Political MoJo

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.'"

Advertise on MotherJones.com

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)

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."

Advertise on MotherJones.com

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​

How Kansas Is Selling Sam Brownback's Failed Trickle-Down Tax Cuts

| Wed Oct. 1, 2014 4:38 PM EDT

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback's reelection campaign is in serious trouble. The latest poll has the incumbent Republican losing to his Democratic opponent by 4 percentage points.

As I explained in our November/December issue, Brownback's woes can largely be traced back to the drastic tax cuts for the wealthy that he pushed through the state legislature. Kansas' tax rate for top earners dropped from 6.45 to 4.9 percent, with further future cuts baked in. The cuts were even more generous for business owners, entirely wiping away their tax burden for pass-through income.

Brownback sold his tax cuts on supply-side promises of unbounded future growth, but the results have been less than stellar: While the state's unemployment rate, like the national jobless rate, has dropped over the past few years, Kansas' economic growth has lagged behind its neighbors'.

Despite these disappointing results, the state has settled on enticing out-of-state businesses with its low tax rate. Check out this full-page ad from the Kansas Department of Commerce, scanned from an issue of the US Small Business Administration's magazine Small Business Resource by a reader:

That ad's pitch—"one of the most pro-growth tax policies in the country" leads to "a perfect state"—lines up with the theories of free-market economist Arthur Laffer, the grand poobah of Ronald Reagan's trickle-down economics. Brownback cited Laffer's work to justify his cuts. During the thick of the legislative debate, he flew Laffer in for a three-day sales pitch, costing the state $75,000.

When I called Laffer in August, he excitedly proclaimed that Brownback's cuts would prove a resounding success. "I'll make you a very large bet that Kansas will improve its relative position to the US over, let's say, eight years, hands down. I'll bet you with great odds," he told me. "I feel very confident that what Sam Brownback has done is and will be extraordinarily beneficial for the state of Kansas."

As Laffer saw it, low tax rates would entice out-of-state residents and businesses to relocate. Laffer himself had moved to Tennessee sight unseen nine years ago, fleeing from California because of the Volunteer State's lack of income tax. "In someplace like Kansas, I don't think the income tax makes any sense whatsoever," Laffer said. "That's what we're trying to move toward in Kansas. The income tax is a killer."

Except that magical migration hasn't developed yet. In August, the state added just 900 jobs, with a tepid growth rate of just half a percent for the full year. Maybe I should have made that bet with Laffer.

Chart: As Top Tax Rates Dropped, Top Incomes Soared

| Wed Oct. 1, 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 the top 1 percent of Americans have captured half of all income.

Today, let's talk taxes. In the past few years, we've heard a lot about overtaxed "job creators" and freeloading "takers." But consider this: As the income rates for the wealthiest have plunged, their incomes have shot up.

Source: Tax rates: The Tax Foundation; top incomes: Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty (Excel

Illustrations and infographic design by Mattias Mackler​

Second Healthcare Worker in Texas Tests Positive for Ebola

| Tue Sep. 30, 2014 5:24 PM EDT

Update 7, October 15, 8:20 a.m. EDT: A second hospital worker who treated the Dallas Ebola patient has tested positive for the disease.

Update 6, October 12, 2:50 p.m. EDT: A hospital worker who treated the Dallas Ebola patient has contracted the disease.

Update 5, October 8, 11:25 a.m. EDT: According to Texas Health Services, the Dallas Ebola patient, Thomas Eric Duncan, has died.

Update 4, October 3, 12:57 p.m. EDT: Howard University Hospital in Washington, DC, has a patient in isolation with symptoms "that could be associated with Ebola," a hospital spokeswoman said in a statement. The patient, who is in stable condition, recently returned from Nigeria, the spokeswoman said.

Update 3, October 1, 6:50 p.m. EDT: Liberian officials identified the first person diagnosed with the Ebola virus in the United States as Thomas Duncan, a Monrovia resident in his mid-forties. Duncan had tried to help a woman sick with the virus find treatment two weeks ago, according to the New York Times. Unable to find a place in a local hospital, the woman's family took her back to her home, where she died a few hours later.

The story follows a pattern which the World Health Organization had warned of in a September 8 statement, which described how cars, sometimes packed with entire families, could cross Liberian cities in search of a place at a local hospital, only to return home for lack of space. "When patients are turned away at Ebola treatment centers, they have no choice but to return to their communities and homes, where they inevitably infect others, perpetuating constantly higher flare-ups in the number of cases," the organization said in the statement.

Update 2, October 1, 2:20 p.m. EDT: With the first Ebola patient to be diagnosed in the United States isolated in a Dallas hospital and in serious condition, officials are closely monitoring the people he came into contact with—including several children. The unidentified patient, who arrived in the United States from Liberia on September 20, fell ill and went to the hospital on September 26, but was released with a prescription for antibiotics. On Wednesday, the AP reported that the patient told the hospital he had come from Liberia before his release.

This is not the first time a commercial airliner has become a carrier for the virus. On July 20, a Liberian-American arrived in Nigeria's largest city, Lagos, and infected several people. The disease spread to another city, Port Harcourt, via one of the physicians involved in that patient's treatment. As of September 29, the CDC and World Health Organization reported 19 confirmed cases of Ebola in Nigeria, but said the virus was contained there.

Update, September 30, 6:15 p.m. EDT: According to officials from the Centers for Disease Control, the patient, a male, arrived in the United States from Liberia on September 20. He planned to visit with family members in Texas. He initially sought treatment at a hospital on September 26 but was sent home, and then was readmitted on September 28. Texas public health officials believe that the patient had contact with "a handful" of people while he was infectious, including family members. The officials are currently in the process of tracing those contacts. CDC officials do not believe that anyone on the flight with him has any risk of contracting Ebola.

During a press conference, CDC officials reiterated that Ebola is not transmitted through the air, nor is it possible to catch it from someone who has been exposed but is not yet displaying symptoms.

"Ebola is a scary disease," said CDC's Dr. Thomas Frieden. "At the same time, we are stopping it in its tracks in this country."

***

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed a case of Ebola in Dallas. While other patients have been flown back to the United States for treatment, this is the first time that a patient has been diagnosed stateside.

The patient is being kept in "strict isolation" at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. While hospital officials are not currently discussing which countries the patient has visited, no doubt US officials will be looking very closely at where he's traveled in the recent past, especially within the United States. The CDC will be holding a press conference on this at 5:30 p.m. Eastern. You can see it live here

Ebola has already infected more than 6,000 people—and killed more than 3,000—in West Africa. Quick action prevented the disease from spreading in Senegal and Nigeria, but the disease continues to wreak havoc in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.