Political MoJo

Hillary Clinton Announces Support to Ban Wall Street Bonuses for Government Officials

A win for the Warren wing.

| Wed Sep. 2, 2015 3:33 PM EDT

On Monday, Hillary Clinton came out in support of legislation seeking to end the so-called "golden parachute" payouts that traditionally benefit private sector executives who take on jobs within the federal government—a practice long criticized by Wall Street reformers such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

"The American people need to be able to trust that every single person in Washington—from the President of the United States all the way down to agency employees—is putting the interests of the people first," Clinton wrote in an blog post for the Huffington Post, published Monday. "We want to do more to make sure that happens."

Clinton's backing of the the Financial Services Conflict of Interest Act comes after a report in the Intercept last month that revealed two senior-level State Department officials during her time as secretary, Thomas Nides and Robert Hormats, had received hefty payments from Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs respectively after taking on jobs with the State Department.

In July, Warren issued a challenge to all presidential candidates to support the legislation, calling it "a bill any presidential candidate should be able to cheer for."

"We have a presidential election coming up," she told a crowd in Phoenix. "I think anyone running for that job—anyone who wants the power to make every key economic appointment and nomination across the federal government—should say loud and clear that they agree: we don't run this country for Wall Street and mega corporations. We run it for people."

Clinton's announcement on Monday shows she is listening closely to what Warren has to say.

Since announcing her second run for president, the former secretary of state has embraced a number of policies close to Warren's heart, specifically on Wall Street reform. Last December, Clinton reportedly met privately with Warren to discuss her policy ideas. News of the conversation signaled Clinton could be ready to take a more populist approach to her campaign for the White House.

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Freddie Gray Hearings Open Amid Police Clashes

The prosecution won an early victory as protests outside turned confrontational.

| Wed Sep. 2, 2015 1:51 PM EDT

Hearings in the case against six Baltimore police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray began this morning against an all-too-familiar backdrop of police confrontations with protesters.

The first pretrial hearing of the case, involving six officers charged in Gray’s death in police custody, opened with victories for the prosecution, as a judge denied motions to dismiss the case and to recuse the state's attorney. Outside the courthouse, protesters clashed with police. People on the scene described police grabbing women, harassing members of the press, and restricting sidewalk access to the courthouse. Netta Elzie, a prominent black activist, also tweeted an account of Kwame Rose, another black activist and Baltimore resident, being hit by a police car and promptly arrested.

Inside the court, Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams denied motions to recuse State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby from the case and to dismiss charges because of alleged prosecutorial misconduct on behalf of Mosby. Defense attorneys for the six officers, who face charges ranging from involuntary manslaughter to second-degree assault, argued that Mosby should recuse herself, citing her relationship to the Gray family's attorney and her husband's position as a city councilman as reasons for a conflict of interest.

This story will be updated as it develops.

Ted Cruz Blames President Obama for Inciting Murder of Texas Cop

"Cops across this country are feeling the assault."

| Wed Sep. 2, 2015 10:59 AM EDT

Following the brutal murder of Texas Deputy Sheriff Darren Goforth over the weekend, Sen. Ted Cruz is blaming the Obama administration, especially the president, for inspiring anti-police sentiment and incidents of gun violence toward law enforcement officials.

"Cops across this country are feeling the assault," Cruz told reporters when campaigning in Milford, New Hampshire, on Monday. "They're feeling the assault from the president, from the top on down as we see. Whether it's in Ferguson or Baltimore, the response of senior officials, of the president, of the attorney general, is to vilify law enforcement.

"That is fundamentally wrong, and it is endangering the safety and security of us all," he added.

The Texas senator and presidential hopeful even accused President Barack Obama of staying "silent" on Goforth's murder, when in fact the president condemned the shooting and violence against police officers as "completely unacceptable." On his way to Alaska on Monday, Obama also phoned Goforth's wife to express his condolences.

Cruz is hardly the first to denounce the president for provoking anti-police hostilities. Following the murders of two New York Police Department officers in December, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani went on Fox News and accused Obama of disseminating "propaganda" that "everybody should hate the police."

Kentucky Clerk Continues to Defy Supreme Court by Refusing to Issue Marriage License to Gay Couple

She could face fines or even jail time but says she's acting "under God's authority."

| Tue Sep. 1, 2015 10:44 AM EDT

The Supreme Court on Monday night denied an emergency application from a defiant Kentucky clerk who is refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. Today, Kim Davis, of the Rowan County Clerk's office, is once again refusing to comply with a lower court's order by denying marriage licenses to anyone, gay or straight.

When asked by a same-sex couple on Tuesday morning under whose authority she was failing to obey the high court, Davis answered, "under God's authority." She then told the crowd to leave and threatened to call the police.

The Supreme Court denied Davis's application to turn away same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses because it did not align with her religious beliefs. Her appeal marks the first time since June's historic Supreme Court decision that the justices have had to deal with the issue again.

