Mojo - 2012

Corn on MSNBC: What's Going On With the Fiscal Cliff?

Tue Dec. 11, 2012 9:55 PM EST

With the clock ticking on the fiscal cliff, it's Speaker John Boehner who may be stuck in the toughest spot. If he cuts a deal, will he be stabbed in the back by the Republican leadership and overthrown by tea party members? DC bureau chief David Corn talks about the latest developments in fiscal cliff with MSNBC's Martin Bashir.

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

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Soledad O'Brien Slams GOP Senator on Food Stamps

| Tue Dec. 11, 2012 3:10 PM EST

While President Obama and the Democrats have talked a lot about protecting the middle class from tax hikes and entitlement cuts in any debt deal that eventually emerges from the fiscal nightmare, it looks increasingly likely that food stamps will come under the knife. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), ranking member of the Senate budget committee, has taken the lead recently in attacking these "gifts" to the poor. Monday night on CNN, Sessions said the food-stamp program—which now serves a record 47 million peopleis "out of control" and needs to be cut down to size. But Soledad O'Brien took him to school.

Americans for Prosperity Lures Michigan Right-to-Work Fans With Gas Cards, Free Food

| Tue Dec. 11, 2012 2:50 PM EST
Many right-to-work protest signs wait for protesters to take them before the march to the state capitol in Lansing, Michigan.

The conservative group Americans for Prosperity is enticing supporters to rally at the Michigan state capitol in support of right-to-work legislation with $25 gas cards and free food and drinks, according to a staffer for the organization's Michigan chapter.

AFP's Michigan chapter also used gas cards and free lunches to lure supporters to a lobby day on December 6, the day GOP Gov. Rick Snyder and Republican lawmakers abruptly unveiled their right-to-work bills. Greg George, a government affairs associate with AFP-Michigan, says no one has taken the group up on its most recent gas card offer, but that the offer remains. "We've offered to gladly give them out," he says. (Because it is a nonprofit organization, Americans for Prosperity, which is partially backed by the Koch brothers, does not publicly disclose its donors.)

Despite what its supporters claim, right-to-work legislation does not prevent so-called "forced unionization." That's because forced unionization is a myth: No worker can be forced to become a full-fledged union member. What right-to-work would do is ban unions from collecting dues from nonunion members for representing them with management. After all, nonunion members can benefit from contracts negotiated by unions. Right-to-work allows those nonmembers to receive union representation without paying for it—unions deride those folks "free-riders." The result of right-to-work laws is that unions see their treasuries diminish and membership take a hit.

Michigan's Republican-controlled legislature fast-tracked three pieces of right-to-work legislation last week that would allow nonunion members in workplaces in the public and private sectors to receive representation without paying any dues. The bills would likely deal a killer blow to the state's unions. (Police and firefighters are exempt from the proposals.) Snyder's public support for the legislation signaled a whiplash-worthy turnaround for the governor—he previously said right-to-work was not a priority, and tried to stand apart from the rest of the union-blasting class of 2010 governors like Wisconsin's Scott Walker and Ohio's John Kasich. Snyder is expected to sign the right-to-work legislation as early as Tuesday.

Just as AFP lured supporters to Lansing, unions bussed in members and supporters to protest the right-to-work bills, according to Chris Fleming, a spokesman for the American Federation for State, County, and Municipal Employees. A We Are Michigan spokesman adds that union allies are paying for their own lunches. Thousands of union members and supporters packed into the Michigan state capitol and the surrounding grounds to demand that Snyder veto the right-to-work bills.  

AFP wanted the right-to-work fight. The group played a visible role in supporting other GOP governors pushing anti-union agendas in Wisconsin, Ohio, and elsewhere. Now AFP stands on the cusp of a major win in a cradle of organized labor. AFP-Michigan director Scott Hagerstrom said last week that passing right-to-work in the state would be "the shot heard round the world" in the battle against unions. "A victory over forced unionization in a union stronghold like Michigan," Hagerstrom said, "would be an unprecedented win on par with Wisconsin that would pave the way for right to work in states across our nation."

Breaking: The US Military Can't Decide Whether to Be Nice to Afghans

| Tue Dec. 11, 2012 2:20 PM EST
An Afghan National Army trains during an exercise in Herat Province, Feb. 2, 2011.

Does a new draft of an Army manual on cultural sensitivity blame boorish Americans for attacks by Afghan soldiers? That's what the Wall Street Journal suggested Tuesday. The newspaper, which got its hands on a copy of the as-yet unreleased handbook, reports that it advises US troops in Afghanistan to shut up about politics, religion, women, homosexuality, and other potentially divisive issues around locals, lest they stoke the sorts of tensions that lead to "green on blue incidents"—violence against American forces by their ostensible military allies. 

