Mojo - November 2012

Will Peru Extradite Billionaire Lead Magnate Ira Rennert?

| Tue Nov. 20, 2012 7:03 AM EST
Ira Rennert owns the nation's largest inhabited residence.

A Peruvian judge has threatened to extradite bad-boy industrialist and private-equity bigwig Ira Rennert, according to a recent story in Peru's La Republica. Since January, the American billionaire has repeatedly refused to travel to Peru to respond to charges of defrauding the Peruvian government in connection with his management of Doe Run Peru, a lead smelter in the Andes that has poisoned a surrounding town.

According to La Republica, Rennert has claimed that he is "too occupied with his business" to address the charges in person. He asked Peruvian judge Martha Flores Gallardo to travel to New York instead.

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John McCain: Stand-Up Guy or Total Jerk?

| Tue Nov. 20, 2012 7:03 AM EST

"You know, I've been called a maverick; someone who marches to the beat of his own drum," Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) boasted during his speech at the 2008 Republican convention. But for every instance of McCain bucking party orthodoxy or straddling the partisan divide, there's one of him being an obstinate, angry jerk. (The current example of this being his attempt to turn the Benghazi controversy into a Watergate-sized scandal.) This duality recalls Goofus and Gallant, the twin brothers who have long entertained Highlights for Children readers with their contrasting antics:

Goofus McCain

Gallant McCain

Tells this joke: "Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly? Because her father is Janet Reno." Later befriends Sen. Hillary Clinton and calls her "one of the guys."
Unapologetically calls his Vietnamese captors "gooks"—in 2000. Says that torture is "unworthy and injurious to our country."
Freaks out over the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Says the Swift Boat ads about John Kerry's war record were "dishonest and dishonorable."
Votes against more disclosure for dark-money donors. Bashes Citizens United as "one of the worst decisions" ever.
Praises "spectacular" running mate Sarah Palin's "incredible résumé." Criticizes the "agents of intolerance" in the Christian right.
Says he'd be okay with US troops staying in Iraq for "maybe 100 years." Corrects a supporter who insists Obama is "an Arab."
Goes from backing climate legislation to saying climate science may be "flawed." Criticizes congressional tea partiers for their "bizarro" debt ceiling demands.
Says Susan Rice is "not qualified" to be the next secretary of state due to "not being very bright" and her comments about the Benghazi attacks. Defends Hillary Clinton adviser Huma Abedin from Rep. Michele Bachmann's "specious and degrading attacks."

 

Jerry Falwell-Linked Lawyer: It's Romney's Fault Gay Marriage Won in 2012

| Mon Nov. 19, 2012 4:35 PM EST

Mat Staver, an influential evangelical lawyer closely linked with the Jerry Falwell-founded Liberty University, has named an unlikely culprit for the passage of four pro-gay marriage measures this year: Mitt Romney.

Staver said Monday on the Christian radio program "Faith and Freedom" that Romney's refusal to talk about social issues led to voters in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington State approving ballot measures backing gay marriage. Romney should've campaigned in those four states, Staver insisted, and played up the importance of defining marriage as being between a man and a woman only.

But because Romney's message focused primarily on jobs and the economy, "he could not speak about life or marriage and so he didn't campaign in those states speaking about those issues and associating himself with marriage," Staver said, adding, "had he done so, his numbers would've gone up and I bet the marriage polls would've gone up."

Staver called Romney "mealy" and a "one-note" candidate, and disparaged him for lacking true social values. "If you'd had a candidate that had social values, you'd have higher voter turnout," he said. "If you had Romney, you had lower voter turnout. What ultimately happened in the general election is you had lower voter turnout."

Watch the clip of Staver's comments above, captured and edited by Right Wing Watch. Here's the transcript:

"If you'd had a candidate that had social values, you had a higher voter turnout. If you had Romney, you had lower voter turnout. What ultimately happened in the general election is you had lower voter turnout.

And look at Maryland, for example: 36.6 percent voted for Romney, but 48.1 percent voted for marriage as a union between one man, one woman. Minnesota: 45 percent voted for Romney, 47.4 percent voted for marriage. In Washington, 41.8 percent voted for Romney, 46.8 percent voted for marriage. Each one of those states, more people voted for marriage than Romney. They had a contradictory vote: They voted for marriage and they voted for Barack Obama in great measure. Those are contradictory votes.

Why? Because Romney was a one-note candidate. Jobs and the economy. You'd ask him a question on what's he going to do on immigration: jobs and the economy. Benghazi: jobs and the economy. How did he all of sudden switch it back to jobs and the economy when we're talking about foreign affairs? He could not speak about life or marriage and so he didn't campaign in those states speaking about those issues and associating himself with marriage. Had he done so, his numbers would've gone up and I bet the marriage polls would've gone up.

Every time we get these mealy candidates like Romney or McCain, we have this problem and then Republican pundits come up and say, 'Oh, we need to change our position on marriage and abortion.'"

Thanks for the Memories, Rep. Allen West

| Mon Nov. 19, 2012 3:13 PM EST

Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.)

Predictably, the last person to realize that Rep. Allen West's political career is over—for now, anyway—seems to be Allen West himself. 

The Florida congressman famous for instructing a Muslim Republican to quit trying to "blow sunshine up my butt," asking his supporters to "grab your muskets," and suggesting that the Bureau of Labor statistics had fabricated the October jobs report, trailed Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy by 2,500 votes when the dust settled on November 7. For two weeks, though, West challenged the results, refusing to concede while charging that there had been "a willful attempt to steal the election" by St. Lucie County elections supervisor Gertrude Walker.

West's request for a full recount in St. Lucie County was officially rejected by a judge, and because his margin of defeat exceeded 0.5 percent, he had no grounds to demand a recount under Florida law. But the county went along with one anyway, and over the course of two days, double-checked their math, after which point West found himself trailing by an additional 274 votes. Womp womp. Despite conservative howls of voter fraud and West's pledge to fight on, it's almost impossible to imagine a scenario in which Murphy isn't seated come January.

Here are some of the highlights from West's one term in Congress:

The good news for West is that 2,500 votes is not an especially large margin in a presidential election year in which Democrats dominated the ground game in the Sunshine State. So maybe he'll be back in two years to take back the seat.

Well, that or he'll land a cushy job at Fox News.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for November 19, 2012

Mon Nov. 19, 2012 11:39 AM EST

A U.S. Marine CH-56E Super Stallion crew chief assigned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, makes his way to the ramp while flying over Helmand province, Afghanistan, Nov. 13, 2012. HMH-361 is deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alejandro Pena.

Quote of the Day: Marco Rubio Is Not a Scientist

| Mon Nov. 19, 2012 11:22 AM EST
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)

Here is one of the presumed contenders for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016, in an interview with GQ's Michael Hainey:

GQ: How old do you think the Earth is?

Marco Rubio: I'm not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that's a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States. I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow. I'm not a scientist. I don't think I'm qualified to answer a question like that. At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all. I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the Earth was created in 7 days, or 7 actual eras, I'm not sure we'll ever be able to answer that. It's one of the great mysteries.

Should be a fun four years.

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"Super PAC" Makes It Into the Dictionary

| Fri Nov. 16, 2012 7:24 PM EST

It finally happened: The term "Super PAC" will be added to the dictionary. Politico reports that the term is expected to appear in Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary and Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged. The publication also talked to the woman responsible for the coinage:

/Shutterstockanaken2012/Shutterstock

Eliza Newlin Carney, the reporter who first coined the term in print on June 26, 2010, while working at National Journal...never imagined that a word she made up would find its way inside the big book. "I had a feeling it'd catch on, but not like this," said Carney, now with Roll Call...The term replaces the far more technical "independent expenditure-only political action committee."

"Super PAC" will appear along with other recently approved words, including "energy drink," "sexting," "mash-up," "game changer," "gastropub," "man cave," the Oprah-coined "aha moment," and "f-bomb."

Super-PACs have spent upward of $700 million during the 2012 elections, and have attracted nearly endless controversy. Here's a frame of reference to demonstrate just how relevant they were to this election season: In 2012, the New York Times published the term "super PAC" 1,126 times between January 1 and November 15. In 2010, the paper only published it three times.

8 Months After Trayvon: "Stand Your Ground" Law Deemed Just Fine by Florida

| Fri Nov. 16, 2012 7:22 PM EST

The fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin in February turned a national spotlight on Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law. Following widespread outcry about the killing—in which George Zimmerman shot the unarmed 17-year-old Martin allegedly in self defense—Florida Gov. Rick Scott convened a task force to evaluate the 2005 law. This week, the group came back with their report. Their conclusion? The controversial law is just fine as it is. But there's just one problem: That verdict flies in the face of much troubling evidence to the contrary.

Stand Your Ground essentially makes it legal to shoot one's way out of any situation that feels threatening: Unless law enforcement authorities can prove that's an invalid explanation from a shooter, a resulting homicide can be deemed justifiable under the law, and the shooter is immune from criminal and civil prosecution. As Mother Jones reported in June, Florida's Stand Your Ground law kicked off a wave of such legislation across the country, with 24 of them passed elsewhere since, thanks to much backing by the National Rifle Association and the American Legislative Exchange Council.

The evidence to date indicates it is terrible public policy. Since the spreading of the law, multiple studies have found that Stand Your Ground laws:

But after six months of review, it looks like Gov. Scott's task force took little of this into account. The first recommendation in their final report is a firm endorsement of the Stand Your Ground law: "[A]ll persons have a fundamental right to stand their ground and defend themselves from attack with proportionate force in every place they have a lawful right to be and are conducting themselves in a lawful manner."

The few recommendations for change that the report offers are vague. They recommend more training for law enforcement on the meaning of self-defense laws, that the legislature better define a shooter's criminal immunity, and that it fund study of the correlation between Stand Your Ground laws and diversity variables, including race. (Nevermind that such studies on race already exist.)

Welcome to America's 10 Worst Immigration Detention Centers (Map)

| Fri Nov. 16, 2012 5:49 PM EST

Polk County Detention Facility, in eastern Texas

Rotten food, limited access to sunlight, and even arbitrary solitary confinement: For undocumented immigrants in US Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody, detention could mean all that and more.

According to the Detention Watch Network, a national coalition pushing for changes in immigration detention, ICE holds more than 400,000 immigrants in 33,400 jail beds across the United States. On Thursday, DWN released a report highlighting what it calls the nation's 10 worst immigration detention centers and calling for their immediate closure. Among the abuses at these jails and prisons—most run by county prison systems, but some by private firms like Corrections Corporation of America—the report claims: 

At all ten of the facilities, people reported waiting weeks or months for medical care; inadequate, and in some cases a total absence, of any outdoor recreation time or access to sunlight or fresh air; minimal and inedible food; the use of solitary confinement as punishment; and the extreme remoteness of many of the facilities from any urban area which makes access to legal services nearly impossible.

This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who has seen Frontline's excellent "Lost in Detention," which focused on the fallout from Obama's deportation-heavy first term. Still, the 2009 death of 39-year-old Roberto Medina Martínez at Georgia's Stewart Detention Center—one of the facilities called out by DWN—is a graphic reminder of what can happen when more and more immigrants are rounded up for deportation and sent to overwhelmed and inadequate facilities, where they're often treated like prisoners even though they're not serving criminal sentences. (Rather, they're undergoing administrative immigration proceedings that usually result in deportation.)

