Political MoJo

In Georgia, Perdue Win Ends One of the GOP's Craziest Senate Primaries

| Wed Jul. 23, 2014 4:11 AM EDT
Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.)

In the run-up to last May's primary to replace retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss, Georgia Republicans flirted with a large field of candidates that included Reps. Paul Broun (who once called evolution a lie "from the pit of hell") and Phil Gingrey (who once defended Todd Akin). But when the dust settled, it was former Dollar General CEO David Perdue and 11-term congressman Jack Kingston who went on to a top-two runoff—a decision framed at the time as a victory for the Chamber of Commerce Republican establishment over the tea party fringe. On Tuesday, after trailing in every poll, Perdue won a narrow victory to claim the GOP nomination. He will take on Democrat Michelle Nunn (the daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn) in November.

But the real story may be the lack of influence wielded by Kingston's biggest supporter, the US Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber backed Kingston to the tune of $2.3 million in TV ads during the primary, only to see him use its most precious issues as mallets with which to bludgeon Perdue. Take the Common Core State Standards, a set of national math and language-arts benchmarks for public schools that have become a bogeyman for conservatives. The Chamber supports Common Core and recently poured $1.38 million into a PR campaign to promote it. But that didn't stop Kingston from characterizing Common Core as an abomination and attacking Perdue—who himself has been highly critical of the standards—for supporting "the Obamacare of education." In the final days of the race, Perdue fought back, running ads depicting Kingston as soft on immigration because of his support from the Chamber, which backs comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship. "Kingston's pro-amnesty vote is bought and paid for," one ad warned. Kingston, in turn, had falsely accused Perdue of supporting amnesty during the runoff.

Kingston will likely land on his feet—11-term congressmen beloved by the Chamber of Commerce tend to do pretty well in Washington!—but his days in Congress are now numbered. At least we'll always have this video of him explaining why evolution is a myth—because Jack Kingston is not descended from an ape.

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785 of This Year's Unaccompanied Migrants Were Under 6 Years Old

| Tue Jul. 22, 2014 4:49 PM EDT
Pew Research Center

Little kids, including a troubling number of children age five or younger, make up the fastest-growing group of unaccompanied minors apprehended at the US border in fiscal year 2014. So far this year, nearly 7,500 kids under 13 have been caught without a legal guardian—and 785 of them were younger than six.

It's still mostly teens who travel solo to the United States from countries like El Salvador and Honduras, as the Pew Research Center revealed today in a new analysis of US Customs and Border Protection data. But compared to 2013, Border Patrol apprehensions of kids 12 or younger already have increased 117 percent, while those of teens have jumped only 12 percent. Apprehensions of the youngest group of kids, those under six, have nearly tripled.

These new stats reveal a trend made all the more startling as details of the journey continue to emerge. In his feature story about this influx of child migrants, for instance, MoJo's Ian Gordon tells of Adrián, a Guatemalan kid who dodged attackers armed with machetes, walked barefoot for miles through Mexico, and resorted to prostitution to reach sanctuary in America. And Adrián was 17. For the increasing number of kids under 13 making this harrowing trek without parents, the vulnerability to exploitation is only magnified, the potential for trauma and even death only amplified.

That so many young kids feel compelled to leave home, or that their parents feel compelled to send them, sends a grim message about the state of their home countries. As El Salvadoran newspaper editor Carlos Dada told On the Media's Bob Garfield last week, quoting a Mexican priest who runs a shelter in Oaxaca, Mexico: "If these migrants are willing to take this road, knowing everything they are risking, even their lives, I don't even want to imagine what they are running away from."

Here's another Pew age breakdown, this time by country of origin:

Pew Research Center

 

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for July 22, 2014

Tue Jul. 22, 2014 9:23 AM EDT

Former US Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Pitts joins President Barack Obama in the East Room of the White House to be honored as the 9th living recipient of the Medal of Honor from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Department of Defense News photo by EJ Hersom)

Rand Paul Flubs the Facts on the Minimum Wage

| Mon Jul. 21, 2014 3:33 PM EDT

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) says the minimum wage, like Trix, is for kids. Speaking in San Francisco over the weekend, the likely 2016 presidential candidate took issue with the president and first lady over an interview they gave to Parade, in which the Obamas suggested their daughters should work minimum wage jobs because "that's what most folks go through every single day." It was a fairly innocuous comment. But Paul argued it sent the wrong message. Per Politico:

Speaking at a downtown conference for libertarian and conservative technology types, the Kentucky Republican and prospective 2016 White House contender said he had an "opposite" view from the Obamas when it comes to seeing his own sons work delivering pizzas and at call centers.

"The minimum wage is a temporary" thing, Paul said. "It's a chance to get started. I see my son come home with his tips. And he's got cash in his hand and he's proud of himself. I don't want him to stop there. But he's working and he's understanding the value of work. We shouldn't disparage that."

Paul, a libertarian, was echoing the argument made by those who oppose raising the minimum wage: That those jobs are largely filled by young adults just entering the job market—people who are taking these low-paying positions before moving on to the better-paying jobs—so it's no big deal if the compensation is at the bottom end of the scale. A low wage might even be beneficial, by providing an incentive to get to the next level. But this is not supported by the facts. Only a quarter of minimum wage workers are teenagers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nearly half of minimum wage earners are over 25, and 585,000 (18 percent) are over 45. These aren't kids just learning the value of the buck; they're adults who need income to support themselves and their families. As Mother Jones has reported previously, the current minimum wage doesn't come close to doing that. Just take a spin on our living-wage calculator.

If Paul truly believes a low wage is "temporary" for most minimum-wage workers, perhaps he should take the Obamas' advice for their daughters and spend some time working in a fast-food joint.

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.

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.

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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.