Mojo - 2012...ist-radio-show

Report: Elizabeth Warren Gets a Banking Committee Seat

| Tue Dec. 4, 2012 1:00 PM EST
Sen.-elect Elizabeth Warren.

Sen.-elect Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)—the visionary behind the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the former bailout watchdog, and no friend of Wall Street—has reportedly snagged a seat on the powerful Senate banking committee, which writes the regulations for the banking industry.

The Huffington Post, citing four sources "familiar with the situation," says Warren has locked up a seat on the committee. Politico confirmed the news soon after. Warren's spot on the committee must still be approved by the Senate Democratic caucus, which is expected to happen. The news comes after Mother Jones reported last month that big banks and their lobbyists in Washington were pushing to keep Warren off the committee.

Senate Democrats had two open seats to fill on the banking committee, with the upcoming retirements of Sens. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) and Herb Kohl (D-Wisc.). Warren will get one of those seats. The other, the Huffington Post reports, will go Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).

Warren's appointment tees up a potentially vicious battle between her and the big banks. (She has a better relationship with smaller, non-New York banks, as I've reported in the past.) Multiple Senate aides said last month that Wall Street had been lobbying hard to deny Warren a seat on the committee; one aide told me, "Downtown"—shorthand for Washington's lobbying corridor—"has been going nuts" to keep Warren off.

Going nuts clearly wasn't enough.

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Florida Tea Party Still Fighting Obamacare

| Tue Dec. 4, 2012 12:20 PM EST

Ever since Congress passed the Affordable Care Act in 2010, the state of Florida has done everything it can to fight the law. It filed suit to block the law's implementation, leading to the dramatic Supreme Court decision this summer in which the court upheld most of the law but allowed the states to decide whether to accept the expansion of Medicaid contained in the bill. The state legislature in 2011 passed a constitutional amendment trying to block the individual mandate, which was rejected by voters last month in a ballot initiative.

State leaders, among them Republican governor Rick Scott, seemed so sure that they’d prevail in their legal cases that they never took any steps to begin preparing for the law's implementation, namely the creation of an online "exchange," that will serve as a regulated marketplace for individual insurance policies that can be bought by people eligible for federal subsidies. The state has to tell the US Department of Health and Human Services by December 14 whether it will set up its own exchange or punt and let the feds do it for them. The decision is proving contentious.

On Monday, the state Senate held the first public hearing on the ACA implementation, which drew a rowdy crowd of tea partiers intent on getting the state to simply defy federal authority and refuse to implement the law. CBS Tampa Bay reports:

A rowdy conservative crowd commandeered a nearly hour-long public comment section, stressing that the constitution does not grant the federal government the authority to make health care decisions, despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upheld most of the health care law. All but one spoke against "Obamacare".

"We will not comply with this unlawful mandate," Pastor James Hall of the Baptist Coalition of North Florida said to rousing applause.

Constitutional attorney Krisanne Hall said she travels the country talking to citizens and religious groups who echo that sentiment. She asked the Senate committee to consider how it will deal with citizens "when they lawfully and constitutionally stand and say we will not comply."

Democratic Senate Minority leader Chris Smith was booed when he reminded the crowd that the federal government stepped in to uphold justice in civil rights cases.

Consumer advocates are worried about the state's ability to get the job done and to create an effective exchange. Last week, they appealed to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to conduct a "reality-based assessment" of any state exchange proposal, and asked federal officials to force Florida to default to a federal exchange if there was even the slightest indication that the state's plans looked subpar. They note that the state has not created any mechanism for input from consumers in the development of the exchange, and that its history with a Medicaid privatization plan does not give much confidence that the state will be looking out for citizens' best interests.

"Our hope is that eventually Florida will be in the position to develop its own high quality health insurance exchange with consumer input—but we are in no way ready for that now," said Laura Goodhue, of FL CHAIN, a nonprofit advocacy group that focuses on access to health care. "Florida just waited too long to make this happen by the deadline. Now we ask the state to fully cooperate with the feds to make sure Floridians have access to affordable coverage as the law intended."

