Mojo - January 2014

Do Sex Traffickers Really Target the Super Bowl?

| Sat Feb. 1, 2014 12:36 PM EST
A Polaris Project anti-trafficking ad in New York City. Billboards and digital spots appear throughout the NY/NJ metro areas.

For the past few years, as January comes to an end, the media and government officials sound an ominous warning: Sex trafficking will be on the rise during the Super Bowl. Because of the sporting event, "the cruelty of human trafficking goes on for several weeks," said Rep. Christopher Smith of New Jersey, the site of this year's Super Bowl. John McCain's wife, Cindy, has called the Super Bowl "the largest human-trafficking venue on the planet." As their logic goes, hundreds of thousands of fun-seeking fans will descend on New Jersey and New York this weekend. With the crowds will come an increased demand for sex, and, in turn, sex trafficking.

But as several publications have noted, data from the past few years doesn't support this link—only four arrests were made during coordinated sweeps at the last three Super Bowls combined. Bradley Myles, the CEO of anti-trafficking nonprofit Polaris Project, which houses the National Human Trafficking Hotline, told Mother Jones that "we haven't seen a great deal of evidence that there is a massive rise in trafficking during the Super Bowl," adding that the hotline will "staff up modestly" but "doesn't experience a major increase in calls."

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A Roger Ailes Movie Will Likely Happen—Here's Who Should Play Him

| Fri Jan. 31, 2014 6:13 PM EST

Earlier this week, TheWrap published an interview with author and journalist Gabriel Sherman, about The Loudest Voice in the Room, his new, much-discussed unauthorized biography of Fox News president Roger Ailes. The biography has gained attention for its juicy content (such as a producer claiming that Ailes, then at NBC, offered her an extra $100 a week if she agreed to have sex with him whenever he asked), and for being the target of a campaign, by Fox News and others in conservative media, to discredit Sherman's reporting.

At the end of the Wrap Q&A, reporter L.A. Ross asks Sherman if he has received any offers from studios or production companies about turning his book into a movie. "Well...it's too early to talk about that, but I think Ailes is an incredibly cinematic character, and would find a natural home on the big screen," Sherman replied. When pressed further, he simply said, "No comment."

The idea of a Hollywood epic chronicling the saga of Ailes was intriguing, so I poked around a little: a source with knowledge of the situation says that folks in Hollywood have indeed expressed interest in developing Sherman's book into a film. (This might go nicely with the Rush Limbaugh movie that John Cusack has supposedly been working on.)

I haven't been able to get any other details yet, but the prospect of a feature film on the life and work of a figure as towering and powerful as the ultra-conservative Roger Ailes got me thinking. Which actor should play him?

Here are my top suggestions for casting the role of the Fox News chief. If you have better ones, please put them in the comments below.

 

1. John Goodman, who basically already portrayed an Ailes-type character on the third season of NBC's Community.

John Goodman
David Shankbone/Wikimedia Commons

 

2. Paul Giamatti, who has played a cartoonish right-wing villain before.

Paul Giamatti
Justin Hoch/Hudson Union Society

 

3. Jonathan Banks, the Breaking Bad star who's done a Chuck Norris movie.

Jonathan Banks
Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

 

4. Conleth Hill, who plays a eunuch overseeing a large network of informants on HBO's Game of Thrones.

Conleth Hill

 

5. Anthony Hopkins, who was nominated for an Oscar for portraying President Richard Nixon (for whom Ailes was a paid consultant).

 

6. Rip Torn, who actually blames Ailes' old boss Nixon for stalling his acting career in the 1970s.

Rip Torn
 Alec Michael/Globe Photos/ZUMA

 

7. Robert Duvall, whose politics line up reasonably well with Ailes'.

 

8. Douglas Urbanski, who played former Treasury secretary Larry Summers in David Fincher's The Social Network.

Douglas Urbanski
DukeofConDao/YouTube

 

9. Daniel Day-Lewis…just because Daniel Day-Lewis can play anyone and anything.

Daniel Day-Lewis

 

NFL Commissioner Says Washington Football Team's Name "Honors Native Americans," Native Americans Disagree

| Fri Jan. 31, 2014 4:46 PM EST

During his pre-Super Bowl press conference Friday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was asked if he would ever call a Native American by the name of the Washington football team. Goodell hedged, instead saying the name has been "presented in a way that honors Native Americans." (Goodell sent a letter to members of Congress last year defending the name.)

On Wednesday, ThinkProgress reporter Travis Waldron published an exhaustive account of the fight to rebrand the slur, revealing that the Washington team consulted with Republican advisers—including GOP messaging consultant Frank Luntz (of "death tax" fame), former George W. Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer (of Iraq War fame), and former Virginia governor and US senator George Allen (of "macaca" fame)—on how to handle criticism of the team's name.

If Goodell, team owner Dan Snyder, and friends like Luntz, Fleischer, and Allen don't understand the issue, they might want to take a look at an ad the National Congress of American Indians released Monday. Watch here:

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for January 31, 2014

Fri Jan. 31, 2014 11:10 AM EST

U.S. Army Spc. Steven Hitchcock assigned to 55th Signal Company (Combat Camera), takes photographs during a mission on Fort Hunter Liggett, Calif., Jan. 22, 2014. Hitchcock's mission was to document Task Force Training conducted by Rangers from 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Rashene Mincy/ Released)

Koch-Tied Groups Funded GOP Effort to Mess With Electoral College Rules

| Fri Jan. 31, 2014 9:26 AM EST

A Koch brothers mask at a 2013 protest.

Last election season, a shadowy nonprofit pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into a campaign to change how electoral votes are counted. The group didn't disclose who was funding its efforts—a fact that Mother Jones highlighted in a story titled "Who's Paying for the GOP's Plan to Hijack the 2012 Election?" But now, thanks to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a nonpartisan government watchdog, it's clear that organizations with ties to billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch footed at least some of the bill.

Each state and the District of Columbia has a certain number of electoral votes, based on their population, and they get to decide for themselves how those votes should be allotted. Currently, every state except Maine and Nebraska gives all of their electoral votes to the candidate who wins the statewide popular vote. But in 2011, GOP lawmakers in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin introduced bills that would divide electoral votes among candidates based on how many congressional districts they won. Because Republicans drew the boundaries of the districts in those states, this scheme would be almost certain to hand Republican presidential candidates the majority of their electoral votes—even if more voters cast ballots for Democrats. (Read more about how the plan would work here.) Presuming the race is close enough, this could decide the nationwide outcome.

In the case of Pennsylvania, a mysterious nonprofit called All Votes Matter spent large sums lobbying for these changes. Local officials wondered about its funding sources. "They raised an awful lot of money very quickly—$300,000 in just a few days," Democratic Pennsylvania state Sen. Daylin Leach told Mother Jones at the time. "We're all curious where that level of funding comes from." But All Votes Matter didn't disclose its donors, nor did it have to. The group is organized as a 501(c)4 "social welfare" nonprofit, which means that it can spend money on politics while keeping its donors secret. (Such groups are not supposed to spend more than half of their budget on political causes, but IRS enforcement is slack.) Thus the public knew little about the agendas behind this effort to upend the mechanics of presidential elections.

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."