MoJo Blogs and Articles | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/rss/blogs_and_articles/favicon.ico/favicon.ico http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en It's More or Less Final: Obamacare Has Insured About 11 Million People http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/its-more-or-less-final-obamacare-has-insured-about-11-million-people <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Jonathan Cohn passes along the results of a new study from the Commonwealth Fund which estimates that the ranks of the uninsured have dropped by about 5 percentage points <a href="http://www.newrepublic.com/article/118629/obamacare-reduced-uninsured-95-million-close-cbo-target" target="_blank">since the start of the Obamacare rollout:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>To put that in more concrete terms, there are still a lot of Americans walking around without health insurance today. <strong>But there are about 9.5 million fewer of them than there were last fall,</strong> almost certainly because so many people have enrolled in the newly expanded Medicaid program or purchased subsidized insurance through the Obamacare marketplaces.</p> <p>How does that compare to expectations? The Congressional Budget Office predicted that, one year into full implementation, Obamacare would reduce the the number of Americans without insurance by 12 million. That included the young adults who got insurance before 2014, by signing onto their parents&rsquo; plans. There&rsquo;s been some controversy over exactly how many people that is, <strong>but the best estimates I&rsquo;ve seen place it somewhere between 1 and 2.5 million.</strong> Add that number to the 9.5 million from the Commonwealth survey, and you're close or equal to the CBO projections.</p> </blockquote> <p>So that's probably a total of around 11 million or so. Nearly all of the estimates now seem to be converging around this number, and given the inherent uncertainty in measuring the uninsured it seem like this is about as good as we're going to get.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Care Thu, 10 Jul 2014 04:31:18 +0000 Kevin Drum 255816 at http://www.motherjones.com Quote of the Day: "This Isn't Theater" http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/quote-day-isnt-theater <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>From President Obama, asked why he wasn't making a visit to the border during his trip to Texas today:</p> <blockquote> <p>This isn't theater. This is a problem.</p> </blockquote> <p>"I'm not interested in a photo-op," he said. "I'm interested in solving a problem." It would be nice if he weren't the only one.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Immigration Obama Wed, 09 Jul 2014 23:18:00 +0000 Kevin Drum 255806 at http://www.motherjones.com The Legacy of the Hobby Lobby Case: Protecting Anti-Gay Discrimination? http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/07/hobby-lobby-anti-gay-discrimination <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>In his majority opinion in the recent <em>Hobby Lobby</em> case, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito took pains to frame the ruling, exempting companies from complying with Obamacare's contraceptive mandate if it violated the religious beliefs of their owners, as a narrow one. But gay and civil rights groups have long warned that a decision permitting such a religious exemption could have broad ramifications, potentially allowing employers to discriminate against gays. Now, their fears may be coming to pass.</p> <p>"What we've seen since last week's decision came down is that opponents of LGBT equality have pushed a misreading of that decision as having broadly endorsed discrimination against people, including LGBT people in the workplace," says Ian Thompson, a legislative representative for the American Civil Liberties Union.</p> <p>Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, told <em>Mother Jones</em> that the <em>Hobby Lobby</em> ruling "opens the door for corporations to discriminate against anyone that doesn't look, sound, or share the religious beliefs that they do. This isn't a business agenda; it's an extreme social agenda and it is deeply unpopular with the American people."</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/mojo/2014/07/hobby-lobby-anti-gay-discrimination"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> MoJo Congress Corporations Gay Rights Wed, 09 Jul 2014 22:49:31 +0000 Alex Park 255741 at http://www.motherjones.com Lawsuit: Former Georgia GOP Staffer Claims Party Officials Targeted Her With Racial Slurs http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/07/georgia-gop-racist-slur-john-padgett <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>A former staffer for the Georgia Republican Party has filed a lawsuit claiming that party officials discriminated against her because she's black and subjected her to racist slurs and comments. In one case, she alleges, a colleague called her "the house nigger."</p> <p>Qiana Keith served as the executive assistant to Georgia GOP Chair John Padgett until she was fired in March, allegedly for complaining about racist treatment by fellow Republican Party staffers. Her lawsuit, which she filed July 8 in federal court, accuses the Georgia GOP and Padgett of "intentional and unlawful race discrimination" that culminated in her wrongful termination.</p> <p>"Ms. Keith was terminated for consistently poor job performance," Anne Lewis, the general counsel of the Georgia Republican Party told <em>Mother Jones </em>in a statement. "More than two months later, she contacted the Party through a lawyer and made claims of race discrimination and retaliation. We immediately undertook a full investigation of those claims and found that there was no merit to any of them. The Party and Chairman Padgett will vigorously defend themselves in court against these completely unfounded claims."</p> <p>According to Keith's lawsuit, she was hired in June 2013 and "it soon became clear that Ms. Keith's race set her apart from her co-workers, and she was treated differently throughout her employment. Keith was repeatedly&hellip;put in demeaning situations by her co-workers."</p> <p>One instance cited in the lawsuit occurred at the chairman's annual dinner in 2013. At these events, Keith says, the chairman's executive assistant is expected to attend as his "escort and aide." The lawsuit alleges that "when Ms. Keith arrived, however, [a party official] had given the post to a white male." The official, Margaret Poteet, the party's finance director, allegedly refused to assign Keith to any official duties outside of cleaning up after the dinner.</p> <p>When Keith complained about her treatment to Adam Pipkin, her direct superior, "he refused to listen to her," the suit claims. Instead, Keith alleges, Pipkin chastised her for "seating a black member of the Republican Party at the head table with the Chairman."</p> <p>The lawsuit claims that Keith later heard Poteet complaining about her to Karen Hentschel, the party's accounting director. "Don't worry about her, she is just the house nigger," Hentschel allegedly said.</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/politics/2014/07/georgia-gop-racist-slur-john-padgett"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Politics Race and Ethnicity The Right Top Stories Wed, 09 Jul 2014 20:13:20 +0000 Molly Redden 255771 at http://www.motherjones.com Migrant Kids Need a Good Lawyer. But Who's Gonna Pay? http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/07/unaccompanied-children-lawsuit <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>As the Obama administration continues to grapple with the humanitarian crisis surrounding unaccompanied immigrant children, some have suggested <a href="http://www.vox.com/2014/7/8/5880907/obama-3-7-billion-migrant-crisis-unaccompanied-children-families-border-funding-request" target="_blank">processing the children faster</a> and moving them quickly through the immigration courts. One problem: The vast majority don't have lawyers. The ACLU and several other groups, including the American Immigration Council, filed a lawsuit Wednesday to force the government to provide these kids with counsel as they deal with the wildly complex immigration system.</p> <p></p><div id="mininav" class="inline-subnav"> <!-- header content --> <div id="mininav-header-content"> <div id="mininav-header-image"> <img src="/files/images/motherjones_mininav/migrants_225.jpg" width="220" border="0"></div> <div id="mininav-header-text"> <p class="mininav-header-text" style="margin: 0; padding: 0.75em; font-size: 11px; font-weight: bold; line-height: 1.2em; background-color: rgb(221, 221, 221);"> More <em>MoJo</em> coverage of the surge of unaccompanied child migrants from Central America. </p> </div> </div> <!-- linked stories --> <div id="mininav-linked-stories"> <ul><span id="linked-story-252671"> <li><a href="/politics/2014/06/child-migrants-surge-unaccompanied-central-america"> 70,000 Kids Will Show Up Alone at Our Border This Year. What Happens to Them?</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-252866"> <li><a href="/politics/2014/06/unaccompanied-kids-immigrants-deported-guatemala"> What's Next for the Children We Deport? </a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-253266"> <li><a href="/mojo/2014/06/surge-unaccompanied-child-migrant-shelters"> This Is Where the Government Houses the Tens of Thousands of Kids Who Get Caught Crossing the Border</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-255056"> <li><a href="/mojo/2014/06/map-unaccompanied-child-migrants-central-america-honduras"> Map: These Are the Places Central American Child Migrants Are Fleeing </a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-255201"> <li><a href="/politics/2014/06/unaccompanied-child-migrants-border-patrol-screening"> 4 Reasons Why Border Agents Shouldn't Get to Decide Whether Child Migrants Can Stay in the US</a></li> </span> </ul></div> <!-- footer content --> </div> <p>The ACLU's suit represents eight children, ages 10 to 17, from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico, but is also trying to force representation for the thousands of children who go through the same thing each year. The suit alleges that the children are being deprived of due process, citing previous case law ruling that children should have legal representation in legal matters. <a href="http://www.uchastings.edu/centers/cgrs-docs/treacherous_journey_cgrs_kind_report.pdf" target="_blank">A 2014 report</a> (PDF) from the University of California-Hastings and Kids in Need of Defense argues, "Without counsel, the children are unlikely to understand the complex procedures they face and the options and remedies that may be available to them under the law."</p> <p>Part of Obama's $3.7 billion plan to address immigration issues is to <a href="http://www.vox.com/2014/7/8/5880907/obama-3-7-billion-migrant-crisis-unaccompanied-children-families-border-funding-request" target="_blank">provide $15 million to fund legal representation</a> for unaccompanied children. (Notably, <a href="http://www.vera.org/pubs/flow-unaccompanied-children-through-immigration-system-resource-practitioners-policy-makers-and" target="_blank">a 2012 report</a> said that 40 percent of them were eligible for some sort of deportation relief.) The government says it's also <a href="http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/white-house-proposal-stem-flow-migrant-children-aims-tackle-root-causes/" target="_blank">trying to recruit lawyers and paralegals</a> to help these children, but according to Ahilan Arulanantham, the deputy legal director of the ACLU of Southern California and the senior staff attorney for the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project, "it's pretty clear that it's not enough."</p> <p>"Obviously, we're happy the government is trying to do more, but this is entirely within government control," Arulanantham says. "These are complex cases, and the question at the core isn't about money. The question is about whether it's fair to have them present their cases on their own."</p> <p>US Attorney General Eric Holder&mdash;a named defendant in the case&mdash;seems to agree, saying in March 2013 that it is "inexcusable that young kids&hellip;six-, seven-year-olds, 14-year-olds&mdash;have immigration decisions made on their behalf, against them&hellip;and they're not represented by counsel." More than a year later, though, unaccompanied kids still struggle to find pro bono legal representation, either because they and their families can't afford it or there is simply none available.</p> <p>One child mentioned in the complaint, a 10-year-old boy from El Salvador, watched his father get killed by gang members in front of his house, and was threatened by that same gang a few years later at the age of nine. Another, a 14-year-old girl from El Salvador, was also threatened by gang members after her uncle, a police officer, refused to supply gang members with supplies.</p> <p>"I wish we could have a judge or a government attorney question [her] about her case and about how immigration law works," Arulanantham says. "It's laughable."</p> <p>Read the full complaint below:</p> <div class="DV-container" id="DV-viewer-1214306-counsel-complaint">&nbsp;</div> <script src="//s3.amazonaws.com/s3.documentcloud.org/viewer/loader.js"></script><script> DV.load("//www.documentcloud.org/documents/1214306-counsel-complaint.js", { width: 630, height: 540, sidebar: false, text: false, container: "#DV-viewer-1214306-counsel-complaint" }); </script><noscript> <a href="http://s3.documentcloud.org/documents/1214306/counsel-complaint.pdf">Unaccompanied children lawsuit ACLU (PDF)</a> <br><a href="http://s3.documentcloud.org/documents/1214306/counsel-complaint.txt">Unaccompanied children lawsuit ACLU (Text)</a> </noscript></body></html> Politics Civil Liberties Immigration International child migrants Wed, 09 Jul 2014 19:51:59 +0000 AJ Vicens 255766 at http://www.motherjones.com For God's Sake, Stop What You're Doing and Go Buy Tickets to See Nick Cave http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2014/07/go-buy-tickets-nick-cave-bad-seeds <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="Nick Cave at San Francisco's Warfield Theater on July 8" class="image" src="/files/NickCavetopart.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Nick Cave at San Francisco's Warfield Theater on July 8 </strong>Michael Rosenthal</div> </div> <p>Most concert reviews are ponderous, so I'll keep this one short: The quirky, passionate Australian musician Nick Cave, who <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/06/magazine/i-am-the-real-nick-cave.html" target="_blank">was profiled</a> in Sunday's <em>New York Times Magazine</em> if you care to read up on his latest doings, basically just renewed my faith in rock and roll&mdash;a concept that this scrawny, sexy, histrionic, 56-year-old love child of David Bowie and Tom Waits and something much darker more or less embodies.</p> <p>Regardless of whether you've kept up with his oeuvre (I certainly haven't) or can even name any Nick Cave songs, he's a fabulous performer whom you need to see before you die&mdash;or before <em>he</em> does. Last night, during his second sold-out evening at San Francisco's Warfield Theater, the audience was smitten as Cave bounced around the stage like a gothic scarecrow, styled out in his signature dark suit and black velvet, taking full advantage of his rich voice and theatrical tendencies.</p> <p>Reaching into the front rows, and occasionally throwing himself halfway down into them, Cave connects intimately and powerfully with his audience, leavening lyrical intensity with dark humor: Within the twisted landscape of "Higgs Boson Blues," Cave croons: "If I die tonight, bury me / In my favorite yellow patent leather shoes / With a mummified cat and a cone-like hat / That the caliphate forced on the Jews." On the contemporary track "We Real Cool," he sings, "Wikipedia is heaven / When you don't want to remember no more." And if you've never heard Cave's unique take on "Stack-O-Lee" or "Stagger Lee" (or however you choose to write the name of the old murder ballad), well, yeah. It's not much like <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2011/04/stack-o-lee-stagolee-blues-murder-ballads" target="_blank">the other hundred versions</a> you might have heard.</p> <p>Cave's talented band, the Bad Seeds, is a marvelous cast of characters to boot, especially the guy I'm calling the Mad Fiddler (and flautist, guitar, keyboard, and mandolin player). All wild hair and long, scraggly half-gray beard, he attacks his violin like some deranged fiddler on the roof. Together the Bad Seeds highlight Cave's quieter moments with subtlety, exploding with their bandleader when the time is right into mad catharsis. Rock and fucking roll at its finest. Tour dates are <a href="http://nickcave.com/live/" target="_blank">here</a>.</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/kMOFXv8PQ2Y?rel=0" width="630"></iframe></p></body></html> Mixed Media Music Wed, 09 Jul 2014 19:01:25 +0000 Michael Mechanic 255791 at http://www.motherjones.com Medicare Just Keeps Producing Great Budget News http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/medicare-just-keeps-producing-great-budget-news <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Medicare has been a bastion of good news lately. Every year, the CBO reduces its baseline estimate of Medicare costs, which have dropped by more than $1,000 since 2010. <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_medicare_baseline.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">So what's going on? Tricia Neuman and Juliette Cubanski of the Kaiser Family Foundation <a href="http://kff.org/medicare/perspective/the-mystery-of-the-missing-1000-per-person-can-medicares-spending-slowdown-continue/" target="_blank">round up the evidence:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>It is clear that the <strong>Medicare savings provisions in the ACA,</strong> such as reductions in provider payment updates and Medicare Advantage payments, have played a major role....In addition, the <strong>Budget Control Act of 2011</strong> also exerted downward pressure on Medicare spending through sequestration that reduced payments to providers and plans by 2 percent beginning in 2013.&nbsp; And yet even after incorporating these scheduled payment reductions in the baseline, CBO has continued to lower its projections of Medicare spending.</p> <p>So what else might be going on here? In addition to scheduled reductions in Medicare&rsquo;s more formulaic payment rates, providers may be tightening their belts and looking to deliver care more efficiently in response to financial incentives included in the ACA, and it is possible that these changes are having a bigger effect than expected. For example, CMS recently reported that <strong>hospital readmission rates dropped by 130,000 between January 2012 and August 2013.</strong> It is also possible that hospitals and other providers are using data and other analytic tools more successfully to track utilization and spending and to reduce excess costs. Another more straightforward factor is that <strong>several expensive and popular brand-name drugs have gone off patent in recent years,</strong> which has helped to keep Medicare drug spending in check.</p> </blockquote> <p>No one knows for sure if these reductions are permanent, or whether high growth rates will reappear in the future. But even if the low growth rates of the past few years can't be sustained, I suspect that Medicare growth will continue to be lower than anyone expected. There are two reasons for this. First, the growth rate of medical costs in general <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/04/medical-inflation-its-probably-just-blip" target="_blank">has been declining steadily for the past 30 years,</a> and this has now been going on long enough that it's highly unlikely to be a statistical blip. After a surge in the 80s and 90s, we really are returning to the growth rates that were common earlier in the century, and obviously this will affect Medicare.</p> <p>Second, Obamacare really will have an impact. Not everything in it will work, but it includes a lot of different cost-cutting measures and some of them will turn out to be pretty effective. And who knows? If Republicans ever stop pouting over Obamacare, we might even be able to experiment with different kinds of cost reductions.</p> <p>There's a fair amount of year-to-year variability in health care inflation, and we should expect to have some years of high growth. But I'll bet the average over the next decade is somewhere around 2 percent above the general inflation rate. That's not too bad.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Care Wed, 09 Jul 2014 18:20:20 +0000 Kevin Drum 255786 at http://www.motherjones.com George R.R. Martin Has 2 Words for People Scared He'll Die Before Finishing "Game Of Thrones" Series http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2014/07/george-r-r-martin-death-watch-game-thrones-series <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="http://www.motherjones.com/media/2013/03/hbo-game-thrones-season-3-interview-david-benioff-dan-weiss" target="_blank"><em>Game of Thrones</em></a> author George R.R. Martin is 65 years old. Because of this, some of his fans are <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/04/11/110411fa_fact_miller?currentPage=all" target="_blank">deeply worried</a> that he won't finish writing his <em>A Song of Ice And Fire</em> fantasy book series (which began in 1996, and is the basis for <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/06/game-of-thrones-attack-ads" target="_blank">the hit HBO show</a>) before he dies. (See: the case of fellow fantasy author <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/news/2007/oct/17/guardianobituaries.books1" target="_blank">Robert Jordan</a>.)</p> <p>Well, he was asked about this during a recent interview with Swiss newspaper <a href="http://www.tagesanzeiger.ch/kultur/buecher/Ich-kenne-das-Ende-der-Geschichte-seit-Jahren/story/13757457" target="_blank"><em>Tages-Anzeiger</em></a>. Here's his response:</p> <blockquote> <p>Well, I find that question, you know, pretty offensive, frankly, when people start speculating about my death and my health. So, 'fuck you' to those people. <em>[Laughs.]</em></p> </blockquote> <p>You can watch the "fuck you"&mdash;and Martin's accompanying flipped middle finger&mdash;<a href="http://www.tagesanzeiger.ch/panorama/leute/Fuck-You-to-those-people/story/24094113" target="_blank">here</a>.</p> <p>This isn't the first time Martin has addressed this concern among his readers. In 2012, he wrote a <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2012/05/george-rr-martin-trolls-his-trolls" target="_blank">blog post</a> trolling his fans who are so obsessed with the series that they routinely <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/04/11/110411fa_fact_miller?currentPage=all" target="_blank">berate</a> him for working on other projects. It <a href="http://grrm.livejournal.com/279376.html" target="_blank">reads</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>Reading. I just finished THE KING'S BLOOD, the second volume of Daniel Abraham's "Dagger and Coin" series. Books like this remind me why I love epic fantasy. Yes, I'm prejudiced, Daniel is a friend and sometime collaborator... but damn, that was a good book. Great world, great characters, thoroughly engrossing story. The only problem was, it ended too soon. I want more. I want to know what happens to Cithrin, and Marcus, and Geder, and Clara. And I want to know NOW. God damn you, Daniel Abraham. I know for a fact that you are writing more Expanse books with Ty, and more urban fantasies as M.L.N. Hanover, and doing short stories for some hack anthologist, and scripting some goddamn COMIC BOOK, and even sleeping with your wife and playing with your daughter. STOP ALL THAT AT ONCE, and get to writing on the next Dagger and Coin. I refuse to wait.</p> </blockquote> <p>"Fuck you" is more succinct.</p> <p><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 2em;">(</span><em style="line-height: 2em;">h/t </em><a href="http://gawker.com/george-r-r-martin-fuck-you-if-you-think-i-wont-finish-1602308837?utm_campaign=socialflow_gawker_twitter&amp;utm_source=gawker_twitter&amp;utm_medium=socialflow" style="line-height: 2em;" target="_blank">Gawker</a><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 2em;">)</span></p></body></html> Mixed Media Books Film and TV Wed, 09 Jul 2014 17:38:37 +0000 Asawin Suebsaeng 255751 at http://www.motherjones.com Is Montana More Corrupt Than Miami? http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/07/montana-public-corruption-prosecution <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>For such a sparsely populated state, Montana has managed to generate some outsized headlines lately. There's the GOP Senate candidate who made news by suggesting that <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/05/steve-daines-creationism" target="_blank">creationism should be taught in public schools</a>. Then there's Missoula's reputation as the <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/01/montana-rape-investigation-prosecution" target="_blank">"rape capital"</a> of the world, thanks to, among other things, serious allegations of sexual assault committed by University of Montana football players. And continuing that theme, there's also the Justice Department's investigation of the Missoula County Attorney's office alleging that prosecutors had been <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/02/missoula-montana-sexual-assault-justice-department-report" target="_blank">systematically discriminating against female sexual abuse victims.</a></p> <p>Now comes new data showing that Montana is leading the country in public corruption prosecutions, suggesting that the state's reputation for graft (dating back to the days of the<a href="http://archive.greatfallstribune.com/multimedia/125newsmakers6/copperkings.html" target="_blank"> Copper Kings</a>) hasn't changed much. Clocking in with 18 active cases, the federal judicial district of Montana has had more public corruption prosecutions in 2014 than those in south Florida, southern California, and even New Jersey, according to data crunched by the <a href="http://trac.syr.edu/tracreports/crim/358/" target="_blank">Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. </a></p> <p>How is it that such a small state has so many prosecutions? "Why prosecutors do what they do is a mystery," says TRAC's David Burnham. But the prosecutors in Montana have a good explanation: They've recently organized a major crackdown on corruption on American Indian reservations, of which the state has seven.&nbsp;</p> <p>A recent AP investigation concluded that, nationally, tribal governments are five times more likely to have <a href="http://bigstory.ap.org/article/ap-impact-tribes-mishandle-funds-go-unpunished" target="_blank">"material weaknesses" in their administration</a> that make corruption possible, and reporters for years have been sounding alarms that federal prosecutors have largely turned a blind eye to these problems. Montana decided to change that trend, at a time when millions in additional federal dollars have flowed into tribal governments thanks to the federal stimulus package enacted after the financial collapse in 2008.</p> <p>In 2011, the US Attorney's office launched a task force, dubbed the Guardians Project, with the FBI, the IRS, and inspectors general of various federal agencies, to target corruption on American Indian reservations. The results have been telling: In 2012, Montana had only one official corruption prosecution, but by August of last year, the Guardians Project had netted 25 indictments against people who'd allegedly done <a href="http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/montana/guardians-project-seeks-to-root-out-corruption/article_35e03f9e-2934-5c2c-a515-e2e2d35392f3.html" target="_blank">all sorts of devious things</a> to keep federal money from reaching those it was supposed to help.</p> <p>Prosecutors promised there would be more to come, and there have been. Just last month, four members of the Blackfeet tribe were <a href="http://www.justice.gov/usao/mt/pressreleases/20140624171722.html" target="_blank">sentenced to prison</a> for involvement in a scheme to steal federal mental health and substance abuse treatment funds from a $9 million contract. More than $225,000 intended for the program ended up being spent on travel and gambling, among other things.</p> <p>Six people have pleaded guilty to embezzling federal dollars from a $361 million pipeline project designed to bring freshwater to the Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation. Another seven people from the Crow reservation were<a href="http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/montana/jury-convicts-in-crow-corruption-case/article_de3ea6d9-82b6-5294-957d-fa87756b5741.html" target="_blank"> indicted for stealing at least half a million dollars</a> from the tribe in a double-billing scheme operated out of the tribe's historic preservation office. One of the people convicted in the scheme allowed a coal company to take a backhoe to a 2,000-year-old sacred bison burial site. The corruption investigations have already ensnared a former state representative and Chippewa Cree tribe official, Tony Belcourt, who in April <a href="http://www.havredailynews.com/story/2014/03/26/local/tony-belcourt-signs-plea-agreement/300355.html" target="_blank">pleaded guilty to bribery, theft and tax-evasion</a> charges related to the water project, as well as construction of a multi-million dollar clinic.</p> <p>Overall, though, Montana itself probably isn't more scandal-plagued than New Jersey or Miami. Montana's US Attorney has just taken a harder line on prosecuting the abuses on its reservations, and all those cases have added up to boost Montana to the top of the rankings in terms of public corruption prosecutions. "These figures from Syracuse reflect only a portion of our effort," US Attorney Mike Cotter said in a statement Tuesday. "Many of the public corruption indictments brought in Montana were initiated before last October. Relatively speaking, Montana is a small office; a David among Goliaths. But the Guardians have done truly remarkable work. Their efforts have unearthed widespread criminal activity and flagrant abuses of trust with regard to federal programs and grants designed to provide for the common good of our Indian communities."</p></body></html> MoJo Crime and Justice Wed, 09 Jul 2014 16:44:58 +0000 Stephanie Mencimer 255571 at http://www.motherjones.com We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for July 9, 2014 http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/07/were-still-war-photo-day-july-9-2014 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p class="rtecenter"><em>The 173rd Airborne Brigade Paratroopers participate in a ceremonial rotation of forces in Latvia. (US Army National Guard Photo by Spc. Cassandra Simonton, 116th Public Affairs Detachment)</em></p></body></html> MoJo Military Wed, 09 Jul 2014 15:31:19 +0000 255746 at http://www.motherjones.com