Political MoJo

This Anti-Gay Candidate's Message Is Bigger in Moscow Than Massachusetts

| Mon Oct. 13, 2014 9:28 AM EDT
Scott Lively in the new Russian film "Sodom"

Even though he's running to be the governor of Massachusetts, Scott Lively makes no secret of his extreme anti-gay views. The evangelical pastor, who's being sued by gay-rights groups for his involvement in Uganda's "Kill the Gays" bill, has gotten flack on the campaign trail for his beliefs, even encountering some raucous booing at a gubernatorial forum earlier in the year.

Lively knows that his focus on traditional values makes him an unpopular choice in the first state to legalize same-sex marriage. "The only way Scott Lively is going to become governor of Massachusetts is by a miracle of God," he told MassLive last month.

While Lively's views can't find much domestic audience, they play well in Vladimir Putin's Russia. Lively's anti-gay zeal is on display in Sodom, a new documentary that aired on Russian television last month, to much acclaim. The film was produced by famously anti-gay TV host Arkady Mamontov, who once implied that the Chelyabinsk meteorite explosion was caused by the gay rights movement. The film aired on Rossiya-1, Russia's main government-funded TV channel.

"For American homosexuals, this man, Scott Lively, is public enemy number one," intones the film's narrator. On camera, Lively speaks about the gay "agenda," which seeks "anti-discrimination policy" in the name of ultimate "societal conquest." Lively insists that "The average American is not in favor of homosexuality. But they are afraid to speak publicly about it, because the gays have so much power and they can do harm to those people."

"The average American is not in favor of homosexuality. But they are afraid to speak publicly about it, because the gays have so much power."

Lively brings the film's producers to the headquarters of the Human Rights Campaign in Washington, DC. Set against a dramatic soundtrack, Lively paces outside. "This organization, instead of focusing on the true needs of people around the world, they are trying to declare that homosexuality is a human right," Lively says. "They spend vast amounts of money to promote this agenda around the world instead of defending genuine human rights."

This is just the latest entry on Lively's anti-gay résumé, as my colleague Mariah Blake has reported. In 1995, Lively coauthored The Pink Swastika, a book that argues that gay Nazis inspired the Holocaust because Judaism forbids homosexuality. In 2007, Lively went on a 50-city tour of Russia and other ex-Soviet republics to warn of the "homosexual agenda." In 2009, he gave a five-hour presentation on Ugandan national television calling homosexuality a disease and claiming that gays aggressively recruit children.

It's unclear if Lively's segment in this film was shot before he declared his candidacy for governor in September 2013. Yet it's a revealing comment on the state of American (and Russian) politics that a candidate can find more traction for his extreme anti-gay views in Moscow than Mattapan.

Take a look at the video below. (The Lively segment starts at 8:17; he arrives at HRC at 12:00.)

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Second US Patient Tests Positive for Ebola

| Sun Oct. 12, 2014 1:55 PM EDT
Dr. Tom Frieden in the process of undergoing a protocol-required decontamination procedure

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that a hospital worker who cared for Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian patient who died of Ebola last Wednesday, has tested positive for the Ebola virus. This is the first case of Ebola being transmitted in the United States. Officials blame a "breach of protocol" during treatment of Duncan—and although all healthcare workers who came into contact with Duncan were wearing protective clothing, Dr. Thomas Frieden, the CDC director responsible for overseeing agency action against the Ebola crisis, said additional cases are possible because of the breach.

Frieden did not disclose the specifics of the breach, but he did stress the importance of following isolation protocol. "The bottom line is we know how Ebola spreads," he said a morning press conference. "We know how to stop it from spreading. But it does re-emphasize how meticulous we have to be on every single aspect of the control measures—from rapid diagnosis, to effective isolation, to effective care, with infection control, to scrupulous contact investigation."

Frieden also said that "while this is bad news, it is not news that should bring about panic." Health officials emphasize that the virus is not contagious during the incubation stage, which typically lasts 8-10 days. Ebola can only be contracted through direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person.

The Texas Department of State Health Serviced announced in a statement Sunday that, after the patient reported a fever Friday night, she was put in isolation and officials began the process of interviewing those with whome she had come into contact. One additional person has already been placed in isolation and another 18 are being closely monitored.

"We knew a second case could be a reality, and we've been preparing for this possibility," said Dr. David Lakey, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services. "We are broadening our team in Dallas and working with extreme diligence to prevent further spread."

Kids, Obama Is Going to Close Gitmo And This Time He Means It.

| Fri Oct. 10, 2014 4:46 PM EDT
"Don't make me pull this prison camp over. Because I will."

Scene: President Obama, driving slowly toward the White House, announces yet again that he wants to shut down the Guantanamo prison camp. A clamor erupts in the back seat.

Kids, I've already told you a million times—I'm going to close Guantanamo.

This time I mean it. And no bellyaching.

Listen, I know you don't like it, but it's time we behaved like civilized human beings.

I don't care who started it. That doesn't make it right.

Will you please quiet down? I can't even hear my own executive order over all that racket!

I'm serious now. End of discussion.

Because I am your president, that's why!

Don't make me pull this prison camp over. Because I will.

Just wait until your next president hears about this. Hoo boy is she gonna be mad.

Keep it up and you won't be extralegally detaining anyone for a solid month, mister!

We've been over the drone thing. When you're a president you can do whatever you want with a drone.

Don't you "habeas schmabeas" me, young lady!

That's it! I am so drafting a new, even stronger statement as soon as we get home.

And stop asking if we're there yet! We'll end this War on Terror when we get there!

Hobby Lobby's Hypocrisy, Part 2: Its Retirement Plan STILL Invests in Contraception Manufacturers

| Fri Oct. 10, 2014 4:04 PM EDT
Hobby Lobby president Steve Green

When Obamacare compelled Hobby Lobby to buy employee health insurance plans that covered emergency contraception, the Green family, who own the national chain of craft stores, fought the law all the way to the Supreme Court. So what happened when Mother Jones reported that Hobby Lobby contributed millions of dollars to employee retirement plans with stock in companies that make emergency contraception?

According to Hobby Lobby president Steve Green, nothing.

That revelation came on Friday, when MSNBC reporter Irin Carmon published parts of an interview with Green, whose Supreme Court case resulted in the partial dismantling of Obamacare's contraception mandate.

Carmon asked Green for his response to the Mother Jones report, which noted that Hobby Lobby's employee retirement plans had stock holdings in companies manufacturing the very drugs and devices at the center of the Supreme Court case: PlanB, Ella, and two types of intrauterine devices. Green doesn't often speak to the press, so it was the first time he had publicly responded to this information since I first reported it in early April.

In the interview with Carmon, Green dismissed the idea that it mattered where his employee's 401(k) plans had indirect investments, telling her it was "several steps removed."

Of course, the Greens were also several steps removed from any emergency contraception Hobby Lobby's female employees may or may not have obtained through the company's insurance plan. And as I pointed out in April, divestment from certain companies does matter to many Christian business owners, who have fueled a cottage industry of mutual funds that screen for morally objectionable stocks.

But Green indicates he wasn't troubled enough by Mother Jones' report to investigate for himself or make any changes to Hobby Lobby's employee retirement plan:

Whether they do or not [invest in these drugs and devices], I couldn't confirm or deny it. I don't know if it's even true. Of course, the other question I would ask is, do those companies also provide a lot of life-saving products that our employees are dependent on? I don't know that either. But we've not made any changes.

Carmon also confronted Green with the overwhelming scientific evidence that using emergency contraception does not cause abortions. The Greens' contention that emergency contraception was a form of abortion was key to their argument that Obamacare violated their free exercise of religion. Read Carmon's whole story here.

If Wendy Davis Thinks She Can Win an Election by Pointing Out Her Opponent's Disability, She's Wrong

| Fri Oct. 10, 2014 3:39 PM EDT

Wendy Davis just released an ad attacking Greg Abbott, her opponent for governor in Texas, which is, to be blunt, bullshit. It's offensive and nasty and it shouldn't exist. She's basically calling Abbott a cripple.

There are a lot of good reasons not to like Greg Abbott. The fact that he's in a wheelchair isn't one of them.

UPDATE: I want to go deeper into this than I originally did because this post has obviously touched a nerve. As a lot of you have pointed out, the ad makes the point that Abbott won a tort reward, but that he supports making it harder for other people to do the same. That is a good and decent point to make. It is not, in my opinion, what the ad is about.

This ad says to me—and to a lot of other people—that Greg Abbott is unfit to serve because he is handicapped. The Davis campaign may not have intentionally attempted to play into people’s historic prejudice against the disabled, but that’s how the ad reads to me. Abbott shouldn’t be off limits to criticism because he’s in a wheelchair. And this may just have been an inartful attempt at a trenchant criticism. But there are ways to make a point and ways not to make a point and this ad is not the way to make that point.

What the Hell Is Going On in North Korea? Here Are the 5 Best Rumors About Kim Jong-Un

| Fri Oct. 10, 2014 2:50 PM EDT
Kim Jong-Un with his wife, Ri Sol Ju, in 2012

North Korea's Kim Jong-Un—known as "Supreme Leader," or "Fatty the Third," depending on where you are—has been conspicuously absent over the past month. At a July event, he was seen walking with a limp, and he hasn't made a public appearance since September 3rd. That's unusual for Kim, who made 25 public appearances in July alone. North Korean State media was forced to admit he'd been suffering from "discomfort."

Most observers figured Kim was sidelined with gout, which might as well be a Kim family tradition. Today, Kim was expected to make a comeback for a deeply important annual event—the anniversary of the founding of North Korea's Workers' Party. He was, shockingly, a no-show. No one ever knows what's really happening in North Korea, but the rumor mill, abuzz for weeks, has gone wild with speculation. Here's some of the craziest rumors the world's come up with to explain Kim's extended absence:

1. Kim is being phased out as leader of North Korea. Some version of this is fast becoming a popular take on the situation. The Daily Beast's Gordon C. Chang posited that Kim may have been "politically weak" this whole time and kept around as a pawn because of the cult of personality surrounding his family. Chang suggests that a shadowy group of army officials—led by Gen. Hwang Pyong So—could be moving to take power, rendering Kim nothing more than a figurehead.

2. There was a straight-up coup, and Kim fled. In a more extreme version of Rumor 1, some are saying that Kim did indeed exercise total control, and that a coup was staged to get rid of him. People are even saying his wife was executed. Super-credible "Pyongyang watchers" point to tightened security in the capital, an odd shuffle of party leaders and dissatisfaction with Kim's violent rule to back this one up. So who'd want to take him out? The army is a candidate, as is Kim's powerful but little-known younger sister, who could've made a play. If you're wondering how seriously to take these rumors, consider that some people thought a particular general—Vice Marshal Jo Myong-Rok—overthrew Kim. That guy is dead.

3. Kim was addicted to cheese. Judging from state media coverage, Kim has steadily put on weight since taking power. His alleged cheese addiction—he's rumored to have sent out officials to procure rare, expensive cheese in Europe—may be the culprit. An Indian newspaper reported that cheese-induced gout didn't strike Kim: apparently, his ankles broke because he got too fat. So, he may be recovering in a hospital, or cheese rehab.

4. Kim got too excited in a military drill and injured himself. A British tabloid alleged, among other things, that Kim walked with a limp after involving himself in a military drill. After "crawling" and "rolling around," he's said to have "injured his ankle and knee... because he is overweight."

5. Kim is fine! North Korean officials insist there's no problem—health-related or otherwise. "We must firmly establish the monolithic leadership system of Kim Jong Un," North Korea's state-run newspaper said. Guess that settles it.

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Scott Walker Is Bragging About a Pro-Life Endorsement He Didn't Receive This Year

| Fri Oct. 10, 2014 1:41 PM EDT
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has been caught again playing fast and loose with the facts on the issue of abortion. Earlier this week, as I reported, Walker's campaign released a new ad about a bill he signed that restricted abortion rights for women in Wisconsin. In the ad, Walker says, "the bill leaves the final decision to a woman and her doctor"—a statement that falsely implies that Walker supports a woman's right to choose an abortion, when in fact he wants to ban all abortions, even in cases of rape and incest.

Now, the Capital Times of Madison, Wis., reports that Walker's campaign website touts an endorsement from a pro-life group that Walker didn't actually receive this year. On his 2014 campaign website, Walker touts an endorsement by the group Pro-Life Wisconsin. Under the "Walker on Values" section, it reads:

In my campaign for governor, I am proud to have been endorsed by Wisconsin Right to Life, which recognized my long commitment to right to life issues and noted that my election "would greatly contribute to building a culture of life where the most vulnerable members of the human family are welcomed and protected."

I was also endorsed by Pro-Life Wisconsin which said that a Walker Administration "will have far-reaching, positive effects for Wisconsin citizens who value the dignity of all innocent human life."

Here's the problem: That's not true. Pro-Life Wisconsin endorsed Walker during the 2010 gubernatorial campaign and the 2012 recall election. But the group did not endorse him in this year's gubernatorial race, as the Capital Times reported:

Pro-Life Wisconsin evaluates political candidates by their responses to a 10-question survey sent during each election cycle. In order to receive an endorsement, a candidate must answer "yes" to every question—giving them a "100 percent pro-life" rating—and complete an interview with members of the political action committee board.

"Scott Walker did not complete our 2014 candidate survey and therefore is ineligible for an endorsement," wrote Matt Sande, director of the Pro-Life Wisconsin Victory Fund PAC, in an email. "His campaign manager stated in a letter that 'our campaign will not be completing any interest group surveys or interviews.'"

That didn't stop Walker's website from listing Pro-Life Wisconsin as an endorser. Neither the Walker campaign nor Matt Sande, who runs Pro-Life Wisconsin's Victory Fund PAC, responded to requests for comment.

The Supreme Court Just Blocked Scott Walker's Voter ID Law

| Fri Oct. 10, 2014 10:51 AM EDT
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker

Update, Sunday, October 19: On Saturday, the Supreme Court upheld Texas' "discriminatory" voter ID law, potentially disenfranchising some 600,000 largely minority voters ahead of the midterms.

Update, Wednesday, October 15: After a federal trial court struck down Texas' "discriminatory" new voter ID law last week, a federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday that the state can enforce the restrictive law after all in November. Opponents of the law may file an emergency appeal to the Supreme Court.

On Thursday evening, two separate courts blocked restrictive voter ID laws in Wisconsin and Texas that could have disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of mostly black and Latino voters in the upcoming November midterm elections.

Both states' laws would have required voters to provide photo identification before casting their ballots. Such laws reduce minority and youth turnout, according to a Government Accountability Office study released Wednesday.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court issued an emergency order blocking a voter ID law Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed in 2011. The court cited no reason for its move, which is common for emergency orders. Voting rights advocates challenging the law had charged that if it were in effect in November it would "virtually guarantee chaos at the polls," the New York Times reported, as the state would not have enough time to issue IDs and train poll workers before the election. There are about 300,000 registered voters in Wisconsin who lack an ID. Most of them are black or Hispanic.

Also on Thursday, a federal trial court in Texas struck down that state’s voter ID law, ruling that it overly burdened minority voters, who are less likely to have a government-issued ID, and as such violated the Voting Rights Act. More than 600,000 registered voters in Texas lack appropriate IDs.

The move by the Supreme Court reverses a recent trend by the high court upholding voting restrictions. The court upheld a law in Ohio that cut down on early voting, as well as a measure North Carolina enacted in 2013 eliminating same-day registration and banning the counting of ballots accidentally cast at the wrong precinct.

Both Texas and Wisconsin had claimed their laws would crack down on voter fraud. Confirmed instances of in-person voter fraud are rarer than UFO sightings.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for October 10, 2014

Fri Oct. 10, 2014 9:31 AM EDT

US Army paratroopers transported over 2,500 pounds of medical supplies and food to their comrades on the ground. (Photo by Sgt. Juan F. Jimenez, 1BCT, 82nd ABN DIV PAO)

Sen. Inhofe Blocks Funds for Ebola Intervention

| Thu Oct. 9, 2014 7:17 PM EDT

Update: On Friday, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said in a statement that "after careful consideration," he would be lifting his hold on $750 million in emergency Ebola funds.

House legislators have approved the transfer of $750 million toward the fight to contain Ebola, which continues to rapidly spread across West Africa. The figure is still below the $1 billion request from the Department of Defense—and the budget battle is not over. It is currently holed up in the Senate dependent on Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), a ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, to give his approval.

After Sen. Inhofe and Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee initially raised concerns, a limit of $50 million was put on the transfer until the DoD provided details on how the money would be spent to address the crisis. Now, with plans to deploy 4,000 troops to the region, $750 million to fund a six-month mission has been approved by both the House Armed Services Committee and the Appropriations subcommittee. According to The Hill, however, a spokesperson from Inhofe's office confirmed the Senator would not change his mind even in light of approval from other committees because the expense "would add demands on a defense budget already stretched thin." The money would come from an account currently funding the war in Afghanistan.

There has already been one fatality from the virus in the US, heightening concerns that more could follow, and health officials are saying the epidemic in Africa is spiraling out of control. Last week a top US health official said the Ebola epidemic could have been contained and suggested sequester budget cuts disabled early response efforts. This week ranking members of the Congressional Subcommittee that oversees the budgets for the National Institutes of Health and The Centers for Control Disease and Prevention called for a hearing into the matter.

A statement from Appropriations subcommittee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J) confirms that Congress understands the urgency required:

“The world is facing a severe global health crisis emanating from West Africa. The United States is stepping up to lead the international response to the Ebola outbreak and Congress will ensure that the President’s request is fully and quickly funded," Appropriations subcommittee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) said in a statement.

Committemembers are hoping to convince Inhofe to change his mind:

"We understand that the administration has provided information to answer some questions that Sen. Inhofe had, and that they are hoping he will sign off soon so that they can go forward," said a member of the Senate Armed Service Committee staff.