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  • Jazz Heavyweight Terence Blanchard Won't Turn a Blind Eye
    Terence Blanchard

    Fifty-three year-old New Orleans-born trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard is a heavyweight among his musical peers, and not only for his passion as an amateur boxer. As a bandleader, he has released 20 albums over the past three decades. A prolific composer for film and television—he created the soundtracks for every Spike Lee film since Jungle Fever—Blanchard has a gift for constructing narrative and nuanced mood in his music.

    His new album Breathless, released this past May, is his first with the electric E-Collective band and features vocal contributions from Maroon 5's PJ Morton and Blanchard's son JRei Oliver.  

    With the new band and the thematic connection to Eric Garner's death, you'd think the album would be full of raw nerves and anger.  But instead, Blanchard has created a suite of instrumentals, songs, and spoken word meditations that invite reflection on finding the strength and peace to heal and move forward. He challenges listeners to be "breathless from exerting your free will, breathless from doing good, breathless from blowing your own sweet solo."

    I spoke with Blanchard at the Jazz Standard in New York, and later on the phone from his home in New Orleans.

    Mother Jones: Was your label, Blue Note, supportive about changing directions with this album?

    Terence Blanchard: We just lost one of the greatest music executives of my time, Bruce Lundvall. The last time I saw him we were right here, taking a picture together. He was the type of dude that whenever I saw him, he always talked about music.  It wasn't ever, "I can do this for you, blah, blah, blah." I always thought it would be great to be on a label with a guy like that because not only does he appreciate the music but I could also learn from him.  When we finally got the chance to work together, he said, "I want you to be you." 

    Now we have Don Was, who is very much like Bruce in that regard. When I first had the conversation with Don about the record he said, "Great, but bring it up to where you are, don't dumb it down."  It was great to hear that.

    MJ: Is composing for film a different process for you than making an album? 

    TB: When I first started it gave me headaches: I'd be working on a jazz thing then my brain would have to click out of that mode and then go work on the film. Wayne Shorter talks about your life being one continuous song with different variations, moods, textures, and color. That's the way it is right now for me: Both inform each other in a way that I can see more clearly now. The film side has opened my eyes to story telling, context, and all of those issues. You'd think that working in film is limiting, but it's actually liberating because it shows you that within the context of the story there are still a million permutations.  

    MJ: How did the topical side to Breathless evolve? 

    TB: Breathless didn't start out to be a statement record, it started out as something we wanted to have fun with just playing music. But it's hard with my background to turn a blind eye to what's been happening.

    MJ: Given that many of the people who have died in these police incidents have been young people, what did it mean to you to have your son involved in the record? 

    TB: It wasn't something I thought about initially, but once it dawned on me, it made more sense. My son had had an incident of mistaken identity. A woman claimed that somebody had broken into her house, and she described the suspect as a black guy with dreads. My son had been walking by that house at that time. Her husband saw my son, followed him all the way to school and called 911. Seven patrol calls pulled up to the school. Seven. They handcuffed my son in class, walked him out and put him and put him in a patrol car. One of the cops there was a guy I grew up with, literally our back yards were connected. He saw my son sitting in the back of a patrol car and said, "I know this kid, he didn't do this." When they brought my son back to the woman's house, her story fell apart. What got me was the seven patrol cars. That says a lot about the mentality going on in law enforcement. The thing I keep saying: It's not going to stop until those police who are responsible go to jail.

    MJ: My guess is that if the police prosecute their own, it undermines their power and control, and they're afraid.

    TB: I believe it to be true. That describes a whole host of problems with insecurity. You see it all the time. 

    I've been boxing for 20 years. When you start boxing and you get in the ring, the first thing you learn is to respect the person in front of you. That carries over into my daily life. I don't care who it is or what they look like.

    I'm going to tell you this, and this is probably going to get me in trouble, but I've seen some cops come to the boxing gym and not stay. Some of these dudes, they have an attitude problem; they come to the gym for the wrong reasons. And I think, if you have that problem here, what’s going to happen out on the street with your badge and a gun?

    That's the part we're not dealing with. They are supposed to be the professionals. I've accepted that there are things that come with being a public figure as a musician. What's crazy is the power they want to exert over everyday people when the side of the car says, "protect and serve." To serve is something noble, something distinguished and honorable. 

    I have friends who are good cops but they are not speaking out. It's creating this atmosphere of distrust that is truly dangerous. These police officers are human beings too, but they are subject to the same faults as everybody else, so they make the same assumptions as everybody else.  

    MJ: Your song "See Me As I Am" brings up the issue about perception and race.

