Political MoJo

Bobby Jindal Lashes Out at Father of Oregon Shooter: "He's the Problem Here"

| Tue Oct. 6, 2015 5:58 PM EDT

If, after last week's shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, you held the gunman responsible, Bobby Jindal thinks you've missed the mark.

On Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Jindal published a self-described "sermon" on his campaign website, addressing what he believes are the root causes of mass shootings. These causes include, but are not limited to, "cultural decay," violent video games, absent fathers, and the general devaluing of human life.

"It's the old computer axiom—garbage in, garbage out," Jindal wrote. "We fill our culture with garbage, and we reap the result."

Jindal also lashed out at the shooter's father, who has called for gun control in the wake of his son's rampage. "He's a complete failure as a father, he should be embarrassed to even show his face in public," Jindal wrote. "He's the problem here.

Jindal's response to this instance of gun violence is similar to his reaction to a shooting at a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana, in which three people (including the gunman) were killed. Shortly after that happened, Jindal offered condolences to the families, resisted discussing gun control reform in lieu of praying for the victims' families, and even criticized President Barack Obama for "trying to score cheap political points." However, after the shooting at an army recruiting station in Chattanooga, Tennessee, just days later, the Louisiana governor reacted quite differently. Jindal was quick to politicize the issue by pinning the shooting on radical Islamic terrorism, a problem that he alleges the White House has largely ignored.

"This shooting underscores the grave reality of the threat posed to us by Radical Islamic terrorism every single day," Jindal said in an official statement after the Chattanooga shooting. "It's time for the White House to wake up and tell the truth...and that truth is that Radical Islam is at war with us, and we must start by being honest about that."

In the spirit of honesty, it should also be noted that Jindal's own state has the second-highest rate of deaths by firearm per 100,000 people, second only to Alaska.

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Dear Nevada, #&$% You. Sincerely, San Francisco.

| Tue Oct. 6, 2015 5:18 PM EDT

For years, the Las Vegas Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital, Nevada's primary state mental facility, gave discharged patients a bus ticket out of town. Poor and mentally ill, they ended up homeless in cities around the country—especially in California, where more than 500 psychiatric patients were sent over a five year period.

Twenty-four of these patients landed in San Francisco, costing the city hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical care, housing, and services. Now Nevada has agreed to cover the costs—or most of them at least. On Monday a tentative settlement was reached and the state agreed to pay $400,000, just short of the $500,000 San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera sued for back in 2013. The settlement is expected to be approved by San Francisco's Board of Supervisors and Nevada's Board of Examiners later this month.

The class action lawsuit filed by Herrera followed an investigation by the Sacramento Bee, which revealed that 1,500 Nevada homeless patients had been given bus tickets, and were advised to seek medical care elsewhere. A third were sent to California, landing in major cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, which are already struggling to house a growing number homeless people.

Chronically homeless people—especially those with mental illnesses—can cost millions. As we reported earlier this year the county of Santa Clara spent $520 million a year, mostly on the hospital stays and the cost of jailing the persistently homeless—a mere 2,800 people.

Still, Nevada health officials tried for two years to get out of paying San Francisco. They argued that what happened in Nevada is similar to San Francisco's "Homeward Bound" program, which relocates homeless people to live with family or friends in other cities.

But now, according The San Francisco Chronicle Nevada has decided to end the fight. After Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital lost its accreditation in 2013, Nevada invested $30 million to reform its system of care. Homeless patients are no longer bused to other areas and state officials want to move forward. The facility regained its accreditation this year.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/investigations/nevada-patient-busing/article2577586.html#storylink=cp

"The settlement will bring an amicable resolution to this matter," Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval said in a statement. "The settlement will also validate the patient management best practices and procedures which Nevada has had in place for two years."

Ben Carson on Oregon Shooting: "I Would Not Just Stand There and Let Him Shoot Me"

| Tue Oct. 6, 2015 12:54 PM EDT

Ben Carson says he would have led an effort to stop the shooter who killed 13 people last week in Roseburg, Oregon, had he been there during the attack.

During an interview of Fox & Friends Tuesday, host Brian Kilmeade asked the GOP presidential candidate what he would do if a gunman asked him, "What religion are you?" The shooter allegedly asked his victims their religion before shooting them and opted to fatally injure those who responded that they were Christian.

"Not only would I probably not cooperate with him, I would not just stand there and let him shoot me," Carson responded. "I would say, 'Hey guys, everybody attack him. He may shoot me, but he can't get us all.'"

This is not the first time that Carson has weighed in on the shooting. Last Friday afternoon, Carson sent a tweet that went viral, proclaiming "I am A Christian."

Ben Carson Supports Arming Kindergarten Teachers to Combat Gun Violence

| Tue Oct. 6, 2015 12:49 PM EDT

Ben Carson has some thoughts on gun control.

Less than a week after the massacre at an Oregon community college that left 10 people dead, including the shooter, the Republican presidential candidate dismissed renewed calls for gun safety and called for kindergarten teachers to be armed.

"If I had a little kid in kindergarten somewhere I would feel much more comfortable if I knew on that campus there was a police officer or somebody who was trained with a weapon," Carson told USA TODAY on Tuesday. "If the teacher was trained in the use of that weapon and had access to it, I would be much more comfortable if they had one than if they didn't."

Carson's calls to arm teachers echoes similar views expressed by GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump, who suggested the Oregon shooting could have been avoided if school officials were armed. "Let me tell you, if you had a couple teachers with guns in that room, you would have been a hell of a lot better off," he told an event in Tennessee.

The proposal comes just one day after Carson also suggested during a Facebook Q&A that enacting gun control laws would be more "devastating" than the results of gun violence:

"As a Doctor, I spent many a night pulling bullets out of bodies," he wrote on Monday. "There is no doubt that this senseless violence is breathtaking—but I never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away."

The talk of arming teachers from Trump led Comedy Central comedian Larry Wilmore to respond on his Monday night show: "Let's not elect a guy who's getting his policy ideas from the movie Kindergarten Cop." Watch below:


The Latest Hobby Lobby Ruling Is Actually Good News

| Tue Oct. 6, 2015 6:00 AM EDT

A year after its controversial Supreme Court victory, Hobby Lobby found itself on the other side of a court decision—this time for denying a transgender employee access to the women's restroom.

Since she transitioned more than five years ago, frame shop manager Meggan Sommerville has been forced to either use the men's restroom in her Illinois Hobby Lobby store or wait until her lunch break, when she could slip into other businesses nearby to use a women's restroom. In a May decision made public for the first time on Sunday, a state administrative judge ruled that the chain's treatment of Sommerville violates Illinois' Human Rights Act, finding "direct evidence of sexual related identity discrimination" in the store's decision to bar her from the women's restroom until she had gender reassignment surgery.

The judge's order was a recommended ruling; a final decision from the state's Human Rights Commission is still pending. In the meantime, for Sommerville, nothing has changed: Hobby Lobby still requires her to use the men's restroom.

"If I quit, I give a right to any other company to discriminate against their employee in the hopes that they will quit so they will be done with them."

Hobby Lobby hired Somerville in 1998, and two years later, she was transferred to the company's location in east Aurora, Illinois. By 2010, she was presenting and identifying as female and had legally changed her name to Meggan Renee. When she formally approached her employer to notify them of the transition, the company altered her personnel file to reflect the change, and Sommverville changed her nametag. Yet the company denied her request to use the women's restroom, demanding that she provide documents that would compel them to do so. Still, even after Sommerville did so, Hobby Lobby continued to deny her request, going so far as to issue her a written warning for using the women's restroom in February 2011. The company later insisted that she undergo gender reassignment surgery, which would allow her to change her birth certificate, before she could use the women's bathroom in the store.

Sommerville filed a complaint, but it was dismissed by the Illinois Department of Human Rights in 2012 for lack of evidence, a decision that was later overturned.

Sommerville's bosses instructed her not to use the restroom in part because another employee expressed "discomfort," the ruling revealed. "A co-worker's discomfort cannot justify discriminatory terms and conditions of employment," Judge William Borah wrote. "The prejudices of co-workers or customers are part of what the Act was meant to prevent." Furthermore, Borah found that Hobby Lobby's decision to build a unisex restroom for Sommerville's use was an example of segregation and "perpetuates different treatment."

"Do I want to continue doing what I do? Yes," Sommerville told the Windy City Times. "I enjoy it. Why should I quit? I'm good at what I do. I love what I do. If I quit, I give a right to any other company to discriminate against their employee in the hopes that they will quit so they will be done with them. No one should be forced to quit where they're being harassed and discriminated against. This case is bigger than me."

Bobby Jindal Sums Up His Struggling Campaign in One Chart

| Mon Oct. 5, 2015 5:15 PM EDT

Things are looking up for Bobby Jindal, according to Bobby Jindal.

The Louisiana governor tweeted this afternoon about his campaign performance: "Momentum is building in Iowa." The tweet was accompanied by a chart showing Jindal's support among Iowa voters increasing exponentially.

The poll Jindal is proudly presenting is the latest NBC/Marist survey in Iowa, which shows him with a whopping 6 percent of the vote, tied with two candidates and behind four others. That looks impressive next to the 1 percent he got in a poll from the firm in July. But it's less impressive if you consider the 4.7 percent margin of error, which could more than account for his rise from the September poll that had him at 4 percent. Likewise if you look at the polling average from Real Clear Politics, which puts Jindal at 3.5 percent in Iowa (in ninth place). A Gravis poll concluded on September 27 listed Jindal at only 2 percent (tied for eighth place).

But who cares? Just look at this chart!

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Women in Texas May Have to Wait an Extra 20 Days for an Abortion

| Mon Oct. 5, 2015 3:31 PM EDT
A shuttered clinic in El Paso, Texas.

New research from the University of Texas—Austin has found that women seeking abortions in cities such as Dallas, Forth Worth, and Austin face staggering wait times of up to 20 days before they can get the procedure. The data, which researchers working for the Texas Policy Evaluation Project released Monday, provides a startling look at the effects of abortion clinic closures in Texas just as the Supreme Court is deciding whether or not to hear a case that could slash the number of remaining clinics by half.

Wait times at abortion clinics in Austin, Texas.

Researchers documented wait times for clinics in Forth Worth, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, and Houston from November 2014 to September 2015. In Austin, the average wait over the course of those 11 months was 10 days. In Dallas and Fort Worth, the annual average was 5 days. They also calculated the average monthly wait times and the range of wait times in a given month and found that average wait times within a single month reached up to 20 days in the Dallas-Fort Worth area—where there are five abortion clinics—and wait times for individual patients could reach up to 23 days.

The escalating wait times are a result of successful efforts to close more than half of Texas's abortion clinics. Most of those clinics were closed by HB 2, a 2013 anti-abortion law that many consider to be the harshest in the nation. Its provisions included a requirement that clinics must have admitting privileges with a hospital no more than 30 miles away. Before the measure, Texas had 41 clinics; four months after it took effect, there were only 22. Today, there are 19.

A final provision of the law, which may be the subject of a Supreme Court battle later this year, would close all but 10 clinics if it goes into effect. That measure requires abortion clinics to be regulated similarly to hospitals, which makes it dramatically more expensive to operate an abortion clinic. Leading medical organizations, such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, maintain this level of medical infrastructure is not necessary to safely perform most abortions. Whole Woman's Health, a chain of abortion clinics with several providers in Texas, sued in federal court and succeeded in having the Supreme Court temporarily block the law. The court could make a decision to hear the full case as soon as this month.

A wait time of almost three weeks has serious consequences for women seeking abortions, ranging from her ability to afford an abortion, which becomes more expensive as the pregnancy progresses, to intensity of the procedure. In the second trimester, the cost of an abortion may go up by a hundred dollars every week. The researchers found that if the Supreme Court were to allow all but 10 clinics to close, it would almost double the number of second-trimester procedures in Texas—from 6,600 in 2013 to 12,400.

The researchers also predicted that if the Supreme Court upheld HB 2, the 10 clinics that would remain open would not have the capacity to meet demand. Those clinics today provide only one-fifth of abortions in Texas. If they were the only clinics in Texas, they would probably experience consistent wait times of around three weeks. For instance, the Houston area saw an average wait time of less than five days. But Houston has six clinics. If the law were fully in place, it would only have two clinics. And as clinics closed around the state, the number of abortions taking place in Houston would rise from 3,900 in 2013 to more than 11,000.

Clinics in states bordering Texas are already feeling the crush. Kathaleen Pittman, an official with Hope Medical Group of Shreveport, Louisiana, said in an interview that the proportion of Texans going to Hope Medical Group for Women in Shreveport, Louisiana, has leapt from 15 percent of patients in 2011 to 23 percent in 2014.

And the South isn't the only region where clinic closures have sent a wave of patients looking for new providers. The problem is also pronounced in Ohio, where eight clinics have closed since 2011. Officials for Preterm, a clinic in Cleveland, say the number of patients traveling from a different part of Ohio has jumped 160 percent, and the number of patients from out of state has almost doubled.

As Mother Jones reported in a recent feature, a clinic called the Cherry Hill Women's Center in southern New Jersey is seeing more and more patients from Virginia, because clinics in Maryland and Delaware are overbooked, and from the Midwest, because many clinics there have closed. An analysis by Mother Jones found that clinics are closing at a rate of 1.5 per week. If the trend keeps up, the new data from Texas may turn out to be a bellwether for the rest of the nation.

Meet the Senate Candidate Who Sacrificed a Goat and Drank Its Blood

| Mon Oct. 5, 2015 12:05 PM EDT

Of all the scandals that have dogged political campaigns, the one threatening Augustus Sol Invictus' US Senate run may be among the most unusual: ritual goat sacrifice.*

In 2013, Invictus walked from central Florida to the Mojave Desert and spent a week fasting and praying. Upon his return home, the Associated Press reports, Invictus sacrificed a goat and drank its blood in an apparent pagan ritual.

"I did sacrifice a goat," Invictus told the AP. "I sacrificed an animal to the god of the wilderness...Yes, I drank the goat's blood."

Invictus—he changed his birth name but declined to provide it to the AP—is now running for Senate in Florida on the Libertarian Party ticket. But the party hasn't taken well to has candidacy. Its state chairman resigned in protest and called Invictus a "self-proclaimed fascist" who is "promoting a second civil war." Invictus denied these charges but said he "sees a cataclysm coming."

In 2013, Invictus wrote a letter to his classmates at the DePaul College of Law in which he seemed to say he might start a new civil war. "I have prophesied for years that I was born for a Great War; that if I did not witness the coming of the Second American Civil War I would begin it myself," he wrote. "Mark well: That day is fast coming upon you. On the New Moon of May, I shall disappear into the Wilderness. I will return bearing Revolution, or I will not return at all."

He did return. But so far the only revolution he's bearing is the one within his own party.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated Invictus' role in the Libertarian Party.

Hillary Clinton Unveils Plan to Tackle Gun Violence Using Executive Action

| Mon Oct. 5, 2015 10:58 AM EDT

On Monday, Hillary Clinton plans to unveil a series of proposals aimed at reducing gun violence that includes the possible use of an executive action to close the "gun show loophole," which currently allows gun sales to proceed even if background checks on individuals are still pending.

The Democratic presidential candidate is expected to announce the plan at two town hall events in New Hampshire. In advance of the appearances, Clinton's campaign released a statement outlining her proposals that detail her push for comprehensive background checks, the tightening of loopholes and internet gun sales even if "Congress fails to act," and efforts to block individuals with domestic abuse records and the mentally ill from obtaining firearms.

In the wake of Thursday's deadly rampage at a community college in Oregon, the former secretary of state called on lawmakers to enact stricter gun control legislation and vowed to help loosen the grip of the National Rifles Association on Congress.

"I'm going to try to do everything I can as president to raise up an equally large and vocal group that is going to prove to be a counterbalance," she said in response to the latest mass shooting in America. "And we're going to tell legislators, do not be afraid. Stand up to these people because a majority of the population and a majority of gun owners agree that there should be universal background checks. And the NRA has stood in the way."

Gun control is one area in which Clinton has appeared markedly more progressive than Sen. Bernie Sanders. In the past, the Vermont senator has drawn criticism from Democrats for his more libertarian stance on the issue, including his controversial support for a 2005 law that protects gun makers against lawsuits from victims of violence. In her plan on Monday, Clinton will reportedly announce her efforts to repeal that law as well.

Following Thursday's massacre, Sanders said he agreed with President Barack Obama's statements saying prayers and condolences were not enough to tackle gun violence in America.

Read Clinton's sweeping plan here.

The CIA Is Still Refusing to Release Its Files on This Alleged War Criminal

| Mon Oct. 5, 2015 6:00 AM EDT
Salvadoran troopers graduating from artillery school, 1981

In November 1981, early in what would become a 12-year civil war, Lt. Colonel Sigifredo Ochoa Pérez led an estimated 1,200 Salvadoran troops into a rural region near the Honduran border. As part of an eight-day campaign to eliminate guerrillas in the area, the soldiers allegedly killed dozens, even hundreds, of fleeing civilians near the community of Santa Cruz.

Now, nearly 34 years later, a group of human rights experts is trying to help bring Ochoa Pérez to justice—and is taking the fight to the CIA, as well. On Friday, the University of Washington Center for Human Rights (UWCHR) filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the CIA after the agency would neither confirm nor deny the existence of documents surrounding the Santa Cruz massacre. That includes files on Ochoa Pérez, who until recently was a member of Congress in El Salvador.

According to UWCHR project coordinator Phil Neff, the massacre was emblematic of the Salvadoran government's scorched-earth campaigns to "cleanse" areas of guerrillas while often claiming the lives of civilians. Ochoa Pérez, whom Neff calls "one of the US's top counterinsurgents during the '80s," is currently facing a criminal investigation in El Salvador in connection to the offensive. Now that Ochoa Pérez's congressional immunity has run out, the UWCHR is hoping to use CIA intelligence from that era to move the long-stalled cases against him.

Ochoa Pérez marches with supporters in a 2012 protest. Luis Romero/AP

"There have been no successful prosecutions of this kind in El Salvador," Neff says. "In comparison to Guatemala, the advances have been insignificant. So it's thought that he may be low-hanging fruit—but he's not an insignificant guy."

Kate Doyle, a senior analyst of US policy in Latin America at the National Security Archive, says the UWCHR faces an uphill battle. "The CIA has been traditionally very well protected against the efforts of citizens to gain records through the legal channels we have open to us," she says, noting that most CIA documents are exempt from FOIA thanks to a 1984 law signed by President Ronald Reagan. The declassifications that do occur, Doyle says, generally happen because the agency releases the information on its own or is forced to by presidential order. That very thing happened in 1993, when President Bill Clinton, under pressure from Congress, pushed the CIA to declassify an estimated 12,000 documents on the Salvadoran civil war, including some on Ochoa Pérez.

"The CIA has got a lot of tricks up its sleeve to protect itself from responding to something like this," Doyle says, noting that the courts rarely overrule the agency when it invokes national security. Still, she says the FOIA suit is a valuable public reminder that the US government has been knowingly sitting on records with important details of grave human rights abuses.

"The lawsuit has the tremendously positive effect," Doyle says, "of bringing that gap between the rhetoric of human rights policy in the United States and the practice into the light."

This story has been updated. For more on the Santa Cruz massacre, check out this short documentary from the University of Washington Center for Human Rights: