Mojo - March 2013

WATCH: Investigating Major League Baseball's Second-Class System in the Dominican Republic

| Mon Mar. 4, 2013 4:02 AM PST

Read the full story, "Inside Major League Baseball's Dominican Sweatshop System," here.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Ashley Judd in DC: I'm a Three-Time Rape Survivor

| Fri Mar. 1, 2013 4:21 PM PST
Possible Kentucky Senate candidate Ashley Judd.

In her first appearance in Washington, DC since hinting at running for Senate in January, Ashley Judd opened up about the sexual abuse she was subjected to when she was younger.

Judd, who is considering a challenge to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) next fall as a Democrat, did not take questions from the press—although she did allude to reporters briefly as the "people here who don't give a rat's you-know-what about violence"—spoke for more than a hour on Friday at George Washington University on virtually anything but electoral politics. (Topics ranged from child prostitution, to female empowerment, to reproductive health care, to corruption in the Democratic Republic of Congo, to her Kentucky roots.)

But her most candid remarks may have come when she was asked if she had any advice for women who have been sexually assaulted:

I've been aware of gender violence all my life, being a survivor of gender violence. Yet I was astonished when I went to graduate school and started to do a deeper dive on gender violence here in America how prevalent rape and attempted rape is, particularly amongst young people. Am I correct that it's one in three college* students, college women? So that's a lot. That's a third of us in this room. And I think part of what's important, in addition to how we shape the narrative, is that we all have the courage to talk about it, because we're as sick as our secrets and the shame keeps us in isolation. And when we find that shared experience, we gather our strength and our hope. So for example, I'm a three-time survivor of rape, and about that I have no shame, because it was never my shame to begin with—it was the perpetrator's shame. And only when I was a grown empowered adult and had healthy boundaries and had the opportunity to do helpful work on that trauma was I able to say, okay, that perpetrator was shameless, and put their shame on me. Now I gave that shame back, and it's my job to break my isolation and talk with other girls and other women.

At that point, she acknowledged the audience reaction. "I see some people crying," Judd said. "And that's good."

At that, Judd returned to talking about her work, mostly overseas, working with kids who had been sexually abused. "Because I am that kid," she said. "I was that kid. And there are least a third of the people in this room who would tell that same story if they had the opportunity."

Later in the Q&A, a self-identified rape survivor thanked Judd for her answer. "I am glad that you spoke openly today, because I felt so alone," she said. "I know it is one in four because by my senior year in college I could count."

Judd first discussed her childhood trauma in her 2011 memoir, All That is Bitter and Sweet. "An old man everyone knew beckoned me into a dark, empty corner of the business and offered me a quarter for the pinball machine at the pizza place if I'd sit on his lap," she wrote. "He opened his arms, I climbed up, and I was shocked when he suddenly cinched his arms around me, squeezing me and smothering my mouth with his, jabbing his tongue deep into my mouth."

Although the discussion of rape elicited the greatest emotional reaction from the audience, the bigger takeaway from Judd's talk—at least according to my Twitter feed—was Judd's frequent lapses into Hollywoodese. She referenced her friendship with Bono more than once, and at one point joked about spending winters in Scotland (where her husband is from).

*Estimates vary, but it's somewhere between 20 and 25 percent.

The Showdown Over Gun Laws From Coast to Coast

| Fri Mar. 1, 2013 3:29 PM PST

Sen. Dianne Feinstein's new proposal to ban assault weapons may not have much forward momentum in Congress, but in the wake of the Newtown massacre state lawmakers around the country have been moving quickly to impose new gun laws—on both sides of the issue.

On Thursday, the Maryland Senate passed what would be one of the nation's strictest gun control laws, banning magazines holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition, a range of guns classified as assault weapons, and gun sales to anyone who has spent a month or more in a state mental hospital. If the Maryland House and governor's office, both controlled by Democrats, sign off on the Senate's bill, the state would join California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and New York in outlawing magazines holding more than 10 rounds. (New York's new law limits gun magazines to seven rounds.) That restriction is the same as the one in Feinstein's proposal to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, which are popular among mass murderers and street kids alike. Seven states including Maryland already have assault weapons bans on the books.

In the other direction, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam is poised to sign a "gun-in-trunks" bill, which his state's House passed Thursday after a four-year battle, allowing permit holders to bring their firearms to work if they keep them locked in their vehicles.

The two bills are the latest in a slew of gun legislation introduced or revived in more than 40 statehouses since the violence at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December shocked the nation. The first gun control bill to pass since the shooting was the strengthened assault weapons ban signed into law by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in late January, the nation's toughest. Meanwhile, states including Idaho and Mississippi are pushing bills to expand concealed carry laws, which would add to a wave of such laws put in place from Maine to Arizona since 2009.

Al Qaeda Hits Obama for Supporting Marriage Equality

| Fri Mar. 1, 2013 9:58 AM PST

Al Qaeda says the United States has another crime to add to its litany of atrocities: support for same-sex marriage. 

In the latest issue of Inspire, the Al Qaeda-produced English-language magazine that teaches readers how to cause traffic accidents, torch parked cars, and "make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom," the terrorist group goes after President Barack Obama for "evolving" on marriage equality. In an infographic titled "The Nation Standing on 'No Values," the magazine also goes after "gay congressman" Barney Frank, who is no longer a congressman. It also cites statistics showing American Catholics are less likely to attend Mass and are increasingly supportive of same-sex marriage.  

Here it is:

Al Qaeda is a strict "traditional marriage" outfit.

