Political MoJo

Here's the Banned Scarlett Johansson Super Bowl Ad That Made Pro-Palestinian Activists So Mad

| Thu Jan. 30, 2014 5:57 PM EST

On Thursday, Oxfam, the anti-poverty and humanitarian confederation, announced that they had accepted the resignation of one of their more prominent celebrity ambassadors, Scarlett Johansson. It was the culmination of a well-publicized controversy surrounding the 29-year-old actress's new gig as the first global brand ambassador of SodaStream International, an at-home soda-maker that has attracted criticism for maintaining a factory in an Israeli settlement on occupied West Bank territory.

As you can imagine, a bunch of pro-Palestinian activists weren't happy about ScarJo's endorsement of the product. (Click here to read Johansson's statement released last weekend strongly defending SodaStream and reaffirming her support for "economic cooperation and social interaction between a democratic Israel and Palestine.")

A version of her Super Bowl ad for SodaStream has been banned from Sunday's broadcast—not because of the company's controversial factory, but because the commercial was mean to Coke and Pepsi. Watch the rejected version above (see the ad that's set to air on Super Bowl Sunday here).

"Like most actors, my real job is saving the world," Johansson says in the ad.

Beyond the SodaStream controversy, Johansson's has been fairly active in progressive politics. She spoke at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, participated in Affordable Care Act celebrity outreach (click here to listen to her Planned Parenthood phone message reminding callers about Obamacare eligibility), and recently offered her endorsement of Hillary 2016.

In 2009, Oxfam severed ties with Sex and the City star Kristin Davis following her endorsement of products from skin-care company Ahava, which also operates a factory in the West Bank. Davis is now working with the anti-poverty organization, again, and is listed on Oxfam America's website as a celebrity ambassador.

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Why Henry Waxman Was One of the Most Important Congressmen Ever

| Thu Jan. 30, 2014 12:46 PM EST

The news on Thursday morning came as a shocker to the politerati: Henry Waxman is retiring. This Democratic congressman from Los Angeles has been a Capitol Hill fixture and progressive crusader for decades, since he was first elected in 1974. He vigorously pursued Big Tobacco and enthusiastically championed climate change legislation. He's been a fierce advocate for consumer rights, health care, and the environment. As the Washington Post notes, Waxman, 74 years old, has passed measures "to make infant formula safer and more nutritious (1980), bring low-priced generic drugs to market (1984), clean the air (1990), provide services and medical care to people with AIDS (1996), and reform and modernize the Postal Service (2006). He was also instrumental in the passage of the Affordable Care Act." In 2005, I wrote a profile of Waxman that dubbed him the "Democrats' Eliot Ness." Here are some excerpts:

It's nothing new, says Representative Henry Waxman. For decades—literally—this Democrat from the Westside of Los Angeles has mounted high-profile investigations and hearings while churning out sharp-edged reports: on toxic emissions, the tobacco industry, pesticides in drinking water. But during George W. Bush's first term as President, Waxman, the senior Democrat on the Government Reform Committee, established himself as the Democrats' chief pursuer of purported wrongdoing within the Bush Administration. He has mounted a series of "special investigations"—of Halliburton, Enron, the flu vaccine crisis, conflicts of interest at the Department of Homeland Security, national missile defense. He has produced reports on secrecy in the Bush Administration, misleading prewar assertions made by Bush officials about Iraq's WMDs, Bush's politicization of science. And he has won considerable media attention for his efforts. Working with Representative John Dingell, he sicced the Government Accountability Office on Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force to get the names of the industry executives who helped cook up Cheney's energy plan. (Cheney told the GAO to take a hike; the GAO filed suit, lost and then declined to appeal.) More recently, Waxman released a headlines-grabbing report revealing that federally funded abstinence-only sex-ed programs peddle false information to teens. (One claimed condom use does not prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.) With all this muckraking, the 65-year-old Waxman has become the Eliot Ness of the Democrats.

