Political MoJo

Elizabeth Warren Was on Fire This Weekend. Here Were Her 5 Best Lines.

| Mon Oct. 20, 2014 4:21 PM EDT

It's good to be Elizabeth Warren. The senior senator from Massachusetts spent her weekend campaigning for Democrats in Minnesota, Colorado, and Iowa, and by all accounts, she tore it up, and got more than a few calls to run for president. (Breaking: she still insists she isn't going to.) These were some of her biggest red-meat lines from the campaign trail:

1. "The game is rigged, and the Republicans rigged it. We can whine, we can whimper or we can fight back, and we’re here to fight back. We know what we’re fighting for and what we’re up against. We’ve got our voices, or votes and our willingness to fight. This is about democracy, about your future, and about the kind of country we want to build.”

2. "[W]ho does this government work for?…Does it work just for the millionaires, just for the billionaires, just for those who have armies of lobbyists and lawyers or does it work for the people? That’s the question in this race.”

3. "Republicans believe this country should work for those who are rich, those who are powerful, those who can hire armies of lobbyists and lawyers."

4. When conservatives came to power in the 1980s, the first thing they did was "fire the cops on Wall Street. They called it deregulation. But what it really meant was have at 'em boys. They were saying in effect to the biggest financial institutions: Any way you can trick or trap or fool anybody into signing anything, man, you can just rake in the profits."

5. "They ought to be wearing a T-shirt [that says]...'I got mine. The rest of you are on your own.' We can hang back, we can whine about what the Republicans have done…or we can fight back. Me, I’m fighting back!"

Contrast Warren's rock star treatment with the President's reception this weekend: he spoke at a campaign event in Maryland, and attendees filed out as soon as he started speaking. Obama is being kept at arms' length in close races—Warren, on the other hand, will head to New Hampshire this weekend to campaign for Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who's running against Warren's old nemesis, Scott Brown.

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The 5 Stupidest Paranoid Responses to Ebola

| Mon Oct. 20, 2014 3:41 PM EDT

As President Barack Obama noted in his weekly address Saturday, Ebola is a serious public health issue. But the level of paranoia that has surfaced across the country since Thomas Duncan became the first patient diagnosed with the disease in the United States is not only unwarranted—it's  dangerous. Ripped straight from the headlines, here are just five of the more surreal incidents of Ebola panic.

Syracuse University disinvites photographer. Ebola has an incubation period of up to three weeks. If someone hasn't gotten sick within 21 days of exposure, they're in the clear. But News Photographer magazine reported last week that "three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Michel du Cille of The Washington Post, who returned from covering the Ebola crisis in Liberia 21 days ago and who is symptom free, was asked by Syracuse University officials today not to come to campus, where he was scheduled to participate in a journalism program." Cille was not pleased:

 

Maine teacher put on leave after traveling to Dallas. "A teacher at Strong Elementary School was placed on a 21-day paid leave of absence after parents told the school board they were concerned that she might have been exposed to Ebola during a trip to Dallas for an educational conference," the Portland Press Herald recently reported. Dallas, where Duncan's case was first diagnosed, is a city of 1.25 million. Five million people travel to and from Dallas every month.

Rwandan students kept home from New Jersey elementary school. Two students who moved from Rwanda—where there have been zero cases of Ebola—are being kept home from school in Burlington County, New Jersey, for 21 days in response to concerns from parents. Rwanda "is about 2,600 miles away from the closest affected country in West Africa," notes Philadelphia's local Fox station. "That's about as close as Seattle, Washington, is to Philadelphia. But for some parents it really doesn't matter."

Cleveland man charged with felony after stupid joke. "Bond is set at $10,000 for a Cleveland man charged with inducing panic after being accused of telling a Horseshoe Casino worker that he was gambling to avoid his Ebola-stricken ex-wife," Cleveland.com reported last week. Needless to say, neither the man nor his wife has Ebola.

Texas college rejects applicants from Ebola-free Nigeria. Officials at Navarro College in Texas cited Ebola as a basis for refusing admission to two Nigerian students. Nigeria has been extraordinarily effective in fighting its recent outbreak, which included just 20 confirmed cases—so extraordinary, in fact, that as of today, the World's Health Organization officially declared the country Ebola-free. After the media caught wind of the story, an official from Navarro pushed back against "misinformation" by saying that the college is focusing on students from China and Indonesia for the next year.

There's much, much more out there, but we leave you with this note from Bloomberg's Gabriel Snyder.

Which Dad is More Embarrassing: Ron Paul or Rafael Cruz?

| Mon Oct. 20, 2014 1:10 PM EDT

If Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) do battle for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, they'll have to carefully manage their most popular yet embarrassing surrogates: their fathers. Here's a quick guide to the septuagenarian bomb-throwers.

 

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for October 20, 2014

Mon Oct. 20, 2014 10:16 AM EDT

A US Army Corporal carries a detonation cord to blow up expired ordinance in Afghanistan. (US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Whitney Houston)

NBA Player Kisses Sideline Reporter, Calls Her the Wrong Name

| Sun Oct. 19, 2014 11:56 AM EDT

Before Tristan Thompson of the Cleveland Cavaliers took the court Friday to play the Dallas Mavericks, Allie Clifton, a Fox News Ohio reporter, tried to interview him about his game strategy.

After haphazardly answering one of her questions, Thompson calls her "Tina," winks at the camera, and then kisses her on the cheek before running away.

Here's video of the incident:

Contrary to some of the sports media's reporting, kissing a reporter on air while she is working is not "an unexpected gift" or "harmless, and nothing more than an awkward one-sided exchange." It's downright uncomfortable and belittling, even if Clifton maintained utter professionalism throughout. As Kelly Dwyer at Yahoo Sports put it: "This isn't cute or funny or meme-worthy…Just because you're working with someone of the opposite sex, it doesn't mean a sly innuendo, pat on the rear, or kiss on national television is in any way appropriate."

Would Joe Biden Put His Son In Prison For Doing Coke?

| Fri Oct. 17, 2014 5:19 PM EDT

So the son of our Vice President was booted from the military for doing coke. This must be an awkward situation for Joe Biden, given his role in cracking down on drug use over the last few decades. Joe Biden created the position of “drug czar,” a key step in the drug war. As the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1986, he played a major role in passing mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines. He was the main sponsor of the RAVE Act in 2003, meant to crack down on MDMA use, which would have held club owners liable for providing “paraphernalia” like glowsticks and water. He still vocally opposes marijuana legalization.

To be clear: Hunter Biden wasn’t caught with actual cocaine. He just failed a drug test. But what if he'd happened to be found with a little bag in his pocket? Would Joe Biden would find it fair for him to serve 87 months, which is the average federal sentence for drug possession?

Of course, were Hunter Biden to be caught with powder cocaine, he would likely fare better than someone caught with crack. To his credit, Joe Biden himself has pushed for reducing the longstanding sentencing disparity between crack and regular cocaine, but possession of 28 grams of crack still triggers a five-year minimum sentence. It takes 500 grams of regular cocaine to trigger the same sentence. That’s an 18-to-one difference. (African Americans make up 83 percent of people convicted for crack offenses, even though the number of white crack users is 40 percent greater than that of black users, according to a National Institute on Drug Abuse study).

America has more prisoners than any other country—a quarter of all people behind bars in the entire world are in US prisons or jails. Nearly half of all federal prisoners are serving sentences for drugs. Many of them won't have a chance to "regret" their mistakes and move on, as Hunter Biden has said he will.

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The Head of the Federal Reserve Just Gave a Rousing Speech on Inequality

| Fri Oct. 17, 2014 1:59 PM EDT

On Friday, Janet Yellen presented a thorough speech outlining the inherent problems income inequality presents to the American ideology, proving once again she is committed to using her role as Federal Reserve chair to tackle widening income inequality rates.

"The extent of and continuing increase in inequality in the United States greatly concern me," Yellen told the Federal Reserve of Boston. "The past several decades have seen the most sustained rise in inequality since the 19th century after more than 40 years of narrowing inequality following the Great Depression."

“I think it is appropriate to ask whether this trend is compatible with values rooted in our nation’s history, among them the high value Americans have traditionally placed on equality of opportunity," she added.

The speech, titled "Perspectives on Inequality and Opportunity from the Survey of Consumer Finances," follows several notable instances in which Yellen has indicated she would be actively working towards reducing wealth inequality–a more pointed approach that distances her from her predecessors, former chairs Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke. In Friday's speech, Yellen also echoed Sen. Elizabeth Warren's (D-Mass.) calls to fix the burden of rising higher education costs.

As continued evidence has shown, income inequality rates have soared over the last few decades, with the average income of the one percent rising more than 175 percent since 1980, while the bottom 90 percent hardly moved.

 
 

 

While Yellen's speech on Friday made no mention of any specific policy changes the Federal Reserve may take on to combat inequality rates, it did signal a significant shift in how the Federal Reserve views inequality as a serious hindrance to the country's economic health. To read Yellen's speech in its entirety, click here.

Will Nigeria's Kidnapped Schoolgirls Come Home?

| Fri Oct. 17, 2014 11:24 AM EDT
Some of the schoolgirls Boko Haram kidnapped in mid-April.

Update, Friday, October 24: The deal reached last week between the Nigerian government and Boko Haram appears to have fallen apart as reports surfaced Thursday that the Islamist militants had kidnapped dozens more women and children in northern Nigeria, and had broken the recently agreed-upon cease fire.

On Friday, Nigeria's government announced it had reached a deal with Boko Haram to release the approximately 200 schoolgirls held captive by the Islamist terror group since April.

The agreement, announced by the country's defense minister, also involves a cease fire between Boko Haram and Nigeria's military. The government expects the terror group will not back out on the deal. "Commitment among parts of Boko Haram and the military does appear to be genuine," an official with Nigeria's security forces told Reuters Friday. "It is worth taking seriously."

Boko Haram militants abducted more than 300 schoolgirls from Chibok boarding school in northern Nigeria in mid-April, sparking a worldwide outcry and propelling the group onto to the international stage for the first time. Over fifty of the girls escaped early on. The rest have remained in captivity ever since.

Boko Haram, whose name roughly means "Western education is sinful," has been terrorizing Nigeria since 2009 in an effort to return the country to the pre-colonial era of Muslim rule. Over the past half-decade, the Islamist group has killed approximately 5,000 Nigerians the group regards as pro-government in attacks on schools, churches, and mosques, as well as military checkpoints, police stations, highways, and a bus station in the capital city of Abuja.

 

Mitch McConnell Flips-Flops on an Ebola Flight Ban—Within 24 Hours

| Fri Oct. 17, 2014 9:52 AM EDT
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

Many Ebola experts think that banning travel to the US from West Africa, where an outbreak of the deadly virus has killed thousands of people, would do more harm than good. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agree. But Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) can't seem to settle on a position. On Tuesday and Wednesday, he stumped both for a ban and for letting the experts decide—a flip-flop within 24 hours.*

In an interview with NBC News, McConnell was asked if he thought the US should ban flights from West Africa. "I'd leave that up to the CDC to determine what the techniques ought to be in trying to contain the disease," he said. He added, "I think we ought to listen to what the CDC thinks they need either in terms of financing or certainly they'll decide the procedures for travel and all the rest. I think we need to follow the advice of the experts who know how to fight scourges like this."

Here's video of the NBC interview:

But less than 24 hours later, McConnell abruptly changed course. Asked by a Kentucky TV station about containing Ebola, McConnell said the US needs to "do everything we can to try to contain the problem where it is." He went on, "I'm not an expert on this, but it strikes me that it would be a good idea to discontinue flights into the United States from that part of the world."

Here's that video:

There are currently no direct flights from the Ebola-affected countries to the US, the New York Times' Jonathan Weisman reported Friday.

Correction: The original version of this post stated that the NBC News and Kentucky interviews occurred on the same day.

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

Fri Oct. 17, 2014 8:37 AM EDT

US Marines watch explosives detonate from afar in the Philippines during a training exercise. (US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Joseph DiGirolam)