Political MoJo

New York Reaches Deal to Raise Minimum Wage to $15

| Fri Apr. 1, 2016 9:52 AM EDT

Not to be outdone by its perennial rival on the west, New York announced on Thursday it had reached a deal to raise the minimum wage in New York City to $15 by 2018. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo hailed the agreement as the "best plan the state has produced in decades."

"We're leaders in economic justice," he said in an announcement outlining the state's budget.

But unlike California, where lawmakers approved a measure to hike its statewide minimum to $15, the Empire State failed to reach an agreement on a statewide minimum. Instead a hike will go into effect regionally: Areas outside of New York City, including New York's wealthier suburbs in Westchester and Long Island, will have six years to implement the wage boost. The minimum wage in northern regions that are generally less affluent will only go up to $12.50 by 2021.

The agreement also includes a provision to review the hike's economic impact with studies that will start in 2019. Based on those studies, the state will determine whether to raise the minimum wage to $15 in the state's northern counties or suspend it.

While the move to raise the minimum wage to $15 has received increased momentum in cities across the country, New York's cautious approach is likely welcomed by economists who remain unsure of its impact. On both ends of the political spectrum, there is much debate over how the boost could either be an economic boon for residents or force business owners to cut jobs and lead to economic distress.

For a closer look at how New York is reacting to Thursday's announcement, jump here.

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Tech-Shuttle Giant Given the Boot in San Francisco

| Thu Mar. 31, 2016 8:50 PM EDT
Teamsters block a Bauer's IT shuttle in San Francisco.

Citing a history of disregard for traffic laws and acrimonious labor disputes, San Francisco's Municipal Transportation Agency has declined to grant tech shuttle operator Bauer's IT a permit to use public bus stops under the city's controversial Commuter Shuttle Program. Bauer's IT is one of San Francisco's largest tech bus operators, accounting for 10 percent of the city's commuter shuttle pickups. Bauer's IT clients include major Bay Area tech companies such as Twitter, Yelp, Salesforce, and Cisco.

Does this mean the Twitterati will be tweeting from BART like the rest of us? Not exactly.

According to a "notice of permit denial" sent from the SFMTA to Bauer's yesterday, the company repeatedly broke the law by sending large buses down "weight-restricted streets" and stopping at locations not designated for private buses. It also failed to inform the city of ongoing labor disputes with the International Brotherhood of the Teamsters, whose complaints of illegal union busting practices at the company are being heard by the National Labor Relations Board. The Commuter Shuttle Program requires participating companies to maintain "labor harmony."

In 2013, tech shuttles, a.k.a. "Google buses," became potent symbols of inequality and gentrification in the Bay Area after it emerged that the posh private vehicles were illegally using public bus stops to pick up workers. The following year, the city launched a pilot program that allowed the companies to use the stops legally for a nominal fee. That program becomes permanent next month, but requires participating companies to reapply for permits. Bauer's IT could not be reached for comment.

"The SFMTA is enforcing what the City and County of San Francisco is famous for: Recognizing employees' right to be represented and right to and fair wages and benefits," said Rome Aloise, the director of Teamsters Joint Council 7, which represents drivers in Northern California. "Bauer's seems to be just disregarding all of that."

Does this mean the Twitterati will be tweeting from BART like the rest of us? Not exactly. Bauer's IT has 15 days to file an appeal, and can then continue to use its stops until the city makes a final decision.

Turkish President's Arrival Brings Chaos to Downtown Washington

| Thu Mar. 31, 2016 2:35 PM EDT

Skirmishes between protesters, police, and Turkish security personnel broke out in the streets of downtown Washington, DC, shortly before Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was set to give a speech at the Brookings Institution. 

Erdoğan traveled to the Washington metro area to open a cultural center in Lanham, Maryland, attend the Nuclear Security Summit, and to meet with Vice President Joe Biden. His speech on Thursday, however, was overshadowed by what happened in the streets beforehand.

Bernie Sanders Has an Interesting Theory About Why the Republican Party Exists

| Thu Mar. 31, 2016 12:16 PM EDT

Rachel Maddow posed an interesting question to Sen. Bernie Sanders during their interview on Wednesday: Would he like to see the Republican Party just disappear? Sanders' answer was also an interesting one. He didn't take the bait; instead, he offered an alternative theory—the GOP would disappear if corporate media simply told the truth about the party's agenda.

