The Texas state legislature is considering an awesomely unconstitutional bill which would empower state law enforcement to arrest TSA security screeners and jail them for up to a full year. While the bill has no chance of surviving constitutional scrutiny, the Department of Justice warned Texas’ lawmakers today that it could force the TSA to shut down flights into Texas airports:
This office, as well as the Southern, Northern, and Eastern District of Texas United States Attorneys, would like to advise you of the significant legal and practical problems that will be created if the bill becomes law. As you are no doubt aware, the bill makes it a crime for a federal transportation official (“TSO”) to perform the security screening that he or she is authorized and required by federal law to perform. . . . The practical import of the bill is that it would threaten criminal prosecution of Transportation Security Administration personnel who carry out the security procedures required under federal statutes and TSA regulations passed to implement those statutes. Those officials cannot be put to the choice of risking criminal prosecution or carrying out their federal duties. Under the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution, Texas has no authority to regulate federal agents and employees in the performance of their federal duties or to pass a statute that conflicts with federal law.
If HR [sic] 1937 were enacted, the federal government would likely seek an emergency stay of the statute. Unless or until such a stay were granted, TSA would likely be required to cancel any flight or series of flights for which it could not ensure the safety of passengers and crew.
There is no question that the U.S. Attorneys are correct here. Indeed, the Supreme Court established as early as 1819 that state laws never have the power to “destroy” something that federal law has created — such as TSA baggage screenings.
Moreover, Texas’ anti-TSA bill is part of a pattern of right-wing state bills that may inadvertently undermine the state’s ability to function. Just as the TSA may need to shut down Texas flights to prevent federal baggage screeners from being harassed by unconstitutional arrests, the Idaho legislature recently passed an unconstitutional bill that would have opted the state out of Medicaid — costing the state approximately two-fifths of its budget. Idaho Gov. Butch Otter (R) vetoed the bill, but he issued an executive order which also may cause the state to lose all of its federal Medicaid funds.
As it turns out, there are very serious consequences when conservative lawmakers thumb their nose at the Constitution. The Texas legislature would do well to learn that lesson.
?And what do the Republicans thinking about?? Schultz said. ?They?re not thinking about their next-door neighbor. They?re just thinking about how much this is going to cost. President Obama is going to be visiting Joplin, Mo., on Sunday but you know what[...]
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After weeks of anticipation, it looks like the Senate will finally vote on Paul Ryan's Medicare-destroying budget this afternoon:
The Senate will vote on the House-passed budget plan sponsored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) Wednesday afternoon, putting Republicans in a tough spot over Medicare.
The Senate will vote on four budget plans after 5 p.m., including Ryan?s blueprint and budget plans introduced by Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.), according to a senior Democratic leadership aide. ...
At the insistence of Republican leaders, the Senate will also vote on the budget plan that President Obama sent to Capitol Hill earlier this year.
This is going to be a great roll call to watch. Several Republicans up for re-election this cycle have already said they'd vote no, including Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Olympia Snowe of Maine, and and at least one has confirmed he'll vote yes: Indiana's Dick Lugar. Snowe and Lugar are fascinating mirror images: Snowe's nay will expose her to more risk in the GOP primary (where one poll already showed her in potential trouble), while Lugar's thumbs-up might save him in his own primary but will hurt him in the general election. It's a classic case of damned if you do, damned if you don't ? but no matter how it shakes out overall, Democrats will still be able to press the issue to their advantage.
The polls hadn't even closed yet in upstate New York Tuesday night before the instant analysis of "what it all means" began pouring in from all corners. Predictably, the GOP took on the Kevin Bacon role from "Animal House" ("remain calm! All is WELLLLLL!"). Just as predictably, Democrats played up the magnitude of the upset.
Looking at the numbers, for what it is worth, the latter argument is considerably easier to make than the former. Looking at the available pre-election polling data (which was incredibly accurate, and kudos to our partners at PPP, as well as Siena, for that), and looking at the actual results, two conclusions can be drawn, neither of which buttress the Republican claim that Kathy Hochul's victory is much ado about nothing.
1. Jane Corwin did not lose because of Jack Davis.
One of the primary articles of faith in the Republican community this morning is that Jane Corwin was done in by the spoiler effect of having Tea Party candidate Jack Davis on the ballot. Republicans like Karl Rove, and even some pundits like Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report made the "GOP vote got split" argument after Hochul's victory.
The problem is that an analysis of the results, coupled with the final polls in the district by PPP and Siena, undermine that argument. The baseline assumption being made by both Rove and Wasserman was that the entirety of Davis' support would have bled to Corwin. The data from those two pollsters simply doesn't back that up. To be clear, Corwin almost certainly would have received more of Davis' support than Hochul. But enough to win? Unlikely.
