Saturday, February 13, 2016

BREAKING: Justice Antonin Scalia Dead At 79

America just got real interesting.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a leading conservative voice on the high court, has died at the age of 79, a government source and a family friend told CNN on Saturday.

Scalia died in his sleep during a visit to Texas.

A government official said Scalia went to bed Friday night and told friends he wasn't feeling well. Saturday morning, he didn't get up for breakfast. And the group he was with for a hunting trip left without him.

Someone at the ranch went in to check on him and found him unresponsive.

First of all, as wrong and as awful as Scalia's politics were as a jurist, he was a human being who had a family, a wife and nine children who lost a husband and father. "Great and terrible things, but great nonetheless" as they say.

Second of all, having said that, there is no way Republicans are going to let Obama nominate anyone to replace him. GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell's statement today:

"Today our country lost an unwavering champion of a timeless document that unites each of us as Americans. Justice Scalia's fidelity to the Constitution was rivaled only by the love of his family: his wife Maureen his nine children, and his many grandchildren. Through the sheer force of his intellect and his legendary wit, this giant of American jurisprudence almost singlehandedly revived an approach to constitutional interpretation that prioritized the text and original meaning of the Constitution. Elaine and I send our deepest condolences to the entire Scalia family.

“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President.

No matter what you believe about Scalia, or Obama, think about the last time a Senate leader said that a sitting President had no right to name a replacement justice to the Supreme Court.

You're up, Mr. President.

Never A Given

I'm still not sold on Bernie Sanders, not by any stretch of the imagination, and I doubt any of the regulars here at ZVTS are truly sold on the man. But as Joy-Ann Reid reminds us, Hillary Clinton isn't a given now any more than she was in 2008 and she has a lot of work to do to.

Even before Sen. Bernie Sanders began surging in early state and national polls, the Hillary Clinton campaign viewed South Carolina as her firewall, mainly due to her much higher standing and name recognition with black voters. But there are signs that the Clinton team may be falling behind the Sanders campaign, both in terms of organizing on the ground and exciting black voters, even as former Secretary Clinton maintains a large lead in the polls and prognosticators like give her overwhelming odds of winning the state’s primary in two weeks.

As of last week, the Clinton campaign had only two campaign offices in South Carolina: one in Charleston and another in the capital, Columbia, with just 14 full-time staffers including state director Clay Middleton. The campaign also has nine “get out the vote” sites – smaller-scale sites devoted to turnout – across the state.

The Sanders campaign, meanwhile, had 240 staffers on the ground as of last week – 80 percent of them African-American – spread across 10 offices statewide.

“That’s real infrastructure,” said one veteran South Carolina political consultant who was involved in the 2008 effort to elect Barack Obama and who spoke on background. “[Donald] Trump lost Iowa because his campaign didn’t have infrastructure and Ted Cruz did. That’s what gets people to the polls. And Hillary is the very person who should know about infrastructure, because that’s how she lost to Obama in 2008 in the first place.”

The Sanders campaign is using both traditional and innovative strategies to reach voters, including “Bernie Bingo” for seniors who get a ride to the polls after enjoying the board game with the youthful canvassers. Voters in South Carolina have been able to vote early, absentee or in person since January 1, and the Sanders campaign is taking full advantage before the end of early voting for Democrats on February 26.

Primary voting days for Republicans and Democrats are February 20 and 27 respectively.

Don't get me wrong, in the general I think Hillary is far better equipped to withstand the rigors of next fall. Bernie's thin-skinned and cranky and frankly he's just as pragmatic as Hillary when it comes to politics, because he's been in politics for four decades, 25 years at the federal level and only became a freaking Democrat like last Tuesday. But at some point Bernie Sanders decided, much like Barack Obama did in early 2008, that he can win this thing, and he's proceeding to do what he needs to do to win.

Good or bad, Hillary Clinton now has a race on her hands.  That is what both sides said they wanted, so here we go.

Be careful what you wish for.

Dispatches From Bevinstan, Con't

This week Gov. Matt Bevin, champion of smaller government, paragon individual responsibility, and destroyer of onoerous regulatory burdens, signed into law the "Kentucky Women Are Too Stupid To Be Allowed Reproductive Choices" Act.

