Mojo - January 2012

Aborted Fetuses: The Awkward Guests at Your Super Bowl Party

| Wed Jan. 11, 2012 11:43 AM PST

Anti-abortion activist Randall Terry has been running graphic ads of aborted fetuses in key primary states, as my colleague Tim Murphy has reported. Now the gruesome ads are coming to the Super Bowl.

Nothing says "pass the dip" like a bloody fetus. Normally, Terry wouldn't be able to get these kinds of ads on television. So he's launching a non-serious campaign for president (running as a Democratic challenger to President Obama) in order to exploit a loophole in Federal Communications Commission rules that requires station to run campaign ads in the weeks ahead of a primary election—no matter how grisly they might be. In the 45 days ahead of a primary and 60 days ahead of a general election, candidates for federal office can run whatever they want on local stations, as long as they pay for the airtime.

Yes, the FCC can try to fine you a half-million dollars for a "wardrobe malfunction," but bundles of bloody body parts is A-okay.

Terry can't, however, force the networks to run his ads nationally, as Jezebel points out. So if you live in a state that doesn't have a primary within 45 days of the Superbowl, you can enjoy your nachos without looking at fetal body parts. (Which, it's probably worth pointing out, are from late-term abortions; the vast majority of abortions take place in the first trimester.) But if you live in a Super Tuesday state or any of the others voting in February or early March, be prepared. The Greeley Gazette writes that Terry and his group have ads "ready to go" in 40 markets.

At least this means Miller's "Man Up" ads won't be the most offensive thing on your TV this Super Bowl.

Update: A Chicago NBC station has balked at running Terry's ad. Meanwhile, here are some of the cities where viewers can still expect to see one of the ads during the Super Bowl festivities, according to Terry:

During the pre-game show: Eau Claire, Wisconsin; Kansas City, Kansas/Missouri; Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; St. Louis, Missouri; Tulsa, Oklahoma

During the game: Ada, Oklahoma; Grand Junction, Colorado; Joplin, Missouri; Paducah, Kentucky; Springfield, Missouri

To watch the ad, click here. Warning: It contains extremely graphic images of dead fetuses.

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The Secret Drones in America's Skies

| Wed Jan. 11, 2012 10:59 AM PST

So you want to launch an unmanned aerial vehicle in US airspace? The first step (besides shelling out for one) is to ask the Federal Aviation Administration for permission to fly it above 400 feet. So who's been cleared for takeoff? Well, as the Electronic Frontier Foundation reports, that's a secret. The Department of Transportation hasn't responded to a FOIA request to release its domestic drone data. The FAA has said that as of last September, it had given the green light to 85 users, but it won't say who they are or what exactly they're doing.

The EFF is suing for the info, explaining that "As the government begins to make policy decisions about the use of these aircraft, the public needs to know more about how and why these drones are being used to surveil United States citizens."

No doubt many of the drone requests are from government and law enforcement agencies with plans to collect images and data from above. (More than one-third of the more than FAA flight authorizations issued in 2010 were held by the Pentagon.) But it's also possible that some of the requests are from more unusual sources. Anticipated civilian uses for UAVs include DIY hobby kits, crop dusting, package and pizza delivery. See here for more on the ways UAVs could be coming to the skies near you.

Quote of the Day, Balls and Strikes Edition

| Wed Jan. 11, 2012 9:43 AM PST
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Elena Kagan chop it up outside the courthouse.

Chief Supreme Court Justice John Roberts famously said in his 2005 confirmation hearings that judges are supposed to be like baseball umpires. "I will decide every case based on the record, according to the rule of law, without fear or favor, to the best of my ability" Roberts testified. "And I will remember that it's my job to call balls and strikes and not to pitch or bat."

Slate's Dahlia Lithwick catches Roberts acting a bit more like an NBA ref than a neutral arbiter of the law during arguments at Supreme Court over the limits of the Federal Communications Commission's authority to regulate "indecency" in broadcasting: 

Roberts jumps in to add, "People who want to expose their children to broadcasts where these words are used, there are 800 channels where they can go for that. All we are asking for ..." he stops himself. "What the government is asking for, is a few channels where you can say they are not going to hear the S-word, the F-word. They are not going to see nudity."

