Political MoJo

Watch: Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick's Emotional Speech on Child Migrants

| Mon Jul. 21, 2014 2:56 PM EDT

On Friday, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick announced a plan for his state to temporarily shelter up to 1,000 unaccompanied children who have recently fled to the United States as part of the ongoing border crisis. He cited America's history of giving "sanctuary to desperate children for centuries," the "blight on our national reputation" when we refused to accept Jewish children fleeing the Nazis in 1939, and his Christian faith as reasons for the decision. "My faith teaches," he said, fighting back tears, "that if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him but rather love him as yourself." The Joint Base Cape Cod and Westover Air Base are the two facilities being considered as possible locations.

Notably, Patrick has said "maybe" to a 2016 run for president.

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Fighting in Gaza Bad for Mankind, Great for Right-Wing Website

| Mon Jul. 21, 2014 11:59 AM EDT

Israel's ground offensive into Gaza, which began last Thursday after a week of air strikes, has come with a heavy price: 20 Israelis and 445 Palestinians have now died since the conflict flared up two weeks ago. But at least one group is happy about the news—WorldNetDaily, the far-right website, which reports, in a story titled "Hamas Rockets Boon to Israel Tour," that the ground offensive has been good for business:

WASHINGTON – During the week Hamas fired thousands of rockets on Israel, interest in WND's Israel tour with Joseph Farah and Jonathan Cahn spiked, with 68 signups in seven days, the most in a one-week period since registration began in February, WND announced.

"I thought news of thousands of rockets raining down on Israel would be a deterrent to Americans who were thinking about joining us on WND's Israel tour," said Farah. "It wasn't at all. In fact, it seems like Americans are eager to show solidarity with the Jewish state at this time."

The second annual tour is on pace to match last year’s size, with nearly 400 participants, most originating in the U.S.

Congrats, guys.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for July 21, 2014

Mon Jul. 21, 2014 9:47 AM EDT

Two US Marines alongside two Japan Ground self-defense soldiers practice techniques at Kin Blue beach in Japan. (US Marine Photo by Cpl. Henry Antenor)

David Vitter's Deportation Proposal Could Require More Planes Than There Are on Earth

| Fri Jul. 18, 2014 6:31 PM EDT

David Vitter has had it with undocumented immigrants. "Enough is enough," the Republican Senator and Louisiana gubernatorial candidate tweeted on Friday. "I introduced a bill to require mandatory detention for anyone here illegally & get illegal aliens on the next plane home."

The legislation Vitter introduced Friday doesn't actually require all immigrants to be detained and deported. It mostly applies to child migrants, 70,000 of whom will make their way to the United States from Central America this year. Specifically, unaccompanied minors without asylum claims would be put "on the next available flight to their home countries within 72 hours of an initial screening."

But if we really tried to do what Vitter's tweet suggests—and why not? He's a senator!—it would entail increasing the nation's immigration detention capacity by a factor of 365. And flying all those immigrants home would require more planes than currently exist.

The math is simple. According to the Department of Homeland Security, there are 11 million people currently in the United States without permanent legal status, the bulk of them from Latin America. In 2011, the average flight to that region had room for 171.8 passengers. It would require 64,027 flights to move all those migrants. Unfortunately, there were only 7,185 commercial aircraft in the United States as of 2011, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, so the mass deportations might take a while, especially considering Tegucigalpa's Toncontín International Airport boasts "the world's trickiest landing."

Even if other nations chipped in, it'd still be a tough row to hoe. According to Boeing, there are only 20,310 commercial airliners in the world, although that figure is set to double by 2032, if we want to wait. 

These back-of-the-envelope calculations don't take into account other details, like the costs and logistics of finding and rounding up 11 million people. On the plus side, the amount of jet fuel required for Vitter's plan would be a boon for the oil and gas industry—one of Louisiana's largest employers.

Obama Slams Putin and Calls for Ukraine Ceasefire

| Fri Jul. 18, 2014 12:32 PM EDT

On Friday afternoon, President Barack Obama demanded that Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine adhere to a cease fire, and he slammed Russian President Vladimir Putin for not keeping his vow to de-escalate in the Ukraine and for continuing to provide weapons and training to the rebels. Obama confirmed media reports noting that US intelligence has determined that a missile fired from the rebel-held area downed the Malaysian Airlines passenger plane, killing over 300 people. Obama announced that one US citizen was on the flight. Watch the speech here:

AK-47 Manufacturer Fires Back at US Over Sanctions

| Fri Jul. 18, 2014 11:56 AM EDT
Everybody's favorite assault rifle.

When the US imposed more sanctions on Russia this week, some US gun owners assumed the move was a targeted assault on their constitutional rights. It's not. But according to Rostec, the Russian government-owned company whose Kalashnikov subsidiary makes the AK-47, the assault rifle will be much harder to come by for US customers. After Rostec was added to the sanctions list, it fired back. "For Kalashnikov...the US is an important market for selling arms," a spokesman told ITAR-TASS, a Russian government news agency. "It should be noted that the Kalashnikov products are very popular in the US... This means that the sanctions the US Administration has imposed on Kalashnikov contravene the interests of US consumers."

AK-47's, which are cheap and durable (though not terribly accurate), are the world's most popular gun. As many as 100 million have been produced since its debut in 1947—by Kalashnikov and a multitude of imitators in China and Eastern Europe. Kalashnikov's fully-automatic models are illegal to own in the United States without a special permit. But the semi-automatic version are regulated under the same patchwork of state and local laws that regulate hunting rifles. In recent years, as the Russian military has reduced its orders, Kalashnikov has shifted its focus away from the full-auto weapons and toward semi-automatic models for the gun enthusiast market in the United States.

Kalashnikov's Russian logo Wikimedia Commons

The new sanctions cut off the supply of AK-47s from the factory source, but gun stores with an old inventory and gun owners with one to spare are free to go about their business as before. The only caveat is that Kalashnikov can't make any money off the deal.

In an unsigned statement posted on its website, Rostec notes that its analysts are conducting a "full study" of the impact of the new sanctions on its business, and argues that sanctions are putting its partnerships with US businesses at risk: "Now it is possible to say that the measures taken by Washington will have a negative impact on the cooperation of several Russian and American companies, threatening to undermine mutual trust," the company maintains.

The AK issue came up during a State Department media briefing on Thursday. Asked if the Kalashnikov sanctions would affect customers in the US, spokeswoman Jen Psaki responded, "We take into account the impact on the United States, on US businesses and consumers, and certainly we feel that peace and political stability and respect for international law are of critical importance to the global economy and to US businesses."

Kalashnikov's exclusive US importer, RWC Group, has not yet issued a statement.

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GOP Senate Candidate: I Forgot About My Bank Account With Oodles of Money in It

| Fri Jul. 18, 2014 11:45 AM EDT
Terri Lynn Land speaks at the Michigan Republican convention in 2010.

Terri Lynn Land, the Republican candidate for US Senate in Michigan, has given nearly $3 million to her own campaign. That's perfectly legal—candidates can give as much as they want to their campaigns.

Here's the trouble: On the financial disclosure forms she filed last year and this May with the Federal Election Commission, Land reported she has assets of only about $1.5 million. So how could she give herself twice as much?

Don't fear, Land fans; her staff has an explanation. The other money was in a joint checking account she has with her husband Dan Hibma, a millionaire real estate developer. On Friday, the Land campaign told the Detroit Free Press (which broke this story) that in 2013 she "inadvertently" omitted the account from her disclosure form and in 2014 she "inadvertently" listed the account as solely owned by Hibma. In other words, Land claims she forgot about an account she had with an enormous amount of money in it—even as she was using that money to fund her campaign.

The Land campaign has not said how much money is in that joint checking account. "A candidate suddenly coming into possession of several million dollars raises questions," Paul Ryan, a campaign finance expert at the Campaign Legal Center (no, not that Paul Ryan), told the Free Press.

As Michigan's secretary of state from 2003 until 2011, Land was responsible for enforcing the state's campaign finance laws.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for July 18, 2014

Fri Jul. 18, 2014 9:12 AM EDT

Sgt. Louis Wood pays his respects to Sgt. Thomas Z. Spitzer, who was killed in combat in Afghanistan. (US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Joseph Scanlan)

GOP Congressman Says Central America Too Dangerous for Congressmen—But Not for Kids

| Thu Jul. 17, 2014 6:38 PM EDT

Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.), who spent the weekend visiting Honduras and Guatemala with six other members of Congress, reaffirmed his belief on Wednesday that the ongoing humanitarian crisis along the southern border is to send migrants home—even though he found his host city too dangerous to go outside.

Per the Santa Fe New Mexican:

Congressman Steve Pearce said Wednesday that most immigrants from Central America who are crossing illegally into the United States are driven by economic reasons, not fear of physical danger in their homeland.

...

Pearce said he and the rest of the House delegation that visited Honduras and Guatemala did not venture from their hotel very often because of the dangers, but the message they received in both countries was consistent: "Send back our children."

So to recap: Tegucigalpa is too dangerous for grown members of Congress to leave their downtown hotel rooms, but a perfectly fine place to send an eight-year-old kid. (According to a press release, the congressional delegation did leave their hotel to visit an outreach center funded by the US government. They also met with the president and first lady of Honduras.) Meanwhile, not content with the results of Pearce's investigation, a rival Congressional delegation, led by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), is en route to Central America now. We'll see if they find it safe enough to walk around.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for July 17, 2014

Thu Jul. 17, 2014 12:20 PM EDT

A guided-missile destroyer departs Pearl Harbor for deployment as a child plays with a radio-controlled boat at Dog Beach. (US Navy photo by Canadian Armed Forces Sgt. Matthew McGregor)