Mojo - January 2014

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for January 27, 2014

Mon Jan. 27, 2014 10:48 AM EST

U.S. Marines with Alpha Company, 2nd Assault Amphibious Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, stage Assault Amphibious Vehicle P7A1’s before conducting another splash entry during a training exercise at Onslow Beach aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., Jan. 9, 2014. The training exercise was conducted to practice beach raids for future ship to shore operations. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Christopher Mendoza/Released)

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Watch: 4 Republicans Flub Response to Obama State of the Union

| Mon Jan. 27, 2014 7:00 AM EST

Marco Rubio getting ready for his State of the Union response last year. Note the lack of a visible source of water.

President Barack Obama is set to deliver his 2014 State of the Union address on Tuesday night. Early leaks suggest a speech that will focus on steps to fight economic inequality, particularly by increasing the minimum wage and expanding universal pre-K. But let's forget all that silly policy gibberish for the moment, and focus on what the State of the Union really means: It means a Republican politician has an unparalleled opportunity to really embarrass herself.

The State of the Union response is typically a plum given to one of the opposition party's up-and-comers, and on Tuesday the honor will go to Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the highest ranking woman in the GOP house leadership. But she may want to think twice before celebrating: In recent years, Republicans have found it an unenviable gig, more likely to stall or sink a rising politician than aid their ascent.

The president's speech opens with a long, applauded walk to the podium, along which he can't help but be bear hugged by every random House member. He takes the stage with before a rapturous crowd in a grandeur-filled House chamber, and he will get approximately a gazillion standing ovations.

If you're the responder, that's a tough act to follow. The networks will cut to you standing in a room, usually by yourself, awkwardly staring into a camera. Your speech writers probably had a general sense of what the president was going to say, but without specifics in advance, you'll be left unprepared to rebut his arguments and be forced to speak in broad generalities. It's a setup that makes these speeches droll, bland, and inoffensive affairs.

But that doesn't mean they can't be memorable, as a string of gaffes from Republican responders in the Obama era shows. Here's a brief selection of highlights:

2009: Obama didn't give an official State of the Union address in 2009 since he'd just been inaugurated. But the president did trek down Pennsylvania Avenue to speak before a joint session of congress that had the same pomp and circumstance. Republicans jumped at the opportunity, offering Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal the respondent's slot. Jindal, long talked about as a potential national candidate, fell to earth after the speech. He retread the same-old small-government-is-good arguments in a hackneyed, "amateurish," manner that even disappointed the Fox News crowd. Adding insult to injury, the next night Jimmy Fallon invited Georgia-born actor Jack McBrayer on his show to parody Jindal's speech.


2010: Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell got the honors for Obama's first official State of the Union. And McDonnell, who had just been elected governor a few months before, actually gave a compelling speech, generally considered the best response of the Obama years. He ditched the lone-man routine and spoke before a receptive audience in Virginia's capitol building, matching at least a bit of Washington's ceremony. It catapulted his national reputation and fed presidential speculation—speculation that disappeared when his administration became embroiled in corruption charges. Last week, the feds indicted McDonnell and his wife for accepting thousands of dollars worth of luxury gifts from a political supporter seeking favors from his administration.


2011: Rep. Paul Ryan, a good-looking GOP boy wonder, was poised to offer a dynamic alternative vision for the role of government. Instead, the Wisconsin congressman turned in a snoozefest—and was upstaged by another House Republican. Minnesota's Michele Bachmann gave the inaugural "Tea Party Response," a collection of her normal out-there theories. But everyone was too distracted by technical difficulties—she spent the entire speech staring vacantly off camera—to pay much attention to her words.


2013: Last year, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio's response gave us the crème de la crème of viral moments. After opening solid, Rubio was making his way through a fine speech until physical discomfort began to set in. He looked visibly uncomfortable, smacking his lips, doubt creeping into his brow. Finally, after speaking for 11 minutes, he caved, the risk of dry mouth too great. He did his best to maintain eye-contact with the camera. But his eyes betrayed panic as he lunged off screen to nab a minute bottle of water and audibly gulp down some relief.

Please enjoy that moment over and over again in full slow motion glory:

Here's to 2014!

Jimmy Fallon Makes Sex Jokes With Mitt Romney As They "Slow Jam the News"

| Sat Jan. 25, 2014 12:54 PM EST

On Friday, Mitt Romney joined Jimmy Fallon and the Roots on NBC's Late Night to "slow jam the news." The main topic of the segment was President Obama's upcoming State of the Union address. Highlights include Fallon making a 47 percent quip, a once-you-go-black-you-never-go-back joke (regarding Romney's loss to President Obama in the 2012 election), and other sex jokes, all while Romney sat behind him.