"Waxman has been important for House Democrats," says Representative Jim McGovern, a liberal from Massachusetts. "With the Republicans controlling the White House and Congress, it's hard to be heard. He's found ways to get our message out." Representative George Miller, the senior Democrat on the Education Committee, notes, "He's developed the model. It's what we would like every ranking member to do—to ask questions, be persistent and not accept silence. He's motivated other Democrats and has even created some discontent within the Democratic caucus because newer members on other committees sometimes don't think the ranking members are aggressive enough." And on the Senate side, Democrats--perhaps encouraged by Waxman's example—have announced they will create their own investigative team and conduct unofficial hearings on alleged Bush Administration wrongdoing.

The snub-nosed, bespectacled, balding and far-from-tall Waxman is not flamboyant or flashy. He speaks softly but directly and has a forceful manner. His Democratic colleagues routinely joke about his persistence and tenacity. "Don't get into an argument with Henry," says Miller. "But if you do, bring your lunch. He won't let you go."

The piece noted that Waxman had assembled a substantial history of legislative accomplishment:

Through most of Waxman's first twenty years in Congress, he chaired the influential Health and Environment Subcommittee and mainly focused on legislation—Medicaid expansion, the clean-air law, AIDS, tobacco—winning a description in The Almanac of American Politics as "a skilled and idealistic policy entrepreneur." During those years, Waxman says, producing reports was primarily a device for drawing attention to an issue and building a case for legislation. For instance, after the 1984 disaster at a Union Carbide chemical plant in Bhopal, India, he and his staff, realizing that toxic air pollutants were unregulated in the United States, investigated the pollution from chemical plants in Kanawha Valley, West Virginia. The resulting report concluded that the valley was being exposed to high amounts of toxic emissions. With that report in hand, Waxman pushed through legislation that required the Environmental Protection Agency to collect more data on emissions. He then used the information gathered to win passage in 1990 of a measure that reduced toxic air pollution.

And I reported that Waxman was not reluctant to take on Democrats—or seek compromises with Republicans:

Working with other Democrats, Waxman notes, has not always been easy. Through the 1980s, he engaged in a now-legendary clash with John Dingell, then the powerful chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee and a protector of the auto industry, over clean-air legislation. Finally, the two hammered out a deal that led to the 1990 Clean Air Act. In 2003 Waxman proposed setting up an independent commission to investigate Bush's use—or abuse—of the intelligence on WMDs in Iraq. But senior Democrats who deal with intelligence issues would not join him. "More and more," he says, "I am happy to do things on my own."

Waxman has been characterized by the right-wing media as a partisan hack only interested in nipping at Bush's heels. But with no opportunity to legislate, there's little alternative for him but to focus on oversight. And Waxman has not always acted as a partisan pitbull. In the mid-1990s he spent two years privately concocting a tobacco bill with Republican Representative Thomas Bliley, a champion of the tobacco industry. The two reached a compromise, Waxman says, but the GOP House leadership rejected the measure. During the Clinton campaign finance scandal, Waxman called for Attorney General Janet Reno to appoint a special counsel. "We were not happy with that," says one former Clinton White House aide. Later Waxman assailed Clinton for pardoning fugitive financier Marc Rich.

Waxman did vote to grant Bush the authority to invade Iraq. He now says, "If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn't have voted for it." He points out that two days before the invasion he sent a letter to Bush noting that Bush's use of the unproven allegation that Iraq had sought uranium in Africa was an act of "knowing deception or unfathomable incompetence" that undermined Bush's case for war. Waxman was on to the Niger story months before it became big news, but his charge that Bush had peddled misinformation—or disinformation—received little notice in the United States.

Waxman has a safe seat; he handily wins re-election. His anti-Bush endeavors play well in Hollywood. Without having to fret about re-election, he can afford to exercise what Schiliro cites as one of his chief assets: patience. "He doesn't mind spending eight years working on an issue," Schiliro says. "He passed AIDS and clean-air legislation, and that took years." And that may be why, when I ask Waxman if he will be able to remain motivated for another four years of Bush battles, he simply shrugs his shoulders. With four more Bush years to come, Waxman says, he expects to stay the course: more investigations, more reports. On what he's not sure, but he does say he anticipates continuing his probes of government contracting. "I hope we can investigate this with the Republicans," he comments. "This isn't partisan; it involves protecting taxpayer dollars. And there's been a clear failure of oversight by the Republicans. If they won't join us, then we'll just have to get the information out to the public." But, he adds, "it's hard for the Democrats to be as mean and tough as the House Republican leadership."

His retirement won't mean much in terms of raw politics: His seat is in a reliably safe Democratic district. But it will be a great loss for those who care about clear air, clean water, health care, economic fairness, and much more. Waxman was the ideal House member, skilled in politics and passionate about policy, able to legislate and investigate, and driven by principles rather than ego. He is one of the more—if not the most—effective House member of the past 40 years. You may even be alive because of him.

Therapist to the 1 Percent Weighs in on the Psychological Hardship of Being Rich

| Thu Jan. 30, 2014 11:57 AM EST

Last week, billionaire investor Tom Perkins of the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers sent a letter to the editor of The Wall Street Journal likening criticism of the 1 percent to Nazi attacks on the Jews. He's not an outlier. As Paul Krugman pointed out on Sunday, the rich have been lamenting the "demonizing" and "vilifying" of the 1 percent for years. "I…suspect that today’s Masters of the Universe are insecure about the nature of their success," Krugman wrote. But the wealthy are not just afraid of losing their money to an angry middle class. Class warfare also makes the rich uncomfortable because they worry the non-rich are judging their character and personality by how much money they have, according to therapists who counsel the rich.

"I think that with Occupy Wall Street there was a sense of the heat getting turned up and a feeling of vilification and potential danger," Jamie Traeger-Muney, a psychologist who counsels people who earn tens of millions of dollars a year, told Politico on Thursday. "There is a worry among our clients that they are being judged and people are making assumptions about who they are based on their wealth."

In 2012, Mother Jones reported on how banks, including Wells Fargo and Morgan Stanley, are increasingly hiring psychotherapists like Traeger-Muney to help their extremely wealthy clients deal with the complications that come with being extremely wealthy. Here's a bit more of what wealth therapists can tell us about how the rich may be feeling right now:

Although wealth counseling has existed for years, the 2008 financial crisis really sent the aristocracy sprinting for the therapist's chair. The 2010 Capgemini/Merrill Lynch World Wealth Report, a survey that takes the pulse of zillionaires around the world, found that after the crisis, spooked clients were demanding "specialized advice." Financial advisers must "truly understand the emotional aspects of client behavior," the report warned…

"Any time there's an outside focus on wealth," it's not fun for the wealthy, [Traeger-Muney] says. Heirs, she adds, have it the worst: "They feel like they're in this 1 percent position. They get bad press from people who make fun of them. It feels like their worst nightmare coming true: the idea that they're now responsible for other people's unhappiness and lack of wealth, when they didn't ask for [their millions]."

Ultimately, having lots of money shouldn't be cause for alarm. "There's a difference between money causing problems and a lack of ability to explore feelings around money," Traeger-Muney says. "That's what leads to psychological issues." She just tries to get her clients to acknowledge the fact that they're rolling in dough and learn how to enjoy it. "What would life be like if they didn't have any restraints and could really create what they wanted?"

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for January 30, 2014

Thu Jan. 30, 2014 11:32 AM EST

Marines of the riot control team for Golf Battery, Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, attempt to subdue a role player wielding a weapon during the culminating event of the unit’s public disorder and non-lethal weapons employment training aboard Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan, Jan. 24, 2014. One of the secondary missions of Golf Battery is to serve as a non-lethal contingency force for the 31st MEU, useful in embassy security reinforcement, humanitarian operations and many other contingencies. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Paul Robbins/Released)

Why Are These States Actively Trying to Confuse Their Residents About Obamacare?

| Thu Jan. 30, 2014 7:00 AM EST

To help consumers and small businesses make sense of their new health insurance options, the Affordable Care Act created outreach personnel, or "navigators," tasked with distributing information about coverage and walking people through the application process. On January 23, Texas passed a set of measures aimed at restricting these navigators because of lawmakers' concerns about patient privacy. That same day, a federal judge in Missouri temporarily blocked enforcement of similar restrictions, ruling that they created too large an obstacle to enrollment.

"It is an abuse of your oversight authority to launch groundless investigations into civic organizations that are trying to make health reform a success."

This tug of war is about a seemingly straightforward program: The navigators, who are required by law to be both unbiased and free, are meant to help uninsured Americans enroll in either Medicaid or private insurance plans. Depending on whether a state has opted to use its own insurance marketplace, navigators get funding through state or federal grants. For example, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, in Iowa, received a $214,427 grant from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to employ navigators, which will give in-person assistance by preparing applications and helping consumers determine which plans they qualify for, in 61 of 99 Iowa counties.

But Republican lawmakers have cried foul, arguing that navigators could steal private information like Social Security numbers and medical records. In an August letter to Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of the HHS, the attorneys general of 13 states said they were concerned that HHS had "failed to adequately protect the privacy" of consumers because it does "not even require uniform criminal background or fingerprint checks before hiring personnel." Texas Sen. John Cornyn, for example, praised his state's regulations, saying on his Facebook, "Obamacare presents enough problems for Texans without the risk of a convicted felon handling their personal information."

Privacy claims have led to a surge of restrictive measures like those in Texas. At least 17 states have passed regulations on health care navigators since, including Georgia, Ohio, and Tennessee, which barred navigators from educating consumers about the specific benefits, terms, and features of a particular health plan. Here is a map of states that have passed laws restricting navigators:

Many policymakers and health care professionals say that these privacy concerns are unfounded and worry that partisan bickering will hurt underserved populations. After 15 Republicans members of the House asked for details and briefings on 51 navigator groups, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) wrote, "It is an abuse of your oversight authority to launch groundless investigations into civic organizations that are trying to make health reform a success." The Democratic members of the Committee on Energy and Commerce also noted that there are already significant privacy safeguards in place, including a $25,000 penalty for disclosing personal information and mandatory navigator training.

Peter Shin, professor of health law and policy George Washington University's School of Public Health and Health Services, says that conservatives are more interested in decreasing enrollment and making Obamacare look bad than they are in protecting patient privacy. "I think the privacy concern is more of a political issue than a common sense one," says Shin.

The result of conservative politicking? Underserved populations will remain so, as outreach resources are strained. "The purpose of the navigator programs is to help those who will need most in terms of understanding their options," says Shin. "The more disenfranchised communities will be hurt the most from the navigator restrictions."

Several navigator programs have already closed shop because of anti-navigator laws. Cardon Outreach, a Texas-based organization that has helped people enroll in Medicaid in the past, returned its grant from HHS. As the Columbus Dispatch reported, Cardon's chief legal adviser stated in an email that the state and federal regulatory scrutiny surrounding navigators "requires us to allocate resources which we cannot spare and will distract us from fulfilling our obligations to our clients."

Michael Grimm's Greatest Hits

| Wed Jan. 29, 2014 4:37 PM EST
Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.)

Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) upstaged the president's State of the Union address last night. In an interview following the speech, the Staten Island representative threatened to toss Michael Scotto, a New York television reporter, over a balcony in the Capitol. The NY1 reporter's offense? Asking the congressman about allegations of campaign finance violations. "You're not man enough," Grimm said, while moving threateningly toward the reporter. "I'll break you in half. Like a boy."

Grimm's opponent quickly jumped on the comments, calling the tiff a "shameful abuse of power." Grimm has publicly apologized and invited Scotto to lunch. Grimm is hardly the first congressman with a temper, but his brief political career—first elected to Congress in 2010 and one of the eight candidates MoJo couldn't believe would actually win in 2012—has been defined by bizarre tales of Grimm's outbursts and associations with shady individuals.

That Time He Waved A Gun Around A Nightclub

In 2011, Evan Ratliff wrote an excellent deep-dive profile of Grimm for the New Yorker. Ratliff's article examined the full extent of the corruption charges against Grimm, but the highlight of the piece was a 1999 incident during which Grimm supposedly stormed into a Queens nightclub after an altercation with a date's ex-husband. According to the story, Grimm was kicked out by the club's bouncer, but he returned later with a posse and went bonkers:

Around 2:30 a.m., there was a commotion on the dance floor. According to Williams, somebody was shouting, “He’s got a gun!” Following a crowd into the club’s garage, Williams discovered that Grimm and the husband had returned, and Grimm was holding a weapon. Grimm was “carrying on like a madman,” Williams said. “He’s screaming, ‘I’m gonna fuckin’ kill him.’ So I said to him, ‘Who are you?’ He put the gun back in his waist and said, ‘I’m a fucking F.B.I. agent, ain’t nobody gonna threaten me.’ ” (Grimm said he only moved his gun from an ankle holster to his waistband.) The bouncer at the front door told Williams that, when he patted Grimm down and found his gun, Grimm had showed his F.B.I. identification. The bouncer then let him pass through the club’s metal detector. 

Grimm left the club, but at 4 a.m., just before the club closed, he returned again, according to Williams, this time with another F.B.I. agent and a group of N.Y.P.D. officers. Grimm had told the police that he had been assaulted by the estranged husband and his friends. Williams said that Grimm took command of the scene, and refused to let the remaining patrons and employees leave. “Everybody get up against the fucking wall,” Williams recalled him saying. “The F.B.I. is in control.” Then Grimm, who apparently wanted to find the man with whom he’d had the original altercation, said something that Williams said he’ll never forget: “All the white people get out of here.”

Going into Business with a Restaurateur With Ties to the Gambino Mafia and 'Fat Tony'

In between his career as an FBI agent and his first political campaign, Grimm opened an Upper East Side restaurant. He co-owned Healthalicious with his friend Bennett Orfaly, who has since been accused of having ties to a locked-up Gambino family mobster nicknamed Fat Tony (real name Anthony Morelli). It's unclear if Grimm himself had any dealings with the Sopranos character Morelli, but Orfaly's friendship with the mafioso came to light thanks to a federal investigation into whether Ofer Biton, a Grimm fundraiser and Israeli citizen, illegally funneled contributions to Grimm's campaign in exchange for green cards for foreigners.

The Other Time Grimm Yelled At a Reporter

National Journal reporter Marin Cogan recalled her own run-in with Grimm after his Tuesday outburst. In an article titled, "That Time Michael Grimm Yelled at Me," Cogan explains how she interviewed Grimm in 2011 and published a quote of the congressman dissing the tea party wing of his caucus. Grimm wasn't pleased when Cogan published the quote and called her to complain:

It's been a few years since this happened, and I don't remember all of the details. I do remember him repeatedly yelling that he "did not serve 10 years in the FBI!" to have to put up with something like this. To be clear, at no time did I feel threatened, nor did I feel particularly scared or upset--although that seemed pretty clearly to me to be what he was trying to accomplish. I was a little shocked, but I gave as good as I got, and he took it to my editor, and we eventually settled on this blog post where he got to clarify his claims. Compared to last night's outburst, it was pretty tame. Still, I've never dealt with anyone so angry before, or since.

The Most Corrupt

Why did Scotto's question on Grimm's campaign finance anger the congressman anyway? Grimm's entire political career has been dogged by several investigations mounted by the FBI, the Federal Election Commission and the House ethics committee. Grimm failed to report a free trip to Cyprus paid for by a businessman arrested on corruption charges and broke House rules when he included a video of a floor speech in a fundraising e-mail. His ex-girlfriend was arrested earlier this month for making straw donations to his campaign. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has named Grimm to their "Most Corrupt" list for the past three years.

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The White House Just Responded to the Petition to Deport Justin Bieber

| Wed Jan. 29, 2014 2:47 PM EST

This article has been updated. Click here for the White House's response.

You've all heard that embattled Canadian pop star Justin Bieber was recently arrested for alleged drag racing and drunk driving. Now the Obama White House has promised to weigh in on the incident and resulting backlash.

In late 2011, the White House launched its We the People initiative, an online system in which anyone can create an account and petition the government. If a petition reaches a certain number of signatures (currently set at 100,000) within a month of its posting, the Obama administration's own rules require White House staff to respond.

A new petition, created on January 23, has reached that threshold. It's titled, "Deport Justin Bieber and revoke his green card," and it reads:

We the people of the United States feel that we are being wrongly represented in the world of pop culture. We would like to see the dangerous, reckless, destructive, and drug abusing, Justin Bieber deported and his green card revoked. He is not only threatening the safety of our people but he is also a terrible influence on our nations youth. We the people would like to remove Justin Bieber from our society.

(The petition is tagged under the issues of "criminal justice and law enforcement," "human rights," and "women's issues.")

The We the People page hosts a wide variety of petitions, including ones that focus on subjects such as AIDS prevention and mass shootings in America. But the White House also receives—and sometimes responds to—frivolous petitions, including one asking the Obama administration to build the Death Star and another calling for states to adopt Pokémon characters as state animals. (The latter was yanked from the government website.)

The usual White House rules indeed apply to the Bieber petition, Matt Lehrich, an assistant White House press secretary, confirms in an email to Mother Jones:

Every petition that crosses the threshold will be reviewed by the appropriate staff and receive a response. Response times vary based on total volume of petitions, subject matter, and a variety of other factors.

A previous White House petition called for the deportation of CNN host Piers Morgan because of his strong support for gun control in America. White House press secretary Jay Carney issued a response defending the First Amendment, and Morgan is still working in the United States.

We'll see if the White House's response has any impact on Bieber's feelings about the Obama administration. As of the president's reelection, things seemed pretty good:

But on a serious note, if you'd like to read about how Bieber's case highlights the complexities of America's deportation system, click here.

UPDATE, January 29, 2014, 2:14 p.m. EST: As Tow Center fellow Alex Howard notes, the nature of an O-1 visa (which Bieber has) means that the pop singer is pretty much safe from deportation, at least for now. For more on this, you can click the link I posted above on the complexities of our deportation system, or check out this Time post titled, "Why We Can't Just Deport Bieber."

We'll see if the White House addresses all this nuance.

UPDATE 2, April 18, 2014, 7:01 p.m. EST: Well, it took nearly three months (the White House has had other things to deal with), but here it is, the White House response:

Sorry to disappoint, but we won’t be commenting on this one.

The We the People terms of participation state that, “to avoid the appearance of improper influence, the White House may decline to address certain procurement, law enforcement, adjudicatory, or similar matters properly within the jurisdiction of federal departments or agencies, federal courts, or state and local government in its response to a petition."

So we'll leave it to others to comment on Mr. Bieber’s case, but we’re glad you care about immigration issues. Because our current system is broken. Too many employers game the system by hiring undocumented workers, and 11 million people are living in the shadows.

The rest of the response is peppered with Justin Bieber references and goes on to discuss immigration reform.

That's that then.

The West Wing's Big Block of Cheese Day Ideas, Ranked

| Wed Jan. 29, 2014 2:38 PM EST

Wednesday is "Big Block of Cheese Day" at the Obama White House, an homage to two episodes of the television series The West Wing in which senior staffers were forced to spend a day dealing with constituents who don't normally get an audience with the president. (That idea, in turn, was inspired by an enormous block of cheese housed in the Andrew Jackson White House.) The implication of the episodes is that the people who want to talk about these issues are kind of crazy, but a Mother Jones analysis of the projects presented to Sam Seaborn et al. reveals more nuance. On further examination, the dismissive tone with which Big Block of Cheese Day activists were greeted (or embraced) says more about the smallness of the Bartlet administration's aides than it does about the issues at hand.

Here is the official Mother Jones ranking of Big Block of Cheese Day ideas, from best to worst:

Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle Society: It's never fully explained what the Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle Society wants, but we can probably guess. According to National Geographic, the Kemp's ridley is "the world's most endangered sea turtle" and according to the Sea Turtle Conservancy, there are somewhere between 7,000 and 9,000 nesting females left. Their greatest threat is shrimp trawlers, which snare the tiny turtles in their nets. But the turtles are also vulnerable to man-made disaster. Most of the 156 turtles that died as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill were Kemp's Ridleys, because the spill interfered with the creatures' nesting habitat. It's a tragedy that these turtles can only get the government's attention on "total crackpot day."

Wolf highway: The plan: "1,800 miles from Yellowstone to the Yukon Territory complete with highway overpasses and no cattle grazing." Badass! The price: "With contributions and corporate sponsorship, the cost of the taxpayer is only $900 million." Damn. We have no idea why it costs that much, though, and it seems like something that can be scaled down. Montana and Washington state have already built natural bridges to help animals cross highways at a considerably cheaper rate.

Rep. Michael Grimm's Challenger Weighs In: "A Shameful Abuse of Power"

| Wed Jan. 29, 2014 12:25 PM EST
Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY)

New York GOP Rep. Michael Grimm's outburst after last night's State of the Union was problematic because members of Congress (or anyone, really) aren't supposed to threaten to throw reporters off balconies—at least not when a camera is rolling. But Grimm's aggressive confrontation with NY1's Michael Scotto also complicates an already difficult re-election campaign. Although the 11th district is New York City's most conservative, it still voted for President Barack Obama by a 51–47 margin in 2012, making Grimm one of just a handful of Republicans representing blue-leaning districts. To that end, he was already one of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's top targets heading into 2014, even before he threatened to "break" Scotto "in half. Like a boy." And unlike last cycle, when the Democratic nominee was dismissed as a former actor who lived with his dad, Grimm is facing a viable challenger in the form of former New York City council member Domenic Recchia Jr.

On Wednesday, Recchia was quick to pounce, issuing a statement blasting the incumbent:

Michael Grimm's behavior last night was disgraceful, completely unacceptable, and unbefitting of a United States Congressman. Using threats of physical violence to intimidate the press from doing their jobs is against everything our country—and our government—stands for, and is a shameful abuse of power.

Michael Grimm owes Michael Scotto and the NY1 team an apology. He also owes the people of Staten Island and South Brooklyn an apology. The people of this district deserve leadership that in the wake of the President’s State of the Union is focused and committed to restoring the promise of the American Dream for all Americans. They deserve leadership that is focused on creating jobs, stimulating the economy, investing in transportation alternatives, and strengthening the middle class. Instead they’ve got Michael Grimm, who is clearly part of the distractions plaguing Congress, not the solutions. It’s time the people of this district had a representative focused on working for them.

Grimm already delivered on one of those apologies—on Wednesday he called Scotto to apologize.

VIDEO: David Corn on Why Obama's State of the Union Speech Missed the Mark

| Wed Jan. 29, 2014 12:10 PM EST

Mother Jones DC bureau chief David Corn spoke with MSNBC's Chris Matthews and Howard Fineman this week, arguing that President Obama's speech let Republicans off too easy. Watch here: