Political MoJo

Did Obama Just Signal That the FCC Will Preserve Net Neutrality?

| Thu Oct. 9, 2014 6:54 PM EDT
Obama speaks at Cross Campus in Santa Monica, California.

Did President Obama just signal that the Federal Communication Commission will preserve net neutrality? Speaking this afternoon at Cross Campus, a tech incubator in Santa Monica's Silicon Beach, he had this to say (emphasis mine) about the FCC's proposed changes to net neutrality rules:

I made a commitment very early on that I am unequivocally committed to net neutrality. I think that it is what has unleashed the power of the internet and we don't want to lose that or clog up the pipes...I know one of the things that people are most concerned about is paid prioritization, the notion that some folks can pay a little more money and get better service, more exclusive access to customers though the internet. That's something I am opposed to. I was opposed to it when I ran, I continue to be opposed to it now. Now, the FCC is an independent agency. They came out with some preliminary rules that I think the netroots and a lot of the folks in favor of net neutrality were concerned with. My appointee [to the FCC], Tom Wheeler, knows my position. I can't...call him up and tell him exactly what to do. But what I've been clear about, what the White House has been clear about, is that we expect whatever final rules to emerge to make sure that we're not creating two or three or four tiers of internet. That ends up being a big priority of mine.

Expecting the preservation of net neutrality is not the same as guaranteeing it. But this is the strongest indication yet that Obama won't allow the FCC to push through its deeply unpopular plan to limit open access to the internet.

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Millennials Love Hillary Clinton Now

| Thu Oct. 9, 2014 2:56 PM EDT

The young'uns just love Hillary Clinton these days. A new poll from television network Fusion found that, should Clinton run for president, she's already got the support of 58 percent of 18-24 year-old Democrats. Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren trail far behind, garnering 13 and 9 percent, respectively.

If Hillary makes it to the general election, 50 percent of 18-24 year-olds say they would support her. Just 33 percent would back a hypothetical Republican nominee. White millennials split 41-41 percent on backing Hillary in a 2016 general election, but she crushes that hypothetical Republican among minority voters: 72 percent among black voters and 63 percent from Hispanics prefer the former secretary of state.

Clinton struggled with college-aged and other young voters when she last ran for president in 2008. But as I explained in April, Ready for Hillary, the super PAC paving the way for her eventual run, has been busy this year recruiting volunteers on college campuses across the country to beef up the Clinton machine and avoid the mistakes she made last time:

The group brought in former Obama campaign youth vote coordinator Rachel Schneider to oversee outreach to voters ages 16 to 30, with a particular focus on those still in school. Schneider has spent the last few months traveling around the country to set up satellite organizations on college campuses with the goal of attracting all of the best student organizers to Clinton's side before any other Democrat launches a presidential campaign.

...

"I've been focused on identifying students on campuses who are interested in being part of this movement from the ground floor," Schneider says. For Democratic-leaning students interested in a career in politics it's a no-brainer: leading a Students for Hillary group will position them as prime contenders for low-level jobs in Clinton's actual campaign.

Ready for Hillary has continued to ramp up its college efforts since the spring, sending the Hillary Bus crisscrossing the country. Over the course of three weeks in late August and early September, the group sent the bus of staffers to about a dozen schools in the south and west, including Clemson, South Carolina State, Claflin University, the University of Arkansas, UNLV, and the University of Colorado–Boulder, to setup pro-Clinton campus groups.

Another Black Teenager Fatally Shot by Police, Just Miles from Ferguson

| Thu Oct. 9, 2014 10:53 AM EDT
Crowds confront police near the scene in in south St. Louis where a man was fatally shot by an off-duty St. Louis police officer on Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014. St. Louis.

Nearly two months to the day after 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by police in Ferguson, another black teenager was fatally shot by a white officer in nearby St. Louis on Wednesday.

According to police, the yet-to-be named off-duty officer was chasing the teenager, later identified by family as Vonderrick Myers Jr., when the two began firing at each other. Police say Myers got off at least three rounds before the officer returned fire. They also say that a weapon was recovered at the scene, but witnesses including Myers' family are disputing the police account.

"He was unarmed,” said Teyonna Myers, apparently the victim's cousin. “He had a sandwich in his hand, and they thought it was a gun. It’s like Michael Brown all over again.”

The officer, a 6-year veteran, fired at Myers 17 times.

The news triggered fresh riots in St. Louis, where roughly 200 people took to the streets overnight in protest. Police chief Samuel Dotson said several police cars were damaged.

