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Trump tries cozying up to Senate Republicans with Supreme Court list

Mon, 05/23/2016 - 19:30

There's no question that Donald Trump's proposed Supreme Court picks would be a nightmare for jurisprudence. What we're now finding out about that list is how Trump is trying to gain leverage over Republicans in the Senate with these picks.

Nearly everyone on Trump’s list has close ties to Republican senators. As Politico reported, one potential nominee is a close acquaintance of Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas). Another is a former professor of Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.). Another is a longtime favorite of Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). Thomas Lee, a Utah Supreme Court justice, is the brother of Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah.).
 

In life under President Trump, it's not hard to imagine that these senators would consider the prospect of seeing their old friend, mentor or brother appointed to the Supreme Court (or, conversely, removed from Trump's list) when weighing the White House's legislative agenda.

This is precisely why it's rare to see a presidential candidate release a list of potential Supreme Court nominees before ever getting elected. There's an ethical dimension to using a sitting judge as barter for something else—even if it just looks that way.

"Ethics" and "Trump" don't belong in the same sentence, clearly. One court expert at the Brookings Institute, Russell Wheeler, was a bit shocked at just how brazen Trump was in his selections. "The fact is, Mike Lee might be above reproach and his brother may be above reproach, but the very fact that you and I can wonder about that, it creates problems," he told Huffington Post. "With Utah, there's a lot of Mormon Church opposition to Trump. There’s talk that Clinton might be able to swing that very red state. You don’t have to be too bright to figure out what might be going on there.”

The big question: Are Senate Republicans bright enough to figure that one out?

Please donate $3 today to help turn the Senate blue. The future of the Supreme Court depends on it.

Trump chooses climate change hard-liner for energy advisor

Mon, 05/23/2016 - 19:01

Coming on the heels of a giant spike in average global temperatures, the Trump campaign has chosen a climate change skeptic, Rep. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, to serve as energy advisor should the former New York City liberal win in November. Actually, climate change skeptic is just the tip of the melting iceberg here. It’s not clear if this clown even understands or cares what a greenhouse gas is:

It’s the degree (so to speak) to which he denies it that’s staggering. He’s part of the tiny, tiny head-in-the-sand deniers who won’t even acknowledge the planet’s heating up. That line in the video where he says, “We know the globe is cooling; number one we know that” is from 2012, just a few years ago. To actually say out loud that the Earth is cooling would make Orwell blush.

But he wasn’t done; he also added, “… the idea that CO2 is somehow causing global warming is on its face fraudulent.”

In simplistic terms, if it’s a reasonably stable, garden variety gas at room temperature, and if it has three or more atoms per molecule instead of one or two, odds are good it’s a greenhouse gas. Nitrogen and oxygen, the two primary constituents in Earth’s atmosphere, are called diatomic, because they come arranged in pairs of atoms, written N2 or O2, and often look kind of like a dumbbell when illustrated. But CO2 (carbon dioxide), H2O (water vapor), and CH4 (methane) all have three or more atoms in each molecule, and no surprise, all three gases trap heat way more efficiently than diatomic nitrogen or oxygen. The chart above courtesy of the Scripps Institute shows the concentration of carbon dioxide in the air over the last  50 years. It’s really not that hard to understand.

Then again Trump is not exactly providing a solid role model of scientific inquiry or integrity—or even basic acceptance of empirical reality. Back in January 2014, he seemed to think temperatures were going the other way.

Democrats vow to take on GOP House members who switched votes to target LGBT workers

Mon, 05/23/2016 - 17:09

Four House Republicans who made a last-minute vote switch last week in order to ensure passage of an anti-LGBT provision are now in the crosshairs of the Democratic leadership. It’s just one example of the many ways in which Democrats are advancing an incredibly pro-LGBT platform in an election cycle where LGBTQ issues looked like they might be overshadowed.

The four GOP members—California Reps. David Valadao and Jeff Denham; Iowa Rep. David Young; and Maine Rep. Bruce Poliquin—originally voted to scrap a measure that would have repealed nondiscrimination protections for LGBT employees of federal contractors. But in a highly unusual move, they and three other Republicans (seven total) flipped their votes after the time had expired. All four hail from Obama swing districts in 2012 and Democratic leadership is now promising to make the anti-LGBT vote a key campaign issue in their reelection bids.

