Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Last Call For Clinton Kentucky

I've been holding out hope that Hillary Clinton could win here in Kentucky in 2016 and help beat Rand Paul, but the other half of that Public Policy Polling survey on Kentucky shows that Kentucky Democrats are mostly Reagan Democrats, and Clinton will have an extremely tough battle here.

On the Democratic side Clinton is ever dominant, getting 56% to 12% for Bernie Sanders, 7% for Jim Webb, 5% for Lincoln Chafee, and 3% for Martin O'Malley. Clinton is over 80% with African Americans, 70% with liberals, 60% with younger voters, and 50% with moderates, women, men, whites, and seniors. The only group she fails to get a majority with is the swath of Kentucky Democrats who are conservatives and don't tend to vote Democratic in national elections despite their registration.

Clinton doesn't have much of a chance in the general election in the state outside of ending up running against Trump though. Paul (50/40) and Huckabee (49/39) fare the best against Clinton with 10 point leads. Carson has a 9 point lead at 49/40 and Bush's is 8 points at 48/40. Holding more modest leads over Clinton are Cruz with a 6 point one at 48/42, and Walker (46/41), Rubio (46/41), and Fiorina (45/40) each with a 5 point advantage.

But before you go believing that it's Clinton they dislike, understand that any of the other Democratic hopefuls fare even worse here in the Bluegrass State.

Clinton may not do great in Kentucky but it's really bad for any of the other Democratic hopefuls. Scott Walker would lead Sanders 42/29, O'Malley 40/22, Chafee 41/23, and Webb 42/22. Obviously that has a lot to do with name recognition but it's still somewhat jarring to see potential Democratic candidates polling in the low 20s for the general election in any state.

So Clinton would lose by 5-10 points here and any other Dem would lose by double digits.  It's not looking good here for Team Blue.  Yes, it's 16 months out and anything could happen, but I'm thinking the Clinton campaign isn't going to be making very many visits here.

Ask Alison Grimes how much Hillary was able to help last year.

Golden Brown, Texture Like Sun

Cincinnati's heroin epidemic is just that, a public health issue that's costing the tri-state area millions of dollars and ruining tens of thousands of lives. Dan Horn and Terry DeMio at the Cincinnati Enquirer report on this area's biggest drug problem, and how lawmakers and police have only made it worse. If you want to see why America has lost the War on Drugs, the story of Samantha Gibson and other addicts is where you want to start looking for answers.

Jails are housing thousands of addicts, but they lack the resources to provide effective drug treatment. Most courts still insist on zero-tolerance rules that bounce heroin users from the streets to jail and back again. And long-term treatment remains a crapshoot for addicts and their families, who often can't find, or can't afford, quality care. 
"Our entire approach to this is wrong," says Dr. Mina "Mike" Kalfas, a certified addiction expert and family physician in Northern Kentucky. "Our approach as a society has failed miserably." 
For too long, Kalfas says, policy makers treated the heroin epidemic as a law enforcement problem and put the onus on addicts to get clean or go to jail. 
But heroin is as complicated as it is cruel. It comes with an intense physical addiction that alters brain chemistry and punishes those who try to stop using it with brutal withdrawal symptoms. 
Threats and punishment alone don't work because addicts want heroin more than anything else. More than their jobs, their homes, their health or even their children. 
That's why more than 13,000 heroin users spent time in Greater Cincinnati jails last year, and why more than 300 ended up in the morgue. 
It's also why Kalfas and others now say new approaches are needed, before taxpayers spend more money and families bury more overdose victims. 
"Heroin," Synan says, "is not something you can arrest your way out of." 
Gibson, a mother of three from Newport, is a case in point. She is no stranger to the system. Police have arrested her. Judges have sentenced her. Jails have locked her up. Hospitals have patched her wounds. Treatment centers have put her on waiting lists. Children's services has taken her kids. Paramedics have restarted her heart after an overdose. 
Society is heavily invested in her. Thousands of dollars already have been spent.
Yet here she sits, in jail again, biding her time until her next fix. 
Gibson runs her fingers over her scarred left hand and crosses her legs. It's been several hours since she shot up. She's getting impatient. 
"I can't get through the day without heroin," she says.

It's a devastating story, and there is some hope at least, the notion that more and more police and legislators are realizing that treatment, not incarceration, is the only way out of hell here.  But that requires money for government services, and lawmakers aren't going to go to bat to save the lives of heroin addicts who aren't exactly dependable voters.  Society doesn't give a damn about these guys, so why should taxpayers have to pay?

Of course, the reality is we do pay.  All of us.  And some pay a very final price.

San Juan By Way Of Athens

Greece isn't the only government this week who says it can't make its payments and wants a bailout, not by a long shot.  Much closer to home here in the states, Puerto Rico's governor says the island can't pay off the $72 billion it owes creditors.

The governor, Alejandro García Padilla, and senior members of his staff said in an interview last week that they would probably seek significant concessions from as many as all of the island’s creditors, which could include deferring some debt payments for as long as five years or extending the timetable for repayment.

The debt is not payable,” Mr. García Padilla said. “There is no other option. I would love to have an easier option. This is not politics, this is math.”

It is a startling admission from the governor of an island of 3.6 million people, which has piled on more municipal bond debt per capita than any American state.

A broad restructuring by Puerto Rico sets the stage for an unprecedented test of the United States municipal bond market, which cities and states rely on to pay for their most basic needs, like road construction and public hospitals.

That market has already been shaken by municipal bankruptcies in Detroit; Stockton, Calif.; and elsewhere, which undercut assumptions that local governments in the United States would always pay back their debt.

Puerto Rico’s bonds have a face value roughly eight times that of Detroit’s bonds. Its call for debt relief on such a vast scale could raise borrowing costs for other local governments as investors become more wary of lending.

Perhaps more important, much of Puerto Rico’s debt is widely held by individual investors on the United States mainland, in mutual funds or other investment accounts, and they may not be aware of it.

Puerto Rico, as a commonwealth, does not have the option of bankruptcy. A default on its debts would most likely leave the island, its creditors and its residents in a legal and financial limbo that, like the debt crisis in Greece, could take years to sort out.

This is going to be a big political and financial problem going forward.  It's going to be up to Congress to figure out how and if they are going to help Puerto Rico, but I don't see how they can turn the island away without risking America's credit rating.

We'll see what happens, but this on top of Greece is going to be the next major financial mess for Washington to deal with.


Monday, June 29, 2015

Last Call For SCOTUSpalooza

The final cases of the term today:

Glossip v Gross, the Oklahoma lethal injection case, 5-4 with Alito writing the decision for Kennedy and the conservatives, saying that the drug midazolam, which Oklahoma uses to put death row inmates into a coma state before lethal injection, does not violate the Eighth Amendment on cruel and unusual punishment. SCOTUS ruled in a previous case that pentobarbital or sodium thiopental are no longer available for that purpose, the plaintiffs in the case argued that midazolam wasn’t as effective and the court basically rejected that argument.

Breyer and Ginsburg apparently asked for a ruling on the constitutionality of the death penalty itself, not enough votes to take that up. Blistering dissents from Sotomayor and Breyer on this one.

Arizona redistricting case, 5-4, Ginsburg’s opinion, joined by Kennedy and the liberals, holds that Arizona’s commission for redistricting created by a state referendum is valid, and that Arizona’s legislature does have standing to sue but that the case was rejected on the merits, upholding a lower court decision.

Multiple dissents by the conservative justices. California has a similar commission, and the question was if only the legislature could redistrict based on the Elections Clause of the Constitution, which says “Times, Places, and Manner of holding Elections for […] Representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by the Legislature thereof.”

Michigan v EPA case, 5-4 with Scalia writing the opinion, Kennedy joining the conservatives. The EPA must take costs into account before deciding what regulations are necessary, but it is up to the agency to make that decision. However that effectively means the EPA has to justify the cost of President Obama’s EPA power plant rules, which the industry says will cost tens of billions of something ridiculous. It effectively means the power plant regulations have to be 100% rewritten. Whether or not that will happen before the end of this administration, who knows.

That’s all, folks.

A Game Of Texas Hold-Out

How long will Texas Republicans be able to get away with the tantrum phase of "resisting" a post-Obergefell America?

County clerks can refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples based on religious objections to gay marriage, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said Sunday.

Paxton noted that clerks who refuse to issue licenses can expect to be sued, but added that “numerous lawyers stand ready to assist clerks defending their religious beliefs,” in many cases without charge.

The formal opinion did not specify what constitutes a sincerely held religious belief, noting that “the strength of any such claim depends on the particular facts of each case.”

Paxton said Friday’s “flawed” opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court, which overturned bans against same-sex marriage in Texas and other states, placed religious people in conflict between following their faith and the U.S. Constitution.

“Friday, the United States Supreme Court again ignored the text and spirit of the Constitution to manufacture a right that simply does not exist. In so doing, the court weakened itself and weakened the rule of law, but did nothing to weaken our resolve to protect religious liberty and return to democratic self-government in the face of judicial activists attempting to tell us how to live,” Paxton said.

Paxton’s opinion also noted that judges and justices of the peace can refuse to perform same-sex marriages.

“Judges and justices of the peace have no mandatory duty to conduct any wedding ceremony,” the opinion said, adding that couples cannot be refused on the basis of race, religion or national origin.

Pretty sure a federal judge will put an end this this very quickly, but again, how far will Republican bigots go with this?  Will they really start doing things like ending state-sanctioned marriage altogether?

Monday begins the backlash.  Pay attention to which states, and which GOP governors turned 2016 candidates are fighting this, especially when it comes to pretending to be moderates later on.

The Battle Yet To Come

The Obergefell v Hodges decision on Friday didn't end the battle for gay rights in America any more than Loving v Virginia ended the civil rights battle for black America, and the coming fight will be a lot harder: federal civil rights protections.

Exhilarated by the Supreme Court’sendorsement of same-sex marriage, gay rights leaders have turned their sights to what they see as the next big battle: obtaining federal, state and local legal protections in employment, housing, commerce and other arenas, just like those barring discrimination based on race, religion, sex and national origin.

The proposals pit advocates against many of the same religious conservatives who opposed legalizing same-sex marriage, and who now see the protection of what they call religious liberty as their most urgent task. These opponents argue that antidiscrimination laws will inevitably be used to force religious people and institutions to violate their beliefs, whether by providing services for same-sex weddings or by employing gay men and lesbians in church-related jobs.

Nationally, antidiscrimination laws for gay people are a patchwork with major geographic inequities, said Brad Sears, executive director of the Williams Institute at the School of Law of the University of California, Los Angeles. “Those who don’t live on the two coasts or in the Northeast have been left behind in terms of legal protection,” he said.

At least 22 states bar discrimination based on sexual orientation, and most of them also offer protections to transgender people.

Tennessee is one of the majority of states that do not bar such discrimination. There, in East Nashville, Tiffany Cannon and Lauren Horbal thought they had found the perfect house to share with a friend, and the landlord seemed ready to rent when they applied in April.

Then he called them to ask what their relationship with each other was, Ms. Horbal, 26, recalled.

She said that when the landlord learned that she and Ms. Cannon, 25, were partners, he said, “I’m not comfortable with that.” He refused to process their application, even after they offered to raise their rent by $150, to $700 a month, Ms. Horbal said.

The women, both restaurant workers, are still looking for a place to live.

The hard reality is that while you can now get married in a state like Tennessee or Kentucky of Arkansas or Florida if you're LGBTQ, you can still be fired or denied a place to live because of it. Remember, Gov. Sam Brownback removed protections for LGBTQ workers earlier this year in Kansas.

That national fight still rages on. And if you think that fight will be won with Republican bigots in charge of the House and Senate, dream on.


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Last Call For A Lot Of States, Burning

We know what the response of America's many hate groups are to the Confederate flag being taken down in some places: burning down black churches across the South.

In what may not be a coincidence, a string of nighttime fires have damaged or destroyed at least six predominately black churches in four southern states in the past week.

Arsonists started at least three of the fires, while other causes are being examined in the other fires, investigators say.

The series of fires — some of them suspicious and possible hate crimes — came in the week following a murderous rampage by a white supremacist who shot and killed nine people at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C.

The fires also occurred at a time when there is increasing public pressure to remove the Confederate flag — one of the last hallmarks of white superiority — from government buildings and public places as well as banning assorted Confederate flag merchandise sold in retails stores and online.

Even if the fires are deemed arson, it takes additional proof under reporting standards to conclude the act was a hate crime, investigators say.

“As the nation grapples with the massacre at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., one of the oldest Black churches in the South, other Black churches have become recent targets of arson,” writer David A. Love said today at Atlanta BlackStar.

Now it's possible that it being summer, that storms and lightning and other accidents may have started some of these fires, but there are at least three that are being investigated as full-blown arson right now at black churches in Knoxville, Charlotte, and Macon.  I'm thinking more investigations, and more fires, are coming.

This should be a national story right now, but it's not.  The "CHRISTIANITY IN AMERICA IS UNDER ASSAULT" people are suddenly very, very quiet about places of Christian worship being burned down to the ground.

But tell me again that it's "heritage, not hate".

"Activist Judges" Means You Made A Ruling I Don't Like

Republicans use their political power to destroy those that do not agree with them, whenever possible. This week's evidence of this: Sen. Ted Cruz's ridiculous response to Obergefell v Hodges.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) has proposed a constitutional amendment that would subject Supreme Court justices to periodic judicial elections in the wake of rulings that upheld a key portion of the Affordable Care Act and affirmed gay couples' right to marriage.

“I am proposing an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would subject each and every justice of the United States Supreme Court to periodic judicial retention elections," Cruz said Saturday, during a speech in Des Moines, Iowa. He also called for such elections in the National Review on Friday.

The proposal from Cruz, who once served as Supreme Court clerk, comes as he is trying to position himself as the presidential candidate of choice for conservatives and evangelicals who disagree with the court's decisions this week. The Texas Republican is using the rulings to paint himself as a stalwart defender of religious freedom, opponent of same-sex marriage and reaffirm his pledge to abolish the Affordable Care Act should he win the presidency.

Cruz is also using the rulings to reemphasize his assertion that he tacks far to the right of the rest of the 2016 GOP field when it comes to social issues, a point he started making in the wake of a controversial religious freedom law Indiana passed in March.

"Sadly we’ve seen several 2016 candidates in response to yesterday’s decision saying it is the law of the land, we must accept it and move on," Cruz said as the Des Moines audience booed. "When Republican candidates are standing up and reciting Barack Obama's talking points things have gone seriously wrong."