If she continues to defy the court, Davis could be found in contempt and face possible jail time and fines. A hearing is set for Thursday.

Pope Francis Will Allow Priests to Forgive Women Who Have Had Abortions

"The forgiveness of God cannot be denied to one who has repented."

| Tue Sep. 1, 2015 9:58 AM EDT

On Tuesday, Pope Francis announced that during the church's upcoming Holy Year of Mercy, which runs from December 8, 2015, to November 20, 2016, he will allow priests the discretion to forgive women who have had abortions. The move effectively lifts the church's policy that can lead to women being excommunicated for procuring an abortion, for the time being at least. In normal circumstances, these women are required to seek forgiveness from a senior priest who specializes in such confessions, which can be a complicated process.

In a letter from the Vatican, Francis called on the church to practice mercy toward women who seek such forgiveness:

For this reason too, I have decided, notwithstanding anything to the contrary, to concede to all priests for the Jubilee Year the discretion to absolve of the sin of abortion those who have procured it and who, with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it. May priests fulfil (sic) this great task by expressing words of genuine welcome combined with a reflection that explains the gravity of the sin committed, besides indicating a path of authentic conversion by which to obtain the true and generous forgiveness of the Father who renews all with his presence.

While the announcement still condemns abortions as a major transgression—a Vatican spokesman on Tuesday emphasized the decision is by "no means an attempt to minimize the gravity of the sin"—the move continues what some are calling Francis' more progressive papacy, compared with that of his predecessors.

Donald Trump Goes Willie Horton on Jeb Bush

The GOP front-runner's new spot is reminiscent of the famous attack ad that helped Bush's father in 1988.

| Mon Aug. 31, 2015 3:31 PM EDT

Donald Trump's latest attack on Jeb Bush may strike a familiar chord for those who remember the 1988 presidential race.

On Monday afternoon, Trump released a video on Instagram that assails Bush for a supposedly lenient stance on undocumented immigration. The video cites a 2014 quote from Bush in which he referred to people who illegally cross the border: "Yes, they broke the law, but it's not a felony; it's an act of love." Then the attack ad flashes pictures of three undocumented immigrants, all charged with murder. (Only one of the trio has been convicted.)

The ad is reminiscent of the infamous 1988 Willie Horton ad, aired by George H.W. Bush supporters, that accused Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis of being soft on crime by supporting a state program that allowed weekend passes for prisoners. (Horton, who was a convicted murderer serving a life sentence in Massachusetts, raped a woman while out on a furlough.) The ad sparked a controversy, with critics claiming it exploited—or fueled—racist sentiments. 

Here's the new Trump ad:

 

This is no "act of love" as Jeb Bush said...

A video posted by Donald J. Trump (@realdonaldtrump) on

 

Here's the Willie Horton spot:

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Breaking: Another Massive Explosion Rocks Industrial City in China

The blast comes just weeks after major explosions devastated the Chinese city of Tianjin.

| Mon Aug. 31, 2015 3:19 PM EDT

Another huge explosion has erupted in China, this time in the eastern city of Dongying, according to the People's Daily, a Chinese state-run newspaper:

The cause of the blast is not yet known. Earlier in August, the city of Tianjin, one of China's largest industrial shipping centers, was rocked by massive explosions inside warehouses that reportedly stored hazardous chemicals and "explosive materials." The explosions killed at least 150 people.

This is a breaking news post. We will update as more information becomes available.

Ohio Republicans Are Freaking Out About the Denali Name Change

Thanks, Barack.

| Mon Aug. 31, 2015 11:36 AM EDT

On Sunday, President Barack Obama announced that the official name for the highest peak in North America, Alaska's Mount McKinley, would formally be changed to its Athabascan name: Denali. This makes a lot of sense. The mountain was known as Denali long before a gold prospector dubbed it McKinley after reading a newspaper headline in 1896, and it has officially been known as "Denali" in Alaska for about a century, according to the state's board for geographic names. The state and its Republican legislature have been asking Washington to call the mountain Denali for decades. And for decades, the major obstacle to getting this done has been Ohio, McKinley's home state.

We need not spend much time discussing Ohio in this space, but suffice it to say that Ohioans are a very proud, if sometimes misinformed, people, and the birthplace of mediocre presidents won't just take the marginalization of those mediocre presidents lying down. It will fight! To wit, the state's congressional delegation has decided to show off that old Ohio fighting spirit by condemning the decision in sternly worded press releases and tweets. Here's GOP Sen. Rob Portman:

No it wasn't! McKinley was assassinated in 1901. The mountain was named McKinley in 1896, by a random gold prospector who had just returned from the Alaskan Range to find that the governor of Ohio had won the Republican presidential nomination. This is like naming the highest point in the continent after Mitt Romney. Is Portman suggesting that the fix was in as early as 1896? Did Czolgosz really act alone? Was Teddy Roosevelt in on it? My God! Congress did pass a law in 1917 formally recognizing McKinley as the mountain's name, but that was really just paperwork.