An official for House Democrats’ campaign arm, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), told The Hill that the vote is expected to become a major issue in a competitive race like Young’s. Nonpartisan political prognosticators like the Cook Political Report and Sabato’s Crystal Ball rate Young’s district as a “toss up.” 

While seizing on workplace fairness issues for LGBT Americans may seem like a tactical no-brainer these days for Democrats, it’s worth recalling that as recently as 2012 Democratic leadership was still a bit squeamish about pushing LGBT issues as a general election strategy. 

Trump leading Hillary? McCain led Obama at parallel point in 2008—it's called a nomination bounce

Mon, 05/23/2016 - 14:52

Donald Trump got a significant bump from wrapping up the Republican nomination a couple of weeks ago, while Hillary Clinton—even though she will be the nominee—still has a strong opponent in the race who is making the case against her, as well as against the fairness of the nomination process itself.

Bernie Sanders has won most of the races this past month, and the chaos at the recent Nevada Democratic Convention only increased the bad blood. Negative feelings toward Clinton felt by some Sanders' supporters are, without question, affecting the Clinton v. Trump poll numbers. Some percentage of Sanders voters are currently saying they are undecided, or voting for Trump or even, if there’s such an option in a given poll, "other" (i.e., Sanders).

When the Democratic race is settled and both nominees are in a similar position regarding the supporters of their primary opponents, we'll have a much better sense of where this race stands. It will likely look much more like it did about six weeks ago, before Trump swept the Northeast and pretty much wrapped things up.

Screen_Shot_2016-05-23_at_3.33.00_PM.png

For example in 2008, while both nomination races were going on throughout February, the polling averages showed an Obama lead over McCain, but McCain got a bump and went ahead after securing the Republican nomination in early March. Obama began closing in on McCain and went past him a few weeks later in the polling average, after the bump faded and Obama's grasp on the Democratic nomination began to look more secure. When the Democratic race ended and Clinton endorsed him in early June, his lead grew. Other than a few days after the Republican convention in early September, when McCain led by a point or two thanks to his convention bounce, Obama remained ahead from early April right up to the election.

Small hands, small campaign: Hillary's infrastructure greatly outpaces Trump's

Mon, 05/23/2016 - 14:30

It’s been easy for Donald Trump to self-fund his efforts so far. The ever-hungry media has given him a steady opportunity for self promotion at a cost of nothing. Whether it’s the morning tongue bath on Morning Joe or his job as uncredited co-host of Today, all Trump has to do is pick up the phone and he’s instantly on national TV. When NBC is broadcasting the Nightly News from between the dozens of gold-framed Donald Trump photos that Donald Trump (of course) keeps on his office wall, it’s pretty easy to avoid burning through your cash on the kinds of ads that consume most campaigns.

But as we head into the general election season, Trump has already dropped the pretense that he’s putting up his own bucks. Instead he’s calling on the GOP’s big dollar donors to pony up. And they have some work to do.

At the outset of the general election, Hillary Clinton’s campaign looks like a well-oiled juggernaut next to Donald Trump’s vastly smaller, mostly self-funded operation, a POLITICO analysis of Federal Election Commission reports filed Friday found.

Through the end of last month, the period covered by the most recent FEC filings, Trump’s campaign spending was less than a third of Clinton’s ($57 million to $182 million) and Trump had assembled a staff about one-tenth the size of hers (70 employees to 732), and spent less on offices (Trump last month paid $101,000 in rent vs. $328,000 for Clinton), the analysis found.  

Trump’s (repayable) loan to himself accounted for 75 percent of the money his campaign used in the primaries. On the other hand, Ted Cruz managed to run through twice as much as Trump, and Jeb! spent a ridiculous $124 million to be nothing but the butt of jokes. 

How much is either cash or staffing going to matter in what’s already been an extremely unusual campaign season?

Ohio businessman in Koch-backed ad forgets how great his company did under Ted Strickland

Mon, 05/23/2016 - 14:13
Goal Thermometer

Don’t you hate it when you get caught saying something that completely contradicts what you said before? Yeah. That’s basically what happened to an Ohio businessman featured in a new ad targeting Democratic Senate candidate Ted Strickland’s handling of the economy when he was governor. Here’s how Keith Kingrey, vice president of Tipp City’s SK Mold & Tool, remembers things in a newly released ad, sponsored by the Koch-backed Freedom Partners Action Fund PAC.