"I demand that we give the majority the power to destroy those who would dare to say the minority has rights too."

Bobby Jindal wants to dissolve the Supreme Court. Ted Cruz wants to put justices under elections. And yet these are serious candidates for President of the United States of America, and a current governor and US senator, respectively.

Republicans are insane.

Sunday Long Read: Reading is Fundamental

Your Sunday Long Read this week is of course Justice Anthony Kennedy's decision holding that the Fourteenth Amendment grants the fundamental right to marry to all Americans.

Under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, no State shall “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” The fundamental liberties protected by this Clause include most of the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights. See Duncan v. Louisiana, 391 U. S. 145, 147–149 (1968). In addition these liberties extend to certain personal choices central to individual dignity and autonomy, including intimate choices that define personal identity and beliefs. See, e.g., Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U. S. 438, 453 (1972); Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U. S. 479, 484–486 (1965). 
The identification and protection of fundamental rights is an enduring part of the judicial duty to interpret the Constitution. That responsibility, however, “has not been reduced to any formula.” Poe v. Ullman, 367 U. S. 497, 542 (1961) (Harlan, J., dissenting). Rather, it requires courts to exercise reasoned judgment in identifying interests of the person so fundamental that the State must accord them its respect. See ibid. That process is guided by many of the same considerations relevant to analysis of other constitutional provisions that set forth broad principles rather than specific requirements. History and tradition guide and discipline this inquiry but do not set its outer boundaries. See Lawrence, supra, at 572. 
That method respects our history and learns from it without allowing the past alone to rule the present. The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times. The generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions, and so they entrusted to future generations a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning. 
When new insight reveals discord between the Constitution’s central protections and a received legal stricture, a claim to liberty must be addressed. Applying these established tenets, the Court has long held the right to marry is protected by the Constitution. In Loving v. Virginia, 388 U. S. 1, 12 (1967), which invalidated bans on interracial unions, a unanimous Court held marriage is “one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.” The Court reaffirmed that holding in Zablocki v. Redhail, 434 U. S. 374, 384 (1978), which held the right to marry was burdened by a law prohibiting fathers who were behind on child support from marrying. The Court again applied this principle in Turner v. Safley, 482 U. S. 78, 95 (1987), which held the right to marry was abridged by regulations limiting the privilege of prison inmates to marry. 
Over time and in other contexts, the Court has reiterated that the right to marry is fundamental under the Due Process Clause. See, e.g., M. L. B. v. S. L. J., 519 U. S. 102, 116 (1996); Cleveland Bd. of Ed. v. LaFleur, 414 U. S. 632, 639–640 (1974); Griswold, supra, at 486; Skinner v. Oklahoma ex rel. Williamson, 316 U. S. 535, 541 (1942); Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U. S. 390, 399 (1923). It cannot be denied that this Court’s cases describing the right to marry presumed a relationship involving opposite-sex partners. 
The Court, like many institutions, has made assumptions defined by the world and time of which it is a part. This was evident in Baker v. Nelson, 409 U. S. 810, a one-line summary decision issued in 1972, holding the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage did not present a substantial federal question. 
Still, there are other, more instructive precedents. This Court’s cases have expressed constitutional principles of broader reach. In defining the right to marry these cases have identified essential attributes of that right based in history, tradition, and other constitutional liberties inherent in this intimate bond. See, e.g., Lawrence, 539 U. S., at 574; Turner, supra, at 95; Zablocki, supra, at 384; Loving, supra, at 12; Griswold, supra, at 486. And in assessing whether the force and rationale of its cases apply to same-sex couples, the Court must respect the basic reasons why the right to marry has been long protected. See, e.g., Eisenstadt, supra, at 453–454; Poe, supra, at 542–553 (Harlan, J., dissenting). 
This analysis compels the conclusion that same-sex couples may exercise the right to marry. The four principles and traditions to be discussed demonstrate that the reasons marriage is fundamental under the Constitution apply with equal force to same-sex couples.

And Kennedy goes on to establish these four principles and traditions very logically and eloquently. It's a worthy opinion and one that I think will be discussed by Americans for decades to come, the way we consider Brown v Board of Education or Roe v Wade today.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Last Call For Flag, Captured

So, a woman named Bree Newsome had enough of the Confederate flag flying at the South Carolina statehouse grounds and took it down herself.

The Confederate flag has been temporarily removed from in front of the South Carolina Statehouse.

An unidentified black woman was about halfway up the more than 30-foot steel flagpole just after dawn Saturday when State Capitol police told her to come down. Instead, she continued up and removed the flag before returning to the ground.

The woman and another man who had entered the wrought-iron fence surrounding the flag were arrested.

The flag, which is protected by state law, was raised again a short time later. A rally by flag supporters was scheduled for later Saturday.

Calls for removing the flag have been renewed since nine black churchgoers were killed in what police characterized as a racist attack at a Charleston, South Carolina church last week.

Filmmaker and activist Michael Moore offered to pay her bail, and the flag was back up a hour later, but, at least somebody did something about it.

For a bit.

Will the rest of South Carolina get the damn point?

An Afternoon In Charleston

President Obama's eulogy in Charleston for slain Rev. Clementa Pinckney at Charleston's historic Emanuel AME Church is one for the history books.

Whatever solutions we find will necessarily be incomplete. But it would be a betrayal of everything Reverend Pinckney stood for, I believe, if we allow ourselves to slip into a comfortable silence again. 
Once the eulogies have been delivered, once the TV cameras move on, to go back to business as usual. That’s what we so often do to avoid uncomfortable truths about the prejudice that still infects our society.
To settle for symbolic gestures without following up with the hard work of more lasting change, that’s how we lose our way again. It would be a refutation of the forgiveness expressed by those families if we merely slipped into old habits whereby those who disagree with us are not merely wrong, but bad; where we shout instead of listen; where we barricade ourselves behind preconceived notions or well-practiced cynicism.

It was actually a beautiful eulogy and an impassioned speech, but the delivery...ladies and gentlemen we got to see the Reverend Bishop Dr. Barack H. Obama of the Church of Hope and Change, and it was legendary. I'm hoping that this speech will be the one that goes down in history for him.  There are several that could be defined as "the" Obama speech, but this is by far my favorite.

This is the man I was proud of voting for twice even in Kentucky, a state he lost by double digits both times.

We witnessed history yesterday in every sense of the word.  It was President Obama at his best and most genuine, and for a politician of any level, to let his guard down as he did to let the world see, that took some fortitude.  He is a master orator and oh, by the way, a pretty damned good President too.

Enjoy it.  June 26 was a hell of a day.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Last Call For Bobby Jin-Dull

Well, we have our winner for the dumbest reaction by and idiot Republican 2016 candidate to today's historic Supreme Court decision affirming marriage equality, and no surprise it's from Bobby Jindal.

Louisiana Gov, Bobby Jindal (R) on Friday suggested doing away with the Supreme Court during a speech in Iowa that followed the court's historic ruling on same-sex marriage.

"The Supreme Court is completely out of control, making laws on their own, and has become a public opinion poll instead of a judicial body," he told the crowd, as quoted by The Advocate newspaper. "If we want to save some money lets just get rid of the court."

"Yesterday, Justice Scalia noted that in the Obamacare ruling 'words have no meaning,'" Jindal added, according to The Advocate. "Today, Chief Justice Roberts admitted that the gay marriage ruling had nothing to do with the Constitution. Marriage between a man and a woman was established by God, and no earthly court can alter that."

