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This Defense Of Marco Rubio Is So Stupid That I Can't Stop Laughing

| Mon Feb. 8, 2016 11:02 PM EST

Hello.

Marco Rubio keeps humorously repeating the same sound bites over and over again. It's hilarious.

It is not nearly as hilarious, however, as this tweet which falls nominally in the leave Marco alone camp.

Have a great night.

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Marcobot Has Apparently Exceeded Its Rated Mean Time to Failure

| Mon Feb. 8, 2016 10:00 PM EST

Oh hell, now I'm just starting to feel sorry for Marco Rubio. The whole Marcobot thing has apparently made him so self-conscious that he can barely even recite his stump speech anymore without getting flustered. Here he is delivering a line about values being rammed down our throats right after he's just said it. There's an almost poignant moment at 0:26 when Rubio suddenly realizes what he's just done.

This reminds me of a Star Trek episode where Kirk uses some kind of sophomoric paradox to trick a computer into self destructing. That's about what Chris Christie seems to have done to Rubio.

Marco Rubio Just Experienced Another Malfunction

| Mon Feb. 8, 2016 9:39 PM EST

Marco Rubio is still trying live down the Rubio-bot meme that went viral after he repeated the same talking point four times during Saturday's debate (and was called out on it by Chris Christie). Well, at a town hall in Nashua, New Hampshire, on Tuesday night, Rubio experienced another malfunction. His face says it all.

Arabic Social Media Goes Gaga Over Sisi's Red Carpet

| Mon Feb. 8, 2016 2:18 PM EST

Nothing says "I care about poor people" like driving to a new housing project on a red carpet 2.5 miles long. Amirite? But this has a secret subtext: When Egyptian president Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi motored his way to a grand opening ceremony Saturday on a carpet this size, it was apparently a sign that the military is pleased with him. I guess the more they like you, the longer the carpet:

Brig Gen Ehab el-Ahwagy explained on several talk shows on Sunday night that the carpet was not purchased by Sisi’s administration and the same one had been used for more than three years for similar occasions.

“It gives a kind of joy and assurance to the Egyptian citizen that our people and our land and our armed forces are always capable of organising anything in a proper manner,” Ahwagy told the TV talk show host Amr Adeeb. “It is laid out in a way to beautify the general area, so it gives a good impression of the celebration that is being broadcast to the whole world.”

See? No big deal. And certainly no reason to postpone a speech warning that Egypt is in dire financial trouble and will soon have to stop subsidizing water and electricity bills for low-income families.

Even the Guy With the $100 Million Super-PAC Says Campaign Finance Is Broken

| Mon Feb. 8, 2016 2:09 PM EST

You can't avoid campaign finance reform in the run-up to Tuesday's New Hampshire primary. It feels a little weird to type that, given the continuous series of setbacks reformers have suffered on that issue over the last decade, but it's true. Talk to anyone at a Bernie Sanders rally and it's the first thing that comes up; on the Republican side, Donald Trump has made his lack of big donors a centerpiece of his campaign.

Even Jeb Bush, whose $100-million super-PAC, Right to Rise, is blanketing the airwaves here in the Granite State (and has a spin-off dark-money group, Right to Rise Policy Solutions), says something needs to be done. Taking questions at a Nashua Rotary Club on Monday afternoon, Bush told voters that it will take a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and stop the glut of dark money entering the political process:

The ideal thing would be to overturn the Supreme Court ruling that allows effectively unregulated money [for] independent [groups], and regulated money for the campaigns. I would turn that on its head if I could. I think campaigns ought to be personally accountable and responsible for the money they receive. I don't think you need to restrict it—voters will have the ability to say I'm not voting for you because [some company] gave you money. The key is to just have total transparency about the amounts of money and who gives it, and to have it with 48-hour turnaround. That would be the appropriate thing. Then a candidate will be held accountable for whatever comes to the voters through the campaign. Unfortunately the Supreme Court ruling makes that at least temporarily impossible, so it's going to take an amendment to the Constitution.

Now, Jeb hasn't turned into Bernie Sanders. He'd just like unlimited donations that aren't anonymous, and he'd like whatever is disclosed to be disclosed a lot quicker. The subtext here is that while Bush is benefiting from a nonprofit that accepts anonymous unlimited donations, his backers have expressed a lot of frustration with outside groups supporting Jeb's rival, Sen. Marco Rubio. Right to Rise chief Mike Murphy said last fall that Rubio is running a "cynical" campaign fueled by "secret dark money, maybe from one person."

As the Flint Water Crisis Unfolded, Rick Snyder Bought This Luxury-Themed Birthday Cake for His Wife

| Mon Feb. 8, 2016 2:01 PM EST

Last month, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder issued a formal apology for the state's handling of Flint's contaminated water system. The crisis began with his decision to cut costs in the town by rerouting its water from Detroit's water system to the Flint River. The Flint River water contained dangerously high levels of lead and continues to jeopardize the health of children.

The outrage over the public health emergency has only grown louder with the recent discovery of emails showing that state officials were shipping themselves clean water before telling residents that their water was contaminated.

But just a few weeks after begging his state for forgiveness, Snyder apparently thought it was a good idea to throw his wife an extravagant birthday party, replete with this eyesore of a birthday cake:

 
 

@ceebear really outdid herself with the details on this @michaelkors purse. Everything here is edible. #pursecake

A photo posted by Sweet Heather Anne (@sweetheatheranne) on

 

According to MLive.com, the tone-deaf fête was held at an upscale restaurant in Ann Arbor, where cake designer Heather Anne Leavitt delivered the cake without knowing the recipient. "I had no idea, like seriously no idea," Leavitt said. "We delivered it to the West End Grill and put it down and I'm taking photos of the cake. Then Claudia, who was also working on the cake with me, looks up and sees Rick Snyder on all the photos in the room, and so we put two and two together."

Upon learning about the party, local blogger Mark Maynard decided to drop by the restaurant, and discovered the windows were "blacked out." A cake smothered with Tiffany & Co. and Michael Kors logos was a striking contrast to the residents of Flint attempting to get uncontaminated water out of their faucets.

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Maybe Cheaters Prosper After All

| Mon Feb. 8, 2016 12:26 PM EST

The world seems to be awash in teensy little pieces of social science research that are (1) possibly fascinating but (2) also possibly meaningless. Roberto Ferdman points us to one today that suggests winning makes you more likely to cheat in the future. The participants, as usual, are a small number of university students.

Our eager young test monkeys were broken into pairs and then competed in a task. The winners were determined randomly, though the participants didn't know that. Then they went on to round 2, where they threw a pair of dice. The details are unimportant except for these: (1) the higher the throw the better, and (2) it was pretty easy to cheat since no one could see the dice except the thrower. The chart on the right shows the basic result. The average throw should be 7, and in the control group that's what it was. In the test group, winners obviously cheated since their average throw was much higher than 7. Losers either didn't cheat or, possibly, actually underreported their throws a bit.

Why? Who knows. The authors suggest that winning creates a sense of psychological entitlement, but: "We do not claim that a sense of entitlement is the only factor that accounts for dishonest behavior following a competition. Given the complexity of the situation under study and the variety of mechanisms that drive dishonest behavior, it is likely that other mechanisms also come into play."

So...maybe this is interesting. Maybe it's meaningless. Maybe the authors should have run this experiment a dozen times to see if the results hold up. I'm not sure. However, it seems perfectly suited for drawing sweeping conclusions about the American psyche1—maybe David Brooks can do something with this?—and that alone makes it worth writing about.

1Shhh. Don't tell anyone the study was done at an Israeli university.

Chris Christie Is Getting Down on One Knee to Plead With Undecided Voters

| Mon Feb. 8, 2016 11:42 AM EST

Chris Christie is down in the polls in New Hampshire and he's got less than 24 hours to turn things around. So when Ann Antosca, an undecided voter from Nashua, asked him a question about Social Security at a Monday morning town hall, the New Jersey governor rushed over to her corner, dropped to one knee, put his hand on the shoulder of the man to her right, and begged her for her vote.

Antosca's concern going in was that Christie's means-testing for Social Security would hurt people like her, with 401(k)s in the low six figures. But she was reassured that the ceiling would in fact be much higher. Christie, a shameless name-dropper who was joined at the event by the star of the reality TV show Cake Boss, recalled a conversation he had with Mark Zuckerberg in which the Facebook CEO expressed concern that he'd lose his Social Security. His response: "You get nothing, Mark."

"They don't wanna talk about [Social Security] because they're afraid of you; I'm talking about this because I trust you," Christie concluded. A few minutes later, she spoke up again to say she'd made up her mind to vote for Christie.

"That was cute, that was cute!" Antosca, a real estate agent who was deciding between Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, and Christie, told me afterward. Social Security "was really the only thing that was holding me back."

Christie needs undecided voters to swing in his direction in a big way in the final days. But New Hampshire is a wonderland where the political cliches all happen to be true. Voters move late. Christie can only hope that movement is enough.

Marcobot Seems Unfazed by Saturday Unmasking

| Mon Feb. 8, 2016 11:29 AM EST

There's not really any way of telling whether the Marcobot meme is hurting Marco Rubio. There was a little bit of polling yesterday, but not enough to show anything serious. Still, for what it's worth, here's the penultimate Pollster aggregate before tomorrow's primary. Really, there hasn't been a whole lot of movement at all over the past month or so. Rubio got a bit of a bump from his Iowa performance, but that's about it. Tune in tomorrow for the exciting conclusion, after which we can all go back to forgetting New Hampshire exists.

Just How Cozy Is Hillary Clinton With Wall Street?

| Mon Feb. 8, 2016 6:00 AM EST

Hillary Clinton has received a lot of campaign money from the financial industry over the years, and after she left the State Department she gave several lucrative speeches to Goldman Sachs and other big banks. As Michael Hirsh puts it, this has given her a reputation for being "more than a little cozy" with Wall Street.

But is she? The truth is that I haven't paid much attention to this question. In terms of the presidential campaign, it's pretty obvious that Bernie Sanders is a lot tougher on the financial industry than she is. The details of their plans don't really matter. Sanders has practically made a career out of attacking Wall Street. As president, he'd make financial regulation a top priority; he'd appoint tougher watchdogs; and he'd use the bully pulpit relentlessly to call out Wall Street's sins.

Still, what about Clinton? How cozy with the financial industry is she? I asked about this on Twitter over the weekend, figuring that all the Bernie supporters would give me an earful. But no such luck. Mostly they just told me that she had taken Wall Street money and given Wall Street speeches. The only concrete criticism was one that Elizabeth Warren made in 2004: that Clinton had changed her view on the bankruptcy bill after she accepted lots of Wall Street money to get elected to the Senate.

But that didn't really hold water. She opposed the bill in 1999 because she wanted alimony and child-support payments to take precedence over credit card companies during bankruptcy proceeding. The bill passed anyway, but Bill Clinton vetoed it. In 2001, she brokered a compromise that gave priority to alimony and child support, and then voted for the bill. It didn't pass at the time, and in 2005 her compromise was removed from the bill. She said then that she opposed it.

This is classic Hillary. Once George Bush was president, she had no way of stopping the bill—so she worked hard behind the scenes to get what she could in return for her vote. Love it or hate it, this is the kind of pragmatic politics she practices. But there's no hypocrisy here; no change of heart thanks to Wall Street money (she supported the bill when it protected women and children and opposed it when it didn't); and no real support for the financial industry.

What else? Clinton says she gave several speeches in 2007 warning about the dangers of derivatives and subprime loans, and introduced proposals for stronger financial oversight. Apparently that's true. I'm not aware if she took a stand on the repeal of Glass-Steagall in 1999, but I don't think this was responsible for the financial crisis and wouldn't hold it against her either way. (And it was supported by nearly the entire Democratic Party at the time.) The CFMA did make the financial crisis worse, but Bernie Sanders himself supported it. Clinton voted for Sarbanes-Oxley, but everyone else did too.

Clinton has consistently supported increasing the minimum wage—though not to $15. She supported the Lilly Ledbetter Act. She supports higher taxes on the wealthy. She supported repeal of the carried interest loophole in 2007. The Boston Globe, after an extensive review of her voting record in the Senate, summed up her attitude with this quote from a lobbyist: "The financial sector viewed her as neutral. Not helpful, but also not harmful." Citizens for Tax Justice gives her a generally favorable grade on financial issues.

The word "cozy" does a whole lot of heavy lifting in stories about Hillary Clinton and Wall Street. But what does it mean? Does she have an actual record of supporting Wall Street interests? By ordinary standards, is her current campaign proposal for financial regulation a strong one? (I've been impressed by her rhetorical emphasis on shadow banking, but it's not clear just how far her proposals go in real life.) Has she protected financial interests against the Bernie Sanders of the world?

I think it's safe to say that Clinton has hardly been a scourge of the banking industry. Until recently, her main interests were elsewhere. But if there's a strong case to be made for "coziness," I've failed to find it. Anyone care to point me in the right direction?