Political MoJo

6 Dumb Things Dan Snyder Has Said About the Name of His Football Team

| Sat Aug. 9, 2014 6:21 AM EDT

A year ago, I explained Mother Jones' decision to stop using the name of Washington, DC's pro football team, both online and in print. We joined Slate and The New Republic in doing so, and since then, a number of other news organizations and journalists have followed suit.

Even as more people have spoken out against the team's derogatory moniker—everyone from President Obama to Gene Simmons—owner Dan Snyder hasn't given an inch, repeatedly arguing that it's simply not offensive. This week he even went on a mini media tour, giving radio and TV interviews as NFL training camps kicked into gear.

In the meantime, Snyder has doubled down on his commitment to keeping the R-word. Here's a list of some of the dumbest things he's said about it in the last year (as well as some additional reading, for context):

"It is a symbol of everything we stand for: strength, courage, pride, and respect—the same values we know guide Native Americans."

In an October letter to season ticket holders: "The name was never a label. It was, and continues to be, a badge of honor…It is a symbol of everything we stand for: strength, courage, pride, and respect—the same values we know guide Native Americans and which are embedded throughout their rich history as the original Americans."
(See also: "Often Contemptuous" and "Usually Offensive": 120 Years of Defining "Redskin")

In a March letter to season ticket holders, following months of criticism (including this Super Bowl ad): "I've been encouraged by the thousands of fans across the country who support keeping the Redskins tradition alive. Most—by overwhelming majorities—find our name to be rooted in pride for our shared heritage and values."
(See also: "Dan Snyder to Native Americans: We're Cool, Right? Native Americans to Dan Snyder: [Redacted]")

Following an April ceremony at a Virginia high school: "We understand the issues out there, and we're not an issue. The real issues are real-life issues, real-life needs, and I think it's time that people focus on reality."
(See also: "Washington NFL Team's New Native American Foundation Is Already Off to a Great Start")

In a Monday interview with former Washington player Chris Cooley on ESPN 980, the radio station Snyder owns: "It's sort of fun to talk about the name of our football team because it gets some attention for some of the people that write about it, that need clicks. But the reality is no one ever talks about what's going on on reservations."
(See also: "Outrage in Indian Country As Redskins Owner Announces Foundation")

"A Redskin is a football player. A Redskin is our fans. The Washington Redskins fan base represents honor, represents respect, represents pride."

More from the Cooley interview: "It's honor, it's respect, it's pride, and I think that every player here sees it, feels it. Every alumni feels it. It's a wonderful thing. It's a historical thing. This is a very historical franchise…I think it would be nice if, and forget the media from that perspective, but really focus on the fact that—the facts, the history, the truth, the tradition."
(See also: "Former Redskins Player Jason Taylor Says Redskins Name Is Offensive")

In a Tuesday interview with ESPN's Outside the Lines: "A Redskin is a football player. A Redskin is our fans. The Washington Redskins fan base represents honor, represents respect, represents pride. Hopefully winning. And, and, it, it's a positive. Taken out of context, you can take things out of context all over the place. But in this particular case, it is what it is. It's very obvious…We sing 'Hail to the Redskins.' We don't say hurt anybody. We say, 'Hail to the Redskins. Braves on the warpath. Fight for old DC.' We only sing it when we score touchdowns. That's the problem, because last season we didn't sing it quite enough as we would've liked to."
(See also: "Timeline: A Century of Racist Sports Team Names")

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Tennessee Gubernatorial Nominee Explains Why He Wants to Send Governor to Electric Chair

| Fri Aug. 8, 2014 2:27 PM EDT
Charlie Brown for Governor

They did it again. On Thursday, Tennessee Democrats picked a statewide candidate with zero political experience. His campaign platform is based on sending incumbent Gov. Bill Haslam (R) to the electric chair. Charlie Brown, a retired engineer from Oakdale whose name is misspelled on his own Facebook page, may owe his victory in the gubernatorial primary to appearing as the first name on the ballot. But he gives full credit to God. "I got down on my knees and prayed about it," he told Mother Jones, when asked about his campaign strategy. "That hit you pretty hard, huh? That took you for a loop, huh?"

In 2012, anti-gay activist Mark Clayton, who also had no political track record won the nod to take on GOP Sen. Bob Corker. His name was also the first name listed on the ballot. Clayton initially filed to run against Haslam this year but was rejected by the state party. The state party did not, however, unite behind a more experienced candidate to challenge the popular Haslam.

The 72-year-old Brown did not raise money or campaign actively for the seat. Instead, he sent two letters to the editor to every major newspaper in the state, outlining his plans for Tennessee, which included bringing back teacher tenure, restoring benefits for civil servants, spending his gubernatorial salary on large deer for hunters, and raising speed limits on the interstate highways to 80 mph "because everyone does anyway." (Brown says he has been pulled over for speeding, but "not lately.") "Let me give you something: My main interest is to put the Bible back in school," he said on Friday. "You can write that down."

"I'd still like to put his butt in that electric chair and turn it on about half throttle and let him smell a little bit," Brown said of Haslam. "You can print that if you want to."

Shortly before the election, he says a higher power intervened on his behalf. "I was sitting on the interstate waiting on a guy," he said, "and something hit me just like that, and it said to get down on your knees to pray. I got down right there on the interstate. There's a wide place, where there's a pullout. There wasn't anybody there. And I got down and asked the Lord to get me through this thing and he did. Now listen, I'm not no preacher, I'm just a Christian. I'm just a sinner saved by grace. I'm just like everybody else."

Brown said he would update his Facebook after he got off the phone (it has since been taken down), and plans to campaign more actively in the fall, but downplays the uphill challenge he faces.

"I'm gonna campaign big time!" Brown said. "They said I was unknown—I've been in the newspaper for years under Peanuts!"

"Ex-Gay" Conversion Therapy Group Rebrands, Stresses "Rights of Clients"

| Fri Aug. 8, 2014 12:59 PM EDT
An Exodus International billboard, before that ex-gay group shut down last summer.

As the "ex-gay therapy" movement suffers major legal and legislative blows, one of its leading proponents has undergone a major rebranding effort.

On Wednesday, in a bizarre, décolletage-heavy, news-style video, the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH)—the professional organization for conversion therapists—reestablished itself as the Alliance for Therapeutic Choice and Scientific Integrity (ATCSI). In what it calls a "major expansion of our mission," ATCSI claims it will continue "preserving the right of individuals to obtain the services of a therapist who honors their values, advocating for integrity and objectivity in social science research, and ensuring that competent licensed, professional assistance is available for persons who experience unwanted homosexual (same-sex) attractions."

NARTH's makeover, along with a similar rebranding effort by Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX), comes in response to growing national opposition to conversion therapy. ATCSI's new website says the group has become "increasingly involved in legal and professional efforts to defend the rights of clients to pursue change-oriented psychological care as well as the rights of licensed mental health professionals."

Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH), another ex-gay therapy organization run by former NARTH Board Member (and convicted fraudster) Arthur Abba Goldberg, is currently being sued for a different kind of fraud—accepting money but failing to deliver on the conversion promised.

NARTH once encouraged clients to increase their manliness by drinking Gatorade and calling their friends "dude."

Meanwhile, California and New Jersey's bans on ex-gay therapy for minors have held up in court. Michigan may be next to pass a similar bill. Many conversion therapy groups have shut down in recent years, including Love in Action, Evergreen International, Love Won Out, and Exodus International; The latter's president issued an apologetic open letter to the LGBT community last summer. In July, nine remorseful former leaders in the ex-gay therapy movement penned a joint letter condemning ex-gay therapy as an "ineffective and harmful" practice that "reinforces internalized homophobia, anxiety, guilt, and depression."

Conversion therapy, which is discredited by the American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Medical Association, and the American Counseling Association, has been shown to increase risks of suicide, depression, drug abuse, and HIV/STDs. Its damaging effects have led to the creation of "ex-ex-gay" survivor groups.

