Political MoJo

Surprise! Eric Cantor Lands $3.4 Million Job on Wall Street

| Tue Sep. 2, 2014 1:56 PM EDT

After Rep. Eric Cantor lost his primary to a tea party challenger in June, he could have stayed on as a lame duck, collecting his salary and voting as a full member of Congress through January 2015. Instead, Cantor decided to step down from his job as the GOP's majority leader and resign his seat early. Cantor claimed that the decision to call it quits was in the interests of his constituents. "I want to make sure that the constituents in the 7th District will have a voice in what will be a very consequential lame-duck session," Cantor said at the time, explaining that he'd timed his decision so his replacement could seated as soon as possible.

No one believed it—on August 1, the Huffington Post's Arthur Delaney and Eliot Nelson wrote that voters would soon hear about "Eric Cantor's forthcoming finance job." A month later, their prediction has proven true: On Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Cantor will soon start work at Moelis & Co, an investment bank. Cantor—whose experience prior to becoming a professional politician largely consisted of working in the family real estate development business—will earn a hefty salary for his lack of expertise: According to Business Insider, he's set to make $3.4 million from the investment firm. "Mr. Moelis said he is hiring Mr. Cantor for his "judgment and experience" and ability to open doors—and not just for help navigating regulatory and political waters in Washington," the Journal reported.

Democrats sell out, too. In 2010, former Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh announced his plans to retire in 2010 in a New York Times op-ed that bemoaned the the lack of bipartisan friendships in the modern Senate and attacked the influence of money in politics. Yet shortly after he left Congress, Bayh signed up with law firm McGuireWoods and private equity firm Apollo Global Management and began acting as a lobbyist for corporate clients in all but name. Less than a year later, he joined the US Chamber of Commerce as an adviser. Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) pulled a similar trick, promising "no lobbying, no lobbying," before taking a $1-million-plus job as the head of the Motion Picture Association of America, Hollywood's main lobbying group.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, 417 ex-lawmakers hold lobbyist or lobbyist-like jobs.

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Russia Is Going After McDonald’s. (Can We Give Them Jack in the Box?)

| Fri Aug. 29, 2014 4:28 PM EDT
A McDonalds in St. Petersburg, Russia

Russia's health inspection agency is scrutinizing more than 100 McDonald's locations and has forced the company to temporarily close multiple others in the country. The agency says McDonalds outlets are getting inspected because some have violated sanitary regulations— but others see retaliation for US sanctions on Russia.

"This is a prominent symbol of the U.S. It has a lot of restaurants and therefore is a meaningful target," Yulia Bushueva, managing director for Arbat Capital, an investment advisory company, told Bloomberg. "I don't recall McDonald's having consumer-safety problems of such a scale in over more than two decades of presence in Russia."

McDonald's was the first fast food chain to enter Russia, and it holds some symbolic importance in the country. The first location opened in Pushkin Square in Moscow in January 1990 to one utterly massive line (see video below). This was shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall but nearly two years before the dissolution of the Soviet Union when Western brands of any stripe were a rare sight in Russia. At the time, the site of the Golden Arches in the center of Moscow signaled the arrival of a new era of prosperity and integration with the world economy.

Today, there are more than 400 McDonald's outlets in the country. Many are owned locally. The company employs more than 37,000 people in Russia and sources 85 percent of its products from Russian suppliers, according to its website.

But as Russia and the West began facing off over Ukraine this spring, McDonald's has fallen victim to their power struggle. In April, McDonald's announced it would close it's three company-owned locations in Crimea "due to operational reasons beyond our control," according to their statement to Reuters.

That decision was praised by Vladimir Zhirinovsky, a prominent legislator and Putin supporter, who suggested the chain should leave Russia as well. "It would be good if they closed here too, if they disappeared for good," he said in Russian media. "Pepsi-Cola would be next." Zhirinovsky also proposed instructing members of his Liberal Democratic party to picket outside McDonald's until they closed.

Since August 20, McDonald's has temporarily closed 12 locations throughout Russia, including four in Krasnodar, near the black sea, and the iconic first-ever location in Moscow. Burger King, Subway, and KFC— which have all seen big expansions in Russia in recent years— have remained unscathed.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for August 29, 2014

Fri Aug. 29, 2014 10:08 AM EDT

US Marines exit the well deck of the USS Bataan, an amphibious assault ship. (US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class RJ Stratchko)

This is What a Russian Invasion of Ukraine Looks Like

| Thu Aug. 28, 2014 2:56 PM EDT

It has become quite hard for Vladimir Putin to deny that Russia's activities in Eastern Europe aren't benign. On Thursday, Ukraine's president, Petro Poroshenko, announced that "Russian forces have actually entered Ukraine." And at a State Department briefing, spokeswoman Jen Psaki called Russia's activities "an incursion and a violation of Ukraine's sovereignty."

The most striking evidence comes from NATO, which has released satellite photos of what it calls "concrete examples of Russian activity inside Ukraine."

Digital Globe/NATO

According to NATO, the image above depicts a Russian convoy carrying artillery in Krasnodon, an area of Ukraine currently controlled by pro-Russian separatists, on August 21.

Digital Globe/NATO

This shows artillery setting up in firing positions in Krasnodon. "This configuration is exactly how trained military professionals would arrange their assets on the ground, indicating that these are not unskilled amateurs, but Russian soldiers," a NATO press release notes.

Digital Globe/NATO

This image shows side-by-side photos of Rostov-on-Don, about 31 miles from the Ukrainian border, taken two months apart. The photo on the left, taken on June 19, shows the area mostly empty. The photo on the right shows the same area on August 20 occupied with tanks and other armored vehicles, cargo trucks, and tents. These units "are capable of attacking with little warning, and could potentially overwhelm and push-back Ukrainian units," according to NATO.

Digital Globe/NATO

According to NATO, this image shows Russian six artillery pieces, probably 6-inch howitzers, positioned six miles south of the Ukrainian border. The guns are pointed toward Ukraine.

Ex-George Washington University President Responds to Controversy Over His Sexual Assault Remarks

| Thu Aug. 28, 2014 1:12 PM EDT

A former university president came under fire this week for the advice he gave on how to combat sexual assault on college campuses. On Tuesday, George Washington University President Emeritus Stephen Trachtenberg appeared on NPR's Diane Rehm Show and said, "Without making the victims responsible for what happens, one of the groups that have to be trained not to drink in excess are women. They need to be in a position to punch the guys in the nose if they misbehave." Critics pounced. Jezebel slammed his comments as "jaw-droppingly stupid," and the website noted, "If this is the attitude freely and blithely expressed by a former University President, it's no wonder that more than 75 schools are currently under investigation by the Department of Education for botching sexual assault investigations."

The following day, Trachtenberg told the school newspaper, The GW Hatchet, that his remarks had been taken "out of context," but he reiterated his main point: "What I'm saying is you want to have somebody you care about like your daughter, granddaughter or girlfriend to understand her limits because she will be less likely to be unable to fight off somebody who is attacking her."

On Thursday, Mother Jones asked Trachtenberg to comment on the ongoing controversy, and he replied with a written statement. Regarding Jezebel, he said:

Jezebel has a world view that informs their prose. They are an advocate for an important cause and they take every opportunity to make their case. Sometimes in their enthusiasm they may get a little overheated. It's hard to resist an apparent opportunity when you believe you are on the side of the angels. 

In response to other questions—including why he chose to use the word "misbehave" to describe sexual assault—Trachtenberg said:

I chose that word because I was thinking and speaking quickly under time constraints on a radio show. Under different circumstances I might have used another perhaps stronger word. I am an educator. I believe in the power of education. I think that education about drinking and its effects on an individual can help protect that person from vulnerability. Knowledge makes one stronger. I also believe that having skills gives one power. If you know how to defend yourself you have strength that can be helpful in the event things turn physical. These two ideas are not meant to solve all problems. They are not blame shifters. They are what they are. Better to know things then not. No silver bullets here. We need to educate men too. Date rape is largely the responsibility of young men and alcohol and opportunity. We can address these issues as a community. Men and women and institutions together. Victims should do their best but they are victims and not to blame. My recommendation is to change the culture of the campus so that men and women protect and nurture each other as a family would. It will take work but it can be done.

