Mojo - November 2011

National Review: Cain Is More "Authentically Black" Than Obama

| Wed Nov. 9, 2011 1:00 PM EST
The National Review is the nation's leading authority on blackness.

National Review's Victor Davis Hanson has written the dumbest column of the year in defense of Herman Cain, marching out every possible cliché of right-wing victimhood, infantile racial identity politics, and gender stereotypes. 

Beginning from the premise that Republicans suffer from sex scandals but Democrats don't, Hanson mentions one Democrat who was impeached (Bill Clinton), another who resigned in disgrace (Eliot Spitzer), and another who is facing criminal charges over allegedly spending campaign funds to help hide his mistress (John Edwards). 

Hanson would have you believe that Republicans George H.W. Bush, Dan Quayle, John McCain, and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas are supposed to envy these men for avoiding any real consequences for their transgressions. "Both supporters and detractors agree that Cain should know by now that alleged misdemeanors by Republican frontrunners are always more serious than known transgressions by Democratic rivals," Hanson writes, having disproved his own argument. Presumably with a straight face, Hanson glibly mentions former segregationist Republican Strom Thurmond's "wandering hands," which is a euphemism for "former white supremacist who fathered a black child out of wedlock and managed to keep it a secret until after his death."

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What You Missed: Election Night 2011

| Wed Nov. 9, 2011 12:41 PM EST

Tuesday night's state and local elections didn't carry quite the same punch as the midterms of 2010, but with two governorships, a handful of state legislatures, and two hot-button ballot initiatives on the line, it offered a quick temperature check on how the nation's doing. As it turns out, things could have gone a lot worse. So if you went to bed early, here's what you missed:

  • Ohio: Voters overwhelmingly rejected Republican Gov. John Kasich's controversial union-busting law, which would have severely curtailed collective bargaining rights in the state. More Ohioans voted to repeal Kasich's signature piece of legislation than voted for Kasich last November. It was a big win for progressives, but as Andy Kroll reports, don't put Ohio in the blue column for 2012 just yet.
  • Mississippi: Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant upgraded his seat to "Governor" with victory over Democrat Johnny DuPree, but the big story here was the surprisingly easy defeat of Question 26—a constitutional amendment to redefine zygotes as people. Supporters of the measure, which would have banned abortion even in cases of rape and affected everything from in vitro fertilization to fire codes, made their final pitch to voters by distributing a graphic film comparing reproductive rights to the Holocaust. (On Monday, Bryant told a woman who had been raped that if Question 26 fails, "Satan wins." So make of that what you will.) In a win for Reublicans, a constitutional amendment to require state-issued identification to vote also passed.
  • Arizona: GOPer Russell Pearce became the first sitting Senate president ever to lose a recall election—to fellow Republican Jerry Lewis (not that Jerry Lewis). Why should you care? Pearce was the architect of Arizona's SB 1070 immigration law, which he drafted at the behest of private prison lobbyists. Democrats won mayoral races in Tucson and Phoenix, and in a feel-good story, Daniel Hernandez, a hero of the Gabby Giffords shooting, was elected to his local school board for the Sunnyside Unified School District.
  • Kentucky: Democrats won five of six statewide contests, including the governor's race, where incumbent Steve Beshear easily handled GOP challenger David Williams. This was noteworthy only because Williams spent the final days of the race accusing Beshear of "idolatry" for attending a Hindu prayer ceremony. So what lessons can Obama take from Beshear's success? None, really. Beshear's a very conservative Democrat who recently secured $43 million in tax credits to build a replica of Noah's Ark.
  • Maine: Another item for the "GOP overreach" narrative. Voters approved Question 1, which restored a law allowing citizens to register to vote on election day. The same-day registration law had been repealed by Republican Gov. Paul LePage and the GOP-led Legislature.
  • Virginia: With one race still too close to call, Republican appear to have taken control of the state Senate (they already controlled the House of Delegates). Democrat Adam Ebbin won his race to become Virginia's first openly gay state senator.
  • Iowa: Good news for gay marriage supporters. Democrats won a special election for a vacant state Senate seat, thereby retaining control of the upper chamber and dashing the hopes of social conservatives who'd hoped they'd finally have to votes to ban gay marriage. It cost a pretty penny, though; the Des Moines Register estimated that the two sides combined to spend a Wisconsinesque $1 million in the special election.
  • Massachusetts: Via our friends at Unicorn Booty, Holyoke elected its first gay mayor, 22-year-old Alex Morse.
  • San Francisco: Interim Mayor Ed Lee came one step closer to becoming the first Asian American to win a mayoral election in the city. Lee was the beneficiary of the most original ad of the 2011 cycle, which featured MC Hammer, will.i.am, Giants pitcher Brian Wilson, and three apparently very stoned voters:
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The Onion Predicts the Future, Again: Bill Clinton's Third Run

| Wed Nov. 9, 2011 12:08 PM EST
If Bill Clinton wants to be president, again, y'all should just learn how to shut up and deal with it.

