Mojo - July 2012

Keeping an Eye on the "Cooch"

| Wed Jul. 18, 2012 10:38 AM EDT
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.

As we reported yesterday, Virginia's GOP Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has refused to certify new regulations that would allow existing abortion clinics in the state to stay open.

A regulation approved by the state Board of Health last month created strict new standards for offices providing abortion services, but said the new rules shouldn't apply to existing facilities. Cuccinelli wants the rules to apply to all clinics, and is trying to overrule the Board of Health's decision, throwing into question whether clinics in Virginia will be able to continue offering abortions. This has prompted protests in the state, including the organization of a new group: CoochWatch.

And yes, the double entendre is intentional. "Cooch" is both a nickname assigned to the crusading AG and slang for "That very special place on a woman that men spend their lives striving to visit over and over and over again," according to Urban Dictionary (and that's the nicest definition I could find there). "It's just too perfect to pass up," CoochWatch founder Stephanie Arnold told Mother Jones.

The group and other critics of the AG's action staged a protest on Tuesday night outside Freeman High School in Richmond, Va., where Cuccinelli was speaking to meeting of the Tea Party Patriots.

Arnold, 25, is a medical student at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk and a former staffer at a Richmond abortion clinic. CoochWatch was formed to encourage people in the state to confront the AG about abortion access at every opportunity: "The Cooch has been keeping an eye on your vagina, so now we're going to keep an eye on him."

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We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for July 18, 2012

Wed Jul. 18, 2012 9:51 AM EDT

Staff Sgt. Bryan Robbins, platoon sergeant for 3rd plt., Company G., Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, calls for mortar support during a live-fire exercise. Following the conclusion of Exercise Hamel 2012, the Marines of Co. G. engaged in movement to contact drills, using what they learned from living in a woodland environment for the past three weeks. US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jonathan Wright.

Corn on MSNBC: Fact-Checking Romney on Obama

Wed Jul. 18, 2012 9:39 AM EDT

Mother Jones' DC bureau chief David Corn joined Martin Bashir on MSNBC on Tuesday to discuss a Romney surrogate's suggestion that President Obama isn't a "real" American, and to fact-check Mitt Romney's misquote of an Obama speech:

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

Rick Perry Is Just Trolling Now

| Wed Jul. 18, 2012 9:16 AM EDT
Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

On Tuesday, Texas governor Rick Perry kind-of-sort-of called on Mitt Romney to release his tax returns (and President Obama to release his college transcripts), telling reporters, "I'm all about transparency." This has been taken as a sign that Republicans are increasingly frustrated with Romney's secrecy regarding his tax returns, which is probably true. But the larger takeaway here is that Rick Perry is trolling all of us—because Rick Perry is absolutely not "all about transparency."

As my colleague Andy Kroll explained last August:

Perry and his administration have withheld information in 100 public-records requests during his time in Austin, and on occasion failed to respond on time to other records requests as required by state law. His administration has also refused to hand over notes and records about how the state's two honeypots for economic growth, the Emerging Technology Fund and the Texas Enterprise Fund, decided to dole out grant money, including on one occasion to a company owned by a Perry donor. The Chronicle went so far as to sue the Perry administration for refusing to hand over notes on its decision not to grant clemency to Cameron Todd Willingham, a man who was executed in 2004 after being convicted of multiple murders on the basis of flawed arson pseudoscience.

He didn't just walk the walk, he talked the talk. In October 2010, when he was pressed for more details on his public schedule, Perry told reporters: "I think we give so much information already that it is boring."

Oh, and he's still blocking me on Twitter.

More Voter Shenanigans in Florida?

| Wed Jul. 18, 2012 5:00 AM EDT

Rick Scott is making it harder to vote Flickr/Donkey HoteryRick Scott is making it harder to vote. Flickr/Donkey HoteyThis post has been updated.

Score one for Gov. Rick Scott, who is moving ahead with plans to ferret out "noncitizens" on Florida's voter rolls. The tea party stalwart won a yearlong battle with the Obama administration last weekend when the Department of Homeland Security agreed to let the state check its voter registrations against a federal database of resident aliens in the United States. But along with ongoing efforts to crack down on voters without IDs and keep convicts away from the polls, it looks like a thinly disguised voter suppression tactic that could tip the electoral scales in the crucial battleground state. Scott's communications director, Brian Burgess, bragged on Saturday that "all of Florida wins!" because of this development.