The image calls Frank a "symbol of the American dream," which appears meant to be insulting. Let us all tremble at the thought of the infinite masses who never thought about being a terrorist before they stopped to consider Obama shifting his position on same-sex marriage. 

Why bring this up at all? Al Qaeda "fundamentally believe[s] there is a moral decay because of Western cultural and social norms," says Aaron Zelin, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "The issues of Western policy in the region loom larger for sure, but the socio-cultural issues are also important when one goes beyond the surface rhetoric."

There's no way to know if Al Qaeda is following the legal developments over same-sex marriage, but it's certainly fortuitous timing. On Thursday the Obama administration filed a brief to the Supreme Court urging the justices to strike down California's ban on same-sex marriage.

Hat tip: Will McCants

In South Dakota, Women Can't Think on Weekends

| Fri Mar. 1, 2013 9:26 AM PST

On Thursday, South Dakota lawmakers approved a bill that will make its waiting period for abortions—already the most restrictive in the country—even more cumbersome. As we have reported here previously, the state already has a 72-hour waiting period for women seeking an abortion, but this new bill will exclude weekends and holidays from that time period—since, you know, women are not capable of thinking about their abortion adequately on a Saturday or Sunday.

Current law already requires a woman to consult with her doctor, then visit an anti-abortion organization called a crisis pregnancy center, and then wait 72 hours before she can actually have an abortion. This new law, which passed in the Senate on Thursday by a 24 to 9 vote, will mean that a woman who goes in for her initial consultation for an abortion on a Wednesday would have to wait five days before she can have actually have the procedure—six if she goes in before a long weekend. The governor is expected to sign the bill into law.

South Dakota has only one abortion provider, a Planned Parenthood clinic in Sioux Falls, and its doctors fly in from out of state. Women already travel from as far as six hours away to reach the clinic. While the clinic has said that has been able to find a way to make the 72-hour waiting period work, it thinks this new law will make it next to impossible for many women to access an abortion.

"It could mean that abortion is virtually inaccessible for many women, if not all women," Alisha Sedor, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice South Dakota, told Mother Jones. "It doesn't matter if abortion is legal in South Dakota if de facto women can't access services."

South Dakota voters have twice rejected a ban on abortion at the polls, in 2006 and 2008. But lawmakers have continued to chip away at access over the past few years. "South Dakotans have spoken on this issue and they do not want politicians interfering with the personal medical decision-making," said Sarah Stoesz, president of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota.

The new law's critics have been having some fun on bill sponsor Jon Hansen's Facebook page, asking him for advice about weekend decisions since their tiny woman brains obviously can't handle them. Here are a few gems:

 

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for March 1, 2013

Fri Mar. 1, 2013 9:15 AM PST

Marines with 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion suspend from a special purpose insertion and extraction rope after being extracted from the jungle Feb. 21 during a patrol at the Jungle Warfare Training Center on Camp Gonsalves, Okinawa, Japan. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Mark W. Stroud.

 

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Coal Giant's $10 Million Loan to Democrats Is Now a $10 Million Donation

| Fri Mar. 1, 2013 8:49 AM PST

The Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, Va.

Last summer, with organizers struggling to raise enough money for the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, party planners turned to Duke Energy, headquartered in Charlotte, for help. Duke, the nation's largest utility company, stepped up with a $10 million line of credit for the convention. Organizers insisted Duke would be repaid after the convention.

Or…not.

A Duke Energy official told the Charlotte Observer on Thursday that Democratic officials would not repay the $10 million they owe the company. Instead, Duke Energy will write off the loan as a business expense. Shareholders are expected to absorb $6 million of the cost of the loan.

In effect, Duke Energy's "loan" has turned out to be a $10 million contribution to the Democratic convention. Duke CEO Jim Rogers hinted at this possibility in an interview with the Observer last month, when it was becoming clear the Democrats might not repay the company. "At the end of the day, we'll do our best to get our money back," he said. "But if we don't, it's just a contribution we're making I think for the greater good of our community."

The decision by Democratic organizers not to repay the loan smacks of hypocrisy. In the run-up to the convention, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), the chair of the Democratic National Committee, vowed that convention organizers would not accept corporate money. "We will make this the first convention in history that does not accept any funds from lobbyists, corporations, or political action committees," she said. Yet even before the Duke loan became a straight-up donation, various convention committees revealed that they had accepted corporate money. One committee took in at least $5 million in corporate money to rent Charlotte's Time Warner Cable Arena and a million more in in-kind contributions from AT&T, Bank of America, Coca-Cola, Microsoft, and Costco.

Asked about this hypocrisy, Democratic officials have responded by noting that their anti-corporate-cash pledge was self-imposed. Legally, they could use corporate money to fund their convention. Which, in the end, is precisely what they did.

Are Foreigners Smarter Than US Workers?

| Fri Mar. 1, 2013 4:06 AM PST

This week, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg urged Congress to issue more H-1B visas for highly skilled foreign workers. The US needs "an immigration system that brings the best, brightest, and hardest workers to our shores," he said. His words echoed an editorial published last year by Bloomberg News headlined "Help The US Economy With Visas for the Best and Brightest."

Unfortunately, the phrase "best and brightest" has a slippery history. It's best known as the ironic title of journalist David Halberstam's book about the architects of the Vietnam war. And it applies in a similarly upside-down way to foreign tech workers, who, according to a study released yesterday by the Economic Policy Institute, demonstrate no more talent in important areas than similarly educated Americans, and in some cases may be less qualified.