It's long been known that the creative team behind The Onion is comprised primarily of fortunetellers, time travelers, palm-readers, and other folks who are capable of peering deep into the future.

Remember the article on how George W. Bush revived war, jingoism, recession, fear, and loathing...published in January 2001? How about when they prophesied the advent of Joe the Plumber all the way back in 1993? Or that Gillette would be crazy enough to put five blades on a razor (three years before the product was even introduced)? And how about that tiff between an Al Qaeda spokesman and 9/11 Truthers?

And in late January 2008, the satirical tabloid ran the following headline

 Oh, look, here we are in November 2011, and..... 

(To see what just happened to your mind, click here.)

On Tuesday, the 42nd President of the United States appeared on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" to discuss, among other things, his take on the two-term limit. The thought of scrapping the Twenty-Second Amendment and paving the way for another coming of Clinton would surely speak to the desires of Americans who pine for an era when unemployment was at 4 percent and the commander-in-chief played tenor sax on MTV.

So when host Joe Scarborough asked the former POTUS if "a president [should] be able to take two terms, take time off, and run again," Clinton responded with: "I've always thought that should be the rule. I think as a practical matter, you couldn't apply this to anyone who has already served, but going forward, I personally believe that should be the rule...People are living longer, they're developing greater capacity..."

Okay, so maybe he wasn't explicitly applying "the rule" to himself, or declaring another presidential bid. But that doesn't change the fact that the Onion news team clearly time-travels to land scoops on things like the Iraq War and safety razors.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for November 9, 2011

Wed Nov. 9, 2011 6:57 AM EST

Soldiers of the Personal Security Detachment, 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, mount an M2 .50-caliber machine gun before conducting night fire drills during training at Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center, Miss., October 31, 2011. The 37th IBCT is deploying to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. 37th IBCT photo by Sgt. Kimberly Lamb.

Arizona's Anti-Immigrant Standard-Bearer Russell Pearce Goes Down

| Wed Nov. 9, 2011 1:12 AM EST

Voters in Maricopa County, Arizona made history Tuesday night, recalling Republican State Senate President Russell Pearce, the author of the state's draconian anti-illegal immigration law, SB 1070. It was the first time an Arizona state legislator had been recalled in history, let alone a sitting State Senate president. As Elise Foley reports, immigrants' rights activists devoted a lot of time, money and effort to recalling Pearce. Maricopa County is no swing district—it hasn't voted for a Democrat for President since Harry Truman

Pearce, whose anti-immigrant agenda catapulted him to national prominence last year, was defeated by Republican challenger Jerry Lewis by a margin of 53-47 percent. Lewis struck a moderate tone on immigration, particularly in comparison with Pearce, whose rhetoric on the issue was often loaded with noxious racial language. Despite outraising Lewis, getting a sham candidate on the ballot meant to split the anti-Pearce vote, and engaging in campaign tactics meant to manipulate Latinos into throwing away their votes, Pearce lost to Lewis by a decisive margin. Pearce's reputation also suffered after he was implicated the Fiesta Bowl scandal, in which he was accused of illegally accepting game tickets. 

All the same, although recalling Pearce inflicts a measure of retribution for immigrants' rights activists in the state, much of Pearce's anti-immigrant agenda has already become mainstream in the Republican Party. When the Obama administration challenged SB 1070 in court, Republicans rallied around the state and blamed the president for failing to enforce laws against illegal immigration. Although most SB 1070 copycats failed, states like Alabama and Georgia have enacted similar laws. Of the two current Republican front-runners, Herman Cain likes to joke about killing unauthorized immigrants with an electrified death fence, and Mitt Romney smothered Texas Governor Rick Perry's primary run by slamming Perry for his decision to let unauthorized immigrant teenagers pay in-state tuition at Texas colleges. 

Pearce's recall was a historic event. But Pearce had already made history by helping to make "attrition through enforcement" the primary approach to immigration policy in the Republican Party. The question now is whether anyone in the GOP is actually having second-thoughts about the party's anti-immigrant agenda after Pearce's loss.

Mississippi Rejects Zygote "Personhood" Amendment

| Wed Nov. 9, 2011 12:11 AM EST

More than 55 percent of Mississippi voters rejected an amendment to the state constitution that would have redefined legal personhood as beginning at conception. The so-called "personhood" measure was the most radically anti-abortion effort in the country, and would have outlawed all abortions and many forms of birth control.

