Political MoJo

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.

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10 of the Worst Congressional Acronyms Ever

| Mon Aug. 25, 2014 6:00 AM EDT

Ten of the worst (or possibly greatest) congressional backronyms—intentional acronyms created by attention-seeking lawmakers, or more likely, their poor staffers:

CHOMP: Consumers Have Options for Molar Protection Act, sponsored by former Rep. Diane Watson (D-Calif.)

STALKERS: Simplifying The Ambiguous Law, Keeping Everyone Reliably Safe Act, sponsored by Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.)

HELLO: Help Eliminate the Levy on Locution Act, sponsored by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)

SWEETEST: Saccharin Warning Elimination via Environmental Testing Employing Science and Technology Act, sponsored by former Rep. Joseph Knollenberg (R-Mich.)

CHURCH: Congressional Hope for Uniform Recognition of Christian Heritage Act, sponsored by Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas)

DRONES: Designating Requirements On Notification of Executive-ordered Strikes Act, sponsored by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.)

PROSTATE: Prostate Research, Outreach, Screening, Testing, Access, and Treatment Effectiveness Act, sponsored by Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.)

STOP SMUT: Special Taxation On Pornographic Services and Marketing Using Telephones Act, sponsored by former Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.)

CAN SPAM: Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing Act, sponsored by ex-Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.)

DAIRY: Dairy Augmentation for Increased Retail in Yogurt Products Act, sponsored by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.)

HONORABLE MENTION
SAFETEA-LU:
Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users, sponsored by Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) in honor of his wife, Lu

For many more wonderfully bad backronyms, check out Noah Veltman's "congressional acronym abuse" tracker.

Iowa GOP Official Warns That Child Migrants Might Be Highly Trained "Warriors"

| Fri Aug. 22, 2014 4:25 PM EDT

Iowa Republican National Committee member Tamara Scott has a special theory about the flood of child migrants entering the United States: What if they're secretly ninjas?

Republican congressmen have previously argued that the 70,000 youths who will come across the border in 2014 are being brought over to bolster Democratic voter rolls at some point in the distant future, or that they are carrying a deadly disease that does not actually exist in their home countries. Scott, in a Thursday radio segment flagged by Right Wing Watch, sought to outdo them all:

For us just to open our borders it's chaos we don't know orderly who's coming in, who's not. When we see these kids, you and I think young kids, we think maybe 12-year-olds, maybe even…middle-schoolers. But we know back in our revolution, we had 12-year-olds fighting in our revolution. And for many of these kids, depending on where they're coming from, they could be coming from other countries and be highly trained as warriors who will meet up with their group here and actually rise up against us as Americans. We have no idea what's coming through our borders, but I would say biblically it's not a Christian nation when you entice people to do wrong.

This is a terrible idea for a Red Dawn sequel.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for August 22, 2014

Fri Aug. 22, 2014 1:47 PM EDT

The USS Theodore Roosevelt, an aircraft carrier in the Atlantic, performs a live-fire exercise to prepare for future deployment. (US Navy Photo)

Compton to District Security Guards: Go Ahead, Bring Your AR-15s to School

| Fri Aug. 22, 2014 6:00 AM EDT

When students in the Compton Unified School District return to classrooms on Monday, some of them will have new pencils or notebooks. Their teachers will have new textbooks. But this year, the district's campus police will be getting an upgrade, too: AR-15 rifles.

The board of the Los Angeles-area school district approved a measure to allow the campus cops to carry the new guns in July. The district's police chief, William Wu, told the board that equipping school police with semi-automatic AR-15s is intended to ensure student safety.

"This is our objective—save lives, bottom line," Wu told the board.

Crime is a serious problem in Compton, an independent jurisdiction south of downtown Los Angeles. In the 12 months preceding July, the city of nearly 100,000 experienced 28 murders, making it the 11th-deadliest neighborhood in the county, according to a data analysis by the Los Angeles Times.

But the choice to make Compton school police the latest local law enforcement agency to adopt military-style weapons was less about dealing with street crime than it was about preventing more exotic incidents like mass shootings. At the board meeting, Wu cited an FBI report released in January that found that 5 percent of "active shooters"— or shooters which are conducting an ongoing assault on a group of people—wore body armor, which can stop most bullets fired from handguns. To make his case, Wu cited a range of examples, including the Mumbai terrorist attacks and the University of Texas shooting in 1966, in which a student killed 16 people from the campus clock tower, out of range of police sidearms. (The student was eventually killed when a group of police climbed the tower and shot him at close range.)

"They will continue until they are stopped," Wu said, at which point a board member interjected.

"No, they will continue until we stop them," he said. "Compton Unified School Police…holding it down."

"These rifles give us greater flexibility in dealing with a person with bad intent who comes onto any of our campuses," Wu said in a statement. "The officers will keep the rifles in the trunks of their cars, unless they are needed."

Compton is not the first district in the Southern California to allow AR-15s on its campuses. At the meeting, Wu said that Los Angeles, Baldwin Park, Santa Ana, Fontana, and San Bernardino all allow their officers to use the same weapons. 

Compton school police last made news in May 2013, when a group of parents and students filed a suit against the department, alleging a pattern of racial profiling and abuse targeting Latino students. The complaint said that officers beat, pepper-sprayed, and put a chokehold on a bystander who was recording an arrest with his iPod. The group also claimed that Compton school police used excessive force against students and parents who complained that English-as-a-second-language programs were underfunded. (The case is ongoing.)

Wu said at the board meeting that seven officers have already been trained to use the new weapons. He said all officers would be purchasing their own weapons. The guns will be the officers' personal property, but they could be bringing them to work as early as September.

Another GOP Candidate Says Migrant Kids Might Have Ebola. (They Don't.)

| Thu Aug. 21, 2014 5:01 PM EDT
Arizona speaker of the house Andy Tobin

Arizona Speaker of the House Andy Tobin is the latest Republican politician to suggest migrants from Central America might bring the Ebola virus with them to the United States. Tobin, who is seeking the GOP nomination for the state's 1st Congressional District in Tuesday's primary, made the connection in an interview published in the Tucson Weekly on Thursday.

Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) started the GOP Ebola fearmongering trend last month when he wrote a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stating that "[r]eports of illegal immigrants carrying deadly diseases such as swine flu, dengue fever, Ebola virus and tuberculosis are particularly concerning."  In August, Reps. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) and Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) leveled the same charge.

Although allegations of disease-ridden migrants are common throughout history, vaccination rates in Central America are higher than in Texas. And Ebola, which is difficult to contract, is not found in Central America. But Tobin was undeterred.

Per the Weekly:

…Tobin says he's hearing about worries from constituents that the recent wave of undocumented youth from Central America could cause an Ebola outbreak in the United States.

"Anything's now possible," Tobin said last week. "So if you were to say the Ebola virus has now entered (the country), I don't think anyone would be surprised."

Tobin acknowledged that Ebola has been limited to outbreaks in Africa, "to the extent that they're really aware of that. I think there is a reason we should be concerned about it and say, 'Hey, can you assure us the people crossing the border are not from the Middle East?'…So I use that as an example, that the public would not be surprised to hear about the next calamity at the border."

But even if there were lots of people crossing the border from the Middle East, they still wouldn't be bringing Ebola, because Ebola is still confined to sub-Saharan West Africa. Here's a useful map:

Central America is on the left. Google Maps

Fortunately for Tobin, though, the bar for misinformed comments on migrants is high in Arizona's 1st District. State Rep. Adam Kwasman, Tobin's chief rival for the nomination, became a late-night punch line in July when he protested a YMCA camp bus he mistakenly believed was filled with undocumented youths.

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The American Correctional Association Ushered Me Out of Its Convention With Armed Guards

| Thu Aug. 21, 2014 12:54 PM EDT
Vgm8383/Flickr

I've dealt with surly, armed prison guards in my reporting career, but Tuesday was the first time the encounter involved a PR man kicking me out of a convention I had personally requested to attend, paid for, and traveled across country to attend. On Tuesday, the director of government and public affairs of the American Correctional Association (ACA), a prison trade group, pulled me out of a seminar at their conference in Salt Lake City, which I'd been attending for several days. Flanking him were two men in Utah Department of Corrections uniforms, with pistols and tasers on their hips.

The convention is a twice-yearly affair, and I've been to it before. Hundreds of prison staff and members of the vast industry surrounding corrections touch down on an American city to discuss all things prison related. This week, Salt Lake City laid out the red carpet. Downtown restaurants posted signs welcoming the prison industry. Hotels printed the ACA insignia on their keys. Bars hosted parties sponsored by corrections companies. The local prison had inmates press an "ACA 2014" license plate for each convention guest.

The ACA is the largest and oldest correctional association in the world, and their conventions offer a rare glimpse into the world of US prisons. Vendors in the exhibit hall openly discuss their increasing sales of SWAT-style equipment to prisons. Visitors can check out the new tech like drone-detection devices, surveillance systems, and shank-proof e-cigarettes. People hold workshops on issues like sex between prison guards and inmates and the problem of drug-dealing staff. Serious topics like suicide among transgender inmate populations are often revealingly discussed in terms of liability and cost.

But in attending ACA conventions, I've also been surprised at how many reformists there are. When I attended an ACA convention in Tampa six months ago, the main plenary was composed of wardens and mental-health workers discussing the need to reform the use of long-term solitary confinement (called "restrictive housing" in ACA jargon). In Salt Lake City, prisoner mental health and the rampant problem of hepatitis C (affecting 40 percent of inmates) were major topics.

For someone who writes about prisons and is accustomed to being stonewalled at every turn, the ACA conventions have felt refreshingly transparent. After workshops or at company-sponsored meet-and-greets, most people are very willing to speak to a journalist, and I have always identified myself as such.

While in Salt Lake City, I was live-tweeting throughout the convention, posting revealing tidbits from workshops and notes on a visit to a local jail. This may have had something to do with why, on the fourth day, a man named Eric Schultz, the ACA's director of government and public affairs, came into a workshop and asked me to step outside. Standing at each side of him was an armed Utah correctional officer. He told me I was going to have to leave.

The guards ushered us into an empty room. The reason for my dismissal changed as Mr. Schultz and I talked. First, he told me I wasn't registered as media. I explained to him that when I called to register, I was told there were no media passes, and that I should register through the normal channels. He then told me the problem was that I wasn't displaying my Mother Jones credentials, which was required by policy (I still have not been able to find that policy). I told him that could easily be remedied. "It's nothing against you or Mother Jones," he said. "But you are just going to have to leave." The burly guard stepped in closer.

After I left the convention center, I called the main ACA office in Virginia to ask again whether media were allowed to attend the convention. The man who answered told me yes, they were.

"Any media?" I asked.

“Yes,” he said. My editor, Monika Bauerlein, called Eric Schultz several times to discuss the matter, leaving voicemails and receiving no return calls. I later called up Schultz to ask whether he wanted to comment for this post. He hasn't responded.

The ACA functions as the de facto oversight organization for our prison system. They set the professional standards and conduct audits. I've been told by many that their accreditation carries weight in court. What are we to infer when an institution whose purpose is to make sure our prisons are up to par doesn't allow the public to see what it's doing?

Here’s Why Bank of America’s $17 Billion Settlement Probably Won’t Cost It That Much

| Thu Aug. 21, 2014 11:59 AM EDT

On Thursday, the Justice Department announced a record $17 billion settlement with Bank of America over accusations that the bank—as well as companies it later bought—intentionally misled investors who purchased financial products backed by toxic subprime mortgages. It's the largest settlement the US government has reached with any company in history, and it is roughly equal to the bank's total profits over the past three years. But as is the case with similar settlements involving Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America probably won't end up paying that much.

Potential tax deductions and tricky accounting techniques in deals like this often hide the real cost to banks. The Associated Press explains:

Bank of America will pay $9.65 billion in cash and provide consumer relief valued at $7 billion…Whether cash payments are structured as penalties or legal settlements can determine whether targeted companies can declare them as tax-deductible business expenses. Also, consumer relief is an amorphous cost category: If Bank of America's deal resembles the department's previous settlements with JPMorgan and Citigroup, that part could be less costly to the company than the huge figures suggest.

...[M]uch of the relief will come from modifying loans that the banks have already concluded could not be recovered in full. Reducing the principal on troubled loans often just brings the amount that borrowers owe in line with what the banks already know the loan to be worth.

Settlement math also affects the actual cost of the deals, allowing banks to earn a multiple for each dollar spent on certain forms of relief. Under Citi's deal, for example, each dollar spent on legal aid counselors is worth $2 in credits, and paper losses on some affordable housing project loans can be credited at as much as four times their actual value.

Banks generally regard the consumer relief portion of settlements as "stuff they're doing anyway," banking analyst Moshe Orenbuch told the AP.

The Bank of America settlement resolves more than two dozen investigations by prosecutors around the country.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for August 21, 2014

Thu Aug. 21, 2014 9:56 AM EDT

The US Marines practice weapon proficiency during a crew-served weapons familiarization shoot to serve in the Asia-Pacific Region. (US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Henry Antenor)

Gun-Pointing Cop Who Threatened to Kill Ferguson Protesters Is Suspended

| Wed Aug. 20, 2014 7:13 PM EDT
Police point guns at protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, early Wednesday morning.

The protests in Ferguson, Missouri, were relatively calm yesterday, especially compared to previous nights where heavily armed police have responded to protests with tear gas and arrests. But there was at least one police officer who took things a little too far. In this video, an unidentified officer points a rifle at journalists and others walking in the street and warns, "I'll fucking kill you." (NSFW language in the clip.)


Somebody off-camera asks for his name and the officer replies, "Go fuck yourself." Soon afterward, a county police sergeant comes and ushers the officer away. Earlier today the ACLU asked for the officer to be removed from Ferguson. The St. Louis County Police Department has announced that the officer has been suspended, according to the Washington Post: