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Florida Gov. Scott Visits Opening Of Advanced Pharma Facility- 09/25/13

'The worst governor in the history of Florida?'

08/19/15 10:42AM

If we're going to talk about politicians struggling with email controversies, perhaps we should turn attention towards Florida Gov. Rick Scott. Carl Hiaasen is wondering whether the Republican is "the worst governor in the history of Florida," and it's worth appreciating why. 
 
The trouble started in earnest with a fairly obscure case: a Tallahassee attorney sued the governor a few years ago in a real-estate dispute. But as the Miami Herald reported, the underlying controversy grew and ended up mattering quite a bit.
Gov. Rick Scott has agreed to spend $700,000 in taxpayer money to settle seven public records lawsuits alleging he and several members of his staff violated state law when they created email accounts to shield their communications from state public records laws and then withheld the documents. [...]
 
The settlement, first obtained by the Herald/Times Tallahassee bureau, is precedent-setting in that it is the first time in state history that a sitting governor and attorney general have been sued successfully for violations of Florida's public records laws. It is also the third legal defeat in recent months for the governor, and the second time he has agreed to use state dollars to end a lawsuit against him.
Each of these details seems slightly worse than the last. It's a problem that Rick Scott and his aides violated state law; it's a bigger problem that they keep losing in court; and it's a bigger problem still that Team Scott is using taxpayer money to resolve the cases.
 
And given the political world's extraordinary interest in public officials and email accounts, it's probably worth emphasizing that in Scott's case, the governor and his staff "set up a series of private Gmail accounts and used them to conduct public business."
 
The governor had previously claimed those accounts didn't exist. Those claims weren't true.
 
But it's the use of public funds that has Carl Hiaasen thinking that Rick Scott is "certainly a prime contender for worst ever, and each new screwing of Floridians pushes him closer to the title."
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus speaks at the annual RNC winter meeting January 24, 2014 in Washington, DC.

RNC backs controversial resolution on discrimination

08/19/15 10:04AM

When the Supreme Court approved marriage equality two months ago, some Republican insiders were quietly thrilled. Party officials realized that Republicans are sharply at odds with the American mainstream on the issue, and the sooner the party could move away from the issue, the better.
 
Since the ruling effectively ended the debate, it created a convenient partisan opportunity. The New York Times reported that some Republican strategists privately characterized the high court decisions as "nothing short of a gift from above."
 
But the gift only works if Republicans accept it and actually move past the issue. ThinkProgress noted yesterday that Republican National Committee members have quietly approved a resolution that endorses the far-right's preferred response to the Supreme Court's decision.
The RNC wants Congress to approve the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA). This bill, which the ACLU has called "a Pandora's Box of taxpayer-funded discrimination against same-sex couples and their children," would prevent the federal government from acting against businesses and non-profits that discriminate against same-sex married couples. This would mean that government workers could refuse to perform their duties, and businesses and organizations -- including those that operate with support of taxpayer money -- would be free to discriminate. [...]
 
The RNC resolution specifically references multiple cases when private business owners have faced legal consequences for refusing to serve to same-sex couples in violation of nondiscrimination laws.
The Washington Blade added, "The resolution wasn’t announced or reported anywhere in the press until last week after its passage when the Daily Signal, a conservative publication, published an article on the measure. A RNC official confirmed for the Washington Blade the report was accurate."

The RNC's quiet endorsement of the resolution may actually have a practical effect on Capitol Hill. It's not a binding resolution, but given the larger context, this matters.
This photo made during an escorted visit and reviewed by the US military, shows the razor wire-topped fence at the abandoned "Camp X-Ray" detention facility at the US Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba April 9, 2014. (Photo by Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty)

Kansas Republicans flunk national security test

08/19/15 09:21AM

A detailed blueprint from the Obama administration on closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility is, by most accounts, nearly complete. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters a few weeks ago, officials are "in the final stages of drafting a plan."
 
And as part of the process, Pentagon officials told NBC News last week that military personnel are "assessing sites on U.S. soil that might serve as facilities for Guantanamo Bay detainees."
 
This included, naturally, a trip last month to Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, which houses the American military's only domestic maximum-security prison. As Roll Call reported, this prompted a stern message from some of Kansas' congressional Republicans: don't even think about it.
In an Aug. 14 letter to Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter, [Sen. Pat Roberts] stressed that Kansas in general -- and Leavenworth, in particular -- are not ideal for a domestic detention facility.
 
"Fort Leavenworth is neither the ideal nor right location for moving Guantánamo detainees," Roberts wrote to Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter. "The installation lies right on the Missouri River, providing terrorists with the possibility of covert travel underwater and attempting access to the detention facility."
 
Additionally, Roberts wrote, the base's boundary line runs parallel to a public railroad.
Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.), whose district includes Leavenworth, called any relocation plan "reckless," adding that she remains committed to keeping terrorists out of Fort Leavenworth.
 
I'm afraid I have some bad news for the far-right lawmakers:
Donald Trump Announces Candidacy to be President of the United States

Trump questions the legality of the Constitution

08/19/15 08:47AM

A few days ago, Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump unveiled an actual immigration policy, which included a striking provision: "End birthright citizenship."
 
As regular readers know, the 14th Amendment to the Constitution doesn't leave much in the way of wiggle room: the rights of American citizenship are given to "all persons born or naturalized in the United States." The principle of birthright citizenship has been upheld by the Supreme Court many times since its enactment following the Civil War.
 
But Trump has a problem with the constitutional language -- and soon after, roughly half of the GOP presidential field expressed their own opposition to the 14th Amendment's guarantee.
 
There are all kinds of angles to a story like this -- legal, political, social, and moral -- but it's also hard not to wonder about the practical considerations. If the Constitution says those born in the United States are citizens of the United States, what exactly does Trump intend to do about it? Last night, as Politico reported, the answer came into sharper focus.
Under the 14th Amendment, [Fox News' Bill O'Reilly] told Trump on "The O'Reilly Factor," mass deportations of so-called birthright citizens cannot happen.
 
Trump disagreed, and said that "many lawyers are saying that's not the way it is in terms of this."
As ridiculous as this may seem, don't just roll your eyes at this and move on. Trump's wrong, but his argument is poised to become a lot more common.
 
Indeed, many assumed that Trump envisions a constitutional amendment to end birthright citizenship. He does not. What Trump actually has in mind is a court fight in which he and his lawyers challenge the legality of constitutional language.
 
Politico's headline, "Trump to O'Reilly: The 14th Amendment is unconstitutional," is probably excessive, but only a little.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and real estate magnate Donald Trump return to the stage following a break in the Republican presidential primary debate on August 6, 2015 at the Quicken Loans Aren

When a health care plan isn't really a health care plan

08/19/15 08:00AM

Republican presidential hopeful Scott Walker ran into a little trouble last week. He told a national television audience that voters should look past the Trump "media frenzy," go to his campaign website, and pay attention to all the substantive policy details.
 
The trouble, of course, was that his website, at least at the time, didn't have a single policy detail anywhere. There wasn't even an issues page. Walker was directing voters to resources that didn't exist.
 
To his credit, that changed yesterday. Walker's first real policy rollout of the year brought us the Wisconsin governor's plan to "repeal and replace" the Affordable Care Act. There's even something resembling a policy paper available for public review.
 
Like every other GOP reform plan, Walker's pitch includes all the predictable clichés -- tort reform, high-risk pools, insurance sales across state lines, HSA expansion -- that serve as staples of every Republican scheme. It also includes some (very) modest subsidies, which vary based on age, not income.
 
