Political MoJo

The Senate Just Released the CIA Torture Report. Read the Full Document.

| Tue Dec. 9, 2014 11:30 AM EST

A much-anticipated report investigating torture methods carried out by the CIA during the Bush administration was released on Tuesday. The report has taken nearly five years to produce and was widely expected to condemn the controversial torture program. Indeed, just last week Secretary of State John Kerry asked Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to consider delaying the release of the report given the ongoing threat of ISIS and the safety of American hostages abroad. Former Bush and CIA officials have also been organizing to preemptively challenge the report's findings.

Read the executive report in its entirety below:

 

We're going through the document now. Catch any highlights? Let us know in the comments.

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Watch Dianne Feinstein Address the Senate on Release of CIA Torture Report

| Tue Dec. 9, 2014 10:59 AM EST

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is scheduled to speak from the Senate floor this morning to deliver remarks on the upcoming CIA torture report. Watch live below:

Read the Senator's press release:

 

Mitch McConnell Wants to Open a Giant Loophole for Superrich Donors. Harry Reid Has Vowed to Stop Him.

| Tue Dec. 9, 2014 6:15 AM EST

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is vowing to block any effort by his GOP counterpart, Mitch McConnell, to loosen the nation's campaign finance limits as part of a bipartisan budget deal taking shape in Congress.

Last week, the Huffington Post reported that McConnell, who will take over as majority leader in January, wanted to slip into a major government funding bill a measure that would give presidential and congressional candidates more leeway to coordinate their campaign spending with political parties. Right now, candidates for federal office can coordinate some of their election spending with the parties—but only up to a certain amount. (The limit ranges from tens of thousands to several million dollars, depending on the size of the state's voting-age population.) Beyond that threshold, parties and candidates can't coordinate their spending plans, and the parties must spend their funds independently of the candidates they back.

The existing rule is intended to prevent donors from using political parties to skirt legal limits on donations to candidates. As it stands, donors can give up to $5,200 every two-year election cycle to each candidate for federal office. But McConnell's measure, if enacted, would create a massive loophole in that rule, says Fred Wertheimer of Democracy 21, a group that supports limits on money in politics. If McConnell gets what he wants, rich donors who hit the $5,200 limit could simply route further donations to candidates by giving to political party committees—which may accept far larger donations and could work directly with the candidates to ensure the money was spent as the donors intended. "The practical effort here is to repeal the limits," Wertheimer says.

McConnell has a broader plan here. Politico recently noted that McConnell is seeking to direct more big money to political parties, as opposed to outside groups such as super-PACs that in theory must remain independent of candidates. In a subsequent interview with Roll Call, McConnell suggested he might not force the issue, saying his proposal is "not on the agenda" but that the coordination limit he wants to eliminate is "an absurdity in the current law."

That doesn't mean the plan is dead. Should McConnell reverse course and attach this change to the budget bill, Reid's office says the majority leader will block such a maneuver. "Reid strongly opposes and will fight against any efforts to include the McConnell [measure]," an aide in Reid's tells Mother Jones.

House and Senate members hashing out the budget bill were expected to release a version of the legislation as early as Monday evening.

Bill de Blasio Explains Why Encounters with Police Are "Different for a White Child"

| Mon Dec. 8, 2014 11:25 AM EST

In his call for Americans to begin an "honest conversation" about broken race relations in America, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio defended earlier statements he made explaining why his biracial son Dante needs to be especially careful in encounters with law enforcement.

"What parents have done for decades, who have children of color, especially young men of color, is train them to be very careful when they have a connection with a police officer," de Blasio opened up to ABC's George Stephanopoulos on Sunday.

"It's different for a white child. That's just the reality in this country. And with Dante, very early on with my son, we said, look, if a police officer stops you, do everything he tells you to do, don't move suddenly, don't reach for your cell phone, because we knew, sadly, there's a greater chance it might be misinterpreted if it was a young man of color."

His appearance on Sunday follows a previous statement he made revealing the personal story of when he and his wife sat down with Dante with instructions on how he should act if he were to ever be stopped by an officer. The anecdote drew outrage from police union leaders who criticized the mayor for "throwing officers under the bus."

In the aftermath of last week's decision by a grand jury not to indict the officer who placed Eric Garner in a fatal chokehold, de Blasio has had the difficult task of demonstrating support for both protestors and members of the New York City Police Department. Many have applauded the mayor for being able to view Garner's death from a raw, personal standpoint.

Backing de Blasio's personal views are a number of studies showing that even absent conscious, blatant racism, our brains are wired with implicit biases that cause all of us, including police, to instincitvely react with prejudice.

After his appearance on Sunday, however, Ed Mullins of the Sergeants Benevolent Association rejected the mayor for doubling down on his comments and suggested the mayor should move out of the city if he can't trust his own police force.

Watch the Bullies Who Protest Outside of Abortion Clinics Get Exactly What They Deserve

| Fri Dec. 5, 2014 4:53 PM EST

A video of a pregnant woman delivering a scathing rebuke to a group of anti-abortion protestors outside a London abortion clinic is going viral on social media.

A group of protestors from the British pro-life organization Abort67 gathered in front of the clinic to film women as they entered. In the video, the protestors can be seen denying that they're filming the women, despite the fact that, curiously enough, they were outfitted with cameras on their chests while standing in front of a bloody fetus banner. With their weak denials quickly dissolving, one of the protestors then owns up but explains that the group regularly records their demonstrations to prevent "false accusations we're harassing people." That's when the woman courageously goes off on the protestors:

"It's wrong what you're doing. You don't know why people are doing what they're doing, but you want to be out here judging and filming...You’re standing out here making people feel guilty. I think this is wrong on so many levels. Many people have been abused, you don't know what their reasons are for."

The woman, who has been identified as an employee of a charity group that assists children in need, then suggests the protestors quit trying to guilt other women and instead help out real vulnerable kids.

Bravo.

Meet the Family Behind Latin America's Version of Planned Parenthood

| Thu Dec. 4, 2014 6:24 PM EST
A reproductive health class in Bogotá, Colombia.

People in the United States have been going to Planned Parenthood for nearly a century, ever since Margaret Sanger opened her first birth control clinic in Brooklyn in 1916. But it wasn't until 1977, after the US had already celebrated Roe v. Wade, that Colombian women had any equivalent organization to turn to. That was the year Dr. Jorge Villarreal started Oriéntame, a women's reproductive health clinic now credited with inspiring more than 600 outposts across Latin America "and for reshaping abortion politics across the continent," writes Joshua Lang in a story about the Villarreal family, out today in California Sunday.

In the 1950s, botched abortions caused nearly 40 percent of Colombia's maternal deaths.

Jorge Villarreal Mejía graduated from medical school in 1952 and soon took the reigns of the obstetrics department at Colombia's national university. During that time, botched abortions caused nearly 40 percent of the country's maternal deaths. "Women in slum areas were putting the sonda (catheter) inside of them without any sonography," his daughter Cristina Villarreal told Lang. "They used ganchas de ropa (coat hangers), anything." When these women showed up at general hospitals, they were shamed and quickly given basic medical attention at most.

So in 1977, Jorge opened a stand-alone health clinic in Bogotá called Oriéntame. Abortions were illegal, so Oriéntame had to focus on helping women who were already suffering from bad abortion attempts, or "incomplete abortions." Colombians had to wait another thirty years before their mostly Catholic country legalized abortion, under pressure from a coalition that included Cristina Villarreal. (Abortion is now legal in Colombia when a mother's physical or emotional health is in danger.) In the meantime, Oriéntame continued its mission to heal and empower women, using a sliding-scale payment model in order to reach poorer clients. In 1994, Cristina assumed leadership of the organization, which had grown to include a second nonprofit to help doctors around Latin America open their own Oriéntame clinics.

Not unlike the volatile abortion politics in the US, across Latin America, "for every political action, there seems to be an equal but opposite reaction."

Lang's story, an eye-opening and educational read, details the Villarreals' persistence in the face of police and priests, health administration raids, legal battles, money troubles, and social stigma. Not unlike the volatile abortion politics in the US, across Latin America, writes Lang, "for every political action, there seems to be an equal but opposite reaction," making Oriéntame's success "all the more unlikely." Today, the organization continues to struggle for funding. But fortunately for the estimated 4.5 million women seeking abortions every year across Latin America, and countless others looking for reproductive guidance, Oriéntame's network has already laced together a much-needed safety net that will be difficult to undo.

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A Big-Picture Conversation With David Corn on What the 2014 Elections Really Mean

Thu Dec. 4, 2014 2:37 PM EST

Mother Jones DC bureau chief David Corn spoke at the Chicago Humanities Festival in November, touching on the aftermath of the midterm elections, what lies ahead in 2016, and the continued fallout from the 47% video. Watch here:

St. Louis County Police on Tamir Rice Killing: "Kids Will Be Kids?"

| Thu Dec. 4, 2014 2:19 PM EST

Update 12/5/2014: Chief Jon Belmar of the St. Louis County Police Department posted a message on Facebook apologizing for officer Aaron Dilks' previous post, calling it a "misguided communication strategy."

On Thursday morning, the St. Louis County Police Department took the ill-advised step of deciding to weigh in on the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was killed by a Cleveland police officer last month, with a Facebook post titled, "Kids will be Kids?"

The post, which the Guardian reported was written by officer Aaron Dilks, urged parents to sit down with their kids and warn them about the dangers of playing with an Airsoft gun. That's the toy gun Rice had in a Cleveland park when 26-year-old rookie officer Tim Loehmann fatally shot him just seconds after pulling into the parking lot. The tragic incident was caught on surveillance video.

"If the type of gun is in question...the Police will respond as though it is a real gun until it can be confirmed one way or the other," the post said. It provided instructions for children to follow if they find themselves in a similar situation to Rice: "Do not run away. They need to no longer have the gun in their hands, throw it away from them."

That may well be reasonable advice. But the timing of the post, replete with tone-deaf headline, was horrible: Not only did Rice's death come just days after a St. Louis grand jury declined to indict officer Darren Wilson in the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, but this post came within hours of a Staten Island grand jury deciding not to indict the NYPD officer whose choking of Eric Garner led to Garner's death. After all the controversy surrounding its tactics in Ferguson, how could the St. Louis County PD fail to realize that any pronouncements that could be construed as absolving police of the Rice killing would inflame a volatile situation?

The Facebook post, blasted by critics on social media for being insensitive, was removed by late Thursday morning, as was a St. Louis County PD tweet that had promoted it.

This Pro-Hillary Cowboy Anthem Will Make Your Ears Bleed

| Thu Dec. 4, 2014 11:56 AM EST

The 2016 presidential election's stupid season has begun. Sure, it's only been a month since the midterms, but a bevy of super-PACs are already boosting Hillary Clinton's nascent presidential campaign. Three new pro-Hillary groups have been established in the past six weeks, the Washington Post's Matea Gold noted Thursday.

One of those new super-PACs is Stand With Hillary, which debuted by releasing a truly horrendous pro-Hillary country anthem. In the video—which leans heavily on shots of barns, tractors, and construction workers—a bearded cowboy croons about his desire for Clinton to run for president one more time. "Now it's 2016," he sings, "and this time I'm a thinkin', guys put your boots on and let's smash this ceiling," at which point a pane of glass with 2016 written on it is literally smashed with a sledgehammer. Oy vey.

"Don't matter if you're living across this great land in a red or blue state," he sings. "Cuz our American dream is at stake and there's some hard choices that need to be made. We're needing a leader who is tough and ready, who's got vision." It's left unsaid whether this cowboy favors Clinton for her hawkish foreign policy views, her support of fracking, or her thoughts on parental leave laws.

But purely as a piece of music, this is rubbish. If you want a better country song, try some Blake Shelton. And if you want a song to serve as the soundtrack to Clinton's presidential rerun, it's never a bad time to revisit the 2008 classic "Hillary4U&Me":

The US Government Deported 438,000 People in 2013. 83 Percent Never Got a Hearing.

| Thu Dec. 4, 2014 6:30 AM EST

The past couple of weeks have been filled with stories of relieved immigrants: Undocumented parents of American citizens, children who arrived in the United States years ago, and other immigrants without papers can step out of the shadows now that Obama has issued an executive action granting relief to 5 million undocumented residents. (Read more details on the president's plan here.)

But a report released today by the American Civil Liberties Union underscores a troublesome pattern that has received far less attention: Of the 438,421 people deported in 2013, 83 percent received a summary removal, meaning that they were sent to their country of origin by US officials without a hearing. And according to the ACLU's research, many of these removals were illegal: Asylum seekers, unaccompanied kids, and others who may have qualified for relief routinely have been turned away.

Until the mid-'90s, virtually all immigrants at risk of being deported went through an immigration hearing before a judge. But, partly in response to immigration court backlogs, a 1996 law called the Illegal Immigration Reform and Responsibility Act changed that, extending the ability to issue deportations to immigration officers—the same people who arrest and detain immigrants. Since 2003, the number of immigrants deported by officers without a trial has tripled; in fiscal year 2013, according to the ACLU, some 363,000 deported individuals "did not have a hearing, never saw an immigration judge, and were deported through cursory administrative processes where the same presiding immigration officer acted as the prosecutor, judge, and jailor." 

In theory, the current law prevents immigration courts from being completely inundated while also providing safeguards; officers are to ask individuals if they fear for their lives in their home countries and are seeking asylum, and those who do are to be referred to an officer with asylum training. But according to the ACLU's findings, these protocols aren't often followed: Of 89 interviewees who received summary removals, only 28 percent were asked in a language they understood if they feared persecution upon returning home. Of those, 40 percent answered "yes" but were still summarily removed. An estimated 95 percent of Mexican unaccompanied children have been turned back before seeing a judge.

The ACLU report also documents stories of immigrants for whom expedited deportation was particularly devastating. Below is an excerpt:

Braulia A. and Hermalinda L. were gang-raped and shot after being deported to Guatemala; Braulia's son, who joined her in Guatemala after her deportation, was murdered by the same gang that raped and shot her. Nydia R., a transgender woman who actually had asylum status when she was (twice) deported without a hearing, was attacked by men who raped her and tried to cut out her breast implants; she was then kidnapped and sex-trafficked in Mexico. Laura S. told border officials that she was afraid of her abusive ex-partner; her pleas ignored, she was deported and was murdered by him within days of her removal to Mexico.

As Sarah Mehta, an ACLU human rights researcher and an author of the report, put it, "Almost every location that we went to across the northern and southern borders had the same stories: of people not knowing what their rights were when they got deported, given a form to sign that they didn't understand, often in a language they didn't know, and essentially pushed across the border. The stories of coercion—of mistreatment, of people being threatened with indefinite detention, of people losing their children—those stories also were not just a one-off."

No one, the ACLU included, seems to be able to provide a realistic solution to the immigration court backlog; it's undeniable that if all those requesting asylum were given a trial, the system would be further clogged.

But Obama's recent executive action makes no mention of eliminating illegal summary removals—in fact, it focuses on continuing the "surge of resources" to the border. According to the White House Press Office, "The President's actions increase the chances that anyone attempting to cross the border illegally will be caught and sent back."