Despite this growing tide of opposition, ex-gay therapy is not a thing of the past. Proposed youth bans similar to California's and New Jersey's have failed to pass in Virginia, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, Washington, Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, Hawaii and Rhode Island. The Republican Party of Texas even endorses the practice in its draft 2014 platform.

In a press release regarding NARTH's makeover, LGBT activist nonprofit Truth Wins Out (TWO) warns "not to be fooled" by the "cynical branding effort," calling the group's literature "anti-gay hate speech wrapped in medical language." TWO Executive Director Wayne Besen calls ATCSI "the same old swine peddling junk science to desperate and vulnerable people."

TWO's press release also points out some of NARTH's stranger recommendations: The group has encouraged clients to increase their manliness by drinking Gatorade and calling their friends "dude."

Anti-Abortion Tea Party Congressman Who Asked Mistress to Get Abortion Could Win Primary

| Fri Aug. 8, 2014 11:11 AM EDT
Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.)

Voters in Tennessee’s fourth congressional district sent a clear message to future Republican candidates on Thursday: If you pressure your mistress to get an abortion, you might (eventually) lose your job for it you can get away with basically anything.

Rep. Scott DesJarlais, who pressured a woman—one of two patients he admitted having affairs with—to get an abortion in the 1990s, appears to have narrowly avoided becoming the fourth Republican incumbent to lose a primary this year. With 100 percent of precincts reporting on Thursday, he led state Sen. Jim Tracy by 35 votes—34,787 to 34,752. (The results are not official and a recount is possible, although the state has no law mandating one in such circumstances.) The abortion revelation emerged after DesJarlais' 2012 primary, when the only thing standing between him and reelection in the deeply Republican district was a token Democratic candidate in the general election.

But after his reelection, the dominoes continued to fall. Divorce transcripts released two weeks after the race revealed that he and his first wife had decided to abort two pregnancies. That proved a problem for the congressman, who is adamantly pro-life: Per his website, "Congressman DesJarlais believes that all life should be cherished and protected. He has received a 100% score by the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), the oldest and the largest national pro-life organization in the United States."

This year, the congressman faced a serious challenge from Tracy, who entered the race almost immediately after DesJarlais returned to Washington. As Jason Linkins notes, Tracy didn't make DesJarlais's past a focal point until July, although when he did, he went all in. Per the Chattanooga Times Free-Press:

The front of the mailer depicts wooden toy letter blocks spelling "baby," and goes on to say, "Abortions. Affairs. Abuse of Power. We can't trust DesJarlais to Fight for Our Values."

DesJarlais spokesman Robert Jameson called the piece "just the sort of disgusting gutter politics we'd expected from [U.S. House Democratic leader] Nancy Pelosi and her allies in Washington."

Having an affair with your patient is pretty creepy, and attempting to deny reproductive rights to women after privately advocating for women to get abortions is kind of a weird thing to put on your resumé. On the other hand, DesJarlais did produce this ad once, in which two good ol' boys play checkers while talking about how awesome he is:

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for August 8, 2014

Fri Aug. 8, 2014 10:49 AM EDT

Canadian, British and Dutch military paratroopers board a US Army helicopter during Leapfest XXXI, an airborne parachute competition sponsored by the Rhode Island National Guard. (DoD photo by Sgt. Austin Berner, US Army)

Montana Democrat Ends Senate Campaign Over Plagiarism

| Thu Aug. 7, 2014 5:13 PM EDT

Republicans' path to taking over the Senate just got a little bit easier. Sen. John Walsh (D-Mont.) announced on Thursday he would end his Senate campaign after the New York Times reported last month that he had plagiarized portions of his 2007 Army War College thesis. Walsh, a former lieutenant governor and adjutant general of the state national guard, was appointed to the seat vacated by Ambassador to China Max Baucus but struggled to generate much enthusiasm among voters. Montana Democrats have until August 20 to find a new nominee. But whoever wins the Democratic nod will have a tough row to hoe against GOP Rep. (and creationism advocate) Steve Daines, who held a 16-point lead in a CBS/New York Times poll taken lost month.

