Political MoJo

The Vast Majority of America's Elected Prosecutors Are White Men

And just one percent are women of color, a new study shows.

| Tue Jul. 7, 2015 12:45 PM EDT
St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch

A study released on Tuesday reveals a glaring lack of diversity among America's elected prosecutors. The data, gathered by the Center for Technology and Civil Life and published by the Women's Donors Network, examines the racial and gender makeup of the more than 2,400 elected city, county and district prosecutors, as well as state attorneys general, serving in office during the summer of 2014. Here are the key findings:

  • 95 percent of all elected prosecutors were white.
  • 79 percent of all elected prosecutors were white men.
  • In 14 states, all elected prosecutors were white.
  • Just 1 percent of the 2,437 elected prosecutors serving were women of color.

The study comes amid stark questions about race and the American criminal justice system, an issue thrust into the spotlight after a string of high-profile police killings of black Americans. Most of the nation's police forces are disproportionately white. And while a high-profile prosecution in Baltimore is being led by a black woman, other controversial cases in Cleveland, Ohio, and most famously in Ferguson, Missouri, have been in the hands of white men.

See the full dataset on elected prosecutors here.

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What Really Happened With Jesse Jackson's Reddit Appearance

I was there. It wasn't pretty.

| Tue Jul. 7, 2015 6:05 AM EDT

You may have read about the situation at Reddit, the online community that devolved into mutinous turmoil after the firing of a popular employee last week. Well, I was pretty close to the center of the storm, and I can tell you that there's more to the story.

The fired employee, Victoria Taylor, coordinated the "Ask Me Anything" (AMA) forum, where celebrities and regular people ranging from Bill Murray and President Obama to some random vacuum-cleaner repairman answer Redditors' questions in real time. In response to Taylor's dismissal, the site's army of volunteer moderators shut down hundreds of the discussion forums known as "subreddits," and while many of them have been revived, Redditors are now calling for the head of CEO Ellen Pao.

Because Taylor was fired a day after overseeing a problematic AMA with Jesse Jackson, many Redditors speculated that the two events were connected. Reddit's leaders and Jackson's people both say otherwise. In any case, I should weigh in, because I was on the phone with Taylor and Jackson during that AMA. Here's what I know:

One of the criticisms of the Jackson AMA was that, in some cases, his responses seemed out of sync with the questions. But this wasn't the standard AMA format, wherein an interviewee reads questions off the screen and types in answers directly. As often happens with other celebrity AMAs, Taylor selected Redditors' questions and asked them to Jackson live. She then transcribed his verbal responses and posted them on his behalf. Yet Jackson's AMA was even more complicated than usual because it was also one of the first in a forthcoming series of video AMAs to be released this fall. In this setup, he answered the questions in front of a camera in a ballroom in Los Angeles' Hyatt Century Plaza while Taylor communicated with him remotely from New York.

The most upvoted question began: "You are an immoral, hate-filled race baiter…" and went downhill from there.

The interview was meant to be an opportunity for Jackson to further discuss his diversity initiatives in Silicon Valley, which I'd covered in this recent Mother Jones feature. We suggested the AMA to him as a way to bring more attention to the issue—and to our piece. I was there in the Reddit feed during the AMA, identified as "Mother Jones," and also listening in on the call, where I helped Taylor identify questions relating to Jackson's work in the tech world. I could hear Jackson's verbal responses.

From the beginning, Jackson attracted a lot of hostile questions. This happens all the time on Reddit, but it soon became clear that his critics on the thread outnumbered supporters. People on Reddit pages can "vote" comments up or down, with the most popular ones rising to the top. The most upvoted question began: "You are an immoral, hate-filled race baiter…" and went downhill from there. Another Redditor pointed out that at least one person posting to the AMA had also posted in a notoriously racist subreddit.

Taylor asked Jackson the upvoted question despite its confrontational nature. It was hard to blame her, since Reddit does call it "Ask Me Anything." Jackson's response was criticized as rambling and nonsensical, and to an extent it was, but the critics may not have realized that he didn't hear the full question. Out of politeness, perhaps, Taylor had paraphrased it to omit the most incendiary language. It's also worth noting that Taylor's transcriptions, while generally accurate, were not verbatim.

