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Donald Trump Celebrates Five-State Sweep: "I Consider Myself the Presumptive Nominee"

| Tue Apr. 26, 2016 11:00 PM EDT

Donald Trump dominated all five states in Tuesday's East Coast Republican primaries, a sweep that brought him at least 105 delegates and pushes him further along his path to securing the Republican presidential nomination and avoid a contested convention.

The Republican front-runner celebrated his impressive night from Trump Tower in New York, surrounded by his family and supporters including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, where he declared the Republican primary race all but over. He also continued his recent calls for Gov. John Kasich and Sen. Ted Cruz to end their campaigns.

"I consider myself the presumptive nominee, absolutely," Trump told reporters. "Senator Cruz and Governor Kasich should really get out of the race."

The real estate magnate went on to ridicule his two rivals in light of their recent announcement that they were uniting to defeat Trump and force a brokered convention—a strategy that started to collapse a day after it was announced.

"Governor Kasich and Senator Cruz have really, really hurt themselves with a faulty deal," he said. "Politicians, all talk, no action."

When asked about reports he would soon be striking a more "presidential" tone, Trump hinted that although he might act differently, his "thought process" would remain the same.

"If you have a football team and you're winning, and you make it to the Super Bowl, you don't change your quarterback," Trump said.

Trump concluded his victory speech by suggesting the only factor driving Hillary Clinton's success is the "woman's card" and that if she were a man, she wouldn't be able to get even 5 percent of the vote. In her victory speech, Clinton referred to Trump's previous reference to her playing the "woman's card" and said that if that meant standing up for equal pay for equal work, and health care for women, "deal me in."

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Three Awesome Paragraphs — And Only You Can Decide Which Is the Awesomest of All

| Tue Apr. 26, 2016 6:18 PM EDT

While we wait for polls to close on Super Tuesday 4 (seriously), I've been catching up on news in the tech biz. And I need your help. Which of these is the greatest paragraph of the day? You have three choices.

The first one, from Michael Hiltzik of the LA Times, is part of an interview with Michael Ferro, chairman of the company that owns the LA Times, about how they plan to supercharge the LA Times:

The strategic plan also includes a "content monetization engine" that will use artificial intelligence to redistribute Tribune Publishing content to multiple destinations and market the content in a way "we think will revolutionize our content strategy," Ferro said. "We think it'll be a rock-star business" that can "create more revenue ... than you've ever seen." That module will also be unveiled May 4, he said.

A content monetization engine! That is so awesome. And it will create more revenue "than you've ever seen." I've heard plenty of hyperbole from tech evangelists before, but nothing quite like that. Next up is Twitter:

The increase in users, which reversed a decline in the previous quarter, was a rare positive for the ailing company....The company reported 310 million monthly active users, up from 305 million the previous quarter....For the first three months of the year, the company reported $595 million in revenue, missing the $608 million Wall Street had expected....Overall, Twitter said it saw a net loss of $80 million, or 12 cents a share, which was a bit better than analysts had forecast.

This is not an awesome paragraph per se, especially since it's only a paragraph in the first place by virtue of my ellipses. But think about this. Twitter has 310 million users. 310 million! It generates revenues of about $2 billion per year. And yet, it's an "ailing" company that's still losing a ton of money. How tough is the social networking market when 310 million users isn't enough to turn a profit? And how does a company that basically runs a server farm manage to rack up more than $2 billion in operating costs annually? Beats me.

Finally, we have this contender from a piece about Apple's first revenue decline in 13 years:

Analysts do expect that iPhone sales will recover after the company introduces this year's expected model of the iPhone....Reports based on apparent weak links in Apple's supply chain indicate that the new phone could have a new kind of headphone port, be dust-proof and waterproof and may even sport a totally redesigned home button.

OMG. A totally redesigned home button! What will the geniuses at Apple think of next? A totally redesigned on/off button? A totally redesigned microphone? A totally redesigned headphone port? Oh wait....

Anyway, those are your choices. My heart is with #1, which is truly as awesome a paragraph as I've read lately. I can't wait for May 4th.

Lemonade Is the Opiate of the Masses

| Tue Apr. 26, 2016 4:02 PM EDT

I'm having some trouble coming up with political or even quasi-political topics to write about this morning, so instead let's watch Chris Hayes risk his hard-won career in a single tweet:

A few tweets later Hayes is careful to assure us that he hasn't gone completely around the bend: "In conclusion: @Beyonce is legitimately a genius and we're lucky to have her in our shared cultural life." Whew. Even in the polysyncretic, multicultural stewpot that defines modern America, there are still a few norms of required behavior left, and unqualified praise of Beyoncé is high on that list. I was relieved to see that Hayes was questioning only the meaning of Beyonce's lyrics, not her unparalleled genius.

I suppose it comes as no surprise that I don't care one way or the other about Beyoncé. I've read snatches of the lyrics from Lemonade, and they strike me about the same way most popular music lyrics strike me. "Middle fingers up, put them hands high. Wave it in his face, tell him, boy, bye. Tell him, boy, bye, middle fingers up. I ain't thinking ‘bout you." That really doesn't do much for me, but de gustibus. I could name lots of stuff that's meaningful to me but strikes most other people as puerile or just plain dumb.

Still, it really is kind of weird that Hayes is so obviously reticent about asking his question. For those of you who just returned from a trip to Mt. Everest, Lemonade is Beyoncé's latest album, and the lyrics are all about the pain she felt when her husband, music mogul Jay-Z, cheated on her. Or so it's universally assumed. It is very definitely not assumed that Beyoncé is capable of writing searing lyrics that have nothing to do with her own personal life. Odd, isn't it? That's almost the definition of a genius. Why couldn't she do that?

For what it's worth, I'd also point out a couple of other things. First, Beyoncé is famous for her almost fanatical control of her image. Second, as many people have pointed out, Lemonade is available for streaming only on Tidal, which is Jay-Z's company. So that means Beyoncé is helping Jay make a lot of money off his alleged infidelity—and shoring up his faltering streaming service at the same time.

So then. Take your pick:

  • Jay-Z cheated on Beyoncé. She's pissed off about it and wrote an album to exorcise her pain.
  • Nothing happened. It's just an album on the subject of infidelity and other things, which Beyoncé captures with astonishing virtuosity. Geniuses can do that sort of thing.
  • It's all part of Beyoncé's endless pseudo-narrative, which she controls with about the same subtlety that Stalin used to control the Red Army. Art in the service of art may have a long and rich history, but art in the service of great riches does too.

And with that, I'm off to lunch while everyone tears me apart. Have fun!

This Powerful Video Shows Just How Violent Online Harassment Is for Women in Sports

| Tue Apr. 26, 2016 2:16 PM EDT

Part of the unstated job description for a woman in sports seems to involve dealing with serious forms of online abuse—harassment that often extends well beyond the innocuous jab and into violent, misogynistic threats. It's a well-documented problem, but that doesn't matter. It's a near daily reality for far too many women working in sports.

A new video featuring Sarah Spain and Julie DiCaro, two well-known professional sports reporters, brings the issue to the forefront. They gathered some of the tweets they had received on the job and asked a few men to read them back. Here are a selection of those messages:

"One of the players should beat you to death with their hockey stick, like the whore you are."

"This is why we don't hire any females unless we need our cocks sucked or our food cooked."

"Sarah Spain is a self-important, know-it-all cunt."

"Hopefully this skank Julie DiCaro is Bill Cosby's next victim. That would be classic."

The men in the video appear visibly struggling to recite the disturbing language other men have directed at Spain and DiCaro. "I don't think I can even say that," one man says. "I'm having trouble looking at you when I'm saying these things," another says.

The video ends with several of the men apologizing for having anything to do with bringing back the tweets. They are clearly taken aback with the material they've just read. As for Spain and DiCaro, they sit nearly silent; their familiarity with the experience didn't make it any easier to handle.

Kansas Becomes the Latest State to Freak Out Over Syrian Refugees

| Tue Apr. 26, 2016 1:21 PM EDT
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback announced on Tuesday that Kansas is withdrawing from the federal government's refugee resettlement program over concerns that Syrian refugees could be security threats.

"Because the federal government has failed to provide adequate assurances regarding refugees it is settling in Kansas, we have no option but to end our cooperation with and participation in the federal refugee resettlement program," Brownback said in a press release.

Brownback had already issued an executive order in November stating that "no department, commission, board, or agency of the government of the State of Kansas shall aid, cooperate with, or assist in any way the relocation of refugees from Syria to the State of Kansas." Tuesday's announcement would apply to refugees from any country. But while the move sounds drastic, it's mostly a symbolic act that will have little on-the-ground impact for refugees or public safety.

For one, pulling out of the federal resettlement program doesn't mean refugees won't be allowed to live in Kansas. While Indiana and other states have tried to bar Syrians from entering their borders, they aren't actually able to do so. Like any other visa holders, refugees are able to go anywhere in the United States they'd like. It also doesn't mean that support for refugees who are currently living in Kansas or may move there will dry up. The funds that state agencies use for refugee aid are almost entirely federal money, and the Department of Health and Human Services retains control over the funds even if state employees or agencies don't take part. In those cases, Health and Human Services simply appoints another organization to administer the money. "This is the situation in some other states, usually because their resettlement program is very small," says Stacie Blake, the director of government and community relations at the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, one of the nonprofit groups that resettles refugees. "The money is not 'lost.'"

According to data from the State Department, only five Syrians have settled in Kansas since October last year.

It Was Chinese Tea That Spawned the Tea Party

| Tue Apr. 26, 2016 12:18 PM EDT

Today brings a new academic entry in the angry voter sweepstakes. A quartet of high-powered economists took a look at congressional districts and divided them up by how much they were exposed to trade with China. Some districts showed lots of job losses due to trade while others showed very little. How did voters react?

Districts with lots of job losses were somewhat more likely to vote out incumbents, but not by a lot. Nor were they more likely to switch parties. However, they were likely to become more extreme, electing very conservative Republicans and very liberal Democrats:

The point estimates suggest that about three quarters of the movement away from the political center induced by trade is the result of increasing conservativeness among elected legislators, while one quarter is due to increasing liberalness.

....Districts subject to larger increases in import competition from China are substantially less likely to elect a moderate legislator....Comparing more and less trade-exposed districts, the more-exposed district would become 18.5 percentage points less likely to have a centrist in power between 2002 and 2010. To put this magnitude in context, over the 2002 to 2010 time period, the fraction of “moderates” in the House declines to 37.1% from a baseline of 56.8%.

The authors believe that import competition from China following their accession to the WTO has played a big role in the polarization of American politics:

China bashing is now a popular pastime as much among liberal Democrats as among Tea Party Republicans. Our contribution in this paper is to show that this political showmanship is indicative of deeper truths. Growing import competition from China has contributed to the disappearance of moderate legislators in Congress, a shift in congressional voting toward ideological extremes, and net gains in the number of conservative Republican representatives, including those affiliated with the Tea Party movement.

Why did this benefit conservatives more than liberals? At a guess, it's because they were better able to tap into voter anger. Both sides could make similar economic arguments, but conservatives could add a healthy dose of nationalism to the mix, something that liberals are a lot less comfortable with. That made their attacks on China more resonant.

Ironically, voters on both sides were basically getting scammed. Big talk aside, neither conservatives nor liberals did much to reduce trade with China. In fact, it's not clear there was much they could have done. Short of abandoning the WTO and starting a trade war, there really weren't a lot of options on the table. The net result, then, was lots of windy rhetoric and a more polarized Congress, and eventually the Donald Trump campaign. But Trump, like all the rest of the China bashers, has nothing more than windy rhetoric too.

