MoJo Blogs and Articles | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/rss/blogs_and_articles/sites/all/modules/patched/service_links/images/digg.pn http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en Republicans Maybe Not as Inept as We Think http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/republicans-maybe-not-inept-we-think <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Paul Waldman thinks Republicans have become a <a href="http://prospect.org/article/how-did-gop-turn-such-bunch-clowns" target="_blank">bunch of bumblers and idiots:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Think about it this way: Has there been a single instance in the last few years when you said, "Wow, the Republicans really played that one brilliantly"?</p> <p>In fact, before you'll find evidence of the ruthless Republican skillfulness so many of us had come to accept as the norm in a previous era, you'll need to go back an entire decade to the 2004 election. George W. Bush's second term was a disaster, Republicans lost both houses of Congress in 2006, they lost the White House in 2008, they decided to oppose health-care reform with everything they had and lost, they lost the 2012 election&mdash;and around it all they worked as hard as they could to alienate the <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_gallup_republican_self_id.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 25px 0px 15px 30px;">fastest growing minority group in the country and make themselves seem utterly unfit to govern.</p> <p>In fact, in the last ten years they've only had one major victory, the 2010 midterm election.</p> </blockquote> <p>Hmmm. It's true that the GOP has had a rough decade in a lot of ways. The number of self-IDed Republicans has <a href="http://www.gallup.com/poll/166763/record-high-americans-identify-independents.aspx" target="_blank">plummeted since 2004;</a> their standing among the fast-growing Hispanic population has cratered; and their intellectual core is now centered in a wing of the party that believes we should return to the gold standard. This isn't a promising starting point for a conservative renaissance.</p> <p>Still, let's not kid ourselves. If Republicans were really as woefully inept as Waldman says, then Democrats should be kicking some serious ass these days. I haven't especially noticed this. They won in the sixth year of Bush's presidency, when out parties always win, and then won in 2008, when an economic collapse pretty much guaranteed a victory for anyone with a D after their name. Then they had a single fairly good year&mdash;followed by an epic blunder that lost them a sure seat in Massachusetts, and with it control of the Senate. They got crushed in 2010. They won a squeaker in 2012 against an opponent who made a wedding cake figurine look good by comparison. For the last four years, they've basically gotten nothing done at all.</p> <p>And what about those Republicans? Well, they have a hammerlock on the House, and they might very well control the Senate after the 2014 election. They've won several notable Supreme Court victories (Heller, Citizens United, Hobby Lobby, etc.). They control a large majority of the states, and have passed a ton of conservative legislation in areas like voter ID and abortion restrictions. Their "Just Say No" strategy toward President Obama has tied Democrats in knots. They won an all but total victory on spending and deficits.</p> <p>Make no mistake: It's not as if Republicans have been strategic geniuses. There's no question that they have some long-term issues that they're unable to address thanks to their capitulation to tea party madness. But if they're really so inept, how is it that Democrats haven't managed to cobble together anything more than about 18 months of modest success between 2009-10?</p> <p>Nor is it really true that today's GOP is notably more bumbling than it used to be. The myth of "ruthless Republican skillfulness" in the past is just that: a myth. George H.W. Bush screwed up on Supreme Court picks and tax hikes. Newt Gingrich&mdash;ahem&mdash;sure didn't turn out to be the world historical strategic genius everyone thought he was in 1994. George W. Bush&mdash;with the eager backing of every Republican in the country&mdash;figured that a war in Iraq would be just the ticket to party dominance for a decade. Ditto for Social Security reform. Republicans were just sure that would be a winner. By contrast, their simpleminded Obama-era strategy of obstructing Democrats at all times and on all things has actually worked out pretty well for them given the hand they were dealt.</p> <p>I dunno. Republicans keep getting crazier and crazier and more and more conservative, and liberals keep thinking that <em>this time</em> they've finally gone too far. I've thought this from time to time myself. And yet, moving steadily to the right has paid off pretty well for them over the past three decades, hasn't it?</p> <p>Maybe it will all come to tears in the near future as the lunatic wing of the party becomes even more lunatic, but we liberals have been thinking this for a long time. We haven't been right yet.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum The Right Fri, 25 Jul 2014 16:49:09 +0000 Kevin Drum 256991 at http://www.motherjones.com Paul Ryan's Anti-Poverty Plan Would Cost Billions to Implement. Will GOPers Go for That? http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/07/paul-ryan-anti-poverty-plan-would-cost-billions <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>When Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) laid out a <a href="http://budget.house.gov/uploadedfiles/expanding_opportunity_in_america.pdf" target="_blank">new set of proposals</a> to revamp the federal safety net <a href="http://budget.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=389033" target="_blank">during a speech on Thursday</a> at the American Enterprise Institute, central to his vision was the idea of consolidating federal programs to create a "personalized, customized form of aid&mdash;one that recognizes both a person's needs and their strengths&mdash;both the problem and the potential."</p> <p>The plan, wrapped in caring language about giving the poor individual attention, has earned plaudits from both the right and the left for avoiding partisanship and offering up a concrete idea that policy makers will have to take seriously. Liberals have given Ryan&mdash;an Ayn Rand devotee who on the campaign trail reduced American society to one of makers versus takers and whose budgets have proposed slashing millions in spending on the poor&mdash;credit for getting out of the office and spending some time with actual poor people during his year-long <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/05/what-has-paul-ryan-learned-anti-poverty-guru-robert-woodson" target="_blank">"listening tour,</a>" whose genuine impact is evident in his proposal.</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/politics/2014/07/paul-ryan-anti-poverty-plan-would-cost-billions"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Politics Congress Income Inequality Top Stories Fri, 25 Jul 2014 15:48:32 +0000 Stephanie Mencimer 256976 at http://www.motherjones.com Gruber: "It Was Just a Mistake" http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/gruber-it-was-just-mistake <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Why did Jonathan Gruber tell an audience in 2012 that states which failed to set up Obamacare exchanges would be depriving their residents of federal subsidies? Jonathan Cohn caught up with Gruber this morning and <a href="http://www.newrepublic.com/article/118851/jonathan-gruber-halbig-says-quote-exchanges-was-mistake" target="_blank">got an answer:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>I honestly don&rsquo;t remember why I said that. I was speaking off-the-cuff. <strong>It was just a mistake.</strong></p> <p>....There are few people who worked as closely with Obama administration and Congress as I did, and at no point was it ever even implied that there&rsquo;d be differential tax credits based on whether the states set up their own exchange. <strong>And that was the basis of all the modeling I did,</strong> and that was the basis of any sensible analysis of this law that&rsquo;s been done by any expert, left and right.</p> <p>I didn&rsquo;t assume every state would set up its own exchanges but I assumed that subsidies would be available in every state. It was never contemplated by anybody who modeled or worked on this law that availability of subsides would be conditional of who ran the exchanges.</p> </blockquote> <p>So there you have it: Gruber screwed up. More importantly, as he points out, he's performed immense amounts of technical modeling of Obamacare, and all of his models assumed that everyone would get subsidies even though not every state would set up its own exchange. As Cohn says, this was pretty much the unanimous belief of everyone involved:</p> <blockquote> <p>As I&rsquo;ve written before, I had literally hundreds of conversations with the people writing health care legislation in 2009 and 2010, including quite a few with Gruber. Like other journalists who were following the process closely, <strong>I never heard any of them suggest subsidies would not be available in states where officials decided not to operate their own marketplaces</strong>&mdash;a big deal that, surely, would have come up in conversation.</p> </blockquote> <p>Kudos to Peter Suderman and his sleuths for uncovering this and getting everyone to talk about it for a day. It's a news cycle win for conservatives. But restricting subsidies to state exchanges just flatly wasn't part of Congress's intent. There's simply no way to rewrite history to make it seem like it was.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Care Fri, 25 Jul 2014 15:17:30 +0000 Kevin Drum 256981 at http://www.motherjones.com 57% of Republicans Want to Impeach Obama http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/57-republicans-want-impeach-obama <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>This is completely, barking <a href="http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2014/images/07/24/rel7e.pdf" target="_blank">insane:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_poll_obama_impeach.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 15px 2px;"></p> <p>I don't even know how to react to this stuff anymore. A solid majority of Republicans wants to impeach President Obama for....what? An EPA regulation they don't like? Postponing Obamacare's employer mandate for a year? Not prosecuting some immigrant kids who have been in the country since they were three?</p> <p>This goes beyond politics as usual. It's nuts. Fox News is now officially in charge of one of America's two major political parties.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Obama The Right Fri, 25 Jul 2014 14:38:18 +0000 Kevin Drum 256971 at http://www.motherjones.com We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for July 24, 2014 http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/07/were-still-war-photo-day-july-24-2014-0 <!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>US Navy sailors participate in a replenishment-at-sea on a scheduled deployment aboard the USS Oscar Austin guided-missile destroyer.&nbsp;(US&nbsp;Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist&nbsp;3rd&nbsp;Class DJ&nbsp;Revell.)</em></p></body></html> MoJo Military Fri, 25 Jul 2014 13:00:47 +0000 256961 at http://www.motherjones.com GOP Bill Creates Tax Break for Americans Making Six Figures, Ignores Expiring Tax Credit for Low-Income Families http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/07/republican-house-child-tax-credit-bill <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>On Friday, the House will vote on a <a href="https://beta.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/house-bill/4935" target="_blank">Republican bill</a> that ignores an expiring tax credit for millions of low-income families, while handing one to better-off Americans.</p> <p>The bill, introduced by Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Ks.), changes the way the federal child tax credit works by raising the eligibility cap for married couples. At the same time, the legislation would allow a 2009 child tax credit increase for low-income families to expire at the end of 2017. Here's how that would play out in the coming years. A married couple with two children that bring in $160,000 a year would get a new annual tax cut of $2,200, <a href="http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&amp;id=4171#_ftn1" target="_blank">according to an analysis</a> by the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). A single mother with two kids who makes $14,500 a year would lose $1,725 annually.</p> <p>"The big winners would be the more-affluent families who would become newly eligible for the [child tax credit]," tax experts at the CBPP <a href="http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&amp;id=4171#_ftn1" target="_blank">noted Tuesday</a>. "The losers would be millions of low-income families who are doing exactly what policymakers often say they want these people to do&mdash;working, even at low-wage jobs."</p> <p>Here's a look at how poor, middle-class, and wealthier Americans would be affected by the bill, <a href="http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&amp;id=4171#_ftn1" target="_blank">via the CBPP</a>:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/cbpp.png"></div> <p>The 2009 law that increased the child tax credit for poor families did so by lowering the income level required for a partial credit to $3,000 and reducing the annual income required for a full credit to $16,333. If it expires, <a href="http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&amp;id=4171#_ftn1" target="_blank">6 million children and roughly 400,000 veterans and military families </a>would lose all or part of their child tax credit.</p> <p>A spokesman for Jenkins explains that the reason the bill ends up extending the child tax credit to wealthier Americans is that it gets rid of the marriage penalty, which treats a married couple's total income differently than the sum of two separate incomes. The way the child tax credit is currently structured, a single person making up to $75,000 is eligible for a full credit. But for a married couple filing jointly, full credit eligibility <a href="http://www.nwlc.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/qandactc.pdf" target="_blank">cuts off at $110,000</a> instead of at $150,000, the couple's combined total income. Jenkins' bill moves the full credit cut-off to $150,000. (As income increases above these thresholds, the child tax credit phases out slowly. Under Jenkins' bill, for instance, a couple with two kids could still get the credit if they make up to <a href="http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&amp;id=4171#_ftn1" target="_blank">$205,000</a>.)</p> <p>Jenkins' office adds that the reason that the legislation does not extend the low-income child tax credit increase is that this provision doesn't expire until the end of 2017, and future legislation can address it.</p> <p>But a Democratic aide familiar with the bill says this justification is disingenuous, adding that if GOPers wanted to extend the low-income provision, they would. All 22 Republicans on the House ways and means committee <a href="http://waysandmeans.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=385595" target="_blank">voted for Jenkins' bill</a>, while all 15 Dems on the committee voted against it. "[Republicans] can say whatever they want," the aide says. But "they are prioritizing making permanent&nbsp;[all the tax provisions] that they want to be permanent, and getting rid of everything else." For instance, Republicans are already <a href="http://democrats.waysandmeans.house.gov/press-release/levin-opening-statement-markup-select-expanded-tax-provisions" target="_blank">pushing to extend</a> another <a href="http://www.irs.gov/uac/American-Opportunity-Tax-Credit" target="_blank">tax measure that expires at the end of 2017</a> that is designed to help parents and students pay for college expenses.</p> <p>The Democratic staffer adds that if Jenkins' bill were to become law, and the low-income provision were left hanging on its own, it would be very difficult to "galvanize Congress into action" to pass a separate extension for the measure. "What carries it along is that it's bundled together," he says. Chuck Marr, one of the authors of the CBPP study, agrees that the most obvious way for the House to extend the low-income measure would be to include it in Jenkins' bill.</p> <p>Even if the legislation passes the House, the bill&mdash;which&nbsp;would cost the government $115 billion over ten years&mdash;has little chance in the Democratic-controlled Senate.</p></body></html> MoJo Charts Congress Economy Fri, 25 Jul 2014 11:47:54 +0000 Erika Eichelberger 256876 at http://www.motherjones.com Popular Anti-Science Site Likens Journalists to "Nazi Collaborators" Over GMO Coverage http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2014/07/popular-conspiracy-site-likens-pro-gmo-journalists-nazi-collaborators <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>For years, <em>Natural News</em>&mdash;a conspiracy-minded alternative medicine website that attracts <a href="http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/naturalnews.com" target="_blank">roughly 7 million unique visitors</a> each month&mdash;has been crusading against the practice of genetically modifying food. This week the site's proprietor, Mike Adams, took the campaign to new extremes with <a href="http://www.naturalnews.com/046097_biotech_genocide_monsanto_collaborators_media_sellouts.html" target="_blank">a post</a> comparing journalists who are critical of GMO activists to "Nazi collaborators." Adams also urged readers "to actively plan and carry out the killing of those engaged in heinous crimes against humanity." Below is a snippet from his anti-media diatribe:</p> <blockquote> <p>Monsanto is widely recognize as the most hated and most evil corporation on the planet. Even so, several internet-based media websites are now marching to Monsanto's orders, promoting GMOs and pursuing defamatory character assassination tactics against anyone who opposes GMOs, hoping to silence their important voices.</p> <p>These Monsanto collaborator sites tend to be "leftist" publications but also include at least one prominent business and finance publisher on the political right. All of them are Monsanto collaborators who have signed on to accelerate heinous crimes being committed against humanity under the false promise of "feeding the world" with toxic GMOs.</p> </blockquote> <p>The rambling post goes on to compare the agrochemical giant Monsanto to IG Farben, a "chemical conglomerate run by Nazi collaborators" that "used Jewish prisoners as human guinea pigs in horrific medical experiments." And it calls on readers to target journalist who Adams views as pro-GMO by publicly listing their names:</p> <blockquote> <p>Just as history needed to record the names and deeds of Nazi war criminals, so too must all those collaborators who are promoting the death and destruction caused by GMOs be named for the historical record. The true extent of their collaboration with an anti-human regime will all become readily apparent once the GMO delusion collapses and mass global starvation becomes an inescapable reality.</p> <p>I'm hoping someone will create a website listing all the publishers, scientists and journalists who are now Monsanto propaganda collaborators. I have no doubt such a website would be wildly popular and receive a huge influx of visitors, and it would help preserve the historical record of exactly which people contributed to the mass starvation and death which will inevitably be unleashed by GMO agriculture (which is already causing mass suicides in India and crop failures worldwide).</p> </blockquote> <p>Adams, a self-proclaimed nutritionist who <a href="http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/collideascape/2014/05/13/new-low-dr-oz-promoting-mike-adams/#.U9GIOFPUFg9" target="_blank">was featured on Dr. Oz earlier this year</a>, is <a href="http://www.alternet.org/personal-health/four-biggest-quacks-plaguing-america-their-bad-claims-about-science?page=0%2C1" target="_blank">famous for his far-fetched ideas</a>. He <a href="http://www.naturalnews.com/045563_aviation_fuel_toxic_lead_heavy_metals_pollution.html" target="_blank">believes</a>, for example, that Americans are being poisoned by lead-infused "chemtrails" and that Microsoft is developing infertility <a href="http://www.naturalnews.com/034848_Microsoft_Merck_eugenics.html#" target="_blank">drugs that "target specific races."</a>&nbsp; David Gorski of the website <a href="http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/">Science-Based Medicine</a> has dubbed <em>Natural News</em> "a one-stop shop" for "virtually every quackery known to humankind, all slathered with a heaping, helping of unrelenting hostility to science-based medicine and science in general."</p> <p>Still, Adams has a large pool of readers who take his ideas seriously. After he published his screed likening journalists to Nazi sympathizers, a "Monsanto Collaborators" website appeared with images of Nazi soldiers and emaciated corpses alongside a list of reporters whom Adams accuses of being in the GMO industry's pocket. The heading reads "Journalist Collaborators."</p></body></html> Blue Marble Food and Ag Health Top Stories Fri, 25 Jul 2014 10:00:11 +0000 Mariah Blake 256946 at http://www.motherjones.com Dear Climate, America Is Eating Less Beef. You're Welcome. http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/07/american-meat-consumption-changing-better <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>As Josh Harkinson <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/07/downside-no-kill-dairies" target="_blank">noted</a> this week, cows are the United States' single biggest source of methane&mdash;a potent gas that has 105 times the heat-trapping ability of carbon dioxide. That's one major reason why beef's greenhouse gas footprint is far higher than that of most other sources of protein, according to an <a href="http://www.ewg.org/meateatersguide/a-meat-eaters-guide-to-climate-change-health-what-you-eat-matters/climate-and-environmental-impacts/" target="_blank">EWG study</a>. (Though it's consumed at a fraction of the rate of beef or chicken, lamb is by far the most carbon intensive of the major meats, according to EWG, since the animal's smaller body produces meat less efficiently but still produces a lot of methane.)</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/meat-charts_AP2_0.jpg"></div> <p>And EWG's estimate of beef's impact may actually be on the conservative side: A <a href="http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2014/07/17/1402183111" target="_blank">study</a> released this week found the greenhouse gases associated with beef to be even higher.</p> <p>So what should you eat instead of beef? One answer: chicken, which has a carbon footprint roughly a fifth the size of beef's. Happily, earlier this week, the National Chicken Council released new research showing that Americans are eating chicken in <a href="http://www.nationalchickencouncil.org/chicken-consumption-17-percent-us/" target="_blank">17 percent more meals</a> and snacks than they did in 2012. As the chart below shows, chicken consumption has actually been rising steadily for decades. Red meat consumption, meanwhile, has steadily declined over the same period.</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="400" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src="http://cf.datawrapper.de/GEKMp/4/" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>The group attributes the spike in chicken consumption to consumers' perception of poultry as healthier than beef, not its smaller carbon footprint. But the environmental benefits are a great side effect, says Emily Cassidy, an analyst at the Environmental Working Group. "If every American simply switched from beef to chicken, it could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 137 million metric tons of carbon a year, or as much as taking 26 million cars off the road," she says, citing a <a href="http://www.ewg.org/agmag/2014/07/most-environmentally-harmful-thing-you-eat" target="_blank">recent EWG report</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>Still, even as the American appetite for beef has declined over the years, other countries are picking up the slack. Globally, beef and veal production has increased almost 20 percent between 1995 and 2012, <a href="http://stats.oecd.org/viewhtml.aspx?QueryId=58654&amp;vh=0000&amp;vf=0&amp;l&amp;il=&amp;lang=en#" target="_blank">according to</a> the Organization for Economically Developed Countries. It's projected to increase another 11 percent by 2022, a trend that's largely driven by rising incomes in Asia (and, <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/01/kfc-africa-chicken-usaid-gates-foundation" target="_blank">increasingly, in Africa</a>).</p> <p>In the face of this environmental onslaught, says Cassidy, really measurable change could only happen if everyone ate vastly less meat&mdash;and the only way to achieve that is to change policies that favor livestock feeds like corn.</p> <p>"Essentially, cheap corn encourages meat to be a big part of our diets," she says. "If crop subsidies were reined in, meat and especially beef consumption would likely go down."</p></body></html> Environment Charts Climate Desk Food and Ag Top Stories Fri, 25 Jul 2014 10:00:10 +0000 Alex Park 256731 at http://www.motherjones.com Will an Ethics Scandal—and Jimmy Carter's Grandson—Bring Georgia's GOP Governor Down? http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/07/georgia-governor-nathan-deal-ethics-commission <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Could a Carter from Georgia once again win because of a scandal-plagued Republican? Democrat Jason Carter&mdash;grandson of former President Jimmy Carter&mdash;is challenging first-term Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal this fall, and the incumbent Republican is facing an&nbsp;ethics controversy that could imperil his reelection chances.</p> <p>Deal has been embroiled for years in a low-grade scandal regarding allegations that his staff smothered a state ethics investigation of his campaign finances. But the controversy has recently heated up. This spring, a former head of the state's ethics commission won a lawsuit in which she claimed that she was improperly pushed out of her job for digging into Deal's campaign. Her replacement&mdash;fearing that she might also be jettisoned from the commission&mdash;has now come forward and alleged that the governor's aides tried to interfere with the ethics commission.</p> <p>Last week, the <em>Atlanta Journal-Constitution </em><a href="http://www.ajc.com/news/news/ethics-chief-claims-deal-aides-pressured-her-threa/ngfdt/" target="_blank">reported</a> that in July 2012 Holly LaBerge, the current head of the state's ethics commission, wrote a memo outlining political intimidation by Deal's staff. In the <a href="http://media.cmgdigital.com/shared/news/documents/2014/07/14/Ethics_Commission_Discovery.pdf">memo</a>, she noted that the governor's top lawyer, Ryan Teague threatened to strip her agency of its rulemaking authority in order to deep-six the investigation of Deal's 2010 gubernatorial campaign. LaBerge's memo also said that Deal's chief of staff, Chris Riley, pressured her to close the matter, which the commission eventually did. "I was mad that the governor's legal counsel thought he could call me up and threaten me and threaten my agency," LaBerge <a href="http://www.myfoxatlanta.com/story/26015095/exclusive-interview-with-ethics-director-holly-laberge-who-says-governor-deals-staff-threatened-her" target="_blank">told</a> the local Fox station.</p> <p>The <a href="http://www.ajc.com/news/news/fbi-questions-ethics-lawyer-at-center-of-deal-comp/nbLSX/" target="_blank">FBI</a> and the state inspector general have been reviewing the ethics commission's activities, and LaBerge's attorney said the ethics chief would want whistleblower protections for her cooperation. If she is granted protection, she might be in the position to disclose more about this episode, and Deal could face more damaging stories.</p> <p>Deal's ethics commission troubles date back to 2011. Then LaBerge's predecessor, Stacey Kalberman, and Kalberman's deputy, Sherilyn Streicker, began examining Deal's 2010 campaign spending. They suspected that Deal, who had served nine-terms in Congress before running for governor, might have improperly directed campaign funds to businesses to which he had ties. Kalberman and Streicker alerted the ethics panel's five commissioners of their intention to issue subpoenas for information. The commissioners responded by slashing Kalberman's salary by $35,000, effectively forcing her out, and eliminating Streicker's job.<a href="#correction">*</a></p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/politics/2014/07/georgia-governor-nathan-deal-ethics-commission"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Politics Elections The Right Top Stories Fri, 25 Jul 2014 10:00:10 +0000 Patrick Caldwell 256831 at http://www.motherjones.com Photos: The World's Largest Church Is in the Middle of an African Coconut Plantation http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2014/07/worlds-largest-church--yamoussoukro-basilica-our-lady-of-peace <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Central-West&nbsp;<span class="st">C&ocirc;te</span><span class="st"> d'Ivoire</span> is a lush agricultural landscape, stuffed with rich banana, rice, and cocoa fields. The region is this West African nation's equivalent of the corn belt of Iowa and Illinois. A long drive down stretches of road left pockmarked by the ongoing rainy season yields endless repetitions of the same scene: Tiny villages&mdash;each home to only a few dozen farmers living in thatched-roof huts&mdash;quietly tending to crops and livestock. Things are even more&nbsp;peaceful than usual now, as the Muslims that make up this area's dominant religious affiliation celebrate Ramadan.</p> <p>But as you arrive in&nbsp;Yamoussoukro, the nation's capital, a strange monument can be seen towering over the horizon: An enormous gilded cross that adorns the top of what is, <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2004/jun/17/architecture" target="_blank">by</a> <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/23/AR2006012301724.html" target="_blank">many</a> <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/17/nyregion/landmark-just-wait-till-it-s-done-unfinished-st-john-divine-set-make-history.html" target="_blank">accounts</a>, the world's <a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/01/30/the-largest-church-in-the-world-has-the-fewest-worshippers.html" target="_blank">largest&nbsp;church</a>.</p> <p>Topping St. Peter's Basilica in Rome by more than 80 feet, Basilica Our Lady of Peace in Yamoussoukro, sometimes called the "basilica in the bush," is a jaw-dropping and bizarre monument to the end of a period only a few decades ago when <span class="st">C&ocirc;te d'Ivoire was&nbsp;competing against other&nbsp;newly-independent African nations</span> to become the cultural and economic powerhouse of the continent.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="basilica columns" class="image" src="/files/basilica1.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>The basilica is supported by 84 pillars, each one 112 feet tall. </strong>Tim McDonnell</div> </div> <p>The raw numbers are stunning: Between July 1986 and September 1989, 1,100 workers cleared 178 acres of coconut grove, coated the space with 13 football fields-worth of European marble, and erected a 520-foot-tall structure, supported by 128 towering Doric columns, that can accommodate 200,000 worshippers. Inside are 24 stained-glass windows. The organ can reach volumes that lead to <a href="http://www.gcaudio.com/resources/howtos/loudness.html" target="_blank">permanent hearing loss</a>. The&nbsp;building is estimated to weigh 98,000 metric tons.</p> <p>But probably the most interesting figure&mdash;how much it all cost&mdash;is shrouded in mystery: Although independent estimates pegged the price tag at about $300 million, then-President&nbsp;<span class="st">F&eacute;lix Houphou&euml;t-Boigny was notoriously tight-lipped, preferring to refer to the construction as a gift from God (with help from his massive personal cocoa fortune).</span></p> <p><span class="st" style="line-height: 2em;">"Most people think it also mostly came out of the treasury," says Tom Bassett, a geographer and </span>C&ocirc;te<span style="line-height: 24px;">&nbsp;</span>d'Ivoire&acirc;&#128;&#139; historian at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne. For that reason, Bassett says, it got a second nickname: "Our Lady of the Treasury."<span class="st" style="line-height: 2em;">&nbsp;&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 2em;">&nbsp; &nbsp;</span></p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="basilica stained glass" class="image" src="/files/basilica3.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>The basilica contains 24 massive stained-glass windows, each featuring a biblical scene. In this one, which depicts Jesus' arrival in Jerusalem, former Ivorian president F&eacute;lix Houphou&euml;t-Boigny is shown kneeling in front of Jesus. </strong>Tim McDonnell</div> </div> <p><span style="line-height: 24px;">The wealthy heir to one of the country's largest cocoa operations,&nbsp;Houphou&euml;t-Boigny didn't exactly choose the most opportune moment to publicly drain his nation's cash reserves on what quickly came to be seen as </span><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 24px;">less a glorification of God and more a vanity project straight from the "dictator handbook," as the&nbsp;</span><a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/01/30/the-largest-church-in-the-world-has-the-fewest-worshippers.html" style="line-height: 24px;" target="_blank"><em>Daily Beast</em></a><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 24px;">&nbsp;recently put it.</span><span style="line-height: 24px;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 24px;">Houphou&euml;t-Boigny became&nbsp;</span>C&ocirc;te<span style="line-height: 24px;">&nbsp;</span>d'Ivoire&acirc;&#128;&#139;'s first president after the country gained independence from France in 1960 and ruled as a more or less benevolent dictator until his death 1993, overseeing what became known as a "miracle" period of economic prosperity in the 1960s and 70s. In 1983, he named his home village Yamoussoukro the new administrative capital and shortly thereafter set about planning the city's crown jewel, the basilica. In keeping with a request from Pope John Paul II, who said he wouldn't consecrate the building otherwise, the dome was made slightly shorter than St. Peter's. But the addition&nbsp;of a towering cross atop the dome pushed the church above its counterpart in Rome.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="basilica dome" class="image" src="/files/basilica4.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>The dove at the center of the basilica's dome is 23 feet wide. </strong>Tim McDonnell</div> </div> <p>But meanwhile, by the late 80s the country had fallen to economic&nbsp;ruin, hit simultaneously by a nosedive in cocoa and coffee prices, climbing oil prices, and disastrous mismanagement of state-owned businesses. Midway&nbsp;through the basilica's construction, C&ocirc;te<span style="line-height: 24px;">&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 24px;">d'Ivoire declared itself insolvent. At the same time, budget-resuscitation measures mandated by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank slashed basic services and key agricultural subsidies, drastically lowering the standard of living for most Ivorians&mdash;including those living on farms in the shadow of the basilica.</span></p> <p><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif;">All this left </span><span style="line-height: 24px;">Houphou&euml;t-Boigny</span><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif;">&nbsp;wide open to scathing criticism for the unseemly contrast between the church's opulence and the decay of the surrounding countryside; his public image wasn't helped by&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 2em;">a large stained-glass window just inside the dome that depicts&nbsp;</span>him<span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 24px;">&nbsp;kneeling before Jesus on his entrance to Jerusalem</span><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif;">. An unnamed Vatican official&nbsp;<a href="http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,152145,00.html" target="_blank">told <em>Time</em></a><em>&nbsp;</em>th</span><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 2em;">at "the size and expense of the building in such a poor country make it a delicate matter." Still, t</span><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 24px;">he Pope consecrated the basilica in September 1990,&nbsp;the only time&nbsp;the thousands of seats here have been full (and the only time a grandiose papal residence on the grounds has been occupied).</span></p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="basilica interior" class="image" src="/files/basilica5.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>The interior of the basilica can seat 7,000 worshippers; altogether, the compound can accommodate 200,000. </strong>Tim McDonnell</div> </div> <p>Since then, the basilica has been little more than a tourist destination; services are held weekly but are sparsely&nbsp;attended. In late 2002, while then-President Laurent Gbagbo was out of the country, disgruntled military leaders staged a coup that threw the nation into a bloody, two-year civil war. The basilica briefly came back into the limelight during this period, as Yamoussoukro became the heart of a UN-enforced buffer zone between rebel forces in the north and Gbagbo supporters in the south, where the country's largest city, Abidjan, lies. Political leaders on both sides, aided by the national media, portrayed the conflict in part as one between a Christian south and Muslim north, with the basilica in the middle.&nbsp;</p> <p>But in reality, Bassett says, demographic data never supported the existence of such a division&mdash;there are likely to be just as many Muslims in the south as in the north. And in any case, he says, "I don't think the basilica really fits into that narrative." So sorry, there are no heart-wrenching, <em>The&nbsp;</em><em>Sound of </em><em>Music</em>-esque scenes of embattled families taking refuge inside from machine-gun toting soldiers. It's a ghost town, a highly-visible tombstone for a&nbsp;C&ocirc;te<span style="line-height: 24px;">&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 24px;">d'Ivoire that died before it could be born.&nbsp;</span></p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="basilica yamoussoukro" class="image" src="/files/basilica6.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>The basilica is situated on the outskirts of Yamoussoukro, former president F&eacute;lix Houphou&euml;t-Boigny's hometown. It was a tiny village before he designated it the nation's administrative capitol in 1983; today it has about 240,000 residents. </strong>Tim McDonnell</div> </div> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="basilica walkup" class="image" src="/files/basilica7.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>The compound is spread across 17 acres (equivalent to 13 football fields) of marble imported from Portugal, Spain, and Italy. </strong>Tim McDonnell</div> </div> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="basilica interior" class="image" src="/files/basilica8.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>The world's largest church rarely sees more than a couple hundred worshippers. </strong>Tim McDonnell</div> </div> <p>&nbsp;</p></body></html> Mixed Media Photo Essays International Religion Top Stories Infrastructure Fri, 25 Jul 2014 10:00:09 +0000 Tim McDonnell 256021 at http://www.motherjones.com