Amazing.  All the screaming and accusations of "Obama the Tyrant" and here we have Republican presidential candidates actually advocating for the dissolution of the Supreme Court when it does not agree with them.

I considered Jindal to be a meathead before, playing down his obvious intelligence and experience in order to fit in with the Republican Party that openly despises intelligence and scholarship, but now I consider to him to be a dangerous ideologue who has no place as an elected official.

The most chilling part is that Jindal is far from the only 2016 hopeful calling for open defiance to this ruling. And these fools are running for President?

One of them will still get 45% of the vote, minimum.

Trumpy, You Can Do Magic!

Team WIN THE MORNING is a bit worried that Donald Trump might, you know, wreck the Republican brand or something, which is bit like cannibalistic serial killers worrying about getting a bad rap because of that Charlie Manson fella.

All jokes aside, the Republican Party is officially afraid of Donald Trump. 
He has virtually zero chance of winning the presidential nomination. But insiders worry that the loud-mouthed mogul is more than just a minor comedic nuisance on cable news; they fret that he’s a loose cannon whose rants about Mexicans and scorched-earth attacks on his rivals will damage the eventual nominee and hurt a party struggling to connect with women and minorities and desperate to win.

“Donald Trump is like watching a road-side accident,” said former George W. Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer. “Everybody pulls over to see the mess. And Trump thinks that’s entertainment. But running for president is serious. And the risk for the party is he tarnishes everybody.”

Yes, Republican currently are running serious candidates like Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal and George Pataki, there's just no room for Trump!

Those risks were amplified this week after a trio of polls showed him likely to earn a coveted invitation to the party’s debates, which ironically were restructured with the very goal of avoiding the circus-like atmosphere of 2012. Having Trump introduce the 2016 field to a national audience was not exactly the Big Tent the party’s bigwigs had in mind. 
“I’m not excited about somebody as divisive as Trump or somebody as obnoxious as Trump being on the debate stage,” one RNC member confessed.

Well, odds are good you'll have Rand Paul and Marco Rubio to cover that level of obnoxiousness, so you're golden.

Trump currently sits in eighth place among Republicans, according to the Real Clear Politics average of national polls — ahead of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry. And this week, he came in second in two New Hampshire polls and in a Fox News national poll, finishing behind only former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in all three
Under the rules instituted by Fox News, the top 10 candidates by national polling average will be included in the first debate, to be held in August. Trump’s star could easily fade by then. But as of now, he would be in — over 2012 Republican runner-up Rick Santorum, who won 11 states and around 4 million votes last cycle; over Ohio Gov. John Kasich, the popular governor of a key swing state; over South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a leading foreign policy voice in the field; and over Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, known as a policy wonk.

OK, first, if Trump is placing second to Jeb! among FOX News viewers, that tells you everything you need to know about FOX News viewers.

Second, precisely zero actual policy wonks consider Bobby Jindal to be a policy wonk. If by "policy wonk" you mean "guy who sold out his own intelligence to play in the sandbox with the other nimrods" then yes, he's a policy wonk.

Ahh, but back to The Donald.

He’d also make it in over Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO who the party establishment desperately wants on the debate stage. Fiorina has earned strong reviews from early-state activists, and party insiders say her inclusion in the debate is critical — both to demonstrate the GOP’s diversity and to help male candidates find the right tone in connecting with female voters, whom Republicans have struggled to win over in recent years. 
“If Donald Trump elbows out Carly Fiorina, for example, that would be a real tragedy for our side,” said Republican strategist Ron Bonjean.

Yes, because women seeing nine men and one woman will convince them that the Republicans are the party serious about nominating a woman for President, especially compared to Hillary Clinton, who we all know is a genderless plant creature that eats babies.

Look, you might as well let the guy debate.  He really is the most entertaining guy you have right now, at least on purpose.

We'll Have A Gay Old Time

Kennedy, 5-4 decision, Fourteenth Amendment holds that there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.

So awesome.

[UPDATE] Gov. Steve Beshear has ordered county clerks to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Last Call For Tyranny Of The Minority, Or Something

Conservatives have a real problem with really bad reductio ad absurdum nonsense, especially when they are losing. Take this 24-karat gold pated turd of a loser here:

No more rainbow flags, America!” declares anti-LGBT activist Linda Harvey, who offers up an unhinged rant in BarbWire today about why Americans should take down the LGBT rainbow flag along with the Confederate battle flag.

Harvey, the head of the far-right group Mission America, writes that homosexuality is just as “evil” as slavery, adding that “‘LGBT’ lifestyles will ultimately be revealed to be a destructive blight on our nation.” Similarly, according to Harvey, the LGBT rainbow flag is just as offensive as the Confederate flag since the Pride flag’s “hateful colors” push “depravity” and “bigotry.”

“If only we had that kind of leadership now in Washington as we had in Abraham Lincoln, a Republican, who delivered the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863,” Harvey continues. “We need an Emancipation Proclamation now to free America from the tyranny of sodomy.”

Radio host Bryan Fischer also demanded that the LGBT Pride flag come down with the stars-and-bars.

This is literally the "Isn't the NAACP racist and shouldn't it be outlawed?" argument applied to the LGBTQ community, with a helpful dollop of not even being close to reasonable.

But this is how bad they are losing the argument on the Confederacy right now.

Red In The Middle And Round At Both Ends

Ohio may be something of a purple state when it comes to presidential contests, but as far as Gov. John Kasich's GOP government is concerned, the state might as well be another Midwestern tea party haven for bad tax ideas and the War on Women.

Both are featured prominently in the GOP budget heading towards Kasich's desk for a June 30 deadline to avoid a state government shutdown.

A 6.3 percent across-the-board income-tax cut that passed both the House and Senate remained in place, while a Senate-passed 40-cent tax increase on a pack of cigarettes was being reduced to 35 cents, bringing the state rate to $1.60. 
House Republicans wanted to settle on 35 cents because that ensures Ohio’s rate does not exceed the $1.60 tax in Pennsylvania. The final agreement also strips out Senate-proposed increases on other tobacco products. 
A Senate proposal to increase Ohio’s current 50 percent income-tax deduction to 100 percent on the first $250,000 of business income will instead be phased in over two years, going to 75 percent this year and 100 percent in 2017 and beyond. The plan also includes a lower 3 percent rate for business income over $250,000. 
“This continues us down the road of lowering people’s taxes, especially small businesses, allowing them to keep more money in their pockets and make the investments they think is right instead of us politicians allocating it,” said Rep. Ryan Smith, R-Bidwell, chairman of the House Finance Committee.

Hmm, income and business tax cuts for the rich at the expense of vice taxes for the poor.  Why does that sound familiar?  Oh yes, it's the Brownback Punishment Plan in Kansas, and that's working out well, isn't it?

Ahh, but there's more that's sliding in under the radar into the budget:

Republicans also voted to limit the legal distance from an abortion clinic to a transfer hospital to 30 miles. NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio argues that a Toledo judge has said such a restriction is unconstitutional. 
The Senate last week had added the provision, but then removed it at the request of Sen. Sandra Williams, D-Cleveland. She agreed to be the lone Senate Democrat to vote for the budget after she got the provision removed and a few other changes made to the budget. 
Abortion providers currently are required to have a patient-transfer agreement with a private hospital. The budget bill also would require that a variance to that transfer agreement, such as one that has been pending for a Dayton clinic for about two years, must be approved by the Ohio Department of Health within 60 days, or it is denied.

The 30 mile "local hospital" provision would end up closing even more abortion clinics in Ohio, including the last clinic in Toledo.  These provisions are mostly tied up in court right now, but if they are confirmed by the judicial, Ohio could lose most of its abortion clinics.  They could close anyway because of not being able to fight to stay open.

And of course, Kasich is going to sign this all into law right before announcing his run for the White House.

Good luck with that, John.

SCOTUSpalooza Update

Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kennedy sided with the four liberals on the Supreme Court to uphold Obamacare subsidies in a 6-3 decision this morning.

In a major win for the Obama administration, the Supreme Court held in a 6-3 decision that the Affordable Care Act authorized federal tax credits for eligible Americans living not only in states with their own exchanges but also in the 34 states with federal exchanges. 
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for himself, Justice Anthony Kennedy and the four liberal justices. Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the dissent, joined by Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. 
"Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them," Roberts wrote in the majority opinion. "If at all possible, we must interpret the Act in a way that is consistent with the former, and avoids the latter." 
In a dissent, Scalia said "we should start calling this law SCOTUScare," referring to the two times the Court has saved the law. 
The ruling staved off a major political showdown and what would have been a mad scramble in some states to set up their own healthcare exchanges to keep millions from losing healthcare coverage.

The court also upheld the Fair Housing Act, Justice Kennedy the swing vote there in a 5-4 split.

A divided U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday embraced a broad interpretation of the type of civil rights allegations that can be made under the landmark Fair Housing Act by ruling that the law allows for discrimination claims based on seemingly neutral practices that may have a discriminatory effect. 
On a 5-4 vote in a major civil rights case, the court handed a victory to civil rights groups and the administration of President Barack Obama, which had backed a Texas nonprofit that claimed the state violated the law by disproportionately awarding low-income housing tax credits to developers who own properties in poor, minority-dominated neighborhoods. 
Justice Anthony Kennedy, a conservative who often casts the deciding vote in close cases, joined the court's four liberals in the majority. 
The court was considering whether the 1968 law allows for so-called disparate impact claims in which plaintiffs only need to show the discriminatory effect of a particular practice and not evidence of discriminatory intent. There is no dispute over the law's prohibition on openly discriminatory acts in the sale and rental of housing.

The case was closely watched by lenders and insurance companies, which say they are unfairly targeted. Industry groups say that companies use neutral criteria when assessing risk. The existing law allows challenges to legitimate business practices, they argue.

As I've argued, if the FHA's disparate impact claims were removed, the law would be as empty as the Voting Rights Act is now.  I'm glad to see that it has survived.

More SCOTUS decisions tomorrow.

What Right-Wing Terrorist Problem?

Why, what do you mean that more people have been killed by domestic terrorists in America than by Islamic extremists, and that the vast majority of these domestic killers are white? Oh I know, "False flag! Bill Ayers! Contrails! Obama's brownshirts!" Right?  Has to be.

White Americans are the biggest terror threat in the United States, according to a study by the New America Foundation. The Washington-based research organization did a review of “terror” attacks on US soil since Sept. 11, 2001 and found that most of them were carried out by radical anti-government groups or white supremacists. 
Almost twice as many people have died in attacks by right-wing groups in America than have died in attacks by Muslim extremists. Of the 26 attacks since 9/11 that the group defined as terror, 19 were carried out by non-Muslims. Yet there are no white Americans languishing inside the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay. And there are no drones dropping bombs on gatherings of military-age males in the country's lawless border regions
Attacks by right-wing groups get comparatively little coverage in the news media. Most people will struggle to remember the shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin that killed six people in 2012. A man who associated with neo-Nazi groups carried out that shooting. There was also the married couple in Las Vegas who walked into a pizza shop and murdered two police officers. They left a swastika on one of the bodies before killing a third person in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Such attacks are not limited to one part of the country. In 2011, two white supremacists went on a shooting spree in the Pacific Northwest, killing four people. 
Terrorism is hard to define. But here is its basic meaning: ideological violence. In its study, the New America Foundation took a narrow view of what could be considered a terror attack. Most mass shootings, for instance, like Sandy Hook or the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting — both in 2012 — weren't included. Also not included was the killing of three Muslim studentsin North Carolina earlier this year. The shooter was a neighbor and had strong opinions about religion. But he also had strong opinions about parking spaces and a history of anger issues. So that shooting was left off the list. 
The killing of nine people at a church in Charleston, South Carolina last week was included. The shooter made it clear that his motivation was an ideological belief that white people are superior to black people. The shooting has cast new light on the issue of right-wing terrorism in the United States. But since it can't really use Special Forces or Predator drones on US soil, it remains unclear how the government will respond.

"But black on black crime! Latino gangs in our prisons! They're all liberals really!"


And if you keep shouting, maybe all these unfortunate facts will just decide to leave, right?


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Last Call For Kentucky's Choice

A new Public Policy Polling survey finds Democrats Jack Conway, Andy Beshear and Alison Lundergan Grimes all trailing their Republican rivals with a little more than four months to go.

PPP’s first general election poll of the race for Governor in Kentucky finds a very tight race. In a head-to-head election, 40% of voters choose Republican Matt Bevin over Democrat Jack Conway, who garners 38%. Bevin is viewed favorably 31/28, while Conway is viewed unfavorably 34/31- a plurality of the electorate has no opinion about each candidate.

“The race for Governor in Kentucky is pretty up for grabs,” said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling. “Voters aren’t that familiar with either candidate and as a result we’re seeing a lot more undecideds than we usually would at this stage of the race. This is one where the campaigns really will go a long way toward determining who wins rather than it being preordained from the start.”

Republicans have leads of varying sizes in the down ballot races. In the race for Attorney General, Republican Whitney Westerfield leads Democrat Andy Beshear 41/36. Republican Steve Knipper has a 5-point advantage (47/42) over incumbent Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes in the race for Secretary of State. Incumbent Democrat Adam Edelen trails Republican challenger Mike Harmon by 6 points (33/39). GOP candidates lead for Treasurer and Agriculture Commissioner as well.

It's been a very long time since Republicans were able to run the table at the state level here in Kentucky, but to be fair most of us aren't paying attention to November here in June.  That doesn't mean however that the Dems can slack off.  It just means that with four months to go, that it's time to get in gear.

Suddenly Republicans Want The Power Of Executive Orders Again

With the Supreme Court expected to issue a ruling on same-sex marriage in the next several days, the reactionary right-wing GOP 2016 candidates like Mike Huckabee are looking to reverse everything President Obama has done on same-sex marriage at the federal level.

He said that if elected president, he would simply ignore any Supreme Court decision in favor of marriage equality until Congress passed legislation legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide…which he would then veto.

“Until the Congress of the United States puts on my desk a bill that basically defies the laws of Nature and Nature’s God and defies the longstanding tradition of marriage, the federal government will not recognize same-sex marriage because there is no law that requires it and that would be true for the military and it would be true for all federal institutions,” Huckabee said. “If the Congress decides that they want to pass enabling legislation, they could put it on my desk and I would veto it, and they can attempt to override it. That’s the process.”

Huckabee said that even his detractors should sympathize with his anti-gay-marriage stance: “If liberals were subjected to a conservative court that forced them to tithe their income to scripture or forced them to go to church or forced them to believe something that they don’t want to believe, they would say, ‘We can’t do that, that would go against our conscience.’ And I would say, ‘You are exactly right and we can’t have such a ruling. This is why I find this very unsettling is because liberals will rue the day when the sword they use to enact their agenda is the sword of the court rather than to do it by way of the people’s elected representatives.”

Understand that any Republican candidate in 2016 is going to be under tremendous pressure to do this on day one.  Huckabee will brag about being willing to do it, and the bigoted Republican base will demand it from anyone they nominate.

Democrats are running in 2016 to make America a better place.  Republicans are running to punish liberals and the people who voted for Obama.

But tell me again how there's no difference in the two parties, and that you will make things better by not voting.

More Flagging Approval

Keep it up Republicans, keep blaming the people killed by the guy who took your rhetoric to its endpoint.

Meanwhile, in Glibertarian land...

A lot of the surrounding media-led outrage over the flag seems somewhat cold, given the horror of what last week brought. We had nine black people brutally murdered because they were black and sitting in a church with a history of fighting white supremacy. With all due deference to hatred for a Confederate flag on a pole at the statehouse, this seems like an almost childlike attempt to miss the seriousness of the situation. It’s as if they expect us to say, “Congratulations! You oppose the flag of an army that was defeated 150 years ago. We’re all very proud of you, journalists!” This generation seems to excel at inventing controversies, weighing in on those invented controversies, and then patting itself on the back for being so courageous and open-minded.

The far more frightening reality that such invented controversies avoid is that mankind is full of sin, and that some of us show that sinfulness in racism and murder. Or as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote in The Gulag Archipelago:

“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

The murderer of the Emanuel nine has done something particularly bad, but he isn’t the only person capable of evil out there. And getting rid of a flag is hardly the remedy for the racism and violence that infects our culture. How juvenile to think otherwise.

Wanting to get rid of the Confederate flag is "childlike" and "juvenile" so why bother?  It doesn't cure racism, but neither did, you know, the entire civil rights movement, nor did electing and re-electing Barack Obama magically fix racism in America.

I suppose those were juvenile and childlike acts too.  Since nothing you can do to incrementally fix society can totally fix it, why bother at all, right?

It's like these guys are trying as hard as they can to be as awful as possible.


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Last Call For Defending The Wrong War, Again

Everything you need to know about the conservative Republican position on the Confederate flag still as part of state governments in 2015 is summed up by Bloody Bill Kristol:

Because defending the Iraq War wasn't bad enough, now they're defending the Confederacy in the Civil War.

And yet they continue to be baffled as to why black voters don't flock to the GOP.

Trading One Democrat For Another

Over at Salon (I know, I'm asking for it, but the concept is worth bringing to you to discuss) Bill Curry argues that when the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal passes with Hillary Clinton's support, Democrats will abandon both her and President Obama and turn to Bernie Sanders as the party's populist, anti-Wall Street savior.

After eight years of Obama, I’m not sure Clinton can run that race, or that anyone can. I don’t think she can enlist Wall Street oligarchs and recruit an army of dewy-eyed volunteers. Above all, I don’t think she can spout populist rhetoric without any policy specifics to back it up. Clinton insiders also ingratiate themselves to reporters by dishing about her need to seem more authentic. Someone should tell them it’s hard to seem real when you won’t tell people what you really think.

A bigger problem for Clinton may be that we know what she thinks. Her platform is like Obama’s trade deal; she won’t say what’s in it, but we can easily guess. It isn’t populism and it isn’t reform. The TPP? She never met a trade deal she didn’t like. The minimum wage? She and Obama let McDonald’s get the drop on them. The surveillance state? Her handling of her emails told us all we need to know of her views on transparency. More war in Iraq? For 12 years as a senator and secretary of state she was John McCain’s best friend. If she gets to be commander in chief, get ready to rumble.

She’s weakest on the sleeper issue of 2016: public corruption and the general debasement of politics and government. Voter disgust is so deep even consultants who make their real livings off corporate clients tell their political clients to talk about it. In her speech Clinton vowed to “wage and win four fights for you.” The first three were jobs, families and national security. The fourth was “reforming our government and revitalizing our democracy.” She vowed to overturn Citizens United and fight GOP efforts to disenfranchise the young, the poor and people of color, but then drifted off onto technology and cutting waste. Unlike nearly every Republican announcing for president, she never mentioned ethics or corruption.

Democratic elites don’t want to hear it but Hillary Clinton’s in trouble. It isn’t in all the data yet though you can find it if you look. In a straw poll taken in early June at a Wisconsin Democratic convention she edged out Bernie Sanders by just 8 points, 49% to 41%. In a poll of N.H. primary voters this week she beat Sanders by 41% to 31%. An Ohio poll had her in a dead heat with the likes of Ted Cruz and Rand Paul. If Sanders can poll 40% in a Wisconsin straw poll in June he can do it an Iowa caucus in January. Imagine a Hillary Clinton who just lost Iowa and New Hampshire to Bernie Sanders. It’s still hard to picture but it gets easier every day.

You don’t win your next race running someone else’s last one. Trying to do so, Clinton repeats her big mistake of 2008: not sensing the times. There are smaller changes she can make right now: hire better speech writers, including at least one with a sense of humor; put her family foundation under independent management; tell her husband to stop giving speeches or else start talking for free. But her whole campaign model is wrong. ‘Clinton Democrats’ hate to admit there are issues you can’t finesse or that they must ever choose between the middle class and the donor class. Clinton better figure it out now. When the data’s all in it will be too late.

Clinton resists change. Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders is the only candidate in either party who seems to feel the tectonic plates of our politics shifting, perhaps because he’s expected the change for so long. His is still an improbable candidacy, but less improbable than it was a month or even a week ago. If he clears out the second tier, his battle with Hillary could become epic, forcing not just her but the Democratic Party to choose between the middle class and the donor class; between corporate and democratic rule; the battle over trade carried over into a presidential election.

There's a kernel of truth to all of that.  I've taken plenty of swings at the Clinton-era presidency pinata over pro-corporatist legislation that Big Dog signed that 15 or 20 years later served as the base of the implosion of our economy. The Clintons play an ugly game, and they play it to win.  President Obama at times plays that game too and he wins as well, but he's capable of winning as a liberal also and doing the right thing in the process.

At the same time, I can't say that Bermie Sanders doesn't have his baggage either.  I feel about Sanders the way I did about Joe Biden in 2007-2008: a nice guy, a proven liberal with a strong track record, but Delaware remains the US equivalent of a flag of convenience for corporate America and the credit card industry and Biden's record on those issues is pretty glaring.

It's the same with Bernie and Vermont.  It's the whitest state in the nation and Sanders has a real problem with perception of how he addresses black and Latino voters.  As with Biden, I think Sanders would make an outstanding VP.

No, the TPP is not going to cause a groundswell to support Bernie any more than any other issue. Clinton still leads him by 60 points and to pretend otherwise is moronic. Saying there's a hidden well of support for Sanders may or may not be true, but you can't say that and then say "well polls this early are meaningless."

Curry's emoprog tripe is cute, but it's not going to change a thing.

The Other Side: Flagging Approval

Yesterday SC GOP Gov. Nikki Haley, flanked by RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, GOP Sens. Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham and Democratic House stalwart James Clyburn, called for the state's legislature to take down the Confederate flag on the grounds of the State Capitol, something that would require a two-thirds vote to do thanks to legislation passed in 2000.

Our old friend Jazz Shaw disapproves of this immensely.

Some years ago, as I’ve noted in the past, our Red State colleague Erick Erickson penned a column on a completely different subject titled You Will Be Made to Care. Erick was talking about gay marriage, but what he described was the the ever present mode of operation for the modern American Left. It’s not enough to disagree with someone when there is a difference of opinion on social issues, government policy or even the color of the sky. It’s not even sufficient to shut down the conversation, as Guy and Mary Katharine so aptly identified in End of Discussion. Those who dissent must be forced to bend a knee and participate. 
We’re seeing the same thing today in the newly reignited, perpetual debate over the Confederate Battle Flag. Many Southern families still feel a strong association with the stars and bars even though they live in an era when everyone has written off slavery as an evil in our past which was engaged in by the male, landed gentry from both above and below the Mason-Dixon Line. They remember that the civil war was far more than some hotly debated policy discussion over slavery. (Though that was obviously a part of it.) They recall how the North used their enormous industrial advantage to craft policies which created hardship for the more agricultural South and drained them of their wealth. They know the family stories about how the North built up a huge population advantage and curried that into an electoral hammer they could use to write the rules in their own favor. They remember that and much more. 
Other Southern families may not even dwell on those concerns, but they know the pride they feel in the South. They know that their ancestors fought and died for what they, at the time, believed in and stood to defend their loved ones and their homes. And well into the modern era they have felt the sting of the constant derision from the North. Southerners talk slow, so they must be stupid. They are backward. They are ignorant rednecks. What a shame they can’t be as elite and as enlightened as their northern cousins. The fact is, they just don’t fit into proper modern America. Isn’t it a shame? This remains one of the few politically correct topics of “humor” in comedy shows. You can always make fun of the rednecks who speak with a Southern drawl. 
But these same people retain a modern pride in the heritage of their region. I frequently travel to various states in the warmer climes and constantly see signs and bumper stickers which proudly declare that the owner is American by birth, but is Southern by the Grace of God. 
But in keeping with liberal theory, we must eliminate some piece of cloth that reminds them of their heritage, even if it has nothing to do with racism or slavery in their minds. It does to us! That requires a trigger warning, mister, and you didn’t provide us with a safe space!

Now, I figure Jazz is blowing off a lot of steam or something, because frankly, otherwise, this is wholly offensive.  I grew up in North Carolina, I watched the Dukes of Hazzard growing up, with the General Lee and its Confederate battle flag roof paint job, and knew plenty of folks who were wonderful people who despised slavery, as he says, and proudly saw the flag as a symbol of Southern pride, along with NASCAR and ACC and SEC college sports, Bojangles' chicken, Mountain Dew and Cheerwine sodas, and cotillions and Boy Scout camping trips into the woods.

And yes, southerners are damn good people.  I am one of them, black, and American, and from the South.  But I also learned what the flag meant, and where it came from, and why South Carolina, and North Carolina, and Kentucky where I live now did to preserve slavery, resulting in a war that killed hundreds of thousands.  I also learned about June 19th, the day Lincoln freed the slaves, Juneteenth. The 150th anniversary of that date came the same week Dylann Roof allegedly killed nine people for the crime of being black.

The flag was raised in 1961 as a direct response to the civil rights era, as a giant "screw you" to black America and those who were fighting to stop Jim Crow and to win equality for people who looked like me.  That flag is a part of the history of the US, and that's why it belongs in a museum, not the grounds of the state capitol building.

Wal-Mart and Sears are going to pull Confederate flag merchandise from their stores, and even Mississippi, whose state flag actually still has the Confederate emblem in the upper left corner, is now openly discussing changing that as well.

You're on the wrong side of an ugly history, Jazz.  Time to let it go.


Monday, June 22, 2015

Last Call For Spidey's Justice

None of the big decisions slated for SCOTUS came down today, but there will be a decision day on Thursday AND one on Friday in addition to the one already scheduled for next Monday. Odds are extremely good we'll get some major news in a few days on the death penalty, Obamacare subsidies, the Fair Housing Act, and/or marriage equality.

Meanwhile, one of the cases that was handed down on Monday involved Marvel Entertainment, royalties, and Spider-Man and an excelsior opinion written by Justice Elena Kagan, as Steve Benen points out:

The entirely of the ruling is online here (pdf). 
A very small number of people are likely to actually read the decision, which is a shame in a way because Kagan, a comics fan, went out of her way to include quite a few not-so-subtle Spider-Man references in the opinion.

Page 2: ”The parties set no end date for royalties, apparently contemplating that they would continue for as long as kids want to imitate Spider-Man (by doing whatever a spider can).” 
Page 3: “Patents endow their holders with certain superpowers, but only for a limited time.” 
Page 11: “To the contrary, the decision’s close relation to a whole web of precedents means that reversing it could threaten others.” 
Page 18: “But stare decisis teaches that we should exercise that authority sparingly. Cf. S. Lee and S. Ditko, Amazing Fantasy No. 15: ‘Spider-Man,’ p. 13 (1962) (‘[I]n this world, with great power there must also come – great responsibility’).” 

That last one needs to be framed somewhere on the wall in Marvel's office of general counsel.

Over at Vox, Matt Yglesias added, “According to Supreme Court Review, Kagan is an “avid comic book fan” and must have been delighted to score the opportunity to write this decision. That last joke is actually the essence of the case. The Supreme Court is being asked to overturn an earlier precedent, and Kagan is saying that overturning precedents isn’t something the Court should do without a very compelling reason. They have a responsibility to provide the country with a predictable, publicly understood code of laws, and that means being restrained in their use of the authority to change things up.”

Which actually does makes sense here.  The Supremes, in a 5-4 decision, did not overturn precedent to extend royalties further than the law required even though Marvel had reached an agreement to do so.

I'm guessing not too many people get to quote Stan Lee and Steve Ditko in Supreme Court decisions, but hey, you have to when you have an opportunity like that.

The Southern Avengers

I talked this morning about the failure of a number of GOP 2016 candidates to give a coherent answer on the SC Confederate flag issue, but I left out two more candidates: Rick Santorum and Rand Paul, for a reason.

That's because the two of them have much bigger problems right now than a flag.

The leader of a rightwing group that Dylann Roof allegedly credits with helping to radicalise him against black people before the Charleston church massacre has donated tens of thousands of dollars to Republicans such as presidential candidates Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Rick Santorum. 
Earl Holt has given $65,000 to Republican campaign funds in recent years while inflammatory remarks – including that black people were “the laziest, stupidest and most criminally-inclined race in the history of the world” – were posted online in his name.
After being approached by the Guardian on Sunday, Cruz’s presidential campaign said it would be returning all money the senator had received from Holt. 
Holt, 62, is the president of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CofCC), a Missouri-based activist organisation cited by the author of a manifesto-style text that was posted on a website registered in Roof’s name along with photographs of the gunman. The FBI said on Saturday it was investigating the website. 
The manifesto’s author, who has been widely reported but not verified as Roof, recounted learning about “brutal black on white murders” from the CofCC website.
“At this moment I realised that something was very wrong,” the manifesto said.

Earl Holt is an unrepentant racist scumbag, but the KKK CCC has a lot of money apparently to give. Cruz dropped Holt's donations like the toxic waste they were, but the fact that Santorum and Paul haven't yet (and probably won't) says a lot about them.

Earlier this afternoon Santorum said he'd return his donations from Holt, and that leaves Rand Paul with his especially terrible record on race, pandering at best and outright dog whistle racism at worst.  Don't expect much from him, I certainly don't.

Cause One's Got A Weasel And The Other's Got A Flag

One's one the pole, shove them all in a bag.

South Carolina senator and Republican presidential candidate Lindsey Graham was asked by CNN’s Alisyn Camerota this morning why the American and South Carolina state flags were flying at half-mast today, but the Confederate flag was not.

As he didn’t seem inclined to answer, Camerota shifted to a more general question, asking the senator whether it’s “time to stop flying the Confederate flag.”

Graham said that it would be “fine” by him if South Carolinians wanted to “revisit that decision,” but insisted that “this is part of who we are. The flag represents — to some people — the Civil War, and that was the symbol of one side.”

He acknowledged, though, that “to others, it’s a racist symbol, and it’s been used by people in a racist way.” But, he added, “the problems we’re having in South Carolina and around the world aren’t because of a symbol, but because of what’s in people’s hearts.”

It's not like Huckleberry here had a real shot at the GOP nomination, but this "real leadership" response on the flag issue shows the world just what kind of joke the guy is.  If you can't take a stand against a racist symbol in 2015 being flown in the capital of your own home state when you admit that the Confederate flag is a racist symbol, you've kind of lost the race for the White House.

Even Jeb Bush, after dicking around again for two days, finally admitted that he was the Florida governor that removed the Confederate flag from his state's capitol in Tallahassee and put it in a museum where it belongs.  Mitt Romney reiterated his 2008 call to take that flag down, but Ted Cruz punted too and so did Marco Rubio and Bobby Jindal, referring to the issue (ironically enough) as a states' matter.

Rubio is supposed to be the conservative savior of the GOP, but he can't come up with a coherent position on the friggin' Confederate flag, the flag of traitors to the country?

Good luck in 2016, assholes.


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Last Call For Ending The Debate

Peggy Noonan is glad to see the families of the victims of last week's massacre so forgiving...but she will not extend that courtesy to those who wish to bringing up what needs to be done to prevent another one from happening.

Charleston deserves something, a bow. So too do the beautiful people who go to Wednesday night Bible study in America in 2015. They are the people who are saving America every day, completely unheralded, and we can hardly afford to lose them.

There’s only one thing Charleston doesn’t deserve. People apart from the trauma, far away, have already begun to bring their political agenda items to the tragedy and make sure they are debated. Because this is the right time for a political debate, right?

Here’s an idea: Why don’t you leave the grieving alone right now? Why don’t you not impose your agenda items on them? Why don’t you not force them to debate while they have tears in their throats?

Don’t politicize their pain. Don’t turn this into a debate on a flag or guns. Don’t use it to make your points and wave your finger from your high horse.

These people are doing it right without you.

They are loving each other and helping each other. Let them grieve in peace. And respect them as what they are, heroic.

So when is it the right time for this debate that America never seems to have?  Next week?  Next month?  Next year?  When do those of us who said time and time again that America's domestic terrorism problems and documented hate groups would become an issue get to have a word?  Every time another massacre happens, those of us who want to have the debate are told "It's too soon!" and to shut up and go away, and the speed at which this silencing happens to the black community in America often breaks the sound barrier.

Why does Peggy Noonan get to decide when America has this debate? She does not speak for me, and she will never have earned that right from me. I sure as hell won't be silenced by her arrogant ignorance, and neither should anyone else.

Stuff it, Nooners.  The President is ahead of you again.

Secret Serivce Sidearm Silliness

Tucker Carlson makes an argument fit to lose on FOX and Friends: if President Obama hates guns so much, why does the Secret Service have them?

“The president has said a number of times guns are the problem, guns cause violence,” Carlson complained. “There’s nobody in the world surrounded by more armed people than President Obama himself. I notice he’s not suggesting the people around him disarm. He wants to remain protected, but the rest of us have to go without means to self-protection.”

Left-leaning Fox News contributor Jehmu Greene found Carlson’s remarks offense.

“To say that the president of the United States is hypocritical because he has people with guns around him, Tucker, that is beneath this discussion,” Green explained. “You are trying to compared Secret Service armed people to someone who walks into a church and kills nine people.”

“And to say the president doesn’t have a right to talk about gun control because people with him have guns?” she continued. “Is that literally where we are as a country, to compare that he shouldn’t have protection?”

“The president’s position is that guns cause violence, guns are inherently bad and dangerous,” Carlson opined. “The rest of us need to disarm and not protect ourselves. And he’s exempt from that?”

“The president did not say guns are inherently bad,” Greene replied. “The president is saying we’ve had this conversation too many times and there is something we can do about it. There was something we could do about it after Newtown, there was something we could have done about it after Columbine.”

Jehmu Greene is absolutely right.  If every American who owned a firearm had the kind of firearms training that the US Secret Service does and was under the same restrictions and rules governing their use, why, we'd have something like the "well-regulated militia" mentioned in the Second Amendment.

The problem (as Greene points out) is the nation full of gun fetishist who don't want to use guns responsibly, but as a means to intimidate others, as replacements for virility, and for bullying those who otherwise may disagree.  These are not responsible gun owners.  Secret Service, police officers and military soldiers, sailors, and airmen who have firearms are trained to use them and held responsible for misusing them (and yes, I'm well aware of there's a huge debate as to the degree of responsibility police in particular are held to).

But the issue remains, if Americans had to fill out paperwork every time they had to fire their pistols or rifles, maybe we wouldn't have the gun culture that we have today.

Sunday Long Read: God Of Lightning

This week's Sunday Long Read is the story of ZeuS, the most infamous bank-robbing malware suite in the industry, that has led a nine-year campaign to plunder millions of accounts across the world.

In any global outbreak, it’s important to identify Patient Zero. In the movies, you get a leggy Gwyneth Paltrow. In the nine-year online epidemic that helped create cybercrime as we know it, you get “fliime.”

That was the name used by somebody who went on the online forum Techsupportguy.com on October 11, 2006, at 2:24 a.m., saying he’d found some bad code on his sister’s computer. “Could someone please take a look at this,” he wrote.

Fliime probably didn’t realize this was history in the making. But the malicious program that had burrowed into the PC was a new breed, capable of vacuuming up more user logins and website passwords in one day than competing malware did in weeks. With repeated enhancements, the malware and its offspring became juggernauts of cyber bank robbery—turning millions of computers into global networks of zombie machines enslaved by criminals. Conservative estimates of their haul reach well into hundreds of millions of dollars.

Investigators studying the code knew its creator only by aliases that changed almost as frequently as the malware itself: A-Z, Monstr, Slavik, Pollingsoon, Umbro, Lucky1235. But the mystery coder gave his product a name with staying power; he called it ZeuS. Like the procreation-minded god of Greek mythology, this ZeuS fathered powerful descendants—and became a case study of the modern cybercrime industry.

This is the story of a nasty piece of code, and the hunt for its creator.

Who is behind ZeuS and why?  The FBI believes it's a Russian hacker who has been on the run for years, and they are no closer to catching him now then they were in 2006. And ZeuS's source code is now all over the internet and in the hands of crooks and thieves across the globe. The big banks are scared and the small banks are terrified.

And they should be.
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