The signing of Bevin's "Informed and Consent" abortion bill started with a five-minute-long prayer, which received a loud applause from supporters of the new legislation. 
The bill, signed last week, requires women seeking abortions to have a face-to-face consultation -- in person or by live video chat -- at least 24 hours before an abortion. 
The previous bill allowed women to listen to a recorded message about risks and benefits. 
"Many have fought for a long, long time to see meaningful prolife legislation come out of this legislature and be signed into law. This is the first of any significance in 12 years,” Bevin said. 
"We know that abortion is wrong at its core. It's evil. So we're never going to go away,” Susan Kenney said. 
And there are some who don’t agree. 
"Planned Parenthood is the most effective abortion reducing, abortion preventing organization that exists," Geoff Young said. 
"We are going to celebrate and appreciate the importance of human life and the sanctity of every human life,” Bevin said.

Sure, unless that life needs Medicaid, in which case it can go screw itself.  Needless to say, Bevin's getting burnt online.

Women in Kentucky are taking to social media to ask Governor MattBevin questions about their vaginas in protest at a new anti-abortion bill signed by the Republican governor. Twitter users have been using thehashtag #askbevinaboutmyvag to direct gynaecological questions at the first-term politician.

The bill requires women to have a face-to-face consultation - either over live video chat or in person - at least 24 hours before receiving an abortion. Previously, women were required to only listen to a recorded message about the risks and benefits of undergoing the procedure. Bevinis also supporting a bill that has passed the Kentucky senate, requiring any woman seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound - if the bill becomes law, doctors who do not comply could face fines between $100,000 and $250,000 (£69,000 and £172,000). 
Derek Selznick, director of the Kentucky ACLU's Reproductive Freedom Project, told the Lexington Herald-Leader: "This is not informed consent. This is about politicians trying to bully, shame and humiliate women who have already made the personal, informed and heart-wrenching decision to terminate a pregnancy."

Which is exactly what Bevin and his holy rollers are doing.

But you voted for him, Kentucky.  You get what you pay for, right?

That Big Grayson Area

It's been a while since we've checked in with Rep. Alan Grayson, back in the House and running for Marco Rubio's seat in the Senate.  As the New York Times notes, Grayson has an interesting day job outside of being in Congress: that of hedge fund manager. And the House Ethics Committee apparently has a few questions for him.

This highly unusual dual role — a sitting House lawmaker running a hedge fund, which until recently had operations in the Cayman Islands — has led to an investigation of Mr. Grayson by the House Committee on Ethics.

The inquiry has become public, but emails and marketing documents obtained by The New York Times show the extent to which Mr. Grayson’s roles as a hedge fund manager and a member of Congress were intertwined, and how he promoted his international travels, some with congressional delegations, to solicit business.

Interviews and the documents show that Mr. Grayson told potential investors in his hedge fund that they should contribute money to the fund to capitalize on the unrest he observed around the world, and to take particular advantage when there was “blood in the streets.” 
The emails also show how Mr. Grayson’s work for the hedge fund, which had $16.4 million in assets as of October, at times interfered with his other duties. In August 2015, after Mr. Grayson introduced legislation calling for larger annual increases in Social Security benefits, he signed off on a plan to highlight the proposal at an event in Tampa, Fla., emails obtained by The Times show. But the plan was scuttled, two former aides said, when economic turmoil in China sent stock markets tumbling globally and Mr. Grayson had to turn his attention to the fund. 
Ken Scudder, a spokesman for Mr. Grayson, disputed that account. “There has never been any time when Representative Grayson’s investment activities have disrupted any of his work, whether official or campaign-related,” he said. 
Mr. Grayson says he has done nothing wrong. “Here is something that is not true: that I somehow traded on my membership as a U.S. congressman to get clients for this fund,” Mr. Grayson said in an interview. He added that in the last year he had refunded the full original investments put in by his two outside investors in a fund that had faced steep losses — leaving only Mr. Grayson and a family trust invested in the fund.

Look, Grayson would make an infinitely better US Senator than Marco Rubio and I hope he wins, but...the guy is literally a Wall Street hedge fund manager.  Let's not pretend he's some sort of scrappy outsider here who doesn't play the game.  There's a reason Congress is filled by the rich elite in both parties, and Grayson's one of them.

He has a spine.  He also has a hedge fund.  They are not mutually exclusive.
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