“I remember when Ted Strickland was governor,” says Kingrey. “Companies were leaving right and left. Taxes were going up. Ohio lost over 350,000 jobs under Ted Strickland.”

What Kingrey seems to have forgotten in the ad is how well his company was doing when Strickland was still governor in 2010. In fact, here’s what he told the Dayton Daily News in 2011, after his company had expanded in 2008 by acquiring Sun Machine and Tool Corp. in Troy, OH.

“It started picking up in 2010 pretty good. Last year was a pretty decent year,” Kingrey said. “This year every quarter, it continues to get better and better.”

Well, that’s awkward. 

Midday open thread: Electric vehicle sales could rise fivefold by 2021; Vietnam arms ban ended

Mon, 05/23/2016 - 14:00

Today’s comic by Tom Tomorrow is The great Trump overload:

Cartoon by Tom Tomorrow -- The great Trump overload

What you may have missed on Sunday Kos …

Minnesota will hold a presidential primary instead of a caucus in 2020: Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton announced Sunday that he had signed a bill creating a presidential primary starting in the 2020 election. Currently, Minnesota holds a caucus that has been criticized because it excludes voters unable to attend at a particular time or to spend what is often hours engaging in the process. The legislature moved on the matter after complaints of overcrowded polling sites and long lines in the 2016 caucus. "Keep in mind if it’s a real primary election, unlike a caucus, there would be an absentee period where people would vote before the election. Not so with caucuses, where you need to be there in person at a particular hour, 7 p.m., or else you can’t vote," Dayton said.

White House announces that Taliban leader was killed in drone strike: Akhtar Mohammad Mansour was killed Saturday in Pakistan during a U.S. attack the government there said violated its sovereignty. Meanwhile, senior Taliban members confirmed that their main shura, or leadership council, has been meeting to discuss the succession. President Obama, on a three-day visit to Vietnam, called on the Taliban to join stalled peace talks, some Mansour had opted out of.

Sorry, Rod. Supreme Court rejects Blagojevich appeal … again: The Court first rejected the former Illinois governor’s request in March, and his lawyers filed for a rehearing that was turned down Monday without comment. The 59-year-old Blagojevich is in year five of a 14-year sentence being served in a federal prison in Colorado. He was convicted on 18 counts of corruption.

Obama announces an end to the arms ban on Vietnam: This, the president said, is part of a process that began decades ago. It became obvious, he said, given the trust that has developed because of trade and humanitarian efforts as well as cooperation between the militaries of the two nations. Every sale made to everyone is judged on its own merits whoever is involved, he said:

Nguyen Ngoc Truong, president of Vietnam's Center for Strategic Studies and International Development, hailed the move as an important symbolic development between the two countries.

 "It does not mean Vietnam will be (a) very big buyer of American weapons straight away, but (it) is important in the future. The symbolism is more important."

Four dead on Mount Everest since Thursday. Two more missing.

Worldwide electric vehicle sales could hit $58 billion by 2021:

While US plug-in vehicle demand hit a slump last year, the direction of global sales ofelectric vehicles will likely be far less downward trending over the next few years. In fact, global electric vehicle revenue will likely reach $58 billion in 2021, ABI Research says. That represents a fivefold increase from 2015. 

The jump will be fueled by both an increased demand overseas as well as a wider choice of EV types. For instance, Ford and BMW are making electric bikes that can fit inside the trunk of a conventional vehicle – the concept being that commuters can make that "last mile" emissions-free.

• On today’s Kagro in the Morning show: Republicans are falling in line for Hairspray von Clownstick, after all. Greg Dworkin has horse race, preference & issue polls, plus news of fractures everywhere from Reddit to the NRA to… Europe. Dem state chairs meet, seeking inner peace. It’s almost as if guns attract crime.

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Virginia Republican leaders sue over Gov. McAuliffe's restoration of felons' voter rights

Mon, 05/23/2016 - 13:53

Virginia Republicans filed a lawsuit Monday to get the state supreme court to keep 206,000 felons from voting in the upcoming general election. They argue in the 61-page suit that Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe exceeded his authority and violated the Virginia constitution’s separation of powers when he effectively suspended the state’s ban on restoring voting rights to felons who had served their sentences. House Speaker William Howell and Senate Majority Leader Thomas Norment filed the suit along with four other voters.

In addition to voting, McAuliffe’s order restores other aspects of citizenship to felons who have completed their sentences and any parole or probation provisions. They can also run for office and serve on a jury. 

According to media reports, state officials say 4,000 felons have registered to vote since April 22. The lawsuit seeks cancellation of all those registrations and a ban on registering any more:

“Once you have served your time, and you’ve finished up your supervised parole ... I want you back as a full citizen of the commonwealth,” McAuliffe said when announcing his order. “I want you to have a job. I want you paying taxes, and you can’t be a second-class citizen.”

Republican critics have called the move a favor to Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton, McAuliffe’s close friend and political ally, who could benefit from higher numbers of minority voters in the crucial swing state.

In fact, studies back up at least part of McAuliffe’s argument in their conclusions that felons who have their voting rights restored are less likely to reoffend. 

Donald Trump woos Muslim Republicans, and yep—it's working

Mon, 05/23/2016 - 13:52

What can even be said about this?

Donald Trump’s top foreign policy adviser has quietly opened backchannels within Muslim and Middle Eastern communities in the U.S. in an attempt to win over a small but increasingly important voting bloc.

That "top foreign policy adviser" would be Fox News "expert" Walid Phares, a thoroughly alarming nut who, just as an aside, Trump appears to believe is a Muslim. (He's not, and in fact was active in the far-right Lebanese Christian militia movement during that nation's civil war, including a prominent role in a group with the slogan "Kill a Palestinian and you shall enter heaven.” He made the graceful transition from that to Fox News-promoted expert on the Middle East because, well, Fox News.)

[T]he bulk of the discussions, Phares said, were initiated by curious Muslim Republicans or Middle Eastern conservatives seeking additional information on Trump’s views or hoping to influence his policies – particularly as they pertain to the temporary ban on Muslims entering the country.

“Most of those who reached out said they want to support Mr. Trump, but they’re not clear about some of the statements he’s made,” Phares said.

That must be a hell of a thing to grapple with, if you're a Muslim Republican. "Well, I may not be able to enter or leave the country for a while and Trump-supporting white supremacists might be beating people up in the streets—but golly, I sure want that tax cut."

Trump thinks he's getting Sanders' supporters

Mon, 05/23/2016 - 13:51

Donald Trump.

"I believe that a large percentage of his [Sanders'] people vote for Trump. You watch," Trump told cheering supporters Thursday at a campaign event in Lawrenceville, N.J. "The one thing he's right on is trade."

In reality, we’re more unified now than we were in 2008. So like I wrote last week, the problem isn’t Bernie Sanders’ supporters, it’s Bernie Sanders himself. Though giving Donald Trump false hope is certainly not among his top sins. It’s actually kinda hilarious. 

11 reasons why Bernie Sanders lost this thing fair and square

Mon, 05/23/2016 - 13:11

Bernie Sanders exceeded all primary season expectations and was en route to building something of a real movement. But rather than locking in those gains and settling in for a long-haul effort, he’s opted for a legacy-busting temper tantrum instead, heading out the (primary) door in a cloud of whining, conspiracy mongering, and blame casting. It’s a bizarre finale to what was undoubtedly an incredible run. So here are some observations, not because it matters—he’s lost—but because his claims of victimhood are absolute bullshit and need to be corrected. 

1. If you plan for a coup, you’ve already lost

Let’s just take a moment to appreciate what Sanders is trying to accomplish here—he knows he’s lost the election. He’s all but acknowledged it. Which is why he’s now focused so heavily on getting the establishment superdelegates to overturn the election in his favor. 

Like a despotic dictator, he is so sure of his supremacy that he sneers at the choices of his electorate and seeks to callously toss them aside. He dishonestly tells his supporters that there’s a conspiracy standing between him and victory. 

Not only is this undemocratic, it’s outright delusional. These are the same superdelegates representing the same establishment he’s repeatedly bashed and even sued. These are the superdelegates he spent the first year of his campaign blasting as an affront to the democratic process and illegitimate. NOW, things are different. Having lost the election, he expects these supers to overturn the will of the electorate, including the heavy preferences of key growth party demographics like Latinos and African Americans, in order to hand the nomination to the loser of the contest. 

