Political MoJo

Bernie Sanders: Donald Trump Is a National Embarrassment

He didn't mince words.

| Tue Aug. 18, 2015 11:18 AM EDT

In an interview with the New York Times published on Monday, Bernie Sanders offered his views on the always entertaining presidential campaign of Donald Trump. And he didn't mince words. When asked what he thought of the Republican front-runner's continued surge in the polls, Sanders responded, "Not much," and hit back at Trump's racist rhetoric.

"I think Donald Trump's views on immigration and his slurring of the Latino community is not something that should be going on in the year 2015," Sanders said. "And it's to me an embarrassment for our country."

Sanders' comments come on the heels of several recent op-ed's attempting to draw similarities between Trump's and Sanders' policy proposals, specifically on immigration. Judging from Sanders' latest remarks, however, we're guessing the Vermont senator isn't exactly thrilled to be compared with the inflammatory real estate mogul.

Just last week, Trump took a shot at Sanders, calling him "weak" for sharing the stage with Black Lives Matter organizers at a campaign stop in Seattle. Trump assured his audience that unlike Sanders, he would have taken charge, and he even insinuated that he would have been prepared to get violent.

"I don't know if I'll do the fighting myself or if others will, but that was a disgrace," he said.

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This Pro-Gun Researcher Wrote a Viral Op-Ed As a Young Woman Who Really Wants a Gun

John Lott channels his feminine side…again.

| Tue Aug. 18, 2015 6:15 AM EDT

Last fall, a first-person narrative by Taylor Woolrich, a student at Dartmouth and a stalking victim, went viral. In the article, which appeared on FoxNews.com, Woolrich wrote that her stalker of several years would soon be let out of jail, yet the college wouldn't let her carry a gun. The headline read, "Dear Dartmouth, I am one of your students, I am being stalked, please let me carry a gun to protect myself." The article went on:

I feel that I have no control over my life. My family was forced to move. I have had stay indoors [sic], keep drapes closed, avoid posting on social media sites, and even change my car. It’s almost like being held hostage.

Should myself and other female victims just have to put up with this? The answer, hopefully, is "no." Women must be able to defend themselves. The most effective way of doing this is by using a gun. When police arrive to enforce a restraining order, it is usually too late.

But Woolrich didn't write the article. Instead, it was penned by John Lott, a Fox News columnist, economist, and gun advocate whose research claiming that guns reduce crime has been repeatedly challenged and dismissed. Now, Woolrich believes that her experience was repurposed to promote a cause that she never intended to support. "I wanted to talk to the media, if it could mean something positive," Woolrich recently told BuzzFeed. "But I wanted to talk to the media about stalking. I didn't realize I was being turned into an NRA puppet."

Woolrich's interactions with Lott go back to last summer, when he asked her to speak on a panel at the Students for Concealed Carry conference. She agreed, admitting in her presentation that she didn't particularly identify with the pro-gun movement but wanted to help stalking victims. Around the same time, Lott and Woolrich shared a byline for an article for the Daily Caller about her experience. Woolrich says Lott wrote it, but she agreed to share the credit with him to make the piece "more reputable." Afterward, Fox News asked her to write a first-person op-ed. She said she didn't have time, so Lott offered to write it.

According to BuzzFeed,

The piece incorporated elements of her talk at the conference, but otherwise it was essentially the same article written by Lott, which is still online at the Daily Caller. "It's his op-ed," she says. "Word for word, except the chunks that match what's said in my speech." The references to Lott's disputed research? Not hers. The link to the Amazon sales page for his book? Not hers. The headline? "Dear Dartmouth, I am one of your students, I am being stalked, please let me carry a gun to protect myself."

"I think his first priority was his cause," she says. "He saw me as a really great asset."

So did Fox News. "THANK YOU for putting this in the first person," wrote a Fox editor to Lott. "Here's hoping this piece might go viral."

It's unclear if the Fox editors were aware of the extent to which Lott was involved in writing the piece. An editor's note at the bottom mentions that Lott "contributed to this story." But Fox News executive editor John Moody told BuzzFeed that FoxNews.com "published what was characterized to us as a first person account of Ms. Woolrich's experiences."

This isn't the first time that Lott has written in the voice of a young woman seeking safety from a gun. In 2003, Lott was forced to admit he had posed as an active online commenter named Mary Rosh, who presented herself as his former student at the University of Pennsylvania and fiercely defended his research. "Even if I am not wearing heels, I don't think that there are many men that I could outrun, especially over a short distance. Unfortunately, women are not as fast as men on average," Rosh/Lott wrote. "You obviously don't know what it is to be seriously threatened by someone who is much stronger than you are." Lott later explained that "on a couple of occasions I used the female persona implied by the name in the chat rooms to try to get people to think about how people who are smaller and weaker physically can defend themselves."

A Judge Just Handed Abortion Supporters a Huge Win in the Deep South

Finally, some good news.

| Tue Aug. 18, 2015 6:10 AM EDT

At last, some good news in abortion rights. Last week, a federal judge in Alabama blocked a regulation that might have closed the state's largest abortion clinic for good.

The West Alabama Women's Center in Tuscaloosa closed back in January after the clinic's previous physician retired. The clinic's new doctor was unable to gain admitting privileges at a local hospital or establish a contract with another doctor who had those privileges, putting the clinic in violation of state requirements. Proponents of the regulation said it was needed to protect women's safety should complications arise when ending a pregnancy, while abortion rights advocates argued that it was an attempt to shutter clinics that rely on providers who live out of the state. Major medical organizations have generally opposed such laws as medically unnecessary.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on the clinic's behalf challenging the requirement, and on August 13, US District Judge Myron Thompson issued a temporary restraining order putting the clinic back in business. Thompson said the closure of the clinic put an "undue burden" on women who were forced to travel longer distances to obtain abortions.

The Tuscaloosa clinic was one of only two in Alabama to provide second-trimester abortions up to the state's 20-week legal limit. In 2013, it performed 40 percent of the state's abortions; after it closed, the closest clinic in Huntsville saw a 57 percent increase in women seeking abortions.

The judge cited evidence that the increased distances and the additional strain on the state's remaining clinics forced women to delay abortions until their pregnancies were past the 20-week limit. Thompson also cited the concern that the regulation's effect on reducing abortion access "increased the risk that women will take their abortion into their own hands," and noted that the Huntsville clinic reported calls from women seeking advice on how to terminate their own pregnancies, or threatening to do so. Thompson also referred to a "'severe scarcity of abortion doctors…nationwide and particularly in the South,' with no residency program offering training in performing abortion in Louisiana, Alabama, or Mississippi." 

"For all Alabama women, the closure of the largest abortion provider in the state, one of two providers in the state that administers abortions after 16 weeks, has reduced the number of abortions that can be provided here," Thompson wrote.

Thompson has been consistently supportive of abortion rights. Last year, the judge, who served as Alabama's first African-American assistant attorney general before being nominated to the bench by President Jimmy Carter, issued a broader ruling in a similar case involving several other clinics.

The Push to Unionize College Football Players Just Suffered a Huge Blow

But Monday's labor board decision left the door open to future unionization efforts.

| Mon Aug. 17, 2015 3:16 PM EDT

The National Labor Relations Board on Monday dismissed a bid from Northwestern University football players to form the first-ever college athletes' union, overturning an earlier regional board ruling and ending a year-and-a-half-long battle that included several union-busting efforts by the school and the team's coaches to persuade athletes to vote against unionization.

From the Chicago Tribune:

In a unanimous decision, the five-member board declined to "assert" jurisdiction over the case because doing so would not promote uniformity and labor stability in college football and could potentially upset the competitive balance between college teams, according to an NLRB official.

The board, the official said, analyzed the nature, composition and structure of college football and concluded that Northwestern football players would be attempting to bargain with a single employer over policies that apply league-wide.

The decision marks a significant blow for Northwestern athletes, who won a regional board decision in March 2014 that determined they were university employees and could therefore seek union representation. However, it is unclear what effect the latest ruling will have on potential future unionization attempts at other schools; the board's decision applies strictly to Northwestern's case, and it declined to decide whether the athletes were employees under federal law, leaving open the possibility for athletes to unionize elsewhere.

The College Athletes Players Association, a collection of former athletes spearheading the bid, could appeal the ruling in federal court, but, according to the Tribune, that appears unlikely. Former Northwestern star quarterback Kain Colter, who had pushed the athletes' union efforts, expressed disappointment over Monday's ruling on Twitter, noting that the jury was still out as to whether college athletes are still employees. 

CAPA president Ramogi Kuma called Monday's ruling a "loss in time" in a statement, in that it delayed "the leverage the players need to protect themselves." But, he said, it didn't stop other athletes from pursuing unionization. "The fight for college athletes' rights," he told the Tribune, "will continue."

One Angry Man: Trump (Finally) Reports for Jury Duty

The GOP front-runner has a history of skipping out on summonses.

| Mon Aug. 17, 2015 2:30 PM EDT
Donald Trump enters a Manhattan courthouse for jury duty on August 17.

Celebrity tycoon and GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump arrived at a courthouse in Manhattan on Monday morning to report for jury duty. He pulled up in a limo and fist bumped bystanders on his way into the State Supreme Court. Last week, at a rally in New Hampshire, Trump said he would willingly sacrifice valuable campaign time to answer his jury summons.

But prior to professing his commitment to civic responsibility, Trump has perennially skipped out on jury summonses in the past.

Trump's attorney Michael Cohen confirmed to CNN that Trump has missed five jury summonses over nine years. But Cohen claimed that Trump was not shirking his civic duty. The summonses, he said, were delivered to the wrong address.

"You gotta serve it to the right property," Cohen said. "I believe he owns the building but he doesn't reside there, and nobody knows what happened to the document."

It's true that master jury lists are often outdated; an address mix-up is feasible. But in general, wealthy individuals are usually more likely to report for jury duty. Lower-income people often cut out due to the various economic pressures that come with jury duty: time off from work, reduced pay (in most states, jury pay is less than $50 a day), and child care needs.

Because he made it to the courthouse today, CNN reports, Trump will not have to pay the $250 fine he was facing for previous failures to appear. It's doubtful the threat of such a fine compelled him to show up. But a cynic can certainly wonder what will happen the next time he is called to jury duty when he is not a presidential candidate.

Conservatives Attack Carly Fiorina for Being Pro-Islam

And just wait until they find out Fiorina found comfort in Muslim prayers.

| Mon Aug. 17, 2015 1:12 PM EDT

Carly Fiorina has had the wind at her back after the first Republican presidential debate. The former Hewlett-Packard CEO earned high marks for her appearance at the "kids table" forum for the least-popular GOP candidates, and she has been rising in the polls ever since. So it was only a matter of time before the knives came out.

On Sunday evening, former Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who herself was doing well in the GOP presidential polls this time four years ago, drew her followers' attention to a 14-year-old speech Fiorina had given in Minneapolis, in which she defended the cultural, legal, and scientific heritage of the Muslim world. The catch: It was delivered just weeks after 9/11. What nerve!

Fiorina's speech reads as a thoughtful defense of the faith of many of her employees at Hewlett Packard. Her respect for Islam seems to come from personal experience. In her 2006 book, Tough Choices, she described the soothing effect of listening to Muslim prayers when she was a teen and her family lived in Ghana. (Her father was a law professor then on a teaching sabbatical at the University of Ghana). She wrote:

I remember hearing, for the first time, Muslims pray, and how over time their sound evolved from being frightening in its strangeness to comforting in its cadence and repetition—I would feel the same peace when I listened to the sound of summer cicadas around my grandmother's house. I grew to love being awakened in the morning by the sound of the devout man who always came to pray under my bedroom window.

Uh-oh. That reminiscence may well provide Bachmann with more ammo. And it's not just Bachmann who has called out Fiorina for being soft on Islam. Fiorina's comments on Islamic civilization have also been criticized by fringe-right outlets like the American Thinker and Western Journalism Review.

Islam has once again become a wedge issue in the Republican primary. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, for instance, has called for a ban on certain kinds of Muslim immigrants. Fiorina, who tried (and failed) to ride the GOP tea party wave into the Senate in 2010 by fashioning herself as a stalwart conservative—is now the target of the extremists she once courted.

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Arkansas Is the Latest State to Defund Planned Parenthood

Sting videos prompt another Republican governor to cut funding for women's health care.

| Fri Aug. 14, 2015 8:00 PM EDT

Following in the footsteps of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has directed his state's Department of Human Services to terminate its Medicaid contract with Planned Parenthood. The termination will be effective in 30 days.

In a statement, Hutchinson said, "It is apparent that after the recent revelations on the actions of Planned Parenthood, that this organization does not represent the values of the people of our state and Arkansas is better served by terminating any and all existing contracts with them. This includes their affiliated organization, Planned Parenthood of Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma."

The announcement comes in the wake of outrage over heavily-edited sting videos released by anti-abortion activists alleging a litany of offenses by Planned Parenthood. The Obama administration contends that cutting Planned Parenthood off from Medicaid funds breaks federal law.

Federal money cannot be used for abortion, and abortion is only three percent of Planned Parenthood's services. The organization mostly provides STI/STD screenings, contraception, cancer screenings and the like.

Here Are 3 Gun Control Proposals That Republicans Actually Support

Really.

| Fri Aug. 14, 2015 6:05 PM EDT

It turns out there are some gun control proposals that Republicans and Democrats actually agree on. According to new findings from the Pew Research Center, fully 85 percent of Americans—including 88 percent of Democrats and 79 percent of Republicans—believe people should have to pass a background check before purchasing guns in private sales or at gun shows. Currently, only licensed gun dealers are required to perform background checks. A majority of Americans (79 percent) also back laws to prevent those with mental illness from purchasing guns.

There is a greater divide between the parties on other gun issues. Seventy percent of respondents support the creation of a federal database to track all gun sales, including 85 percent of Democrats but just 55 percent of Republicans. A more narrow majority (57 percent) would like to ban assault-style weapons. That proposal draws support from 70 percent of Democrats and 48 percent of Republicans.

Partisan Views of Gun Proposals

The survey found even sharper partisan disagreement on other questions:

  • Seventy-three percent of Democrats say it's more important to control gun ownership, while 71 percent of Republicans say it's more important to protect gun rights.
  • Republicans are almost twice as likely to see gun ownership as an effective form of protection rather than a way to jeopardize safety.

The study also examines demographics such race, gender, and education level:

  • Proposals for a federal gun database draw more support from African-Americans (82 percent) and Hispanics (76 percent) than from whites (66 percent). Fifty-six percent of African-Americans say gun ownership is a safety hazard.
  • Sixty-five percent of women favor banning assault-style weapons, compared with 48 percent of men.
  • Sixty percent of men say guns help protect people, compared with 49 percent of women.
  • Those with post-graduate degrees are more likely to favor a ban on assault weapons (72 percent) than those with a high school diploma or less education (48 percent). Those with post-graduate degrees are also more likely to say gun ownership does more to endanger than increase safety (57 percent).
  • College graduates are almost evenly divided; 48 percent say guns endanger people, while 46 percent say they protect people.
  • Those with a high school diploma or less say gun ownership does more to protect people (59 percent).

For more information, check out these interactive charts from the Pew Research Center.

Ben Carson: Abortion Is the No. 1 Killer of Black People

"I know who Margaret Sanger is. And I know that she believed in eugenics and she was not particularly enamored with black people."

| Fri Aug. 14, 2015 4:34 PM EDT

On Thursday, Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon and Republican presidential candidate, double downed on his recent assertion that Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger used abortions as a population control tool in order to try and destroy the black population.

When asked by Fox News if he stood by his eyebrow-raising comments, Carson answered unequivocally, "Absolutely. No question about it."

"Anybody can easily find out about Margaret Sanger and what kind of person she was and how she was a strong advocate of eugenics," he explained. "She wrote articles about eugenics and believed that certain members of the population weakened the population and was not enamored of black people. And it is quite true that the majority and plurality of their clinics are in minority neighborhoods."

But Carson then brought the discussion up to 2015. "It brings up a very important issue and that is do those black lives matter?" Carson added. "The number one cause of death for black people is abortion. I wonder if maybe some people might at some point become concerned about that and ask why is that happening and what can be done to alleviate that situation. I think that's really the important question."

According to the Centers for Disease Control, heart disease is the number one cause of death for African Americans.

His attack on the women's health organization comes the same week that it was revealed Carson used fetal tissues to conduct medical research—a practice that has come under fire in recent weeks after an anti-abortion group published a string of a heavily-edited video footage appearing to capture Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of fetal tissues.

Despite his very vocal anti-abortion criticism, Carson defended his past research on aborted fetuses and argued that there was no inconsistency with this and his continued attacks on Planned Parenthood. "Killing babies and harvesting tissue for sale is very different than taking a dead specimen and keeping a record of it," he said. "Which is exactly the source of the tissue used in our research."

This California Farmers Market Sells Marijuana

The same people who grow tomatoes, squash, and carrots will also sell you pot.

| Fri Aug. 14, 2015 3:01 PM EDT

In the fruit and veggie cornucopia that is California, local farmers markets sell everything from brandywine tomatoes and lemon cucumbers to hedgehog mushrooms and fresh medjool dates. But no farmers market can match the selection of the one in the Mendocino County town of Laytonville, which offers, among other things, an ample supply of heirloom cannabis.

Admittedly, this is not a typical farmers market. It takes place just once a year, at a hippie enclave replete with UFO murals and Ganesh shrines, and only certified medical marijuana patients may enter (though there's a doctor on site to help with that). But it does offer the spectacle of actual farmers selling their own produce and pot side by side.

Emily Hobelmann of the Lost Coast Outpost visited last year and was wowed by the selection:

All told, I saw squash and apples and pears and peppers and world-class cannabis flowers. I saw leeks and tomatoes, peaches and dab rigs. I saw picked beans and marijuana clones, carrots and cold water hash.

If you happen to be up that way, you can stop by between 11 a.m. and 4:20 p.m. next Saturday.