Blogs

This Is How The Right Will Try to Destroy Chris Christie

| Wed Jul. 16, 2014 6:00 AM EDT
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R)

This week, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is crisscrossing Iowa. Officially, the visit is a fundraising trip tied to his side job as chairman of the Republican Governors Association. But like most any big-time politician choosing to spend some of the summer in the first caucus state, the visit is drawing the kind of speculation—and attacks—befitting a potential presidential contender.

Take the Judicial Crisis Network, which has seized the chance to target him with online ads and a website criticizing him for failing to turn the New Jersey Supreme Court into a bastion of right-wing judicial activism. JCN has established itself as significant player in judicial nomination fights and elections over the past several years, and has strong ties to conservative factions that don't trust the governor's record on social issues—and who would prefer a 2016 nominee more in line with the evangelical strain of the GOP.

The online ads take Christie to task for reappointing—gasp!—a Democrat as the chief justice of the state's supreme court, and criticize him for failing to live up to earlier campaign promises to remake the court as a conservative body.

The gripes about Christie's judicial appointments are pretty bogus. He's a Republican governor of a democratic state, and he's been thwarted again and again in his attempts to install conservatives on the high court: only three of his six nominees have been able to get past the Democratic controlled state legislature's judiciary committee. One of those nominees only got through because Christie agreed to a deal where he re-nominated the aforementioned sitting chief justice, a Democrat.

In a response to the ads, one of Christie's top advisers has argued that JCN is a Johnny-come-lately to New Jersey's nomination battles, suggesting that they don't really care about the composition of the court—but care plenty about dissing Christie. "This group has been noticeably absent from any judicial fight we've had in New Jersey, showing up only to criticize after the fights are over," Mike DuHaime said in a CNN appearance.

As DuHaime's complaint suggests, the Judicial Crisis Network's campaign is likely just another shot across the bow by social conservatives who think Christie is too liberal on issues like gay marriage and abortion, and don't want to see him become the GOP nominee for president in 2016. Indeed, the people behind the organization seem like just the sort who would much rather see a President Rick Santorum than a President Christie.

The JCN was founded by Gary Marx, who wooed family values voters for the 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign, organizing church-sponsored voter drives in Ohio. According to Right Wing Watch, he was encouraged to start the organization, originally called the Judicial Confirmation Network, by Jay Sekulow, a veteran Christian soldier. As president of the American Center for Law and Justice, Sekulow has litigated numerous church-state cases before the US Supreme Court, including a recent one that allowed a Utah park to keep a Ten Commandments statute installed.

In 2004, Marx joined with Wendy Long, a former clerk for US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, to set up the Judicial Confirmation Network to bolster President Bush's efforts to install staunch social conservatives on the federal bench. When Obama was elected, the group changed its name and focus to blocking the new president's nominees. (Marx went on to spend three years as executive director of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, a conservative evangelical group founded by Ralph Reed.* Long left the JCN in 2012 to pursue an unsuccessful GOP Senate campaign against New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat.)

JCN also has close ties to the anti-gay marriage movement, sharing a treasurer with the National Organization for Marriage. Indeed, in a piece published this week by the National Review Online in coordination with the campaign bashing Christie's judges, the Judicial Crisis Network's current director, Carrie Severino, wrote that Christie's "conservative" justices took part in the court's unanimous decision last year to allow same-sex marriage in New Jersey. She also contends that Christie's most recent nominee has a record of being pro-choice. Severino—who is also a former Thomas clerk—concludes, "If these are Christie's conservative nominees, then Christie's definition of a conservative sounds an awful lot like a liberal."

Christie is likely to see similar attacks as he makes further steps towards a 2016 campaign after the ignominy of Bridgegate. He'll be in New Hampshire later this month.

Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly stated that Gary Marx is currently the head of the Faith and Freedom Coalition. Marx left that post in December 2013 and now runs a political consulting firm, Madison Strategies.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Tom's Kitchen: Now Is the Time of Gazpacho

| Wed Jul. 16, 2014 6:00 AM EDT
Summer in a bowl.

Gazpacho can be a drag: dull and savoring of the refrigerator. That's because its essential ingredients—tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet peppers—are too often mass-produced and hauled in hundreds of miles from God knows where. However, when those hot-weather staples are in season and grown by talented farmers in your region—or better, in a nearby garden—gazpacho can be a revelation: vibrant, zippy, and as fresh as a sun-baked veggie patch.