But are noncitizens actually registering to vote in any significant number? Fox News and friends have made it a pet issue as Republicans come to grips with a growing Latino population more likely to vote for the other party—and whose numbers the GOP might be happy to see diminish at the polls.

The DHS database that Florida will utilize—known as the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements, or SAVE—does not contain a comprehensive list of the estimated 11.5 million people who are in the United States without authorization; rather, it tracks resident aliens who have visas to stay in the US. Here's how Scott's plan is supposed to work: Florida will provide a number for each person it suspects of not being a US citizen, and then the feds will check that against SAVE to confirm whether the person is in the US illegally. And then the state will check its voter lists to see if that person is registered to vote.

"Access to the SAVE database will ensure that noncitizens do not vote in future Florida elections," Scott said in a statement following the DHS decision. "We've already confirmed that noncitizens have voted in past elections here in Florida."

Scott was referring to an attempt made earlier this year to purge Florida's voter rolls—but the number of illegitimate voters found was statistically insignificant. Using info from the driver's license bureau, state officials compiled a list of 182,000 suspicious voters, which was whittled down to 2,600. Of that number, 107—or about 0.001 percent of Florida's 11.2 million voters—shouldn't have been registered to vote. It turned out those 107 voters included more registered Republicans than Democrats. Moreover, that state list was also riddled with errors—full of longtime and recently naturalized citizens who were fully eligible to vote.

Republicans to Secret Donors: We've Got Your Back (Yet Again)

| Tue Jul. 17, 2012 6:00 PM EDT
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

Today, Senate Republicans marched in lockstep with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) by filibustering the DISCLOSE Act for the second time in two days. Democrats needed 60 votes to proceed to an actual vote on the bill, which would require unions, corporations, and secretive nonprofits to disclose the big donors behind their political activities. The final vote was 53 to 45.

After the vote, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), who introduced DISCLOSE this spring and later whittled it down to a simpler, 19-pageversion, dinged his GOP colleagues for supporting disclosure in the past and then blocking a full vote on his bill. (No Democrats joined the Republicans in voting against a full vote.) But Whitehouse said the fight to make dark-money groups more transparent wasn't over. "Joshua didn't get the walls of Jericho to fall the first time he and the Israelites walked around the city," Whitehouse said in an interview Monday night.

Republicans offered a variety of reasons for blocking the DISCLOSE Act. Sen. McConnell claimed the bill created "the impressions of mischief where there is none," and amounts to "nothing more than member and donor harassment and intimidation." Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a vigorous supporter of campaign finance reform in the past, said the bill favored labor unions—a claim flatly rejected by Whitehouse. "There is no union loophole in it," he said. "It is the same rules for any organization no matter what."

David Keating, president of the Center for Competitive Politics, which opposes more regulation of political money, said the bill overreached because it would also compel disclosure for nonpolitical ads. "There are plenty of ads that are lobbying related," Keating told Politico. "You would have to go through all the red tape for those. It's being billed as an election disclosure bill, but it covers way more than that."

Pro-reform advocacy groups slammed the Republicans' filibuster of the DISCLOSE Act. Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21 and the dean of the pro-reform community, said in a statement, "In a disgraceful disregard for the interests of the American people, Republican senators have voted to protect secret, corrupting contributions made by millionaires, billionaires, and corporations to influence federal elections." Others took the long view. "Taking back our democracy is a marathon, not a sprint," said Adam Green, cofounder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, in a statement.

Even if it were to pass, the DISCLOSE Act would not take effect until January 2013. It's unlikely to be introduced again before the November election.

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George W. Bush: "8 Years Was Awesome and I Was Famous and I Was Powerful"

| Tue Jul. 17, 2012 5:08 PM EDT

From an interview late last week, allow us to present the Bushiest Bush quote that has ever been Bushed (see the 4-minute mark below): 

Eight years was awesome and I was famous and I was powerful.

One more time:

Eight years was awesome and I was famous and I was powerful.

Just to recap, George W. Bush is saying that his 96 months as chief executive of America—endorsing torture, launching war on convoluted make-believe, jumping the gun, decimating a record budget surplus, politicizing NASA and the DOJ, wiretapping, ditching Kyoto, bungling Katrina, restricting stem-cell research, fighting AIDS in Africa, pushing reasonable immigration reform, and getting pissed at the South Park creators—were straight awesome.

Will Ferrell is officially allowed to retire; George Walker Bush now ad-libs self-caricature at a level of sharpened, terse, crystallized wit that even the most practiced comic or impersonator could only hope to channel. (The only thing that was perhaps missing from this impressively formulated one-liner was Bush labeling his presidency as "extreeeeemme.")

The quote was practically made for reverse-caption contests:

1)

"Eight years was awesome and I was famous and I was powerful." Joyce Boghosian/The White House"Eight years was awesome and I was famous and I was powerful."Joyce Boghosian/The White House

2)

"Eight years was awesome and I was famous and I was powerful.""Eight years was awesome and I was famous and I was powerful." Wikia

3)

"Eight years was awesome and I was famous and I was powerful.""Eight years was awesome and I was famous and I was powerful." Crawford-Texas.org

4)

"Eight years was awesome and I was famous and I was powerful." Joyce Boghosian/The White House"Eight years was awesome and I was famous and I was powerful." Joyce Boghosian/The White House

5)

"Eight years was awesome and I was famous and I was powerful." Paul Morse/The White House."Eight years was awesome and I was famous and I was powerful." Paul Morse/The White House

As Andrea Higbie explained in Salon in 2008, "awesome" is one of Bush's go-to adjectives, used to "describe everything from dead soldiers to the pope." This latest "awesome" quote comes from an interview last week with Peter Robinson, the man who wrote "tear down this wall." During their hour-long conversation, the ex-POTUS talked baseball, family, and politics and the economic landscape today. (Bush was presumably there to push his just-released book of economic prescriptions, The 4% Solution.) As for other stuff that the former president is up to: The George W. Bush Presidential Center will open in a little over a year, and will become the second largest presidential library in the country.

It's gonna be powerfully awesome. 

 

Here's the hour-long interview with Robinson:

Limbaugh: New Batman Film Is an Anti-Romney Conspiracy

| Tue Jul. 17, 2012 4:00 PM EDT

Is this the dumbest thing conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh has ever said?

This week marks the release of The Dark Knight Rises, the widely anticipated final film in director Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy. The villain in the film happens to be a character named Bane. Limbaugh is convinced that the aural similarity between Bane, the Batman villain and Bain, the company founded by Mitt Romney, is no coincidence. In fact, Limbaugh says, it's all part of the plan

Have you heard, this new movie, the Batman movie—what is it, the Dark Knight Lights Up or something? Whatever the name of it is. That's right, Dark Knight Rises, Lights Up, same thing. Do you know the name of the villain in this movie? Bane. The villain in the Dark Knight Rises is named Bane. B-A-N-E. What is the name of the venture capital firm that Romney ran, and around which there's now this make-believe controversy? Bain. The movie has been in the works for a long time, the release date's been known, summer 2012 for a long time. Do you think that it is accidental, that the name of the really vicious, fire-breathing, four-eyed, whatever-it-is villain in this movie is named Bane?

Some context for the non-nerds: Bane the Batman villain was originally introduced by DC Comics as part of a story arc that involves Batman being harried to exhaustion by having to deal with a rash of escaped supervillains. Bane inflicts a devastating defeat on Batman, who is too tired to fight back, breaking his back and leaving him in a wheelchair for a year. This happened in 1993. Almost 20 years ago. A guy named Bill Clinton was president.

To believe that Bane is a Hollywood conspiracy to elect Barack Obama, you'd have to believe that Bane co-creators Chuck Dixon, Doug Moench, and Graham Nolan* (COINCIDENCE?!?!?!) anticipated prior to Romney even announcing a run for public office that Romney would eventually win the GOP primary in 2012, or that Christopher Nolan, anticipating all of this, chose to pick a villain whose name sounds like the company Romney used to work for. On the other hand, if you're the kind of Republican who believes Barack Obama's parents placed a fraudulent birth announcement in a Hawaii newspaper in order to shore up his claim to American citizenship in the event he might someday run for president, this probably doesn't sound like the dumbest thing ever.

Rush Limbaugh is estimated to have around 15 million listeners. Fifteen million

*This post originally implied that Graham Nolan was the sole creator. Bane was also created by Chuck Dixon and Doug Moench.

The Right's Anti-Muslim Crankery Has Real Consequences

| Tue Jul. 17, 2012 3:36 PM EDT

For years, a segment of the conservative movement has trumpeted the conspiracy theory that Muslim radicals have infiltrated the US government. Although the right's anti-Muslim voices were marginalized during the Bush administration, their ideas moved into the mainstream when Barack Obama took office, as crank theories about the president's faith and alleged "Muslim sympathies" gained traction.

Frank Gaffney, a Reagan-era Pentagon official who now runs a group called the Center for Security Policy, is one of the main originators of the baseless conspiracy theory that American Muslims are secretly plotting to replace the Constitution with Taliban-style Islamic law. (He also called Obama America's "first Muslim president" and sees Muslim Brotherhood conspiracies in government agency logos.) Now Rep. Michele Bachmann is alleging that one of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's close aides, Huma Abedin, is a secret agent for the Muslim Brotherhood—and there's a Gaffney connection there, too. As Eli Lake noted the New Republic in July of last year, Gaffney was once an adviser to Bachmann's presidential campaign. 

As Salon's Alex Seitz-Wald points out, you have to go to absurd lengths to tie Abedin to the Brotherhood:

  • You have to ignore her marriage to the ardently pro-Israel disgraced New York Congressman Anthony Weiner. (Of course: it's the perfect cover.)
  • Abedin's also an executive branch official, an aide to one of the top members of the president's cabinet, and subject to extensive background checks. (Presumably the security agencies charged with performing background checks are in on the conspiracy.)
  • In her 16-page letter detailing her accusations, Bachmann "hints that she has access to secret information as a member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence supporting her claims but can't make it public," Seitz-Wald notes. (Given their silence, we can only assume that the rest of the committee, Democrats and Republicans alike, sit at home memorizing the insights of Sayyid Qutb on their iPads.)

The mainstreaming of this sort of anti-Muslim quackery is having actual real world consequences abroad. As the New York Times Robert Mackey reports, some Egyptians, spurred on in part by Egyptian pundit Tawfik Okasha (dubbed Egypt's Glenn Beck) have now bought into the notion, repeated endlessly on conservative blogs, that the Obama administration is covertly supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and helped engineer its success in Egypt. (How the Obama team was unable to repeat such flawless manipulation of domestic politics in Libya, where the Brotherhood's local affiliate was defeated, is anyone's guess).

It's tempting sometimes to dismiss the right's conspiracy theorizing about Muslims as laughable (Shariah turkeys, ect), just because it's so far-fetched. But as with the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque," the rash of unconstitutional "anti-Sharia" laws being proposed across the country, and the general formenting of suspicion and fear of Muslims throughout the country, this stuff has real consequences. From a national security perspective, it makes actual radicalism harder to identify, making it harder to see genuine threats when they emerge. 

Cuccinelli Blocks Virginia Regulation Protecting Existing Abortion Clinics

| Tue Jul. 17, 2012 2:33 PM EDT
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.

Ken Cuccinelli, Virginia's crusading GOP attorney general, has refused to certify regulations from the Virginia Board of Health that would allow existing abortion clinics in the state to stay open.

The Virginia legislature passed a strict new set of rules in August 2011 that threatened to shut down a number of clinics in the state. The rules would force clinics that provide abortions to meet the standards of outpatient surgical centers—including specific requirements about the size of the rooms; the width of the hallways; the location of the bathrooms; the specifications of the heating, ventilation, air conditioning systems; and the number of parking spaces. Reproductive rights groups say that most of the 23 clinics offering abortions in the state would likely be unable to meet all the new standards unless they found new facilities or made major changes to their current ones.

After nine hours of debate and a large protest, the Virginia Board of Health voted in June to amend the regulations to grandfather-in existing clinics, allowing the current offices to stay open. But now Cuccinelli is blocking the Board of Health's decision, arguing that the board "exceeded its authority" in amending the rules.

That's an interesting argument, considering that the Board of Health exists make and enforce regulations, as well as to provide "for reasonable variances and exemptions therefrom." Opponents of the strict abortion regulation say it's Cuccinelli who is overstepping his authority. "The Attorney General has no basis to exert veto power over these regulations," said ProgressVA Executive Director Anna Scholl in a statement Monday night. "In Ken Cuccinelli's desperate crusade to regulate away reproductive health access for Virginia's women, he's willing to completely ignore the parameters of the Attorney General's office."

Meanwhile, Cuccinelli's boss and the guy whose job he'd like to have after the 2013 election, Gov. Bob McDonnell, last week appointed a staunchly anti-abortion doctor who helped write the harsh new clinic regulations to an open seat on the Board of Health. Dr. John W. Seeds is an obstetrician at the Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center and the vice chairman of Virginia OBGYNS For Life, and has written for the Virginia Christian Alliance about how "Abortion is the voluntary killing of a human life that requires, in my opinion, turning away from God and his love," the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports.

This latest appointment has abortion rights groups worried, as Cuccinelli's move means that the regulations will likely end up back before a board that is now even more anti-abortion.