Political MoJo

Wisconsin's Strict Voting Law Requiring Photo ID Upheld

| Tue Oct. 7, 2014 12:42 PM 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.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

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

| Tue Oct. 7, 2014 12:09 PM 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.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for October 7, 2014

Tue Oct. 7, 2014 10:52 AM EDT

Soldiers in the US Army National Guard compete in the Best Warrior Competition in Arkansas. (US Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Maj. Danette Rodesky-Flores)

Here Are All the Dumb Ways Conservatives Are Freaking Out About Ebola in the US

| Tue Oct. 7, 2014 6:00 AM EDT

When a Texas hospital confirmed last week that it was treating a patient for Ebola, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention dispatched teams to trace any people the patient had contact with, vowing to stop the disease "in its tracks." But conservative politicians rushed to overreact. Here are a few of the lowlights:

Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas and current host of Huckabee: "When the government says it can't keep people out of the US, it means it won't keep people out. And why should we be surprised? We've seen our borders routinely ignored, so if someone with Ebola really wants to come to the US, just get to Mexico, and walk right in."

Bill O'Reilly, host, The O'Reilly Factor: "Thinking ahead, and taking precautions is simply responsible policy. Time and again, the Obama administration has failed to do that...There is no reason on earth, on this earth, that right now we should be accepting anyone in this country with a West African passport."

Donald Trump, conservative gadfly: "Let's not kid ourselves. I mean with the five billion dollar website for Obamacare, which is still not working, frankly, and it's a disaster. And so many other things: Benghazi, wars...IRS."

Rush Limbaugh, host, The Rush Limbaugh Show: "The people in Liberia only went there because they had to get out of here 'cause they were slaves...Therefore if Ebola ends up here, it's only payback, folks...Unfortunately we have elected people in positions of leadership who think this way. The president is one of them."

Mark Levin, host, The Mark Levin Show: "Of course we should profile! It doesn't have to be based on race or anything of that sort. We have a right as a people in this country— it's our right...our country! We have a right to say 'No' temporarily— or permanently— to people coming into this country from certain parts of the world, so that our families, our children, our grandchildren, our society, isn't at risk. That's just natural...and yet the opposite goes on here." 

Michael Savage, host, Savage Nation: "There is not a sane reason to bring infected children into a nation other than to infect the nation. There is not a sane reason to take three or four thousand troops into a hot Ebola zone, without expecting at least one of them to come back with Ebola, unless you want to infect the nation with Ebola.... This actually exceeds any level of treason that I've ever seen."

Michelle Malkin, syndicated columnist: "In the wake of the Ebola scare (not to mention renewed jihadi threats from abroad), worried Americans are heading to the drugstore to stock up on face masks, hand sanitizer, and gloves. New vaccines are in the works for emerging global contagions. Unfortunately, there is no antidote for our government’s blind and deadly diversity worship. Political correctness is a plague on us all."

Glenn Beck, host, The Glenn Beck Program: "You want a reason to have food storage? You want a reason to have gold? You want a reason to have guns? You want a reason to have God? It's called 'Ebola.'"

This Mime Laughing With Refugee Children On The Run From ISIS Is Surreal, Beautiful, And Starkly Human

| Mon Oct. 6, 2014 5:06 PM EDT
 
 

As ISIS raises its menacing black flags to the East of Kobane, a Syrian city on the northern border with Turkey where Kurds are battling ISIS and hordes of civilians are evacuating, a mime puts on a show for Syrian refugee children in a scene straight out of Life is Beautiful. The mime, like Robert Benigni as Guido with his son Joshua in a Nazi concentration camp, makes light of a war-torn zone and the ultra-violent killers practically right outside the door by making a few practical jokes.

Reporters on the ground, including Jenan Moussa, have tweeted about ISIS's "booby trapped cars" which exploded in Kobane, street fights, constant shelling and explosions, and the atmosphere of pure terror as night falls in Syria. But just outside the city, children watch and play along with a mime's hand gestures, enraptured. In a second video, the mime plays with a puppet of a small child, and a member of his audience takes the puppet's hand.

A screenshot of Kazim Kizil's video of the mime and puppeteer in Kobane. Kazim Kizil/Facebook

The videos were posted by a Turkish Facebook user, Kazim Kizil, who has been watching and posting about the border area for several days. Kizil's videos give a rare touching, lively insight into a land seized by blood, war, and terror.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for October 6, 2014

Mon Oct. 6, 2014 1:40 PM EDT

A US Marine emerges from the cockpit of a F/A-18 Hornet. (US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tyler Ngiraswei)

Advertise on MotherJones.com

The Supreme Court Just Saved Gay Marriage in Five States

| Mon Oct. 6, 2014 10:12 AM EDT

On Monday, the Supreme Court turned down same-sex marriage appeals from five states—Indiana, Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

From Reuters:

By rejecting appeals in cases involving Virginia, Oklahoma, Utah, Wisconsin and Indiana, the court left intact lower-court rulings that struck down bans in those states.

Other states under the jurisdiction of appeals courts that struck down the bans will also be affected, meaning the number of states with gay marriage is likely to quickly jump from 19 to 30.

The decision to decline the cases, which will allow gay marriages to continue, comes as a surprise, as SCOTUS was expected to hear at least one of the cases.

The justices did not explain their rejection to review the appeals. But by declining to hear them, 30 states and the District of Columbia will soon have gay marriage and effectively ends the argument over same-sex marriage both nationally and within the Supreme Court itself.

Since the announcement Monday morning, same-sex couples in the states have already begun marrying.

As Mother Jones previously reported, the appeals asked "SCOTUS to consider whether a state law limiting marriage to a union between a man and a woman violates the 14th Amendment. Six of the seven cases also [raised] the question of whether states must recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states."

Hong Kong Protesters Give Ground—For Now

| Sun Oct. 5, 2014 7:32 PM EDT

Pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong have begun partially removing barricades blocking entrance to key government offices ahead of a government-issued deadline on Monday morning mandating demonstrators clear the way for normal business to resume.

But according to reports, protestors remain divided, with many still rejecting plans to concede.

Late into the night, about 200 protestors were still present in front of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's office. Some cars were allowed through, including one ambulance that was inspected to ensure no tear-gas cannisters were being carried inside.

Protestors, who are demanding for Leung to step down and to be allowed free elections in 2017, are largely hoping to avoid violent confrontations with police come Monday morning.

"If the government uses force to clear away protesters, there will be no room for dialogue," Lester Shum told reporters, according to the AP.

But Leung warned he was ready to "take all necessary actions to restore social order" and allow roughly 3,000 civil servants return to work.

Watch more below:

Update: By Monday, most of the city returned to work with only a few schools remaining closed. However, barricades and protestors were still present and traffic was snarled throughout. It is unclear if concrete negotiations with the government have been solidified. On achieving their primary goals, one student leader said, "I think it was possible, but now I don't think so because they (the Hong Kong government) don't give any response and China is also very much against this."

Obama Plan Will Cut Out Grueling Journey for a Small Number of Central American Refugees

| Thu Oct. 2, 2014 9:06 PM EDT
A boy steps out of a bus full of families deported from Mexico back to Honduras in July of this year.

Escaping rampant violence in parts of Central America, tens of thousands of child migrants made a treacherous journey up to the United States border this year. To help dissuade such a vulnerable population from taking such risky treks in the first place, Obama announced Tuesday that he plans to roll out a new program to allow children to apply for refugee status from their home countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

The program is still in the planning stages, and it remains unclear how old the kids must be and what circumstances they must be caught in to successfully apply for asylum. But at least it's a move in the right direction, says Michelle Brané of the Women's Refugee Commission. "They are laying the groundwork and designating an avenue—it's a good starting off point," she says.

"That's not even close to enough. We saw 60,000 kids arrive from Central America this year."

White House spokesperson Shawn Turner told the New York Times that the initiative is meant to "provide a safe, legal, and orderly alternative to the dangerous journey children are currently taking to join relatives in the United States." The point made in the last part of this statement has caught the attention of human rights advocates including Brané, as it suggests that only children who already have a relative in the US will qualify for asylum under this new program, leaving out thousands who are trying to escape newly developing unrest and gang violence.

Advocates also worry about the number of applicants that will be granted asylum. The White House's announcement projects that 4,000 people total from Latin America and the Caribbean could be granted refugee visas in fiscal year 2015. (Let's not forget that region includes troubled countries like Cuba, Venezuela, and Haiti). The children who would be allowed to apply for refugee status from their home countries appear to be a subcategory of that 4,000. "That's not even close to enough," says Brané. "We saw 60,000 kids arrive from Central America this year."

"Kids have a threat against their lives. They don't have time to stand in line, file an application, come back later, stand in line again. They have to leave immediately."

One study by the UN High Commissioner of Refugees revealed that 60 percent of recent child migrants interviewed expressed a targeted fear, like a death threat, which is the type of experience that can qualify you for asylum. If you use that statistic, that means 36,000 of the kids who crossed the border this year should qualify for refugee visas—nine times the total number Obama is promising.

But Brané says an even bigger concern with the program is its potential to eclipse or replace protections given to targeted migrants who arrive at the Mexico/US border. "A program like this is fine as a complementary approach," she says, "but it cannot replace protection at the border; it should not impede access to asylum in the US." Ironically, it's the children whose lives are most threatened that could have the hardest time applying for refugee status from their home countries. "In some of these cases, kids have a threat against their lives," says Brané. "They don't have time to stand in line, file an application, come back later, stand in line again. They have to leave immediately."

Chart: The Typical White Family Is 20 Times Wealthier Than the Typical Black Family

| Thu Oct. 2, 2014 6:00 AM EDT

We're still posting a new chart on the current state of income inequality every day over the next week. Yesterday's looked at how top tax rates dropped as top incomes rose.

Today, a closer look at how income inequality splits along racial lines. Whites' average household income is 56 percent larger than that of African Americans and 39 percent larger than that of Hispanics. But the discrepancy is even greater when it comes to wealth: The median white family holds nearly 20 times more assets than he median black family and 74 times more assets than the median Hispanic family.

Source: Income by race: US Census; wealth by race: Edward N. Wolff 

Illustrations and infographic design by Mattias Mackler​