Here in central Texas, it's gazpacho time. My own tomato plants are towering and healthy, but a diabolical squirrel is helping itself to all the big ones, leaving me with just cherry tomatoes—delicious, but not right for the gazpacho blender. As for sweet peppers, mine aren’t quite ready yet. I did grow some fabulous cukes, though. So I headed over to Austin's glorious Boggy Creek Farm, now in the midst of an epic tomato harvest, to fill out my gazpacho larder.

Now, my gazpacho mojo hit a snag a few years ago when a close friend dismissed a batch I had whipped up with a soul-crushing assessment: "salsa in disguise." I realized my mistake: not enough cucumber and sweet pepper, and too much hot chile pepper. Since then, I've been using one medium-sized cucumber and one sweet pepper each for every five medium-sized tomatoes. As for hot pepper, I usually reserve it for garnish, in the form of  a few chile flakes. These days, my gazpacho tastes like a summer garden in a bowl, not something you want to plunge a chip into. For a slightly spicy and ligher—but still un-salsalike—version, check out the one I came up with last year.

Essential gazpacho gear.

Gazpacho
(Serves two)

5 medium-sized tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 medium cucumber (if it's super-fresh, no need to peel), coarsely chopped
1 medium (or too small) sweet pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 slice of good rustic day-old bread, toasted and torn into pieces
Sherry vinegar, one splash at a time, to taste
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste

Garnish
Extra virgin olive oil
Something green, like chopped parsley and/or garlic chives
Crushed red chile flakes
A few coarsely chopped cherry tomatoes (optional)
 

Place the chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and garlic into a blender, along with the olive oil, a good dash of vinegar, and a healthy lashing of salt and pepper. Blend until smooth. Taste. Add more vinegar and salt if need.

To serve, divide into two bowls (there may be a bit leftover). Give them a drizzle of olive oil and top with remaining garnishes.

 

 

 

Darrell Issa Is Unclear on the Concept of "Consultation"

| Wed Jul. 16, 2014 1:06 AM EDT

Dana Milbank writes today about the unprecedented1 use of "unilateral" subpoenas issued by Darrell Issa as part of his endless series of Benghazi/IRS/Fast&Furious/Solyndra/etc. investigations. After reviewing the facts and figures that demonstrate just how reckless and partisan Issa is, he got this priceless response:

Issa’s deputy staff director, Frederick Hill, said Democrats as well as Republicans have used unilateral subpoenas. Hill also said that Issa, unlike his immediate predecessor Towns, consults with the minority before each subpoena.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to reenact for you Issa's "consultation" with the minority:

ISSA: Hey Elijah, I want to issue a subpoena to Lois Lerner's dentist as part of the IRS investigation. I think she might have gotten a reduced-price root canal in return for making sure he didn't get audited. You OK with that?

ELIJAH CUMMINGS: What? That's crazy. Of course I'm not OK with that.

ISSA: OK, great. I'm glad we had this chat. I'll issue the subpoena tomorrow.

Next up: Issa's office demands to know why an American Water Dog isn't good enough for the Obama family.

1Well, unprecedented except for the literally insane number of subpoenas issued by demented conspiracy theorist Dan Burton during the Clinton witch hunts of the 90s.

This Group Is Starting the Elizabeth-Warren-for-President Campaign

| Tue Jul. 15, 2014 5:21 PM EDT

Move over, Ready for Hillary. You've got competition.

A group of progressive activists have unveiled Ready for Warren, a new outfit aimed at convincing Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) to run for president. Ready for Warren's website asks supporters to sign a petition urging Warren to get in the 2016 race. "It's time that the American people had a lobbyist of our own, and that lobbyist is Elizabeth Warren," the petition reads. "By standing up to Wall Street to defend Main Street, Warren has proven herself to be the spine that the Democratic Party forgot it had."

The Huffington Post reports that Ready for Warren's campaign manager is Erica Sagrans, an alum of President Obama's 2012 campaign. League of Young Voters founder Billy Wimsatt will serve as a senior adviser to the group. The group also has a Twitter account and a Facebook page.

Here's more from HuffPost:

Ready for Warren supporters will be bringing a van full of supporters to Netroots Nation, the annual gathering of progressive activists that is taking place in Detroit this week.