With 63 percent of precincts reporting, 57 percent of voters rejected the amendment, according to the Associated Press tally.

The Center for Reproductive Rights called the amendment's defeat "a tremendous victory for women in the state and across the country." "Outlawing medical services commonly used and relied upon by Americans in their personal lives runs completely counter to the U.S. Constitution, not to mention some of our most deeply held American political traditions and values," said Nancy Northup, the group's president, in a statement.

This is the third time voters have rejected this kind of measure at the polls: Colorado defeated similar efforts in 2008 and 2010. Abortion foes and pro-choice groups were both watching Mississippi avidly this year. Anti-abortion groups in a number of other states are at work on getting their own ballot initiatives in place for the 2012 election, as are some Republican congressmen. Mississippi, one of the most conservative states in the country, was seen as a test case for other measures.

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Bye Bye, SB 5: Anti-Union Law Repealed in Ohio

| Tue Nov. 8, 2011 11:08 PM EST

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

More than seven months after Republican Gov. John Kasich signed it into law, Ohioans have repealed SB 5, the anti-union legislation that would curb collective bargaining rights for 350,000 public workers and gut the political power of public-sector unions. With nearly 2.4 million votes cast, Issue 2, the up-or-down ballot referendum deciding SB 5's fate, was headed for a whopping defeat, 61 percent to 39 percent. The Associated Press called the race for Issue 2 opponents around 9:15 p.m.

Labor unions hailed the victory as a "win for all working people" and a rebuke of a Republican agenda aimed at kneecapping the power of organized labor. "One message rang loud and clear tonight in Ohio and across the country: those who spend their time scapegoating workers and pushing a partisan agenda will only strengthen the resolve of working people," Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, said in a celebratory statement. "This was a brazen attempt to silence the voice of the 99%; the voters saw through it and vetoed it," Gerald McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, said in a statement.

The White House weighed in Tuesday night with a message of support for Ohioans who voted to repeal SB 5. "The president congratulates the people of Ohio for standing up for workers and defeating efforts to strip away collective bargaining rights, and commends the teachers, firefighters, nurses, police officers, and other workers who took a stand to defend those rights," White House press secretary Jay Carney said.

In a press conference after the defeat, Gov. Kasich said of voters, "I've heard their voices." However, Kasich warned that Ohio remained in a dire fiscal situation and that action was needed to avert calamity. "Let me be clear: There is no bailout coming," he said.

Republican state Sen. Thomas Niehaus said at the same press conference that "the message going forward is we still have challenges and we look forward to working with local governments" to address those fiscal challenges around the state. "The voters have spoken," Niehaus said. "We have heard them."

Health Care Reform: The Calm Before the Storm

| Tue Nov. 8, 2011 4:36 PM EST

As Congress fights over how best to shrink the federal budget deficit, and GOP presidential candidates dominate the headlines, President Obama's health care reform law, and the opposition to it, has dropped out of sight for a while. But that lull in the health care battle could end soon. That's because, as soon as Thursday, the Supreme Court could consider whether it will take up cases challenging the constitutionality of the health care bill this term. If five justices vote yes, the full court could hand down a decision by June 2012, in the heat of the presidential election.

Whether a decision could bring the health care fight roaring back again is an open question. Four appellate courts, including the the DC Circuit, which ruled on Tuesday, have upheld the law; only one has found it unconstitutional, a trend that doesn't bode well for opponents hoping the Supreme Court will overturn it. But there's no doubt that "Obamacare" was a motivating force behind the rise of the tea party movement and the conservative takeover of the House of Representatives in 2010. And if the activists who assembled last week in DC for a conference sponsored by Americans for Prosperity are any indication, the issue still holds tremendous resonance with members of the GOP's conservative wing.

"This is the fight of our lifetime," Betsy McCaughey, former New York lieutenant governor, declared during a health care panel at the conference. McCaughey is most famous for having helped torpedo the Clinton health care plan in the mid-'90s, and she was on hand in DC to talk about Obama's health care reform law, along with Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. The panel discussion was part of a summit sponsored by the Koch brothers-funded conservative organization that played a huge role last year in organizing tea party protests to try to prevent the passage of the health care bill. And McCaughey, who started the false rumors that the health care bill included "death panels," riled up the crowd as if it were 2009 all over again, with accusations that the Obama administration was manipulating science to justify its un-American intrusion into personal liberty. "How can it be that a woman has a right to choose an abortion but not a hip replacement?" she asked, insisting that the Obama health care plan will lead to rationed care.

McCaughey claimed that the current system is superior to most others and that it doesn't need much more fixing than could be accomplished through her proposed 20-page draft bill, which would purportedly fix health care mostly by restricting medical malpractice lawsuits and allowing the sale of insurance policies across state lines. As proof of the system's current merits, she claimed that 1 out of 4 men in Europe diagnosed with prostate cancer die from it, unlike virtually 99 percent of American men who live after a similar diagnosis. (This claim has been debunked by Factcheck.org, which notes, "Prostate cancer often doesn’t require treatment, so the aggressive screening common in the U.S. turns up both early cases and cases that would never need intervention. This leads to an inflated survival rate in the U.S., where asymptomatic patients are more likely to be diagnosed.")

McCaughey has set up a new group to fight the health care bill, called Defend Your Health Care, to rally the anti-reform troops. And clearly the Koch brothers are still deeply concerned about health care reform. But Congress has already shown this year that it’s not going to be able to repeal the bill entirely. So at this point, advocates on both sides are simply waiting for the Supreme Court to weigh in. Consider it the calm before the storm.

Is Our Children Learning? Not in Texas

| Tue Nov. 8, 2011 3:18 PM EST
Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R).

Texas governor Rick Perry, currently polling at 4 percent in Iowa, has been spared some of his usual bad news of late because of the continuing meltdown of fellow presidential candidate Herman Cain. But Mary Tuma flags a damning new report from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board that suggests Perry's State Board of Education has left high schoolers in the state unprepared for the rigors of college. The report slams the SBOE's history standards for, among other things, glossing over the true causes of the Civil War. Key quote:

Over the course of eight months, the lawyers and realtors and dentist on the board made hundreds of changes to the standards. As the politicians squabbled over the politics of who should be in or out, they tacitly adopted a bi-partisan agreement to ignore principles of sound pedagogy. In 2011 the Fordham Institute awarded the 2010 TEKS an overall grade of D, characterizing them as "a politicized distortion of history" that is "both unwieldy and troubling" while "offering misrepresentations and every turn." As the process drew to a close, state board of education chairwoman Gail Lowe admitted that the board had failed to follow up on the college readiness effort.

The "dentist" line is a reference to Don McLeroy, whom Perry twice appointed to serve as chair of the SBOE (which is tasked with devising textbook standards). McLeroy believes "evolution is hooey," and that the Earth is just a few thousand years old—views he sought to incorporate into the state science curriculum.

Secretive GOP Group in AZ Redistricting Fight Comes Out of the Shadows

| Tue Nov. 8, 2011 2:50 PM EST
Rep. Ben Quayle, who would be forced to compete with fellow Republican congressman David Schwiekert under the IRC's map.

On Tuesday, the Arizona Supreme Court is expected to decide whether to temporarily suspend the ouster of Colleen Mathis, the chairwoman of the state's voter-created Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC). Mathis' removal, orchestrated by Republican Gov. Jan Brewer, was approved by the state Senate last Tuesday. The court is still considering a lawsuit filed by the IRC challenging Mathis' removal.

Because the IRC's electoral map places incumbent Republicans Ben Quayle and David Schwiekert in the same district for the 2012 elections, Brewer complained that the commisssion had intentionally drawn an overly competitive map. She also accused Mathis of violating Arizona's Open Meetings law, an allegation that is the subject of an ongoing investigation (Brewer chose not to wait for the investigation to finish its work before booting Mathis). According to the IRC's attorney, the governor's evidence against Mathis is too thin to warrant a removal, leaving its status pretty murky.

What's even murkier about the redistricting showdown: The role played by FAIR Trust, a GOP-linked group of attorneys that has coordinated redistricting strategy with state and congressional Republicans. Because it is registered as a legal trust, not a lobbying group, FAIR Trust is permitted to accept anonymous donations and dole that money out with limited disclosure, as the Arizona Capitol-Times' Evan Wyloge reported last week.

In the past, FAIR Trust has argued that state lobbying rules don't apply to its activities. The group contends that since the IRC isn't a policy-making body, any appeals it makes to the commission aren't actually lobbying. But there appears to have been a recent change of heart. FAIR Trust formally registered as a lobbyist on October 26, according to recent disclosures:

According to its lobbyist registration, the stated goal is "to ensure compliance with the U.S. Constitution, federal law, the Arizona Constitution and Arizona law in the drafting of congressional and legislative districts."

FAIR Trust has also consistently avoided disclosing any public information about who it represents and where its financial backing comes from. . . .the group’s new designation doesn’t change much about how little the group will have to tell the public. 

"They’re going to have to disclose their expenses and file annual reports," a Secretary of State representative said.

Financial contributions made to the group and their membership are still able to be kept away from public scrutiny.