Political MoJo

Hillary Clinton May Ruin Pundits' Weekend, Announce Campaign Sunday

| Fri Apr. 10, 2015 8:53 AM EDT

Hillary Clinton is set to announce her run for president this Sunday, The Guardian, CNN, and other outlets are reporting. She reportedly plans to release a video with the news on Twitter and follow up with campaigns stops in Iowa.

If she secures the Democratic nomination, Clinton will become the first woman from either major party on the presidential ballot. For a deeper dive into the key players inside her campaign, read our inside look at the man tasked to guide her to the White House.

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Elizabeth Warren: "I Don't Support the Death Penalty" for Boston Marathon Bomber

| Thu Apr. 9, 2015 1:47 PM EDT

On Thursday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said she is opposed to sentencing Dzohkhar Tsarnaev to death, one day after the Boston Marathon bomber was found guilty on all 30 charges related to his involvement in the deadly 2013 attack.

Speaking on CBS This Morning, Warren said, "Nothing is ever going to make those who were injured whole…My heart goes out to the families here, but I don't support the death penalty." "I think he should spend his life in jail, no possibility of parole," she said. "He should die in prison."

"The alternative to the death penalty—it's not as if you set this guy free. He's put away…he's not someone who is able to keep sucking up a lot of energy. The families need their chance to move on."

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (R), on the other hand, supports putting Tsarnaev to death.

Watch the full video here:

The Walter Scott Shooting Video Shows Exactly Why We Can't Just Take the Police's Word For It

| Wed Apr. 8, 2015 3:10 PM EDT

A white police officer in South Carolina was arrested and charged with murder on Tuesday, after a shocking video emerged showing him fatally shooting an unarmed black man attempting to flee from the scene. The video, which was first published in the New York Times, captures the lethal confrontation between Officer Michael Slager and Walter Scott that quickly ensued during a traffic stop, which included Slager firing eight shots at Scott.

Slager originally told police that Scott had stolen his Taser and attempted to use it against him. This narrative was largely accepted by police authorities, at least according to what they initially told local media. The first report of the fatal encounter reported by the Post and Courier on Saturday ran with the headline, "Man shot and killed by North Charleston police officer after traffic stop; SLED investigating":

An officer’s gunfire disrupted a hazy Saturday morning and left a man dead on a North Charleston street.

Police in a matter of hours declared the occurrence at the corner of Remount and Craig roads a traffic stop gone wrong, alleging the dead man fought with an officer over his Taser before deadly force was employed.

The officer’s account, witness statements and other evidence gathered from the scene are now the subject of a State Law Enforcement Division investigation to determine whether the shooting, the state’s 11th this year involving a lawmen, was justified.

A statement released by North Charleston police spokesman Spencer Pryor said a man ran on foot from the traffic stop and an officer deployed his department-issued Taser in an attempt to stop him.

That did not work, police said, and an altercation ensued as the men struggled over the device. Police allege that during the struggle the man gained control of the Taser and attempted to use it against the officer.

The description reads eerily similar to police deaths that occur all around the country. If it had not been for the video's eventual publication, it's easy to imagine this being the press' final narrative of how Scott died. Oftentimes, newspapers struggle to report anything more than what law enforcement agencies tell them.

In the case of the Post and Courier's first story, the paper's note that "in a matter of hours" police were quick to label the incident nothing more than a "traffic stop gone wrong" is revealing, as the video that has since surfaced clearly shows a very different account: Slager shoots Scott in the back multiple times; an object that appears to be Slager's Taser is placed next to Scott's body as he lays handcuffed on the ground.

It's unclear when authorities became aware that a video of the incident existed, but on Monday, Slager appeared increasingly defensive. Speaking through an attorney, he doubled down on his actions to the same paper, saying he had "felt threatened" by Scott and needed to "resort to deadly force":

A North Charleston police officer felt threatened last weekend when the driver he had stopped for a broken brake light tried to overpower him and take his Taser.

That’s why Patrolman 1st Class Michael Thomas Slager, a former Coast Guardsman, fatally shot the man, the officer’s attorney said Monday.

Slager thinks he properly followed all procedures and policies before resorting to deadly force, lawyer David Aylor said in a statement.

Monday’s developments filled in some of the blanks in what was South Carolina’s 11th police shooting of the year.

By Tuesday, the Times and the Post and Courier had obtained a bystander's footage of the incident and the stories published that day are a direct about-face of the initial account, with both papers leading with news of the officer's arrest and murder charge. The Post and Courier's lead below:

A white North Charleston police officer was arrested on a murder charge after a video surfaced Tuesday of the lawman shooting eight times at a 50-year-old black man as the man ran away.

Walter L. Scott, a Coast Guard veteran and father of four, died Saturday after Patrolman 1st Class Michael T. Slager, 33, shot him in the back.

Five of the eight bullets hit Scott, his family’s attorney said. Four of those struck his back. One hit an ear.

In just a few days, the account's drastic evolution in a single newspaper highlights yet again the problems surrounding police reporting—issues that have received national attention following recent events in Ferguson and New York City. Scott's tragic death underscores the power video can bring to police accountability. As Scott's family said during an appearance on the Today show Wednesday, this video helped an officer avoid a successful cover-up. "It would have never come to light," Walter Scott Sr, Scott's father, said. "They would have swept it under the rug, like they did with many others."

BREAKING: Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Has Been Found Guilty On All 30 Counts in the Boston Bombing Trial

| Wed Apr. 8, 2015 2:03 PM EDT

A Massachusetts jury has found Dzhokhar Tsarnaev guilty on all counts in the Boston Marathon Bombing trial, making him eligible to face the death penalty.

Tsarnaev faced 30 counts, 17 of which carried a possible death sentence.

Next up comes sentencing which could begin as early as Monday.

This post will be updated as more information becomes available.

Watch:

 

 

 

Nearly 1 in 10 Americans Have Serious Anger Problems—and Can Easily Get Guns

| Wed Apr. 8, 2015 4:00 AM EDT

In the United States, most people diagnosed with mental illness are allowed to buy guns. While state laws vary, federal law prohibits only those who have been committed to a psychiatric hospital or adjudicated as "mental defectives" from owning firearms.

In most states, even people who have committed violent misdemeanors or have had restraining orders issued against them for domestic violence are allowed to own guns.

But researchers at Duke University suspect that the law is ignoring a group of Americans who could make for potentially dangerous gun owners: people with a history of angry, impulsive outbursts. In a study published this month in the peer-reviewed journal Behavioral Sciences and the Law, the Duke team looked at more than 5,500 interviews conducted in a landmark survey of mental illness by Harvard researchers. From the interviews, they extrapolated that 1 in 10 adults in the United States has an anger management problem—and access to firearms.

One caveat: While it makes intuitive sense that angry people and guns would be a volatile combination, it's important to note that there is no data yet on whether people with anger problems are more likely to commit violent crimes. Still, lead author Jeffrey Swanson believes that the finding is worrisome. "Probably the strongest predictor of violence is previous violent behavior," says Swanson, a professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke Medicine.

Swanson points to the recent shootings of three students near the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. The alleged shooter, Craig Stephen Hicks, had a history of threatening behavior. "People who knew him said that he was very angry; they were scared of him," says Swanson.

And yet, in most states, even people who have committed violent misdemeanors or have had restraining orders issued against them for domestic violence are allowed to own guns.

Meanwhile, people with the types of severe psychiatric problems that lead to involuntary commitment, like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, commit just 4 percent of violent crimes in the United States. Most people with those acute conditions are not prone to violence.

However, Swanson doesn't believe that isolated incidents of anger should prevent people from buying guns—everyone gets angry once in a while. But "the group that we focus on goes far beyond regular anger," he says. "These individuals are off on the extreme." They often get into physical fights and break or smash things when they become upset.

Some states have tried to address the problem with laws that allow police to temporarily seize weapons from people whom a court deems immediately dangerous based on testimony from those who know the individual and his or her behavior. Currently, just three states—California, Connecticut, and Indiana—have versions of these laws.

In most places, a history of violence isn't enough to make authorities think twice about whether an individual should be allowed to own a gun. "The way the law is set up now, it's missing a lot," says Swanson. "The most volatile people are slipping through the cracks."

Rand Paul's Announcement Video Pulled Over Copyright Issues

| Tue Apr. 7, 2015 7:45 PM EDT

This morning Rand Paul announced that he was running for president. There was a crowded auditorium and they were going wild and then he strode on up to the podium and music was blaring and it was all going great and he gave a speech and the crowd ate it up and they cheered his name and then he finished and they clapped and cheered and the campaign uploaded the video of the speech to YouTube so that the world could clap and cheer and...YouTube bots automatically pulled the video for unlicensed use of copyrighted material.

Womp womp.

Warner Music Group, the official owner of John Rich's "Shutting Detroit Down," a song about how much it sucks that rich corporations own things, has now shut Rand down.

Both Billboard and The Washington Post have reached out to get to the bottom of this and neither Warner or YouTube have commented on the situation.

The campaign's video has now been deleted from YouTube (C-PSAN's remains) but you can still enjoy the song in its entirety if you play it through John Rich's YouTube page, where you can also admire WMG's copyright claim in plain view:

The lesson, kids, is: if you ever run for president be sure to get permission to use copyrighted material before using it in your announcement speech. Otherwise the dream could end before it ever really begins.

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Let These Adorable Children Show You Just How Insane the NRA's Fear-Mongering Is

| Tue Apr. 7, 2015 3:25 PM EDT

Wayne LaPierre, the National Rifle Association's executive vice president and perhaps the gun lobby's most visible figure, has a penchant for invoking fear and paranoia in order to convince people that gun ownership is key to physical safety—despite an increasing number of studies that prove the very opposite.

Ahead of the NRA's annual convention this weekend, Everytown, the gun-safety coalition backed by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, has released a video to demonstrate just how ridiculous LaPierre's signature fear-mongering tends to get. The video, which features kids adorably rattling off a handful of the NRA executive's quotes, is part of the group's larger effort to expose the lobby's tactics coined "Stop Crazytown."

Watch below:

For more of Mother Jones' reporting on guns in America, see all of our latest coverage here, and our award-winning special reports.

 

Rand Paul Just Announced That He's Running for President. Here's His Speech.

| Tue Apr. 7, 2015 1:28 PM EDT

Rand Paul just announced that he is running for president. He said some weird things, and some stupid things, and some okay things, and some smart things, and a lot of meaningless things.

Politics!

Here's the transcript, courtesy of TIME.

I have a message, a message that is loud and clear and does not mince words. We have come to take our country back.

We have come to take our country back from the special interests that use Washington as their personal piggy bank, the special interests that are more concerned with their personal welfare than the general welfare.

The Washington machine that gobbles up our freedoms and invades every nook and cranny of our lives must be stopped.

Less than five years ago I stood just down the road in home town in Bowling Green and said those same words. I wasn't supposed to win, no one thought I would.

Some people asked me, then why are you running? The answer is the same now as it was then. I have a vision for America. I want to be part of a return to prosperity, a true economic boom that lists all Americans, a return to a government restrained by the Constitution.

A return to privacy, opportunity, liberty. Too often when Republicans have won we have squandered our victory by becoming part of the Washington machine. That's not who I am.

That's not why I ran for office the first time just a few years ago. The truth is, I love my life as a small-town doctor. Every day I woke up, I felt lucky to be able to do the things I loved. More importantly, I was blessed to be able to do things that made a difference in people's lives.

I never could have done any of this, though, without the help of my parents who are here today. I'd like you to join me and thank my mother and dad.

With my parents' help, I was able to make it through long years of medical training to become an eye surgeon. For me there is nothing that compares with helping someone see better. Last August I was privileged to travel to Guatemala on a medical mission trip together with a team of surgeons from across the U.S.

We operated on more than 200 people who were blind or nearly blind from cataracts. I was grateful to be able to put my scrubs back on, peer into the oculars of the microscope, and focus on the task at hand, to take a surgical approach to fix a problem.

One day in Guatemala, a man arrived and told me that I'd operated on his wife the day before. His wife could see clearly for the first time in years, and she had begged him to get on the bus, travel the winding roads and come back to our surgery center. He too was nearly blind from hardened cataracts.

After his surgery, the next day, his wife sat next to me. As I unveiled the patch from his eyes, it was a powerful emotional moment for me to see them looking at each other clearly for the first time years to see the face they loved again.

As I saw the joy in their eyes, I thought, "This is why I became a doctor."

In that moment, I also remembered my grandmother, who inspired me to become an eye surgeon. She spent hours with me as a kid. We would sort through her old coin collection, looking for wheat pennies and Indian heads. But as her vision began to fail, I became her eyes to inspect the faintness of the mint marks on the old weather-worn coins.

I went with my grandmother to the ophthalmologist as she had her corneas replaced. I was also with her when she received the sad news that macular generation had done irreparable harm to her eyes.

My hope… my hope that my grandmother would see again made me want to become an eye surgeon, to make a difference in people's lives.

I've been fortunate. I've been able to enjoy the American Dream.

I worry, though, that the opportunity and hope are slipping away for our sons and daughters. As I watch our once-great economy collapse under mounting spending and debt, I think, "What kind of America will our grandchildren see"?

It seems to me that both parties and the entire political system are to blame.

Big government and debt doubled under a Republican administration.

And it's now tripling under Barack Obama's watch. President Obama is on course to add more debt than all of the previous presidents combined.

We borrow a million dollars a minute. This vast accumulation of debt threatens not just our economy, but our security.

We can wake up now and do the right thing. Quit spending money we don't have.

This message of liberty is for all Americans, Americans from all walks of life. The message of liberty, opportunity and justice is for all Americans, whether you wear a suit, a uniform or overalls, whether you're white or black, rich or poor.

In order to restore America, one thing is for certain, though: We cannot, we must not dilute our message or give up on our principles.

If we nominate a candidate who is simply Democrat Light, what's the point?

Why bother?

We need to boldly proclaim our vision for America. We need to go boldly forth under the banner of liberty that clutches the Constitution in one hand and the Bill of Rights in the other.

Washington is horribly broken. I fear it can't be fixed from within. We the people must rise up and demand action.

Congress will never balance the budget unless you force them to do so. Congress has an abysmal record with balancing anything. Our only recourse is to force Congress to balance the budget with a constitutional amendment.

I have been to Washington, and let me tell you, there is no monopoly on knowledge there.

I ran for office because we have too many career politicians. I believe it now more than ever.

We limit the President to two terms. It's about time we limit the terms of Congress!

I want to reform Washington. I want common sense rules that will break the log-jam in Congress.

That's why I introduced a Read the Bills Act.

The bills are thousands of pages long. And no one reads them. They are often plopped on our desks only a few hours before a vote.

I've proposed something truly extraordinary — Let's read the bills, every page!

———
Many Americans, though, are being left behind. The reward of work seems beyond their grasp. Under the watch of both parties – the poor seem to get poorer and the rich get richer.

Trillion dollar government stimulus packages have only widened the income gap.

Politically connected cronies get taxpayer dollars by the hundreds of millions, and poor families across America continue to suffer.

I have a different vision, an ambitious vision, a vision that will offer opportunity to all Americans, especially those who have been left behind.

———
Liberal policies have failed our inner cities. Let's just get the facts straight. They have failed our inner cities. Our schools are not equal and the poverty gap continues to widen.

Martin Luther King spoke of two Americas. He described them as "two starkly different American experiences that exist side by side."

In one America, people experience the opportunity of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In the other America, people experience a daily ugliness. …

My trips to Detroit, Appalachia, and Chicago have revealed what I call an ‘undercurrent of unease.'

I want all our children to have the same opportunities that I had. We need to stop limiting kids in poor neighborhoods to failing public schools and offer school choice, not just for the privileged, but for everyone!

It won't happen, though, unless we realize that we can't borrow our way to prosperity.

———

In my vision for America, freedom and prosperity at home can only be achieved if we defend against enemies who are dead-set on attacking America.

The enemy is radical Islam and not only will I name the enemy, I will do what ever it takes to defend America from these haters of mankind!

We need a national defense robust enough to defend against all attack, modern enough to deter all enemies, and nimble enough to defend our vital interests.

But we also need a foreign policy that protects American interests and encourages stability, not chaos!

I envision an America with a national defense unparalleled, undefeatable, and unencumbered by overseas nation building!

I envision a national defense that promotes, as Reagan put it, "Peace through Strength."

I believe in applying Ronald Reagan's approach to foreign policy to the Iran issue.

Successful negotiations with untrustworthy adversaries are only achieved from a position of strength.

We brought Iran to the table from strength, through sanctions I voted for.

Now we must stay strong. That's why I co-sponsored legislation that insures that any deal between the U.S. and Iran must be approved by Congress.

Not only is that good policy, it is the law.

I will oppose any deal that does not end Iran's nuclear ambitions and have strong verification measures. I will insist that any final version be brought before Congress.

The difference between President Obama and myself-he seems to think you can negotiate from a position of weakness.

———
We must realize, though, that we do not project strength by borrowing money from China to send it to Pakistan.

Let's quit building bridges in foreign countries and use that money to build some bridges here at home!

It angers me to see mobs burning our flag and chanting death to America in countries that receive millions of dollars of our foreign aid.

I say it must end. I say not one penny more to these haters of America!

———

Today begins the journey to take back America, to rescue a great country, now adrift.

If you love liberty, stand with me!

If you want to defeat the Washington machine, stand with me!

God bless you. God bless America.

 

Feds Say Georgia's Treatment of Transgender Prisoners Is Unconstitutional

| Fri Apr. 3, 2015 4:36 PM EDT
Ashley Diamond before entering prison

For three years, the Georgia Department of Corrections allegedly has denied transgender inmate Ashley Diamond medical treatment for gender dysphoria, causing her such distress that she has attempted on multiple occasions to castrate herself, cut off her penis, and kill herself. In February, Diamond filed a lawsuit against GDC officials, and on Friday the Department of Justice dealt the GDC a major blow, claiming that the state's failure to adequately treat inmates with gender dysphoria "constitutes cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment."

The DOJ weighed in on Diamond's case via a statement of interest, which offers recommendations for how the district court in Georgia should rule in the case. It focused on Georgia's so-called freeze-frame policy, which prevents inmates from receiving hormone therapy for gender dysphoria if they were not identified as transgender and referred for treatment immediately during the prison intake process. "Freeze-frame policies and other policies that apply blanket prohibitions to such treatment are facially unconstitutional because they fail to provide individualized assessment and treatment of a serious medical need," DOJ officials wrote, adding that similar policies have been previously struck down in Wisconsin and New York.

Chinyere Ezie, Diamond's lead attorney, says the defense has until next Friday to submit briefs in response to the complaint, which may include a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. The first hearing for the case is scheduled for April 13. You can read the DOJ's entire statement below, and check out our earlier coverage of Diamond's case.

 

Chelsea Manning Just Started Tweeting From Prison

| Fri Apr. 3, 2015 3:41 PM EDT

Chelsea Manning has joined Twitter from inside the walls of Kansas's Fort Leavenworth prison, where she is currently serving a 35-year sentence for providing classified material to Wikileaks. Using the handle @xychelsea, the account has already amassed over 12,000 followers.

"She is committed to having a voice and engaging with the public and will try to be present on Twitter as much as she is able to connect with people on the outside," ACLU attorney Chase Strangio told Politico.

In February, the military approved a request from Manning, who was born a male and formerly went by the name Bradley, to undergo hormone therapy in order to transition into a woman. That same month, the Guardian announced it had hired Manning to write from prison as a contributor on topics of gender and war.