"We don't want to say too much about our exact plans, but we'll definitely be out in force and supporting Warren when she speaks on Friday," said Sagrans, adding, "We're planning on using Netroots as an opportunity to build on a lot of the momentum she's seen elsewhere and to show not only that she has progressive support—because I think we know that—but that there is an organized effort and people who are working on harnessing that support and building it into a real Draft Warren campaign."

The Ready for Warren supporters will have some competition at the conference. Ready for Hillary and its splashy bus will be there, and Vice President Joe Biden will be addressing the gathering for the first time.

Going forward, the campaign will make sure there are Warren supporters to greet her and encourage her to run as she goes around the country stumping for Democratic candidates. Sagrans said they haven't yet decided what shape the campaign will officially take—whether it will be a super PAC or a hybrid PAC like the Ready for Hillary effort—but they're going to step up volunteer efforts, fundraising and make sure they're a presence in the early primary states such as Iowa and New Hampshire. An explosive amount of fundraising could be one way to entice Warren into the race.

Warren has insisted she's not running for president. Asked by the Boston Globe about a potential White House bid, she replied, "No, no, no, no, no." Yet there are signs that suggest she hasn't completely closed the door on 2016. Her recently published book, A Fighting Chance, read like something a politician eyeing higher office would write. And in an interview with Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus, Warren appeared to leave herself some wiggle room about a future presidential bid.

Recently Warren has traveled the country campaigning and raising boatloads of cash for fellow Democrats on the 2014 ticket—and in the process, raising her national profile. Her super-PAC hauled in $620,000 in April, May, and June, a four-fold increase from the previous three months.

The launch of Ready for Warren is yet more evidence that just about every progressive out there wants Warren to run—every progressive, that is, but Warren herself.

Watch John Oliver Explain Why "It's Your Fault You're Not Rich" Is Bullshit

| Tue Jul. 15, 2014 4:42 PM EDT

On Sunday's Last Week Tonight, host and comedian John Oliver ripped into American politicians' colossal mishandling of the US wealth gap, which continues to grow to ever more astronomical proportions. As Oliver points out, plenty of lawmakers insist the game isn't rigged against the poor—ahem, Marco Rubio—while others recognize the problem but are too afraid to be gung-ho on the issue because of, well, politics.

Take a look:

The Billionaire Who Wants to Split California Into 6 States Has the Most Embarrassing YouTube Feed Ever

| Tue Jul. 15, 2014 2:31 PM EDT

This is a post about Tim Draper. Tim Draper is a billionaire tech investor of no particular importance who has decided that he wants to disrupt geography. 

Draper is the man behind the "Six Californias" initiative, which today announced that it had secured enough signatures to put a measure on the 2016 California ballot that would split the Golden State in to six golden states. Should California be turned into six states? Maybe! I don't know. Probably not. It probably doesn't make any sense. But maybe it does? Who knows! It isn't going to be turned into six states, that is certain, but should it in a perfect world of perfection where Tim Draper rides around on a golden steed shooting piercing laser beams of logic out of his eyes? Maybe! Leave that question to the poets, because we're here to talk about Tim Draper, "the riskmaster."

Tim Draper is a partner in the VC firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson, which has invested in Hotmail, Skype, SpaceX, and a bunch of other tech companies. Silicon Valley has a well-known women problem. Tim Draper does not have a women problem, though! He loves ladies in tech! Can't get enough of them! He loves them so much that he uploaded a video to YouTube aptly titled "Tim Draper Shows His Appreciation for Women Entrepreneurs" in which he removes one piece of clothing for every female-led company he has invested in. Because if you're Tim Draper, the way you relate to women is through the language of erotic dance. (Spoiler: He hasn't funded enough female-led companies to get naked.)

Moving swiftly on, here is a video of Tim Draper wrapping up a keynote speech with a song about, well, how he, Tim Draper, is the "riskmaster." What is the riskmaster? The riskmaster is the name Tim Draper calls himself. Over and over. This song is one of the worst things I have ever heard in my entire life. I cannot stop listening to it.

The chorus appears to be:

He's the riskmaster.
Lives fast, and drives faster.
Skates on the edge of disaster.
He is the riskmaster.

How many Grammys will Tim Draper win? One? Three? Six? Zero? Probably zero.

But, Tim Draper, you do you! You have a better chance of winning six Grammys than you do of splitting California into six states.

(h/t Tim Carmody)

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Quote of the Day: Stone Tablets Will Defeat the NSA

| Tue Jul. 15, 2014 2:28 PM EDT

From Patrick Sensburg, head of the Bundestag's parliamentary inquiry into NSA activity in Germany, on whether they are "considering typewriters" for the committee's work:

As a matter of fact, we have — and not electronic models either.

