Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy

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Tim Murphy is a senior reporter at Mother Jones. Email him with tips and insights at tmurphy@motherjones.com.

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Donald Trump is counting on a hometown boost in Tuesday's New York primary showdown against Ted Cruz. The Texas senator has taken heat from prominent Republicans there, such as Rep. Peter King and ex-Mayor Rudy Giuliani, for his comments about "New York values" and his campaign positions. ("Any New Yorker who even thinks of voting for Ted Cruz should have their head examined," King told an interviewer last week.) When Cruz visited the Bronx, he was heckled repeatedly.

But perhaps no candidate has done more to offend the sensibilities of New Yorkers over the years than Trump, a tabloid fixture who was once sued by the Department of Justice for housing discrimination in Brooklyn and Queens and who spent $85,000 on advertisements demanding the state "bring back the death penalty" after the arrest of the (wrongfully convicted) Central Park Five.

Trump sought to use his influence in the city on more pedestrian matters, too. In a 1985 letter, Trump complained to then-Mayor Ed Koch about the blight of hot-dog vendors leaving ketchup and mustard stains on his sidewalk.

Dear Ed:

While I usually agree with your decisions and philosophy (except as they concern me), I cannot understand how you can allow once one of the truly great streets of America, Fifth Avenue, to be overrun by peddlars [sic] and food vendors. They have created such a blight that shoppers and visitors alike are appalled to see the decline of this historic avenue. Having ketchup and mustard splattered all over the sidewalk by vendors who "couldn't care less" is disgraceful. I only wish I had their political muscle—they really need it in order to keep this outrage going.

I know that you must have your reasons and also know that you won't change your mind, but it is a shame. As the filthy food carts come in, the Guccis, Jourdans, et cetera will leave, and with them both prestige and taxes will be lost to the City forever.

After signing off, he added one last shot. "P.S. The new 'act' on Fifth Avenue is the humongous vegetable stand which operates at Fifth Avenue and 57th Street," Trump wrote. "It does wonders for increasing the value of real estate on Bond Street in London and the Champs Elysses [sic] in Paris."

The correspondence with Koch was included in the personal papers of former New York Times executive editor A.M. Rosenthal at the New York Public Library.

Trump's beef with street vendors was not a one-time thing. In The Art of the Deal, his best-selling memoir, he lamented the "peddlers" who were "degrading" Fifth Avenue. "I learned a lesson from Walter Hoving," he wrote, referring to another New York developer. "I now employ some very large security people who make absolutely sure that the street in front of Trump Tower is kept clean, pristine, and free of peddlers."

Update: This was a really longstanding beef. The New York Daily News reported that Trump also complained about the Fifth Avenue food vendors in 2004 to then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Evidently the problem wasn't fixed.

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A federal judge in West Virginia sentenced former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship to a year in prison on Wednesday for conspiring to commit mine safety violations at his company's Upper Big Branch mine during a period leading up to the explosion there that left 29 miners dead in 2010.

The mountaintop estate where Blankenship once hosted visitors. Read MoJo's chronicle of Blankenship's rise and fall in West Virginia. Stacy Kranitz

Blankenship was convicted of the misdemeanor charge in December, but the conviction was explicitly not linked to the Upper Big Branch disaster itself and Blankenship's attorney worked hard to ensure the accident was hardly mentioned during the trial. And that verdict was a disappointment to prosecutors; he was found not guilty of the more serious felony charges of making false statements to federal regulators in the aftermath of the blast in order to boost Massey's stock price. (Had he been convicted on all counts, he would have faced up to 30 years in prison.) The conspiracy conviction rested on evidence of Blankenship's domineering management style, which emphasized profits over the federal mine safety laws designed to avert underground explosions:

[T]he attention to detail that made Blankenship such an effective bean counter may also be his undoing. He constantly monitored every inch of his operation and wrote memos instructing subordinates to move coal at all costs. "I could Krushchev you," he warned in a handwritten memo to one Massey official whose facilities Blankenship thought were underperforming. He called another mine manager "literally crazy" and "ridiculous" for devoting too many of his miners to safety projects. Despite repeated citations by the MSHA, Blankenship instructed Massey executives to postpone safety improvements: "We'll worry about ventilation or other issues at an appropriate time. Now is not the time." And this is only what investigators gleaned from the documents they could find: Hughie Stover, Blankenship's bodyguard and personal driver—and the head of security at Upper Big Branch—ordered a subordinate to destroy thousands of pages of documents, while the government's investigation was ongoing. (Stover was sentenced to three years in prison in 2012 for lying to federal investigators and attempting to destroy evidence.)

Before he stepped down as Massey's CEO in 2010, Blankenship had built the company into one of the largest coal producers in the United States and become a polarizing figure in his home state, where he bankrolled the rise of the Republican Party, pushed climate denial, and crushed unions. For more on Blankenship, read my piece from the magazine on his rise and fall.

Rachel Maddow posed an interesting question to Sen. Bernie Sanders during their interview on Wednesday: Would he like to see the Republican Party just disappear? Sanders' answer was also an interesting one. He didn't take the bait; instead, he offered an alternative theory—the GOP would disappear if corporate media simply told the truth about the party's agenda.

Sanders didn't mean that as hyperbole. By his estimate, the Republican Party would drop to single-digit support if it weren't for negligence by the press:

I think if we had a media in this country that was really prepared to look at what the Republicans actually stood for rather than quoting every absurd remark of Donald Trump, talking about Republican Party, talking about hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks for the top two tenths of 1 percent, cuts to Social Security and Medicare, Medicaid, a party which with few exceptions doesn't even acknowledge the reality of climate change, let alone do anything about it, a party which is not prepared to stand with women in the fight for pay equity, a party that is not prepared to do anything about a broken criminal justice system or a corrupt campaign finance system, I think, to be honest with you—and I just don't, you know, say this rhetorically, this is a fringe party. It is a fringe party. Maybe they get 5, 10 percent of the vote.

"The Republican Party today now is a joke," he continued, "maintained by a media which really does not force them to discuss their issues."

Sanders was returning to one of his driving issues over the years—a fervent belief that corporate-owned media was steering democracy off a cliff. In 1979, he wrote an essay arguing that TV networks were "using the well-tested Hitlerian principle that people should be treated as morons and bombarded over and over again with the same simple phrases and ideas" to prevent them from thinking critically about the world around them. He hit those same themes (albeit more diplomatically) in his book, Outsider in the House, arguing that TV news coverage was dumbing down America by inundating viewers with superficial coverage of O.J. Simpson instead of "corporate disinvestment in the United States." Not surprisingly, when Maddow asked Sanders in an interview last fall what his dream job might be, he quickly blurted out, "president of CNN."

A corporate media that obsesses over the issues Sanders obsesses over would certainly have some impact on the political landscape. But Sanders' dismissal of the Republican base seems to miss a far more obvious takeaway. People vote for Republicans not because they've been brainwashed, but because they actually like what Republicans like Trump are proposing.

Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban Somehow Got Worse

Donald Trump told a Wisconsin town hall on Wednesday that his proposed ban on Muslims entering the United States would have an exception for the billionaire's rich friends.

"I have actually—believe it or not—I have a lot of friends that are Muslim and they call me," Trump said, when asked about his plan by MSNBC's Chris Matthews, the event's moderator. "In most cases, they're very rich Muslims, okay?"

Matthews then asked Trump if his rich Muslim friends would be able enter the country under Trump's Muslim ban. "They'll come in," Trump said. "You'll have exceptions."

But he didn't stop there. A few moments later, when Matthews suggested a blanket ban might rub Muslims the wrong way, Trump flipped the script, arguing that it would instead have a galvanizing effect on Middle Eastern countries in the fight against ISIS.

"Maybe they'll be more disposed to fight ISIS," Trump said. "Maybe they'll say, 'We want to come back into America, we've got to solve this problem!'"

Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton wasted little time dismissing Trump's comments:

If you are one of Trump's rich Muslim friends, Mother Jones would love to speak with you. Shoot me an email at tmurphy@motherjones.com.

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