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

Trump Hires an Adviser He Once Called an Untrustworthy Liar

A decade after deriding her as irresponsible and dishonest, Donald Trump has hired the controversial reality star-turned-political operative Omarosa Manigault to advise him in the White House. The incoming Trump administration announced Wednesday afternoon that Manigault will serve as assistant to the president and director of communications for the office of public liaison. Continue reading Trump Hires an Adviser He Once Called an Untrustworthy Liar

Fewer Americans Are Buying Guns Without Background Checks Than Previously Thought

Is the case for background checks for gun buyers gaining momentum? In a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine on Tuesday, public health researchers from Harvard and Northeastern universities found that 22 percent of all gun sales in the past two years around the United States were conducted without background checks—nearly half as many as previously thought. The new study asked 1,613 gun owners about when and where they acquired their most recent firearm, and whether they were asked to show a firearm license or permit, or to pass a background check. Continue reading Fewer Americans Are Buying Guns Without Background Checks Than Previously Thought

Republican Congresswoman Discovers Her Followers Love Obamacare

With Republicans convinced they need to repeal Obamacare ASAP but unsure of how they want to replace it, Rep. Marsha Blackburn issued a public plea for help on Tuesday. The Tennessee Republican—and member of President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team—asked the Twitter masses to take a poll on whether they like the law. Turns out Blackburn’s followers are pretty big fans of the Affordable Care Act, with 84 percent of the 7,968 votes opposing a repeal of Obamacare.

Continue reading Republican Congresswoman Discovers Her Followers Love Obamacare

Read Deval Patrick’s Scathing Indictment Against Jeff Sessions for Attorney General

Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick—who in 1985 worked on the defense team that represented three black civil rights leaders targeted by Sen. Jeff Sessions in the notorious voter fraud case from Alabama’s Perry County—has penned a scathing letter to Senate Judiciary Committee leaders urging them to reject his appointment as attorney general. Continue reading Read Deval Patrick’s Scathing Indictment Against Jeff Sessions for Attorney General

House Republicans Ditch Plan to Weaken Congressional Ethics Office

Following intense backlash, House Republicans on Tuesday voted to abandon a plan to significantly curtail the powers of the Office of Congressional Ethics. The reversal comes less than a day after news that Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) was introducing the ethics amendment.

Shortly before the amendment was officially dropped, President-elect Donald Trump criticized the timing of the effort, saying there were more important priorities to consider. He did not, however, say he opposed the amendment’s intention to gut the independent office.

This is a breaking news post. We will update when more news becomes available.

Source: Mother Jones Politics

Instead of Trashing Homeless Camps, This City is Providing Them With Trash Pickup

It’s cleaning time at one of the several encampments set up in the shadow of the elevated MacArthur Freeway in West Oakland, California. More than two dozen tents in various states of repair sit in the musty space beneath the stark overpass. Axel, a black man in his late 40s who lives along the camp’s outskirts, pushes a broom across the sidewalk that serves as a front porch for his tarp-draped tent. After a few minutes of sweeping, the trash he has arranged into a neat pile is collected by Abby Harrison, who places it into one of the five shiny Waste Management trash cans circulating in the camp. In a little while, the cans will be arranged on the street bordering the camp’s southern edge, where they will wait to be emptied by a garbage truck.

The cleanup continues by the camp’s two portable toilets, where a man is gathering used toiletries for disposal and clearing the path for a pumper truck to back in. The truck arrives a few minutes ahead of schedule, and the driver hops out to quickly clean and service the porta-potties. The driver is gone after a few minutes of pumping and wiping, much to the relief of another man patiently waiting to use the facilities.

In many respects, this homeless encampment is like hundreds of other camps that have mushroomed in cities across America, especially in the West. But what distinguishes the camp beneath the 580 freeway is that rather than being targeted for removal, it’s receiving public services from the city of Oakland. Instead of razing the encampment, Oakland and Alameda County policymakers set up a pilot program that offers basic services to some unsheltered residents. This includes not just waste pickup and porta-potties, but a mobile health clinic and the placement of large concrete barriers to protect the camp from traffic. Oakland has also directed its social services and relief employees to work with the residents of the MacArthur Freeway camp to help them find permanent housing. Since the pilot started in October, city officials report that 17 of the camp’s 42 original residents have moved into stable living situations.

Garbage cans sit by an encampment beneath the MacArthur Freeway in Oakland. Matt Tinoco

This approach is unique, especially as many cities double down on anti-camping laws and controversial “sweeps”, often conducted under the guise of protecting public health. The process is familiar: Homeless people set up a camp, bringing with it trash, human waste, and sometimes crime. Neighbors complain, and, before long, the local government serves the camp’s residents with a notice to vacate. The camp is cleared, but it either moves or returns after a few weeks.

San Francisco’s municipal authorities cleared out a large camp of 250 people from beneath one of the city’s freeways earlier this year. In November, the city’s voters passed Proposition Q, which prohibits assembling a tent on a public sidewalk. As Supervisor David Campos explained in a September statement, “encampments are not a solution to homelessness. They are unhealthy for homeless people, and they are unhealthy for residents and businesses around them.” Yet homelessness advocates note that clearing out camps is often little more than a cosmetic solution.

Like Oakland, other cities have also experimented with an approach that moves away from simply removing homeless people. Though sweeps still occur in Seattle, the city has set up a partnership with religious organizations that allows some homeless people to live on the organizations’ property. (Nevertheless, 2015 motion that would have authorized city services like waste pickup at encampments died after Seattle residents objected.) Santa Barbara, California, has a “safe-parking” program that allows people who live in vehicles to park in public parking lots without threat of citation.

The Oakland pilot project is based on the understanding that if unsheltered residents have, at the very least, a reliable and sanitary place to pitch their tents, they can devote more time and energy to finding a more stable place to live. “Breaking camps apart takes them farther away from permanent housing,” says Alex Marqusee, a legislative analyst for City Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney, the chief sponsor of the project in Oakland. “It’s opposite of the direction we want to go.”

“It’s like, where am I going to go?'” says Harrison, a black woman in her early 40s who lives under the MacArthur Freeway. “When I have to move it messes everything up. I get them people up in their nice houses not wanting to see any of this. I don’t want to see this. But I need to live, and it’s not like I want to live here.”

Source: Mother Jones Politics