. In the long-term, domestic energy self-suffiency is a positive. But in response to the immediate threat of a nuclear Iran—a long-term energy plan doesn't mean anything.

David Corn and Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, joined Chris Matthews on MSNBC's Hardball to discuss the latest poll results for the Republican presidential candidates. Considering Rick Perry's debate gaffes and the sexual harrassment allegations against Herman Cain, are there any viable GOP alternatives to Mitt Romney?

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

The victims and families of victims of Major Nidal Malik Hasan's shooting rampage at Fort Hood in 2009 are suing the US government for ignoring signs that Hasan was dangerous, the Associated Press reported Friday:

The government bowed to political correctness and not only ignored the threat Hasan presented but actually promoted him to the rank of major five months before the massacre, according to the administrative claims against the Defense Department, the Justice Department and the FBI. Thirteen soldiers and civilians were killed and more than two dozen soldiers and civilians were injured in the Nov. 5, 2009, shooting spree.

Fifty-four relatives of eight of the murdered soldiers have filed claims. One civilian police officer and nine of the injured soldiers have filed claims along with 19 family members of those 10.

The plaintiffs will certainly have plenty of material in the public record to make their case that the government was at fault. A report the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee released earlier this year showed that Hasan's superiors knew about his radical beliefs ("An instructor and a colleague each referred to Hasan as a "ticking time bomb.") and promoted him anyway. The investigation found that the Department of Defense "possessed compelling evidence that Hasan embraced views so extreme that it should have disciplined him or discharged him from the military, but DoD failed to take action against him."

Whether this is due to "political correctness," as the plaintiffs claim, is a different question. The FBI anti-Muslim training materials first revealed by WIRED reporter Spencer Ackerman posited that it was normal for "mainstream" Muslims to express sympathy for terrorists. Anyone getting that kind of information might be inclined to overlook, as Hasan's superiors did, outright evidence of extremism. That's why Gen. Jack Keane (Ret.) told the Senate committee in February that "If service members clearly understand the difference between their religion, and the dangerous radicalism of violent Islamist extremism....The patriotic Muslims in our armed services will be protected against unwarranted suspicion."

The Senate report's conclusion—that "political correctness" played a role in Hasan not being stopped sooner—was widely reported. Less widely acknowledged was the report's finding that "ignorance of religious practices" was also to blame. That helps explain why Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn), the chair of the committee, slammed the FBI's anti-Muslim training materials as "lies" while also going after the DoD's supposed "political correctness" with regards to Hasan. Ignorance is dangerous, but just as dangerous is ignorance masquerading as knowledge. 

This post has been updated. Click here for the latest.

A group of self-identified conservatives say they plan to sabotage the effort to recall Wisconsin GOP Gov. Scott Walker, which begins on Tuesday, by burning and shredding recall petitions they've collected and misleading Wisconsinites about the recall process.

These plans, discussed in Facebook posts that were first reported by the blog PolitiScoop, entail posing as recall supporters and gathering signatures, only to later destroy the petitions. They also include telling Wisconsinites that they can only sign one recall petition (which is false—they can sign different petitions as long as they each correspond to a different organization) and directing signature collectors to the homes of registered sex offenders. (Requests for comment were sent to each of the Facebook posters who allowed messages from other users.)

In one post, Will R. Jenkins says, "I'll be able to destroy 15-20K signatures." If things go well, he adds, he might even "be able to destroy upwards of 15-20% of the entire collected ballots in the state of Wisconsin":

Jenkins' Facebook profile lists his profession as "UNION SLAVE LABORER" at the Kenosha Unified School District, located in southeast Wisconsin. His description reads, "Dealing with white trash, illegal immigrants, and criminal gang black kids isn't fun and games." Jenkins' interests are listed as "Greeting A Liberal," "Beating A Liberal," Strangling A Liberal," Burying a Dead Body," and "Having a Few Beers."

Another person posting under the name Terry Dipper quips, "I bet I can heat my house the whole winter with what I collect":

Poster Matt Wynns in Eagle, Wisconsin, doubles down on the idea of burning recall petitions:

And finally Facebook users Matt Wynns and Terry Dipper discuss telling Wisconsinites that it's illegal to sign more than one recall petition—a false statement:

(You can read more of these posts at PolitiScoop, which posted nine different screen shots from Facebook.)

Michael Maistelman, a Wisconsin attorney and election law expert who reviewed screenshots of the comments, says the postings could raise serious legal issues if the plan is to tamper with official recall petitions. "If a person fraudulently solicits recall petitions and then destroys those petitions, they will probably go to jail," Maistelman says. "The law is very clear on this."