Let's see what else they've got:

The Spanish-American War hadn't happened yet in 1896—William Randolph Hearst wouldn't start that for another two years! Okay. Here's GOP Rep. Bob Gibbs, all but engraving his sternly worded response on obsidian:

Job-killing name change!

I haven't seen this much loathing directed at Denali since the last time I went on Yelp.

Judges Give NSA More Time to Suck Up Your Data

The program collected information from billions of calls made by Americans.

| Fri Aug. 28, 2015 3:18 PM EDT

A federal appeals court in Washington, DC, on Friday tossed out an injunction over the National Security Agency's bulk collection of millions of American's phone records, but left open the question of whether the program itself is legal.

From Politico:

The three appeals court judges assigned to the case splintered, with each writing a separate opinion. But they overturned a key ruling from December 2013 that critics of the NSA program had used to advance their claims that the collection of information on billions of calls made and received by Americans was illegal.

That ruling, issued by Judge Richard Leon in Washington, sent shockwaves across the legal landscape because it was the first in which a federal court judge sided with critics who questioned the legality of sweeping up data on vast numbers of phone calls--nearly all of them completely unrelated to terrorism.

The new decision Friday from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit did not kill the lawsuit brought by conservative gadfly Larry Klayman. The appeals court voted, 2-1, to allow the lawsuit to proceed in the district court, but the judges left doubts about whether the case will ever succeed.

In June, Congress phased out the NSA's controversial program with the passing of the USA Freedom Act. The new law forced the NSA to obtain private phone records for counterterrorism investigations on a case-by-case basis through a court order. After the law mandated a six-month transition program for the new program, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court ruled that the NSA could continue its existing bulk collection program through November.

The American Civil Liberties Union has also filed an injunction to block the program, arguing that the surveillance court should not have reinstated the program after a federal appeals court in New York found it to be illegal

 

"They Would Have Killed You All"

Here's how Katrina destroyed the lives of poor black women.

| Fri Aug. 28, 2015 6:00 AM EDT
Protesters block demolition equipment from entering a portion of the B.W. Cooper public housing complex in New Orleans in December 2007.

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina displaced 40,000 people in New Orleans, opinions about the recovery can be traced along racial lines. A pair of new studies underscores that African American women, particularly those who lived in public housing, faced some of the biggest hurdles after the storm.

Nearly four in five white residents in New Orleans say their state has "mostly recovered," while nearly three in five African American residents say it has not, according to survey results released Monday by the Louisiana-based Public Policy Research Lab. More than half of all residents, regardless of race, said the government did not listen to them enough during the recovery, but African American women struggled more than any other group to return to their homes in the months and years after the hurricane, PPRL noted.

On Tuesday, a study by the Washington-based Institute for Women's Policy Research found that recovery policies in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina largely ignored the needs of African American women who lived in four of the city's largest public housing complexes. These women were forced to move into more expensive housing, and some had to relocate to areas where they faced racial intimidation.

The study, based on interviews with 184 low-income black women, offers a look at how redevelopment efforts affected some of the city's most vulnerable residents. A majority of the women interviewed said they wanted to move back to their homes but were unable to do so because city and federal officials demolished the buildings in the years after the storm.

The demolition plan, announced in 2006 by the Housing Authority of New Orleans and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), aimed to deconcentrate poverty in the city by replacing the public housing complexes with mixed-income housing. However, the new developments included fewer low-income apartments, which meant many people had to pay more for housing.

The decision to raze the public housing complexes seemed odd to some former residents because HUD had found them to be structurally sound after the storm, the IWPR reported. Here's what a 70-year-old retired grandmother told the research group:

The buildings were good, strong buildings. Now, if they say they couldn't be renovated, well, that's a different story, but they had some buildings in worse shape and they're doing them over…I'm very disappointed with our elected officials. They turned their backs on us.

Many of the women interviewed by the IWPR said that even though public housing hadn't been ideal, they felt safest in their former homes. There, they had known all their neighbors, and the brick apartment buildings had withstood the hurricane's winds and subsequent flooding. There had even been a saying among poor residents in the city that if a storm ever came, you should "get to the bricks."

One woman who had lived in the C.J. Peete housing project believed the razing of her building was unjustified.

Bad as the waters were, it did not go into our houses. That was one of the projects that I think they just wanted to tear down. They could have left that project there…They had people coming from other places to come stay in the projects, but they never came down because they are brick.

After nearly three decades living in the C.J. Peete complex, another elderly woman with diabetes and arthritis told researchers that she was forced to move temporarily to a community known for Ku Klux Klan activity.

In Baker [where the emergency trailer park for displaced people was], [the crosses] was all over. Ah, Baker was the main headquarters of the Ku Klux Klan…This white man walked up and he said, ah, "If you all would've came here in the '60s…I'm so glad you all didn't come…Oh, you all would've been dead…They would've killed you all." They put us in a pasture where the cows and horses was living. That's where the trailer was.

To read more of of these stories, check out the report by the IWPR here.