Category Archives: Mother Jones

19 Billion Reasons Why Rick Perry Can’t Wait to Give Your Money to Energy Companies

This story originally appeared on ProPublica.

Donald Trump’s selection of Rick Perry to lead the Department of Energy has prompted many Democrats to question Perry’s qualifications for the position. While he governed a state rich in fossil fuels and wind energy, Perry has far less experience than President Barack Obama’s two energy secretaries, both physicists, in the department’s primary work, such as tending the nuclear-weapons stockpile, handling nuclear waste and carrying out advanced scientific research. That’s not to mention, of course, that Perry four years ago called for doing away with the entire department. Continue reading 19 Billion Reasons Why Rick Perry Can’t Wait to Give Your Money to Energy Companies

Can Trump Ever Be Convinced That Russia Is Behind Election Meddling?

President-elect Donald Trump met on Friday with the heads of several US intelligence agencies for a personal briefing about the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 president election. But it’s still unclear whether Trump believes what he was apparently told—or what it would take to convince him to accept the government’s findings that Moscow hacked Democratic targets to help Trump win the election. Continue reading Can Trump Ever Be Convinced That Russia Is Behind Election Meddling?

Michelle Obama’s Farewell Address Will Leave You an Emotional Wreck

Michelle Obama delivered her final remarks as first lady of the United States on Friday, telling a room of educators that the role has been “the greatest honor” of her life. It was an emotional end to a White House event honoring the 2017 School Counselor of the Year, where she also urged young people to embrace diversity and empower themselves through education. Continue reading Michelle Obama’s Farewell Address Will Leave You an Emotional Wreck

Democrats Turn Up Pressure on Republicans for Russian Hacking Investigation

At Thursday’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the Russian hacking of Democratic targets during the 2016 campaign, it was obvious that most Republicans don’t want to get involved with a matter that puts them on the wrong side of Donald Trump, who has repeatedly questioned the intelligence community’s conclusion that Moscow meddled in the election in order to help him win. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the chair of the committee, and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), did each decry the Russian intervention and called for a thorough investigation. Continue reading Democrats Turn Up Pressure on Republicans for Russian Hacking Investigation

At Russian Hacking Hearing, Most Republican Senators Express No Outrage

At Thursday morning’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing about Russian hacking during the 2016 elections, little new information was revealed about Moscow’s meddling in the presidential campaign. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper did say that the intelligence community’s review ordered by President Barack Obama of the Russian operation will be done early next week and will yield an unclassified report for public release. “I intend to push the envelope as much as I can,” Clapper said, referring to information the report will make public. Continue reading At Russian Hacking Hearing, Most Republican Senators Express No Outrage

It's 2017 and the House GOP Wants to Ban Live Video

On the first day of the new Congress, House Republicans have created a new rule in which House members could be fined up to $2,500 for live-streaming from the House floor, taking still photos, and recording audio and video. The rule is largely seen as a response to the sit-in Democrats held last year to pressure Republicans to hold a vote on gun control legislation, which they live-streamed from their phones once the official cameras were shut off.

AshLee Strong, a spokesperson for the Republican House leadership, told Mother Jones the move is an effort to “ensure that order and decorum are preserved in the House of Representatives so lawmakers can do the people’s work.”

But good-government advocates are criticizing the measure, saying it’s bad for government transparency. “It could have a chilling effect on some members of Congress who might otherwise be inclined to depict something that’s going on in the floor of the House through electronic means,” says Michael MacLeod-Ball, chief of staff for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington Legislative Office. A rule prohibiting the use of taking pictures as well as audio and video recordings on the House floor is already in place, he notes, but the new rule adds teeth to it by way of a fine.

In a passionate speech urging the House to reject the rule, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a civil rights icon who led the sit-in last summer, asserted that fines won’t keep him from his duty to speak out if the House of Representatives is not reflecting the will of the American people. “We have a right to dissent,” he said. “We have the right to protest for what is right. Regardless of rule or no rule, we cannot and will not be silenced.”

Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), and Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) described the move as an “unconstitutional gag rule” in a statement released late last month when the fine was first proposed. They called it “unprecedented,” arguing the rule “clearly is intended to undermine the rights of Members in the Minority to freely express their views on the House floor, which is a critical means by which Members communicate to the American public.”

“It is particularly egregious that such a controversial and potentially unlawful change is being implemented in the complete absence of hearings or input from legal experts, let alone the Minority,” they concluded.

Mother Jones reached out to Facebook, Periscope, and YouTube for their take on the live-streaming rule, but none of the platforms offered any comment.

Last night, in an apparent response to criticism, Republicans changed their initial proposal in order to allow lawmakers to appeal the fine to the House Ethics Committee. MacLeod-Ball of the ACLU says he’s still not convinced the rule would stand up to legal scrutiny because of the speech-and-debate clause in the Constitution, which protects lawmakers if they’re fulfilling their legislative responsibilities to their constituents. Even if the rule is technically legal, MacLeod-Ball argues lawmakers should get rid of it.

“The restriction is in place and for no apparent good reason,” he says. “It will tend to restrict the amount of information the public gets about the way government operates.”

Source: Mother Jones Politics

A Wave of Anti-Abortion Laws Is About to Hit This State

In November’s election, Republican Eric Greitens was elected to replace Democrat Jay Nixon as governor, making Missouri one of four states with a new trifecta in which the GOP controls all branches of government. Wasting no time, Missouri lawmakers prefiled 14 anti-abortion bills for the legislative session that started Wednesday.

The proposals include a personhood bill, religious liberty protections for crisis pregnancy centers, several measures blocking fetal tissue research, a chemical endangerment bill, and a bill regarding fetal burial similar to those passed this year in Indiana and Texas.

“I believe that the Republican leadership wants to focus on other issues that are priorities,” says Alison Dreith, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri. “But the legislators who are obsessed with further restricting access to abortion…are emboldened by the new Republican trifecta. They might be emboldened by the new Trump presidency.”

In Missouri, it is not unusual for lawmakers to prepare many abortion bills before the legislative session begins, but since 2014 lawmakers have never prefiled more than 10 bills. “This legislative session is going to be the fight of our lives,” said Elise Higgins, interim director of public policy and organizing at Planned Parenthood Great Plains, the regional affiliate that provides care in Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.

The state has a long history of curbing access to abortion. Between 2011 and 2015, political pressure and abortion restrictions shut down four providers, and now only one abortion clinic remains to serve Missouri’s more than 2 million women. Year after year, legislators have filed dozens of anti-abortion proposals—31 in 2014, 27 in 2015, and 28 last year—with mixed success. The Show-Me State has also been a testing ground for new approaches to restricting abortion—a legacy that dates back to the 1989 Webster case decided by the Supreme Court. That ruling, which upheld a Missouri abortion law, allowed states to impose far more restrictions on abortion care than had previously been permitted under Roe v. Wade. This is what gives the current list of measures potential for national consequences.

Here are the bills that have been proposed so far:

  • HB58: The bill would require the state’s health department to rank facilities that deal with maternal care and high-risk pregnancies and would prohibit the department from considering facilities’ rates of abortion or referral for abortion in these rankings. In practice, this means the facilities designated as those with the best care may in fact not offer abortion or present it as an option to patients.
  • HB112: This measure relates to custody disputes over embryos conceived by in-vitro fertilization and, if passed, would require courts to grant custody to those parties who intend to gestate the embryos, rather than the party intending to dispose of them. Courts could no longer issue judgments in custody disputes that permit embryos to be terminated or “kept indefinitely in an environment in which it does not develop or grow.” Advocates consider this a personhood measure. “One could argue that if you’re giving personhood protections to frozen embryos, that would apply to other areas of law,” says M’Evie Mead, director of policy and organizing at Planned Parenthood Advocates of Missouri—an advocacy group. The provision is also worrisome to groups focused on infertility and assisted reproductive technologies because of the unforeseen consequences it could create for embryos conceived through IVF.
  • HB147: This bill would require women who have had abortions to choose how the fetal remains are disposed of, including the option of cremation or burial, and mark their choice on a specific health department form. NARAL’s Dreith considers this one measure that, if passed, could reverberate nationally. In 2016, both Indiana and Texas passed bills requiring that fetal remains from abortions be interred or cremated, but both bills were temporarily blocked by federal judges. (The latest hearing regarding the Texas bill began on Tuesday.) Missouri’s proposal is different because it doesn’t require fetal remains to be cremated or buried—instead it offers these methods among a list of disposal options, and simply requires women who have abortions to choose from the list. This concession, Dreith says, “is not as ugly on the public service level…[but] this bill could be replicable in other states that don’t want to be as vulgar as Texas.”
  • HB174 and SB41: These two billsfiled simultaneously in the House and Senate—would provide free speech and religious liberty protections for crisis pregnancy centers. Often unregulated, these facilities are usually religiously affiliated and discourage women from having abortions, frequently by touting medically inaccurate claims about abortion, including that abortion causes breast cancer or that it causes psychological damage.
  • HB182: This measure makes it a felony for an adult to transport a minor across state lines for an abortion, with an exception for parents or adults who have obtained consent from a minor’s parents.
  • HB194 and SB67: These bills would make it illegal to donate fetal tissue to any kind of research. Fetal tissue has been critical to medical advancements in many realms, from Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s to the polio vaccine. This bill would also complicate the disposal of fetal tissue, requiring a multistep process that would culminate in a report prepared by the health department for the Missouri General Assembly that includes data on every fetal tissue disposal that took place in the state.
  • HB252: The bill would make it a crime for a woman to use narcotics or a controlled substance without a prescription if she is pregnant or she “knows or reasonably should have known” that she is pregnant. The crime would be classified as a felony of “endangering the welfare of a child in the first degree,” which is punishable by up to four years in prison, according to Missouri law.
  • HB326: This would require notification of both parents when a minor seeks an abortion, in addition to consent by one parent, which is already required by Missouri law.
  • SB15: This bill reauthorizes existing state tax credits for those making charitable donations to maternity homes and crisis pregnancy centers.
  • SB96: This measure would make it a misdemeanor for doctors to perform abortions on women who are seeking the procedure due to the sex, race, or Down syndrome diagnosis of the fetus.
  • SB196: This bill would give the state attorney general jurisdiction to enforce abortion laws—a power that is currently held by county-level prosecutors. This measure was last attempted by Missouri lawmakers in 2014. The bill’s return follows November’s election of Josh Hawley as Missouri’s attorney general. Hawley was a member of the legal team that argued Burwell v. Hobby Lobby before the Supreme Court in 2014—the case that cemented an exception for religious employers from the Affordable Care Act’s required contraceptive coverage. The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Andrew Koenig, did not respond to a request for comment about whether this bill’s introduction and Hawley’s election are related.
  • SB230: This would require an abortion facility providing contact information for an out-of state abortion clinic to also provide documents about informed consent. These include information about possible fetal pain during abortion (scientific consensus is that such fetal pain claims are false), alternatives to abortion, and child support requirements for fathers.

In the past, most of the anti-abortion bills proposed have not become law, blocked at times by Missouri’s Democratic governor. Missouri’s new governor, Greitens, has not been vocal about his views on abortion, beyond noting that he is pro-life on his campaign website. But should bills cross his desk, advocates like Dreith believe he is likely to sign them. “I don’t think abortion is a major priority for him,” Dreith said. “But the anti-choice Republicans we have in our Legislature will be emboldened by Trump and by knowing that they have a governor that is probably going to support them in their efforts should something pass.”

Source: Mother Jones Politics