Blogs

This Kid's Reaction To Hillary Clinton's Campaign Video Is So Amazing

| Mon Apr. 13, 2015 1:42 PM EDT

Hillary Clinton announced her presidential bid yesterday. There were a lot of reactions! Conservatives had reactions! Liberals had reactions! Lions, tigers, and bears had reactions! All of those reactions were garbage. This is the one true reaction.

 

Zeke is ready for Hillary. Just not in the way she'd probably expect...(This was Z's immediate reaction to viewing HRC's announcement video. Instant meltdown.)

Posted by Erin Celello on Sunday, April 12, 2015

Children are our future.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Saudi Arabia's Shiny New Air Campaign Not Working Any Better Than Anyone Else's

| Mon Apr. 13, 2015 11:31 AM EDT

Back when Egypt started bombing Libya and Saudi Arabia started bombing Yemen, American conservatives were jubilant. That's the kind of swift, decisive action Barack Obama ought to be taking against our enemies in the Mideast. Never mind that this already was the kind of action he had taken. It didn't really count because he had been too slow to ramp up attacks and had demonstrated too little bloodthirstiness in his announcements. Did he really want to "destroy" ISIS or merely "degrade" it? Dammit man, make up your mind!

This weekend, though, the LA Times reminded us that regardless of who's doing it, air strikes alone simply have a limited effectiveness in wars like this:

Officials in Saudi Arabia, the region's Sunni Muslim power, say the air campaign is dealing a decisive blow against the Houthis, whom they view as tools of aggression used by Shiite Muslim-led Iran in an expanding proxy war....However, residents say the strikes have done little to reverse the territorial gains of the insurgents and restore exiled President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi to power in the quickly fragmenting country.

....Security experts question whether the coalition can achieve its goals through airstrikes alone. Saudi officials have not ruled out sending in tanks, artillery and other ground forces massed along the frontier. But Saudi leaders appear wary of such a move against the Houthis, hardened guerrillas who belong to an offshoot of Shiite Islam known as Zaidism.

The last time the Saudis fought the Houthis in the rugged mountains of northern Yemen, in 2009, more than 100 of their men were killed. Pakistan's parliament voted Friday to stay out of the conflict, a blow to the Saudis, who had reportedly asked the country to send troops, fighter jets and warships.

"This [war] will turn Yemen into Saudi Arabia's Vietnam," said Mohammed al-Kibsi, a veteran journalist and commentator in Yemen's capital, Sana, where the Houthis seized control in September.

Air strikes are useful components of a wider war. But to the extent anyone can truly win these conflicts in the first place, it's going to take ground troops. Lots and lots of well-trained, well-equipped, and well-motivated ground troops. Saudi Arabia is "wary" of committing ground troops in Yemen and Pakistan is staying out. In Iraq, it's still a big question whether the Iraqi army is up to the task. And to state the obvious, even among America's most bellicose hawks, there's no real appetite for sending in US ground troops.1

This is just the way it is, and everyone knows it. Air strikes can do a bit of damage here and there, and they can serve as symbolic demonstrations of will. But none of these conflicts—not in Yemen, not in Iraq, not in Syria, and not in Libya—are going to be affected much by air campaigns alone. They need ground troops. If you loudly insist that Obama is a weakling as commander-in-chief but you're not willing to commit to that, you're just playing political games.

1And don't fall for the "special ops" ploy. Politicians who want to sound tough but don't want to ruin their careers by suggesting we deploy a hundred thousand troops in Iraq again, are fond of suggesting that we just need a bit of targeted help on the ground from special ops. This is clueless nonsense meant to con the rubes, but nothing more.

This Chart Shows How State Taxes Screw You

| Mon Apr. 13, 2015 9:25 AM EDT

A lot of people think the federal tax code should be more progressive, but it looks downright socialist compared to the typical state tax code. A chart released last week by Citizens for Tax Justice puts it in context, showing how the wealthy typically pay lower state tax rates:

Citizens for Tax Justice

This problem isn't limited to conservative states: According to a recent report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), every state places a higher effective tax rate on the poor than it does on the rich. In fact, several of the nation's most politically progressive states count among the worst when it comes to shoveling the tax burden onto low-income people and the middle class.

The nation's most regressive tax code belongs to Washington, a state that was ranked by The Hill last year as the bluest in the country based on its voting patterns and Democratic dominance. The poorest 20 percent of Washingtonians pay an effective state tax rate of 16.8 percent, while the wealthiest 1 percent effectively pay just 2.4 percent of their income in taxes.

There's a clear explanation for that: Washington has no income tax and thus heavily relies on a sales tax that disproportionately affects the poor. What's harder to grasp is why Washington's liberals put up with it.

Structural conditions help explain why regressive taxes endure in Washington and many other states. Some states require supermajorities to raise taxes or have constitutions that mandate a flat tax. In Washington's case, voters approved a personal income tax in 1932 by a two to one margin but were overruled the following year by the state Supreme Court, which decided that a constitutionally mandated 1 percent cap on property taxes also applied to income. An income tax bill passed by the state legislature a few years later was likewise struck down.

But the courts, weirdly, are no longer the biggest obstacle to a fairer tax code in Washington; over the years, they've gradually overturned most of the legal precedents that had been used to invalidate an income tax, and most experts believe such a tax would become law today if passed. The bigger problem is voters. In 2010, Washingtonians rejected by a whopping 30-point margin a proposal to establish an income tax that would only have applied to people earning more than $200,000 a year.

How do you square this with California, where, just two years later, a similar tax hike on the wealthy easily sailed through? Or with Oregon, Washington's political cousin, which has long had a progressive income tax?

I asked John Burbank, the executive director of the Seattle-based Economic Opportunity Institute and an architect of Washington's failed 2010 income tax measure, why he thought the measure had failed to pass. At first, he cited the off-year election and opposition scare tactics. But when pressed, he offered a third explanation that I think makes more sense: "There is almost like a cultural prohibition that exists."

In other words people, liberal or conservative, who live in states with low or no income taxes get used to paying little. They may differ on protecting the environment, legalizing weed, or raising the minimum wage, but when you start to mess with the system on which they've built their personal finances, they get scared and balk. This is why changing the tax code is so hard, even in states where people may in their hearts believe it's the right thing to do.

Watch John Oliver and Michael Bolton Serenade the Unsung Heroes Working for the IRS

| Mon Apr. 13, 2015 8:51 AM EDT

Everyone hates the IRS. And as Tax Day nears, complaints about the much-despised agency grow louder and angrier. On the latest "Last Week Tonight," John Oliver dedicated his show to defending the IRS and its employees, who are subjected to working a thankless, challenging job everyday.

"Blaming the IRS because you hate paying your taxes is a bit like slapping your checkout clerk because the price of eggs has gone up," Oliver said. "It's not her fault, she's just trying to help you get out of the store."

Recent budgets cuts, coupled with constant changes to complicated tax laws only make the situation worse.

Of course, asking viewers to sympathize with the IRS is a difficult task. To help, Oliver recruited singer Michael Bolton to serenade a wonderful ode to the agency, "the anus of our country." Because as the lyrics note, you'll never "miss your anus till it's gone." Watch below:

Marco Rubio Used to Believe in Climate Science. Now He's Running for President.

| Mon Apr. 13, 2015 6:15 AM EDT

When the Florida state Legislature opened its 2007 session, Speaker Marco Rubio, a Miami Republican, took the stage to lay out his priorities for the year. Near the top of his list was a focus on clean energy.

"Global warming, dependence on foreign sources of fuel, and capitalism have come together to create opportunities for us that were unimaginable just a few short years ago," he said, in a video recording unearthed by BuzzFeed. Rubio predicted that legal caps on greenhouse gas emissions were inevitable, and he argued that Florida should prepare to become "an international model of energy efficiency and independence" and the "Silicon Valley" of clean energy.

Several years later, as a junior senator offering his party's rebuttal to President Barack Obama's 2013 State of the Union address, Rubio was singing a different tune. Solar and wind energy "should be a part of our energy portfolio," he said, but the United States should focus its efforts on extracting coal, oil, and natural gas "instead of wasting more money on so-called clean-energy companies like Solyndra." (Solyndra was a solar power company in California that failed spectacularly in 2011 after receiving a $500 million grant from the Obama administration. Republicans seized on it as a textbook case of the president's foolhardy energy agenda, but in reality the company was just badly managed.)

Rubio's comments since then have been more consistent: He argues that government policies to limit emissions are pointless in the face of rising pollution from developing countries. And, he says, such policies are certain to be "devastating" to the US economy.

He also rejects the notion that scientists are in agreement about the role humans have played in causing global warming. "I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it," he told ABC News last May.

On Monday, Rubio is expected to announce his candidacy for president. Check out the video above for a look back at his thoughts on climate change.

This story has been revised.

The Drought Is Behind California's Skyrocketing West Nile Virus Numbers

| Mon Apr. 13, 2015 6:00 AM EDT

California's drought isn't bad news for everyone: turns out West Nile Virus has been thriving in the state's parched climate. The California Department of Public Health announced last week that in 2014 it recorded the most cases of the potentially deadly mosquito-borne illness since it first showed up in the Golden State more than a decade ago. The CDPH tallied 801 diagnoses, including 31 deaths—the most ever in California.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

The Mountain Goats' New Album Takes On the Noble Warriors of Professional Wrestling

| Mon Apr. 13, 2015 6:00 AM EDT

The Mountain Goats
Beat the Champ
Merge

Don't be fooled by the easygoing folk-pop melodies and likable everyday-guy vocals: John Darnielle, leader of California's long-running Mountain Goats, writes some of the sharpest, most thoughtful songs around. On Beat the Champ, he turns to professional wrestling, one of his cultural fixations (another being death metal), and as usual, treats his characters with perceptive compassion, savoring the orchestrated drama of the "sport" without a hint of condescension. While "The Legend of Chavo Guerrero" ("I need justice in my life") highlights the uplift that wrestling's morality plays provide for the fans, more often Darnielle depicts the daily struggles, emotional and physical, of its participants in and out of the ring. From "Choked Out" ("I can see the future, it's a real dark place") to "The Ballad of Bull Ramos" ("Get around fine on one leg/Lose a kidney, then go blind/Sit on my porch in Houston/Let the good times dance across my mind"), his noble hard-luck warriors are not soon forgotten.
 

Here's Hillary Clinton's Video Launching Her Campaign

| Sun Apr. 12, 2015 3:03 PM EDT

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton officially kicked off her run for president with an email her campaign reportedly sent to her supporters on Sunday. The launch marks her second run for the White House after she was defeated by then Senator Barack Obama in 2008.

Sunday's long-awaited announcement follows years of speculation over when and how Clinton would formally launch her presidential campaign. In recent weeks, much of her team's energy has been focused on building a formidable army of advisers and key players. Earlier this month, Clinton signed a lease for her campaign headquarters in Brooklyn. Watch her video announcement below:

 

Never Tweet: A Play in 3 Acts

| Sun Apr. 12, 2015 3:02 PM EDT

Act 1

Act 2

Act 3

Curtain.

Gwyneth Paltrow Confuses Her Latest Master Cleanse with Attempt to Relate to the Poor

| Sun Apr. 12, 2015 10:21 AM EDT

Who better to speak to the struggles of food stamp recipients than Gwyneth Paltrow? The actress and founder of GOOP, the oft-ridiculed lifestyle blog that peddles everything from $900 throw blankets to $50 sunscreen, was recently summoned by chef Mario Batali in an Ice Bucket-esque challenge to join him in the fight against food stamp cuts.

A worthy cause for sure. But judging by the items she cobbled together to last her an entire week alone, it's difficult to take Paltrow's good intentions seriously:

I am no chef, but it looks to me as if the above snapshot would fail miserably in feeding a whole family for even just one meal, let alone a whole week. It does, however, look like the makings of an excellent detox recipe—if you happen to enjoy that kind of thing.

Out of touch is just how we like you, Gwyneth! Stay golden.

(h/t Jezebel)