The latest shooting comes as Ferguson prepares for renewed unrest in the case a grand jury chooses not to indict Darren Wilson, the officer who shot and killed Brown in early August.

Did Budget Cuts Hamper Response to Ebola and Enterovirus? Democrats Push for Hearing

| Thu Oct. 9, 2014 10:25 AM EDT

Yesterday the Ranking Members of the Labor, Heath and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee and the Appropriations Committee called for a hearing to examine how budget cuts may have led to not only the Ebola epidemic, but also the proliferation of Enterovirus D68, a rapidly spreading pediatric respiratory disease that has sickened 500 children in 42 states across the US.

Members of the subcommittee, which oversees the funding for two primary federal public health agencies—the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health—penned a letter to the subcommittee chairman, Congressman Jack Kingston, detailing the effects budget cuts have had on response efforts:

"As you know, our subcommittee has been forced to make difficult choices due to our constrained budget environment over the past four years. That has resulted in the purchasing power of the NIH being reduced by 10 percent over the last four years. Our public health infrastructure at the CDC and HHS has also been forced to make do with less. CDC's program that supports our state and local public health professionals who are working on the front lines to contain this current Ebola epidemic has been cut by 16 percent over the last four years after adjusting for inflation. The program at HHS that helps hospitals be ready to contain deadly epidemics like Ebola and prepare for patient surges from outbreaks like Entereovirus D68 has been reduced by 44 percent over the same period."

Congress is currently in recess, not scheduled to reconvene until after the November elections. But, with one confirmed death from Ebola in the US and new reports about potential diagnoses coming in, they are calling for answers now.

"While we may disagree on the merits and the necessity of these cuts we have a responsibility to ensure that CDC, NIH and the other public health agencies under our jurisdiction have sufficient resources to protect the public health and are taking the appropriate actions today to address it. When Congress returns from the November elections we will have to determine the funding necessary for these agencies to respond to these public health cruses before the Continuing Resolution expires. Therefore, we urge you to convene a Subcommittee hearing this month to gather the information we need to make informed decisions for the remainder of the fiscal year.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for October 9, 2014

Thu Oct. 9, 2014 9:57 AM EDT

US Navy sailors wield hoses during a fire and mass casualty drill in preparation for future deployments. (US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Brian Flood)

Supreme Court Rules to Keep North Carolina's Extremely Restrictive Voting Law

| Thu Oct. 9, 2014 9:12 AM EDT

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled to block an appellate court's effort to reinstate same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting in North Carolina, two elements of the state's controversial voting law.

The law was passed soon after the Supreme Court's decision last year to gut crucial elements to the Voting Rights Act of 1965–freeing North Carolina from Justice Department oversight and clearance requirements to institute any voting changes.

A number of key political races are taking place in North Carolina next month, including a close Senate race between incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan and Republican Thom Tillis.

As previously reported by Mother Jones:

This state's recent voting law is among the most restrictive in the nation. It's obviously aimed at keeping black and low-income people from voting. Last summer, Republican legislators took virtually every one of the different individual measures other states have used to obstruct minority voting and packaged them into a single bill. The legislation included a voter ID provision and restrictions on early voting and voter registration drives. It ended same-day voter registration and expanded opportunities for outside "poll watchers" to hassle voters about their eligibility.

More than half of the state's residents and 70 percent of African American voters in North Carolina used early voting in 2008 and 2012. In the last midterm election, 200,000 people voted during the seven days of early voting that have now been eliminated, and 20,000 used same day registration.

“We are disappointed with the Supreme Court’s ruling today,” said Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, in a statement responding to the decision. “Tens of thousands of North Carolina voters, especially African-American voters, have relied on same-day registration, as well as the counting of ballots that were cast out of precinct, for years.”

Republicans tend to support voting laws like the one in North Carolina as a means to ostensibly prevent election fraud. But studies have shown such measures disenfranchise voters, specifically amongst minorities and low-income voters, thus suppressing support for Democrats.

This is as good as time as any to remind you, UFO sightings are more common than voter fraud:

Mother Jones
 

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One Weird, Nobel Prize-Winning Trick That Could Halve America's Lighting Bill

| Wed Oct. 8, 2014 2:10 PM EDT

On Tuesday, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced the winners of the Nobel Prize in Physics. In the first of the prestigious awards to be handed out this week, Japanese scientists Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano, and Shuji Nakamura were honored for their invention of the blue light-emitting diode commonly known as an LED. The $8 million prize "rewards an invention of greatest benefit to mankind"—and LEDs have crossed the bar.

Invented just twenty years ago, blue LEDs paved the way for many now-common devices, like television LCD-screens, Blu-ray discs, and laser printers. But more importantly, they give off white light in a new, more efficient way, reducing energy consumption the world over.

Blue LED
Johan Jarnestad/The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

"I (was) not too sure whether I could win a Nobel Prize," Shuji Nakamura said in a telephone interview after he was informed of the award. "Basically physics, it means that usually people was awarded for the invention of the basic theory. But in my case, not a basic theory. In my case just making the device, you know?"

In traditional electric lighting, most of the energy is lost when it is converted to heat. But LEDs convert electricity directly to light.

The invention was based on over three decades of work and research. And since their discovery in the early '90s, the technology has rapidly improved: state of the art LEDs are now over four times more efficient than florescents and almost 20 times more efficient than regular light bulbs. Because they last so much longer, LEDs are also less wasteful.

Lighting accounts for about a quarter of the world's energy consumption. The Climate Group, a nonprofit pushing LED use worldwide, reports that illumination is responsible for over 1,900 million tons of CO2 emissions every year. They calculate that number could be reduced by up to 70 percent, just by replacing traditional streetlamps with LED powered versions.

Created by The Climate Group

Last year, the US Department of Energy released a report saying LEDs could halve the country's usage of electricity for lighting by 2030. The savings would equal the output of fifty 1,000 megawatt power plants, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions as much as taking 40 million cars off the road—not to mention cutting energy bills by $30 billion.

Of course there are still technical developments and obstacles to be overcome before this vision is realized. But it is not far fetched or far off, thanks to the latest Nobel laureates. To learn more about the science behind their world-changing invention (or to send them a quick congratulatory note!) you can head to the prizes' site.

How Conservative Judges Are Using Jimmy Carter To Screw Over Minority Voters.

| Tue Oct. 7, 2014 4:30 PM EDT
Former president Jimmy Carter

Yesterday, a three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals—all Republican appointees—paved the way for Wisconsin's controversial voter ID law to take effect in time for this year's midterm elections. Civil rights groups had sued the state to block the law, saying that it would likely disenfranchise more than 300,000 voters who didn't possess the proper ID to vote—a disproportionate number of whom were likely to be minority and low-income people. But in justifying the decision, Judge Frank Easterbrook wrote that essentially, critics were overhyping the potential for the ID requirement to keep people from voting. After all, he said, the idea has been endorsed by none other than former democratic president Jimmy Carter, a man who has made election integrity the centerpiece of his post-presidential life.

But does Jimmy Carter really support voter ID laws?

The ex-president and former peanut farmer has become a familiar reference point for Republicans looking to shore up support for voter ID laws. Conservative outlets such as Breitbart News frequently invoke Carter as the cheerleader-in-chief for voter ID laws by insisting that even Jimmy Carter supports them.

The Carter riff dates back to 2005, when he co-chaired a bipartisan commission on election reform. One of the many measures proposed by the commission was a requirement for a voter ID. That tidbit from the commission report has wended its way into conservative talking points—and on up to the Supreme Court, which approvingly cited Carter in the 2008 Crawford v. Marion County Election Board 6-to-3 decision upholding Indiana's voter ID law, thereby freeing other states to create their own such laws: “The electoral system cannot inspire public confidence if no safeguards exist to deter or detect fraud or to confirm the identity of voters," the majority opinion stated. Yesterday, Judge Easterbrook—appointed to the court by Ronald Reagan—referenced Carter and that 2008 Supreme Court decision in upholding Wisconsin's ID law.

But what Carter's commission proposed, and what GOP-controlled states have actually passed, diverge greatly. That's one reason why Carter no longer seems to supports voter ID—a fact that Judge Easterbrook missed.

In 2008, while the Supreme Court was considering Crawford, Carter co-wrote a New York Times op-ed with the election commission's co-chair, former Reagan chief of staff, James A. Baker III. The pair recognized the arguments on both sides of the debate, saying that Republicans' concerns about fair elections were valid and that Democrats' fears that ID requirements would disenfranchise voters also had basis in fact. But they reiterated that the 2005 commission had recommended a special voter ID card based on the REAL ID Act of 2005, one that would be issued free by the states and distributed through mobile units that would ensure everyone would get one, even if they didn't drive. Carter and Baker's op-ed also emphasized that any voter ID requirement needed to be phased in slowly. "The Supreme Court can lead the way on the voter ID issue," they concluded. "It can support voter ID laws that make it easy to vote but tough to cheat."

Virtually none of that's happened. For one thing, the REAL ID Act, which would have created something like a national ID card, became hugely controversial and was aggressively opposed by virtually everyone: states, libertarians, evangelical Christians, and even the ACLU. From that point on, however, voter ID became something pushed almost exclusively by Republicans who weren't interested in implementing any of the other recommendations of the bipartisan commission that would have also expanded access to voting. Carter lamented back in 2008, before a flurry of new ID laws took effect, that "the current crop of laws are not being phased in gradually and in a fair manner that would increase—not reduce—voter participation." That's one reason why he seems to have changed his tune on voter ID.

Last year, on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, Carter spoke on the National Mall and addressed the reality of the voter ID laws that have materialized since he first suggested that they might be a good idea. "I believe we all know how Dr. King would have reacted to the new ID requirements to exclude certain voters, especially African Americans," Carter said. Today, there isn't much doubt about how Carter feels about voter ID laws like the one in Wisconsin, but that doesn't seem to keep conservative judges from continuing to claim his endorsement for their opinions upholding them.

 

Wisconsin's Strict Voting Law Requiring Photo ID Upheld

| Tue Oct. 7, 2014 11:42 AM EDT

On Monday, a federal appeals court upheld Wisconsin's harsh voter ID law, which requires voters to provide specific types of government-issued photo identification at the polls.

A district court judge had struck down the law in April, deeming that it unconstitutionally violated the rights of minorities and low-income voters. The appeals court panel disagreed, ruling that the law, one of the strictest in the country, did not amount to racial discrimination.

The AP has more:

State elections officials are preparing for the photo ID law to be in effect for the Nov. 4 election, even as opponents continue their legal fight. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Advancement Project asked the U.S. Supreme Court last week to take emergency action and block the law.

Opponents argue that requiring voters to show photo ID, a requirement that had, until recently, been on hold since a low-turnout February 2012 primary, will create chaos and confusion at the polls. But supporters say most people already have a valid ID and, if they don't, there is time to get one before the election.

The ruling gives Republican incumbent Scott Walker a major lift in his fight against Democratic challenger Mary Burke. As The New Republic explains, Republican voters are much more likely to have the required identification.

Scott Walker Wants to Totally Outlaw Abortion. In This Sneaky New Ad, He Pretends He Doesn't.

| Tue Oct. 7, 2014 11:09 AM EDT

In one of the nation's most hotly contested campaigns, incumbent GOP Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has recently been slammed by a new ad blitz highlighting his staunch opposition to abortion rights. He and his campaign consultants are obviously worried about this line of attack: On Monday, they issued one of the slyest ads of the campaign season. Titled "Decision," the ad attempts to depict Walker as a reasonable fellow on this issue. It's a brazenly misleading spot—almost a flip-flop—that is designed to create the false impression that Walker respects a woman's right to choose. The ad is camouflage for the fact that Walker has supported outlawing all abortions, even in cases of rape of incest.

In the ad (seen above), Walker, talking straight into the camera, starts off by saying, "I'm pro-life." He then defends the bill he he signed in 2013 that required women seeking abortions to first obtain an ultrasound and that required abortion providers to possess admitting rights at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic. This law—which remains tangled in legal challenges—could greatly restrict abortion access in Wisconsin. But in the ad, Walker characterizes the legislation as a measure "to increase safety and to provide more information for a woman considering her options." Then comes the whopper: "The bill leaves the final decision to a woman and her doctor." With that statement, a viewer could easily conclude that Walker is personally opposed to abortion but supports the right of a woman to decide (in consultation with a doctor) to choose an abortion.

But Walker is as hard-core on abortion as a conservative anti-choice politician can be. In 2010, he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial board that he wants to ban abortion entirely—no exceptions for rape or incest. Here's that exchange:

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: You oppose abortion even in cases of rape and incest.

Scott Walker: (Nods)

MJS: Tell me if I got that right.

SW: That's correct.

For some reason, Walker neglects to mention this absolutist stance in his new ad. The ad is a clear sign that Walker and his strategists believe that this position won't help him get reelected and that his best shot at winning depends on the most sophisticated of campaign craftiness.