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Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush holds a press conference with Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) at the University Athletic Club in Iowa City, Iowa May 16, 2015. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein - RTX1D9MT
Jeb Bush
Jeb Bush, facing a stiffer challenge than he may have expected in the Republican presidential primary, is seeking to cast himself as a resolute leader with strong convictions ... unlike all those other flip-floppers in the race. On a conference call with Alabama Republicans:
"I think a lot of leaders in public life or aspiring leaders get overwhelmed by the here and now, they change their views because they’re trying to mirror the sentiments of the time. And they get lost," he said at one point.
And of his own positions on Common Core and immigration reform, sticking points for some Republican voters:
Bush said he welcomed the opportunity to explain his views on both subjects "because I find it interesting that people who share that view -- rather than stick with the view and try to persuade people about it -- in many cases have actually abandoned their views. I think the next president is going to have tougher times dealing with these issues than dealing with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin. If we're going to bend with the wind, then it'll be hard to imagine how we solve our problems."

That could be seen as a knock on Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who have both distanced themselves from previous advocacy for bipartisan immigration reform.

We know that Scott Walker plans to deal with Putin by busting American unions, so maybe he can apply that same plan to immigration reform, somehow. But it sounds like Bush isn't going to be able to stay quite as far above the fray as he'd planned. And if he wants to drop this vague nudge-nudge way of slamming his opponents and get really dirty, his family certainly has experience with that.
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Figures of President Barack Obama with the word
'Divisive rhetoric', and so on.
Ya think.
A Pennsylvania newspaper has apologized for printing a Memorial Day letter to the editor that called for a "regime change" and the execution of President Obama. [...]

"The Daily Item apologizes for our failure to catch and remove the inappropriate paragraphs in the letter directed at President Obama," the editorial said. "We will strive to do better in the future." [...]

In the editorial apologizing for the letter, the Sunbury Daily Item notes that their "readers and critics have reacted in force, as they should have." Many of those critics no doubt were directed to the paper by Daily Kos user sfinx, whose story on the letter resulted in a flood of complaints to the paper.

The paper's explanation for how the letter slipped through the usual vetting process is, perhaps, instructive:

The straight forward reason the letter headlined “What is a Ramadi?” appeared is no bells went off when the editor handling the letter read it and placed it on the opinion page.

Nearly a decade of provocative and divisive rhetoric may have inured us to language that calls the president of the United States “the coward-in-chief” and the disrespectful use of the president’s first name. Both those elements are common to corners of the mediascape, having been uttered by commentators and candidates for president.

Hmm.
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  • Today's comic by Ruben Bolling is Introducing Louis 'Flash' Maltby:
    Cartoon by Ruben Bolling -- Introducing Louis 'Flash' Maltby
  • Initial claims for unemployment compensation remain low: Initial jobless claims were 282,000 for the week ending May 23, up 7,000 form the previous week. They remain at historic lows as does the less volatile four-week average, which rose 5,000 to 271,500. A month ago, the average was about 10,000 more. This level of claims are a match for the best 12-month period of the Clinton administration.
  • Rent increasingly out of reach for tenants in many cities:
    From Boston to Miami, New York to Los Angeles, more than half of tenants are paying what experts consider unaffordable rents, says a report by New York University's Furman Center, which studies real estate and urban policy, and bank Capital One, which is a leading affordable-housing lender and financed the research.

    While various housing experts have noted such trends, the study zooms in on 11 of the nation's most populous cities. Overall, it's a portrait of increasing competition and often slipping affordability, but the picture isn't universally bleak and looks noticeably different from city to city.

  • It looks as if Kentucky may accidentally meet federal emissions standards as coal plants shut down.
  • Lindsey Graham retiring from U.S. Air Force Reserve: The South Carolina Republican is expected to announce his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination on Monday. His AFR retirement comes about because he's reached the service's mandatory retirement age of 60. After active duty in the early '80s, Graham joined the South Carolina Air National Reserve and in 1995, the U.S. AFR. Unlike many Southern politicians over the past century and a half, he can legitimately call himself "Colonel," having been promoted to that rank in 2004.

    But he bullshitted on his website in 1998, calling himself a veteran of Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm even though he never left the country then. When this was uncovered, he said: "I have not told anybody I'm a combatant. I'm not a war hero, and never said I was. I never intended to lie. If I have lied about my military record, I'm not fit to serve in Congress." He went on to say: "It makes me mad that some people would try to denigrate my military service record and that of thousands of others who served stateside during the war. I was called up and served on active duty ... I left my business, my home and friends to perform the duties I was trained for just as the veterans who served in past conflicts have done.''

    But Angelo Perri, a retired Army colonel and actual Gulf War veteran, said at the time "he's claiming to be somewhere he wasn't.''

  • Award-winning veteran Connecticut high school teacher forced to resign for reading Ginsberg poem to class.
  • All you need to know about Duggar coverage in one graphic thanks to Media Matters:
  • Kevin Drum finds that Cubans don't like Marco Rubio:
    The more interesting thing, to me, was that they saved a particular brand of venom for Marco Rubio. Cab drivers, bartenders, artists—everyone seem to have something to say about Marco Rubio, and none of it was kind. A few suggested that as a Cuban-American Rubio should display some concern for economic struggles of every day Cubans, or to at least recognize that he was afforded an opportunity that millions of poorer Cubans never had, namely having parents who moved to the United States before Castro took over. (Or as Rubio used to tell it, barely escaping the revolution while Castro personally shot at their raft.) The fact that he was pledging to double down on the embargo was a pledge to make their lives worse, to deny them the new hope they’ve been given these last few years, all to suck up to the aging exile community in Florida.
  • Team Blackness discussed the image recently surfaced of two Chicago police kneeling over a black suspect wearing deer antlers as if he were a fresh kill. Law enforcement at its finest, folks. Also discussed were the narcotics cops being ordered to stop arresting suspects over 40, B.B. King's daughters claiming their father was murdered, a rant on all things San Francisco, and the man who asked the city of Pendleton, Oregon, to ban farts.
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  • On today's "encore" Kagro in the Morning show, Greg Dworkin notes a gun measure surprise in the House; the honest conservative snipe hunt; McConnell called out; no, VA ≠ Obamacare. More NatSec state discussion, based on Eben Moglen's "Privacy under attack."


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Reposted from Daily Kos Elections by David Nir
Map of Texas' current state Senate districts (2015)
Texas' state Senate districts (click to enlarge)

In a move that election law expert Rick Hasen characterizes as "surprising," the Supreme Court has agreed to hear a potentially major case that could upend long-settled jurisprudence on the meaning of "one person, one vote." The suit, Evenwel v. Abbott, argues that the state of Texas should draw lines for its state Senate that equalize the voting population in each district, not the total population, as they do now.

And if the court were to side with the plaintiffs, Republicans would benefit. That's because there are fewer registered voters in urban, Democratic-leaning districts and far more in conservative rural seats. For instance, on the congressional level, California's sprawling 1st District—a vast, forested region nestled along the Oregon and Nevada borders—has about 521,000 eligible voters, according to one analyst, while the compact 40th District in Los Angeles has just 262,000. (When the lines were drawn in 2011, both had populations of 702,900.) And as you might expect, the former is represented by a Republican and the latter by a Democrat.

So if districts had to balance out voting-age populations, red seats would have to shed voters to blue seats, which are home to many more non-voters, chiefly non-citizens (often Hispanics), ex-felons without voting rights, and children. This would, of course, make those blue seats redder, which is why conservative groups are pushing this suit.

What's more, while this case is focused on legislative redistricting, there's no reason any ruling here couldn't also apply to congressional redistricting—and congressional reapportionment, which would mean that blue states would also likely lose a number of seats to red states. (Texas, ironically, with its large immigrant population, would be an exception, but the districts it would drop would be Democratic ones.)

However, there's a huge problem with this case's entire premise: It's almost impossible to count voters. Leah Libresco details the many reasons why, among them the fact that the Census doesn't ask about citizenship status. While the Census Bureau does get into more detail with its annual American Community Surveys, the ACS relies on statistical sampling—something the Supreme Court specifically barred for the purposes of the traditional decennial Census itself (which is currently used both for reapportionment and redistricting purposes).

Amusingly, Republicans were the victorious plaintiffs in that case (sampling would have uncovered many missing urban voters), so they might have unwittingly boxed themselves in. They also, as Libresco points out, hate the ACS and have tried to defund it, because heaven forbid the government should ever produce any useful statistical information that looks like science.

Of course, none of this may stop the Supreme Court's conservatives, who have shown no hesitation in curtailing minority voting rights. It'll be a while before they rule, though, but if they enshrine "one registered voter, one vote" into law, we'll be in for some serious upheaval.

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Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders waves to the crowd of supporters after speaking at a campaign kickoff rally in Burlington, Vermont May 26, 2015.    REUTERS/Brian Snyder
He's already won.
Believe it or not (I didn't at first), Hillary's primary poll numbers are improving as of late:
poll trendlines in Democratic primary
In addition to Clinton's uptick, Elizabeth Warren's and Bernie Sanders' numbers are also up. How can that be? Well, since mid-February, Joe Biden is down five and undecided/other is down four.

Clinton's uptick shows that Sanders' surge (from 3 percent to 10 percent since mid-February) isn't coming at her expense. And it's not coming from Warren either, at least not yet (although we should assume that he'll grab a big chunk of her support). And while it's impossible to tell for sure, we can probably guess that Clinton is picking up Biden people and Sanders is picking up undecided/other. So if we extrapolate out (again, an imperfect method), we could guess that Clinton could end up in the 70s and Sanders in the mid-20s.

I've long maintained that Sanders' ceiling is 25-30 percent. These latest poll numbers suggest that I'm on the right track, but there's another factor that I hadn't considered until Sanders' announcement speech yesterday.

In short, Clinton has fired up Latinos with her robust call for strong executive action on immigration, while she has also been clear in her support of the Black Lives Matter movement (and condemning her own husband's policies on crime during his presidency). Yet Sanders' announcement speech yesterday mentioned neither of those seminal current issues.

That's not to imply that Sanders is bad or uncommitted on those issues. He's been perfect on them. He even took part in the 1963 March on Washington. But given that 40 percent of Democrats are people of color, it was noteworthy seeing this (rhetorical) ommission. While Clinton has been solidifying his support among communities of color, Sanders seems to have completely ignored them in his coming out party. And that was weird and unexpected.

Now Sanders staked out a strong left position on economic issues, as we assumed he would. It's the reason we love him. While Clinton's uncomfortable silence on TPP is an improvement over her past support for such trade deals, it's still not as convincing as Sanders' strong and strident opposition. But at this point, there is very little RHETORICAL difference between the two candidates, and that makes Sanders' ability to move beyond the crowd Chris Hayes identifies above very difficult. The Hillary of eight years ago wouldn't be caught dead tweeting "I agree with Bernie." While the Bernie of today doesn't seem to realize that the modern Democratic Party doesn't look like Vermont.

More below the fold.

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U.S. Republican presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) waves to the crowd after speaking during the Freedom Summit in Greenville, South Carolina May 9, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Keane - RTX1C9RH
Ted Cruz
There is just no way to square this circle. None whatsoever. After witnessing the serious destruction that major flooding just caused in his home state of Texas, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz made an iron-clad promise to his constituents:
"Today, Texans are hurting. They're hurting here in San Marcos. They're hurting in Wimberley. They're hurting in Houston. They're hurting across the state.

"Democrats and Republicans in the congressional delegation will stand as one in support of the federal government meeting its statutory obligations to provide the relief to help the Texans who are hurting."

It would be an eminently reasonable assurance to make, if only Ted Cruz were a reasonable man. But he's not. We all know he's not. When Hurricane Sandy wreaked even greater damage across the Northeast in 2012, Cruz told his suffering fellow citizens to get bent:
"This bill is symptomatic of a larger problem in Washington—an addiction to spending money we do not have. The United States Senate should not be in the business of exploiting victims of natural disasters to fund pork projects that further expand our debt."
Cruz voted against Sandy aid, of course, but now that it's his own backyard that's under water—and not some wretched blue states half a country away—he's all for federal disaster assistance. There's absolutely no way to reconcile these two stances, even if you were to violate the laws of physics.

It just means that Cruz, in addition to being a dystopian extremist, is also that worst sort of political creature: a brazen, two-faced hypocrite who has no compunction about spouting off blatant contradictions whenever they suit his political purposes. And as he tours the nation running for president, it's on us to expose this pernicious brand of deceit.

(Hat-tip: Talking Points Memo)

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U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts attends the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington April 18, 2008.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst   (UNITED STATES)
Chief Justice John Roberts has a lot to think about these days.
It's been clear for months that if the Supreme Court were to declare that Obamacare subsidies going to people who got their plans on the federal exchange were illegal, those affected would be almost entirely in the red states. That means 22 Republican senators running for re-election in 2016 would have to answer for their constituents losing health insurance. Conventional wisdom says "ouch." But The New York Times says, not so fast, because it could work the other way if the court upholds the law.
Should the Obama administration win, relieved Democrats would crow that Obama's foremost domestic achievement had stood unscathed. But some say they'd have lost a potentially powerful cudgel for the 2016 campaigns: Being able to accuse Republicans of ending the assistance and disrupting health coverage for many.

If Democrats lose in court, "It completely reverses the issue and puts us back on offense on health care," said Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., one of his party's chief message crafters.

Let's hope that if Democrats win in court they celebrate the fact that 8 million people won't become uninsured instead of wishing they had lost so they had a potent 2016 issue. I'm talking to you, Steve Israel.

The reality is, if the court does strike down subsidies the pain will be felt by millions of people, and that will be very bad news for Republicans. Worse news for 8 million people, though. Which some Republicans recognize, or at least say they do, and so are fumbling toward some kind of plan to do something about it. Anyway, that's what Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and "other Republicans" told the NYT. They say they are "moving toward a joint House-Senate proposal to provide assistance to people losing subsidies. It is also likely to weaken some of the law's requirements, perhaps eliminating required coverage for individuals or giving states more flexibility to decide the scope of required medical coverage, Republicans say." That's a plan, if it should ever actually get enough Republican support to pass (which it won't in the House), that would be vetoed by President Obama. In fact, it's veto-bait on purpose, so Republicans could turn around and blame Obama for the whole mess.

The loss of subsidies would be universally bad, starting with the Supreme Court which would look even more politically hackish than it already does. Republicans would bear the brunt of the anger, but Democrats wouldn't be immune—people would just be pissed at "Washington." But millions of people would lose insurance, and the ripple effect in the individual insurance market would hurt millions more as premiums increase for everyone.

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State Sen. Ernie Chambers of the Nebraska Legislature. Key proponent of repealing the death penalty.
State Sen. Ernie Chambers finally won his 38-year battle to get Nebraska's death penalty repealed.
With Wednesday's override vote in its one-house legislature, Nebraska became the nation's 19th state without a death penalty. The last time a conservative state abolished capital punishment was 42 years ago when North Dakota made the move. But since then eight states plus the District of Columbia have repealed their death penalty statutes. Two states—Connecticut and New Mexico—still have inmates on death row because the repeals were not made retroactive.

The supposedly nonpartisan Republican-dominated legislature had repealed the death penalty last week in a 32-14 vote, but the Republican governor vetoed it. Joe Duggan and Todd Cooper report:

The high-stakes vote to override the veto of Legislative Bill 268 was 30-19. It requires at least 30 of 49 senators to overturn a gubernatorial veto.

The outcome represented a defeat for first-term Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts, who made an all-out effort to peel away some of 18 conservative senators who helped pass the repeal bill. [...]

And it represents a crowning achievement for Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, who has made repeal of the death penalty his top priority during his four-decade political career.

Republicans who voted for repeal did so for religious or fiscal reasons.

Nebraska has not executed anyone since 1997 when it electocuted Robert E. Williams, convicted of murdering three women. Ricketts was eager to change that and had recently ordered acquisition of the three drugs Nebraska had decided to use in the future for lethal injections of people sentenced to death.

There is more below the orange tangled web we weave.

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Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (L) and Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stand together during a ceremony to present Golf legend Jack Nicklaus with the Congressional Gold Medal “in recognition of his many contributions to the game of golf and his
The wheels fell of Mitch McConnell's claims of a new, effective Senate in the early hours of Saturday morning when a majority of senators refused to be bullied into supporting his plan for a simple Patriot Act extension. That's left Democrats and Republicans alike wondering what in the hell McConnell was thinking in his entire strategy.
On Wednesday afternoon, senior Republicans said there's no clear way out of the mess even as they were generally hopeful about a resolution by the time lawmakers return to Washington. Privately, though, some of McConnell's allies believe the only escape hatch would be to let the [House-passed] USA Freedom Act pass the Senate. […]

"Sen. McConnell genuinely wants the Senate to work. And right now it clearly isn't," Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), one of a handful of Democrats to meet one-on-one with McConnell this year, said Wednesday. "I genuinely do not understand Majority Leader McConnell's strategy and views on this issue. He has departed from Speaker [John] Boehner, many in his own caucus and my caucus."

The episode has sparked a round of recriminations between House and Senate Republicans—and raised questions about what McConnell, regarded as a seasoned tactician by nearly everyone on Capitol Hill, was thinking.

The man McConnell replaced at the head of the Senate, who never had a strategy blow up as catastrophically as this one, diagnoses McConnell's problem.
"He defiantly said we're going to do all this. [But] things happen," Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said in an interview last week about McConnell's plans to finish the surveillance law before adjourning for recess. "You just never know; you can't be defiant."
As of now, it's not clear whether McConnell has learned that or not. Lobbyists working the issue tell Bloomberg news negotiations in the Senate have stalled. What's more, a House Republican leadership aide told Roll Call on Tuesday that there were no negotiations happening between House and Senate leadership to come to agreement. As of now, House leadership is insisting the only option is for the Senate to pass their bill.

So they're coming back for a rare Sunday session, needing to pass something by 8:00 p.m., the administration says, to preserve the three provisions of the Patriot Act that are expiring: dragnet surveillance; a program to track "lone wolf" terrorists not affiliated with known organizations; and roving wiretaps of individuals rather than devices, to track people using multiple devices. Right now it looks like McConnell might still be relying on his already failed strategy—a hope that panic over the real, hard expiration of these programs will scare lawmakers enough into giving him his way. So far, that doesn't seem to be working.

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U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) holds a news conference after he announced his candidacy for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, on Capitol Hill in Washington April 30, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst  - RTX1B0A5
More popular than the jokers in the GOP side.
Here is the primary support of select presidential candidates in recent polling:

Quinnipiac 4/25-5/4 (Iowa):
Bernie Sanders: 15

Scott Walker: 21
Rand Paul: 13
Marco Rubio: 13
Ted Cruz: 12
Mike Huckabee: 11
Ben Carson: 7
Jeb Bush: 5

Bloomberg 5/2-6 (New Hampshire):
Bernie Sanders: 18

Rand Paul: 12
Scott Walker: 12
Jeb Bush: 11
Marco Rubio: 11
Donald Trump: 8
Chris Christie: 7

Fox News 5/9-12 (national):
Elizabeth Warren: 13
Bernie Sanders: 6
Joe Biden: 6

Jeb Bush: 13
Ben Carson: 13
Scott Walker: 11
Mike Huckabee: 10
Marco Rubio: 9
Rand Paul: 7
Chris Christie: 6
Ted Cruz: 6
Donald Trump: 4
Rick Perry: 2
Rick Santorum: 2

Hillary Clinton breaks 60 percent in all those polls, so this has nothing to do with the viability of Sanders' primary chances. Rather, it shows that while Sanders is treated by the media as a circus freakshow, his level of support within his party generally exceeds those of the supposed "serious" Republicans in theirs, especially in the early primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire.

Fact is, Sanders is a serious and important voice on the American left, something I gather that even Hillary's most fervent supporters would enthusiastically agree with. And as much as some want to repeat the "he's a socialist!" claptrap, the reality is that his politics—on an issue-to-issue basis—are well within the American mainstream. He's no Dennis Kucinich.

The media might chuckle at his insurgent bid, but he has far more heft in our surprisingly-unified party than most of the jokers fighting for supremacy in their fractured GOP.

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Reposted from Comics by Barbara Morrill

READ Ruben Bolling's brand new book for kids, Alien Invasion in My Backyard: An EMU Club Adventure!

FOLLOW @RubenBolling on Twitter and Facebook.

And celebrate Tom the Dancing Bug's 25th Anniversary by JOINING its hallowed subscription club, the INNER HIVE now, during the HIVE DRIVE!  

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Former New York Gov. George Pataki
George Pataki
They're coming thick and fast now. Just hours after Rick Santorum announced his presidential run, he was followed by George Pataki. Yes, the former New York governor who's been out of office for nearly a decade. (The same length of time as Jeb Bush, to be sure, but 1) Pataki is not a Bush and 2) New York is not a swing state.)

Pataki announced with a slickly produced video in which he almost does a Lou Reed kind of thing, speaking rapidly and a bit rhythmically over unusually obtrusive background music. In the video (which you can see below the fold), we learn a few important things about Pataki. He ties his own shoelaces with great authority, but prefers to be seen reading a newspaper while riding shotgun rather than driving a car. His big applause line at New Hampshire campaign events is "God bless you all, and lunch is on me." And he plans to run as a man who led New York through the aftermath of 9/11, because that worked so incredibly well for Rudy Giuliani in 2008.

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