Political MoJo

Ted Cruz Blames President Obama for Inciting Murder of Texas Cop

| 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."

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

| 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

| 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

| 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:

Breaking: Another Massive Explosion Rocks Industrial City in China

| 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

| 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.

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Judges Give NSA More Time to Suck Up Your Data

| 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"

| 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.

Trump: "This Isn't a Gun Problem, This Is a Mental Problem."

| Thu Aug. 27, 2015 2:24 PM EDT

A day after two journalists in Virginia were fatally shot on live television, Donald Trump is rejecting calls to strengthen gun control laws. Instead, he told CNN's Chris Cuomo today that mental health issues are to blame for gun violence in America. This isn't a gun problem, this is a mental problem," the presidential hopeful said.

"You're not going to get rid of all guns," Trump added. "I know one thing: If you try to do it, the bad guys would have them. And the good folks would abide by the laws but be hopeless." The real state mogul defended the Second Amendment, which he said he was "very much into."

Trump's opposition to stricter gun legislation in favor of focusing on mental health problems is not new. But many experts argue such thinking is flawed. "Consider that between 2001 and 2010, there were nearly 120,000 gun-related homicides…Few were perpetrated by people with mental illness," psychiatry professor Richard A. Friedman wrote in the New York Times after the Newtown shooting in 2012.

Trump is just one of the 2016 candidates to weigh in following the murders of Alison Parker and Adam Ward on Wednesday morning. Speaking at a press conference in Iowa, Hillary Clinton told reporters that she was "stricken" by the shooting. "We have got to do something about gun violence in America," Clinton said. "And I will take it on."

Speaking to Fox News' Megyn Kelly on Wednesday night, the father of one of the victims vowed to fight for increased gun control measures. "Whatever it takes to get gun legislation, to shame people, to shame legislators into doing something about closing loopholes and background checks and making sure crazy people don't get guns," Andy Parker said.

This GOP Presidential Candidate Is Trying to Destroy Planned Parenthood. Now Planned Parenthood Is Fighting Back.

| Wed Aug. 26, 2015 6:23 PM EDT

Planned Parenthood in Louisiana is asking a federal judge to halt presidential candidate and state Gov. Bobby Jindal's efforts to cut Medicaid funding for the health care organization, arguing that the cut would hurt nearly 6,000 low-income women, men, and teens who access the group's services each year.

Referencing the series of attack videos that depict Planned Parenthood officials in California and other states discussing fetal tissue donation, Jindal earlier this month directed the state's department of health to terminate Planned Parenthood's contract with Medicaid, saying the organization was not "worthy of receiving public assistance from the state."

Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, which operates clinics in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, does not offer abortion services in Louisiana. It does, however, provide physical exams, breast cancer screenings, and testing for sexually transmitted infections to 10,000 people each year, 60 percent of whom are enrolled in Medicaid. 

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday, lawyers for the health care organization wrote that those patients will be cut off from health care access as early as next week, causing them "significant and irreparable harm," unless the court blocks Jindal's decision. Medicaid payments to Planned Parenthood, which totaled nearly $730,000 last year, are set to end September 2 unless the court steps in. 

A key issue is whether cutting off Planned Parenthood's Medicaid funding is legal. This month, the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) warned Louisiana that terminating Medicaid provider agreements likely violates a federal rule requiring Medicaid beneficiaries to be able to obtain services from any qualified provider.  

The point of that provision, according to CMS, is to "allow [Medicaid] recipients the same opportunities to choose among available providers of covered health care and services as are normally offered to the general population."

Louisiana isn't the only state to cut funding for Planned Parenthood: Alabama, Arkansas, New Hampshire, and Utah have taken similar steps. And Republicans in Congress tried, but failed, to push through a bill to slash $500 million in federal funding. 

Jindal is also one of a handful of Republican governors who have launched investigations into state Planned Parenthood affiliates in the hopes of finding criminal activity related to the sale of aborted fetal tissue. Those investigations, many of which are taking place in states that don't have fetal tissue donation programs, have so far turned up nothing. The investigation in Louisiana, however, has put on hold the construction of a third Planned Parenthood clinic, which was approved by the department of health earlier this year after months of pushback.

But coming out swinging against the country's largest women's health care organization hasn't translated to a more successful presidential campaign for Jindal. He was one of two sitting governors who did not get to participate in the first prime-time Republican debate this year because the forum was limited to the top-polling candidates. National polls have consistently put him in the low single digits.