But as Jeffrey Young and Jonathan Cohn explained, there's a root challenge the Wisconsin Republican makes no real effort to address.
By scrapping President Barack Obama's 2010 health care overhaul, Walker's plan ... would take away health coverage from some unknowable share of the millions of people who have gained it under Obamacare. It promotes benefits like less regulation and less federal spending on health insurance, as well as cheaper coverage for some young and healthy people. But like all the other Republican "repeal and replace" plans that have appeared in the last few years, Walker's proposal never acknowledges the trade-offs and consequences of these changes.
It's true that Walker's plan is arguably the most detailed "Obamacare" alternative any GOP candidate has produced -- and that includes the 2012 field -- though this isn't necessarily high praise, since we're really just talking about a vague outline with a few more bullet points than the usual bumper-sticker plans health care wonks have been rolling their eyes at for years.
 
Is the plan any good at providing health security? For some, maybe -- if you're wealthy, healthy, and have no intention of ever seeking medical care, Scott Walker's vision of health care reform would very likely meet your needs quite well.
 
But for everyone else, this plan is almost dangerously misguided.

Meet the first female Ranger School grads and other headlines

08/19/15 07:55AM

These are the Army's first female ranger school graduates. (Washington Post)

Officials: military likely to open most combat jobs to women. (AP)

How Bernie Sanders makes his mega-rallies. (Politico Magazine)

Ohio intended to illegally import execution drugs, FDA letter says. (BuzzFeed)

How Texas could set national template for limiting abortion access. (New York Times)

After sexually suggestive texts between legislator and intern, Missouri lawmakers briefly ponder an intern dress code. (Kansas City Star)

Idaho replaces mile marker 420 with 419.9 to thwart stoners. (AP)

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Tuesday's Mini-Report, 8.18.15

08/18/15 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* Thailand: "A young suspect wearing a yellow T-shirt was being hunted Tuesday by Thai police who say he bombed a Bangkok shrine popular with tourists, killing 22 people."
 
* Experts sure do like the Iran deal: "The Arms Control Association, a nonpartisan group based in Washington, will release the statement Tuesday morning. It declares the deal limiting Iran's nuclear program in return for sanctions relief 'a net-plus for international nuclear nonproliferation efforts.'"
 
* Opponents really don't care what policy experts think: "New Jersey's Bob Menendez on Tuesday said in a speech in his home state that he opposes the deal which would curb Iran's nuclear program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions."
 
* Still, the magic number is near: "Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) announced their support for the Iran nuclear deal Tuesday, bringing President Obama closer to the support he'll need to implement the agreement. "
 
* A notable disagreement: "Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday that she opposes exploring for oil and gas in the Arctic Ocean, a move that puts her at sharp odds with President Obama, who just this week gave Shell a green light to drill. 'The Arctic is a unique treasure,' the Democratic presidential candidate wrote in a Twitter post. 'Given what we know, it's not worth the risk.'"
 
* Impressive: "For the first time ever, two women have successfully completed the Army's elite Ranger school, one of the toughest combat training courses in the world, the Army said Monday."
 
* Georgia: "Two former police officers from East Point, Ga. have been indicted on charges of murder in the April 2014 death of Gregory Towns, a 24-year-old unarmed black man who died after a stun gun was used on him while he was in handcuffs."
Former Gov. Rick Perry addresses the National Press Club's Newsmaker Luncheon on his economic plan on July 2, 2015. (Photo by Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Getty)

On pay equity, Perry's a slow learner

08/18/15 04:52PM

In March 2014, then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) dismissed the whole idea of a debate over equal pay for women. Appearing on MSNBC, the Republican called the issue "nonsense," adding, "We already have laws that protect it." (What "it" referred to was unclear.)
 
The Texan received a fair amount of criticism for the comments at the time, and it seemed like a possible opportunity for Perry to learn more about the issue.
 
But on pay equity, the Republican presidential candidate is apparently a slow learner.
During a Tuesday interview on CNN, host Alisyn Camerota praised the former Texas governor for employing women in top positions in his campaign, but she noted that he had vetoed a law that would have required women to receive equal pay for equal work.
 
"Women get equal pay. I mean, that's the point," Perry insisted. "This is a piece of legislation that basically duplicates what's at the federal level. In the state of Texas, we think it's kind of wise not to have too many laws on the books."
Governor, women don't receive equal pay. I mean, that's the point.
Republican presidential hopeful Bobby Jindal speaks during the Republican presidential primary debate on Aug. 6, 2015 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty)

The next generation of birthers?

08/18/15 04:15PM

We tend not to hear much from the "birther" activists anymore. For a while, these right-wing critics were obsessed with President Obama's birthplace, ignoring all evidence in order to turn a ridiculous conspiracy theory into a cottage industry.
 
But with the president already thinking about his post-White House plans, and the 2016 election season underway, even the most unhinged conservatives no longer see much of a point in focusing on Obama's origins. They're just not going to force him from office.
 
And while it's tempting to think the entire strain of nonsense is behind us, TPM reports that this may be wishful thinking. The birther "movement" has effectively surrendered in its crusade against President Obama, but what about some of his would-be successors?
In a column published last week on the conspiracy theory website WND, author Jack Cashill noted that questions had been raised about whether four of the 17 candidates in the GOP field were really "natural born citizens" and therefore eligible to run for President.
 
Ted Cruz has already dealt with those questions publicly -- the Canadian-born senator from Texas renounced his citizenship with that country last summer in anticipation of a 2016 bid -- but Cashill also listed Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) among those who were suspect.
Though the line between satire and sincerity can seem blurry in far-right media, the WorldNetDaily piece does not appear to be a joke. It starts with a passive-voice classic -- "The question has been raised for Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal and even Rick Santorum" -- and proceeds from there as if this were a legitimate area of inquiry.
 
It goes so far as to argue, "No one doubts that Jindal was born in the United States, but what is not clear is where the loyalty of his parents lay and whether Jindal is a natural born citizen under the law."
 
I've read this a few times, and I'll confess, I'm still not sure what that's supposed to mean.
Republican presidential candidates take the stage for the first Republican presidential debate at the Quicken Loans Arena, Aug. 6, 2015, in Cleveland. (Photo by John Minchillo/AP)

An unexpected GOP litmus test: birthright citizenship

08/18/15 12:44PM

An exasperating phrase emerged a few years ago in far-right circles that never really went away: "constitutional conservative." The meaning has always been a little ambiguous, but the basic idea behind the label is that these conservatives stick to constitutional principles more faithfully, and with greater vigor, than everyone else.
 
With this in mind, I'm eager to hear more from constitutional conservatives about their commitment to the 14th Amendment. Because as MSNBC's Amanda Sakuma explained this morning, all of a sudden, "birthright citizenship" is the new litmus-test issue in Republican politics, and GOP candidates are going to have to decide whether to follow Donald Trump's lead.
[T]he idea is going mainstream.
 
Calls to end so-called "birthright citizenship" blew up within hours after Trump released his first detailed policy proposal.... Candidates who had previously supported banning automatic citizenship to any person born in the U.S. clamored to prove they came up with the idea first. Others are now being pressed to publicly address an issue traditionally left in the fringe.
I remember writing about this quite a bit five years ago, when anti-immigration Tea Partiers decided the 14th Amendment, which guarantees citizenship to "all persons born or naturalized in the United States," was a problem in need of a solution.
 
Jamelle Bouie wrote at the time, "It's genuinely difficult to overstate the radicalism necessary to seek a transformation of the Fourteenth Amendment, which was designed to ensure that slavery could never again happen in the United States and is now integral to keeping the United States free of a permanent underclass of immigrant workers. At its core, birthright citizenship gives immigrants a reason to stay and provide lasting contributions to the United States."
 
Five years later, it's become a little too common to find prominent Republican presidential candidates express, at a minimum, open hostility for the constitutional provision.

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