Some media accounts called the Jackson AMA a "shitshow," but by Reddit standards, it wasn't all that unusual. If you look past the awkwardness, there were some illuminating and thoughtful responses that were eventually elevated by other Reddit users. This is exactly what Taylor had predicted would happen. She is widely known and loved on the site as someone who just "got" Reddit and worked hard to listen to the community.

That kind of trolling "is very typical for Rev. Jackson being online," said a Jackson spokesman. "We get that same Fox News/Hannity/Colmes/O'Reilly stuff almost every time."

So was the Jackson AMA reason enough to fire Taylor? Probably not. Taylor didn't return my call, but Reddit Chairman Alexis Ohanian told a colleague of mine on Thursday that Taylor's firing "has nothing to do with the Reverend's AMA." He later said on Reddit: "We're phasing out our role being in-between interesting people and the reddit audience so that we can focus on helping remarkable people become redditors, not just stop by on a press tour."

A Jackson representative who helped coordinate the AMA told me last week that he wasn't even aware of Taylor's firing and had never complained to Reddit about how it went. That kind of trolling "is very typical for Rev. Jackson being online," he added. "We get that same Fox News/Hannity/Colmes/O'Reilly stuff almost every time."

The Jackson rumor, however, is convenient for critics of CEO Pao, who now faces a Change.org petition signed by nearly 200,000 people calling for her removal. Pao is perhaps best known as the former Kleiner Perkins employee who unsuccessfully sued the venture capital firm for sex discrimination—a suit that in some ways dovetails with Jackson's efforts to diversify Silicon Valley. Pao has also made tolerance a priority at Reddit. She recently banned five subreddits dedicated to various forms of harassment, including one focused on racism. Reddit's trolls responded by flooding the site with content that harasses Pao.

Pao admits she made a mistake in firing Taylor in the way that she did. The moderators "should have been told earlier about the transition and we should have provided more detail on the transition plan," she told NPR. It also might have helped to consider the proximity of the firing with the Jackson AMA—though had Pao done so, Reddit being Reddit, another conspiracy theory would undoubtedly have risen to take its place.

Donald Trump Just Issued Another Insane Rant About Mexico

"The Mexican Government is forcing their most unwanted people into the United States. They are, in many cases, criminals, drug dealers, rapists, etc."

| Mon Jul. 6, 2015 6:17 PM EDT

Donald Trump is a dumb person who is dumb. For a very long time that dumbness didn't really come with consequences. He had his TV show and his hotels and a lot of fans in the Republican party. Sure, people knew he was a lunatic, but none of his corporate business partners really cared. That changed a few weeks ago when from his mouth biliously flowed some totally racist nonsense about Mexicans being rapists. Ever since the blow back from businesses newly ashamed of their association with Trump has been unflagging. Univision? Gone. Macy's? Gone. NBC? Gone.

Today, Donald Trump issued a statement aimed presumably to stop the bleeding. It is insane and will not have the desired effect.

Read it! Or don't. You don't have to read it. Read it if you enjoy reading insane ramblings. Don't read it if that isn't your cup of tea.

Statement from Donald J. Trump:

I don’t see how there is any room for misunderstanding or misinterpretation of the statement I made on June 16th during my Presidential announcement speech. Here is what I said, and yet this statement is deliberately distorted by the media:

“When Mexico (meaning the Mexican Government) sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you (pointing to the audience). They’re not sending you (pointing again). They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems to us. They’re bringing drugs.They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people! But I speak to border guards and they tell us what we’re getting. And it only makes common sense. They’re sending us not the right people. It’s coming from more than Mexico. It’s coming from all over South and Latin America, and it’s coming probably from the Middle East. But we don’t know. Because we have no protection and we have no competence, we don’t know what’s happening. And it’s got to stop and it’s got to stop fast.”

What can be simpler or more accurately stated? The Mexican Government is forcing their most unwanted people into the United States. They are, in many cases, criminals, drug dealers, rapists, etc. This was evident just this week when, as an example, a young woman in San Francisco was viciously killed by a 5 time deported Mexican with a long criminal record, who was forced back into the United States because they didn’t want him in Mexico. This is merely one of thousands of similar incidents throughout the United States. In other words, the worst elements in Mexico are being pushed into the United States by the Mexican government. The largest suppliers of heroin, cocaine and other illicit drugs are Mexican cartels that arrange to have Mexican immigrants trying to cross the borders and smuggle in the drugs. The Border Patrol knows this. Likewise, tremendous infectious disease is pouring across the border. The United States has become a dumping ground for Mexico and, in fact, for many other parts of the world. On the other hand, many fabulous people come in from Mexico and our country is better for it. But these people are here legally, and are severely hurt by those coming in illegally. I am proud to say that I know many hard working Mexicans—many of them are working for and with me…and, just like our country, my organization is better for it.

The Mexican Government wants an open border as long as it’s a ONE WAY open border into the United States. Not only are they killing us at the border, but they are killing us on trade … and the country of Mexico is making billions of dollars in doing so.

I have great respect for Mexico and love their people and their peoples’ great spirit. The problem is, however, that their leaders are far smarter, more cunning, and better negotiators than ours. To the citizens of the United States, who I will represent far better than anyone else as President, the Mexican government is not our friend…and why should they be when the relationship is totally one sided in their favor on both illegal immigration and trade. I have pointed this out during my speeches and it is something Mexico doesn’t want me to say. In actuality, it was only after my significant rise in the polls that Univision, previously my friend, went ballistic. I believe that my examples of bad trade deals for the United States was of even more concern to the Mexican government than my talk of border security.

I have lost a lot during this Presidential run defending the people of the United States. I have always heard that it is very hard for a successful person to run for President. Macy’s, NBC, Serta and NASCAR have all taken the weak and very sad position of being politically correct even though they are wrong in terms of what is good for our country. Univision, because 70% of their business comes from Mexico, in my opinion, is being dictated to by the Mexican Government. The last thing Mexico wants is Donald Trump as President in that I will make great trade deals for the United States and will have an impenetrable border--only legally approved people will come through easily.

Interestingly, Univision has just announced they are attempting to go public despite very poor and even negative earnings, which is not a good situation for a successful IPO or high stock price—not to mention that I am currently suing them for breach of contract. Remember, Univision is the one who began this charade in the first place, and they are owned by one of Hillary Clinton’s biggest backers. After the speech was made, there were numerous compliments and indeed, many rave “reviews”—there was very little criticism. It wasn’t until a week after my announcement that people started to totally distort these very easy to understand words. If there was something stated incorrectly, it would have been brought up immediately and with great enthusiasm.

The issues I have addressed, and continue to address, are vital steps to Make America Great Again! Additionally, I would be the best jobs President that God ever created. Let’s get to work!

 

South Carolina Senator Rants Against Gay Marriage During Vote on Confederate Flag Removal

Sen. Lee Bright is mad.

| Mon Jul. 6, 2015 5:16 PM EDT

In a historic 37-3 vote, members of South Carolina's Senate just voted to remove the Confederate flag from its statehouse grounds. Monday's vote followed hours of debate, with lawmakers overwhelmingly making the case to do away with the racist symbol once and for all.

Perhaps confused by the subject at hand, Sen. Lee Bright used Monday's debate as an opportunity to voice his support in keeping the flag and dually attack the Supreme Court's gay marriage decision last month, not to mention the "abomination colors" showcased by the White House to celebrate the court's decision.

"This nation was founded on Judeo-Christian principles and they are under assault by men in black robes who were not elected by you," Bright warned.

"Our governor called us in to deal with the flag that sits out front, let's deal with the national sin that we face today!" he continued. "We talk about abortion but this gay marriage thing, I believe will be one nation gone under like President Reagan said. If we’re not one nation under God, we’ll be one nation gone under."

With more biblical references and anti-LGBT ranting, Bright went onto urge his fellow lawmakers to continue flying the battle flag. It was a rare moment of crazy, perhaps even for his two fellow Confederate flag supporters, who likely knew they had only one fight to lose on Monday.

 

 

Rick Perry Reluctantly Accepts Gays in the Military

"The horse is out of the barn," says the GOP presidential candidate.

| Mon Jul. 6, 2015 2:49 PM EDT

A month before the 2012 Iowa caucuses, then-Texas governor Rick Perry tried to save his flailing presidential campaign by tacking hard to the religious right. At the center of his effort was an ad he released in December 2011 titled "Strong," which opens with Perry looking at the camera and stating, "I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm a Christian, but you don't need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there's something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can't openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school."

The Rick Perry of the 2016 campaign is sporting a new look, between the Buddy Holly frames, the speeches demanding that his party reconcile itself with its history and appeal to African Americans, and the denouncements of Donald Trump's comments about immigrants. And on gay rights, while he's still far from marching in a pride parade—last month he criticized the Supreme Court's decision to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide—Perry is singing a different tune on President Obama's repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. As flagged by Bloomberg Politics, Perry appeared Sunday on ABC's This Week, and when George Stephanopoulos asked if he stood by that ad, Perry sounded as though he still disliked the policy but was resigned to the fact that Don't Ask, Don't Tell wouldn't be restored. "I have no reason to think that is going to be able to be done," Perry said. "I think—you know, that clearly has already—you know, the horse is out of the barn."

Watch Perry on This Week:


ABC US News | World News

Guitarist and Songwriter Richard Thompson's 'Still' Got It

His riffs are better than ever on his new album.

| Mon Jul. 6, 2015 6:00 AM EDT

Richard Thompson
Still
Fantasy

Richard Thompson's latest album closes on an uncharacteristically sweet note with "Guitar Heroes," a jaunty, nearly eight-minute ode to the players who initially inspired him, namely, Chuck Berry, Django Reinhardt, Les Paul, James Burton, and The Shadows' Hank Marvin. This nostalgic salute is the only hint of advancing age on the typically stellar Still. While the production credit for Wilco's Jeff Tweedy might bring Thompson to the attention of some new listeners, he's really just doing the same thing he's done so well for more than four decades. Longtime fans know that means spiky rockers ("All Buttoned Up") and melancholy original ballads that sound like traditional English folk songs ("She Never Could Resist a Winding Road"), infused with rueful humor and marked by stirring vocals and virtuoso guitar, especially those scorching electric solos that make your jaw drop. Still, indeed: The talented Mr. Thompson has rarely been better.

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Obama Just Came Out Hard Against the Washington Football Team’s Racist Name

The administration made it a bit harder for the team to build a new stadium.

| Thu Jul. 2, 2015 7:06 PM EDT

In an irony that will surely be lost on team owner Dan Snyder, the Washington Redskins are being kicked off their land.

From the Washington Post:

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell told D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser this spring that the National Park Service, which owns the land beneath Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, was unlikely to accommodate construction of a new stadium for the Redskins unless the team changes its name.

Jewell oversees both national park land and America's trust and treaty relationships with Native American tribes.

Her decision not to extend the District's lease of the RFK land badly hinders Bowser's bid to return the Redskins to D.C.—and boosts efforts to lure the team across the Potomac to Northern Virginia.

Jewell, who has been an outspoken critic of the team's controversial name, added that adjusting the federal lease on the property, which doesn't expire for another 22 years, is "not likely to be a priority for the administration." The team's owner Dan Snyder, who has vowed to never change the team's name, has long been interested in building a new stadium in the DC area.

There's actually a great precedent for this. As we explained in 2013,

The showdown began in 1961, when John F. Kennedy's interior secretary, Stewart Udall, who'd committed to ending segregation anywhere in his sphere of influence, declared his intent to break pro football's last color bar...The call for integration was met with opposition, most notably from the team's owner, George Preston Marshall, a laundromat magnate turned NFL bigwig who had held firm for years. Udall had one advantage over Marshall: The team's new home field, DC Stadium (later renamed RFK Memorial), was federal property. With Kennedy's approval, Udall gave Marshall a choice: He could let black players on his team, or take his all-white squad to someone else's gridiron."

Don't worry, Washington fans: There's always Virginia (or stay in Maryland).

The Combined Black Workforces of Google, Facebook, and Twitter Could Fit on a Single Jumbo Jet

Silicon Valley is making little progress on diversity.

| Thu Jul. 2, 2015 2:00 PM EDT

We already knew that Google, Facebook, and Twitter employed relatively few African Americans, but new details show that the gap is truly striking. All three companies have disclosed their full EEO1 reports, detailed accounts of their employees' race and gender demographics that the law requires them to submit to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The reports show that out of a combined 41,000 Twitter, Facebook, and Google employees, only 758, or 1.8 percent, are black. To put this in perspective, all of those workers could fit onto a single Airbus A380. Have a look:

African Americans comprise 13 percent of the overall workforce, which means they are underrepresented at Google, Facebook, and Twitter by a factor of 7. Here's a visual comparison of the black employees…

 

 

versus all other employees:

Race and gender gaps in tech hiring have been hot-button issues as of late. Since last May, when Rev. Jesse Jackson showed up at Google's shareholder meeting, he has won some serious diversity concessions from major tech companies—but the pace of minority hiring remains slow. As the Guardian noted yesterday, Facebook hired 1,216 new people last year, and only 36 were black. Since last year, the percentage of black Google workers has not changed.