    TB: I hate using the term "as a black man," but in my experience, I've gotten to the point when I meet people I feel that tension, I can see their minds change as I'm talking to them, I can see their thoughts about who I am change as we're having a conversation. That's normal in some ways for all interactions, but you call always tell when a first impression is mostly negative. Forget what you see on the news and television. Try to come and experience who I really am. 

    What gives me hope is when I look at my kids and their friends, I see that as an indication of where we're going. My daughter was talking to me the other day about a girl friend of hers who is "gender mobile." And I was like, "What's that?" She says, "Sometimes she dresses like a boy, sometimes like a girl." And she was cool with that.  Race, ethnicity, sexual orientation— nothing matters to these kids, it's beautiful.

    MJ: Despite the real and justified anger about these incidents, the album seems to focus more on internal feelings and preservation of the self. 

    TB: At the end of the day that's all we have: self-preservation. Our history has been to rely on our faith in times of trouble and distress. That's been the place where we have found our salvation, and our rejuvenation.

    MJ: As expressed in the song "Samadhi," what does the practice of meditation do for you personally and creatively? 

    TB: It's done so many things. It's built up my awareness, it's allowed me to understand that being selfless doesn't mean powerless. That's the reason I have "Confident Selflessness" on the album too, because you need to be confident in your aspirations, but you also need to be selfless in how you serve society and other people. It has allowed me to choose whether to be angry or not. Anger is not necessarily a reaction; it can be something that you choose to allow. When you start to see the bigger picture of things, you can respond accordingly. It's brought me a lot of peace.  It allows your mind to slow down, it allows your thoughts to slow down, and it allows your soul to strengthen itself. One of the things I chant for is peace in this country.

    MJ: Is there anything else to staying happy and healthy as a musician?

    TB: A lot of it is just peace and solitude. You need that to rejuvenate yourself and rebuild your brain and your spirit. People don't understand how much energy it takes to do this, not just physically but mentally. I did a gig with Ron Carter and on the way back to the hotel, the driver was playing some music. Ron said, "Excuse me, could you please just turn that off? I've been playing music all night and I have to resolve all this shit that I played in my mind." I get his point. 

    Actually, do you know what most musicians used to do?  They'll never admit it, but before the Internet—it was soap operas. There were a lot of them, and they would have discussions about this stuff on the road. I wasn't into them but I would think to myself, "Boy if they could see me now, with these dudes talking about The Young and the Restless!"

    MJ: Are you going to name names? 

    TB: Naww, I can't do that! For me it used to be Jerry Springer, because when you watch Jerry Springer you immediately forget about whatever you were doing. 

    This profile is part of In Close Contact, an independent documentary project on music, musicians, and creativity.

  • Marco Rubio Gets a Big Boost From Two Loyal Billionaires

    Two billionaires—one an eccentric ex-CEO with a striking resemblance to Tony Stark, the other a car dealer with a low public profile—have led the way in bankrolling the super-PAC backing Marco Rubio's presidential bid. Conservative Solutions PAC brought in a total of nearly $16 million in the first half of the year, putting Rubio's unlimited-donations group in third among super-PACs backing Republican presidential candidates, behind just Jeb Bush's Right to Rise PAC, which raised a towering $103 million, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's Unintimidated PAC, which brought in $20 million.

    Larry Ellison, the Iron Man-esque founder of Oracle, gave $3 million to Conservative Solutions PAC in the first six months of 2015, according to the group's first filing with the Federal Election Commission, released Friday. Ellison hosted a fundraiser for Rubio in June, sparking speculation about how dedicated he was to the Florida senator. A few million might not mean much to Ellison, the world's fifth-richest man with a net worth of $54 billion, but the fact that he is indeed backing up his support with cash is significant to Rubio.

    Continue Reading »

  • The State Department Just Released a New Batch of Hillary Clinton Emails. Read Them Here.

    On Friday afternoon, the State Department released a new batch of 1,356 emails from Hillary Clinton's tenure as secretary of state. The emails are part of over 55,000 pages of correspondence that had been stored on Clinton's private email server and were subsequently turned over to the State Department. Clinton's emails have provided a revealing glimpse at her State Department tenure, including her team's aggressive efforts to manage the media and her image and some humorous moments that could have been ripped from the HBO comedy series Veep. You can read the latest round of Clinton emails below. If something catches your eye, flag it in the comments.


  • Four Years Ago Scott Walker Promised This Woman He'd Bust Wisconsin's Unions

    The super-PAC backing Scott Walker has many wealthy backers, but its single biggest contributor is Diane Hendricks, who ponied up $5 million. A billionaire through the roofing supply business she and her late husband founded, Hendricks has been one of Walker's top benefactors since he first ran for governor. In 2012, Hendricks was the biggest donor to Walker's campaign to stave off a union-led recall effort, and now she's stepped up for him again. Out of the $20 million raised by the pro-Walker group Unintimidated PAC, 25 percent came from Hendricks.

    If there was any question that Walker and Hendricks are on the same page, here's a video of the two chatting in 2011 shortly after he took office.

    "Good to see you!" Walker says, dashing through the door and hugging Hendricks and kissing her on the cheek.

    Hendricks asks Walker about the possibility of turning Wisconsin into a "completely red state."

    "Oh, yeah," Walker responds, going on to lay out his "divide and conquer" strategy for attacking public sector unions.

    Despite her massive contribution, Hendricks still has some close competition as the group's biggest funder. Marlene Ricketts, the wife of TD Ameritrade founder and Chicago Cubs owner Joe Ricketts, gave $4.9 million. And Joe Ricketts himself tossed in another $100,000.

    Richard Uihlein and his wife Elizabeth, the founder and president of Illinois box company Uline, respectively, gave $2.5 million to the super-PAC as well.

    Rounding out the list of seven-figure donors was Access Industries, a New York City holding company run by Len Blavatnik. Blavatnik is a Ukranian-born businessman who in April was named the "richest man in Britain" with an estimated net worth of $20.1 billion. Blavatnik, who is a US citizen, is also known for his lavish donations to universities including Oxford and Tel Aviv University. On Thursday, the super-PAC supporting Lindsey Graham reported receiving $500,000 from Blavatnik's company.

  • Ted Cruz Super-PAC Has Just One Donor

    A super-PAC backing Ted Cruz called Keep the Promise II just filed its campaign disclosure, and it stands rather in contrast with the filing this morning from Jeb Bush's super-PAC. Right to Rise, the Bush-backing super-PAC, revealed a list of donors that included anonymous shell corporations, 28 former ambassadors, and hundreds of wealthy and moneyed elite from around the country, requiring this reporter to do plenty of math to determine how much came from big donors and how much came from very big donors. Keep the Promise II's disclosure is much simpler.

    One guy gave $10 million.

    That's it.

    Although the super-PAC raised more money than the actual campaigns of 14 of the 20 declared major candidates, there were no other donors.

    The guy's name is Toby Neugebauer. He is the billionaire founder of a private-equity firm, and his father is Congressman Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas).

    To be fair, it's one of at least three super-PACs backing Cruz. The others have not yet filed their reports, but will likely list donors other than Neugebauer.

  • Meet the Megadonors Bankrolling Jeb Bush's Campaign

    Jeb Bush knows it doesn't look good if a candidate appears to get most of his financial support from a small group of wealthy donors. Earlier this spring, he asked donors to try not to give checks of more than $1 million to his super-PAC, and when the group announced its total haul for the first six months of the year, it took pains to emphasize that 9,400 of its more than 9,900 contributors had donated less than $25,000.

    But now it's going to be a lot harder for anyone to think of the Bush super-PAC—which completely dwarfs his campaign in terms of financial resources—as anything but driven by extremely wealthy donors.

    This morning, the Right to Rise super-PAC filed its first disclosure reports, confirming that it had indeed raised $103 million in the first six months of the year. That is an unprecedented amount, but what's really news is the distribution of the donations. It does appear that only about 500 donors gave more than $25,000 to the super-PAC, but donations of less than $25,000 accounted for just $21.7 million of the total. On the other end of the spectrum, 23 people gave more than $1 million to the super-PAC, contributing a total of $27.3 million.

    The size of the donations is shocking. Despite the growing public perception that super-PACs are playgrounds for millionaires, the number of people who have ever given $1 million to political causes in their lifetimes is small. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan campaign finance organization (where I used to work), prior to this election cycle, just 475 individuals had ever given $1 million or more cumulatively since 1989, when it began keeping track of the data. Given the seven-figure donations that have already been reported for other super-PACs in the last week, the number is probably well over 500 people now, and the Right to Rise super-PAC is responsible for many of them.

    The fact that only about 0.04 percent of Americans gave more than $2,600 last election cycle means that even most of the donors who gave less than $25,000 were already elite in terms of political donations. But with these latest numbers, even the under-$25,000 contributors begins to look like small donors by comparison.

    Among Bush's top donors are people with an interest in some of the top foreign policy debates right now. Miguel Fernandez, a private equity executive who chipped in $3 million, the largest contribution to the super-PAC, was a refugee from Cuba. Bush has slammed President Obama's rapprochement with the Castro regime. Hushang Ansary was the Iranian ambassador to the US before the Iranian Revolution; he and his wife each donated $1 million. Bush has likewise opposed Obama's nuclear-containment deal with Iran.

    The list of top donors has some expected names, the dependable rainmakers who have long fueled the Bush family. Included among the top donors are big Texas names like oilmen T. Boone Pickens and Ray Hunt, as well as the widow of Harold Simmons, a Dallas chemical magnate who is one of the largest political donors of all time and who was a major source of money for Karl Rove's various fundraising efforts over the years.

    There are also a number of donors who are not people—something that could not have happened before the super-PAC era, or at least not on the same scale. NextEra Energy, Florida's electric utility, donated $1 million to the super-PAC. That donation itself is unusual, given that publicly traded corporations have tended to avoid giving money to super-PACs, though they may legally do so after the Citizens United court decision in 2010. The US Sugar Corporation Charitable Trust donated $505,000—possibly a first for charities, which are generally excluded from involving themselves in politics.

    Not all of the corporate donors are quite as transparent. One $1 million donation came from a shell corporation called Jasper Reserve LLC. On the disclosure forms, the company lists a Charleston, West Virginia address belonging to a law firm that has represented numerous coal companies over the years. The company appears to be registered in Delaware, effectively blocking any information about who founded it or runs it.

  • California's Drought Is So Bad That Thousands Are Living Without Running Water

    Most of us are feeling the effects of the California drought from a distance, if at all: Our produce is a little more expensive, our news feeds are filled with images of cracked earth. But thousands of people in California's Central Valley are feeling the drought much more acutely, because water has literally ceased running from their taps. The drought in these communities resembles a never-ending natural disaster, says Andrew Lockman, manager of the county's Office of Emergency Services. Most disasters are "sudden onset, they run their course over hours or days, and then you clean up the mess. This thing has been growing for 18 months and it's not slowing down."

    Here's what you need to know about California's most parched places:

    What do you mean by "no running water"?
    No water is coming through the pipes, so when residents turn on the tap or the shower, or try to flush the toilet or run the washing machine, water doesn't come out.

    Who doesn't have running water?
    While a handful of communities across the state are dealing with municipal water contamination and shortages, the area that's hardest hit—and routinely referred to as the "ground zero of the drought"—is Tulare County, a rural, agriculture-heavy region in the Central Valley that's roughly the size of Connecticut. As of this week, 5,433 people in the county don't have running water, according to Lockman. Most of those individuals live in East Porterville, a small farming community in the Sierra Foothills. East Porterville is one of the poorest communities in California: over a third of the population lives below the federal poverty line, and 56 percent of adults didn't make it through high school. About three quarters of residents are Latino, and about a third say they don't speak English "very well."

    Why don't they have running water?
    Many Tulare homes aren't connected to a public water system—either because they are too rural or, in the case of East Porterville, because when the community was incorporated in the late 1970s, there wasn't enough surface water available to serve the community. Until recently, this wasn't a problem: the homes have private wells, and residents had a seemingly unlimited supply of groundwater. Most domestic wells in East Porterville are relatively shallow—between 25 and 50 feet deep—because water wasn't far below ground level.

    With California in its fourth year of drought, there's been little groundwater resupply and a lot more demand—particularly as farmers resort to pumping for water—leading the water table to drop dramatically and wells to go dry. Those with money can dig deeper wells, but this generally costs between $10,000 and $30,000—a cost that's prohibitive for many Tulare residents.

    If they don't have running water, how do they function?
    Of the roughly 1,200 Tulare homes reporting dry wells, about 1,000 of them have signed up for a free bottled water delivery service coordinated by the county. Homes receive deliveries every two weeks; each resident is allotted half a gallon of drinking water per day. The county has also set up three large tanks of nonpotable water, where residents can fill up storage containers for things like showering, flushing toilets, or doing dishes. Portable showers, toilets, and sinks have been set up in front of a church in East Porterville.

    Wait, people are showering outside a church?
    Yup. Some residents have been living without water for over a year, says Susana De Anda, the director of the Community Water Center, a non-profit serving the area. "It's a huge hygiene issue where we don't have running water. It kind of reminds me of Katrina," she says. "The relief came but it came kind of late."

    The state's offering temporary help, right?
    To provide interim relief, the county is also working to install water storage tanks outside of homes with dry wells. The 2,500-gallon tanks, usually set up in yards, are filled with potable water and connected to the home, giving a rough semblance of running water. Only about 170 such tanks have been installed so far, in part because the process for installing the tanks is so laborious. Applicants need to prove ownership of the house, open their home to a site assessment, and more—with each step of the process involving a days or weeks long queue. Some 1,300 homes still don't have tanks installed.

    Hundreds of rental properties don't have running water, and because domestic water storage tanks aren't set up at rental units, migrant workers aren't likely to reap the benefits of this interim solution. Another challenge is misinformation: The free water programs are open to residents regardless of citizenship, but myths still prevents some from taking advantage of the services. When the portable showers were first installed in front of the church, says Lockman, many people suspected they were an immigration enforcement trap. Some parents haven't been sending their children to school, having heard that child welfare services would take away kids from families that don't have running water.