PPP's final poll had Davis winning twice as much support from Republicans than Democrats. Siena's poll (PDF) had it even closer, with Davis logging 13% from Republicans and 10% from Democrats. If one were to take Davis' vote totals from Tuesday night and distribute them by a similar ratio (giving Corwin somewhere between 56.5-66.7% of the Davis vote), Hochul still wins. What is now a 4700-vote victory for Hochul would shrink, but only down to about 1600-3500 votes.
The bottom line: the gap was too wide, and Davis' eventual vote totals too small, for him to be accurately labelled a "spoiler". All his presence did, in the final analysis, was pad Hochul's lead.
2. The "Democratic enthusiasm gap" has badly eroded, if not disappeared.
Give our polling partners at PPP credit: they saw this one coming. In Tom Jensen's analysis of their weekend poll in NY-26, he wrote the following:
The enthusiasm gap and Democratic turnout issues that were such a huge problem for the party last year may prove to be a thing of the past. Last year we frequently found that the likely electorate for various elections was 10 points or more Republican friendly than it had been in 2008. That trend is turned on its head with the folks we interviewed who said they were likely to vote this weekend- they self report having voted for Barack Obama by 5 points in 2008 when he actually lost the district by 6 points. That points to Democratic voters being far more fired up to go out and vote in this election than GOP ones and also suggests that some Republicans voters disgusted by the level of negativity between Corwin and Davis may just be planning to stay home on Tuesday.
There is legitimate evidence from the election turnout to suggest that Jensen was not far off in his analysis. In the New York 26th, the two best performing Democratic counties last night were Erie and Niagara Counties. In 2010, those two counties combined for 50.7% of the total vote in the district. On Election Night 2011, they combined for 55.4% of the total vote in the district. Meanwhile, the largest GOP-friendly part of the district (Monroe County), which gave Corwin a narrow win last night, dropped from being 22.5% of the total district vote down to just 19.4%.
Bear in mind, for what it is worth, that these numbers are likely to change in the Democrats' favor, as Erie County still (inexplicably) has five precincts that have gone uncounted.
There is other evidence to suggest that Democrats were more fired up to participate. Districtwide, Hochul's vote total (47.14%) was only a few points higher than the combined performances of the Democratic and Working Families nominees in 2008 (45.03%). But in the Democratic stronghold in the district (Erie County), those numbers leapt up, from 48.5% up to 53.4%.
Even those who tried to flog the "GOP vote got split" meme were ignoring a key point: even if you buy the fallacious assertion that all of Davis' votes would have gone to Corwin (all evidence to the contrary), Hochul still got north of 47% in a district where they have only sniffed those numbers once: in 2006.
Every Democrat would rejoice, and every Republican would shudder, at the notion that the current electorate would look most like the 2006 electorate.
Now, it should go without saying that last night's favorable outcome does not guarantee large gains in 2012, or guarantee a "Democratic mandate", as Wasserman alluded to in something of a strawman argument. What it does do, however, is make clear that there is a path to victory for Democrats even in nominally hostile territory. About the only good thing for Democrats that emerged from that awful 2010 cycle is that there are now dozens of GOP-held seats in districts that are more amenable to Democrats than the one they won last night.
Redistricting can still play Hell with that (which is why we should keep a close eye on that process), but this does legitimize the Democratic message that this is no longer 2010. Even Karl Rove admitted as much in the statement linked to above.
For months, sites like this one have posited that Republican overreach and misreading of the electorate was going to give the Democrats a roadmap to electoral victory.
Last night brought a piece of indisputable evidence to that effect.
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission charged one trading house and two individuals for illegally manipulating oil prices during the price spike of 2008, when oil reached $147 a barrel, by creating the appearance of a shortage to drive up the[...]
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The governments of Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain have a problem very similar to the U.S. and many other countries. It’s easy to describe: Too much debt as the result of living beyond their means for way too long. So looking at the PIIGS is like opening a window to the future of the United States.
The PIIGS are at the forefront of a development that will soon reach global proportions. And there is no easy way out. But most of the voters and their leaders still don’t get it. And many who do get it simply look the other way because they don’t like what they see.
I don’t like it either. But I always knew . . . → Read More: Three Paths Out of the Government Debt Trap
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Speaking to a town hall audience last week, freshmen Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) cautioned his constituents against raising taxes on wealthy Americans. As he made his case, he meandered into an explanation of his own personal wealth, which he said was not particularly noteworthy, saying he was ?just like the rest of you folks.? [...]
... $174,000 a year gig as a member of Congress. As Gosar mentions, he also owns substantial real estate, including a building worth up to $1 million, a dental practice worth up to $500,000, an antique store worth up to $500,000, and other assets.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry's (R) chief political strategist, Dave Carney, tells the Texas Tribune Perry is probably mulling a presidential bid.
Said Carney: "Obviously, it's flattering to have everybody, Rush Limbaugh and all these other conservative, right-of-center leaders, talk about you, urging you to think about it, urging you to run, saying they support you. But I don't see any difference in terms of the governor's thinking... I'm sure he's thinking about it because it's just human nature when you have Rush Limbaugh spend 20 minutes talking about you and have all these other people mention you, that you don't sort of think that's flattering and think about it. But I don't see any change in his direction, what he's planning to do."
The United States Department of Justice has green-lighted the prosecution of former presidential candidate John Edwards for alleged violations of campaign laws while he tried to cover up an extra-marital affair, ABC News has learned.
A source close to the case said Edwards is aware that the government intends to seek an indictment and that the former senator from North Carolina is now considering his limited options. He could accept a plea bargain with prosecutors or face a potentially costly trial.
As Joe Lieberman winds down his two-decade career in the Senate, the onetime Democratic vice presidential nominee is reaching out to an unlikely group to help seal his political legacy: freshman Republicans.
Behind the scenes and in front of the cameras, the retiring foreign policy hawk is grooming, mentoring and partnering with a handful of GOP freshmen to ensure that, long after he?s left the Senate, his vision for America?s role abroad survives.
... removed information from its website on Tuesday that said gays and lesbians engage in pedophilia and bestiality. [...]
Among the statements in the documents, dubbed a ?legislative manual? by the Family Council, were assertions that gays and lesbians eat human excrement, that gays and lesbians are more likely to be pedophiles and engage in bestiality, and that domestic partner benefits are a recruiting tool.
Just when Republicans were starting to worry their 2012 presidential field would be too boring to bother with, Sarah Palin might be fixing to ride in like a movie hero just at the nick of time.
RealClearPolitics' Scott Conroy has the details on a feature-length documentary set to release next month ...
The film's third act puts a positive spin on Palin's 2008 vice presidential run ... "The Undefeated" eschews less flattering topics ...
Palin apparently loves it.
"The governor thought it was great," Palin's PAC treasurer told Conroy.
America's kids will be learning about the U.S. Constitution this coming school year with help from a decidedly conservative Idaho publishing house, if a tea party group gets its way.
The Tea Party Patriots, Georgia-based but claiming 1,000 chapters nationally, are instructing members to remind teachers that a 2004 federal law requires public schools to teach Constitution lessons the week of Sept. 17, commemorating the day the document was signed. And they'd like the teachers to use material from the Malta, Idaho-based National Center for Constitutional Studies, which promotes the Constitution as a divinely-inspired document.
The center's founder, W. Cleon Skousen, once called Jamestown's original settlers communists, wrote end-of-days prophecy and suggested Russians stole Sputnik from the United States. In 1987, one of his books was criticized for suggesting American slave children were freer than white non-slaves.
Tim Lee reports on a weird new trend in health care where some medical professionals are refusing to treat patients who don?t sign a form restraining their ability to comment on the quality of service provided.
Some conspiracy Web sites are claiming that the shootings that nearly killed Representative Gabrielle Giffords and did end the lives of a federal judge, a 9-year-old girl and four others never actually took place. One particularly bizarre site, run by a Texas man, says it was all a government hoax that used actors. [...]
Manuel J. Johnson, a spokesman for the F.B.I., said the bureau was aware of the site, but he declined to say whether an investigation was under way. One shooting victim said he notified the F.B.I. recently after two men showed up at his Tucson home claiming to be investigators and saying they were trying to determine whether the shooting was a hoax.
?They tried to get into my home,? said the victim, who asked that he not be identified because it might attract more such visitors. ?They wanted to know if I had any pictures. They said they didn?t believe the event took place.?
The victim said that when he pressed the visitors for identification, one of them presented a business card that listed the Texas conspiracy site, which describes the shooting as an exercise conducted by the Department of Homeland Security. Other people connected to the case, including hospital personnel, victims? relatives and possible trial witnesses, have received similar visits or seen their images on the Web site, officials said.
The morning after the big GOP defeat in the NY-26, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) was on the cable news shows with a new talking point. Can you guess what it was?[...]
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With Medicare Phase Out on the ropes, Rep. Paul Ryan (R) has released another video tutorial to help Republicans better explain the plan. Watch.[...]
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Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA) faced criticism this week when video was released of him telling a constituent that she should sponsor her own health care instead of using the government's Medicare program.
The Georgia Democratic Party released more video Wednesday from that same town hall event where Woodall explained why he wouldn't give up his own government-funded health care program.
"You take government-subsidized health care, but you are not obligated to take that if you don?t want to," Democratic activist Ilene Johnson told Woodall. "Why aren?t you going out on the free market in the state where you are a resident and buy your own health care?"
"It?s because it?s free," Woodall replied. "It?s because it?s free. The same reason I went out to Walgreens and bought Activon when I don?t have any arthritis pain. Because it?s free. Folks, if you give people things for free, don?t blame them for taking them."
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a transcript.