Political MoJo

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)

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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.

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.

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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)

Rand Paul Thinks Ebola Is More Contagious Than AIDS

| Thu Oct. 16, 2014 1:08 PM EDT

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky) reportedly put on his scientist hat this morning, telling CNN's Ashley Killough that Ebola is more easily spread than AIDS–a statement that is an irresponsible, flat out lie.

Paul's posturing is just the latest in a series of Ebola-truthing tactics he and other members of the GOP have been fully employing as of late. Perhaps more seriously, Paul's theory calls into question the types of feverish, vomit-spewing cocktail soirees he suggests he frequents.

For a deeper look into the contagiousness of Ebola compared to other diseases, check out the charts below from David McCandless and NPR:

 

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for October 16, 2014

Thu Oct. 16, 2014 9:40 AM EDT

A US Marine participates in an advanced rope technique course in California. (US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Steve H. Lopez)

Court Strikes Down Arkansas Voter ID Law

| Thu Oct. 16, 2014 9:39 AM EDT

On Wednesday, the Arkansas Supreme Court struck down the state's restrictive voter ID law, ruling that it violated the state's constitution. The unanimous decision, which comes just days before early voting begins in the state, could impact a Senate race considered key to a Republican takeover of the Senate.

Arkansas' law, enacted in 2013 after the Republican-controlled legislature overrode the Democratic Gov. Mike Beebee's veto, would have required voters to show a government-issued photo ID at the polls. Studies have shown that photo ID laws disproportionately burden minority and poor voters, making them less likely to vote. The state Supreme Court ruled that the voter ID law imposes a voting eligibility requirement that "falls outside" those the state constitution enumerates—namely, that a voter must only be a US citizen, an Arkansas resident, at least 18 years of age, and registered to vote—and was therefore invalid.

The court's ruling could help swing in Democrats' favor the tight Senate race between Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor and his opponent, Republican Rep. Tom Cotton.

After the Supreme Court gutted a section of the Voting Rights Act last year, Republican state legislatures around the country enacted a slew of harsh voting laws. Since the 2010 election, new restrictions have been enacted in 21 states. Fourteen of those were passed for the first time this year.

Arkansas was one of seven states in which opponents of restrictive voting laws filed lawsuits ahead of the 2014 midterms. Last week, the US Supreme Court blocked Wisconsin's voter ID law. A federal court last Thursday struck down a similar law in Texas—only to have its ruling reversed this week by an appeals court. The Supreme Court recently allowed North Carolina and Ohio to enforce their strict new voting laws.