[UDPATE]: Reid Magney, a spokesman from Wisconsin's Government Accountability Board, says destroying or defacing an official recall petition would violate state law. (Here's the relevant statute.) Such a violation, he adds, would be a class I felony in Wisconsin, which carries a maximum fine of $10,000 and up to three-and-a-half years in jail.

Does Sen. Jon Tester's disdain for wolves also extend to t-shirts that become Internet memes?

Next fall's Montana Senate race is shaping up to be the most expensive election in the state's history. Karl Rove's dark money outfit, Crossroads GPS, is already saturating the airwaves in the state (it's also going after Elizabeth Warren). The race, pitting incumbent Democrat Jon Tester against longtime Rep. Denny Rehberg (R), could well decide which party controls the Senate. There's a lot at stake—so naturally, the race has come down to the important question of which candidate hates the endangered western wolf more.

Eli Sanders files a dispatch from Montana and highlights this element of the race:

While in most states you won't find a Democrat trying to out-hustle a Republican over who got an endangered animal like the Western wolf less federal protection, this, again, is Montana — where a lot of voters see wolves as livestock predators. So when Rehberg, who has a stuffed Canadian Black wolf in his office, suggested he's the one responsible for the de-listing of American endangered wolves, Tester's campaign pounced, reminding people that Rehberg's bill actually didn't go anywhere in Congress. "The record is clear as to who did what," Tester told me. "It is absolutely, unequivocally clear. He could not get his bill out of committee. I got my bill signed by the president."

Boom. Maybe noted coyote-killer Rick Perry is running for the wrong office.

Without the wealth gap, how would the rich have the money for necessities like this?

Some people think that the large and growing gap between the richest 1 percent of Americans and the other 99 percent, nicely illustrated in our inequality charts, is reflective of broader problems in our society and should probably be smaller. Clark Durant, a Republican businessman who's running for Senate in Michigan, has an alternative view:

In regards to the Occupy Wall Street movement, Durant said the protesters should "go find a job." In regards to the wealth gap the movement decries, Durant said, "I think it should be wider."

Tell us how you really feel!

(h/t Sean Sullivan)

UPDATE: Durant has issued a statement on this matter. Posted without comment:

Thank you for challenging my statement about 'widening the gap'. I do not believe in widening the income gap between rich and poor, and my life's work in the inner city of Detroit demonstrates that far more than any sound bite. At Calvin College my 'widening the gap' remark, in its context, sought to challenge the students to think outside the box when they hear stock statements that pit one group of people against another. We need a country that embraces all, and rewards innovators, entrepreneurs, job creators, and hard-working people of all sorts. Innovators like Steve Jobs and Henry Ford, a part of the 1%, make life better for us all. But instead of just one, what if we had 100, 1,000, or 10,000 such innovators? And that was my point at Calvin College. I'm for innovation, and a commitment to a rising tide that lifts all boats for all Americans. I believe in the 100%.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)

On Thursday, while the country was digesting the lowlights of the latest GOP presidential debate, some of the Republican faithful were in DC hearing from a lawmaker many Republicans would like to see on the ticket in 2012: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

Rubio, who's on the short list of potential vice presidential candidates, didn't disappoint. The man occasionally called the "Cuban Barack Obama" wowed a crowd of conservative Federalist Society lawyers with a speech on the "Constitution of Small Government." It could have been really dry, but was, in fact, almost inspirational.

Rubio was propelled to victory last fall thanks to his wooing of Florida tea partiers with fiery speeches about fiscal responsibility and smaller government. Despite his Cuban ancestry, he campaigned as an immigration hawk. And he even showed little sympathy for extending unemployment benefits to struggling Americans unless they were paid for by budget cuts elsewhere.

On Thursday, though, he didn't sound much like a tea partier. Nor did he echo much of the increasing anti-government rhetoric of the GOP presidential candiates. Instead, he actually acknowledged a place for government, took shots at big business, and—gasp!—argued in favor of a social safety net. He sounded like a younger, smarter George W. Bush, articulating something that sounded a lot like compassionate conservatism. It was clear why the unfunny and often dull front-runner Mitt Romney has said he'd like him as a possible running mate.

Members from the 633rd Security Forces Squadron welcome home Staff Sgt. John Duncan, Senior Airmen Kristian Robles Cruz and Amber Boyd, and Airman Basic Joseph Wesley on November 2, 2011, at the Newport News, Va., airport. The four Airmen were among about 20 633rd SFS members who returned to Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., from deployment with the 332nd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, in the past week. (US Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Jeremy Lock)

A barricade, lit on fire by black bloc anarchists in an attempt to counteract the effect of police tear gas, blocked off a route to a building temporarily occupied after Oakland's November 2 general strike.

Gavin Aronsen will be reporting from Occupy Oakland this weekend. Follow his updates on Twitter.


Under renewed threat of a crackdown against Occupy Oakland, a contentious general assembly meeting unfolded Wednesday evening in downtown Frank Ogawa Plaza. How should the movement deal with rogue elements in its midst? Occupiers tussled over proposals on endorsing nonviolence and denouncing "black bloc" tactics of vandalism and police agitation.

There seemed to be little consensus on the meaning of "diversity of tactics" and what qualifies as "violence." But the questions raised represent a crucial debate for this prominent satellite of the Occupy Wall Street movement, which continued to draw attention after late-night rioting tainted a major general strike demonstration that shut down the nation’s fifth-largest port on November 2. There has been broad agreement among police and protesters alike that anarchists employing black bloc tactics—a concept that originated in Europe three decades ago in which protesters conceal their faces, dress in black, and often carry out targeted property destruction—were responsible for the rioting. But so far Occupy Oakland has failed to agree on what to do about the black bloc proponents in its midst.

When Wednesday’s general assembly of roughly 1,000 people came to an end around 10 p.m. most of the occupation’s youthful majority—some of whom had booed and shouted down suggestions to condemn property destruction and "peacefully" obstruct black bloc attempts at vandalism—turned in for the night or dashed off to UC Berkeley to support Occupy Cal against a clash with police that had begun while the Oakland assembly was still discussing its proposals.

In their absence, a group of about three dozen mostly middle-aged or older occupation sympathizers convened an informal strategy session on Frank Ogawa Plaza’s amphitheater stage. Gan Golan, a 37-year-old former Bay Area resident who still has an Oakland cell phone area code but no permanent residence, led much of the discussion. He’s been traveling between occupation sites across the country and heard about the general strike and subsequent rioting while in Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park. He said his phone had since been lighting up with text messages from New York occupiers curious for his take on Oakland’s events.

"People are very much in awe of what is happening in Oakland, so I felt the need to come witness it myself," Golan said. "But that awe is very much about the nonviolent direct action at the port. There was a tremendous amount of disappointment about the use of ineffective vandalist tactics that did not seem in keeping with the ethos of this movement nationally. And that concern is very widespread through the occupations I’ve seen."

Earlier that night, 599 Occupy Oakland voters rejected a proposal intended to distance the movement from black bloc tactics. Golan found the proposal’s language confusing and contradictory, calling for those employing black bloc tactics to be "responsible" in their actions and think twice about vandalizing property, but also supporting the movement's right to ill-defined "all-inclusive tactics." One skeptical general assembly speaker complained that the proposal was open-ended, and wondered whether it might force Occupy Oakland to green-light the "kidnapping and torturing of families of corporate executives." The black bloc proposal, said Golan, "was completely unclear, and this movement needs to be emphatically clear."

After the black bloc proposal failed, 63-year-old Allan Brill preemptively withdrew a separate nonviolence proposal that was unlikely to pass. Later, several speakers at the assembly questioned the short-lived occupation of the former Travelers Aid Society building, which led to a police crackdown with tear gas and "less lethal" projectiles in the wee hours of the morning following the port shutdown. One middle-aged man sympathized with a proposal to march to a different foreclosed building in the city and occupy it, but said, "I just think it’s a real tactical mistake to do it as Occupy Oakland." (In the 1980s and early ‘90s, a campaign to occupy foreclosed buildings led to relatively peaceful confrontations with police.)

Ultimately, while many Oakland occupiers might empathize with the frustrations driving black bloc fans to bold statements and shows of force, the fear of alienating mainstream sympathy for the movement looms large. As Oakland union organizer Jeff Duritz put it: "It’s nearly impossible to change the country. The only way that that could possibly happen is if that’s a mass movement. If my mom can’t come, we’re not going to change the country. That’s the bottom line. We could spend days debating what 'violence' means, but when we boil it down, when someone smashes a window that means no one’s mom is coming, and we need the moms to come."

Wednesday night's presidential debate debacle left many Republicans wondering if Rick Perry had totally lost his marbles. As one top donor told Aaron Blake, "Perry campaign is over. Time for him to go home and refocus on being Governor of Texas." Perry thinks, at least publicly, that he can make things better by going on a media blitz. But this promotion that just landed in our inbox, from Marbles, "the brain store," can't be a good sign:

Courtesy of MarblesCourtesy of Marbles

Brain Games, the site helpfully notes, is "a great choice for those who want a mental workout that's fun and challenging at the same time." The cost? You guessed it: $9.99.