Political MoJo

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for October 29, 2014

Wed Oct. 29, 2014 8:57 AM EDT

US Marines and sailors board a flight out of Afghanistan as all personnel withdraw from the region. (US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. John Jackson)

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Elizabeth Warren Challenges Chris Christie for the Science Behind His Ebola Quarantine

| Tue Oct. 28, 2014 1:46 PM EDT

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is demanding Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) reveal the science behind his controversial decision to place all health care workers returning back from Liberia, Guinea, or Sierra Leone to be placed under a mandatory quarantine. Spoiler alert: the science does not exist.

"He should bring out his scientists who are advising him on that, because we know that we want to be led by science," Warren said Tuesday during an appearance on CBS's This Morning.

"That’s what’s going to keep people safe,” she added. “Science, not politics."

Warren, who was promoting her book A Fighting Chance, was responding to a question about Christie's earlier comments in which he defended the mandatory quarantine against claims the policy is draconian.

"I don’t think it’s draconian,” Christie said on the Today show. "The members of the American public believe it is common sense, and we are not moving an inch. Our policy hasn’t changed and our policy will not change."

Warren's criticism joins a widening chorus of politicians–both on the right and left–and health officials who have slammed Christie and Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) for placing involuntary quarantines in their respective states over the weekend after the first Ebola outbreak in New York City surfaced last Thursday.

Both governors have been accused of playing politics at the expense of basic human rights–Christie hoping to recall the image of an unapologetic, bipartisan leader in times of crisis (a la Sandy); Cuomo hoping to exert any level of control.

On Monday, in light of the newly implemented quarantines, the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention unveiled a new set of federal guidelines for local governments to adopt.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also released a statement praising medical officials as "exceptional people." Alluding to Christie and Cuomo's policies, Ban admonished against "restrictions that are not based on science."

(h/t Mediate)

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for October 28

Tue Oct. 28, 2014 12:50 PM EDT

A US Army soldier plunges into the water in his parachute during a combat water survival test. (US Army photo by Capt. Thomas Cieslak)

NRA Victory Means It's Still Perfectly Legal to Cook Dogs and Cats in Pennsylvania

| Tue Oct. 28, 2014 9:22 AM EDT

House Bill 1750 in Pennsylvania was supposed to finally ban live pigeon shoots and make it illegal to raise dogs and cats for consumption in the state. Animal rights activists, who have been lobbying for such an end for decades, had good reason to expect victory earlier this month: the bill had passed in the state Senate with a 36-12 margin and Gov. Tom Corbett (R) had signaled his support for it. 75 percent of Pennsylvania residents also agreed with the ban.

The proposed law would have also been a piece of landmark legislation, considering only a handful of states prohibit slaughtering pets to cook and eat.

But thanks to the last minute efforts of the ever-powerful National Rifle Association, the animal cruelty bill will not go to the floor for a vote. While we can't say for sure whether or not the NRA has any penchant for eating dogs, the "misguided" bill was ultimately blocked because of the pigeon shooting provision, and the NRA certainly does enjoy releasing pigeons from electronic cages to shoot and kill for targeting practice:

Over the past few weeks specifically, NRA officials have been sounding the alarm over the bill, deeming the "radical" Humane Society's proposal as a "slippery slope" to increased regulation. Unsurprisingly, Pennsylvania lawmakers caved.

"I've been through this so many times, sadly. This was the only time I didn't cry," Heidi Prescott of the Humane Society said after the defeat.
 

The NRA Comes Out in Support of Warrior Cops

| Tue Oct. 28, 2014 5:00 AM EDT

The current issue of the National Rifle Association's American Warrior magazine just hit, and in it, the gun lobby comes out squarely in favor of warrior cops. An article titled, "If You Were a Cop, What Would You Drive?" opens with a photo of an armored personnel carrier-style vehicle juxtaposed with a Volkswagen van. Rick Stewart, the host of the NRA's Life of Duty Patriot Profile series, wonders, "Why should SWAT teams be forced to deploy in a glorified bread-truck?" (It is unclear why a hippie bus is the other alternative.)

NRA American Warrior

The NRA has long walked a delicate line between glorifying law enforcement and fanning fears of big, tyrannical government. In 1995, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre infamously wrote of "jack-booted government thugs" and "federal agents wearing Nazi bucket helmets and black storm trooper uniforms," and he still routinely warns of imminent crackdowns on gun owners. As Stewart coyly acknowledges, "For many there is a certain Orwellian level of mistrust in government and law enforcement."

Yet the NRA is also a trade lobby for firearms manufacturers, which may explain its soft stance on the militarization of American police. As I detail in the current issue of Mother Jones, a multibillion dollar industry has sprung up to provide ever-bigger weapons and military-style equipment to law enforcement. Since 2002, the Department of Homeland Security has given local police departments $41 billion to buy new gear.

This puts the NRA in a tricky position. Ever since the Ferguson protests, people from  all political persuasions have become wary of efforts like the Pentagon's 1033 program, which has transferred $5.1 billion worth of equipment to local law enforcement. Stewart's article makes the NRA's position on 1033 clear: "The program is not evil; it is responsible." He also defends the police's use of camouflaged battle dress "for tactical advantage," especially for those who "serve on the frontline of illegal activity along our southern border." It is "unconscionable," he maintains, to make cops wear their "everyday duty uniforms" in "extremely dangerous situations"—such as protests.

The American Warrior article depicts police as victims: "Nobody seems more 'targeted' these days than those who serve in law enforcement." Not the communities where SWAT teams are routinely deployed; not people of color, who are targeted in 71 percent of of SWAT raids even though whites are more likely to be active shooters or hostage takers. The fact is police work is safer than it's been in decades. Assaults on cops are down 45 percent since their peak in 1971. Violent crime has fallen by nearly half since 1991. 

The real problem, according to the article, is not police abuse or an over-hyped need for military-like equipment, but the words we use. Terms like "armor," automatic" and "assault vehicles" are improperly used to demonize law enforcement, writes Stewart. The other issue is some Americans' tendency to criticize police abuse: "In the long run, we don't need a 'knee-jerk' reaction to every use of force situation caught on camera."

Duck Dynasty Guy's Ad for Duck Dynasty Candidate Is the Full Duck Dynasty

| Mon Oct. 27, 2014 5:19 PM EDT

Zach Dasher, a Republican businessman running for Congress in Louisiana's fifth district, has one major thing going for him: He's the nephew of Phil Robertson, patriarch of the Duck Dynasty clan. And he appears to be squeezing everything he can out of the connection. In a new ad, Robertson, who was suspended by A&E last year over comments he made in a GQ interview on homosexuality and race, holds up a Bible and a rifle, as an acoustic version of "Amazing Grace" plays in the background. "Hey, Louisiana," Robertson says. "Bibles and guns brought us here. And Bibles and guns will keep us here. Zach Dasher believes in both. That's why I'm voting for him."

The ad's content isn't much of a surprise. Dasher has made his faith (and Duck Dynasty ties) a central part of his campaign, has said godlessness is driving America toward "tyranny and death," and worries that the term "YOLO" encourages atheism by discounting the idea of an afterlife. Robertson has also raised money for Dasher, at one fundraiser referring to the candidate as "my little nephew who came from the loins of my sister."

Ahead of a special election for the seat in 2013, Willie Robertson, Dasher's cousin, cut an ad for Rep. Vance McAllister, but the incumbent congressman has fallen out of favor with the family since he was caught on tape kissing a staffer.

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GOP Senate Hopeful: "Less Than 2,000" Women Sued My Company For Pay Discrimination

| Mon Oct. 27, 2014 11:18 AM EDT
GOP Senate candidate David Perdue and his wife at a recent campaign stop

David Perdue, the Republican nominee for Senate in Georgia, has a lady problem—at least according to recent polls, which show Democrat Michelle Nunn ahead with women voters in this toss-up election.

In a Sunday night debate between Perdue and Nunn, the moderator suggested that ads about Perdue's time as the CEO of Dollar General, a discount chain, had damaged the GOPer's campaign. Shortly after Perdue stepped down as Dollar General's CEO, hundreds of female managers sued the company for pay discrimination that allegedly took place during Perdue's tenure. Nunn's campaign and EMILY's List have both aired millions of dollars' worth of negative ads describing the class-action lawsuit. The moderator urged Perdue: "Talk to those women in particular."

Here's how Perdue responded: "If you look at Dollar General as an example, there was no wrongdoing there," he said. "That lawsuit, or that claim, or that complaint was settled five years after I had left…And it was less than 2,000 people. We had upwards of 70,000 employees in that company."

An annual report Dollar General submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission puts the actual number of female managers in that class action at 2,100. As Mother Jones reported in May, the women had been paid less than their male peers between the dates of November 30, 2004 and November 30, 2007—almost exactly the dates that Perdue was CEO (from April 2003 to summer 2007.) The class action began in late 2007, and Dollar General settled the lawsuit for $18.75 million without admitting to discrimination.

"Two thousand women, that actually seems like quite a lot to me," Nunn said at the debate.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for October 27, 2014

Mon Oct. 27, 2014 10:58 AM EDT

US Marines watch from the gunner's door of a Seahawk helicopter over the Atlantic ocean. (US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Todd F. Michalek)

Another Day, Another School Shooting

| Fri Oct. 24, 2014 3:47 PM EDT

A school shooting took place inside the cafeteria of Marysville-Pilchuck High School in Washington state on Friday. The suspected gunman, a student at the high school, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to CNN. Federal officials say up to five people were shot. Roughly 50 people were present in the cafeteria at the time. At least one student has been killed, four others injured.

If you feel like you're stuck watching some kind of awful repeat programming, it's because you are: According to data gathered by the reform group Everytown for Gun Safety, Friday's is the 87th shooting incident at a school since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary nearly two years ago.

For a detailed look into the rise of mass shootings in America, see our latest coverage here.

We Spent Millions so Afghans Could Film Live Sports With Headless Goat Carcasses—And Screwed It Up

| Fri Oct. 24, 2014 3:25 PM EDT
One of the TV trucks under tarps in Kabul, Afghanistan

In August 2011, the State Department purchased broadcast trucks for Afghan TV stations, for $3.6 million (206 million Afghanis), to help them tape live sporting events, like "buzkashi, soccer, cricket, and other sports." (Buzkashi, Afghanistan’s national sport, translates to "goat grabbing" where horse-mounted players drag a headless goat carcass towards opposing goals.)

But no one has been able to watch any goat carcasses filmed by those trucks in the past two years, because those trucks didn't show up until late July. And now, they're sitting around under tarps, unused—because the State Department could cancel the contract whenever it wants.

A scene from Buzkashi Boys depicting men playing buzkashi. Buzkashi Boys

John Spoko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), sent Secretary of State John Kerry a letter demanding an explanation for the delayed TV trucks on Friday.

According to the letter, in addition to the late delivery, the price of the television trucks "more than tripled" since the original order date. And, one of the trucks "was damaged in transit." As of September, the trucks are still sitting under tarps as the SIGAR staff waits for the State Department to accept delivery.

Spoko claims that, because the trucks were delivered so late, the State Department may elect to end the contract and take the trucks back. After the late delivery, the tripled unit cost and several contract modifications, Spoko is wary of how aboveboard this deal really is: "If this information is accurate, it suggests that something is seriously wrong with the way this contract was managed."

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that SIGAR had "teamed up" with State to purchase the trucks. SIGAR is investigating the arrangement. It was not involved in it.