Is this an apology? You be the judge.

Don't Feel Bad for Tall People on Planes. They Probably Make More Money Than You.

| Thu Aug. 28, 2014 6:00 AM EDT

Amid the raging, only-in-August debate over whether it is ever okay to recline your airplane seat, a good dose of schadenfreude has been directed at the vertically advantaged, as summed up by this tweet from one of my own bosses:

It's true: Being of above average height, particularly if you're a man, does come with significant perks beyond having your own weather patterns. As a 2004 paper on the economic advantages of height explains, researchers have found that taller people are seen as more persuasive, more attractive, and more likely to become leaders: "Indeed, on the latter point, not since 1896 have U.S. citizens elected a President whose height was below average; William McKinley at 5 ft 7 in. (1.7 m) was ridiculed in the press as a 'little boy'." That paper calculated that a 6-foot-tall person can expect to earn $166,000 more over a 30-year career than someone who is 5-foot-5. In another 2004 article, researchers concluded that "a sizable fraction of the population" might consider taking Human Growth Hormone as teenagers to ensure bigger paychecks as adults. (They estimate that teens see a 1.9 to 2.6 percent increase in future earnings for every additional inch of height.)

That tall dudes get an extra leg up in the job market is borne out by data from the Centers for Disease Control's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a survey of more than 500,000 Americans' health and demographics.

The average American adult male is 5-foot-9. According to a crosstabulation of the CDC's 2011 data, men of slightly below-average height are at an income disadvantage: Around 28 percent of men between 5'5" and 5'8" earn $35,000 or less, compared with 19 percent of men between 5'9" and 6'0". And at the other end of the scale, 56 percent of men between 5'5" and 5'8" earn $50,000 or more, compared with 66 percent of men between 5'9" and 6'0".

And the really tall guys tower over everyone else: Just 5 percent of them earn less than $20,000, and nearly 69 percent earn $50,000 or more. And the really short guys have it rough: 35 percent earn less than $20,000 while 23 percent earn $50,000 or more.

The height-income gap for women isn't quite so stark—or predictable. The average height for women is 5-foot-4. Around 31 percent of women between 5'1" and 5'4" earn $35,000 or less, compared with around 26 percent of women between 5'5" and 5'8". And 53 percent of women between 5'1" and 5'4" earn $50,000 or more, compared with 58 percent of women between 5'5" and 6'8".

Yet unlike men, women beyond a certain height pay a penalty. Women between 5'5" and 5'8" are more likely to earn more than $50,000 than women over six feet. And, surprisingly, women over six feet are more likely to earn less than $20,000 than women of average height. However, women under 5'1" are far more likely to earn less than $35,000 than taller women. But compared to their male counterparts, they do better—they're more likely than the very shortest men to earn more than $75,000.

What does any of this have to do with modern air travel? Nothing. Just don't be a jerk.

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

Wed Aug. 27, 2014 10:33 AM EDT

The Class of 2015 at West Point receive their class rings as they enter their final academic year. (US Army Photos by John Pellino/ USMA DPTMS VI)

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for August 26, 2014

Tue Aug. 26, 2014 9:16 AM EDT

US Marines conduct a Helicopter Support Team exercise. (US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Sarah Fiocco)

Charts: Kids Are Paying the Price for America’s Prison Binge

| Tue Aug. 26, 2014 6:00 AM EDT

As students return to the classroom this fall, one large group of children will be more likely than their peers to suffer learning disabilities, ADD/ADHD, behavioral problems, chronic school absence, and a host of other health concerns. These are the 2.7 million US children coping with the stress of parental incarceration.

In a new study, University of California-Irvine sociologist Kristin Turney analyzes data from the 2011-12 National Survey of Children's Health (NSCH) to determine the mental and physical health effects of having a parent in jail or prison. The results are striking:
 

The NSCH surveyed 95,677 children. Turney's analysis found that children with a parent in jail or prison had worse health across all but three tested health outcomes. They were more than three times as likely to suffer depression (6.2 percent vs. 1.8 percent) and behavioral problems (10.4 percent vs. 2.6 percent), compared to kids without an incarcerated parent. Perhaps more surprisingly, parental incarceration was related to higher levels of asthma, obesity, speech problems, and overall poor physical health.

Factors that affect health are often interrelated, making it difficult to isolate and study just one: Families already in poverty are more likely to be affected by incarceration, but incarceration can also destabilize family finances. Even when Turney controlled for a host of other factors—including parental employment and income, ethnicity, parents' relationship status, safety of neighborhood, and parental health—the relationship remained between parental incarceration and health concerns like learning disabilities, ADD/ADHD, and developmental delay.

Children with a parent in jail or prison were more than three times as likely to suffer depression and behavioral problems.

In fact, Turney found that children with parents behind bars are as likely to suffer certain health problems—including learning disabilities and developmental delay—as children who experience divorce or the death of a parent, witness parental abuse, or share a home with someone with a drug or alcohol abuse problem.

"Results suggest that children's health disadvantages are an overlooked and unintended consequence of mass incarceration," Turney writes, "and that incarceration, given its unequal distribution across the population, may have implications for population-level racial-ethnic and social class inequalities in children's health."

One study found that a quarter of black children born in 1990 saw a parent go to jail or prison by age 14, as opposed to 3 percent of white children.

Parental incarceration introduces significant stress into a child's life, Turney tells Mother Jones, which "leads to negative health effects, especially mental-health conditions." But on top of inherent psychological stress, incarceration can hit a family from all directions: The destabilization of family finances, relationships, and other elements of daily life can cause indirect stress that further impacts a child's health, Turney explains.

The NSCH data does not make clear the extent to which direct and indirect stress contribute to poor health, but Turney says she hopes future research will help figure that out: "Because that's really important for where to best invest, in terms of intervening in these kids' lives and where we might be able to develop public policies."

She says children can be overlooked as policymakers focus on the health of the inmates themselves. "And while there are certainly a host of negative things that go along with that, we should be thinking about how these consequences can really have spillover effects on families and on children."

Incarceration's impact on family life is made worse by facilities located far from cities, exploitative phone rates, lack of official policies to address children's needs, and excessively long sentences. Two-thirds of incarcerated parents are nonviolent offenders.

Turney has previously studied the way in which teachers' perceptions of children with incarcerated fathers can make it more likely for these children to be held back a year in school. She says there is a growing interest in studying parental incarceration, but that researchers are stymied by a lack of good data.

Its not just academics who are starting to think about this issue: Sesame Street recently reached out to children coping with parental incarceration by introducing a puppet whose father is in jail. As one little girl says in the clip, it gets hardest "when I see children with their mothers, and playing and everything, and I just wonder how it feels to be like that."

GOP Congressional Candidate Apologizes for Calling Female Senators "Undeserving Bimbos"

| Mon Aug. 25, 2014 10:05 AM EDT

On Friday, we reported on Minnesota Republican congressional candidate Jim Hagedorn's history of incendiary comments about women, American Indians, gays, people he suspected of being gay, and President Obama's family. Two days later, Hagedorn took to Facebook to issue an apology...of sorts:

Over the years I have written political satire and commentary, most of which defended conservative ideals and took aim at national politicians I felt were failing the American people and hurting our country.

Even though most of my writings were composed more than 10 years ago, national and DFL liberals are determined to attack me personally, mostly by exhibiting snippets of out-dated, misunderstood or out-of-context material and calling me derogatory names.

In this case, the rather worn and tired Democrat tactic of personal destruction and demonization is designed to deflect attention from the serious problems confronting our nation and the failed big government record of President Barack Obama and devoted liberal followers like incumbent DFL Congressman Tim Walz.

Of course, these same politically correct liberals remain undeterred by the offensive writings authored in the past by Al Franken. In spite of this hypocrisy, I do acknowledge that some of my hard-hitting and tongue-in-cheek commentary was less than artfully constructed or included language that could lead to hurt feelings. I offer a sincere and heartfelt apology.

Rather than dwell in the rigged game of political correctness, my campaign will forge ahead and continue to engage with the people of southern Minnesota and address the issues that will decide our country’s future during these critical times.

A better way to avoid the "rigged game of political correctness," would be to not disparage all American Indians as "thankless" welfare recipients. You can read more about Hagedorn's past comments here.