    Who's working on this?
    This year, the state has set aside $19 million to be spent on emergency drinking water. In Tulare, the Office of Emergency Services, which coordinates a network of contractors covering the needs of half a million people, currently has a staff of four people. (Three more positions were approved this week.)

    In the long term, community leaders are working to build an infrastructure so that homes can be linked to a municipal water supply. But that work is "slow and expensive," says Melissa Withnell, a county spokesperson.

    Are farmers taking the water?
    Yes, but it's hard to blame them. Tulare County is among the biggest agricultural producers in the country, growing everything from pistachios and almonds to grapes and livestock. "If you were to just look at the landscape, it's very green," says De Anda. "You wouldn't think we were in a drought." The industry brings in nearly 8 billion dollars per year, employing many of those individuals who currently lack running water. Permits to drill new wells have skyrocketed—just this year, nearly 700 irrigation wells have been permitted, compared to about 200 domestic wells. (Wells permits are issued on a first come, first served basis.) "It's like one big punch bowl that’s not getting refilled but everybody’s been slowly drinking out of it and now we have a thirsty football team at the same punch bowl as everybody else," says Lockman. "Do we have sustainability problems? Oh yeah, absolutely."

  • Clinton Fires Back at the New York Times

    The New York Times had a bombshell on its hands the other day: The paper of record reported that government investigators had asked the Justice Department to investigate possible criminal charges in relation to the emails Hillary Clinton kept on a private server. But the Times' scoop was way off. The government investigators had actually asked the Department of Justice to look into whether Clinton's emails that contained classified information might have been inadvertently released by the State Department. The story played right into the hands of Clinton's legion of enemies, who now had a cudgel to bang over the head of the presumptive Democratic nominee. The Times ended up changing its story, but that wasn't enough for the Clinton campaign. The campaign fired back at the Times on Tuesday with a nearly 2,000-word open letter to the paper's executive editor. It then posted the letter on Read the whole thing below:

    Letter to the New York Times’ Dean Baquet

    Dean Baquet
    Executive Editor
    The New York Times
    620 Eighth Avenue
    New York, New York

    July 28, 2015

    Dear Mr. Baquet:

    I am writing to officially register our campaign’s grave concern with the Times' publication of an inaccurate report related to Hillary Clinton and her email use.

    I appreciate the fact that both you and the Public Editor have sought to publicly explain how this error could have been made. But we remain perplexed by the Times' slowness to acknowledge its errors after the fact, and some of the shaky justifications that Times' editors have made. We feel it important to outline these concerns with you directly so that they may be properly addressed and so our campaign can continue to have a productive working relationship with the Times.

    I feel obliged to put into context just how egregious an error this story was. The New York Times is arguably the most important news outlet in the world and it rushed to put an erroneous story on the front page charging that a major candidate for President of the United States was the target of a criminal referral to federal law enforcement. Literally hundreds of outlets followed your story, creating a firestorm that had a deep impact that cannot be unwound. This problem was compounded by the fact that the Times took an inexplicable, let alone indefensible, delay in correcting the story and removing "criminal" from the headline and text of the story.

    To review the facts, as the Times itself has acknowledged through multiple corrections, the paper's reporting was false in several key respects: first, contrary to what the Times stated, Mrs. Clinton is not the target of a criminal referral made by the State Department’s and Intelligence Community's Inspectors General, and second, the referral in question was not of a criminal nature at all.

    Just as disturbing as the errors themselves is the Times' apparent abandonment of standard journalistic practices in the course of its reporting on this story.

    First, the seriousness of the allegations that the Times rushed to report last Thursday evening demanded far more care and due diligence than the Times exhibited prior to this article's publication.

    The Times' readers rightfully expect the paper to adhere to the most rigorous journalistic standards. To state the obvious, it is hard to imagine a situation more fitting for those standards to be applied than when a newspaper is preparing to allege that a major party candidate for President of the United States is the target of a criminal referral received by federal law enforcement.

    This allegation, however, was reported hastily and without affording the campaign adequate opportunity to respond. It was not even mentioned by your reporter when our campaign was first contacted late Thursday afternoon. Initially, it was stated as reporting only on a memo – provided to Congress by the Inspectors General from the State Department and Intelligence Community – that raised the possibility of classified material traversing Secretary Clinton's email system. This memo — which was subsequently released publicly — did not reference a criminal referral at all. It was not until late Thursday night – at 8:36 pm – that your paper hurriedly followed up with our staff to explain that it had received a separate tip that the Inspectors General had additionally made a criminal referral to the Justice Department concerning Clinton's email use. Our staff indicated that we had no knowledge of any such referral – understandably, of course, since none actually existed – and further indicated that, for a variety of reasons, the reporter's allegation seemed implausible. Our campaign declined any immediate comment, but asked for additional time to attempt to investigate the allegation raised. In response, it was indicated that the campaign "had time," suggesting the publication of the report was not imminent.

    Despite the late hour, our campaign quickly conferred and confirmed that we had no knowledge whatsoever of any criminal referral involving the Secretary. At 10:36 pm, our staff attempted to reach your reporters on the phone to reiterate this fact and ensure the paper would not be going forward with any such report. There was no answer. At 10:54 pm, our staff again attempted calling. Again, no answer. Minutes later, we received a call back. We sought to confirm that no story was imminent and were shocked at the reply: the story had just published on the Times' website.

    This was, to put it mildly, an egregious breach of the process that should occur when a major newspaper like the Times is pursuing a story of this magnitude. Not only did the Times fail to engage in a proper discussion with the campaign ahead of publication; given the exceedingly short window of time between when the Times received the tip and rushed to publish, it hardly seems possible that the Times conducted sufficient deliberations within its own ranks before going ahead with the story.

    Second, in its rush to publish what it clearly viewed as a major scoop, the Times relied on questionable sourcing and went ahead without bothering to seek corroborating evidence that could have supported its allegation.

    In our conversations with the Times reporters, it was clear that they had not personally reviewed the IG's referral that they falsely described as both criminal and focused on Hillary Clinton. Instead, they relied on unnamed sources that characterized the referral as such. However, it is not at all clear that those sources had directly seen the referral, either. This should have represented too many "degrees of separation" for any newspaper to consider it reliable sourcing, least of all The New York Times.

    Times' editors have attempted to explain these errors by claiming the fault for the misreporting resided with a Justice Department official whom other news outlets cited as confirming the Times' report after the fact. This suggestion does not add up. It is our understanding that this Justice Department official was not the original source of the Times' tip. Moreover, notwithstanding the official's inaccurate characterization of the referral as criminal in nature, this official does not appear to have told the Times that Mrs. Clinton was the target of that referral, as the paper falsely reported in its original story.

    This raises the question of what other sources the Times may have relied on for its initial report. It clearly was not either of the referring officials – that is, the Inspectors General of either the State Department or intelligence agencies – since the Times' sources apparently lacked firsthand knowledge of the referral documents. It also seems unlikely the source could have been anyone affiliated with those offices, as it defies logic that anyone so closely involved could have so severely garbled the description of the referral.

    Of course, the identity of the Times' sources would be deserving of far less scrutiny if the underlying information had been confirmed as true. However, the Times appears to have performed little, if any, work to corroborate the accuracy of its sources' characterizations of the IG's referral. Key details went uninvestigated in the Times' race to publish these erroneous allegations against Mrs. Clinton. For instance, high in the Times' initial story, the reporters acknowledged they had no knowledge of whether or not the documents that the Times claimed were mishandled by Mrs. Clinton contained any classified markings. In Mrs. Clinton's case, none of the emails at issue were marked. This fact was quickly acknowledged by the IC inspector general’s office within hours of the Times' report, but it was somehow left unaddressed in the initial story.

    Even after the Times' reporting was revealed to be false, the Times incomprehensibly delayed the issuance of a full and true correction.

    Our campaign first sought changes from the Times as soon as the initial story was published. Recognizing the implausibility that Mrs. Clinton herself could be the subject of any criminal probe, we immediately challenged the story's opening line, which said the referral sought an investigation into Mrs. Clinton specifically for the mishandling of classified materials. In response, the Times' reporters admitted that they themselves had never seen the IG's referral, and so acknowledged the possibility that the paper was overstating what it directly knew when it portrayed the potential investigation as centering on Mrs. Clinton. It corrected the lead sentence accordingly.

    The speed with which the Times conceded that it could not defend its lead citing Mrs. Clinton as the referral's target raises questions about what inspired its confidence in the first place to frame the story that way. More importantly, the Times' change was not denoted in the form of a correction. Rather, it was performed quietly, overnight, without any accompanying note to readers. This was troubling in its lack of transparency and risks causing the Times to appear like it is trying to whitewash its misreporting. A correction should have been posted promptly that night.

    Regardless, even after this change, a second error remained in the story: the characterization of the referral as criminal at all. By Friday morning, multiple members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (who had been briefed by the Inspectors General) challenged this portrayal—and ultimately, so did the Department of Justice itself. Only then did the Times finally print a correction acknowledging its misstatement of the nature of the referral to the Justice Department.

    Of course, the correction, coming as it did on a Friday afternoon, was destined to reach a fraction of those who read the Times' original, erroneous report. As the Huffington Post observed:

    "…it's unlikely that the same audience will see the updated version unless the paper were to send out a second breaking news email with its latest revisions. The Clinton story also appeared [on] the front page of Friday's print edition."

    Most maddening of all, even after the correction fixed the description of the referral within the story, a headline remained on the front page of the Times' website that read, “Criminal Inquiry is Sought in Clinton Email Account." It was not until even later in the evening that the word "criminal" was finally dropped from the headline and an updated correction was issued to the story. The lateness of this second correction, however, prevented it from appearing in the paper the following morning. We simply do not understand how that was allowed to occur.

    Lastly, the Times' official explanations for the misreporting is profoundly unsettling.

    In a statement to the Times' public editor, you said that the errors in the Times' story Thursday night were "unavoidable." This is hard to accept. As noted above, the Justice Department official that incorrectly confirmed the Times' initial reports for other outlets does not appear to have been the initial source for the Times. Moreover, it is precisely because some individuals may provide erroneous information that it is important for the Times to sift the good information from the bad, and where there is doubt, insist on additional evidence. The Times was under no obligation to go forward on a story containing such explosive allegations coming only from sources who refused to be named. If nothing else, the Times could have allowed the campaign more time to understand the allegation being engaged. Unfortunately, the Times chose to take none of these steps.

    In closing, I wish to emphasize our genuine wish to have a constructive relationship with The New York Times. But we also are extremely troubled by the events that went into this erroneous report, and will be looking forward to discussing our concerns related to this incident so we can have confidence that it is not repeated in the future.


    Jennifer Palmieri
    Communications Director
    Hillary for America

    Cc: Margaret Sullivan,
    Public Editor
    New York Times

  • What We Learned About Donald Trump by Playing His Board Game

    Donald Trump's preparation for the upcoming Republican presidential primary debate is "low key, absolutely low stress," adviser Chuck Laudner told the Washington Post on Wednesday. "This isn't 50 consultants locked in a war room, with a fake podium and cardboard cutouts of the other candidates, playing the game of Risk."

    Maybe that's because Trump has a different board game of choice—his own. In 2004, as his reality television show The Apprentice was just getting underway, he unveiled the latest in a long line of short-lived ventures. (Hello, Trump Steaks.) It's called TRUMP: The Game, and according to an introductory letter from the billionaire that was included in a set I recently acquired for $4 on Amazon, "the object of the game is to make the most money." Surprise!

    Live the fantasy! Feel the power! And make the deals! Photo by Tim Murphy

    Much like his presidential campaign, TRUMP: The Game was a reboot of an earlier failed Trump venture, a 1988 Milton Bradley product also called TRUMP: The Game. The tagline for that was "It's not whether you win or lose, it's whether you win!" A television ad for TRUMP: The Game 1.0 boasted that all proceeds from the game would be donated to charity. (This was his Paul Newman phase, evidently.) The 2004 version abandoned the charitable pretense, and replaced the old tagline with a bolder, fresher take: "IT TAKES BRAINS TO MAKE MILLIONS. IT TAKES TRUMP TO MAKE BILLIONS."

    Did I have the brains to make millions? Did I have the TRUMP to make billions? Was I, in fact, Donald Trump? I recruited three Mother Jones political reporters—Pat Caldwell, Pema Levy, and Molly Redden—to help me take TRUMP: The Game for a spin.

    Here are a few things you should know about the game:

    • It's for three to four players. Cramped and short-lived—it's the Trump Shuttle of board games. This is a great game if you don't have very many friends.
    • The box specifies that TRUMP: The Game should only be played by adults. (If you are a child reading this, please stop now.) What? Is this is a board game about pre-nups? Is scalp-reduction surgery involved? If it's for adults, why is an oversized six-year-old on the cover? I kept waiting for the game to reveal some darker, truer, more adult nature, but it never did.
    • The dice have six sides. Five of the sides have the traditional numbers on them. But the sixth side just has a big letter T on it, for "Trump." Anytime you roll a "Trump," you get to steal something from someone else.
    • But you don't roll the dice very often—maybe once every few turns, depending on your strategy. TRUMP: The Game borrows the architecture of a classic game, Monopoly, and then renovates it until there's nothing left but a flashy facade.
    • The most exciting part of the game is bidding on properties. Like Monopoly, you buy properties and try to make money off of them. Trump recommends buying as many properties as you can! But there are only seven properties (including a luxury residence, an international golf course, and a casino—only the finest and most luxurious properties are for sale here), so you can't really do that. It's not possible, either, to simply attach your name  on the side of someone else's building in big letters and just own a penthouse there.
    • When a property goes up for sale, players take turns raising their bids or taking a pass, until someone has outbid everyone else. Then that person own the property. Unless someone else ejects that person from the bidding by playing a card that says "You're fired!" (Actually it says, "YOU'RE FIRED! You are out of the bidding and you cannot fire anyone!" Since when can people who have just been fired fire other people?)
    Don't get any ideas! Tim Murphy
    • If you've been fired, you can get back into the bidding by playing a special card featuring Donald Trump's face. This is, for some reason, not called "the Trump Card." Instead it's called a "The Donald"—definite article included. Like "The Gambia." There are 16 You're Fired! cards but only four The Donalds, meaning that bidding wars often consist entirely of people playing the "You're Fired!" card over and over and over. The unemployment rate in Donald Trump's game is 75 percent. I don't know why you can fire people who don't even work for you. But this is how capitalism works.
    A "The Donald." Tim Murphy
    • Instead of paying taxes to the government, there is a card that, if played, forces other players to pay property taxes to you. ("Trump Tip: I would play this on someone with more than one property.") That is not a tax. That is just a shakedown.
    • At the end of the game, the person with the most money wins. Fair. What's weird is that there's basically no way to lose money, short of occasionally paying taxes to other people. Instead of losing money when you land on properties owned by rivals, as in Monopoly, you take money from the bank that doesn't belong to you (don't worry about paying it back) and give that money to the player who owns the property. All overhead costs are covered by the banks. The result: the bank is sinking much of its money into a giant real-estate bubble. What could go wrong?
    • Trump, apparently pressed for time, borrowed the color-coded currency from Monopoly—the lowest denomination is white; the middle is green; the highest is orange. The major difference is that the lowest denomination is $10 million and the highest is $100 million. He basically took Monopoly money, stuck his face on it, and added a bunch of zeroes.
    Tim Murphy

    Continue Reading »

  • Corroborating Cops in Sam DuBose Case Were Involved in Another Death of Unarmed Black Man

    University of Cincinnati Police Officers Eric Weibel and Phillip Kidd corroborated Officer Ray Tensing's seemingly false account of what happened before he shot and killed unarmed black man Samuel DuBose on July 19. After damning body cam footage was released, Tensing was charged with murder. But questions remain about Weibel and Kidd's role. And this is not the first time the duo have been involved in the death of an unarmed black man. According to the Guardian, in 2010 they were involved in another police brutality case.

    Kelly Brinson, a 45-year-old mental health patient at Cincinnati’s University hospital, suffered a psychotic episode on 20 January 2010 and was placed inside a seclusion room at the hospital by UC officers. He was then shocked with a Taser three times by an officer and placed in restraints. [Kelly] then suffered a respiratory cardiac arrest and died three days later.

    Brinson's family filed a a civil suit against UC police (and the hospital), accusing the officers involved in the incident of excessive force and of acting with "deliberate indifference to the serious medical and security needs of Mr. Brinson." While neither Kidd nor Weibel deployed the Taser, they were involved in restraining Brinson, and were therefore two of the seven police officers named in the suit.

    Following the death of Samuel DuBose after what should have been an innocuous traffic stop, both Kidd and Weibel corroborated Officer Tensing's claims that he had been "dragged" by DuBose's car, which is what prompted him to shoot the unarmed 43-year old. Kidd, who was standing behind Tensing during the incident, filed a report saying he saw Tensing get dragged by the car. Weibel, who was also on the scene, submitted another narrative corroborating these statements. "Officer Kidd told me that he witnessed the Honda Accord drag Officer Tensing, and that he witnessed Officer Tensing fire a single shot," Weibel wrote. He added, "I could see that the back of his pants and shirt looked as if it had been dragged over a rough surface."

    The body cameras of both Tensing and Kidd, however, show something very different. "It is our belief that he was not dragged. If you slow down this tape you see what happens, it is a very slow period of time from when the car starts rolling to when a gun is out and he’s shot in the head," Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said Wednesday when announcing the Grand Jury's decision to indict Tensing on charges of murder.

    No surprise that Brinson's family is upset at the parallels. As the Guardian explains:

    The revelation that officers Weibel and Kidd provided the corroboration for Tensing's account of the incident was met with anger by Brinson’s family members, who told the Guardian on Thursday that if both officers had been disciplined correctly in 2010, the death of DuBose might have been avoided.

    Brinson's brother told the Guardian that their family had been told that the officers were "supposed to be fired" after his death. But the case was eventually settled out of court for $638,000 and the officers were kept on. Since the body cam footage of the DuBose killing was released, Kidd has been placed on administrative leave. On Thursday Tensing plead not guilty to charges of murder and voluntary manslaughter. The judge set his bond at $1 million.