Immigration reform may be a post-election topic du jour—with everyone from President Obama to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio pledging to push legislation posthaste—but hardly anyone is talking about fixing our broken detention system. As Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) said in a Thursday press call, "Taxpayers shouldn't be asked to continue to support this waste of money and resources."

Click on our map below to learn more about each of DWN's worst offenders:

GOP Repudiation of Romney on "Gifts"? Don't Be Fooled

| Fri Nov. 16, 2012 5:17 PM EST
Gov. Jindal speaks at a November 3 rally for then-presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.

Mitt Romney initially called his remarks on the 47 percent video unearthed by my colleague David Corn "inartfully stated." But since his defeat, he's returned to a political theory that divides the United States into makers and takers, arguing that President Barack Obama only succeeded by providing young people, women, and minorities with exhorbitant "gifts" to buy their support, in the form of things like health care coverage and help with student loan debt. (Jon Stewart piled on with some gifts of his own devising.)

"What the president's campaign did was focus on certain members of his base coalition, give them extraordinary financial gifts from the government, and then work very aggressively to turn them out to vote, and that strategy worked," Romney said on a post-election conference call with donors.

A better example of an unearned "gift" is being born the son of a wealthy, famous politician.

My colleague Kevin Drum has already addressed why Romney's remarks are ridiculous—political parties reward their constituencies, and Romney would have pursued goodies for GOP backers had he been elected. Financial institutions would have been very happy with a Romney administration that repealed Dodd-Frank, military contractors would have been delighted with Romney's plan to raise military spending to astronomical levels, and Romney's wealthy donors would have been delighted with his tax cuts for high earners. These are all "extraordinary financial gifts," and unlike student loans or health care coverage, they do nothing to help ensure that being born into a family of modest financial means doesn't prevent a person from succeeding. Help with student loan debt doesn't mean you didn't have to work hard to get good grades. A better example of an unearned "gift" is being born the son of a wealthy, famous politician so that you'll never have to worry about student loan debt. 

The more interesting phenomenon, however, is the oppobrium from Romney's fellow Republicans. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who likely has his own presidential ambitions, called Romney's remarks "absolutely wrong," and said "We have got to stop dividing American voters." Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker backed up Jindal, saying that the GOP is the party that "helps people find a pathway to live the American Dream." Conservative writer JP Freire, echoing a theory that Romney's conservatism didn't sell in part because it was not genuine, wrote "I think Romney's saying what he thinks a conservative would say."

Jamelle Bouie: "If there's a problem with Romney's statement, it was the language, not the sentiment."

My former American Prospect colleague Jamelle Bouie, writing at the Washington Post, has a different theory, namely that Republicans are rejecting Romney's remarks because they're politically harmful—not because they see them as incorrect. "If there's a problem with Romney's statement, it was the language, not the sentiment." 

I think Bouie has it right. If Romney is saying "what he thinks a conservative would say," it's probably because there are so many conservatives saying it. Rush Limbaugh, whose influence on conservatism dwarfs Romney's, explained the 2012 election results by saying "People are not going to vote against Santa Claus, especially if the alternative is being your own Santa Claus." The sentiment was repeated on Fox News incessantly, with on-air personalities like Eric Bolling saying "people voted to continue to get free stuff," and Bill O'Reilly saying Romney was "right on the money." This notion is deeply flattering to conservatives who would like to imagine themselves as rugged individualists, and those who disagree with them politically as lazy moochers.

As with the 47 percent tape, several conservative intellectuals have rejected Romney's statements and explained why they were incorrect. In both cases, however, Romney's problem was not diverging from conservatism so much as expressing it in ugly and unappealing terms. The Republican reaction from party leaders like Jindal is not a rejection of the worldview underlying Romney's remarks, which is extremely popular in right-wing media. It's an expression of political opportunism from politicians who want to leave their footprints on Romney's back as they chase their own ambitions. If it were anything else, you'd see Jindal telling Rush Limbaugh or Fox News, not Romney, to shut up.

But you aren't.