Political MoJo

Nebraska Becomes First Conservative State in 40 Years to Repeal the Death Penalty

| Wed May 27, 2015 5:59 PM EDT

Nebraska legislators on Wednesday overrode the Republican governor's veto to repeal the state's death penalty, a major victory for a small but growing conservative movement to end executions. The push to end capital punishment divided Nebraska conservatives, with 18 conservatives joining the legislature's liberals to provide the 30 to 19 vote to override Gov. Pete Ricketts' veto—barely reaching the 30 votes necessary for repeal.

Today's vote makes Nebraska "the first predominantly Republican state to abolish the death penalty in more than 40 years," said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, in a statement shortly after the vote. Dunham's statement singled out conservatives for rallying against the death penalty and said their work in Nebraska is "part of an emerging trend in the Republican Party." (Nebraska has a unicameral, nonpartisan legislature, so lawmakers do not have official party affiliations.)

For conservative opponents of the death penalty, Wednesday's vote represents a breakthrough.  A month ago, overcoming the governor's veto still looked like a long-shot.  Conservatives make a number of arguments against the death penalty, including the high costs and a religion-inspired argument about taking life. "I may be old-fashioned, but I believe God should be the only one who decides when it is time to call a person home," Nebraska state Sen. Tommy Garrett, a conservative Republican who opposes the death penalty, said last month.

"I think this will become more common," Marc Hyden, national coordinator of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, said in a statement following the repeal vote. "Conservatives have sponsored repeal bills in Kansas, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Missouri, and Kentucky in recent years."

But conservative opponents of the death penalty have a tough slog ahead. Though support for the death penalty has reached its lowest point in 40 years, according to the latest Pew Research Center survey, 77 percent of Republicans still support it.

 

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Scott Walker Says Mandatory Ultrasounds Are "Just a Cool Thing" for Women

| Wed May 27, 2015 3:23 PM EDT

After months of keeping a low profile for a man very likely running for president, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is back in the headlines today with quite the outrageous quote. Walker, who was speaking in defense of a controversial abortion bill he signed into law that forces women seeking abortions to undergo an ultrasound, said in an interview on Friday the mandatory exams are "just a cool thing" for women.

I'll give you an example. I'm pro-life, I've passed pro-life legislation. We defunded Planned Parenthood, we signed a law that requires an ultrasound. Which, the thing about that, the media tried to make that sound like that was a crazy idea. Most people I talk to, whether they're pro-life or not, I find people all the time who'll get out their iPhone and show me a picture of their grandkids' ultrasound and how excited they are, so that's a lovely thing. I think about my sons are 19 and 20, you know we still have their first ultrasound picture. It's just a cool thing out there.

He went onto say Republicans shouldn't solely focus on abortion, but also embrace other key conservative issues. Nevertheless:

It certainly is a part of who we are and we shouldn't be afraid to talk about it, and we shouldn't be afraid to push back. When you think about Hillary Clinton, and you think about some others on the left, you say, I think it's reasonable, whether you're pro-life or not to say that taxpayers dollars shouldn't be spent to support abortion or abortion-related activities. Most Americans believe in that. There are many candidates on the left who don't share that belief.

Seriously, ladies. Why keep fighting for autonomous control over your bodies, when clearly mandatory ultrasounds are just so darn neat? Put down the pitchfork and embrace the red wave!

Listen to the Walker's interview, recorded by Right Wing Watch, below:

Your City Is Probably Not Going to Be Hit By A Terrorist Attack

| Wed May 27, 2015 2:32 PM EDT
Paris, France jumped 100 spots in the list of cities at risk for terror attacks after the January Charlie Hebdo massacre.

Americans are understandably terrified of terror attacks. But good news! These fears have nothing to do with actual data. According to a new tool released last week, no US cities are among the world's 50 most at risk of terror attacks.

The index, designed by UK based Verisk Maplecroft, a global risk assessment firm, calculates the risk of terror attacks in "1,300 of the world’s most important commercial hubs and urban centers" using historic trends. By logging and analyzing every reported attack or event per 100 square meters and calculating the frequency and severity of those incidents, Maplecroft's tool establishes a baseline for the past five years. Then, it compares that data with the number, frequency, and severity of attacks for the most recent year. Depending on the most recent statistics, cities move up or down on the list of cities at risk for terror attacks.

What cities are in danger? Cities near ISIS. Baghdad is the most terror prone city, followed by five other places in Iraq—including Mosul, an ISIS stronghold in northern Iraq, and Al Ramadi, ISIS's most recent hostile takeover. In just one year, as of February, over 1,000 residents of Baghdad lost their lives in one of the almost 400 terror attacks the city endured.

A total of 27 of the 64 countries at "extreme risk" are located in the Middle East, and 19 are in Asia. Residents living in the capital cities of Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, and Tripoli face some of the strongest risks of terror attacks as well. Maplecroft points to the risk of terror incidents in high-ranking countries like Egypt, Israel, Kenya, Nigeria, and Pakistan as major threats to US commercial interests.

And, recent events have triggered some cities to climb in the rankings. Prior to the Charlie Hebdo attack, Paris didn't even make the top 200 most at risk cities. But according to the current index, the French capital jumped over 100 spots, now coming in at 97. Increasing violence purported by African militant groups, including Boko Haram in Nigeria and Al Shabaab in Somalia, have heightened the risk of terror incidents in African nations, landing 14 countries in the top 64.

So stop freaking out about terror attacks, America.

Texas Wants Its Own Fort Knox

| Wed May 27, 2015 1:00 PM EDT

Texas independence—or paranoia—strikes again. In recent years, some Lone Star officials, including former Gov. Rick Perry, have flirted with secession. Last month the new Republican governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, asked the state national guard to monitor a US military exercise that some residents fear is cover for a federal takeover of the state that will use Walmarts as staging areas. And now the state is on the verge of seizing the gold owned by the state that is stored in New York City and building a massive bunker to hoard this booty.

Per the Houston Chronicle:

AUSTIN — Texas could get its own version of Fort Knox, the impenetrable depository for gold bullion, if the Legislature gets its way.

Under House Bill 483, approved unanimously on Tuesday by the state Senate, Comptroller Glenn Hegar would be authorized to establish and administer the state's first bullion depository at a site not yet determined.

No other state has its own state bullion depository, officials said.

The state government has about $1 billion in gold bullion stored outside the state, mostly in the basement of the Federal Reserve building in Manhattan. The gold has been there for years—because it's so annoying to move, it's easier to keep everyone's gold in the same place, and the financial center of the world is the most obvious place. When bullion changes hands, it's mostly on paper. So why does Texas now need to grab all its gold? Is it just because Texans don't trust New Yorkers? Is it really that simple?

Yes:

"New York will hate this," [state sen. Lois] Kolkhorst said of the bill that now goes to Gov. Greg Abbott to be signed into law. "To me, that and the fact that it will save Texas money makes it a golden idea."

The cost-cutting bit refers to the storage fees Texas has to pay to keep its gold offsite, although Texas would still have to shell out money for upkeep and security if it went the DIY route. Incidentally, Perry supported the Texas Bullion Depository when it was first proposed in 2013, telling Glenn Beck, "If we own it, I will suggest to you that that's not someone else’s determination whether we can take possession of it back or not."

But building a giant vault to house all the state's gold will be the easy part. The tough task? Safely and securely moving 57,000 pounds of gold from Gotham to Texas. Perhaps we now know the plot for the eighth Fast and Furious movie.

Bernie Sanders Has the Most Glorious 404 Error Page Ever

| Tue May 26, 2015 4:38 PM EDT

Think you've landed on the wrong page of Bernie Sanders' campaign site? Fear not. In order to help guide you back to the page you were trying to reach, Sanders, who just announced his presidential bid, created the most terrific error page of any 2016 candidate. Just take a look:

Follow his directions: "Just scoot down to the bottom of the page and you'll find your way back home to where you should be!" The site is further enhanced by the perfect URL: berniesanders.com/wtf.

Bravo, Bernie. The broken links may have turned into your first big win.

Hillary Clinton Store Features Pantsuit T-Shirt of Your Nightmares

| Tue May 26, 2015 11:12 AM EDT

Hillary Clinton's campaign store is open for business! The online store, stocked with coffee mugs and items emblazoned with Clinton's official 2016 logo, appears to feature the usual swag expected from a political campaign. But one piece of merchandise stands out. That's the "pantsuit t-shirt," which looks like this:

Love seeing Clinton continue to embrace the pantsuit jokes! But for $30, will supporters put their sartorial reputations on the line by wearing what is essentially an awful tuxedo t-shirt? As for the store's adorable "Future Voter" onesie? Nailed it.

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Kansas Republicans Have Come Up with a Disgraceful New Way to Screw the Poor

| Fri May 22, 2015 12:19 PM EDT

Starting in July, a new law in Kansas will restrict the amount of cash a welfare recipient can take out of ATM's to just $25 a day—a move that critics say introduces a whole new host of financial burdens—including high ATM fees and travel costs—when they access cash.

Max Ehrenfreund at the Washington Post explains:

Since most banking machines are stocked only with $20 bills, the $25 limit is effectively a $20 limit. A family seeking to withdraw even $200 in cash would have to visit an ATM 10 times a month, a real burden for a parent who might not have a car and might not live in a neighborhood where ATMs are easy to find.

The law, backed by a GOP-dominated Kansas legislature and Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, will benefit the pockets of large banks while taking money from poor families who rely on food stamps.

In Kansas's system, every withdrawal incurs a $1 fee, and if the beneficiary doesn't have a bank account, they will have to pay the ATM fee, too. Those fees might be worth it for some families, though, because the card issued by the state of Kansas isn't like a debit card from an ordinary bank. Ordinary debit cards allow their holders to make purchases for free in stores. In Kansas, beneficiaries get two free purchases a month. After that, they pay 40 cents every time they use the card to buy something.

The ostensible rationale for this redistribution of wealth is to minimize waste and prevent low income residents from spending their money on non-essentials like alcohol and the much-feared lobster feast. This is the demonizing-the-poor trope that Republican lawmakers frequently deploy to justify punitive control over how low income people spend their money. In addition to the limit on withdrawals, the state's new law carries restrictions to ludicrous levels by prohibiting spending on items such as swimming pools and fortune telling sessions.

As Mother Jones has written in the past, such concerns are wildly misplaced and seriously hurt the poor. President Obama recently addressed this conservative characterization, calling out Fox News for portraying the poor as lazy "leeches" eager to waste government funds.

Fortunately, Kansas' controversial new provision may actually turn out to be illegal, violating federal law that mandates welfare recipients "have adequate access to their cash assistance" without enduring high fees.
 

Josh Duggar Resigns From Family Research Council Amid Molestation Allegations

| Thu May 21, 2015 10:56 PM EDT

On Thursday, Josh Duggar resigned as head of the Family Research Council's lobbying arm amid allegations from a sealed police report obtained by In Touch Weekly that he sexually molested multiple underage girls when he was a teenager.

Duggar, the eldest son of the reality TV family on TLC's 19 and Counting, expressed regret for his actions in a statement on the Duggar family's Facebook page:

Twelve years ago, as a young teenager, I acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret. I hurt others, including my family and close friends. I confessed this to my parents who took several steps to help me address the situation. We spoke with the authorities where I confessed my wrongdoing, and my parents arranged for me and those affected by my actions to receive counseling. I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life.

Josh's parents Jim Bob and and Michelle Duggar reportedly knew about the alleged sexual misconduct, which began in 2002, for more than a year before reporting it to the authorities. After the Springdale Police Department received an anonymous tip in 2006, they investigated, but Duggar was never charged with anything. You can read the partially redacted police report here

The Duggars emerged as political players for the social conservative right in 2007, when Jim Bob, a one-time state representative, endorsed former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee for president. After the 2012 election, when the family backed Rick Santorum, Josh Duggar catapulted into conservative circles in Washington as the executive director of FRC Action.

The family remains an influential force among social conservatives due to its pro-life views and strong Christian faith. In December, Michelle Duggar pushed for the repeal of a measure in Arkansas that would have prevented housing and employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

In May, Jim Bob and Michelle endorsed Huckabee, calling him "a man of faith." As of Thursday night, Jim Bob's endorsement is still on Huckabee's presidential campaign site. Mother Jones has reached out to the Huckabee camp for comment.

mikehuckabee.com

 

Could LA's $15 Minimum Wage Sweep the Nation?

| Thu May 21, 2015 4:46 PM EDT
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti after announcing his support for a $15 minimum wage.

On Tuesday, Los Angeles became the third major West Coast city to pass a $15 minimum wage ordinance. Though the law won't fully go into effect until 2020, it's a huge deal. LA is larger than San Francisco and Seattle, the two other $15-an-hour cities, combined. It also has a much larger contingent of low-wage workers. The ordinance will give a raise to an estimated 750,000 Angelenos, or about 46 percent of the city's workforce.

LA's wage hike points to the potential for a major minimum wage boost to sweep the country. Although experts disagree about the LA measure's impact on growth and employment, the City Council passed it by a 14-to-1 margin. The $15 wage polls well in LA and nationally, despite a dearth of national politicians pushing for such a large increase. If organizers play their cards right, this suggests a $15 wage could gain traction in other cities.

"The facts and campaign brought to bear in LA were in many ways only a next step in the move to address income inequality."

So how did it happen? The original proposal, after all, was a more modest one. The measure's backers attribute their success to a combination of grassroots and national organizing. The umbrella group leading the push, the Raise the Wage Coalition, includes more than 260 local organizations from labor, business, entertainment, and the civil rights movement. It marshaled economic studies to justify a $15 wage and delivered more than 100,000 petition signatures in favor. But it also benefited from what organizers call "air support"—the national campaign to pressure Walmart and McDonald's into implementing a $15-an-hour base wage.

"It created a narrative that made it really hard for council members to simply look past the realities of what hard-working people are experiencing," says Rusty Hicks, executive secretary treasurer of the LA County Federation of Labor. "The facts and campaign brought to bear in LA were in many ways only a next step in the move to address income inequality."

The organizers are already eyeing other SoCal cities. "It is not our intention to just stop in LA," says Laphonza Butler, president of the Service Employees International Union in California and co-organizer, with Hicks, of Raise the Wage Coalition. "We need to raise the wage all across the region."

The group's next most likely contenders are Pasadena and West Hollywood.

Job-Seeker Hillary Clinton Posts Resume on LinkedIn

| Thu May 21, 2015 10:38 AM EDT

Have you heard the news? Hillary Clinton is on the hunt for a new gig.

And in an effort to attract prospective employers, the former secretary of state just joined LinkedIn with her very own profile. She even dressed up her page with an article on how to "jump-start small business." 

Enjoy the imminent deluge of spammy messages, Hillary! Everyone deserves a distraction from "sensitive but unclassified" emails.