Charlotte City Council weighs repeal of its pro-LGBT ordinance in exchange for nothing, apparently

Mon, 05/23/2016 - 12:39

UPDATE: The Charlotte City Council has now pulled consideration of this item from today’s meeting agenda, per the Raleigh News & Observer.

ORIGINAL POST: Charlotte’s City Council, under pressure from the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, might reportedly consider a symbolic vote to repeal its nondiscrimination ordinance during Monday’s 5 PM meeting. The vote is not officially scheduled but council members could ask for it under an agenda item in which members will discuss the economic impact of HB2, the law that prohibits transgender individuals from using the appropriate bathrooms, among other things.

Before getting to the reporting, it’s important to understand that repealing the city’s ordinance would have no practical impact other than emboldening anti-LGBT lawmakers and validating their hateful actions. Nonetheless, the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, which supposedly promotes business, is pressuring the city council to repeal its nondiscrimination ordinance based on the economic impact of HB2—which, you’ll recall, is not the Charlotte ordinance but rather the law that state legislators passed. So if council members voted for repeal, practically it would mean nothing because HB2 is the measure that wreaked havoc on the state and effectively erased Charlotte’s ordinance anyway. And at this point, it’s unclear that state lawmakers have agreed to any concessions regarding HB2—meaning the wrong public officials are being pressured to do the wrong thing with no clear outcome other than simply putting a target on Charlotte’s back. Certainly, no one would have to feel badly about cancelling business in Charlotte anymore.

Now to Steve Harrison’s reporting on the proposal:

Under the proposal, the Charlotte City Council would remove the ordinance from its books, even though House Bill 2 nullified almost all of it. In return, the legislature would modify some of HB2, the controversial law that, along with other provisions, requires people in government facilities to use the bathroom that matches their birth certificate. [MY NOTE: No specifics on what exactly would be modified.]

Supreme Court vacancy watch Day 100: It's Monday, so don't expect the Senate to, like, work

Mon, 05/23/2016 - 12:00

It's Monday, May 23 and Day 100 since Justice Antonin Scalia died and Mitch McConnell laid down his Supreme Court blockade: No meetings, no hearings, no votes on his replacement. It's also Day 68 since President Obama named Merrick Garland to be Scalia's replacement. What's the Senate doing today instead of considering the Supreme Court nominee? 

Duh. It’s Monday. The Senate doesn’t even convene until 3 PM.

Please donate $3 today to help turn the Senate blue. The future of the Supreme Court depends on it.

Lobbyists fighting administration drug effort shine light on how much they’re in charge of Congress

Mon, 05/23/2016 - 11:30

Here we go again. The Republican-controlled Congress—with the help of some Democrats—is trying to derail a new regulation from the Obama administration. This regulation aims to reduce the costs to Medicare of pharmaceuticals used in outpatient treatments. Doctors groups and PhRMA lobbyists have been pushing lawmakers hard to try to throw a spanner in the works, because they make more money when higher-cost drugs are used. But their lobbyist goofed up this week, shining a light on how Washington works.

Two experts called to speak about a controversial Medicare regulation submitted written testimony to a House subcommittee Tuesday that included identical and near-identical passages outlining their opposition to a plan that would cut how much physicians get paid to administer medicines to patients in their offices.

It’s usual for witnesses on the same side of an issue to share a point of view. It’s not normal for them to use the exact same words to articulate it.

So how did this happen? Not surprisingly, lobbyists were involved. […]

A lobbying firm called Hart Health Strategies does business with the organizations both witnesses represented. 

“Both of our clients were asked to testify at yesterday’s hearing. We inadvertently merged the process parts of both testimonies. It was merely a clerical error,” Vicki Hart, the lobbying firm’s president, wrote in an email to The Huffington Post.

Why even bother to have "expert" witnesses (in this case Marcia Boyle, president of the Immune Deficiency Foundation, and Michael Schweitz, a Florida-based rheumatologist on behalf of the Alliance of Specialty Medicine and the Coalition of State Rheumatology Organizations) testify? Why not just put the lobbyists in the witness chairs? It's not like the Republicans calling these hearings are actually looking to be educated or illuminated on the issues. They want to have testimony that supports their ultimate actions—the actions that the same lobbyists who write the "expert" testimony are telling them to take.

Paul Ryan tries to turn House Republican chaos into a virtue

Mon, 05/23/2016 - 11:20

Paul Ryan’s deal when he became speaker of the House was that he’d give the far-far-far-right vandal caucus more leeway than they got from John Boehner. Predictably enough, that’s causing Ryan some headaches:

Last week, conservatives twisted Ryan’s (R-Wis.) arm into allowing panel hearings on impeaching the IRS commissioner, a move GOP leadership has never supported. Then, a gay rights amendment to a spending bill blew up on the House floor, forcing Republicans to run a last-minute whip operation to switch a handful of GOP votes and defeat the measure.

Three of those Republican vote switchers, who are facing tough reelections this fall, are already getting blowback: Democrats have vowed the make the vote a key election issue, calling those who changed their votes “cowards” who “can’t stand up to party leadership.”

Ryan’s official position, in translation, is that this is what the people who forced Boehner out as speaker wanted, and this is what they’re getting—even if it turns out to not always be so great for other Republicans:

“If we're going to have open rules in appropriations, which we have, which is regular order, people are going to have to take tough votes, and I think people are acknowledging this,” Ryan said at a press conference last Thursday, just minutes after the House's chaotic gay rights vote. “This is the kind of conversation we have had all along with our Members, which is tough votes happen in open rules, people have got to get used to that fact. That's the way regular order works.”

Seems like the only way to be in charge of House Republicans is to admit that you can’t lead or control them.

'Infrastructure Week' focuses on decaying roads, bridges—but transportation needs a green makeover

Mon, 05/23/2016 - 11:02

“This is the 21st century, but our transportation systems are stuck in the 20th. One of four bridges in the U.S. is structurally deficient or obsolete, more than half the miles we drive on federal highways are on roads in less than good condition and our transit systems are stretched beyond capacity. This is a recipe for falling behind, not competing in the global economy. We can put men and women back to work building America, get our economy on track and leave behind real assets for taxpayers and future generations.” —Terry O’Sullivan, General President of the Laborers’ International Union of North America.

You might get another cup of coffee to keep your eyes open. Because we’re going to talk about a word that tends to make a lot of people’s eyes glaze over: Infrastructure. Yet no other word quite conveys the broadness of meaning one gets out of infrastructure. And it’s essential. 

Today is the final day of eight days devoted to it. They actually call it Infrastructure Week. The driving force behind it is the American Society of Civil Engineers. You may know them as the folks who put out a scary national infrastructure report card every four years. We don’t need that, however, to see what’s been happening.

America’s infrastructure suffers from decades of reckless neglect, what bureaucrats and policymakers conceal behind the euphemism of “deferred maintenance.” Decrepit describes the consequences. Myopic describes the attitude. This affects many realms—our public schools, our public health system, our electrical transmission grid and, despite how deeply we Americans treasure personal mobility, our transportation system.

This crumbling of infrastructure has been met over the years with a certain amount of cognitive dissonance. Even though all the infrastructure in the aforementioned areas is crucial to a thriving existence in the modern age, it has been treated as if it doesn’t really matter, insubstantially patched up or simply left to rot. That's been as much the case with transportation as elsewhere. But as Angie Schmitt at StreetsBlog USA writes, in the past six years we’ve seen a reduction by 17 percent in the total miles of pavement rated mediocre or poor, and a 14 percent decrease in the percentage of bridges considered structurally deficient.

Supreme Court rejects Republican challenge to Virginia's new congressional map

Mon, 05/23/2016 - 10:48

As expected, the Supreme Court left untouched a lower court ruling that had forced Virginia to implement new congressional lines in 2016 because the state’s previous map was found to be an illegal racial gerrymander. The lower court determined that Republican legislators had improperly packed minority voters into a single 3rd District spanning from Richmond to Norfolk, which effectively made all the surrounding districts whiter—and therefore more likely to elect a Republican. The lower court ordered the above map into place, which created a new 4th District with a large enough black population to allow African-American voters to elect their candidate of choice.

The Supreme Court’s decision is a win for minority voting rights and consequently Democrats, since Obama won the new 4th District with 61 percent of the vote. Black representation will likely double from one to two members in southeastern Virginia with the likely election of Democratic state Sen. Don McEachin, who is the leading candidate in the revised 4th District.

Unfortunately, the Supreme Court did not set a national precedent by ruling on the merits of the case. Instead, the justices unanimously ruled that Republican legislators lacked legal standing to bring the case in the first place, meaning that the lower court’s ruling consequently stands—but it only applies to the case at hand. As a result, this lawsuit will not clarify further issues that remain in similar racial gerrymandering disputes, such as one in North Carolina.

This ruling demonstrates just how important it is that Democrats win the 2016 presidential election and take back the Senate, so that they can confirm a new Supreme Court justice who strongly supports voting rights. A new majority on the court could establish a national precedent against racial gerrymandering, which could be used in several more states where legislators can draw another district to elect a minority representative.

Do you support Trump? It's a tough question for Republican women in Congress

Mon, 05/23/2016 - 10:43

Put yourself in the shoes of a Republican woman in the House of Representatives facing a competitive race. Quick: What do you say about Donald Trump?

Before deciding if she'll vote for Donald Trump, Martha McSally says she'll spend time "determining what kind of man he is." Mia Love says some comments by the presumptive Republican presidential candidate need "some sort of explanation," while Renee Ellmers backs him because he's "a problem solver."

It takes more time to “determine what kind of man” Trump is?

There’s “some sort of explanation” possible to make Trump’s comments something other than offensive?

This is what we call grasping at straws while walking a very fine line. Welcome to the Republican Women’s Dilemma of 2016.

Officer acquitted in death of Freddie Gray

Mon, 05/23/2016 - 10:15

Officer Edward Nero, the second of six Baltimore police officers charged in the 2015 death of Freddie Gray, has been acquitted of all the charges he faced. Nero faced a judge in a bench trial rather than going before a jury. 

Prosecutors argued during Nero's six-day trial that Nero, a former volunteer EMT and firefighter who has been with the Baltimore Police Department since 2012, committed a crime when he, along with Officer Garrett Miller and Lt. Brian Rice arrested and handcuffed Gray without probable cause after Gray ran unprovoked from police.

The state added that Nero committed reckless endangerment when he failed to seatbelt Gray in the transport van and that placed him in the position that led to his fatal injuries.

Nero's attorney Marc Zayon argued that the law allows for such a stop in high crime areas, Nero only touched Gray once and the police transport van driver, Officer Caesar Goodson, was ultimately responsible for placing a seat belt on Gray.

Also during the trial, Miller testified that he was the one who arrested and handcuffed Gray. Miller, a member of the department since 2012 is also charged with second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office in connection to Gray's death.

The judge reportedly stressed that testimony from Miller in explaining the verdict.

Ron Johnson, genius, shoots himself in foot again on veterans

Mon, 05/23/2016 - 10:00
Goal Thermometer

Wisconson Sen. Ron Johnson and his Koch backers have decided that the way to beat Russ Feingold, the Democrat running to regain this seat, is on veterans issues. They've already dug Johnson a pretty big hole by giving Feingold the opportunity to keep reminding veterans that Johnson and his Senate staff were completely out of touch when it came to a key veterans' healthcare issue. But it's even worse than that, since it opens Johnson up to all sorts of questions about his support for veterans.

Questions like: Where was he on Veterans Day last fall? It turns out he was in Philadelphia that day and the next, playing with service dogs and "for campaign-related events." About that campaign-related event: In its quarterly report to the FEC, Ron Johnson for Senate, Inc. revealed that it reimbursed the Union League of Philadelphia $1,479 for event space on November 12, 2015.

What do we know about the Union League of Philadelphia?

Today, the Union League is a private, members only, Five Star Platinum Club with over 3,500 members. Membership is in the vanguard of Philadelphia life, counting among our members many top leaders in business, academia, law, medicine, politics, religion, and the arts. Our members gather to socialize, dine, attend events, exercise and relax in one of the city's most beautiful and historic settings. As members of the Union League of Philadelphia, they are entitled to many exclusive privileges that further details how the League is the #1 City Club in the nation.

That sounds a bit swanky, huh? You don't even need the "traditional décor […] accented in rich leather, patinated wood and polished marble," or the "distinguished collection of art and artifacts" to figure this place—and its membership—is what you might call upper crust. And not just upper crust. "Our admission process is intended to make sure that we admit only individuals of honor and integrity, individuals who believe in the principles on which our nation was founded—individual liberty, free markets and limited government—and individuals who support the free-enterprise system." That's Joan Carter, the Union League's first female president, speaking in 2011. Ironically, as late as 2012, the Club still had tables reserved for men only in its dining room.