Watch here:

"President Obama looked the American people up and down and said, 'I'd tap that,'" Fallon says, on the subject of NSA surveillance.

Fallon and the Roots have previously slow-jammed the news with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Obama (Breitbart.com even accused NBC of violating campaign finance law by having the president on to slow-jam the news, a claim that was of course nonsense). Romney's appearance on Friday answers CBS News' nearly two-year-old question, "Will we ever see...Mitt Romney follow in President Obama's footsteps and slow jam the news?"

GOP Congressman Blasts Proposal for Muslim Cemetery

| Fri Jan. 24, 2014 7:08 PM EST

Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.) is "deeply concerned" about a newly approved plan to build a cemetery for Muslim residents of the central Tennessee city of Murfreesboro. Desjarlais, a doctor who won his seat in 2010 in part because of his outspoken opposition to abortion rights, is best-known nationally for the 2012 revelation that he had urged one of his patients to get an abortion after he impregnated her. He expressed his anxiety about the cemetery project in a post on his Facebook page Friday afternoon. The comment was first noted by the Nashville Scene.

"Unfortunately the Tennessee Religious Freedom Act, passed by the TN General Assembly, may have played a key role in allowing this cemetery to be approved," DesJarlais wrote. "There is a difference between legislation that would protect our religious freedoms and legislation that would allow for the circumvention of laws that other organizations comply with on a daily basis."

The Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, which is building the cemetery, has been a lightning rod for criticism from religious conservatives (including GOP Rep. Diane Black, who represents Murfreesboro), who have accused its members of plotting a stealth jihad against fellow American citizens. In 2010, opponents of a mosque expansion project filed a lawsuit to block it, arguing that the Islamic center was not protected by the First Amendment because Islam is not a real religion. According to the plaintiff's lawyer, the Islamic center would by default promote spousal abuse and pedophilia, which he considered to be core tenets of Islam. The building site was damaged by arson in 2010 before finally opening two years ago.

JPMorgan Paid $20 Billion in Fines Last Year—So Its Board Is Giving Jamie Dimon a Raise

| Fri Jan. 24, 2014 3:42 PM EST
JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon.

The New York Times reported Friday that Jamie Dimon, the silver-haired CEO of JPMorgan Chase, the nation's largest bank by assets, is getting a raise. Dimon is poised to add a few million to the $11.5 million compensation package he took home in 2013.

If you so much as glanced at the news last year, this bit of news may puzzle you. JPMorgan, in many ways, had a miserable 2013. JPMorgan paid $1 billion in fines in the wake of the "London Whale" scandal, in which the bank lost $6 billion on a market-rattling blunder by a trader named Bruno Iksil. The bank also paid $13 billion to settle charges that it'd peddled risky mortgage-backed securities. And it forked over another $2 billion to settle charges for failing to spot Bernie Madoff's ponzi scheme, which Madoff perpetrated largely using JPMorgan accounts. All told, the bank paid out roughly $20 billion in penalties to federal regulators over a slew of screw-ups and failures.

2013 was a rough year for JPMorgan. So why is Dimon getting a raise? The answer, in part, will make your blood boil. Here's the money quote in the Times:

Mr. Dimon's defenders point to his active role in negotiating a string of government settlements that helped JPMorgan move beyond some of its biggest legal problems. He has also solidified his support among board members, according to the people briefed on the matter, by acting as a chief negotiator as JPMorgan worked out a string of banner government settlements this year.

[...]

Mr. Dimon's star has risen more recently as he took on a critical role in negotiating both the bank’s $13 billion settlement with government authorities over its sale of mortgage-backed securities in the years before the financial crisis and the $2 billion settlement over accusations that the bank turned a blind eye to signs of fraud surrounding Bernard L. Madoff.

Just hours before the Justice Department was planning to announce civil charges against JPMorgan over its sales of shaky mortgage investments in September, Mr. Dimon personally reached out to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.—a move that averted a lawsuit and ultimately resulted in the brokered deal. Just a few months later, Mr. Dimon acted as an emissary again, this time, meeting with Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan leading the investigation into the Madoff Ponzi scheme.

In other words, as big as those multibillion-dollar settlements were, JPMorgan board members believe the bank's legal problems could've been worse. Blast-a-hole-in-our-balance-sheet worse. And so Dimon's pay bump is a reward for locking horns with bank regulators and federal authorities and hashing out settlement deals that were favorable to the bank. He's getting a raise because he beat the regulators, played them so well, JPMorgan board members seem to be saying, that he deserves to be rewarded for the deals he helped engineer.