It should be easier to shift workplace demographics at smaller companies. Twitter, with fewer than 3,000 employees in 2014, has a huge black user base that is sometimes referred to as "Black Twitter." Jackson wants the company to do more to move the needle. "I am very disappointed," he told the Guardian. "We are becoming intolerant with these numbers. There's a big gap between their talk and their implementation."

Airplane image: Anthony Lui/Noun Project

Correction: An early version of this story misstated the number of black employees at Google and incorrectly suggested that Twitter had released its 2015 EEO1 report. Mother Jones regrets the errors.

Sorry, Obama. The Founding Fathers Loved Peas

They probably would have loved avocados too.

| Thu Jul. 2, 2015 11:31 AM EDT

On Wednesday, after the New York Times proposed adding peas to guacamole (what's next, mayonnaise?), President Barack Obama announced that the proper way to make guacamole is with avocado, onions, garlic, and hot pepper. It wasn't the first time the leader of the free world had disparaged peas. In 2011, when Congress stalled on raising the debt ceiling, he announced that it was time for all parties involved to "eat our peas"—swallow the tough pill, if you will.

But Obama's anti-pea polemic, published just days before the Fourth of July, puts him at odds with an important group of Americans—the Founding Fathers. The Founding Fathers loved peas.

Thomas Jefferson's favorite vegetable, according to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, was the English pea. He cultivated 19 different kinds of peas in the Monticello vegetable garden, including 15 kinds of English peas. Among them were Marrowfat, Hotspur, Blue Prussian, and Early Frame. (Jefferson even spoke with Mother Jones about his peas in February.) Letters to his daughter, Mary, often made reference to the status of the peas. Here he is discussing peas in a letter to George Washington:

Peas weren't just sustenance for Jefferson. They were a way of life; every year he would hold a contest with his neighbor to see whose peas would sprout first. Per the Monticello website:

Though Jefferson's mountaintop garden, with its southern exposure to warmth and light, should have provided an advantage for the contest, it seems that the contest was almost always won by a neighbor named George Divers.

As Jefferson's grandson recalled: "A wealthy neighbor [Divers], without children, and fond of horticulture, generally triumphed. Mr. Jefferson, on one occasion had them first, and when his family reminded him that it was his right to invite the company, he replied, 'No, say nothing about it, it will be more agreeable to our friend to think that he never fails.'"

Divers, that clever knave! There's even a children's book, First Peas to the Table, inspired by Jefferson's fruitless obsession with winning at peas.

Jefferson's friends in government got in on the action too. At his prodding, George Washington attempted to plant English peas at Mount Vernon, with  mixed results. But Washington loved peas so much that when a bunch Tories attempted to kill him, they did so by poisoning a dish of his favorite food—peas. Wise to the plot, a 13-year-old girl fed them to his chickens first as a precautionary measure. (Or at least, that's the legend. It's probably apocryphal.)

The point is, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington loved peas. If avocados had even been around when they were president, they would have made pea guacamole. And they would have loved that, too. Pea hold these shoots to be self-evident.

Wow, That's a Yooge Crowd to See Bernie Sanders

The Vermont senator held the biggest rally of the 2016 campaign in Madison last night.

| Thu Jul. 2, 2015 9:29 AM EDT

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called for a "political revolution" at a campaign rally at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Madison, Wisconsin, on Wednesday night, and just a few people showed up:

 

Sanders' campaign estimated the crowd at about 10,000 people, the largest rally by any candidate during the 2016 campaign. Granted, it's not even 2016 yet, but Sanders has continued to draw massive crowds everywhere he has gone (5,000 people in Denver; 300 people in an Iowa town of 240). It's not necessarily a barometer for public support—Hillary Clinton still holds a comfortable lead in national polls—but it does show that his popularity stems from something much deeper than just good name recognition.