Political MoJo

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for July 17, 2014

Thu Jul. 17, 2014 12:20 PM EDT

A guided-missile destroyer departs Pearl Harbor for deployment as a child plays with a radio-controlled boat at Dog Beach. (US Navy photo by Canadian Armed Forces Sgt. Matthew McGregor)

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64 Percent of Women Scientists Say They've Been Sexually Harassed Doing Field Work

| Thu Jul. 17, 2014 11:50 AM EDT

Most women working in the sciences face sexual assault and harassment while conducting field work, according to a study released Wednesday that is the first to investigate the subject.

The report surveyed 516 women (and 142 men) working in various scientific fields, including archeology, anthropology, and biology. Sixty-four percent of the women said they had been sexually harassed while working at field sites, and one out of five said they had been victims of sexual assault. The study found that the harassers and assailants were usually supervisors. Ninety percent of the women who were harassed were young undergraduates, post-graduates, or post-doctoral students.

"Our main findings…suggest that at least some field sites are not safe, nor inclusive," Kate Clancy, the lead author of the study, said in a statement. "We worry this is at least one mechanism driving women from science."

Many university science programs require students to complete fieldwork. Those who do work in the field are more likely to receive research grants. Consequently, women scientists "are put in a vulnerable position, afraid that reporting harassment or abuse will risk their research and a professional relationship often critical to their academic funding or career," the Washington Post noted.

The study comes as Congress investigates the response of US colleges to campus sexual harassment and assault. Two out of five colleges and universities have not conducted any sexual assault investigations in the past five years, according to a recent survey by the office of Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.).

Men vastly outnumber women in the sciences. According to Census data, women make up only about a quarter of the workforce in science, technology, engineering and math fields.

Todd Akin Is Still Talking About Rape—and Suggests Bill Clinton Is a Rapist

| Thu Jul. 17, 2014 11:12 AM EDT

Todd Akin won't stop talking. And he won't stop talking about rape. On Thursday, the former Republican Missouri congressman and failed Senate candidate—best known for suggesting that the female body could self-terminate a pregnancy in cases of "legitimate rape"—appeared on MSNBC's The Daily Rundown to talk about his new book, Firing Back, and to explain why he was totally right about the rape thing. During the 10-minute spot, he insisted that "legitimate rape is a law enforcement term." (He did not cite a source for this.) And he pointed out that Bill Clinton was accused of committing rape and "assault on women," yet the former president was applauded when he delivered the keynote speech at the 2012 Democratic convention. "Seems to me, it's a Democratic war on women," Akin remarked.

Contradicting his comment about a woman's ability to "shut that whole thing down"—that is, to prevent conception following a rape—Akin claimed that he "had a number of people" working on his Senate campaign who "had been conceived in rape."

Watch:

GOP Congressional Candidate Mistakes YMCA Campers for Migrant Kids

| Wed Jul. 16, 2014 10:27 AM EDT

Arizona congressional candidate Adam Kwasman was at a protest of a new shelter for migrant children when he got word that a busload of kids was headed in the protesters' direction. Kwasman, a Republican state lawmaker, raced toward the small yellow school bus. He gave a breathless account of what he saw to a local news crew: "I was able to actually see some of the children in the buses, and the fear on their faces. This is not compassion."

But the local news crew had bad news for Kwasman: the kids on the bus weren't migrants. They belonged to the Marana school district and were headed to the YMCA's Triangle Y Camp. Reporter Will Pitts said he could see the children laughing and taking photos of the news crews with their iPhones. "Do you know that was a bus with YMCA kids?" Brahm Resnick, of the Arizona Republic asked Kwasman. Kwasman replied, "They were sad too."

Kwasman is one of three Republican candidates running for the nomination in Arizona's first district. Watch the full video of his interview with Resnick here.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for July 16, 2014

Wed Jul. 16, 2014 9:59 AM EDT

The Village of Willowbrook Parks and Recreation department hosts a "Touch a Truck" community event where around 300 children interacted with military vehicles provided by the US Army on display in Illinois. (US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Michel Sauret)

Watch Jon Stewart Try to Get Hillary Clinton to Admit She's Running For President

| Wed Jul. 16, 2014 8:23 AM EDT

Hillary Clinton is running for president. She has not officially announced this yet because it's 2014 and tradition dictates that prospective candidates pretend to "weigh all their options" and "talk about it with their family" for a few years before actually coming out and declaring. Presumably she'll announce sometime next autumn. Anyway, she's running for president.

Her most recent non-campaign campaign stop was on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart last night. Clinton came on nominally to talk about her new memoir "Hard Choices" which documents her four years as Secretary of State in the Obama administration. “It’s an incredibly complex and well-reasoned, eyewitness view to the history of those four years," Stewart begins, "and I think I speak for everybody when I say, no one cares. They just want to know if you’re running for president.”

What followed was a very entertaining game wherein Stewart tried to trick her into betraying her presidential ambitions. (When Stewart asks whether she'd like her next office to come in a particular shape, Clinton replies, "You know, I think that the world is so complicated, the fewer corners that you can have, the better.”)

Watch the whole extended interview. It's pretty great.

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8 Reasons Why Jose Antonio Vargas Won't Be Deported

| Wed Jul. 16, 2014 6:00 AM EDT

On Tuesday morning, Jose Antonio Vargas, one of the most prominent and vocal undocumented immigrants in the United States, was detained at a Texas airport after traveling there to report on the plight of unaccompanied minors crossing the border. The Border Patrol took him into custody when he showed them a Filipino passport and no other form of identification. This was one of the few times Vargas, who self-identifies as the "most privileged" undocumented immigrant in the US, has had that privilege seriously questioned. He was released on Tuesday evening and issued a statement through his nonprofit organization, Define American:

I've been released by Border Patrol. I want to thank everyone who stands by me and the undocumented immigrants of south Texas and across the country. Our daily lives are filled with fear in simple acts such as getting on an airplane to go home to our family.

Vargas reminds those watching his case that he is representative of so many more undocumented children. But there are also many reasons why his is a special case—and why he won't be deported:

  1. He's a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and a celebrity.
  2. He's been detained, and released, before: Two years ago, a year after he revealed his status as an undocumented Filipino immigrant, Vargas was driving through Minneapolis without a legal license while wearing headphones, according to MinnPost. Although the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office was signed up for a Bush administration initiative called Secure Communities that encourages local law enforcement to hold booked undocumented immigrants for ICE, Vargas was released after roughly five hours. It's unclear how much information authorities had about Vargas' citizenship, though MinnPost points out that it was unusual for police to haul him in, given that those suspected of driving without a license tend to be issued a citation on the scene.
  3. He's dared the ICE to deport him, and it did nothing: As Vox points out, Vargas essentially surrendered to the feds in 2012 when he called ICE and "asked what the government wanted to do with him." The agency declined to comment. Technically, they can come knocking anytime they want to deport him, and they have not done so.
  4. He's not a priority: The Obama administration claims it prioritizes cases having to do with "national security, public safety, and border security," including repeat offenders who have crossed the border after deportation, convicted criminals, and "recent border crossers." Vargas doesn't fit these descriptions, considering he's been convicted of no crime and has lived in the United States since he was 12 years old. (Though CBP has its own policies on what constitutes a recent border crosser, prioritizing any unauthorized entry regardless of how long ago it occurred.)
  5. The courts are already backlogged: As MoJo's Stephanie Mencimer wrote earlier this week, immigration courts are drowning in cases, especially with the sudden influx of unaccompanied minors. There are currently 30 vacancies on the immigration bench, dozens more judges eligible for retirement, and a backlog of 375,503 cases—up 50,000 since 2013. A case like Vargas' could've sat around for years before it was addressed.
  6. Prosecutorial discretion might have favored him anyway: Even if Vargas' case were taken up by ICE, the government could have chosen at any time not to proceed. ICE can waive deportation in cases where a defendant has "positive priorities," including status as a veteran, longtime US residency, a degree from a US college or university, or even just "ties to the United States," including a "role in the community" or "work as a volunteer." Vargas arrived as an undocumented minor and was unaware of his status until he was older. He's been a journalist since he was 17. He's a graduate of San Francisco State University. And now he's the founder of nonprofit advocacy group Define American. Not only does he fit many of the positive criterion, he doesn't fit into the clearly defined "negative" categories: He is not a clear threat to national security, a gang member, or a convicted criminal.
  7. He has a slew of lawyers, immigration groups, and public figures supporting him: Chris Rickerd, a policy council expert in the American Civil Liberties Union, says Vargas' "equities are such that he should be allowed to continue his stay in the US." Allegra McLeod, a law professor at Georgetown University, claimed that she thought "his long-standing ties to this country would make the claim that it would be a moral disaster for this country" if officials were forced to consider his deportation. Cristina Jimenez, a representative of the youth immigration group United We Dream, declared in a statement: "We stand in solidarity with Jose Antonio and demand for his immediate release, but we must remember that there are thousands of people along the border that live with this same fear every day." New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also announced his support for Vargas in a public statement Tuesday, describing him as an "exemplary man whose tireless work has helped raise awareness around the lives of millions of undocumented immigrants living on American soil" and encouraging authorities to use discretion when it came to his case. 
  8. He'd be a giant headache when the government already has plenty. (See also No. 1.) We'll just have to see if the outcry over Vargas'  release would be any less of a headache for the Obama administration than his deportation might have been.

This Is How The Right Will Try to Destroy Chris Christie

| Wed Jul. 16, 2014 6:00 AM EDT
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R)

This week, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is crisscrossing Iowa. Officially, the visit is a fundraising trip tied to his side job as chairman of the Republican Governors Association. But like most any big-time politician choosing to spend some of the summer in the first caucus state, the visit is drawing the kind of speculation—and attacks—befitting a potential presidential contender.

Take the Judicial Crisis Network, which has seized the chance to target him with online ads and a website criticizing him for failing to turn the New Jersey Supreme Court into a bastion of right-wing judicial activism. JCN has established itself as significant player in judicial nomination fights and elections over the past several years, and has strong ties to conservative factions that don't trust the governor's record on social issues—and who would prefer a 2016 nominee more in line with the evangelical strain of the GOP.

The online ads take Christie to task for reappointing—gasp!—a Democrat as the chief justice of the state's supreme court, and criticize him for failing to live up to earlier campaign promises to remake the court as a conservative body.

The gripes about Christie's judicial appointments are pretty bogus. He's a Republican governor of a democratic state, and he's been thwarted again and again in his attempts to install conservatives on the high court: only three of his six nominees have been able to get past the Democratic controlled state legislature's judiciary committee. One of those nominees only got through because Christie agreed to a deal where he re-nominated the aforementioned sitting chief justice, a Democrat.

In a response to the ads, one of Christie's top advisers has argued that JCN is a Johnny-come-lately to New Jersey's nomination battles, suggesting that they don't really care about the composition of the court—but care plenty about dissing Christie. "This group has been noticeably absent from any judicial fight we've had in New Jersey, showing up only to criticize after the fights are over," Mike DuHaime said in a CNN appearance.

As DuHaime's complaint suggests, the Judicial Crisis Network's campaign is likely just another shot across the bow by social conservatives who think Christie is too liberal on issues like gay marriage and abortion, and don't want to see him become the GOP nominee for president in 2016. Indeed, the people behind the organization seem like just the sort who would much rather see a President Rick Santorum than a President Christie.

The JCN was founded by Gary Marx, who wooed family values voters for the 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign, organizing church-sponsored voter drives in Ohio. According to Right Wing Watch, he was encouraged to start the organization, originally called the Judicial Confirmation Network, by Jay Sekulow, a veteran Christian soldier. As president of the American Center for Law and Justice, Sekulow has litigated numerous church-state cases before the US Supreme Court, including a recent one that allowed a Utah park to keep a Ten Commandments statute installed.

In 2004, Marx joined with Wendy Long, a former clerk for US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, to set up the Judicial Confirmation Network to bolster President Bush's efforts to install staunch social conservatives on the federal bench. When Obama was elected, the group changed its name and focus to blocking the new president's nominees. (Marx went on to spend three years as executive director of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, a conservative evangelical group founded by Ralph Reed.* Long left the JCN in 2012 to pursue an unsuccessful GOP Senate campaign against New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat.)

JCN also has close ties to the anti-gay marriage movement, sharing a treasurer with the National Organization for Marriage. Indeed, in a piece published this week by the National Review Online in coordination with the campaign bashing Christie's judges, the Judicial Crisis Network's current director, Carrie Severino, wrote that Christie's "conservative" justices took part in the court's unanimous decision last year to allow same-sex marriage in New Jersey. She also contends that Christie's most recent nominee has a record of being pro-choice. Severino—who is also a former Thomas clerk—concludes, "If these are Christie's conservative nominees, then Christie's definition of a conservative sounds an awful lot like a liberal."

Christie is likely to see similar attacks as he makes further steps towards a 2016 campaign after the ignominy of Bridgegate. He'll be in New Hampshire later this month.

Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly stated that Gary Marx is currently the head of the Faith and Freedom Coalition. Marx left that post in December 2013 and now runs a political consulting firm, Madison Strategies.

This Group Is Starting the Elizabeth-Warren-for-President Campaign

| Tue Jul. 15, 2014 5:21 PM EDT

Move over, Ready for Hillary. You've got competition.

A group of progressive activists have unveiled Ready for Warren, a new outfit aimed at convincing Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) to run for president. Ready for Warren's website asks supporters to sign a petition urging Warren to get in the 2016 race. "It's time that the American people had a lobbyist of our own, and that lobbyist is Elizabeth Warren," the petition reads. "By standing up to Wall Street to defend Main Street, Warren has proven herself to be the spine that the Democratic Party forgot it had."

The Huffington Post reports that Ready for Warren's campaign manager is Erica Sagrans, an alum of President Obama's 2012 campaign. League of Young Voters founder Billy Wimsatt will serve as a senior adviser to the group. The group also has a Twitter account and a Facebook page.

Here's more from HuffPost:

Ready for Warren supporters will be bringing a van full of supporters to Netroots Nation, the annual gathering of progressive activists that is taking place in Detroit this week.

"We don't want to say too much about our exact plans, but we'll definitely be out in force and supporting Warren when she speaks on Friday," said Sagrans, adding, "We're planning on using Netroots as an opportunity to build on a lot of the momentum she's seen elsewhere and to show not only that she has progressive support—because I think we know that—but that there is an organized effort and people who are working on harnessing that support and building it into a real Draft Warren campaign."

The Ready for Warren supporters will have some competition at the conference. Ready for Hillary and its splashy bus will be there, and Vice President Joe Biden will be addressing the gathering for the first time.

Going forward, the campaign will make sure there are Warren supporters to greet her and encourage her to run as she goes around the country stumping for Democratic candidates. Sagrans said they haven't yet decided what shape the campaign will officially take—whether it will be a super PAC or a hybrid PAC like the Ready for Hillary effort—but they're going to step up volunteer efforts, fundraising and make sure they're a presence in the early primary states such as Iowa and New Hampshire. An explosive amount of fundraising could be one way to entice Warren into the race.

Warren has insisted she's not running for president. Asked by the Boston Globe about a potential White House bid, she replied, "No, no, no, no, no." Yet there are signs that suggest she hasn't completely closed the door on 2016. Her recently published book, A Fighting Chance, read like something a politician eyeing higher office would write. And in an interview with Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus, Warren appeared to leave herself some wiggle room about a future presidential bid.

Recently Warren has traveled the country campaigning and raising boatloads of cash for fellow Democrats on the 2014 ticket—and in the process, raising her national profile. Her super-PAC hauled in $620,000 in April, May, and June, a four-fold increase from the previous three months.

The launch of Ready for Warren is yet more evidence that just about every progressive out there wants Warren to run—every progressive, that is, but Warren herself.

Watch John Oliver Explain Why "It's Your Fault You're Not Rich" Is Bullshit

| Tue Jul. 15, 2014 4:42 PM EDT

On Sunday's Last Week Tonight, host and comedian John Oliver ripped into American politicians' colossal mishandling of the US wealth gap, which continues to grow to ever more astronomical proportions. As Oliver points out, plenty of lawmakers insist the game isn't rigged against the poor—ahem, Marco Rubio—while others recognize the problem but are too afraid to be gung-ho on the issue because of, well, politics.

Take a look: