How To Make Sense Of The Baffling Order The Supreme Court Just Handed Down On Birth Control

by IAN MILLHISER – The biggest birth control case to reach the Supreme Court in 40 years just got a whole lot more confusing. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court handed down an unusual order seeking more briefing in Zubik v. Burwell, a challenge to Obama administration regulations intended to expand access to birth control. Under the regulations at issue in Zubik, most employees must include contraceptive coverage in their employer-provided health plan. Employers who object to birth control as religious groups, however, may either fill out a form or write a brief letter seeking an exemption from this requirement. Once they do so, they are permitted to offer insurance that does not cover birth control, and, in most cases, their insurance provider will offer a separate, contraception-only plan to the employer’s workers. Last week, at oral arguments in this case, the Court appeared likely to split 4-4 in this case...

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5 Ways NOT To “Make America Great Again.” And One Way To Do It

by Paul Buchheit – Mahatma Gandhi said, “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.” The visions of “greatness” coming from America’s political and business and military leaders are quite the opposite, with an emphasis on the ‘exceptional’ people who would prefer to have nothing to do with the weaker members of society. 1. Let Government and the Media Ignore 90% of Us Based on a study of 1,779 policy issues, Princeton researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page concluded that “the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” Government doesn’t listen to us, and the mainstream media fails to inform us about matters that might offend their corporate bosses. As Bernie Sanders explained, “The corporate media does everything they can to keep us entertained without addressing the real issues… don’t even know that we...

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Burn Them at the Stake? Trump Wants ‘Punishment’ for Women Who Have Abortions

by Jon Queally – Proving GOP bona fides, Trump endorses federal ban on abortion In a televised interview with MSNBC on Wednesday, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump said that for women who would ignore a theoretical ban on abortion there would have to be “some form of punishment, yeah.” “Perhaps burning at the stake?” —Rewire Speaking with Chris Matthews, who pressed the candidate on how he would enforce a nationwide ban on abortion, Trump said, “I’m pro-life, yes” and “ is a big problem.” Asked by Matthews to explain how it would be done, Trump continued, “You could go back to a position like they had where people will, perhaps, go to illegal places — but you have to ban it.” Watch: Though reports indicated his chief Republican rival Ted Cruz responded by questioning Trump’s claim that he is an authentic “pro-life” candidate, both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton slammed Trump’s remarks....

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Sanders campaign aims for 40% in NY? Strategy would effectively clinch nomination for Clinton.

by First Amendment – If this really is the Sanders campaign strategy in NY and it plays out this way, any small chance he had to win the nomination would be over. 40% of the vote in NY would be a total disaster for the Sanders campaign. He needs to win NY state by at least 13% or more or at least win it to drive a comeback campaign narrative. I’m wondering if the Sanders campaign is driving this particular narrative because, their internal polling of NY isn’t looking very good and they’re setting a number they feel is achievable? This also could be the reason the Sanders campaign is pushing so hard for a debate in NY. Let’s say it ends up 60 – 40 Clinton in NY, toss in Sanders wins of 60 – 40 in WI and 80 – 20 in WY prior to New York, Clinton’s lead would be +251 pledged delegates. I worked up this three state example using the Democratic Delegate Calculator. This would...

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Hypocritical Alabama Governor Gets Booted From His Own Church For Affair With Staffer

by Stephen D Foster Jr – Alabama Governor Robert Bentley claims to be a “family values conservative Christian,” but because of an affair with a woman who was not his wife he’ll have to find a church that supports hypocrisy. The Republican governor has resisted repeated calls for him to resign his office despite a scandalous audio recording of Bentley admitting to having an affair with Rebekah Mason, a staffer who works for him. “I love you,” Bentley told Mason in the recording. “I love to talk to you. Baby, let me tell you what we’re going to have to start doing, we’re going to have to start locking the door. If we are going to do what we did the other day, we are going to have to start locking the door.” To spell it out for anyone who doesn’t get it, Bentley told Mason they’ll have to lock the...

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State AGs Vow To Tackle Climate Change And Fossil Fuel Industry Fraud

by SAMANTHA PAGE – A group of state attorneys general just declared war on big polluters. The group, representing 17 states, said it will pursue climate change litigation. Massachusetts and the U.S. Virgin Islands officially joined an ongoing investigation into potential fraud by ExxonMobil, and all the states committed to working together as “creatively, collaboratively, and aggressively” as possible to combat climate change. “We have heard the scientists; we know what is being done to the planet,” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said at a press conference Tuesday in Manhattan. The group also came together to defend the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, formally filing its petition in support of the rule Tuesday in the D.C. District Court of Appeals. “There is no dispute, but there is confusion,” Schneiderman said. The confusion has been pushed by fossil fuel companies and their interests that use money and power to sway Congress...

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Virginia Governor Delivers ‘Smack Down,’ Vetoes Bill to Defund Planned Parenthood

by Bryan Dewan – Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) vetoed a Republican bill to defund Planned Parenthood on Tuesday, saying he was “very proud” to protect women’s health services in his state. The vetoed bill, which passed through the Virginia state legislature along party lines, would have ended the flow of state dollars to women’s health organizations that provide abortion services. While visiting a Richmond Planned Parenthood office on Tuesday, Governor McAuliffe told members of a supportive audience that “we’re here today to smack down the latest attack on women’s health care rights.” As for the Republican lawmakers who worked to pass the bill, McAuliffe remarked that “they are out of touch with women, with health care providers and with Virginia families.” McAuliffe’s veto comes as no surprise, as he has made clear over the past three months his intention to veto the Republican-backed initiative. In his veto statement,...

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The Two Short Words That Could Keep Merrick Garland From Being Confirmed

by IAN MILLHISER – “Dick Lugar.” If you want to understand why the battle to confirm Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland — a moderate, not especially ideological federal appeals court judge — has turned into an historic display of Senate recalcitrance, then a good place to start is the 2012 Republican Senate primary in Indiana between Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) and state treasurer Richard Mourdock. Lugar was a powerhouse in Indiana politics, a six-term incumbent who’d held elected office longer than most of his constituents had been alive. Mourdock, meanwhile, was a human gaffe machine. Mourdock called Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid unconstitutional. He told MSNBC’s Chuck Todd that “bipartisanship ought to consist of Democrats coming to the Republican point of view.” And, in his most famous case of verbal diarrhea, called pregnancies that result from rape a “gift from God.” And yet Mourdock trounced Lugar in the 2012 primary, beating...

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The Treasury Department Could Help Block Offshore Tax Havens

by JOSH HOXIE – My colleague Chuck Collins, almost exactly five years ago, wrote a blog post that opened: “We’re chumps unless we force Congress to stop tax haven abuse.” I’m here to say: we’re chumps. Congress has not taken significant action on offshore tax havens despite serious and sustained efforts by progressive legislators and groups to draw attention to the issue. However, there is a chance that a different arm of government could step up where Congress has failed to act: the Treasury Department. The tax haven abuser of the moment is Pfizer, a behemoth pharmaceutical giant currently stashing an estimated $194 billion in profits offshore and avoiding $40 billion in tax obligations according to Citizens for Tax Justice. The company is trying to make this arrangement permanent through a corporate inversion with “Irish” pharmaceutical firm, Allergen. The motivation behind Pfizer’s desire to merge with Allergen could not be more...

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Chomsky, Snowden, Greenwald on Privacy in the Age of Surveillance

by Lauren McCauley – Panel discussion challenges the rhetoric that national security requires that governments can access individual communications What is privacy and what is an individual’s right to it? That is the question that renowned linguist and MIT professor Noam Chomsky, National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden, and Intercept co-founding editor Glenn Greenwald sought to answer on Friday evening as the three (virtually) shared a stage for a panel discussion at the University of Arizona in Tuscon. Coming amid the FBI’s public battle against Apple as well as days after the bombings in Brussels last week, which have spurred another round of calls for heightened security and surveillance, the conversation challenged the rhetoric that national security requires that governments can access individual communications. “Should our government be omniscient?” asked Snowden, who took part in the discussion via satellite from Russia. “That has value, of course, in thwarting nefarious and criminal...

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Inside The Christian Right’s Strategy To Keep Fake Abortion Clinics Open In California

by ALEX ZIELINSKI – Fake women’s health clinics run by anti-abortion organizations currently outnumber licensed, professional abortion clinics 3 to 1 — and they’re nearly impossible to regulate. Called “crisis pregnancy centers” (CPCs), these clinics advertise free pregnancy tests to get patients in the door, but ultimately lean heavily on junk science and spiritual guilt to talk women out of having an abortion. In January, California became the first state in the country to enact a law successfully cracking down on the state’s nearly 350 misleading clinics. At least in theory. In practice, it’s been very difficult for California’s groundbreaking law to make any real difference. That’s because three conservative anti-abortion organizations have filed sweeping lawsuits against the officials responsible for enforcing the law — and their threats could effectively freeze any enforcement for the unforeseeable future. California’s Reproductive FACT Act requires that CPCs give their patients information on how...

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Big Money — If Not the GOP Establishment — Has Been With Ted Cruz From the Start

by WILL TUCKER – Ted Cruz, effectively anointed by Jeb Bush as the Republican party’s last best hope to stop Donald Trump from becoming its presidential nominee, was emphatically not the standard-bearer the GOP establishment had in mind at the beginning of this campaign. The brash Texas senator’s anti-Washington rhetoric — often aimed at leaders of his own party — made him a tea party favorite and has won him an impressive network of small donors. Contributors of $200 or less made up nearly 42 percent of the $66.2 million in individual contributions that Cruz has raised so far for his presidential campaign committee. These grassroots donors are the kind who have the commitment to show up at the polls. Rather than deploying a single mammoth super PAC… Cruz’s supporters set up several groups that each took gifts from different donors and had distinct assignments. Cruz represents a unique double fundraising...

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Science Is a Good Substitute for God

by Ronald Bailey – Religious believers tend to be happier than non-religious folk, according to a long line of psychological research. Scientists have suggested several possible explanations for this phenomenon, including the ideas that religion offers a greater sense of control, provides a purpose for life, and reduces uncertainty. So if religious belief makes people more satisfied with their lives, why is secularism growing in many countries? A new study offers one possible answer: A belief in scientific and technological progress can also serve as a source of life satisfaction. Indeed, it may even offer more lifetime happiness than religion does. The study appeared in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, and the research team that conducted it was led by Olga Stavrova, a psychologist at the University of Cologne. The researchers first did a deep analysis of how the belief in scientific and technological progress affects the life satisfaction of a...

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The 6 Worst Moments Of Trump’s Press Conference Defending His Campaign Manager Accused Of Battery

by KIRA LERNER – Hours after Donald Trump’s campaign manager was charged with battering former Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields, the Republican frontrunner held a press conference on his plane Tuesday to defend his top staffer. Since the incident occurred, Corey Lewandowski has denied ever touching Fields and has called her “delusional.” Meanwhile, Trump has continued to defend Lewandowski, even after eyewitness reports corroborated Fields’ claims. On Tuesday, police in Jupiter, Florida also released a video that shows Lewandowski grabbing Fields’ arm. But during Tuesday’s press conference, Trump turned the allegations on Fields, claiming that she assaulted him and that he cannot be sure that her bruises “weren’t there before.” Here are the six worst moments from the event: 1. When he says that the tape doesn’t show anything: “I looked at the tape — but the tapes were supplied by me. Those tapes, just so you understand. This is a...

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Mitch McConnell Just Got Screwed By His Own Party: 16 GOP Senators Defect On SCOTUS Blockade

by Charles Topher – When President Obama announced his nominee to fill Antonin Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court, it took Mitch McConnell all of half an hour to announce that the Republican party would see to it that not a single meeting, hearing or vote would ever come of it in a purely toddleresque temper tantrum that not only scoffed at the Constitution and the president’s executive authority, but at the American people, more than 60 percent of whom are uncomfortable with the high court in a 4-4 deadlock. McConnell has given every reason imaginable — other than a good one — why President Obama doesn’t have the right afforded his office more than 200 years ago. His finest moment was when he admitted that NRA is running the show at Republican National Headquarters. Former McCain strategist Steve Schmidt said, “Mitch McConnell’s knee-jerk response after Justice Scalia’s death is a public relations...

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I’m Backing Hillary Because I Hate Simple and Shallow Caricatures

by Grizzard – It happens every so often. I post something brash onto some social media platform only to elicit the rancor of a friend who doesn’t quite get me. Sometimes it’s a conservative friend, anxious to know why I’d support the devil. Other times it’s a liberal friend — a supporter of Senator Sanders — anxious to know why I’d support the devil. They each appeal to my better angels and to her worst. How can someone like you support someone like her? I then feel like I’m justifying support for Hitler. It’s off-putting and one of the reasons I’ve been jammed into Clinton’s corner. I didn’t start there. Much to the contrary. I’m a proud member of the Obama generation. Swept up by his soaring rhetoric during my college days, I recall the early conversations about how the little-known senator from Illinois was going to be the next president. I bought his books before he...

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Kasich is No Moderate on Inequality

by JOSH HOXIE – Kasich tries to present himself as the moderate anti-Trump, but his time as governor has been marked by regressive tax reform that helps the rich and hurts the rest As media pundits and mainstream conservatives begin to realize that Donald Trump is beyond likely to be the Republican nominee for President, the search for a viable alternative remains fruitless. Throughout the race, Ohio Governor John Kasich has tried to present himself as just such a moderate anti-Trump. The one problem with this framing (beyond the fact that voters have nearly universally rejected him): he’s no moderate. That Kasich is actually a far-right conservative, not a moderate, is no shocker to voters in Ohio. They saw him enter the governor’s mansion in Ohio riding the 2010 Tea Party wave on a platform to “break the backs of organized labor.” One of Kasich’s first actions in office was...

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Donald Trump Hates Women

by teacherken – Actually, the complete title is Donald Trump Hates Women: It’s the one position he’s never changed.  It is a must-read piece by Franklin Foer in Slate, to which David Brooks makes reference in his column this morning, which is how I came upon it (yes, I do occasionally look at Brooks). Foer begins like this: Donald Trump holds one core belief. It’s not limited government. He favored a state takeover of health care before he was against it. Nor is it economic populism. Despite many years of arguing the necessity of taxing the rich, he now wants to slice their rates to bits. Trump has claimed his nonlinear approach to policy is a virtue. Closing deals is what matters in the end, he says, not unbleached allegiance to conviction. But there’s one ideology that he does hold with sincerity and practices with unwavering fervor: misogyny. And that is...

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Police Charge Trump Campaign Manager With Battering Reporter

by AARON RUPAR – Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski has been charged with battering then-Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields. The incident occurred on March 8. Fields alleged Lewandowski forcibly yanked her after she asked Trump a question. Despite an eyewitness account from a Washington Post reporter corroborating her version of events, Lewandowski denied any involvement with the incident whatsoever and called Fields an “attention seeker.” Corey Lewandowski ✔‎@CLewandowski_ @MichelleFields you are totally delusional. I never touched you. As a matter of fact, I have never even met you. 12:28 AM – 11 Mar 2016 Trump, for his part, said he thinks Fields made the whole thing up. During a news conference on March 15, Trump held a press conference where called the assembled media “disgusting” while Lewandowski applauded behind him. Trump also praised Lewandowski’s “spirit.” “He wanted to take down those horrible, profanity-laced signs,” Trump said, speaking of Lewandowski’s actions...

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FBI Allegedly Cracks Terrorist’s Phone, Ending Fight with Apple (for Now)

by Scott Shackford – The Senate is still interested in legislation that could weaken everybody’s security It appears as though a major court battle over whether the federal government can force Apple to weaken its iPhone security in order to assist in data gathering is not going to happen. That doesn’t, however, mean this larger conflict is remotely over. The FBI had gone to the courts to try to use the All Writs Act to force Apple to help it weaken the security of the work iPhone of Syed Farook, one of the terrorists who launched the deadly attack in San Bernardino, California. Apple resisted on the grounds that it wasn’t possible to weaken the security on just one phone—doing so would weaken the security on everybody’s phones. The FBI asked for a delay on the court fight last week because it may have figured out a way to break the...

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