Don't plagiarize, kids.

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We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for August 7, 2014

Thu Aug. 7, 2014 9:15 AM EDT

A US Marines special operations officer graduating from Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command's Individual Training Course. (US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Thomas Provost)

Obama's 5 Most Atrocious Dinner Guests at the US-Africa Leaders Summit

| Wed Aug. 6, 2014 7:33 PM EDT
President Obama talks with Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz at the US-Africa summit.

As the historic US-Africa Leaders Summit winds down in Washington, headlines have been dominated by concerns over ebolacompetition with China, and what food was served at the mega-dinner the White House hosted for attendees. (Papaya flavored with Madagascar vanilla, anyone?) What garnered less attention, however, was the parade of autocrats from the continent that descended on DC for the event.

Even Wall Street Thinks Income Inequality Could "Capsize" the Economy

| Wed Aug. 6, 2014 2:35 PM EDT

There's a lot of evidence that record-high income inequality has gutted the United States' post-recession recovery. But on Tuesday, the argument was made by an unexpected source: Standard & Poor's (S&P), a Wall Street firm providing ratings and analysis on stocks and bonds, issued a report pointing out economic disparity's role in "dampening US economic growth."

Over the next decade, S&P forecasts that the economy will expand at just a 2.5 percent annual rate, a downgrade from the 2.8 percent growth it predicted just five years ago. One explanation: "At extreme levels, income inequality can harm sustained economic growth over long periods. The US is approaching that threshold."

income distribution

The gap between the richest and poorest Americans has been skyrocketing for decades, with no end in sight. How exactly does this widening wealth gap affect the economy? "Higher levels of income inequality increase political pressures, discouraging trade, investment, and hiring," the report explains. It leads extremely wealthy households to save more and consume less, while lower-income households must borrow to sustain consumption. "When these imbalances can no longer be sustained, we see a boom/bust cycle such as the one that culminated in the Great Recession."

S&P warns against drastic changes to the tax code, arguing that "heavy taxation solely to equalize wages may reduce incentives to work or hire more workers…Policymakers should take care, however, to avoid policies and practices that are either too heavy handed or foster an unchecked widening of the wealth gap. Extreme approaches on either side would stunt GDP growth."

Instead, S&P suggests focusing on education to increase national productivity. According to the report, one additional year of education in the American workforce could increase GDP by $525 billion—about a 2.4 percent boost—over the next five years.

As S&P ominously concludes the report, "A lifeboat carrying a few, surrounded by many treading water, risks capsizing."

The Obama Cousin Who Compared Obama to Hitler Just Lost His Kansas GOP Primary

| Tue Aug. 5, 2014 11:26 PM EDT

Unseating an incumbent senator is always difficult, but Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) presented an enticing challenge. In an interview with the New York Times, Roberts said he sleeps on a friend's recliner on the rare occasions he returns to Kansas. Later, in a radio interview, he admitted that he tries to return to Kansas "every time I get an opponent." Roberts might have been in trouble against a serious challenger. Instead he faced political newcomer Milton Wolf, whom he dispatched by seven points on Tuesday.

Wolf's qualifications as a Kansas tea party activist began with his family tree. He is a second cousin of President Barack Obama—whom he compared to Hitler—and a doctor, qualifications that earned him invitations to appear on cable news and talk radio to critique the Affordable Care Act as an unconstitutional attack on Americans' liberties. But Wolf's hopes of becoming the next great conservative insurgent candidate died in February at a Topeka diner, where a reporter from the Topeka Capital-Journal confronted him about images on his Facebook page (deleted before the campaign) of x-rays he'd taken of gunshot victims. Although billed as a tea party vs. establishment showdown, the Roberts-Wolf race was more of a referendum on social media protocol. And in Kansas, the verdict is clear: You shouldn't post x-rays of gunshot victims on Facebook.