Mojo - December 2011

Occupy Protesters Arrested Outside Romney's Iowa Headquarters

| Wed Dec. 28, 2011 7:00 PM EST

Occupy activists kicked off their first day of direct actions in the week leading up to Iowa's January 3 caucuses with a protest outside Mitt Romney's Des Moines headquarters, where seven protesters were arrested on criminal trespassing charges on Wednesday. About 70 others chanted familiar occupy slogans and protested Romney's ties to Wells Fargo. (Employees and executives of the San Francisco-based banking giant have given $61,500 to Romney thus far in the 2012 election cycle.)

Before the protest, several dozen occupy activists met at their own headquarters near the State Capitol, where they decided to protest outside Romney's campaign office because of its vicinity to a Wells Fargo just a few doors down the same street. The occupiers were joined by about a half-dozen police officers from the Des Moines area, who were invited in the interest of open communication.

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Perry's Abortion Stance Gets Even More Extreme

| Wed Dec. 28, 2011 4:44 PM EST
2012 Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry.

Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Santorum have all endorsed Personhood USA's pledge to grant full rights to fertilized eggs if they are elected president. And in a radio forum sponsored by the group in Iowa this week, Perry elaborated more fully on how far he'd go to limit abortion.

Perry previously said that he thought there should be exceptions to an all-out ban on abortion for rape, incest, or cases where the life of the mother is at risk. But now he says he's changed his mind; even women who are raped should be forced to carry to term. He says he underwent a "transformation" after seeing a film about a woman who was conceived by rape:

[Pastor Joshua] Verwers asked Perry about his signature on a pledge from the anti-abortion group Personhood USA that requires candidates to oppose abortion for any reason. Verwers said Perry told him at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition dinner in October that he did support abortion in certain cases.
What brought about the change? Perry said he was moved by a woman he met who appeared in former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's movie, "The Gift of Life," which he screened in Des Moines on Dec. 14. The woman has been conceived during a rape, and Perry said she told him, "My life has worth."
He described the moment as "powerful." The next day, he signed the Personhood USA pledge. Perry specifically said the film made him rethink the exceptions for rape and incest, though in his conversation with Verwers he did not mention the life of the mother, the traditional third exception that many who oppose abortion will allow.

Perry also said he would defy the Supreme Court if it struck down a law giving full rights to zygotes under the 14th Amendment if it were deemed unconstitutional.

If Perry's poll numbers are any indication, at least we won't have to worry about him making good on that promise anytime soon.

Report: Scant Oversight In Obama's Drone War

| Wed Dec. 28, 2011 4:00 PM EST

This much we know about America's ever-expanding drone war in South Asia and the Middle East: it's controversial, rarely acknowledged by the White House, often effective, and subject to only the sketchiest Congressional oversight. Greg Miller's lengthy rundown of President Obama's breathtaking expansion of the drone program in the Washington Post only affirms those impressions.

Running through the publicly available numbers, Miller reports that the current drone arsenal boasts dozens of secret bases and a fleet of 775 Predators and Reapers, with hundreds more on the way. But the CIA also runs a number of stealth drones that the government doesn’t acknowledge exist, like the one that crashed in Iran earlier this month.

Miller also reports that the CIA and Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) maintain their own, separate "kill lists" for drone strikes. And that throws up some pesky roadblocks for Congressional oversight:  

Occupy Iowa Kicks Off Caucus Week Plans

| Wed Dec. 28, 2011 12:23 PM EST
At the People's Caucus Tuesday night in Des Moines, Iowa.

Inside a rented storefront down the street from the State Capitol in Des Moines, Occupy Iowa supporters preempted the state's first-in-the-nation caucuses with their own "People's Caucus" Tuesday night. After a day of strategizing, the activists broke into preference groups to indicate which local presidential campaign headquarters they would most like to see occupied over the next three days. The winner of the dubious honor: Barack Obama, followed by Mitt Romney and, in a close third, Iowa GOP front-runner Ron Paul.

About 200 people, including a small handful from occupations across the country, turned out for the event. Participants ran the gamut from pre-teens to seasoned protest vets, and one energetic young man sported Hatchet Man jewelry from the band Insane Clown Posse.

A flyer distributed Tuesday explained that after three days of occupying presidential campaign headquarters, central Iowa occupy demonstrators plan to "occupy campaign events around the state" from Saturday until Monday, January 2—the day before the caucuses. That could mean anything from mic-checking candidates to further occupations: "The execution of it is all over the board," one supporter explained.

Your Daily Newt: Curling Into a Ball and Playing Dead

| Wed Dec. 28, 2011 7:00 AM EST
GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich.

As a service to our readers, every day we are delivering a classic moment from the political life of Newt Gingrich—until he either clinches the nomination or bows out.

Is this "a classic moment from the political life of Newt Gingrich"? Perhaps not. But this lede, from Karen Tumulty and Nancy Gibbs at Time, is worth making an exception for:

Newt Gingrich had a favorite game when he was growing up in Hummelstown, Pennsylvania. His pal Dennis Yantz would pretend to beat him up and leave him crumpled on the curb. "When a car would pull up to see what was wrong," Yantz recalls, "Newt would jump up and scream 'SURPRISE!' We would do this over and over again." For some reason, Yantz says, Newt always wanted to be the one who played dead.

And that, in a nutshell, is the 2012 Republican presidential primary.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for December 28, 2011

Wed Dec. 28, 2011 6:57 AM EST

US Army Sgt. Lidya Admounabdfany writes down information from a local woman at the Woman's Center near the Zhari District Center outside of Forward Operating Base Pasab, Kandahar province, Afghanistan, December 17, 2011. Admounabdfany is a member of 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division's Female Engagement Team and is gathering information from women so the FET can distribute blankets and winter clothing to the women and their families. (US Army photo by Spc. Kristina Truluck, 55th Signal Company (COMCAM)/Released)

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Old Ron Paul Video Warns of One-World Religion, UN Dictatorship

| Tue Dec. 27, 2011 7:05 AM EST

Rep. Ron Paul's presidential campaign has run into trouble recently after national media refocused on decades-old racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, and deeply conspiratorial articles published under Paul's name (and at least occasionally under his signature) in late 1980s and early 1990s newsletters.

The Texas congressman, who defended the newsletters when they first became a political issue in 1996, has since disavowed their contents repeatedly. But in a 1998 John Birch Society film unearthed by Andy Kaczynski, Paul endorsed some of the more paranoid ideas outlined in the Ron Paul Survival Report—including the the idea that a United Nations dictatorship was imminent:

As a narrator scarily intones that American churches will be forcibly shuttered under UN rule, Paul urges viewers to stay informed. "If the United Nations has their way, there will be curtailment of our right to practice our religion," he says. "They are not going to be believers in the right to practice our religion as we have seen fit throughout this country. And therefore individuals who are interested in this subject certainly cannot be complacent about what the United Nations is doing."

The scene is preceded by an image of of a building that's been converted into a "United World Temple" emblazoned with UN flags, and immediately followed by images of soldiers and guerillas fighting in the streets.

This is exactly what you'd expect from the John Birch Society, an organization that has spent four decades urging the United States to leave the United Nations. It's not what you'd expect from a serious Republican presidential candidate. It's not even the kind of language you tend to hear from Paul on the campaign trail, where he's more likely to talk about raw milk than the New World Order. And that's been Paul's best defense; the newsletters just don't sound like anything he's ever said. 

That's partially true, but in the last few days, we've seen a clip (from 1990) of Paul embracing the idea that the Trilateral Commission and Council on Foreign Relations are secretly running the country, and now this. Josh Marshall reminds us, meanwhile, that back in September, Paul said that the border fence might actually be used to keep Americans penned in. Setting the racist articles aside, Paul really did endorse some of the more out-there arguments in his newsletters.

Your Daily Newt: The Case of the Missing Tweets

| Tue Dec. 27, 2011 7:00 AM EST
Many of Newt Gingrich's tweets have been lost to history.

As a service to our readers, every day we are delivering a classic moment from the political life of Newt Gingrich—until he either clinches the nomination or bows out.

Newt Gingrich often says that, at heart, he's still a four-year-old boy "who gets up every morning hoping to find a cookie that friends or relatives may have left for me somewhere."

Thank goodness for Twitter, which has the democratizing effect of making almost all male elected officials sound like four-year-old boys bounding down the stairs in search of snickerdoodles—none more so than Newton Leroy Gingrich, whose verified account chronicled his every meal, TV appearance, and stray thought about electro-magnetic pulses and dinosaurs. ("If you have never seen dunkleostus the armored fish from the devonian you should visit cleveland museum of natural historu It is amazing".) Or at least it did. As Vanity Fair's Juli Weiner noted, shortly before jumping into the presidential race in May, Gingrich quietly deleted his Twitter archive for 2009 and much of 2010.

Gingrich had an uneasy relationship with the micro-blogging platform. It was there that he'd called future Supreme Court Justice Sonio Sotomayor a "Latina woman racist" for touting her life experiences as a qualification for the bench. But he'd also given us a peek at his four-year-old side. On Easter of 2010, for instance, he live-tweeted his consumption of foil-wrapped chocolates. Fortunately, Wonkette grabbed a screenshot:

Screenshot via WonketteScreenshot via Wonkette

He concluded: "I like Reese's peanut butter cup because Reese's is also from Hershey. However Callista got me a Reese's peanut butter egg. It is good too."

Well, he's easy to shop for anyway.

Update: Washingtonian has, like an 11th-century monk transcribing the works of the ancients, carefully preserved some of the early @NewtGingrich tweets. My favorite sequence:

@newtgingrich: Having a good lunch at the mcdonalds in osseo with callista and her mother bernita. Good crispy chicken sandwich, great fries, good coffee

@newtgingrich: Drugans restaurant and golf course in holman wisconsin has great food and a seven foot tall wooden troll. They do a wonderful job

Santorum Searches for His Spotlight in Iowa

| Mon Dec. 26, 2011 10:46 PM EST
Rick Santorum, left, talks about his Iowa pheasant hunt Monday as Rep. Steve King listens in.

Outside Doc's Clubhouse in Adel, Iowa, on Monday, Rick Santorum sported a bright orange Cabella's suit and matching NRA hat as he chatted up reporters. The presidential candidate joked about his "four clean kills" on the day's pheasant and quail hunt, and his weight: 211 pounds. Santorum recently lost a dieting competition to Iowa Rep. Steve King, who joined him on the pair's second hunt in recent months. But the GOP underdog, who's running sixth in the state behind Michele Bachmann, was less than candid about the expectations game a week ahead of the January 3 caucuses.

Santorum, who has made a point of visiting each of Iowa's 99 counties but remains the only serious contender in the state who has yet to take a turn as the front-runner, said he sees the caucuses as three competitions in one. The first is among libertarians, "which Ron Paul is going to win." The second is the moderate primary, "which Gingrich and Romney are scrumming for." Then there's the "non-Newt-Romney" bloc of real right-wingers, in which Santorum hopes to edge out Bachmann and Rick Perry. But even if he loses that contest, he may stick around. "I think you could have a bunch of folks all packed together...and first, second, third may not mean as much as how well you do," he told me.

Your Daily Newt: Mighty Morphin' Gingrich

| Mon Dec. 26, 2011 7:01 AM EST

TK: Tk/TK; TK/TKThe path not taken: James Colburn/ZumaPress; Andrea Renault/Globe Photos; photo illustration by Tim Murphy.As a service to our readers, every day we are delivering a classic moment from the political life of Newt Gingrich—until he either clinches the nomination or bows out.

Newt Gingrich's big ideas about killer-lasers and Moon colonies and highway-illuminating space mirrors do tend to make him sound like a super-villain. But on his first day as Speaker of the House in 1995, Gingrich solidly aligned himself with the forces of truth and justice and tights by inviting the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers to perform for the House Republican Caucus (and their families). As the Los Angeles Times reported:

After going through their high-kicking, fist-throwing and crime-fighting television show routine, the Power Rangers stood, arms akimbo, as Gingrich rushed onto the stage.

Linking the Power Rangers' popularity with youngsters to his appeal with their parents, the Speaker noted that the Rangers' emphasis on "family values" and "anti-drug" messages fit nicely with GOP political themes. And, he added, "they are multiethnic role models with male and female characters."

Because it was the 1990s, Gingrich faced mild criticism for endorsing a television show that promoted violence—violence against the evil and often inept forces of Lord Zedd and Rita Repulsa, but violence nonetheless. The show had been pulled from the airways in Norway, Denmark, and Sweden, and banned by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council. But Gingrich was undeterred. "You ride the waves in America, and if something's hot, it's hot," he told his fellow Republicans. Yes, there's video:

Gingrich, has elsewhere warned that the United States is under attack from gay and secular fascism, so we suppose it's worth pointing out that the blue ranger, "Billy," is gay.