Well. I grew up with a house full of Adler typewriters, all of them fine products of German engineering. I think later on they became fine products of not-so-German engineering, but I'm sure it's still possible to find some of the old-school models. They should work a treat for creating documents that are safe from prying eyes, since we all know that spies were never able to steal documents prior to the digital era.

The IRS Scandal Finally Reaches Its End Game

| Tue Jul. 15, 2014 12:41 PM EDT

Every few years the Republican Party goes on a jihad against the IRS. The most famous was probably Sen. William Roth's theatrical witch hunt in the 90s that regaled an eager public with stories about jackbooted thugs and "Gestapo-like" tactics. The most recent is the seemingly endless investigation into charges that the IRS targeted grassroots conservative nonprofits at the behest of its partisan masters. These charges have turned out to be almost entirely groundless—just like Roth's—but don't make the mistake of thinking this makes them pointless. You just have to wait for the other shoe to drop, as it did yesterday:

The House late Monday night adopted proposals by voice vote to cut funding for the Internal Revenue Service. Rep. Paul Gosar's (R-Ariz.) amendment to the fiscal 2015 Financial Services appropriations bill would cut funding for the IRS by $353 million. Specifically, Gosar's amendment would cut that funding from the IRS enforcement account and use it toward deficit reduction.

Gosar argued that funding for the IRS would be better used toward reducing the deficit than toward the agency caught in GOP crosshairs...."More directly than financial or condition of the country is the fact that this agency has shown contempt for the American taxpayer."

The Roth Hearings ended up with reduced funding for IRS enforcement, something that took over a decade to recover from. Now Gosar wants to cut IRS enforcement funding too. Coincidence? Not so much. If you want to reduce taxes on the wealthy, after all, there are two ways to do it. You can either reduce their tax rates or you can make it easier for them to evade the tax rates that already exist. Either way, it's a boon to anyone with lots of money and good tax planners. But I repeat myself.

In any case, this was always inevitable. The goal of anti-IRS jihads is always to reduce funding for enforcement. And despite what Gosar might want you to believe, very little enforcement has ever been aimed at middle-class taxpayers or small nonprofits. It's mostly aimed at the rich, for obvious Willie Suttonish reasons. Weakening enforcement actions against the Republican Party's core constituency has always been the end game for the IRS scandal, and now we're finally there.

Researchers Who Study Political Temperament Need to Watch the Condescension

| Tue Jul. 15, 2014 11:42 AM EDT

Chris Mooney writes today about one of his favorite subjects: the hypothesis that underlying personality traits tend to make people either politically liberal or politically conservative. The latest news is that, apparently, virtually everyone who studies this kind of thing now agrees that it's true:

The occasion of this revelation is a paper by John Hibbing of the University of Nebraska and his colleagues, arguing that political conservatives have a "negativity bias," meaning that they are physiologically more attuned to negative (threatening, disgusting) stimuli in their environments....The authors go on to speculate that this ultimately reflects an evolutionary imperative. "One possibility," they write, "is that a strong negativity bias was extremely useful in the Pleistocene," when it would have been super helpful in preventing you from getting killed.

Well, yes, the Pleistocene. I suppose it would have been useful then. But I wish the researchers who study this stuff could learn to talk about it less condescendingly. After all, this sensitivity to threats might also be useful during, say, World War II. Or on a dark street corner. Or at a city council meeting discussing a zoning variance. If you pretend that it's primarily just a laughable atavism that a few poor primitives among us still hold onto, is it any wonder that conservatives don't think much of your research?

Plus, as Mooney points out in a tweet: "People, take note: To explain conservatives psychologically is basically to explain liberals as well." Yep. The flip side of the threat hypothesis is that liberalism flourishes among people with a naive sense of security.

But this is nothing new. As the old saying goes, a conservative is a liberal who's been mugged. Liberals and conservatives argue endlessly about just how much security is necessary against outsiders: against the Soviets during the Cold War, against terrorists after 9/11, to protect ourselves against street thugs, etc. The idea that different sensitivities to threat are fundamental to liberalism and conservatism strikes me as something I barely even need research to believe in.

Happy Birthday, Twitter! Here Are 50 Things the Media Says You've Revolutionized.

| Tue Jul. 15, 2014 11:03 AM EDT