Political MoJo

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.

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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.

More Police Killed in States With Higher Levels of Gun Ownership

"If we're interested in protecting police officers, we need to look at what’s killing them, and what's killing them is guns."

| Fri Aug. 14, 2015 2:42 PM EDT

Police officers working in states with higher rates of private gun ownership are significantly more likely to be killed on the job than officers working in states with low levels of gun ownership, according to a new study on occupational homicides.

The study, published by the American Journal of Public Health on Thursday, analyzed FBI data focusing on the number of law enforcement officials that were killed between 1996 to 2010. During that period, 716 out of the total 782 police killings were found to be carried out by the use of firearms. Handguns were responsible for 515 of all the homicides. 

"If we're interested in protecting police officers, we need to look at what’s killing them, and what's killing them is guns,” the study's lead author David Swedler of the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health noted in an academic news release.

A firearm present in a domestic violence situation also increases the likelihood of an officer being killed.

Researchers also discovered that the 23 states with the highest levels of gun ownership were three times as likely to have an officer killed by a gun than the eight states with the lowest rates of gun ownership. Interestingly, the study also found that states with a low prevalence of police homicides  had the lowest percentage of gun owners but also were home to the largest populations.

Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Montana recorded both the highest levels of gun ownership and police killings. Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island had the lowest levels for both.

For more on where America's guns are, check out Mother Jones' charts here.

13 Things Donald Trump Was Right About

From Katy Perry to campaign finance, the tirade-prone real estate mogul has actually made some decent points.

| Thu Aug. 13, 2015 6:00 AM EDT

Donald Trump spent most of the weekend saying awful things about Megyn Kelly, after the Fox News host had the temerity to question him at last Thursday's debate about his history of saying awful things about other women. That shouldn't come as too much of a surprise: Hurling insults at people who cross him is basically the entire point of Donald Trump.

But when he's not saying bad things about Kelly, Hillary Clinton, Rosie O'Donnell, women more generally, black people, Mexicans, President Barack Obama, various members of the press, John McCain, or Mohawks, Trump also makes a lot of good points.

Here are 13 things Trump has been right about:

The invasion of Iraq: In 2003, he told the Dallas Morning-News that the Iraq War had been a "disaster" that "should not have been entered into." "To lose all of those thousands and thousands of people, on our side and their side, I mean, you have Iraqi kids, not only our soldiers, walking around with no legs, no arms, no faces," he said. "All for no reason. It is a disgrace."

Katy Perry shouldn't have married Russell Brand:

Trump was right. The marriage dissolved after 14 months; it clearly wasn't meant to be.

Campaign finance: Although Trump bragged (falsely) about having cut checks to most of the Republican candidates with whom he shared the stage last week, he also made some smart points about the corrupting influence of campaign contributions. "I will tell you that our system is broken," he said during the debate. "I give to many people. I give to everybody, when they call I give, and you know what? When I need something from them, two years, three years later, I call, they are there for me."

Material excess: "While I can't honestly say I need an eighty-foot living room, I get a kick out of having one," he wrote in his most famous book, The Art of the Deal. Both of these statements sound pretty true.

Harvard:

No one likes Harvard.

The merits of his cologne, which is actually called "Success" and features notes of juniper, iced red currant, frozen ginger, vetiver, and tonka bean: Granted, you can't buy it in stores anymore because no one bought it, but Success gets 4.5 stars on Amazon.com. User "Kim" writes:

My boyfriend LOVES this cologne. They used to sell it at Macy's but it was discontinued and he was running low around Christmas time...when I told him it was discontinued he was sad that he would have to find another cologne now..but then I found it online here and I was so happy! And it was ALOT cheaper than I used to pay at Macy's! ($62) and it was the big sized bottle like he wanted and it was perfect and he was so happy.

Dick Cheney: "He's very, very angry and nasty," Trump said in a 2011 review of Cheney's book. "I didn't like Cheney when he was a vice president. I don't like him now. And I don't like people that rat out everybody like he's doing in the book. I'm sure it'll be a bestseller, but isn't it a shame? Here's a guy that did a rotten job as vice president. Nobody liked him. Tremendous divisiveness. And he's gonna be making a lot of money on the book. I won't be reading it."

Himself: "I'm a whiner," he told CNN on Tuesday.

The Drug War: In 1990, well before the political tides had shifted in favor of pot legalization, Trump was declaring the federal government's mass-incarceration campaign a waste. "We're losing badly the war on drugs. You have to legalize drugs to win that war. You have to take the profit away from these drug czars."

RedState's Erick Erickson, who disinvited Trump from the conservative site's confab last weekend due to his remarks about Megyn Kelly:

When he's right, he's right.

"Fuckface von Clownstick" is not an original insult:

National health care: "We need, as a nation, to reexamine the single-payer plan, as many individual states are doing," he wrote in his 2000 book, The America We Deserve.

Tom Brady:

#FreeTommy.

Jimmy Carter Reveals He Has Cancer

In a statement, the former president said he will undergo treatment.

| Wed Aug. 12, 2015 4:54 PM EDT

In a statement posted on the Carter Center website on Wednesday, 90-year-old former President Jimmy Carter revealed he has cancer that has spread throughout parts of his body:

Recent liver surgery revealed that I have cancer that now is in other parts of my body. I will be rearranging my schedule as necessary so I can undergo treatment by physicians at Emory Healthcare. A more complete public statement will be made when facts are known, possibly next week.

On August 3, Carter announced he had undergone a surgery to remove a small mass in his liver. Carter's father and all of his three siblings died from pancreatic cancer.

This is a breaking news post.

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This Silicon Valley Giant Is Actually Hiring Women and Minorities

Intel sets impressive diversity goals—by tech-industry standards.

| Wed Aug. 12, 2015 3:51 PM EDT

In January, Intel raised the bar in Silicon Valley by setting concrete targets for hiring women and minorities. While other major tech firms had cut big checks to groups that promote workplace diversity, Intel was the only one to commit to measurable change, pledging to make its workforce reflect the diversity of the tech talent pool by 2020. Some saw the goal as overly optimistic, but Intel's midyear diversity report, released today, shows that it is largely on track to meet its goals.

Overall, more than 43 percent of the company's new hires since January have been women or racial minorities such as African-Americans and Hispanics:

These numbers may not seem particularly high—African-Americans, after all, make up 13 percent of the American workforce but just 3.5 percent of Intel's. But they do compare favorably with the talent pipeline for technical jobs. (Just 4.5 percent of computer science degrees last year went to African-Americans). And the overall demographics in the tech sector are pretty skewed to white dudes:

Compared to those industry-wide numbers, Intel is still falling behind in hiring African-Americans. Yet a comparison of workplace demographics in December and July shows that it's making progress on several fronts: 

Though these shifts aren't huge in percentage terms, they are notable for a company with tens of thousands of employees. The biggest jumps in minority representation have come within the company's leadership ranks—which still remain heavily white and male:

Rev. Jesse Jackson, whose Rainbow PUSH Coalition has played a major behind-the-scenes role in Intel's efforts to diversify, issued a press release praising the company. "Rainbow PUSH argues that companies must set measurable diversity and inclusion goals, targets, and timetables," he said. "Due to CEO Brian Krzanich's steady and visionary leadership, Intel is doing that and more."

The Pentagon Just Realized It Gave Too Much Military Equipment to the Ferguson Police

But Ferguson still has plenty of combat gear to go around.

| Wed Aug. 12, 2015 2:54 PM EDT

As new clashes between the police and protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, revive concerns about the growing use of military-type gear by local cops, the Pentagon has ordered Ferguson to return two Humvees that came straight off the battlefields of Iraq or Afghanistan.

But it's not because of the way Ferguson police officers have responded to the demonstrators, government officials say; it's a paperwork issue.

The Guardian, which broke the story, reports that the government is repossessing the vehicles because Missouri's state coordinator for the Pentagon's controversial 1033 program gave Ferguson four Humvees when it was only authorized to give two.

Established in the 1990s, the 1033 program has stocked local police arsenals with $5.6 billion in combat equipment left over from two foreign wars. Protests in Ferguson over the police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, thrust the program into the spotlight last summer after officers responded to the demonstrators with a militarized show of force, including mine-resistant vehicles, combat-style assault rifles, and gas masks.

At protests to mark the one-year anniversary of Brown's killing, the police show of force has been only a little less aggressive.

Civil liberties advocates have called for curtailing or ending the program, and for cutting off other, larger funding streams that help local cops buy combat equipment as a way to strengthen the line between the police and soldiers. But the Pentagon's move to take away two war-ready Humvees does not demilitarize Ferguson's police force. Ferguson acquired four Humvees through the 1033 program; the Pentagon is only forcing the return of two vehicles. And the Pentagon is not suspending or expelling the city of Ferguson from the 1033 program, the Guardian reports.

What's more, officers are streaming into the community from law enforcement agencies all over St. Louis County, bringing with them their own departments' combat gear.

The Obama administration has announced several changes to the controversial 1033 program since the chaos of last year. Civil rights advocates hope a new White House requirement—for police departments to receive community approval before acquiring armored tactical vehicles—will stanch the flow of some of the most intimidating vehicles. Mine-resistant, ambush-protected trucks, for example, are routinely made available through the program.

But the changes do not apply to weapons, equipment, and vehicles that are already in police armories across the country. And as Radley Balko, the top reporter covering police militarization today, noted in the Washington Post last year, very little of Ferguson's military-type vehicles, assault weapons, and protective gear actually came from the 1033 program:

Most of the militarization today happens outside the 1033 Program. As the Heritage Foundation reported last year, few of the weapons we saw in those iconic images coming out of Ferguson were obtained through 1033. That program created the thirst for militarization, but police agencies can now quench that thirst elsewhere. Since 2003, for example, the Department of Homeland Security has been giving grants to police departments around the country to purchase new military-grade gear. That program now dwarfs the 1033 Program. It has also given rise to a cottage industry of companies that build gear in exchange for those DHS checks.

Communities that decide on their own to get rid of equipment from the 1033 program often have a lot of trouble doing so. The Pentagon technically has a process for returning unwanted equipment. But in reality, as I reported last year, police departments across the country have found that the process doesn't always work.

Online law enforcement message boards brim with complaints that the Pentagon refuses to take back unwanted guns and vehicles—like this one, about a pair of M14 rifles that have survived attempts by two sheriffs to get rid of them.

"The federal government is just not interested in getting this stuff back," says Davis Trimmer, a lieutenant with the Hillsborough, North Carolina, police department. Local law enforcement officials and Pentagon liaisons interviewed by Mother Jones all agree that the Defense Department always prefers to keep working equipment in circulation over warehousing it. Trimmer has twice requested permission to return three M14 rifles that are too heavy for practical use. But the North Carolina point person for the Pentagon insists that Hillsborough can't get rid of the firearms until another police department volunteers to take them. Police in Woodfin, North Carolina, are facing the same problem as they try to return the town's grenade launcher.

Ultimately, the police and sheriffs have found, the easiest way to offload their combat gear is to transfer it to another local law enforcement agency—an option that obviously troubles local officials who wish to get rid of the gear on principle.

In fact, the Pentagon has already said the two extra Ferguson Humvees may go to another police department in Missouri. And they could end up with one of the many departments sending officers and equipment to the scene of these protests—meaning these very same vehicles could roam the streets of Ferguson once again.

Massive Explosions Hit Tianjin

Initial reports say the blast was caused by inflammables at the container terminal.

| Wed Aug. 12, 2015 2:15 PM EDT

Update, August 14, 2015, 4:38 p.m. EST: Reports say 700 tons of cyanide was stored at the Rui Hai warehouse where the fire began. The death toll has climbed to at least 56 deaths.

Update, August 13, 2015, 8:00 a.m. EST: At least 50 deaths and more than 700 people wounded have been confirmed.

A large series of explosions erupted in the city of Tianjin, China, one of the country's largest industrial and shipping centers, around 11:30 p.m. local time on Wednesday. Initial reports from state-run media indicate the blast was accidental and caused by "explosive material in a container."

Images and footage of the explosions have been posted on social media and shared below:

Roughly 90 miles from Beijing, Tianjin is the fourth largest city in China and has a population of over 7 million people. One state-run media estimated 300 to 400 people have been hospitalized.

This is a breaking news post. We will update as news develops.

Donald Trump Calls Bernie Sanders "Weak" for Sharing Stage With Black Activists

Trump promises to never cede control of the mic.

| Wed Aug. 12, 2015 12:57 PM EDT

At a press conference in Birch Run, Michigan, on Tuesday, Donald Trump weighed in on the widely discussed interruption of an appearance by Sen. Bernie Sanders by two black activists last Saturday.

"That showed such weakness," Trump said. "The way he was taken away by two young women—the microphone—they just took the whole place over."

Sanders was campaigning in Seattle when he was interrupted by activists who took control of the stage and the microphone and demanded that people who care about Black Lives Matter also hold the Vermont senator "specifically accountable for his actions." Sanders left the stage without delivering his planned speech.

This is the second time that Black Lives Matter activists have disrupted a Sanders event. Sanders was first disrupted at a Netroots Nation conference in mid-July, as was fellow Democrat Martin O'Malley.

Trump, however, promised that such a spectacle would never occur at any of his events, even hinting that he would resort to violence if necessary.

"That will never happen with me," Trump said. "I don't know if I'll do the fighting myself or if others will, but that was a disgrace."