More Trolling on White House Petitions Site: Death Star Edition

| Tue Dec. 4, 2012 11:21 AM EST

That didn't take long.

Last month, "John D" of Longmont, Colorado created a petition on the White House webpage "We the People" titled, "Secure resources and funding, and begin construction of a Death Star by 2016."

The nature of the petition is fairly self-explanatory. Someone reportedly living in a city in Colorado wants Barack Obama to build a real-life version of the Death Star from Star Wars—the gargantuan spacestation officially named the DS-1 Orbital Battle Station, the construction of which Darth Vader himself oversaw:

As of Tuesday morning, the petition has upwards of 1,300 signatures (if a "We the People" petition reaches 25,000 signatures within 30 days, it merits an official response from the White House). It reads:

Those who sign here petition the United States government to secure funding and resources, and begin construction on a Death Star by 2016. By focusing our defense resources into a space-superiority platform and weapon system such as a Death Star, the government can spur job creation in the fields of construction, engineering, space exploration, and more, and strengthen our national defense.

The unfortunately fictional Death Star, the Galactic Empire's moon-sized base capable of obliterating whole planets with a single beam of energy, would be a substantial stimulus project indeed: Students at Lehigh University estimated that the steel alone (assuming the Death Star's mass/volume ratio is roughly equal to that of an aircraft carrier) would cost $852 quadrillion—13,000 times the world economy's GDP. My colleague/Star Wars buff Kevin Drum puts steel costs closer to 1.3 million times world GDP.

So, yes, such a massive, unprecedented project would almost certainly "spur job creation," and the Obama administration's development of a planet-destroying spacestation would likely guarantee an invincible national-security apparatus (save for certain circumstances).

Republicans Get Religion on Campaign Data

| Tue Dec. 4, 2012 7:08 AM EST
"Data is the new black."

If the first rule of espionage is to keep your cover, Patrick Ruffini's sortie into the heart of the left-wing conspiracy should probably be considered something of a bust. It didn't help that he announced his intentions one day in advance, via Twitter:

The 34-year-old former RNC staffer is one of the GOP's top gurus for all things digital. Roots Camp, an annual gathering hosted by the New Organizing Institute, is where Democratic organizers go to debrief—or, as in the case of Obama for America's army of attendees, take a victory lap. The names of the panels alone tell the story: "Unfucking Elections with Data"; "Memeification of Rapid Response Social Media Fast & Furious"; "How to generate 1000 tweets using segmented email blasts"; and my personal favorite: "Hot Open Source Web Mapping."

This isn't a place for pundits to ruminate about The Narrative; it's a nuts-and-bolts education venture. And this year's lesson is clear: 2012 was the year campaigns' digital outfits and field organizers began to merge as one, and as a consequence, any session that so much as hints at how to bridge the two seems to be overflowing with dozens of twentysomethings, fresh from electoral success, tapping away on their laptops. As one of the early arrivals at the Friday after-lunch panel on microtargeting ("Modeling Monkey Owners") put it, "Data is sexy now."

When I track down Ruffini, he's lurking in the back of a breakout session, dressed to blend in in green Chuck Taylors and a fleece jacket, tweeting up a storm and taking notes. About 100 people are crammed into seats or on the floor or propped up against the walls to hear Aaron Strauss, the director of targeting and data at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, explain why Nate Silver, the New York Times' polling guru, is full of crap. This would normally be the part of the story where Strauss is struck down by a lightning bolt or some other such instrument of divine retribution, but Strauss makes a compelling case.

The audience, like an overflowing freshman seminar with the cool professor, listens attentively as Strauss breaks down the fundamental issue with Silver's analysis of which states are most likely to swing back and forth. It assumes that the demographics most likely to swing one way or another are those in the middle. That's just not what the numbers say, Strauss insists. The problem, supposedly, is that Silver's information is limited to crude exit polling, whereas Strauss' information comes from phone calls and in-person contacts. "That's where it crumbles," he says. "That's where the house of cards fall down."

Since Election Day, there's been much introspection on the right about the various ways in which the left is kicking its ass—and how the GOP can turn things around. It needs to become more appealing to Silicon Valley. It needs to reinvest in Big Data. It needs its own Analyst Institute. It needs a ground game. Ruffini has been a source of much of that harping, which is part of the reason he's made his visit to Roots Camp in the first place.

"I don't know that I'm surprised by anything I've seen here," Ruffini says when it's over. But it's revealing nonetheless. "I'm sort of more impressed by the scale of it, the level of participation and interest in these topics, that I've seen tangentially discussed in Republican circles, but mostly in conference rooms, not at conferences. And for what it's worth, that perspective, the data-driven perspective, did not win out in our campaigns this year."

The right has no shortage of conferences for activists, but nothing as purpose-driven and digitally savvy as Roots Camp. For that matter, it has no real answer to the New Organizing Institute itself, which operates in perpetual election mode, grooming Democratic field operatives across the country. "I mean look I think you've got RightOnline, you've got a number of major conferences that cater to conservatives," he says. "I don't know that any are quite as focused on digital as this. It's the next step in the evolution." And Ruffini's not the only one studying up on the new Chicago machine. When top Democratic and Republican campaign aides gathered at Harvard last week to talk about the race, GOPers packed talks by Obama staffers. As one Republican strategist told BuzzFeed, "We got our butts kicked, so I'm going to school."

There's a certain irony to the right's newfound introspection: After four years of demonizing the commander-in-chief as an Alinskyite radical, conservatives have fallen in love with community organizing.

Exclusive: Dick Armey Quits Tea Party Group in Split Over Direction (UPDATED)

| Mon Dec. 3, 2012 8:15 PM EST
Dick Armey

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

In a move not publicly announced, former Rep. Dick Armey, the folksy conservative leader, has resigned as chairman of FreedomWorks, one of the main political outfits of the conservative movement and an instrumental force within the tea party.

Armey, the former House majority leader who helped develop and promote the GOP's Contract with America in the 1990s, tendered his resignation in a memo sent to Matt Kibbe, president and CEO of FreedomWorks, on November 30. Mother Jones obtained the email on Monday, and Armey has confirmed he sent it. The tone of the memo suggests that this was not an amicable separation. (See Armey's email below.) Armey demanded that he be paid until his contract ended on December 31; that FreedomWorks remove his name, image, or signature "from all its letters, print media, postings, web sites, videos, testimonials, endorsements, fund raising materials, and social media, including but not limited to Facebook and Twitter"; and that FreedomWorks deliver the copy of his official congressional portrait to his home in Texas.

"The top management team of FreedomWorks was taking a direction I thought was unproductive, and I thought it was time to move on with my life," Armey tells Mother Jones. "At this point, I don't want to get into the details. I just want to go on with my life." 

In the email, Armey indicated that he wants nothing to do with FreedomWorks anymore. He asked that all user names, passwords, and security-related data created in his name be emailed to him by the close of business on December 4. He even insisted that FreedomWorks—"effective immediately"—was "prohibited" from using a booklet he authored. Was Armey's resignation a reaction to the recent election results? "Obviously I was not happy with the election results," he says. "We might've gotten better results if we had gone in a different direction. But it isn't that I got my nose out of line because we should've done better."

Armey declined to specify his disagreements with FreedomWorks. Asked if they were ideological or tactical, he replies, "They were matters of principle. It's how you do business as opposed to what you do. But I don't want to be the guy to create problems."

After leaving Congress in 2003, Armey joined the conservative advocacy group Citizens for a Sound Economy as co-chairman. The following year, the organization, which had been cofounded by Charles and David Koch, split off to become FreedomWorks. Its sister outfit, Americans for Prosperity, has been a prominent grassroots conservative group.

FreedomWorks, under Armey's leadership, was a key player in the rise of the tea party in 2010. The organization helped elect tea party favorites, including Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Reps. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.). Armey led the fight to eliminate Obamacare, emailing every Republican member of Congress after the 2010 elections with a strategy for gutting President Obama's signature health care law. FreedomWorks has acted an connector between tea party groups around the country, organizing protests against Obamacare and expanding the ranks of the conservative movement. In 2010, Armey and Kibbe together published Give Us Liberty: A Tea Party Manifesto.

Mother Jones contacted Kibbe and FreedomWorks spokeswoman Jacqueline Bodnar for comment. Neither responded. 

Armey says he doesn't know what he will do next, but he is considering consulting work.

Here is Armey's November 30 memo to Kibbe:

November 30, 2012
To: Matt Kibbe, President, FreedomWorks Inc.
From: Honorable Richard K. Armey
Regarding: Resignation

This is to inform you that as of 5:00 P.M. ET on November 30, 2012 I resign my position of Trustee at FreedomWorks, Inc. and my positions of Chairman of FreedomWorks and FreedomWorks Foundation.

As I resign from all board positions and duties, please see below a list of dispositions on outstanding issues: I expect to be fully compensated through the expiration date (December 31, 2012) of my current consulting contract with FreedomWorks. Henceforth FreedomWorks shall be prohibited from using my name, image, or signature in any way or for any purpose without my written permission or in the event of my death, without my heirs written permission.

Effective immediately I expect that Freedom Works shall remove my name, image, and signature from all its letters, print media, postings, web sites, videos, testimonials, endorsements, fund raising materials, and social media, including but not limited to Facebook and Twitter. I expect to receive via email at [redacted] by the close of business, December 4, 2012, all user names, passwords, security questions, and security answers for all accounts, web sites and social media, including but not limited to Facebook and Twitter, created in my name.

Effective immediately FreedomWorks is prohibited from using my booklet or any updated versions of my booklet "Hitting the Ground Running" without my written permission which I innovated while still in congress and trusted to Max Pappas to update for new member orientation. I request that FreedomWorks deliver the copy of my official congressional portrait to my home in Texas.

UPDATE: More details emerged on Monday about Dick Armey's departure from FreedomWorks. The Associated Press obtained a contract dated September 24 indicating that Armey will make $8 million in consulting fees in exchange for leaving the organization. In an email to Mother Jones, Armey confirmed the $8 million deal, and said the contract was between him and FreedomWorks board member Richard Stephenson.

A handful of key FreedomWorks officials said Monday that they, too, were leaving the organization. According to Roll Call, Max Pappas, the former vice president for public policy and government affairs, and campaigns director Brendan Steinhauser are both quitting the group. Two staffers who worked with Steinhauser have also departed.

FreedomWorks president and CEO Matt Kibbe and several of the group's board members have not returned calls for comment.

Click here to return to the top of the story.

Do We Really Need a Second Gitmo?

| Mon Dec. 3, 2012 4:57 PM EST

Guantanamo Bay, Cuba – Joint Task Force Guard Force Troopers transport a detainee to the detainee hospital located adjacent to Camp Four in 2007.

One Senate Republican likes Gitmo so much she wants to build a new offshore detention center—or at least force President Obama to allow Guantanamo to accept new detainees, which it hasn't done since he first took office and issued an executive order intended to close the facility.

The National Defense Authorization Act for 2013 is up for a vote as soon as Monday afternoon, and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) has proposed an amendment that would compel the administration to come up with "a plan for the identification or establishment of a facility outside the United States as the location for the long-term detention" of suspected members of Al Qaeda. Her amendment is backed by Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.).

Ayotte's amendment doesn't say that Gitmo can't be the designated facility, but it leaves open the possibility of a new, alternative Gitmo elsewhere—as long as it's not in the United States, where the terrorists could use their Muslim Heat Vision to escape. Ayotte's ambiguous wording here is likely intentional, since Inhofe has proposed an amendment that would explicitly compel the Obama administration to send new detainees to Guantanamo. So where does Ayotte have in mind for America's brand new detention facility? The Palmyra Atoll? Baker Island? Perhaps some sort of high-security facility placed on a conveniently located orbiting asteroid?

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Watch: Bob Costas Calls for Gun Control After NFL Murder-Suicide

| Mon Dec. 3, 2012 4:43 PM EST

On Saturday morning, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher shot 22-year-old Kasandra Perkins—his girlfriend and the mother of his three-month-old daughter, Zoe—before killing himself at Arrowhead Stadium in front of his coach and general manager. Despite calls for the NFL to cancel the Chiefs' Sunday afternoon game against the Carolina Panthers, Chiefs players voted to play; before Kansas City's 27-21 win, the team held a moment of silence for victims of domestic violence but notably did not publicly mourn Belcher.

While CBS dropped the ball in its coverage of the shooting during Sunday's edition of The NFL Today, NBC's Bob Costas went out of his way during Sunday's prime-time game to make a case for tougher gun laws. Quoting a column written by Fox Sports columnist Jason Whitlock, Costas said in the above video: 

"Our current gun culture," Whitlock wrote, "ensures that more and more domestic disputes will end in the ultimate tragedy and that more convenience-store confrontations over loud music coming from a car will leave more teenage boys bloodied and dead."

"Handguns do not enhance our safety. They exacerbate our flaws, tempt us to escalate arguments, and bait us into embracing confrontation rather than avoiding it. In the coming days, Jovan Belcher's actions, and their possible connection to football will be analyzed. Who knows?"

"But here," wrote Jason Whitlock, "is what I believe. If Jovan Belcher didn't possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today."

The Belcher murder-suicide is just the latest example of guns mixing poorly with NFL players. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune's NFL Arrests Database, which includes every incident more serious than a speeding ticket since 2000, there were three gun-related arrests last offseason alone: Denver Broncos defensive end Elvis Dumervil flashed a gun in a July road rage incident; Cleveland Browns defensive lineman Kiante Tripp and two others allegedly had guns with them during a July burglary; and former Detroit Lions cornerback Aaron Berry was accused, also in July, of threatening three people with a firearm.

Here are a few other notable gun-related incidents involving past or present NFL players:

  • Junior Seau: The former San Diego Chargers linebacker was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in his Oceanside, California, house in May. The 43-year-old's death was ruled a suicide by the San Diego County coroner.
  • Plaxico Burress: In the fall of 2008, the then-New York Giants receiver accidentally shot himself in the leg at a Manhattan club with a gun that wasn't registered in New York state.
  • Marvin Harrison: The former Indianapolis Colts wide receiver was interviewed by Philadelphia police but never charged in an April 2008 shooting. Nearly two years later, GQ's Jason Fagone wrote a story that cast doubt on Harrison's story.
  • Tank Johnson: Police raided the house of the former Chicago Bears defensive lineman in December 2006, seizing a .44 magnum Smith & Wesson revolver, a .50 caliber Desert Eagle handgun, a .45 caliber handgun, a .308 caliber Winchester rifle, and two assault-style rifles, including a Colt AR-15 and a .223 caliber.
  • Rae Carruth: The former Carolina Panthers wideout became the first active NFL player to face murder charges when, in 1999, he and three friends conspired to kill his pregnant girlfriend, Cherica Adams, and the baby she was carrying.

Also watch Chiefs' QB Brady Quinn's heartfelt comments about Belcher after Sunday's game.

This post was edited to include Seau's death.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for December 3, 2012

Mon Dec. 3, 2012 2:10 PM EST

Marines assigned to Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 7, ground guide their vehicles on the way to provide security for an improvised explosive device (IED) post blast analysis near Forward Operating Base Now Zad, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Nov. 25, 2012. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alejandro Pena.

It's Okay to Not Feel Bad For Mitt Romney

| Mon Dec. 3, 2012 1:25 PM EST

After ending his six-year campaign for president, the Washington Post reports that Mitt Romney doesn't quite know what to do with himself:

Gone are the minute-by-minute schedules and the swarm of Secret Service agents. There’s no aide to make his peanut-butter-and-honey sandwiches. Romney hangs around the house, sometimes alone, pecking away at his iPad and e-mailing his CEO buddies who have been swooping in and out of La Jolla to visit.

...

One longtime counselor contrasted Romney with former vice president Al Gore, whose weight gain and beard became a symbol of grievance over his 2000 loss. "You won't see heavyset, haggard Mitt," he said. Friends say a snapshot-gone-viral showing a disheveled Romney pumping gas is just how he looks without a suit on his frame or gel in his hair.

Ben Smith suggests that Mitt's malaise makes him (finally) somewhat likable. Jamelle Bouie finds it hard to feel bad for someone whose campaign was so dripping with disdain. I think we're overstating the desperation of Romney's situation. Contrast Romney's cushy retirement to his ocean-front La Jolla mansion with Theodore Roosevelt—who after his 1912 loss to Woodrow Wilson* literally got lost in the wilderness and nearly died:

Theodore Roosevelt had carried the lethal dose of morphine with him for years. He had taken it to the American West, to the African savanna and, finally, down the River of Doubt—a twisting tributary deep in the Amazon rain forest. The glass vial was small enough to tuck into a leather satchel or slip into his luggage, nearly invisible beside his books, his socks and his eight extra pairs of eyeglasses. Easily overlooked, it was perhaps the most private possession of one of the world's most public men.

In December 1913, Roosevelt, then 55, and a small group of men embarked on a journey to explore and map Brazil's River of Doubt. Almost from the start, the expedition went disastrously wrong. Just three months later, as Roosevelt lay on a rusting cot inside his expedition's last remaining tent listening to the roar of the river, he clutched the vial that he had carried for so long. Shivering violently, his body wracked with fever, he concluded that the time had come to take his own life.

In the span of a few days, Roosevelt, once America's youngest President and among its most vigorous, had become a feverish, at times delirious, invalid. He was suffering from malaria and had developed a potentially deadly bacterial infection after slicing his leg on a boulder. In the sweltering rain forest, the cut had quickly become infected, causing his leg to redden and swell and sending his temperature soaring to 105°F. At the same time, the expedition had reached a set of seemingly impassable rapids. Roosevelt's Brazilian co-commander, Colonel Cândido Rondon, had announced that they would have to abandon their canoes and strike out into the jungle--every man for himself. "To all of us," one of them wrote, "his report was practically a sentence of death." For Roosevelt, who could barely sit up, much less fight his way through the rain forest, the plan was simply an impossibility.

So really, things could be much worse.

Update: I should note that Roosevelt did actually make it out of the Amazon alive, but never fully recovered and died five years later.

*Correction: It was Wilson, not Taft.

Rick Santorum Gets Exclusive Deal With Birther Site

| Mon Dec. 3, 2012 11:16 AM EST

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum has landed on his feet after a second-place finish in the GOP primary: He's taken a job as a columnist for the birther bible WorldNetDaily:

Rick Santorum – the former U.S. senator who ignited grass-roots conservatives as a Republican candidate for president this year – today joins WND as an exclusive columnist. His commentaries will be featured each Monday.

His first column? Sounding the alarm about the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities, which he contends "crushes U.S. sovereignty."

WND is best known for journalistic masterpieces such as "Bill Ayers admits (again) he wrote Obama bio," and "Obama didn't write his own love letters," and "The birth certificate debate – it's not over," and "Obama's ring: 'There is no god but Allah'," and "Claim: Obama hid 'gay life' to become president," and finally, "Kenyan insiders say Obama was part of takeover strategy." One year ago, he was surging in Iowa; now he's sharing space with Chuck Norris.

Meanwhile, Politico's Ken Vogel reports that former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is quietly reaching out to donors in advance of a potential presidential run in 2016—something that seems wholly incompatible with becoming a columnist for a birther site.