Sanders didn't mean that as hyperbole. By his estimate, the Republican Party would drop to single-digit support if it weren't for negligence by the press:

I think if we had a media in this country that was really prepared to look at what the Republicans actually stood for rather than quoting every absurd remark of Donald Trump, talking about Republican Party, talking about hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks for the top two tenths of 1 percent, cuts to Social Security and Medicare, Medicaid, a party which with few exceptions doesn't even acknowledge the reality of climate change, let alone do anything about it, a party which is not prepared to stand with women in the fight for pay equity, a party that is not prepared to do anything about a broken criminal justice system or a corrupt campaign finance system, I think, to be honest with you—and I just don't, you know, say this rhetorically, this is a fringe party. It is a fringe party. Maybe they get 5, 10 percent of the vote.

"The Republican Party today now is a joke," he continued, "maintained by a media which really does not force them to discuss their issues."

Sanders was returning to one of his driving issues over the years—a fervent belief that corporate-owned media was steering democracy off a cliff. In 1979, he wrote an essay arguing that TV networks were "using the well-tested Hitlerian principle that people should be treated as morons and bombarded over and over again with the same simple phrases and ideas" to prevent them from thinking critically about the world around them. He hit those same themes (albeit more diplomatically) in his book, Outsider in the House, arguing that TV news coverage was dumbing down America by inundating viewers with superficial coverage of O.J. Simpson instead of "corporate disinvestment in the United States." Not surprisingly, when Maddow asked Sanders in an interview last fall what his dream job might be, he quickly blurted out, "president of CNN."

A corporate media that obsesses over the issues Sanders obsesses over would certainly have some impact on the political landscape. But Sanders' dismissal of the Republican base seems to miss a far more obvious takeaway. People vote for Republicans not because they've been brainwashed, but because they actually like what Republicans like Trump are proposing.

Bernie Sanders Is Gaining on Hillary Clinton in Her Own Backyard

| Thu Mar. 31, 2016 11:29 AM EDT

Bernie Sanders won his home state of Vermont with a whopping 86 percent of the vote. Hillary Clinton, it seems, will have no such luck on her home turf.

Sanders is slowly gaining on Clinton in New York ahead of the April 19 primary. Clinton now leads Sanders by 12 points in New York's Democratic primary, according to a Quinnipiac Poll released Thursday. A poll in February showed Sanders 21 points behind Clinton in New York, and another in March showed him 48 points behind.

Sanders' growing support in New York is not altogether surprising. Born and raised in Brooklyn, the Vermont senator can also claim ties to the state. More important, the political climate in New York is favorable to Sanders. Areas of western New York resemble demographically the Midwestern states where Sanders has performed relatively well. And there is a blueprint for a progressive challenger in New York. In 2014, a law professor with no name recognition and little money or organization, Zephyr Teachout, won a third of the vote in her primary challenge to the state's incumbent Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo. Unlike Teachout, Sanders has plenty of money, name recognition, and a growing organization in the state.

Still, with Sanders trailing in the delegate count, he'll need to start racking up meaningful wins—not just close contests—in delegate-rich states like New York in order to catch up to Clinton.

Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban Somehow Got Worse

| Wed Mar. 30, 2016 9:57 PM EDT

Donald Trump told a Wisconsin town hall on Wednesday that his proposed ban on Muslims entering the United States would have an exception for the billionaire's rich friends.

"I have actually—believe it or not—I have a lot of friends that are Muslim and they call me," Trump said, when asked about his plan by MSNBC's Chris Matthews, the event's moderator. "In most cases, they're very rich Muslims, okay?"

Matthews then asked Trump if his rich Muslim friends would be able enter the country under Trump's Muslim ban. "They'll come in," Trump said. "You'll have exceptions."

But he didn't stop there. A few moments later, when Matthews suggested a blanket ban might rub Muslims the wrong way, Trump flipped the script, arguing that it would instead have a galvanizing effect on Middle Eastern countries in the fight against ISIS.

"Maybe they'll be more disposed to fight ISIS," Trump said. "Maybe they'll say, 'We want to come back into America, we've got to solve this problem!'"

Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton wasted little time dismissing Trump's comments:

If you are one of Trump's rich Muslim friends, Mother Jones would love to speak with you. Shoot me an email at tmurphy@motherjones.com.

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Donald Trump Won’t Rule Out Using Nuclear Weapons in Europe

| Wed Mar. 30, 2016 9:15 PM EDT

Donald Trump refused to rule out using nuclear weapons in Europe during a town hall in Wisconsin on Wednesday. The Republican presidential front-runner was asked about his recent contradictory statements about nuclear proliferation—in which he said he was concerned about the spread of nukes while also suggesting that more countries, including Japan, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia, should be allowed to acquire them.

MSNBC's Chris Matthews, the host of the town hall, tried to pin Trump down on what circumstances might compel President Trump to deploy the United States' nuclear arsenal.

"Look, nuclear should be off the table, but would there a time when it could be used? Possibly," Trump said.

Matthews asked Trump to tell the Middle East and Europe that he would never use nuclear weapons, but Trump continued to evade. Asked again if he'd use nuclear weapons in Europe, Trump held firm. "I am not—I am not taking cards off the table," Trump responded.

Watch:

Watch Samantha Bee's Depressing Twist on March Madness

| Wed Mar. 30, 2016 9:06 AM EDT

Samantha Bee has come up with a new kind of March Madness this week, for those of you who can't stand to watch any more basketball because your brackets have been wrecked. But be warned: The late-night host's version is also difficult to stomach.

On her show, Full Frontal, on Monday night, Bee awarded an MVP of private probation corporations—companies that earn huge profits by contracting with court systems to monitor probationers. These probationers, Bee explains, are often low-income people charged with minor offenses like traffic violations, and when they can't afford to pay the fines imposed by the for-profit probation companies, they're jailed.

"Which firm managed to distinguish itself from the shit pile of other predatory companies," she asked, to earn the MVPPC, or the Most Valuable Private Probation Corporation? It was Georgia-based Sentinel Offender Services, which, according to Bee, set up its own "March Madness" bonus program, in which its employees earn cash prizes if they meet or exceed their office's monthly revenue forecast. "As if levying fines and surcharges on people too poor to pay tickets isn't its own reward," Bee said. And how do they bring in more money? Sometimes they lobby judges to release probationers they helped put in jail, Bee learned, or they allegedly force probationers to pay fees for drug tests that were never ordered by courts.

"Any March Madness fan knows that offense is key, and when it comes to how they treat the people of Georgia, nobody is more offensive than Sentinel," Bee said. "Their ethics are offensive, their policies are offensive, their whole company is offensive. Unfortunately, they lack defense: Seriously, there's no defense for incentivizing probation collection, and that could really hurt them on the court—I'm sorry, in the court—because, oh yeah, Sentinel is currently in court being sued for illegally forcing middle-aged ladies to squeeze out urine and $15 dollars for the privilege."

Watch the full clip above, and check out Mother Jones' investigation into "the wild, shadowy, and highly lucrative bail industry" while you're at it.

Donald Trump Abandons Pledge to Support GOP Nominee

| Tue Mar. 29, 2016 10:12 PM EDT

After previously pledging to support whoever becomes the Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump said Tuesday that promise no longer stands. Instead, Trump said during CNN's town hall in Wisconsin, "we'll see who it is."

Trump repeatedly noted in Tuesday that he does not need the support of Ted Cruz or of any of the GOP contenders who have dropped out, including Jeb Bush and Scott Walker, saying he doesn't want to make anyone "uncomfortable."

"I don't want his support, I don't need his support, I want him to be comfortable," Trump said of Cruz.

Cruz, who appeared first during the town hall, was also asked whether he would support Trump if he is the nominee. Cruz refused to explicitly answer the question.

Watch Donald Trump Defend His Campaign Manager Over Battery Charges

| Tue Mar. 29, 2016 9:52 PM EDT

The first question Donald Trump was asked during CNN's town hall in Wisconsin on Tuesday was whether he would fire his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, who was charged with misdemeanor battery on Tuesday for allegedly manhandling a reporter at an event earlier this month. Trump, noting that he is "a loyal person" who defends people who are "unjustly accused," said Lewandowski would continue to serve on his campaign team.

Watch the whole exchangebelow.