There are other factors, too. Despite its legal headaches, JPMorgan's stock price climbed 22 percent over the past year, and the bank recorded profits of $17.9 billion in 2013. But to read that Dimon's savvy negotiating has won him a raise—and don't forget that no top bank executives have gone to jail for actions related to the 2008 financial meltdown—brings to mind the old Dick Durbin quote about banks and Washington: "They frankly own the place."

John Boehner: I'd Rather Smoke and Drink Red Wine Than Be President

| Fri Jan. 24, 2014 1:23 PM EST

On Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) stopped by NBC's The Tonight Show to chat with host and reviled coup d'état leader Jay Leno. They discussed Chris Christie, Edward Snowden, Boehner's occasional role as House "Gestapo," and the GOP-led government shutdown. ("So I said, 'You wanna fight this fight, I'll go fight the fight with you.' But it was a very predictable disaster. And so the sooner we got it over with, the better.")

But the most interesting quote Boehner had to offer Leno's audience was fluffier in nature. It came when the comedian asked the politician if he had any plans to run for president. His response:

I like to play golf. I like to cut my own grass. I do drink red wine. I smoke cigarettes and I'm not giving that up to be President of the United States.

Boehner definitely enjoys his red wine and cigarettes (two things you are allowed to consume as commander in chief, but whatever). President Obama gifted Boehner a $110 bottle of Tuscan red wine for his 63rd birthday, and Boehner received positive coverage from The Daily Beast for bringing the "booze back to Washington." Boehner is a Camel Ultra Lights smoker, and prior to the smoking ban in the Speaker's Lobby, he took smoking breaks there so frequently that one of the benches was dubbed the "Boehner bench."

You can watch longer clips of his Tonight Show interview here.

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Have You Seen This Man?

| Fri Jan. 24, 2014 12:27 PM EST

Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas), whom I profiled last year, has missed 17 consecutive votes and hasn't made any public appearances since returning from Egypt earlier this month. (He is still tweeting.)

If you've seen him, shoot us a note.

Our guess: He's finding the truth about Benghazi.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for January 24, 2014

Fri Jan. 24, 2014 10:46 AM EST

A Maldivian Marine demonstrates a rope climbing technique before an upcoming squad competition during a non-commissioned officer development program on Maafilaafushi, Maldives, Jan. 21, 2014. This training event between both U.S. and Maldivian Marines creates a setting for professional military and cultural exchanges, as well as provides both forces an opportunity to train in unfamiliar settings and gain experience with different tactics, techniques and procedures. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Pete Thibodeau/Released)

How the Christie and McDonnell Scandals Hurt the GOP, but Help the Tea Party

Thu Jan. 23, 2014 7:58 PM EST

Mother Jones DC Bureau Chief David Corn joined Chris Matthews on MSNBC's Hardball to discuss the Chris Christie and Bob McDonnell scandals, how the Tea Party benefits when the public loses faith in government, and what happens to the Republican Party when it loses its rising stars.

David Corn is Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief. For more of his stories, click here. He's also on Twitter.

FBI Arrests "The Most Hated Man on the Internet," Revenge-Porn King Hunter Moore

| Thu Jan. 23, 2014 4:18 PM EST
Hunter Moore, "The Most Hated Man on the Internet"

Thursday morning, the FBI arrested 27-year-old Hunter Moore, the founder of "Is Anyone Up," a now defunct website dedicated to publishing revenge porn—softcore or hardcore amateur pornography supposedly submitted by scorned, anonymous exes and usually accompanied by the purported names and addresses of the people (usually women) depicted. Moore—dubbed "The Most Hated Man on the Internet" by Rolling Stone—was taken into custody along with Charles Evens, 25, for allegedly conspiring to hack into the email accounts of hundreds of victims in order to steal nude photos and post them online. Moore and Evens were indicted in federal court in California and charged with one count of conspiracy, seven counts of unauthorized access to a protected computer, and seven counts of aggravated identity theft.

According to the Village Voice, Moore's website posted over two dozen nude photos a day, almost always of women, along with screenshots of the victims' names, social media accounts, and location, which he added in order to maximize Google search traffic. Last year, he was fined $250,000 for defamation after accusing an anti-bullying activist of possessing child porn. The local US attorney's office released a statement on the arrest. Here's an excerpt: 

To obtain more photos to populate the site, Moore allegedly instructed Evens to gain unauthorized access to – in other words, to hack into – victims' e-mail accounts. Moore sent payments to Evens in exchange for nude photos obtained unlawfully from the victims' accounts. Moore then posted the illegally obtained photos on his website, without the victims' consent. The indictment alleges that Evens hacked into email accounts belonging to hundreds of victims.

Read the full indictment here: