Political MoJo

Defiant Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis Could Face More Legal Trouble. This Time for Copyright.

| Wed Sep. 9, 2015 4:34 PM EDT
Mike Huckabee raises Kim Davis's arm in triumph before a jubilant crowd in Kentucky upon her release on Tuesday.

Yesterday, Kim Davis—the now-infamous Rowan County clerk who was held in contempt for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Kentucky—was released from a five-night stint in jail. Escorted by Mike Huckabee, the GOP presidential hopeful who helped throw the rally for her release, an emotional Davis threw her arms in the air, closed her eyes, and basked in the sounds of "Eye of the Tiger," Survivor's 1982 hit about being awesome.

Unfortunately for Davis, the writers of that song don't think Davis is so awesome—and they never agreed to let her or Huckabee broadcast their song at the rally. Survivor's Jim Peterik tweeted his disapproval, saying Davis would be receiving a "cease and desist" letter from his publisher:

CNN reports that Peterik was shocked to hear that his song was played at the rally:

"I was gobsmacked," he said. "We were not asked about this at all. The first time we saw it was on national TV." Peterik's co-writer, Frankie Sullivan, was also upset about the use of "Eye of the Tiger" and posted a message on Facebook to vent. "I would not grant her the rights to use Charmin!" he wrote.

This reaction is not completely uncommon when it comes to musicians and political events. When Donald Trump played Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World" at an event at Trump Tower in June to announce his candidacy, Young's longtime manager Elliot Roberts told Mother Jones that the use of the song was unauthorized. "Mr. Young is a longtime supporter of Bernie Sanders," he said.

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Rick Perry Just Lost His South Carolina Campaign Headquarters

| Wed Sep. 9, 2015 4:15 PM EDT

By most accounts, Rick Perry's presidential bid is in trouble. Last month, the campaign announced that it would no longer be able to pay its staff across the country. Now, to make matters worse, it's had to move out of its campaign headquarters in the key primary state of South Carolina.

So what's the reason for the move? Perry state chairman Katon Dawson—who had provided the office space in Columbia—initially told CNN that a realtor had found a "hot new client" for the space. Later on Tuesday, Dawson gave a different account to a local television station in Columbia: The campaign, he said, chose to move its headquarters to another one of Dawson's properties, because of "safety concerns."

Whatever the reason for the move, Perry is struggling in South Carolina. On Saturday, the state's GOP chairman said the campaign was "on life support" in the state and expressed skepticism that Perry would be able to drum up the $40,000 needed to get on the South Carolina primary ballot.

Lawmakers to NFL: Cheerleaders Deserve to Be Treated Like Human Beings

| Wed Sep. 9, 2015 3:53 PM EDT
The Oakland Raiderettes in 2014. In July of this year, California passed a law saying pro cheerleaders should be paid at least minimum wage.

Before the start of a new football season Thursday, policymakers from across the country are urging NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to address an old problem: The mistreatment of the women cheering on the sidelines. Nineteen lawmakers from eight states sent a letter to Goodell on Wednesday urging teams to pay cheerleaders minimum wage.

The letter comes after cheerleaders from five NFL teams—the Oakland Raiders, Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, Cincinnatti Bengals, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers—sued their respective teams last year for sub-minimum-wage pay and degrading working conditions (think "jiggle tests" and fines for bringing the wrong pom-poms). Though the allegations in each lawsuit differed slightly, they centered on a core issue: Cheerleaders are currently classified as independent contractors rather than employees, allowing teams to pay meager wages and constantly threaten to cut members from the squad. The lawsuits led California policymakers to pass a law in July classifying cheerleaders for pro teams as employees.

"We shouldn't have to go state by state to make this happen," says New York Assemblywoman Nily Rozic, who introduced similar legislation to protect cheerleaders earlier this year. "The NFL should make it a league policy."

The letter, signed by policymakers from eight states, urges Goodell to classify cheerleaders as employees. Given the similarities in the five lawsuits, it reads, "there is reason to believe that the issue of misclassification and wage theft is not just prevalent among the teams that have been sued."

Read the full letter below:



Cage-Free Eggs Are Good News for Chickens—but They Won't Save McDonald's

| Wed Sep. 9, 2015 3:21 PM EDT

One week after McDonald's announced that its breakfast menu was going to be an all-day thing, the fast-food chain gave customers a reason to feel a bit better about it: Soon your Egg McMuffin will be made with cage-free eggs.

Because of the recent, massive outbreak of avian flu, egg prices are now sky high, with no signs of dropping—and cage-free eggs are typically more expensive than conventional.

Today McDonald's said its 16,000 franchises in the United States and Canada will make the transition over the next 10 years (even though competitor Burger King has committed to going cage-free by 2017). The company already buys around 13 million cage-free eggs every year but will soon source all 2 billion eggs purchased annually from cage-free farms.

It's worth noting that "cage-free" isn't always all it's cracked up to be. Earlier this year my colleague Tom Philpott wrote about how USDA regulations that animals must have "year-round access...to the outdoors, shade, shelter, exercise areas, fresh air, clean water for drinking, and direct sunlight, suitable to the species, its stage of life, the climate, and the environment" can be subject to interpretation. Animal rights activists who investigated cage-free egg producer Petaluma found hens were still in poor condition:

Footage taken from within the Petaluma facilities shows lots of birds wallowing tightly together, often amidst what looks like significant buildup of their own waste. The narrators use words like "stench, " "filth," and "misery" to describe the scene; and show several birds in obvious bad health—birds with blisters, missing feathers, one clearly caked with shit—along with birds that appear to be in decent shape. The crew dramatically rescues one pathetically injured bird, handing her over the fence, one activist to another, and whisking her to a vet in Berkeley, who declares her in dismal shape.

McDonald's has been trying hard lately to rebrand itself, succumbing to consumer demands for healthier fare in the face of a increasingly dismal business outlook. Today's announcement also included details about new menu items, including a new salad containing baby kale (an ingredient the company once said it would never use), and plans to replace liquid margarine with real butter. McDonald's has also stopped serving chicken raised on antibiotics. It sells milk from cows not treated with artificial growth hormones, and last year it launched a campaign that utilized behind-the-scenes videos to prove it was serving real food.

It's hard to say whether McDonalds' efforts will give the company the boost it needs—even all-day breakfast is not a sure win, the Motley Fool recently argued. What's more, the company still has an image problem: It continues to face criticism over low pay for workers, employee safety, and ads that target children.

Another wrinkle: The timing of McDonald's all-day breakfast launch is not exactly ideal. Because of the recent, massive outbreak of avian flu, egg prices are now sky high, with no signs of dropping—and cage-free eggs are typically more expensive than conventional. (McDonald's claims it won't raise prices.)

Still, animal rights advocates herald today's announcement as a step in the right direction. "This is a watershed moment in a decades-long effort to eliminate the cruelest confinement from our food supply," Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, said in a press release. "McDonald’s admirable move makes clear that egg production's future is cage-free."

This Is the Dumbest Thing Said in the Planned Parenthood Hearing (So Far)

| Wed Sep. 9, 2015 12:26 PM EDT

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) would feed America's hungry children—if only Planned Parenthood weren't eating up so much (.00015 percent) of the federal budget.

That's what he said in Wednesday's House Judiciary Committee hearing on the undercover sting videos that allegedly show Planned Parenthood employees selling fetal parts in violation of federal law. The hearing is part of a drive to strip the group of the $500 million in federal funds it uses to support family planning care.

"Could you please tell me why Planned Parenthood needs to get over half a billion dollars of federal funding every year when there are other pressing needs, such as feeding hungry children, that we maybe we should be putting that money into?" Stensenbrenner asked Priscilla Smith, the director of the Program for the Study of Reproductive Justice at Yale Law School.

"The question is whether Congress should appropriate another half-billion dollars plus to Planned Parenthood when we could be spending that money on feeding hungry children," he continued. "This is a question of priorities. I'd like to know what your priority is: Planned Parenthood, or feeding hungry children?"

Watch the hearing here.

Mexico Just Hilariously Trolled US Soccer Fans Thanks to Donald Trump

| Wed Sep. 9, 2015 12:20 PM EDT

When Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president, he trolled Mexico with his criminals-and-rapists rant. Now Mexico is trolling right back in hilarious fashion.

The United States and Mexico will face off at the Rose Bowl on October 10 to decide which team will go to the 2017 Confederations Cup, a major World Cup warm-up tournament. Every game between the two neighbors is a hatefest, so Azteca Deportes, the Mexican TV channel that's airing the game, used clips from Trump's announcement speech to mock Mexico's US opponents.

"We don't have victories anymore," Trump says as footage rolls of Mexican players scoring goal after goal against the US. "The American dream is dead," he continues, as the Mexican team lifts the North American championship trophy they easily won this summer after the US suffered an embarrassing loss in the semifinals. The ad even reminds Trump who Mexico is actually sending to the US instead of the criminals he claims: The ad shows Cuauhtémoc Blanco, Giovano Dos Santos, and other Mexican soccer stars who have come to play in the US—and often been among the best players in America's own league.

Watch the video, laugh, and then cheer on the US to a win against Mexico on October 10.

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Trump to CNN: Your Profits Are "Due 100% to 'Donald J. Trump'"

| Wed Sep. 9, 2015 12:02 PM EDT

Media outlets can't get enough of Donald Trump—and he knows it.

This morning, the leading GOP candidate tweeted a letter he sent to CNN president Jeff Zucker, claiming that CNN's ad rates had increased by 4,000 percent due to his influence. Zucker, Trump urged, should consider the broadcast of the second GOP presidential debate on September 16, which CNN will host, a "public service" and donate the profits to veterans groups.

"I believe that all profits from this broadcast should go to various VETERANS groups, a list of which I will send to you in the near future," Trump wrote. "The veterans of our country, our finest people, have been treated horribly by our government and its 'all talk and no action' politicians. In fact, some would say they are treated like third class citizens—even worse, in many cases than illegal immigrants."

Trump's avid support of veterans is a far cry from his suggestion earlier this summer that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), was not a war hero because he was captured in combat. Trump is now doubling down on his pro-veteran stance after likening his experience at New York Military Academy to formal military training. He foreshadowed the letter to Zucker in Time magazine's cover story on him last month.

A CNN spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Trump's full letter is below. (Click to enlarge.)

Fact-Checking the GOP's Deceptive Planned Parenthood Hearing

| Wed Sep. 9, 2015 11:57 AM EDT
Women in Utah protest against the governor's decision to block federal money to local Planned Parenthood clinics.

On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing into the undercover sting videos that allegedly show Planned Parenthood employees selling fetal parts in violation of federal law. The videos, which are the work of a secretive anti-abortion group, have been heavily and deceptively edited. Still, the hearing, like so many previous attacks on Planned Parenthood, is part of a larger campaign to strip the group of millions of federal dollars it uses to support family planning care.

The claims in the edited videos are not the only deceptive element of the hearing, which is titled "Planned Parenthood Exposed: Examining the Horrific Abortion Practices at the Nation's Largest Abortion Provider." In his opening statement, Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) claimed that Planned Parenthood uses "much more painful methods like partial birth abortion" to better preserve fetal organs for sale. "More than 18,000 late-term, pain-capable unborn babies were torturously killed without anesthesia in America last year," he continued. "Many of them cried and screamed as they died."

The idea that abortion entails "fetal pain" is a popular anti-abortion myth—one Franks has articulated before in order to justify a 20-week ban on abortion, called the "Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act." But that flies in the face of the medical consensus, which is that the systems necessary to sense pain are not developed until the fetus is almost full-term. The idea that fetuses "scream and cry" during abortion is also the product of a deceptive anti-abortion video: the 1984 film The Silent Scream, which purports to show a fetus contorted with pain.

The first witness, Gianna Jessen, who was born after an unsuccessful abortion, also repeated the argument that there are other facilities capable of safeguarding women's health if Planned Parenthood were to lose federal family planning funding: "We often hear that if Planned Parenthood were to be defunded, there would be a health crisis among women without the services they provide. This is absolutely false. Pregnancy resource centers are located nationwide as an option for the woman in crisis."

But pregnancy resources are only a fraction of Planned Parenthood's business: STI screenings, Pap tests, and pregnancy prevention comprise the vast majority of its activities. The group provides contraception to almost 40 percent of women who rely on public programs for family planning. And a New York Times investigation recently showed that women—particularly poor women—would face an enormous struggle to find reproductive health providers if the country's largest women's health network was no longer an option. Planned Parenthood, unlike many other providers, have a broad ability to accept Medicaid patients. The Times notes that four out of five Planned Parenthood patients have incomes below 150 percent of the poverty level at a time when two-thirds of states reported difficulties ensuring enough health providers, especially OB-GYNs, for Medicaid patients.

The CEO of United Airlines Just Resigned—Because of Bridgegate

| Tue Sep. 8, 2015 6:17 PM EDT

The CEO and chairman of United Airlines, Jeff Smisek, resigned on Tuesday after the "bridgegate" investigation that is dogging GOP presidential hopeful and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie revealed possible wrongdoing on the part of the airline.

The original investigation sought to answer whether the George Washington Bridge lane closures of September 2013, which caused massive traffic problems in the town of Fort Lee, New Jersey, were political payback for the Fort Lee mayor's refusal to endorse Christie for reelection. Since the start, the investigation has revolved around Christie's personal friend and top executive at the Port Authority, David Samson, who is cooperating with federal agents.

But the probe of Samson raised the possibility that United Airlines ran an illegal influence campaign to convince Samson to lower flight fees at Newark Liberty Airport and approve millions in spending to improve the airport. (The Port Authority is the airport's chief regulator.) According to WYNC, "United’s overtures included a special flight route that benefited the Port Authority’s former chairman David Samson; campaign contributions; fancy lunches and dinners; and meetings with top officials, including Christie."

United is conducting an internal investigation, but the feds are not waiting. Ahead of Smisek's resignation, investigators subpoenaed many top officials at the airline.

The "special flight route" United allegedly created for Samson ran from Newark to Columbia, close to where Samson and his wife spent the weekends. Bloomberg reports that Samson asked for the route over dinner with Smisek in a "playful, but not joking" manner:

He complained that he and his wife had grown weary of the trip to their weekend home in Aiken, South Carolina, because the best flight out of Newark was to Charlotte, North Carolina, 150 miles away. Until 2009, Continental had run direct service from Newark to Columbia, South Carolina, 100 miles closer.

Samson later said the Bloomberg report "badly mischaracterizes" the meeting. A few days after Samson resigned over the bridge scandal, United stopped running the flights.

Donald Trump, Instagram Troll

| Tue Sep. 8, 2015 4:08 PM EDT

Donald Trump's latest ad, taking aim at Jeb Bush, is just the sort of measured, substantive critique you'd expect from a presidential front-runner:


Wake up Jeb supporters!

A video posted by Donald J. Trump (@realdonaldtrump) on