Freudian slip? Or perhaps Roberts simply misspoke.

Arizona Wants to Buy Back State Capitol It Inexplicably Sold

| Wed Jan. 11, 2012 8:29 AM PST
Arizona sold off $735 million worth of state property in 2009.

State governments have taken a number of different steps to balance their books in recent years. Texas Gov. Rick Perry (remember him?) proposed a new tax on strip clubs, for example, and a Utah state rep. suggested saving $60 million per year by abolishing the 12th grade. But no proposal struck as much metaphorical gold as Arizona's decision to sell off the state capitol (and a whole bunch of other state properties, such as maximum security prisons) for $735 million in 2009. Republican Gov. Jan Brewer signed off on the deal, and the state now leases the House and Senate chambers from a private real estate company at a considerable long-term cost.

But now, presumably still a little embarrassed by the whole episode, presented with the unfamiliar feeling of cash on hand, and rapidly approaching the state's 100th birthday, Brewer wants the Arizona capitol back in the hands of Arizonans. Here's the Yuma Sun:

The move will cost the state $105 million out of its current budget surplus. Brewer press aide Matthew Benson said the state has the cash.

Benson acknowledged the state actually got only $81 million for the state House, the Senate and the nine-story executive tower that includes Brewer's office when it negotiated a "sale-leaseback" arrangement in 2010...

"Most of our Capitol complex, including the building we gather in today, is not ours,'' Brewer said in her State of the State speech delivered in the House building. "So ... to make all of our Capitol truly ours once again, I'm asking that you send me a bill by Statehood Day that allows me to buy back the Capitol.''

Arizona's decision to sell off its state capitol to a private real estate company was perhaps the greatest drunken eBay transaction of all time, except in this case there was no booze involved, and the whole arrangement was justified on the grounds of austerity and small government. That said, buying back the capitol isn't a terrible idea.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for January 11, 2012

Wed Jan. 11, 2012 3:57 AM PST

US Army Spc. Jeremiah Holbrook, attached to 3rd Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, provides security in the Torkham Gate area, December 23, 2011, at Nangarhar province, Afghanistan. US Army photo by Sgt. Trey Harvey.

RIP, the Santorum Surge

| Tue Jan. 10, 2012 9:49 PM PST
Rick Santorum.

The klieg-lit ballroom inside Manchester's Derryfield restaurant is where Rick Santorum's unexpected surge coughed, sputtered, and stalled. Munching on chicken fingers, making small talk, and checking email on iPhones and Blackberries, reporters appeared to outnumber Santorum supporters at the candidate's primary party. This was where the reality of Santorum's spare, insurgent campaign overtook the media hype surrounding it.

The Santorum campaign had zeroed in on Iowa, where the candidate methodically hit all 99 counties, a strategy that paid off when the former Pennsylvania senator claimed the second slot—and the media spoils that accompanied it—in the state's GOP caucuses. But his focus on Iowa left Santorum with little beyond media momentum to carry him into New Hampshire, where he didn't have much of an infrastructure to speak of. (Though his campaign manager, Mike Biundo, does hail from the Granite State.)

Despite this disadvantage, the Santorum team ran a dogged campaign in the week leading up to the primary, stacking the candidate's schedule with town halls and meet-and-greets. But his social conservative message, which found a small but diehard base of support here, didn't really penetrate—at least not in the way the Santorum campaign needed it to in order to pose a real threat to Mitt Romney's slick, cash-flush operation. (The contrast between the two campaigns couldn't have been more stark. At Santorum's events, it was a crapshoot whether the candidate would even have a working mic; Romney's appearances were meticulously choreographed, resembling a presidential—not a primary—campaign.)

Before Santorum's Iowa near-victory, the former Pennsylvania senator was polling in the single digits in New Hampshire. Afterward, one poll briefly had him at 21 percent. In the state's primary, he ended up placing fifth, slightly behind Newt Gingrich, with less than 10 percent of the vote. The campaign's goal had been to score in the double digits and possibly overtake Gingrich, but it was ultimately unable to achieve either.

Taking the stage at the restaurant flanked by his wife Karen and two of his seven children, Santorum—appearing a tad dejected—spun his back-of-the-pack finish as a victory. The fact that he competed at all, Santorum suggested, was a win. "We wanted to respect the process here," he told supporters, to cheers of "We pick Rick!"

He added: "We came where the campaign was and we delivered a message not just for New Hampshire but for America—that we have a campaign that has a message and a messenger."

Now message and messenger head to South Carolina, running the same bare-bones operation. But now, the momentum—and the media swarm—that carried Santorum north to New Hampshire are quickly disappearing.

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Jon Huntsman's Billionaire Dad Won't Commit to More Campaign Cash

| Tue Jan. 10, 2012 9:03 PM PST
Jon Huntsman.

Soon after the news networks confirmed Jon Huntsman's third-place finish in New Hampshire's primary, Huntsman strode onto the stage at a Manchester bar to address his supporters. Huntsman's family joined him, including a elderly man integral to the future of Huntsman's campaign: his billionaire father, Jon Huntsman Sr.

A powerful chemical titan, Jon Sr. has played a key role supporting his son's candidacy. He helped finance a super-PAC called Our Destiny that's spent $2.1 million so far backing Huntsman Jr. And going forward, the only person likely to give the Huntsman campaign the kind of financial jolt it needs to stay alive is Jon Sr..

On Tuesday night, I twice asked Huntsman Sr. if he planned to step in and support his son's campaign going forward. Both times he dodged the question before security personnel led him into a waiting car. Here's our brief exchange:

AK: I was just wondering about the Our Destiny super-PAC. Do you plan to support it or support your son's campaign? Any comment on that going forward?

JH: Oh, I think he's just done a great job tonight. We love him very much.

AK: Do you think you'll continue supporting him financially going forward, sir?

JH: [Pauses and smiles.] Thank you. Thank you very much.

Here's the audio:

Jon Huntsman Sr. on funding his son"s campaign (mp3)

At the event, Huntsman Jr. announced he would continue his bid for the White House, heading now to South Carolina, which holds its presidential primary on January 21. "I'd say third place is a ticket to ride," Huntsman told the crowd. "Hello, South Carolina!"

South Carolina's primary fight is shaping up to be a bruising battle, with campaigns and super-PACs spending more on ads there than in New Hampshire. The New York Times reported Tuesday that 2,800 campaign ads had appeared in New Hampshire compared to 5,500 in South Carolina. Much of ad spending will come from super-PACs, like the pro-Romney Restore Our Future group and pro-Gingrich Winning Our Future.

Huntsman will have to duke it out on the airwaves as well if hopes to compete in South Carolina. But for now, his bankrolling dad doesn't sound too enthusiastic about injecting more of his wealth into the fight.

Huntsman on Obama: "A Pathology Emerges Here."

| Tue Jan. 10, 2012 6:07 PM PST

On Tuesday evening, a peppy Jon Huntsman strolled through Radio Row at the Radisson Hotel in downtown Manchester to do several radio interviews. He appeared quite pleased. His aides were noting they were confident of a strong showing that night in the New Hampshire Republican primary, looking toward possibly hurdling over Ron Paul into second place. (As it turned out, Huntsman would fall far short of leapfrogging Paul.)

On his way toward a microphone, I asked if he had time for a question. "Sure thing, David," he said. The following exchange occurred. Please pay attention to the sentence in bold.

Corn: I'm intrigued by the argument you are making about restoring trust which runs counter to the emotional narrative that the other candidates are talking about. But in what way do you think the current occupant in the White House has failed on the trust level?

Huntsman: Well, an example would be that when given the first two years to lead out on the economy, he failed to do so. When given a chance to address Afghanistan--drawing down troops when we've done everything we can do—he has failed to do so. When he had an opportunity to embrace a bipartisan deficit spending proposal called Simpson-Bowles, it hit the garbage can. You get enough of these, and a kind of a pathology emerges here. People say, there's no more trust in the executive branch. There was an opportunity to lead, and it wasn't taken.

Corn: But are these trust issues, or are these policy differences? There was the stimulus. Afghanistan was a long [policy] review--whether you agree or not—

Huntsman: They're all corrosive on the overall trust issue. When you run against crony capitalism and you have the Solyndras of the world pop up. There's enough there to raise the issue of trust.

Was the former Utah governor calling Obama pathological—as in pathological liar (the common usage)? It sure seems close. Though he has repeatedly maintained that the nation's political discourse has gone off the rails in terms of nastiness and divisiveness, Huntsman, in his mild-mannered way, was twisting policy disputes into a question of character and suggesting that Obama, for whom he once worked, was fundamentally dishonest. That's an odd way to improve the debate and boost civility.
 

Chart of the Day: Still Not Enough Jobs

| Tue Jan. 10, 2012 12:41 PM PST

This Economic Policy Institute (EPI) chart puts a damper on all the good cheer about the economy: according to the new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of new job openings plummeted by 63,000 last November, while some 13.3 million people remained without work. That gave us a ratio of jobless people to job openings of 4.2-to-1, a slight uptick from October's 4.3-to-1:

Here's EPI's Heidi Shierholz:

While the job-seekers ratio has slowly been improving since it peaked at 6.9-to-1 in the summer of 2009, today’s data release marks two years and 11 months—152 weeks—that the ratio has been above 4-to-1. A job-seekers ratio of more than 4-to-1 means that there are no jobs for more than three out of four unemployed workers, no matter what job seekers do.

The upshot: although things are certainly getting better, the economy simply hasn't picked up enough steam to accomodate the number of people still searching for work.

So the next time someone claims that laziness, drug abuse, or a lack of education are at the root of the economy's ills, show them this chart!

GOP Candidates Promise to Revive War on Porn

| Tue Jan. 10, 2012 12:24 PM PST

Oh thank God. Three of the leading contenders for the GOP presidential nomination have come out strong—against porn.

The nation's men may be suffering from high rates of unemployment, but Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum have pledged to ensure that those men aren't spending their involuntary down time surfing the web for smut. All three have pledged that if elected, they will revive intensive federal prosecutorial efforts to enforce the nation's obscenity laws.

The nonprofit Morality in Media has been hounding GOP candidates since October to go on the record with their positions on porn, in part because the group and its allies in the evangelical community are deeply unhappy with the Obama administration on this front. They believe that Obama has abandoned the nation's women to exploitation and even trafficking by disbanding a Justice Department obscenity task force and failing to initiate a single new obscenity prosecution since Obama was inaugurated. MIM didn't have to work hard, it seems, to get a couple of GOP candidates to go on the record against all things X-rated (especially the leading prude of the field, Santorum). After all, what candidate is going to run on a pro-porn platform?

But enforcing obscenity laws is a lot harder than the MIM pledge makes it sound. For all the fury the group has leveled at the Obama administration for failing to go after pornographers, it has also failed to acknowledge that many of the obscenity prosecutions begun during the last Bush administration were a huge bust. Obscenity prosecutions tend to create thorny First Amendment problems that prosecutors would generally rather avoid. Meanwhile, MIM hasn't noted the hypocrisy rooted in Gingrich's promise to enforce obscenity laws. The former House speaker is partly responsible for enabling the explosion of online porn, thanks to his successful opposition to a 1995 Internet censorship law introduced in Congress.

Nonetheless, Patrick Trueman, the president of MIM and the former chief of the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section at DOJ during the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, issued a statement congratulating the GOP candidates for taking a stand. "Vigorous prosecution of those who violate our nation's obscenity laws is critical now," Trueman said. "Our nation is suffering a pandemic of harm from pornography that is readily available—even to children on the Internet and in other venues. Addiction among adults and even children is now widespread. Pornography is a common cause of the destruction of marriage. It leads to misogyny and violence against women and is a contributing factor in sexual trafficking."