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Watch Jon Stewart Try to Get Hillary Clinton to Admit She's Running For President

| Wed Jul. 16, 2014 8:23 AM EDT

Hillary Clinton is running for president. She has not officially announced this yet because it's 2014 and tradition dictates that prospective candidates pretend to "weigh all their options" and "talk about it with their family" for a few years before actually coming out and declaring. Presumably she'll announce sometime next autumn. Anyway, she's running for president.

Her most recent non-campaign campaign stop was on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart last night. Clinton came on nominally to talk about her new memoir "Hard Choices" which documents her four years as Secretary of State in the Obama administration. “It’s an incredibly complex and well-reasoned, eyewitness view to the history of those four years," Stewart begins, "and I think I speak for everybody when I say, no one cares. They just want to know if you’re running for president.”

What followed was a very entertaining game wherein Stewart tried to trick her into betraying her presidential ambitions. (When Stewart asks whether she'd like her next office to come in a particular shape, Clinton replies, "You know, I think that the world is so complicated, the fewer corners that you can have, the better.”)

Watch the whole extended interview. It's pretty great.

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8 Reasons Why Jose Antonio Vargas Won't Be Deported

| Wed Jul. 16, 2014 6:00 AM EDT

On Tuesday morning, Jose Antonio Vargas, one of the most prominent and vocal undocumented immigrants in the United States, was detained at a Texas airport after traveling there to report on the plight of unaccompanied minors crossing the border. The Border Patrol took him into custody when he showed them a Filipino passport and no other form of identification. This was one of the few times Vargas, who self-identifies as the "most privileged" undocumented immigrant in the US, has had that privilege seriously questioned. He was released on Tuesday evening and issued a statement through his nonprofit organization, Define American:

I've been released by Border Patrol. I want to thank everyone who stands by me and the undocumented immigrants of south Texas and across the country. Our daily lives are filled with fear in simple acts such as getting on an airplane to go home to our family.

Vargas reminds those watching his case that he is representative of so many more undocumented children. But there are also many reasons why his is a special case—and why he won't be deported:

  1. He's a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and a celebrity.
  2. He's been detained, and released, before: Two years ago, a year after he revealed his status as an undocumented Filipino immigrant, Vargas was driving through Minneapolis without a legal license while wearing headphones, according to MinnPost. Although the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office was signed up for a Bush administration initiative called Secure Communities that encourages local law enforcement to hold booked undocumented immigrants for ICE, Vargas was released after roughly five hours. It's unclear how much information authorities had about Vargas' citizenship, though MinnPost points out that it was unusual for police to haul him in, given that those suspected of driving without a license tend to be issued a citation on the scene.
  3. He's dared the ICE to deport him, and it did nothing: As Vox points out, Vargas essentially surrendered to the feds in 2012 when he called ICE and "asked what the government wanted to do with him." The agency declined to comment. Technically, they can come knocking anytime they want to deport him, and they have not done so.
  4. He's not a priority: The Obama administration claims it prioritizes cases having to do with "national security, public safety, and border security," including repeat offenders who have crossed the border after deportation, convicted criminals, and "recent border crossers." Vargas doesn't fit these descriptions, considering he's been convicted of no crime and has lived in the United States since he was 12 years old. (Though CBP has its own policies on what constitutes a recent border crosser, prioritizing any unauthorized entry regardless of how long ago it occurred.)
  5. The courts are already backlogged: As MoJo's Stephanie Mencimer wrote earlier this week, immigration courts are drowning in cases, especially with the sudden influx of unaccompanied minors. There are currently 30 vacancies on the immigration bench, dozens more judges eligible for retirement, and a backlog of 375,503 cases—up 50,000 since 2013. A case like Vargas' could've sat around for years before it was addressed.
  6. Prosecutorial discretion might have favored him anyway: Even if Vargas' case were taken up by ICE, the government could have chosen at any time not to proceed. ICE can waive deportation in cases where a defendant has "positive priorities," including status as a veteran, longtime US residency, a degree from a US college or university, or even just "ties to the United States," including a "role in the community" or "work as a volunteer." Vargas arrived as an undocumented minor and was unaware of his status until he was older. He's been a journalist since he was 17. He's a graduate of San Francisco State University. And now he's the founder of nonprofit advocacy group Define American. Not only does he fit many of the positive criterion, he doesn't fit into the clearly defined "negative" categories: He is not a clear threat to national security, a gang member, or a convicted criminal.
  7. He has a slew of lawyers, immigration groups, and public figures supporting him: Chris Rickerd, a policy council expert in the American Civil Liberties Union, says Vargas' "equities are such that he should be allowed to continue his stay in the US." Allegra McLeod, a law professor at Georgetown University, claimed that she thought "his long-standing ties to this country would make the claim that it would be a moral disaster for this country" if officials were forced to consider his deportation. Cristina Jimenez, a representative of the youth immigration group United We Dream, declared in a statement: "We stand in solidarity with Jose Antonio and demand for his immediate release, but we must remember that there are thousands of people along the border that live with this same fear every day." New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also announced his support for Vargas in a public statement Tuesday, describing him as an "exemplary man whose tireless work has helped raise awareness around the lives of millions of undocumented immigrants living on American soil" and encouraging authorities to use discretion when it came to his case. 
  8. He'd be a giant headache when the government already has plenty. (See also No. 1.) We'll just have to see if the outcry over Vargas'  release would be any less of a headache for the Obama administration than his deportation might have been.

Lay Off the Almond Milk, You Ignorant Hipsters

| Wed Jul. 16, 2014 6:00 AM EDT
Take almonds and just…wait, why add water?

Almonds are a precious foodstuff: a crunchy jolt of complete protein, healthful fats, vitamins and minerals, and deliciousness. Given their rather intense ecological footprint—see here—we should probably consider them a delicacy, a special treat. That's why I think it's deeply weird to pulverize away their crunch, drown them in water, and send them out to the world in a gazillion little cartons. What's the point of almond milk, exactly?

Evidently, I'm out of step with the times on this one. "Plant-based milk" behemoth White Wave reports that its first-quarter sales of almond milk were up 50 percent from the same period in 2013. In an earnings call with investors in May, reported by FoodNavigator, CEO Greg Engles revealed that almond milk now makes up about two-thirds of the plant-based milk market in the United States, easily trumping soy milk (30 percent) and rice and coconut milks (most of the rest).

A jug of almond milk containing roughly 39 cents worth of almonds, plus filtered water and additives, retails for $3.99.

Dairy is still king, of course, comprising 90 percent of the "milk" market. But as our consumption of it dwindles—down from 0.9 cups per person per day in 1970 to about 0.6 in 2010, according to the US Department of Agriculture—plant-based alternatives are gaining ground. Bloomberg Businessweek reports that sales of alternative milks hit $1.4 billion in 2013 and are expected to hit $1.7 billion by 2016, with almond milk leading that growth.

Now, I get why people are switching away from dairy milk. Industrial-scale dairy production is a pretty nasty business, and large swaths of adults can't digest lactose, a sugar found in fresh dairy milk. Meanwhile, milk has become knit into our dietary culture, particularly at breakfast, where we cling to a generations-old tradition of drenching cereal in milk. Almond milk and other substitutes offer a way to maintain this practice while rejecting dairy. (Almond milk has been crushing once-ubiquitous soy milk, perhaps partly because of hotly contested fears that it creates hormonal imbalances.)

All that aside, almond milk strikes me as an abuse of a great foodstuff. Plain almonds are a nutritional powerhouse. Let's compare a standard serving (one ounce, about a handful) to the 48-ounce bottle of Califia Farms almond milk that a house guest recently left behind in my fridge.

A single ounce (28 grams) of almonds—nutrition info here—contains six grams of protein (about an egg's worth), along with three grams of fiber (a medium banana) and 12 grams of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (half an avocado). According to its label, an eight-ounce serving of Califia almond milk offers just one gram each of protein and fiber, and five grams of fat. A bottle of Califia delivers six eight-ounce servings, meaning that a handful of almonds contains as much protein as the mighty jug of this hot-selling beverage.

What this tells you is that the almond-milk industry is selling you a jug of filtered water clouded by a handful of ground almonds. Which leads us to the question of price and profit. The almonds in the photo above are organic, and sold in bulk at my local HEB supermarket for $11.99 per pound; this one-ounce serving set me back about 66 cents. I could have bought nonorganic California almonds for $6.49 per pound, about 39 cents per ounce. That container of Califia, which contains roughly the same number of nonorganic almonds, retails for $3.99.

        Click here for more comparisons. Mother Jones

The water-intensive nature of almond milk, of course, is no secret. By law, food manufacturers have to name ingredients in order of their prevalence in the product. For Califia and other almond milk brands, it starts like this: "filtered water, almonds." Given that it takes 1.1 gallons of water to grow a single almond in California, where 80 percent of the world's almonds are produced, drenching the finished product in yet more water seems insane.

Califia does make a couple of splashy nutritional claims: "50% more calcium than milk," the bottle declares, and "50% RDI of Vitamin E." Almonds are a great source of these vital nutrients, but not that great. Our ounce of whole almonds contains 74 mg of calcium vs. 290 mg for a cup of whole milk, and 7 mg of vitamin E, about 37 percent of the recommended daily intake.

How does Califia's beverage manage to outdo straight almonds on calcium and vitamin E when it lags so far behind on protein and fat? Again, the answer lies in the ingredients list, which reveals the addition of a "vitamin/mineral blend." All fine and well, but if you're interested in added nutrients, why not just pop a vitamin pill?

Califia almond milk contains an added "vitamin/mineral blend." So why not just pop a vitamin pill?

Moreover, almond milk isn't just a few nuts packaged with lots of water. It often contains additives. For example, in addition to vitamins, the Califia product, like many of its rivals, contains small amounts of carrageenan, a seaweed derivative commonly used as a stabilizer in beverages. Academic scientists in Chicago have raised concerns that it might cause gastrointestinal inflammation.

I'm not saying your almond milk habit is destroying the planet or ruining your health, or that you should immediately go cold turkey. I just want people to know what they're paying for when they shell our for it. As for me, when I want something delicious to moisten my granola or add substance to a smoothie, I go for organic kefir, a fermented milk product that's packed with protein, calcium, and beneficial microbes. Added bonus: According to the label, it's lactose-free—apparently, the kefir microbes transform the lactose during the fermentation process.

The industry, meanwhile, aims to take its lucrative almond milk model on the road. FoodNavigator reports that White Wave is setting up a joint venture to market its plant-based milks in almond-crazy China.

This Is How The Right Will Try to Destroy Chris Christie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom's Kitchen: Now Is the Time of Gazpacho

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

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

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

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

Essential gazpacho gear.

Gazpacho
(Serves two)

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Darrell Issa Is Unclear on the Concept of "Consultation"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here's more from HuffPost:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take a look:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The chorus appears to be:

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

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

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

(h/t Tim Carmody)

Quote of the Day: Stone Tablets Will Defeat the NSA

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

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

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

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