Mojo - 2012...ist-radio-show

Study: ALEC Is Bad for the Economy

| Thu Nov. 29, 2012 12:08 PM EST

The American Legislative Exchange Council, the corporate-funded group that generates nearly a thousand pro-business model bills per year and feeds them to state legislatures nationwide, is holding its annual policy summit in the nation's capital this week to meet with new state lawmakers and "prepare the next generation of political leadership." This coincides with the release of a report showing that ALEC's economic prescriptions are not good for the economy.

Each year, ALEC ranks the states on how tightly they adhere to the group's policy recommendations—from personal and corporate tax rates, to public sector employment levels, to right-to-work laws—as a predictor of their economic growth. The study released Wednesday, by the Iowa Policy Project and Good Jobs First, two policy groups that promote economic growth at the state level, introduces those rankings to reality. It concludes: "A hard look at the actual data finds that the ALEC…recommendations not only fail to predict positive results for state economies—the policies they endorse actually forecast worse state outcomes for job creation and paychecks." (Though the report is careful to maintain that though ALEC policies are correlated with less prosperous state economies, that doesn't necessarily mean the policies caused economic decline.)

Let's take a look. In six key measures of economic growth, ALEC's "Economic Outlook Rankings" fail to coincide with the actual economic outlook of a state over time. On the horizontal axis we have all 50 states' ALEC economic grades from 2007, when ALEC started its ranking system. The vertical axis shows the percent change in actual economic performance from 2007 until last year. If ALEC's fortune-telling were correct , the plotted points would form an upward, rightward line, with a better score corresponding with a better economy. But what happens is pretty much the opposite:

 

Note the downward slope:

 

Whoa, downward slope:

 

A better economy means higher incomes, means more tax revenue, right? 


 

Aaaaand upward slope:

Instead of boosting states' fortunes, the report finds that ALEC's preferred policies seem to provide "a recipe for economic inequality, wage suppression, and stagnant incomes, and for depriving state and local governments of the revenue needed to maintain the public infrastructure and education systems that are the true foundations of long term economic growth and shared prosperity."

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Good Government Group: No Corporate Cash for Obama's Inauguration

| Thu Nov. 29, 2012 11:50 AM EST
A screenshot of CNN's coverage of President Obama's first 2009 inauguration.

President Obama's second-term inauguration ceremony will take place on January 21, 2013, which is also the third anniversary of the Supreme Court's historic Citizens United decision. Citizens United freed corporations and unions to spend money from their treasuries directly on politics, and opened the door for the creation of super-PACs.

With that anniversary in mind, Public Citizen, the good-government group founded by Ralph Nader, is pressuring Obama to reject corporate donations to his inauguration ceremony. Public Citizen president Robert Weissman writes in a November 29 letter to Obama that the public would likely be left in the dark about which corporations gave money and states that there is a "very real risk of corruption" from letting corporations underwrite the ceremony. Weissman's letter comes after the Wall Street Journal reported that the Obama administration is mulling whether to take corporate money for the inauguration. Obama banned corporate donations for his 2009 inauguration, and instead raised $50 million from hundreds of individual donors.

"The corporate donors to the inauguration will expect—and receive—something in return," Weissman writes. "The concern is less that they get a tax break in exchange for their million-dollar donation than that they get better access—their calls returned faster, their proposals reviewed in a more favorable light."

If the inauguration needs to rely on private donors and not just public funding this time around, Weissman says, that outside money should come in the form of small-dollar donations from individuals.

If inauguration planners do break with the precedent set by the corporate-free 2009 inauguration, it wouldn't be the first time Democrats backtracked on this kind of issue. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), chair of the Democratic National Committee, told reporters a year before her party's 2012 national convention that planners would not accept corporate money to put on the convention. But strapped for cash, convention planners ended up taking millions from corporations anyway, breaking their pledge.

Read Weissman's letter to Obama urging a ban on corporate inauguration money:

Public Citizen letter to President Obama on corporate inauguration donations

Will Congress End Indefinite Detention of Americans?

| Thu Nov. 29, 2012 11:01 AM EST

Will Congress prevent American citizens from being subject to indefinite military detention? A bipartisan group of senators have crafted an amendment to the latest defense bill that they believe will do exactly that. 

"The federal government experimented with indefinite detention of United States citizens during World War II, a mistake we now recognize as a betrayal of our core values," said Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif) Wednesday while introducing the amendment. "Let's not repeat it." Feinstein, who co-authored the amendment with Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) has support not only from Senate Democrats Chris Coons (D-Del) Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) but also Republican Senators Rand Paul, (R-Ky) Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill). "Granting the United States government the power to deprive its own citizens of life, liberty, or property without full due process of law goes against the very nature of our nation's great constitutional values," Lee said. The amendment could be voted on as early as Thursday, but it'll still have to survive the House, where the GOP majority has scuttled similar efforts to prevent indefinite detention of Americans.

About a year ago, President Barack Obama signed the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act promising not to use Congress' authorization of war against Al Qaeda to deny American citizens suspected of terrorism a fair trial by placing them in indefinite military detention. Senators, deadlocked over whether or not the Constitution allows such detention, agreed to adopt an amendment that left unaswered the question of whether Americans could be detained without trial. This year, Feinstein and Lee think their amendment blocking such detention for American citizens and legal permanent residents can pass. 

Not all civil liberties groups however, are supporting the effort. That's because they think anyone on American soil should be given a trial if accused of a crime, given that the Constitution protects "persons," rather than "citizens." The Feinstein-Lee amendment is "inconsistent with the constitutional principle that basic due process applies to everyone in the US," says ACLU legislative counsel Chris Anders. Not only that, but Anders worries that the amendment could be construed to actually imply that the government has the constitutional authority for such detention.  

The way the amendment reads now, a foreign visitor like Umar Abdulmutallab—the Nigerian who tried to explode a bomb in his underpants on a flight to Detroit several years ago—could still be subject to indefinite military detention. 

So why does Feinstein and Lee's amendment only apply to US citizens and legal residents? Becuase that's what could pass, Feinstein said Wednesday. While she could support extending the protection to any person apprehended on US soil, "the question is whether there is enough support in this body," Feinstein said. "I do not believe there is." 

NH Produces Weirdest Political Story of 2012, All Time

| Thu Nov. 29, 2012 10:58 AM EST
New Hampshire state Rep.-elect Tim O'Flaherty (D)

Democrats won big on election night in New Hampshire. They held onto the governor's office, took back two seats in Congress, and won control of the state house of representatives. But for progressives, the victories went even deeper than that: At least four seats in the legislature went to activists with the Occupy Wall Street satellite, Occupy New Hampshire. Granite State progressive blogger Bill Tucker catches the group touting its success on Facebook: "We aren't going to reveal names, they can if they want. But we have 4 or 5 people who were very involved Occupiers, and another handful who were part of the network—either already Reps or newly elected. We got juice—or maybe just a little pulp."

How did this happen? It's largely a consequence of the state's uniquely enormous legislature. At 400 members (for 1.3 million people) it's the third-largest legislative body in the English-speaking world, and you only need about a thousand votes to win a seat.

With the election wins, New Hampshire becomes the first state where Occupiers have secured an actual foothold in the political arena. But they're not the only group of ideological activists who are winning elections in the Granite State; they're following the trail already blazed by members of the Free State Project, the movement to repopulate New Hampshire with libertarians and slowly turn the state into a small-government (or no-government) paradise. As I reported in a piece for the magazine last summer, the movement has finally begun to make inroads in the state legislature, winning seats—while often keeping their affiliation under wraps—and then getting to work deregulating margarine and de-funding high-speed rail. As conservatives struggled statewide this November, the libertarians held their own. Free State Project president Carla Gericke announced:

Over the past eight years, FSP participants who have become state representatives went from zero to 1, to four, to 12-14 in 2010, to eleven this cycle. We only have 1,100 movers on the ground. With only 5% of our goal movers in NH, political FSP participants held onto the status quo while Republicans got trounced. Baby steps, people. It ain't called a "project" for nothing!

Take, for example, the case of newly elected Rep. Tim O'Flaherty, a self-described "anarchist" who ran as a Democrat and edged out Republican challenger Dan Garthwaite in a Manchester district. As it happens, both O'Flaherty and Garthwaite are supporters of the Free State Project. They're also roommates. The two rivals live at "Porc Manor," a Manchester home that's become a flophouse of sorts for Free States. (Supporters called themselves "porcupines" because they bristle only when provoked.) A 2009 landlord manual for Porc Manor offers tip for renting to Free Staters, noting that, for instance, "A lot of porcupines will frown on deposits, mostly because they feel their status as acknowledged defenders of property rights makes them immune to the reasons landlords require deposits."

Their living arrangement served as fuel for perhaps the most unusual storyline in any election this year, or maybe ever. As the Manchester Union-Leader's Mark Hayward explained:

In one of the more bizarre moments in the campaign, O'Flaherty wrote to Comedy Central's election Internet site to say he and Garthwaite are lovers, and the election would decide certain role-playing aspects of their relationship. (We're talking dominance and jackboots here.)

But O'Flaherty, who is gay, said he doesn't know Garthwaite well, and he made the comments to undermine his opponent with his Republican base.

No really, this actually happened. Here's what O'Flaherty told Comedy Central's Dan Poppy in an email:

Things were hot and heavy when Dan and I first met and we found ourselves living in the same boarding house. We have had some heated political arguments but I haven't been able to persuade Dan to turn from his Statist beliefs. Lately we've been looking for ways to keep things interesting in the bedroom and we've been exploring some roleplaying. Dan likes to play the cop/thug, forcing me to lick his jackboot.

I've become concerned recently that our roleplaying was counter-revolutionary and contrary to my anarchist principles. Violent revolt was a looming prospect but Dan (the consummate Statist and devout believer in the Democratic Faith) suggested we put the matter to a vote. We agreed we would both run for State Representative but on opposite sides of the ticket, the winner gets to choose his role to play in the bedroom.

Now voters in Manchester's Ward 5 will decide the outcome. If Dan beats me in the election his Statist domination will continue unchecked. If voters should choose me they will quite literally be saying "Fu*% the State(ist)." Please tell your readers to spew their vitriol on my Facebook page.

In his interview with the Union-Leader, O'Flaherty also floated an unusual hypothesis for his primary victory over former state Rep. Richard Komi: "He said Komi may have suffered from name problems; his name is similar to Joseph Kony, the Ugandan guerilla leader whose capture was encouraged by the Kony 2012 effort, a viral Internet video."

On November 8th, when the vote count in Manchester's Ward 5 was made official, O'Flaherty hopped on Facebook with a simple but deliberate message for his supporters: "Victory is mine!" He added, "It was the best $2 i've ever spent!"

And with that, New Hampshire may have finally outdone itself.

The 10 Best And Worst Tweets From Obama's #MY2K Campaign

| Wed Nov. 28, 2012 8:20 PM EST

Earlier today, President Barack Obama took the battle over the fiscal cliff to Twitter, urging his followers to voice their support for his budget plan with the hashtag #MY2K. The tag refers to the $2,200 that the average American family will save each year if Congress votes to extend the Bush tax cuts for all but the top 2 percent of earners.

Obama's Twitter campaign reflects a push to mobilize his large army of grassroots supporters beyond the electoral campaign. His strategists don't want to repeat the mistakes of four years ago, when the populist energy from his campaign fizzled for lack of any meaningful way for his supporters to stay involved. Vocal support from liberals for the middle-class tax cuts might make it easier for Obama to boost taxes on the rich.

The #MY2K hashtag quickly began trending on Twitter. But waging a policy battle with social media isn't as simple as it might sound. Here's a sample of tweets that use Obama's hashtag:

The origninal tweet: 

The conservative Heritage Foundation quickly purchased ad space on the #MY2K search results: 

 But there's this thing called a mandate. . . 

 What will your $2K buy?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feel the pressure, Congress!

 

 

And don't forget the kittehs!

 

 

Is $2K even enough?

 

 

At any rate, this whole fiscal cliff thing is so 1999. . .

 

 

Mississippi's Last Abortion Clinic Might Soon Disappear

| Wed Nov. 28, 2012 8:05 PM EST

With options running out, the future of Mississippi's only remaining abortion clinic likely depends on a federal judge.

The Jackson Women's Health Organization, represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), has filed another motion calling on the court to block enforcement of a new state law that would shut down the clinic for good. Passed last April in a fairly blatant attempt to make Mississippi an "abortion-free" state, the law requires doctors who provide abortions to have official admitting privileges at a local hospital. The doctors at Jackson Women's Health, both of whom travel to Jackson from out of state, have been trying to secure the privileges for months.

Those efforts have proven fruitless. In July, the court allowed the law to go into effect but blocked any penalties from being enforced while the hospital application process played out, and the department of health granted them six months to try to come into compliance. But, at this point, the result of the application process is a "forgone conclusion," according to CRR.

The doctors' applications have been rejected by every hospital they've approached. Two hospitals wouldn't let them apply at all. Five others denied the applications for "administrative" reasons, before even completely reviewing the doctors' qualifications. Their rejection letters cited their policies regarding abortion and "concern about disruption to the hospital's business within the community." The clinic wrote follow-up letters to make sure the hospitals understood that the doctors were only seeking privileges to comply with the new law and wouldn't actually be providing abortions at the hospital, but no dice.

"Anti-choice politicians were very clear that they had one in thing in mind when they passed this law: to shut down Mississippi's only abortion clinic," said CRR's president Nancy Northup in a press release. "It isn't a surprise to anyone that the physicians at the Jackson Women's Health Organization haven't been able to obtain admitting privileges at any local hospital."

Unless the law is blocked, the clinic will be in violation on January 11. If it's forced to close, Mississippi would be the only state in the country without a single abortion clinic, and women would have to travel to surrounding states to end their pregnancies. But the clinic's owner, Diane Derzis, says she's hopeful that the judge will declare the law unconstitutional. "Without him doing so," she warns, "Mississippi has banned abortion."

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We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for November 28, 2012

Wed Nov. 28, 2012 11:02 AM EST

Soldiers with Alpha Battery, 2nd Battalion, 32 Field Artillery, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, observe the impact of artillery rounds fired from an Afghan D-30 howitzer during partnered training in eastern Afghanistan, Nov. 21, 2012. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Nicolas Morales.

Obama: Whistleblowers' New BFF

| Wed Nov. 28, 2012 8:56 AM EST

When it comes to protecting whistleblowers, President Obama's track record has been fairly bleak. In his first term, he trampled over them on his quest to aggressively prosecute government leakers. But Obama's legacy on the issue may have changed on Tuesday when he signed a law called the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, a far-reaching bill that affords federal whistleblowers a host of new safeguards.  

This hard-fought law (activists have been working to get it passed for more than a decade) upgrades the existing protections for federal employees who witness waste, fraud, or abuse within the federal government.

Specifically, the law lowers the standard of proof whistleblowers must provide in order to receive protection and closes judicially-created loopholes that were added to the original 1989 Whistleblower Protection Act. It also makes it easier for the Office of Special Counsel, the federal government's whistleblower protection agency, to discipline employers or agencies who retaliate, and it provides compensatory damages to certain whistleblowers who have successful cases. (This compensation is different than the monetary awards available to certain whistleblowers in the private sector. The Securities and Exchange Commission, which received 3,000 tips last yearrewards private sector whistleblowers who expose financial corruption, and whistleblowers who bring Qui Tam cases are also eligible for compensation under the False Claims Act.)

The Obama administration has angered whistleblower advocates in the past for being particularly tough on whistleblowers and prosecuting them under the Espionage Act. But, with the passage of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, whistleblower advocates seems to think the administration has turned over a new leaf. According to the Government Accountability Project (GAP), Obama restored a large portion of the bill that protects national security whistleblowers after the House gutted it via a presidential directive. 

"Most Presidents have offered lip service for whistleblower rights, but President Obama fought to give them more teeth," Tom Devine, legal director of GAP said in a statement

Idaho Lawmaker Promotes Bold New Plan to Elect Romney

| Wed Nov. 28, 2012 7:03 AM EST

Idaho state Sen. Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll (R) has found a daring plan to reverse the results of the November election and turn the keys to the Oval Office over to Mitt Romney: Boycott the Electoral College. Last Monday, Nuxoll, a Republican, blasted out a link on her Twitter feed to a new proposal from Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips, explaining that if 17 Romney states rejected the Electoral College, they could throw the outcome of the election to the GOP-controlled House of Representatives. As Phillips put it, referring to episodes in which Democratic lawmakers crossed state lines to avoid controversial votes, "Democrats have actually set this precedent of refusing to participate to deny Republicans a quorum. They did this in Wisconsin and in Texas. Why can't we do this with the Electoral College?"

So is this possible? Has the key to a Romney presidency been hiding in plain sight all along? 

No.

Betsy Russell of the Spokane Spokesman-Review burst conservatives' bubble, and snagged the quotes of the year:

Constitutional scholar David Adler, director of the Andrus Center for Public Policy at Boise State University, said the plan is not "totally constitutional," as touted in the article, but is instead "a radical, revolutionary proposal that has no basis in federal law or the architecture of the Constitution."

Adler called it "really a strange and bizarre fantasy."

Nuxoll said, "Well, I guess that's one lawyer."

Annnnnd scene.

Corn on MSNBC: Are Republicans More Scared of the Tea Party or Grover Norquist?

Tue Nov. 27, 2012 9:19 PM EST

The President may have won an election, but he has another big fight with Republicans over the fiscal cliff. DC bureau chief David Corn talks to MSNBC's Martin Bashir about what strategies both sides may use in this debate. Are Republicans really going to abandon Grover Norquist's pledge not to raise taxes

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