Political MoJo

This South Carolina Republican Wants to Create a "Registry" for Responsible Journalists

| Tue Jan. 19, 2016 4:04 PM EST

Perhaps inspired by Donald Trump's recent call for a Muslim database, one South Carolina representative just introduced a measure to create a different kind of strange registry—this time to track journalists deemed "responsible" by the state.

The bill, proposed by Republican state lawmaker Mike Pitts, would establish vague requirements for journalists to submit to a registration process by the state. Journalists found in violation of the registry, by either not registering or breaking his rules, would be subjected to monetary fines and even criminal penalties—a lighter version of how the Kremlin treats its own pesky champions of free speech. As the Post and Courier reports, quoting Pitts, the Secretary of State’s Office would maintain a "responsible journalism registry" and create the criteria, with the help of a panel, on what qualifies a person to be a journalist—similar to the licensing for doctors and lawyers.

More from the very real "South Carolina Responsible Journalism Registry Law" proposal:

When asked if the proposal was retribution for some unflattering press coverage directed towards Pitts—the lawmaker has been repeatedly cited for some of his more eyebrow-raising spending habits—he told the Post and Courier it was actually aimed to combat stories he believes have been unfairly targeting gun ownership.

"It strikes me as ironic that the first question is constitutionality from a press that has no problem demonizing firearms," Pitts, a lifetime NRA member, said. "With this statement I'm talking primarily about printed press and TV. The TV stations, the six o'clock news and the printed press has no qualms demonizing gun owners and gun ownership."

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Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton Just Duked it Out Over Health Care at the Democratic Debate

| Sun Jan. 17, 2016 10:33 PM EST

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders spent much of the last week battling over the Vermont senator's proposal to create a nationwide single-payer health care system. In one of the most important exchanges of Sunday night's debate, they finally hashed it out face to face.

Watch:

What neither of them would say outright—perhaps because it's not an especially inspiring message for Democrats to hear—is that the question of how best to expand health care access is, at least for the time being, moot. Republicans have a huge majority in the House and will almost certainly continue to control the House in January 2017. But their argument exposed core differences between the two candidates on what the nation's health care system should look like, and how it should be paid for. And it doesn't look like a debate either candidate is about to abandon any time soon.

NBC Should Ask Bernie and Hillary These Questions at Tonight's Debate

| Sun Jan. 17, 2016 8:03 PM EST

It's the Sunday night of a three-day holiday weekend, which can only mean one thing: the three remaining Democratic presidential candidates are having a debate. With the Iowa caucuses less than a month away and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders leading in some early-state polls,  former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sanders have increasingly turned their fire on each other, fighting over past votes and current positions on universal health care and gun control. Why stop now? We at the Mother Jones' politics desk have put together a by-no-means-comprehensive list of questions we'd put to the candidates if we were on stage:

Bernie Sanders:

* In 2005 you voted to give immunity to gun makers from lawsuits. But the next day you voted against giving immunity to companies in the fast food industry, like McDonald's. Why exempt guns but not Big Macs?

* Your home state of Vermont adopted a single-payer health care system in 2011. But last year the state scrapped the plan citing rising costs. Now you're proposing single-payer for the nation. What went wrong in Vermont and how would you have fixed it?

* You've promised to reduce America's prison population by more than 500,000 people by the end of your first term. But more than 90 percent of America's 2.2 million inmates are in state and local facilities. What can a president do about them?

* You've said that the United States should take a backseat in the battle against ISIS, and instead leave the fighting to a coalition of Muslim nations including Iran and Saudi Arabia. In light of the most recent dust-up between the two countries and their deep political and religious differences, how will you get two nations that hate each other to take up arms together?

* Even with a Democratic super-majority in the Senate, President Obama struggled to deliver incremental change in Washington, ultimately accepting stripped-down versions of the Affordable Care Act and the Stimulus. How do you expect to push through an even more ambitious health-care proposal in a Republican-controlled Congress still trying to repeal Obamacare?

Hillary Clinton:

* A supporter of yours, Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, reportedly worked to suppress a video of the killing of Laquan McDonald by Chicago police until after his re-election, and even used public funds to pay the victim’s family to keep quiet. Sen. Sanders has said that "any elected official with knowledge that the tape was being suppressed or improperly withheld should resign." Should Mayor Emanuel resign?

* In October you said the Australian model of compulsory gun buy-backs "is worth looking at." Have you looked at it? And would you entertain the idea of a compulsory gun re-purchase in the United States?

* Colorado residents will vote next fall on a ballot initiative on whether or not to institute a single-payer health care system. If you lived in Colorado, would you vote to approve that measure?

* You’ve pledged to not raise taxes on anyone making less than $250,000 per year, and criticized your opponents for proposing to raise taxes on people you’ve termed middle class. What is your actual definition of middle class? Why include a household making $150,000—the top 10 percent for annual income—in the middle class?

* In 2005, you went to war against violence in video games, introducing legislation to restrict sales of games. You said: "We need to treat violent video games the way we treat tobacco, alcohol, and pornography." Do you still hold that view?

* David Brock, the head of a super-PAC that's supporting your candidacy, made news yesterday for a report suggesting he'd demand Bernie Sanders release his medical records. Brock's group, Correct the Record, has said it is coordinating with the campaign thanks to a special exemption in federal election law. Why is a candidate who has pledged to repeal Citizens United using a legal loophole to openly coordinate with a super-PAC?

All candidates:

* The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates argued in 2014 that African-Americans deprived of wealth through decades of federal housing discrimination should be able to apply for reparations from the government—similar to the program offered to Japanese-Americans who lost their homes and businesses during internment. Would you consider such a program if elected? And if not, what will you do to alleviate the lingering damages caused by formal government discrimination in the housing market?

* A recent poll found that 52 percent of Americans believe genetically-modified food to be "unsafe." Are they right?

* The Obama administration is currently reviewing a proposed rule to expand overtime to most workers who earn less than $50,000 a year. Is that number too high, or too low?

* Over the last half decade pro-life groups have fundamentally re-written abortion laws at the state level, resulting in shuttered women's health clinics and forcing women to crisscross state lines to get an abortion. Aside from appointing more pro-choice Supreme Court judges, what can a president do to reverse these setbacks at the state level and insure the right to an abortion established by Roe?

* Two years ago, Harry Reid and Senate Democrats used the so-called "nuclear option" to remove the filibuster for judicial nominees. Should the filibuster still exist for legislation and Supreme Court nominees, or should it be wiped out entirely?

Lindsey Graham Endorses Jeb Bush

| Fri Jan. 15, 2016 12:02 PM EST

Lindsey Graham is now the first former GOP presidential candidate to back one of his old rivals: the senator from South Carolina endorsed Jeb Bush this morning in North Charleston, the site of Thursday night's Republican debates.

Graham, who was the GOP field's most notable (and sometimes most hilarious) foreign policy hawk, said Bush was the right candidate to keep the country safe. "I have concluded without any hesitation, without any doubt, that Jeb Bush is ready on day one to be commander-in-chief," he said. He also praised Bush for pushing back against other candidates who attacked Islam and Muslim Americans, another one of Graham's pet themes during the debates.

The Bush campaign and Graham both seem to think South Carolina can "reset this race," as Graham said during his endorsement. If Bush can survive Iowa and do well in New Hampshire, a win in South Carolina would give him a plausible chance of emerging as the mythical GOP mainstream consensus candidates. And, as the Washington Post pointed out, "Graham is a savvy pol, a talented spokesman with a real statewide organization."

Of course, this probably actually means nothing. Graham never broke out of the GOP undercard debates or the low single digits in national polls. And while Bush was already the runaway leader of the endorsement primary, that hasn't stopped him from becoming an afterthought among GOP primary voters. The Post noted that Bush needs "all the help he can get at the moment"—even if that's not much at all.

The Daily News Just Made One Helluva Statement About "New York Values"

| Fri Jan. 15, 2016 10:47 AM EST

Last night, Sen. Ted Cruz said some stupid things about "New York values" being a synonym for like money-grubbing, fame-hungry monsters. Donald Trump used the moment to go full "9/11" on Cruz and, at least to my aged eyes, the Princeton educated, Goldman Sachs spouse left the exchange the worse for it.

Anyway, the New York Daily News did its thing and went hard after Cruz with today's cover.

("Go back to Canada" is a reference to the fact that Cruz was born in Canada—though he is a naturally born American citizen by virtue of his mother's citizenship— and rings a bit birther for my taste, but c'est la vie.)

The NYDN isn't like some big Trump supporter either. Previous covers have lambasted the GOP front-runner.

Chris Christie Flubbed Something Really Basic About American History

| Thu Jan. 14, 2016 11:02 PM EST

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie made a bold pronouncement at Thursday's Republican debate: the founders considered the right to bear arms to be one of the most important constitutional amendments—that's why it was the second one on the list. "I don't think the Founders put the second amendment as number two by accident," he said, adding, "I think they made the Second Amendment the Second Amendment because they thought it was just that important."

But that doesn't make a lot of sense—the Third Amendment (which prevents citizens from quartering soldiers against their will) is not more important than the Fourth Amendment (which prohibits unwarranted search and seizure), simply because it has a lower number. Nor would you be able to find many conservatives who believe the Tenth Amendment, which delegates rights to the states, is somehow the least important of the bunch.

The other problem with this line of thinking is that the Second Amendment as we know it wasn't really the second amendment to be written—it was the fourth. James Madison proposed 12 amendments to the Constitution, but the first two were not ratified by enough states. The original First Amendment concerned the size of congressional districts—not quite as big of a deal in the grand scheme of things as, say, the original Third Amendment (which would become freedom of expression). The original Second Amendment would have prohibited Congress from raising its own pay (it was eventually ratified as the 27th.)

This is all a bit confusing but you have to bear in mind the Founding Fathers were drunk most of the time.

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Watch the Moment the Gloves Finally Came Off Between Trump and Cruz at the GOP Debate

| Thu Jan. 14, 2016 10:07 PM EST

During Thursday's GOP debate, Sen. Ted Cruz was forced to weigh in on his eligibility to run for president of the United States—a controversy Donald Trump has been vigorously fanning as the Canadian-born senator has risen in the polls.

Cruz's initial annoyance was palpable, but it was clear he was prepared for the "birther" issue to come up. Throughout the campaign, Cruz has avoided hitting back against Trump. But this was the moment the gloves finally came off.

"The Constitution hasn't changed," Cruz said. "But the poll numbers have. And I recognize that Donald is dismayed that his poll numbers are falling."

Watch the tense exchange below:

We Just Heard the Dumbest Comment About Immigration of the Campaign

| Thu Jan. 14, 2016 7:21 PM EST

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum offered a spirited defense of mass deportations at Thursday's Republican undercard debate in South Carolina. Only he didn't call it deportation. Instead, he explained, immigration officials would "export America" back to Latin America. Sure, kids who were raised in the United States would be forcibly relocated, but their knowledge of English and capitalism could pay dividends for them down the road in their home countries:

When we say we need to send people back, I mean we send people back. Let me just make one point. I was in Storm Lake, Iowa, the other day near a Tyson's plant. Ninety-one percent of the kids that go to the elementary school there are minority kids. And they said, 'Well, what are you gonna do with all these people, their families, they've lived here a long time.' I said I'm gonna give 'em a gift. I'm gonna give them the gift of being able to help the country they were born in, and we're gonna export America. The education they were able to receive, they learned about the English language, they learned about capitalism, they learned about democracy. You want to stop the flow of immigrants? Let's send 6 million Mexicans, Hondurans, Guatemalans, El Salvadorans back into their country so they can start a renaissance in their country so they won't be coming here anymore!

This is the worst study abroad program ever.

Master image: Marc Nozell/Flickr

Deadly Disease Strikes After Cost-Cutting Contaminated Flint's Water Supply

| Thu Jan. 14, 2016 5:29 PM EST
Maurice Rice organizes cases of free water outside a Flint church.

Residents in Flint, Michigan have been outraged since the discovery that their water is tainted with lead, a substance has irreversible neurological and developmental effects on children. The contamination came after the city of 100,000 changed water sources in April 2014, switching from Detroit's water system to the Flint River in an effort to cut costs.

Yesterday brought even more bad news: Cases of Legionnaires' Disease have spiked in Genessee County since Flint, the largest city in the county, began using the river water. There have been 87 cases of the disease since June of 2014, ten of which have been fatal. According to the CDC, Legionnaires' disease is a pneumonia-like respiratory infection that can cause fevers, coughing, muscle aches, and, in severe cases, death. It grows in warm water, like that in hot tubs and fountains.

State health officials say they cannot confirm that the change in the water supply caused the spike, since some cases occurred among people who hadn't been exposed to Flint's water. Marc Edwards, a scientist at Virginia Tech who played a key role in exposing the water's lead contamination, told the Detroit Free Press that there's a "very strong likelihood" that the change in water supply played a role in the disease's recent surge.

Flint switched back to Detroit's water in October, and health officials predict that the change will reduce the number of cases of Legionnaires' disease in the coming years. However, lead continues to leach into the water because the city's lead pipes were corroded by Flint River water.

In a press conference yesterday about the spike Legionnaires’ disease, Gov. Rick Snyder acknowledged that "the healthcare community has been aware of this issue for some time in the Flint area."

Planned Parenthood Sues “Complex Criminal Enterprise” Behind Deceptive Videos

| Thu Jan. 14, 2016 3:00 PM EST

Planned Parenthood officials announced Thursday that the organization is suing the Center for Medical Progress, the group behind last summer's series of misleading and heavily edited videos that created a firestorm over whether the Planned Parenthood's fetal tissue donation program broke the law. The federal lawsuit, filed in San Francisco, also named David Daleiden, the face of the Center for Medical Progress, Troy Neumann, the CMP's secretary and a well-known anti-abortion activist, and several other CMP members as defendants.

The series of videos, released this summer by the secretive CMP, purported to show Planned Parenthood staff and other abortion care professionals discussing how to traffic fetal tissue for profit. Donating fetal tissue for medical research is legal in the United States, as is receiving reimbursement for the costs associated with the donation. Only two states have fetal tissue donation programs, and Planned Parenthood has categorically denied that it has profited from them. Both state and federal investigations into the health care group's donation programs have found no evidence of wrongdoing. In the fall, Planned Parenthood announced that it would no longer accept reimbursement for the tissue donations but would pay for them.

Planned Parenthood in California is one of two state affiliates that donates fetal tissue.

The federal lawsuit accuses the CMP of racketeering, illegally creating and using fake driver's licenses, and invading the privacy of and illegally recording Planned Parenthood officials and staff. The suit describes the CMP as a "complex criminal enterprise conceived and executed by anti-abortion extremists," and says that "the aim of the fake enterprise—which stretched over years and involved fake companies, fake identifications, and large-scale illegal taping, was to demonize Planned Parenthood."

Harassment, threats, and attacks against abortion providers surged ninefold after the release of the first video in July. And Cgongressional and state lawmakers have used the debunked videos as reasons to defund or restrict the activities of Planned Parenthood. Ten states have introduced legislation restricting either the process of fetal tissue donation or its use in biomedical research. The House and Senate both approved measures to defund the group, which is the nation's largest provider of women's health, serving nearly 3 million Americans every year. States have also moved to cut off Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood affiliates, though those attempts have largely been blocked.

"This case is about a network of anti-abortion extremists and the laws they broke in order to spread lies and harm Planned Parenthood," Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, told reporters. "This is a fraud build on illegal acts and a web of lies. They lied about who they were and what they wanted to discuss with Planned Parenthood. They colluded with right wing state legislators and members of Congress."