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Amanda Scott (L) and Christina Corvin (R) celebrate after getting married outside of the Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds office in Charlotte, North Carolina, October 13, 2014. Monday was the first day that Mecklenburg County issued marriage licenses
Amanda Scott and Christina Corvin celebrate after getting married in North Carolina
North Carolina magistrates won't be allowed to refuse to officiate all marriages as a way of getting out of officiating the same-sex ones, after Republican Gov. Pat McCrory vetoed a bill that would have legalized such discrimination.
McCrory explained in a statement that allowing officials to pick and choose how they perform their sworn duties is not good law: “Whether it is the president, governor, mayor, a law enforcement officer, or magistrate, no public official who voluntarily swears to support and defend the Constitution and to discharge all duties of their office should be exempt from upholding that oath; therefore, I will veto Senate Bill 2.”

Though the bill was designed to create a way around performing same-sex marriages, its effect would have been equally as inconvenient for different-sex couples. Magistrates and Assistant Registers of Deeds would not have been able to pick and choose who they marry; they could only pick between all marriages and no marriages. If it was when a same-sex couple requested a marriage that they decided to stop performing the duty, that recusal would last for at least six months. And counties would still have had to provide somebody that could officiate marriages, even if all magistrates had recused under the policy.

It's pretty simple, really: If it's important to you not to do a key part of a job, that's not the job for you.

Doubtless the inconvenience to different-sex couples and the shining example of Gov. Mike Pence's Indiana made the decision to veto less difficult for McCrory.

Memorial Bridge between Arlington and Washington DC
The Memorial Bridge carries about 68,000 vehicles per day—including buses—between Washington, D.C. and Virginia. Or, it did. That's going to take a hit:
The National Park Service announced that a second lane of the 83-year-old bridge, which serves as a major traffic artery between Arlington National Cemetery and the Lincoln Memorial, will be closed for about six months. The first westbound lane closure began last week after inspectors found signs of corrosion.
Repairs are good. Delaying repairs until they're urgent and unnecessarily disruptive is not so good. There will also be a weight restriction that requires rerouting buses away from the bridge. This highlights, in the nation's capital, a problem that's widespread across the country:
"We have to get serious about fixing and upgrading our roads, bridges, ports and other infrastructure. Until that happens, Virginia commuters will be stuck sitting in even more traffic — and crumbling and inefficient infrastructure will remain a serious drag on our economic growth," Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said in a statement.
There are 61,000 structurally deficient bridges in the United States, but transportation is on the long list of things congressional Republicans refuse to invest in. A two-month bill extending the Highway Trust Fund recently passed, but two months of funding makes it more than a little difficult to do long-term planning and investment.
Repubican presidental candidate Ben Carson announces his candidacy in Detroit, Michigan May 4, 2015. Carson announced in television interviews on Sunday that he is running for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination and is expected to hold a formal an
Does Ben Carson's 10 percent in national polls lift him out of the vanity candidate category?
The massive number of announced and likely Republican presidential candidates isn't just a problem for staging debates, it's a broader problem for news coverage. There are as many as 16 likely Republican candidates, though the presidency isn't the real goal for some of them:
For candidates, barriers to entry are lower than in the past, according to [Charlie] Mahtesian, who noted that presidential hopefuls are no longer expected to guarantee victory in their home states or to have recently won an election. And the incentives are now higher, he said, given that national exposure could help propel a candidate's budding media career.
In other words, we should be holding Fox News responsible for some of these candidates. But it can be difficult to separate out the future talk show hosts from the candidates really running for office:
There’s always the fear, too, of ignoring a candidate with low poll numbers early on, like Santorum in the 2012 election cycle, to give attention to someone more soundbite-friendly, like Herman Cain. In January 2012, Santorum won the Iowa Caucuses and mounted a surprising run against Mitt Romney, the better-funded establishment favorite. For that reason, some have expressed concerns about giving oxygen to 2016 candidates more likely gunning for a TV contract -– or promoting an existing show -– instead of to candidates with serious policy objectives.

“Our social media culture rewards vanity candidates, unfortunately,” said Chuck Todd, NBC News’ political director and host of "Meet the Press." “That’s a resource suck. And it is going to hurt serious second-tier candidates collectively. I just hope not to be the network that does that.”

But at the same time, you've got Santorum, a former (if long ago) senator and winner of 10 states in the 2012 primaries, polling at 1.2 percent nationally and 3.2 percent in Iowa (which he won in 2012), while Ben Carson, who fits the vanity candidate profile, leads him in those polls, and by a considerable margin nationally. Is it right for the media to dismiss Carson as a vanity candidate and focus on candidates like Santorum, Rick Perry, and Bobby Jindal because they're "serious," having been elected to statewide office? But given that Santorum won Iowa while lagging badly in national polls, it's hard to dismiss him, either.

And yet, somehow, despite this deluge of extreme long-shot Republicans looking to get rich after their campaigns end, reporters are also incredibly angry that Hillary Clinton doesn't have enough competition. Go figure.

Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert talks to reporters about Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) in the Capitol in Washington October 2, 2006. The FBI is assessing whether Foley broke any laws when he sent sexually explicit e-mails to a male teen-age congressional pag
Dennis Hastert
Dennis Hastert looked like the clean member of Republican House leadership in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He didn't have affairs, that we knew of, like Newt Gingrich or Bob Livingston. He wasn't indicted for campaign finance violations or involved in the Jack Abramoff scandal like Tom DeLay. Even during much of his time as speaker, he may not have been seen as the most powerful House Republican—that was DeLay—but:
“His reputation as speaker was beyond reproach,” [former Rep. Tom] Davis said after news of the indictment Thursday. Davis served two terms as chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee under Hastert and sat at the leadership table with him for four years. “He was seen as a man of total integrity.”
That reputation held up even as Democrats reportedly went looking for dirt on him. That said, Hastert notoriously mishandled a situation involving a House Republican and teenagers: then-Rep. Mark Foley's sexual harassment of House pages. Foley's behavior became public in the weeks before the 2006 elections, but Hastert had reportedly been warned months or even years earlier, and had chosen to protect Foley rather than the teenagers in the House page program. When Foley's abuse became a public scandal, Hastert lashed out at the victims.

As more facts about Hastert's indictment for crimes committed in the process of paying off someone from his past emerge, are we going to look back and think it was more than just partisan loyalty that kept Hastert from taking seriously allegations of abuse by a powerful man toward teenagers?

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) leaves the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct on Capitol Hill in Washington October 24, 2006. Hastert appeared before the bipartisan congressional ethics panel for questioning about what
Dennis Hastert, former Republican speaker of the House
When news broke that former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert had been indicted for structuring transactions to avoid IRS detection and lying about it to the FBI, it sounded like routine corruption. The details of the indictment, though, point in a different direction, stressing Hastert's time as a high school teacher and that Individual A, who Hastert was attempting to pay off "to compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct against," "has been a resident of Yorkville, Illinois and has known defendant JOHN DENNIS HASTERT most of Individual A’s life." So how do we read this?
"Notice the teacher and coach language," said Jeff Cramer, a former federal prosecutor and head of the Chicago office of the investigation firm Kroll. "Feds don't put in language like that unless it's relevant."
Okay ...
Legal experts said extortion cases can be tricky.

In mulling over whom to charge, prosecutors often must decide whether the person being extorted or the person doing the extorting is most victimized, said Chicago-based attorney and former federal prosecutor Phil Turner.

"In most instances you would view someone being extorted as the victim because they are being shaken down," he said. "But prosecutors have enormous discretion and, in some instance, may see the person doing the extortion as a greater victim. Those are factors that can be weighed."

So, yes, we are probably talking about someone who Hastert knew in his capacity as a teacher and coach, and despite the fact that this person was extorting him for $3.5 million—a significant pile of money—Hastert is in trouble. These are not good signs.

Hastert has resigned his position as a lobbyist.


Thu May 28, 2015 at 03:00 PM PDT

Daily Kos Labor digest

by Laura Clawson

Signs at a rally. Solidarity in foreground, stop the war on workers in background.
U.S. presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talks to reporters with a Secret Service agent looking on (L) in an auto shop as she campaigns for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination at Kirkwood Community College in Monti
Okay, okay, it's in Politico's gossip column, but nonetheless, it is 2015 and once again we are looking at a political publication focusing on what clothes women in politics wear like it's newsworthy. In this case, we get an interview with Nina McLemore, who makes expensive women's professional clothing worn by Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, and others. Surprise! McLemore thinks we should be talking more about what women wear, not because she stands to profit from it but because it's important.
As McLemore says, “People often harp on the whole concept of ‘we shouldn’t be talking about what a female candidate is wearing,’ but we should. It’s a very important topic, in fact. I don’t think a lot of people, women in particular, realize how strong the power of how we look really is.”
Women don't realize how important looks are? Uhhh ... how do we explain the vast industries dedicated to women's appearance, then? Seems like if there's one thing that gets drummed into women at an early age, it's that looks are important.

I think it's generally understood that appearance matters for politicians, and for the women in particular, but many of us get that that's a bad thing, because it's yet another way to trivialize women. You know, somehow when we talk about appearance, it's the women and their pantsuits, not the darker side of dadbod as demonstrated by Ted Cruz, or whatever that mess on Rand Paul's head is; someone get that man to Devacurl, stat.

Then again, McLemore seems to need no help trivializing women:

“TV is where charisma and attractiveness count for more than substance,” says McLemore, with all the seriousness of a political consultant. “I personally think it’s hard for women to have charisma, where some men have it in spades. We can’t change the fact that we’re women, but we can put forth our best image for the result we want.”
There are interesting observations to be made about how, in our culture, charisma tends to be defined in terms of attributes more commonly held by men. These are not them. FFS, "we can't change the fact that we're women, but ... " we sure can try to fit into the male professional mold by wearing a pantsuit! And then parlay that into media coverage trivializing women in politics! Sweet!
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.
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  - RTX1B06L
Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT)
It's kind of hilarious watching the media try to wrap its collective head around the idea that of Hillary Clinton's two Democratic primary challengers, the one who's getting more traction is Sen. Bernie Sanders, not former Gov. Martin O'Malley. As Politico's Annie Karni describes the contrast:
One candidate is 73, with a shock of wispy white hair and a famously rumpled demeanor that makes him look more like a mad scientist than a politician.

The other is central casting’s image of a presidential candidate: square-jawed, athletic-looking and 52 years old — the ideal age that Fortune 500 companies look for in a CEO and that voters find appealing in a president.

But ... but ... his hair!

Karni quotes the usual assortment of anonymous "strategists," "insider" sources "with ties to the Clinton world," and one-time (but they're not saying when) Bill Clinton advisers to make the point that Hillary Clinton's campaign is more worried about Sanders than O'Malley. Like so:

Insiders familiar with the Clinton campaign’s thinking described it as “frightened” of Sanders — not that he would win the nomination, but that he could damage her with the activist base by challenging her on core progressive positions in debates and make her look like a centrist or corporatist. The source described the campaign as “pleased,” at least, that O’Malley and Sanders will split the anti-Clinton vote. A Clinton spokesman declined to comment.
It shouldn't really be breaking news that the guy polling at 15 percent in the Iowa caucus is more threatening than the guy polling at 1.8 percent, but such is the power of media assumptions about what a presidential candidate looks like, I guess.
Kids at an immigration rally
On Tuesday, a panel of judges on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals refused to lift a hold and let President Obama's immigration reforms go forward while litigation continues, with Texas and 25 other states suing to block Obama's executive orders and promote deportation as a national policy. What's next in this legal battle?
... administration officials on Wednesday said the decision not to ask the Supreme Court to allow the program to move forward immediately reflects a practical reality: Even if the justices had given the green light to begin implementing the program, the continuing legal fight would probably have scared away most of the undocumented immigrants who could apply for it.

In a statement, officials from the Justice Department said they disagreed with a decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that continues to block the president’s immigration actions. But they said the government will fight on the merits of the program, rather than push for permission to carry it out immediately.

Oral arguments at the appeals court are scheduled for the week of July 6, but whoever wins at that level (and the Fifth Circuit is a very conservative one, remember), the fight is likely to go to the Supreme Court, which means it would not be resolved until 2016, which in turn means it would likely be a major issue in the presidential campaign.
People at an immigration rally with signs saying
Republicans say that before Congress can possibly think about passing immigration reform with a path to citizenship, the United States needs to secure the borders and perhaps even build a dang fence. To hear them talk, you would think that the borders were being flooded, but reality is that:
As the Department of Homeland Security continues to pour money into border security, evidence is emerging that illegal immigration flows have fallen to their lowest level in at least two decades. The nation’s population of illegal immigrants, which more than tripled, to 12.2 million, between 1990 and 2007, has dropped by about 1 million, according to demographers at the Pew Research Center.

A key — but largely overlooked — sign of these ebbing flows is the changing makeup of the undocumented population. Until recent years, illegal immigrants tended to be young men streaming across the Southern border in pursuit of work. But demographic data show that the typical illegal immigrant now is much more likely someone who is 35 or older and has lived in the United States for a decade or more.

Beefed-up border security isn't the only explanation for that—when the U.S. economy cratered, fewer people thought it was a great place to come to find economic opportunity, and demographic changes in Mexico could also account for part of the drop. But whatever the explanation, the drop in undocumented immigrants coming in, and the fact that many of those who are here have been here long enough to become embedded in their communities, means that the Republican emphasis on border security is not just inhumane but outdated. While it's not the only outdated position Republicans like to promote, at some point the general public starts to notice these things and national political debates shift with or without Republicans.
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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