At this point, the game is almost fully played out anyway. China's impact on American jobs is a done deal, with little more to come as China itself moves to a less manufacturing-oriented economy and finds itself in competition with countries like Vietnam and Indonesia. But if the authors of this paper are right, the American political scene will continue to pay a price for decades to come.

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Republicans Aren't Very Happy With the 21st Century

| Tue Apr. 26, 2016 11:01 AM EDT

If America is no longer great, when was it great?

When asked to select America’s greatest year, Trump supporters offered a wide range of answers, with no distinct pattern. The most popular choice was the year 2000. But 1955, 1960, 1970 and 1985 were also popular. More than 2 percent of Trump’s supporters picked 2015, when Mr. Trump’s campaign began.

Hmmm. Trump supporters seem to have a fondness for nice, even years. Not just Trump supporters, though: the year 2000 was the single biggest winner among both Democrats and Republicans. I suppose that makes sense. The economy was booming, 9/11 was still in our future, China hadn't joined the WTO, and nobody knew that our upcoming election would be decided by the Supreme Court instead of the voters. But let's return to Republicans:

In March, Pew asked people whether life was better for people like them 50 years ago — and a majority of Republicans answered yes. Trump supporters were the most emphatic, with 75 percent saying things were better in the mid-1960s.

....There were partisan patterns in views of America’s greatness. Republicans, over all, recall the late 1950s and the mid-1980s most fondly. Sample explanations: “Reagan.” “Economy was booming.” “No wars!” “Life was simpler.” “Strong family values.” The distribution of Trump supporters’ greatest years is somewhat similar to the Republican trend, but more widely dispersed over the last 70 years.

No surprises here. Old white folks pine for the days when other old white folks ruled the country. Democrats, by contrast, who are a lot less white, are considerably less enthusiastic about those days.

Final Poll Results for Pennsylvania and Maryland

| Mon Apr. 25, 2016 9:32 PM EDT

Here are the final Pollster aggregates for the Democratic primaries in Pennsylvania and Maryland, the two big states up for grabs tomorrow. If this is how things turn out, there's really no case left to be made that Bernie Sanders has a chance to win the nomination. A few minutes ago I was watching his town hall with Chris Hayes, and it seemed like he knew it. He struck me as more subdued than usual, pumping out his standard answers sort of mechanically, rather than with any passion. He may have said "revolution" several times, but his eyes didn't seem to agree. We'll see.

On the Republican side, Donald Trump is way out front everywhere. If Cruz and Kasich are able to prevent him from getting to 1,237 before the convention, it's going to be by a hair. It's still sort of hard to believe, but Trump is only getting stronger as the primary season continues.

Congressional Republicans Found the Most Useless Way to Combat Race and Sex Discrimination

| Mon Apr. 25, 2016 5:46 PM EDT

Republicans in Congress are trying to end race and sex discrimination—in the womb. The Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA) would ban abortion on the basis of the race or sex of the fetus. Republicans say the measure is necessary to protect the civil rights of African Americans and women.

"It took the Civil War to make the state-sanctioned practice of human slavery come to an end," said Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), the bill's author, during a recent hearing on the measure. "One glaring exception is life itself, the most foundational civil right of all."

According to Franks, who has introduced various versions PRENDA since 2008, ending race- and sex-selective abortions is the "civil rights struggle that will define our generation." During a hearing by an all-male committee earlier this month, Franks also noted that upward of 50 percent of African American babies are "killed before they're born," and that "a Hispanic child is three times more likely to be aborted than a white child."

The proposed measure would make it illegal for a physician to perform on abortion on a pregnant woman who wants the procedure because the fetus isn't her desired sex or race. Under the measure, the father of the unborn child and the pregnant woman's parents could sue a physician who performs such an abortion. Doctors would also be required to report suspected cases to law enforcement.

It's unclear where Franks is getting his numbers. A 2012 Guttmacher report found that evidence of sex- and race-based abortions in the United States is limited and inconclusive. According to the report, two studies using 2000 US census data found that although the sex ratio of first-born children was normal in families of Chinese, Indian, and Korean descent, those families did have a preference for sons in second and third births. The authors in that study were unable to conclude whether the imbalance was caused by abortion or fertility treatments.

But in a single 2011 study, commonly cited by PRENDA advocates, 65 Indian Americans who were interviewed had practiced sex selection, through either fertility treatments or abortion.

More recent data suggests that contrary to some stereotypes, Asian American communities are not biased in sex selecting for sons. A 2014 report by researchers at the University of Chicago Law School and two abortion rights groups analyzed population data from 2007 to 2011 and found that Chinese, Indian, and Korean Americans have more girls that white Americans.

Evidence to suggest that black and Hispanic communities are targeting their abortions is even less clear. According to Guttmacher, abortions are more common in black communities than white ones because unintended pregnancies are also more common. As a result, African American women get abortions at a rate five times higher than white women. "The truth is that behind virtually every abortion is an unintended pregnancy," wrote Susan A. Cohen in a 2008 article on abortion and women of color.

In a letter to the House, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of 200 civil rights organizations, points out that health and economic disparities of black and Hispanic women are likely to blame for increased abortion. "African American women and Latina women have less access to contraception, prenatal care, and other critical reproductive health services, resulting in stark disparities across a number of sexual and reproductive health indicators," the Leadership Conference wrote.

Loretta Ross, the national coordinator of SisterSong, a reproductive justice organization for women of color, told Mother Jones in 2011, "It's kind of hard to find evidence that a black woman is going to have an abortion because she's surprised to find her baby is black. It just strains credulity to think that's a problem. I mean, she wakes up in the morning and says 'Oh my God! My baby's black!'?"

According to abortion rights advocates and Democratic legislators, the measure could increase discrimination against pregnant women, particularly women of color, by forcing doctors to speculate on the reasons their patients seek abortions, and then requiring the physicians to report suspected discriminatory abortions. Because of stereotypes that Asian communities prefer male children, advocates worry that Asian women would be especially vulnerable to profiling by their physicians. 

"This bill is so horrendous that I could not believe it when it was first brought up," said Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.). "It is a nightmare. This is a piece of legislation that would impose criminal penalties on providers and limit the reproductive choices of women of color and all women."

Seven states already ban abortion based on sex selection. Only Arizona, which Franks represents, also bans race-selective abortions. 

Bernie Is Turning Millennials More Liberal—Maybe

| Mon Apr. 25, 2016 3:24 PM EDT

According to the latest Harvard IOP poll, young folks are becoming increasingly liberal:

Polling director John Della Volpe thinks this is all due to the Bernie Sanders effect:

"He's not moving a party to the left. He's moving a generation to the left," Della Volpe said of the senator from Vermont. "Whether or not he's winning or losing, it's really that he's impacting the way in which a generation — the largest generation in the history of America — thinks about politics."

....It's rare, Della Volpe said, for young people's attitudes to change much from year to year in Harvard's polling, and even more remarkable for so many of these measures to shift in the same direction at the same time.

Maybe! But young voters have been trending more liberal and more Democratic ever since the Bush presidency. It may be rare for Harvard to see young voters turn more liberal on so many issues at once in a single year, but I'll bet it's also rare for their poll to be done right smack in the middle of a presidential campaign focused on precisely these issues. Bottom line: I know I'm an innately cautious guy, but even so I'd hold off on the "moving a generation to the left" cheerleading until we get at least a few years of steady progress in these numbers.

In other Harvard IOP news, young voters prefer Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump by a huge margin. I don't think anyone is going to argue about that.