Political MoJo

Here's the Most Offensive GOP Response to Obama's New Syrian Refugee Plan

| Thu Sep. 10, 2015 5:08 PM EDT
Rep. Peter King (L), and Syrian children at a makeshift camp for asylum seekers in southern Hungary, on Thursday.

As my colleague Tim McDonnell reported earlier today, the Obama administration has announced that the United States will take in 10,000 Syrian refugees starting October 1, in what the White House described as a "significant scaling up" of the US commitment to the ongoing migrant crisis.

Cue the terrorism-conflating saber-rattling of one Congressman Peter King (R-N.Y.), who issued the following statement this afternoon:

There's evidently much wrong with King's statement, not least of all the fact that the Tsarnaev brothers who bombed Boston spent time growing up in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan, and were part of a family originally from war-torn Chechnya. Not Syria.

It also takes a long time for a Syrian refugee to apply for a coveted spot in the United States—precisely due to the fact that the United States is going to extraordinary lengths to prevent terrorists from slipping in, according to the Washington Post:

The United States has so far lagged far behind several European countries in this regard, largely due to the time-consuming screening procedure to block Islamist militants and criminals from entering the United States under the guise of being legitimate refugees.

As a result, it takes 18 to 24 months for the average Syrian asylum seeker to be investigated and granted refugee status. The process takes so long that the UNHCR takes biometric images of some applicants' irises to ensure that when refugee status is eventually granted, it goes to the same person who applied.

King hasn't been the only politician warning of an increased terror threat if the United States allows more Syrians into the country. But fellow Republican Marco Rubio struck a less incendiary tone this week. "We would be potentially open to the relocation of some of these individuals at some point in time to the United States," he said, according to CNN, but added that, "We'd always be concerned that within the overwhelming number of the people seeking refugee [status], someone with a terrorist background could also sneak in."

According to an investigation by Mother Jones in 2011, Rep. King might possess one of the most hawkish voices in Washington, but his record on terror has raised some eyebrows. King was one of the nation's most outspoken supporters of the Irish Republican Army and a prolific fundraiser for the Irish Northern Aid Committee (NorAid), allegedly the IRA's American fundraising arm. (King's office didn't respond to a request for comment on that article.) You can read Tim Murphy's fascinating report here.

King had previously told the Daily News, "Obviously, we have to take refugees... But we have to be extremely diligent, very careful."

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James Bond Gives $50,000 to a Sketchy Bernie Sanders Super-PAC

| Thu Sep. 10, 2015 3:58 PM EDT

James Bond's latest attempt to save the world didn't involve blowing things up or chasing down bad guys. Instead, Daniel Craig, the Englishman who plays Bond, acted with his wallet, making a healthy donation to support his preferred presidential candidate: Bernie Sanders. But in doing so, he may have played into a villain's hands.

Over the summer, Craig donated nearly $50,000 to a super-PAC called Americans Socially United, which claims to support the Vermont senator's dark-horse bid for the Democratic nomination, according to the Center for Public Integrity (CPI). The pro-Sanders super-PAC is run by a self-described lobbyist, Cary Lee Peterson, who "has routinely run afoul of creditors and the law," with two outstanding warrants in the state of Arizona. The group was initially called “Ready for Bernie Sanders 2016” and “Bet on Bernie 2016," both illegal uses of the candidate's name that caused confusion for Sanders supporters who accidentally donated to Peterson's PAC instead of the campaign. Peterson's group has not filed the legally required campaign finance disclosures, CPI reports.

Moreover, Sanders, who supports campaign finance reform, doesn't want super-PACs supporting his campaign and has asked Americans Socially United to stop its efforts on his behalf. His campaign sent Peterson a cease and desist letter in June, which Peterson continues to disregard.

But Peterson contends that he is simply trying to support his favorite candidate. “You don’t need to look back on my past,” Peterson told CPI. “I’m going out there trying to make a difference.”

Thus far, Craig is sticking to his guns, too. "Currently, I have been informed of no evidence to question that my donation has not been used as intended," he told CPI. "Should that situation occur, then clearly, I will review my position.”

Super-PACs, which are largely unregulated by the Federal Election Commission, can get away with a lot. As attorney Paul Ryan explained to CPI, the people running these super-PACs could legally use the money they raise “to buy a yacht and sail off into the sunset.”

Breaking: The US Will Accept 10,000 Syrian Refugees

| Thu Sep. 10, 2015 2:53 PM EDT
A boy sits on a bus on Wednesday after his family arrives in Athens from the Greek island of Lesbos.

After weeks of mounting pressure, the Obama administration has finally agreed to raise the quota of Syrian refugees allowed into the US to 10,000 in the next fiscal year, which begins October 1.

The US has so far played a pretty small role in the ongoing migrant crisis in Europe. Tens of thousands of Iraqis, Afghanis, and Syrians are fleeing war in their home countries in search of a better life elsewhere—prompting dramatic scenes as migrants use any means possible to get to countries across Western Europe.

So far, only about 1,500 Syrians have been allowed into the US—out of roughly four million that have poured out of the country to escape attacks by ISIS and their own government since the start of the civil war. Meanwhile, European countries are accepting many more, as they open their borders to hundreds of thousands of migrants: Germany alone approved 42,680 Syrian asylum applications in 2014, according to the Guardian.

Germany expects to receive 800,000 refugees in total this year, according to CNN.

Today, President Barack Obama opened the door a crack more, announcing the US will be prepared to handle 10,000 Syrian migrants, according to Reuters:

The number reflects a "significant scaling up" of the US commitment to accept refugees from the war-torn country and to provide for their basic needs, White House press secretary Josh Earnest.

That influx of Syrians, in addition to refugees from other parts of the world, would push the total number of refugees taken in by the US to around 100,000, according to the New York Times.

Sanders Leads Clinton in Iowa in New Poll

| Thu Sep. 10, 2015 1:24 PM EDT
Bernie Sanders in Grinnell, Iowa, last week.

Bernie Sanders is steadily creeping ahead of Hillary Clinton in the early nomination states. The Vermont senator has led Clinton, the presumed front-runner, in the past few polls in New Hampshire, posting a 9-point lead in an NBC/Marist poll from last weekend. Now, a new poll shows Sanders leading Clinton for the first time in Iowa, albeit by a narrow margin.

A Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday finds 41 percent of likely Iowa caucus voters supporting Sanders, with Clinton right behind him at 40 percent—still well within the poll's margin of error of 3.4 percentage points. Quinnipiac's numbers weren't too encouraging for Vice President Joe Biden, who had just 12 percent support in Iowa, a state that doomed his last presidential campaign.

Sanders has invested heavily in the earliest caucus and primary states, banking on a string of early victories to transform him from novelty challenger to legit contender. His campaign currently has 53 field organizers in 15 offices in Iowa. Clinton, in turn, bumped up her number of paid organizers last week from 47 to 78.

Even if Clinton trails in the first two states in the nomination process, she's still crushing Sanders in national polls. RealClearPolitics' average of national polls puts Clinton ahead of Sanders by a whopping 25 percent. Sanders isn't even the second choice of national Democrats, with Biden pulling in 22 percent to Sanders' 20 percent in the most recent nationwide poll, released by Monmouth University earlier this week.

Still, Clinton's struggles in Iowa and New Hampshire must be troubling to the front-runner. No presidential candidate has won either party's overall nomination after losing Iowa and New Hampshire since...Bill Clinton in 1992.

Defiant Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis Could Face More Legal Trouble. This Time for Copyright.

| Wed Sep. 9, 2015 4:34 PM EDT
Mike Huckabee raises Kim Davis's arm in triumph before a jubilant crowd in Kentucky upon her release on Tuesday.

Yesterday, Kim Davis—the now-infamous Rowan County clerk who was held in contempt for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Kentucky—was released from a five-night stint in jail. Escorted by Mike Huckabee, the GOP presidential hopeful who helped throw the rally for her release, an emotional Davis threw her arms in the air, closed her eyes, and basked in the sounds of "Eye of the Tiger," Survivor's 1982 hit about being awesome.

Unfortunately for Davis, the writers of that song don't think Davis is so awesome—and they never agreed to let her or Huckabee broadcast their song at the rally. Survivor's Jim Peterik tweeted his disapproval, saying Davis would be receiving a "cease and desist" letter from his publisher:

CNN reports that Peterik was shocked to hear that his song was played at the rally:

"I was gobsmacked," he said. "We were not asked about this at all. The first time we saw it was on national TV." Peterik's co-writer, Frankie Sullivan, was also upset about the use of "Eye of the Tiger" and posted a message on Facebook to vent. "I would not grant her the rights to use Charmin!" he wrote.

This reaction is not completely uncommon when it comes to musicians and political events. When Donald Trump played Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World" at an event at Trump Tower in June to announce his candidacy, Young's longtime manager Elliot Roberts told Mother Jones that the use of the song was unauthorized. "Mr. Young is a longtime supporter of Bernie Sanders," he said.

Rick Perry Just Lost His South Carolina Campaign Headquarters

| Wed Sep. 9, 2015 4:15 PM EDT

By most accounts, Rick Perry's presidential bid is in trouble. Last month, the campaign announced that it would no longer be able to pay its staff across the country. Now, to make matters worse, it's had to move out of its campaign headquarters in the key primary state of South Carolina.

So what's the reason for the move? Perry state chairman Katon Dawson—who had provided the office space in Columbia—initially told CNN that a realtor had found a "hot new client" for the space. Later on Tuesday, Dawson gave a different account to a local television station in Columbia: The campaign, he said, chose to move its headquarters to another one of Dawson's properties, because of "safety concerns."

Whatever the reason for the move, Perry is struggling in South Carolina. On Saturday, the state's GOP chairman said the campaign was "on life support" in the state and expressed skepticism that Perry would be able to drum up the $40,000 needed to get on the South Carolina primary ballot.

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Lawmakers to NFL: Cheerleaders Deserve to Be Treated Like Human Beings

| Wed Sep. 9, 2015 3:53 PM EDT
The Oakland Raiderettes in 2014. In July of this year, California passed a law saying pro cheerleaders should be paid at least minimum wage.

Before the start of a new football season Thursday, policymakers from across the country are urging NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to address an old problem: The mistreatment of the women cheering on the sidelines. Nineteen lawmakers from eight states sent a letter to Goodell on Wednesday urging teams to pay cheerleaders minimum wage.

The letter comes after cheerleaders from five NFL teams—the Oakland Raiders, Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, Cincinnatti Bengals, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers—sued their respective teams last year for sub-minimum-wage pay and degrading working conditions (think "jiggle tests" and fines for bringing the wrong pom-poms). Though the allegations in each lawsuit differed slightly, they centered on a core issue: Cheerleaders are currently classified as independent contractors rather than employees, allowing teams to pay meager wages and constantly threaten to cut members from the squad. The lawsuits led California policymakers to pass a law in July classifying cheerleaders for pro teams as employees.

"We shouldn't have to go state by state to make this happen," says New York Assemblywoman Nily Rozic, who introduced similar legislation to protect cheerleaders earlier this year. "The NFL should make it a league policy."

The letter, signed by policymakers from eight states, urges Goodell to classify cheerleaders as employees. Given the similarities in the five lawsuits, it reads, "there is reason to believe that the issue of misclassification and wage theft is not just prevalent among the teams that have been sued."

Read the full letter below:



Cage-Free Eggs Are Good News for Chickens—but They Won't Save McDonald's

| Wed Sep. 9, 2015 3:21 PM EDT

One week after McDonald's announced that its breakfast menu was going to be an all-day thing, the fast-food chain gave customers a reason to feel a bit better about it: Soon your Egg McMuffin will be made with cage-free eggs.

Because of the recent, massive outbreak of avian flu, egg prices are now sky high, with no signs of dropping—and cage-free eggs are typically more expensive than conventional.

Today McDonald's said its 16,000 franchises in the United States and Canada will make the transition over the next 10 years (even though competitor Burger King has committed to going cage-free by 2017). The company already buys around 13 million cage-free eggs every year but will soon source all 2 billion eggs purchased annually from cage-free farms.

It's worth noting that "cage-free" isn't always all it's cracked up to be. Earlier this year my colleague Tom Philpott wrote about how USDA regulations that animals must have "year-round access...to the outdoors, shade, shelter, exercise areas, fresh air, clean water for drinking, and direct sunlight, suitable to the species, its stage of life, the climate, and the environment" can be subject to interpretation. Animal rights activists who investigated cage-free egg producer Petaluma found hens were still in poor condition:

Footage taken from within the Petaluma facilities shows lots of birds wallowing tightly together, often amidst what looks like significant buildup of their own waste. The narrators use words like "stench, " "filth," and "misery" to describe the scene; and show several birds in obvious bad health—birds with blisters, missing feathers, one clearly caked with shit—along with birds that appear to be in decent shape. The crew dramatically rescues one pathetically injured bird, handing her over the fence, one activist to another, and whisking her to a vet in Berkeley, who declares her in dismal shape.

McDonald's has been trying hard lately to rebrand itself, succumbing to consumer demands for healthier fare in the face of a increasingly dismal business outlook. Today's announcement also included details about new menu items, including a new salad containing baby kale (an ingredient the company once said it would never use), and plans to replace liquid margarine with real butter. McDonald's has also stopped serving chicken raised on antibiotics. It sells milk from cows not treated with artificial growth hormones, and last year it launched a campaign that utilized behind-the-scenes videos to prove it was serving real food.

It's hard to say whether McDonalds' efforts will give the company the boost it needs—even all-day breakfast is not a sure win, the Motley Fool recently argued. What's more, the company still has an image problem: It continues to face criticism over low pay for workers, employee safety, and ads that target children.

Another wrinkle: The timing of McDonald's all-day breakfast launch is not exactly ideal. Because of the recent, massive outbreak of avian flu, egg prices are now sky high, with no signs of dropping—and cage-free eggs are typically more expensive than conventional. (McDonald's claims it won't raise prices.)

Still, animal rights advocates herald today's announcement as a step in the right direction. "This is a watershed moment in a decades-long effort to eliminate the cruelest confinement from our food supply," Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, said in a press release. "McDonald’s admirable move makes clear that egg production's future is cage-free."

This Is the Dumbest Thing Said in the Planned Parenthood Hearing (So Far)

| Wed Sep. 9, 2015 12:26 PM EDT

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) would feed America's hungry children—if only Planned Parenthood weren't eating up so much (.00015 percent) of the federal budget.

That's what he said in Wednesday's House Judiciary Committee hearing on the undercover sting videos that allegedly show Planned Parenthood employees selling fetal parts in violation of federal law. The hearing is part of a drive to strip the group of the $500 million in federal funds it uses to support family planning care.

"Could you please tell me why Planned Parenthood needs to get over half a billion dollars of federal funding every year when there are other pressing needs, such as feeding hungry children, that we maybe we should be putting that money into?" Stensenbrenner asked Priscilla Smith, the director of the Program for the Study of Reproductive Justice at Yale Law School.

"The question is whether Congress should appropriate another half-billion dollars plus to Planned Parenthood when we could be spending that money on feeding hungry children," he continued. "This is a question of priorities. I'd like to know what your priority is: Planned Parenthood, or feeding hungry children?"

Watch the hearing here.

Mexico Just Hilariously Trolled US Soccer Fans Thanks to Donald Trump

| Wed Sep. 9, 2015 12:20 PM EDT

When Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president, he trolled Mexico with his criminals-and-rapists rant. Now Mexico is trolling right back in hilarious fashion.

The United States and Mexico will face off at the Rose Bowl on October 10 to decide which team will go to the 2017 Confederations Cup, a major World Cup warm-up tournament. Every game between the two neighbors is a hatefest, so Azteca Deportes, the Mexican TV channel that's airing the game, used clips from Trump's announcement speech to mock Mexico's US opponents.

"We don't have victories anymore," Trump says as footage rolls of Mexican players scoring goal after goal against the US. "The American dream is dead," he continues, as the Mexican team lifts the North American championship trophy they easily won this summer after the US suffered an embarrassing loss in the semifinals. The ad even reminds Trump who Mexico is actually sending to the US instead of the criminals he claims: The ad shows Cuauhtémoc Blanco, Giovano Dos Santos, and other Mexican soccer stars who have come to play in the US—and often been among the best players in America's own league.

Watch the video, laugh, and then cheer on the US to a win against Mexico on October 10.