Tea Party Trying to Kill Obamacare…by Friday

| Tue Dec. 11, 2012 1:26 PM EST

The opponents of the Affordable Care Act (better known as Obamacare) have had a bad year. First, the Supreme Court rejected the major legal challenge to the law in June. Then, ACA opponents' favored presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, who'd pledged to work for repeal as president, lost his bid for the White House. But Obamacare's foes are undaunted. Tea partiers and other conservatives are continuing their Quixotic battle against the law.

Obamacare opponents' latest target is the law's provision for a health insurance "exchange," which will serve as an online marketplace for heavily regulated insurance policies that individuals and small businesses will be able to purchase with federal subsidies. The exchanges are required to be ready for enrollment by October of next year. Yet since Congress passed the ACA in 2010, many states have simply refused to start laying the groundwork needed to create the exchanges, including rejecting millions of dollars of federal planning money to help get them up and running.

Sen. Joe Manchin's Lonely War on MTV's Trashy "Buckwild"

| Tue Dec. 11, 2012 1:00 PM EST

Joe Manchin III, the gun-toting Democratic junior senator from West Virginia who loves coal, is waging a one-man war against MTV's upcoming reality show Buckwild.

In case you haven't heard about Buckwild, it's the show that intends to fill the void in your life left when Jersey Shore goes off the air in late December. Buckwild, premiering Thursday January 3, is an unforgiving cavalcade of cultural stereotypes. The easiest way to describe the show is Jersey Shore, but transposed to small-town West Virginia. The series follows a group of thickly-accented young adults as they swear, fight, carouse, and fornicate their early twenties away. Stars include "Justin Beaver," one of the adrenaline-junkie males, and Shae, a blonde and "spicy" Southern belle who is sexually attracted to degenerates. The cast also enjoy shooting things, blowing stuff up, and operating all-terrain motor vehicles with zero regard for logic or safety.

So instead of exploiting debauched, club-raving Italian-Americans for the sake of ratings, this program will exploit hormonal, mud-wrestling West Virginians for the sake of hopefully comparable ratings.

Sen. Manchin isn't pleased with the above representation of his home state. And last Wednesday, he started tweeting about it. He began by addressing a piece posted to a satirical "fake news" website claiming that Manchin had singlehandedly vanquished Buckwild.

Manchin also wrote a letter on Friday, addressed to MTV president Stephen K. Friedman, requesting the immediate removal of Buckwild from the channel's 2013 lineup:

senator joe manchin letter mtv

(MTV has yet to respond to the senator's plea for cancelation.)

And here he is on The Today Show on Monday, railing against the pop-culture "travesty":

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

Tue Dec. 11, 2012 11:01 AM EST
Soldiers of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command's 615th Military Police Company, 18th Military Police Brigade, evacuate a casualty during a platoon external evaluation at the Grafenwoehr Training Area, Grafenwoehr, Germany, Nov. 28. US Army photo.

Corn on Hardball: Binders Full of Women, Legitimate Rape, 47 Percent, and Other Memorable Election Quotes

Mon Dec. 10, 2012 9:25 PM EST

DC bureau chief David Corn relives some of the most biting gaffes, memes, and otherwise memorable lines of the election with Chris Matthews on Hardball. Was this the year of binders full of women? Or legitimate rape. Spoiler alert: 47 percent ranks pretty high.

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

Most Americans Are Still Too Fat to Defend America

| Mon Dec. 10, 2012 3:49 PM EST

Armchair warriors and Halo heroes, the military would like you to upgrade to Wii Fit now. As the Washington Post's svelte war-zone reporter Ernesto Londoño reported Monday, Uncle Sam's fighting forces are really busy weeding out corpulent corporals:

Under intense pressure to trim its budget, the Army is dismissing a rising number of soldiers who do not meet its fitness standards, drawing from a growing pool of troops grappling with obesity.

Obesity is now the leading cause of ineligibility for people who want to join the Army, according to military officials, who see expanding waistlines in the warrior corps as a national security concern.

Londoño reports that discharges for overweight soldiers have busted through the roof (or, if you prefer, through the floor) in recent years: "During the first 10 months of this year, the Army kicked out 1,625 soldiers for being out of shape, nearly 16 times the number eased out for that reason in 2007, the peak of wartime deployment cycles." (You can find more historical data on Army discharges here.) The Navy, too, is cracking down on physical-test failures, discharging 40 percent more fitness-deficient sailors than in previous years.

Here's the thing, though: This might be good news for the military.

"47 Percent" Remark: Quote of the Year

Mon Dec. 10, 2012 12:18 PM EST

Here's another honor for Mitt Romney: He is responsible for the most notable quote of the year, according to the editor of the Yale Book of Quotations. The failed presidential candidate topped the list with his now very infamous "47 percent" remarks. Fred Shapiro, who compiles the annual list of the most significant utterances from the previous 12 months, selects quotes that "are famous, important or revealing of the spirit of the times, not necessarily ones that are the most eloquent or admirable," Associated Press reported. And Romney, with his 47 percent rant, beat out himself for the No. 1 spot. His "binders full of women" comment placed second on Shapiro's rundown. Below is the full list: