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When Roger West first launched the progressive political blog "News From The Other Side" in May 2010, he could hardly have predicted the impact that his venture would have on the media and political debate. As the New Media emerged as a counterbalance to established media sources, Roger wrote his copious blogs about national politics, the tea party movement, mid-term elections, and the failings of the radical right to the vanguard of the New Media movement. Roger West's efforts as a leading blogger have tremendous reach. NFTOS has led the effort to bring accountability to mainstream media sources such as FOX NEWS, Breitbart's "Big Journalism. Roger's breadth of experience, engaging style, and cultivation of loyal readership - over 92 million visitors - give him unique insight into the past, present, and future of the New Media and political rhetoric that exists in our society today. What we are against: Radical Right Wing Agendas Incompetent Establishment Donald J. Trump Corporate Malfeasence We are for: Global and Econmoic Security Social and Economic Justice Media Accountability THE RESISTANCE

Saturday, October 31, 2015


Bill Maher issues his latest decrees for society and calls on politically correct liberals to stop ruining Halloween.

Roger West

Friday, October 30, 2015


White billionaires born into massive privilege aren’t usually known for their rags-to-riches tales, but Trump is trying to sell one to the American public. Or, at least, to Matt Lauer.

In a recent interview, the Donald told NBC, “My whole life really has been a ‘no’ and I fought through it. It has not been easy for me, it has not been easy for me. And you know I started off in Brooklyn, my father gave me a small loan of a million dollars.”

This bit of deluded runaway privilege was too good for Stephen Colbert to pass up, so he took time out Wednesday night to mock the GOP ex-frontrunner.

“Clearly, this is an inspiring tale of a young man made good,” Colbert said. “The classic story of riches to richer. Donald was just a humble boy from the boroughs and wanted nothing more than to escape his provincial life and make his way in the big city… Donald dared to venture into a land he didn’t own.”

Donald Trump has long tried to sell a tale of scrappy, self-made man, but it has been exposed over and over again as largely bogus.

Reality is, that 99 percent of this country eke by without a penny from mom or dad, let alone a million dollars.

Roger West

Thursday, October 29, 2015


Late last night RNC Chair Reince Priebus was crying about following the CNBC Republican debate. Sen. Ted Cruz decided to use up all of his time whining about the nonexistent, so-called "liberal media' when asked about his desire to shut down the government rather than compromise on a budget deal by moderator Carl Quintanilla.

After he'd filibustered and used the time to grandstand and call the media and Democrats names, he was upset they didn't want to give him more time to finally answer their question.

Here's more from Real Clear Politics: Cruz Rips Press At CNBC Debate: "This Debate Illustrates Why We Can Not Trust The Media":

"Congressional Republicans, Democrats and the White House are about to strike a compromise that would raise the debt limit, prevent a government shutdown, and calm financial markets of the fear that a Washington crisis is on the way. Does your opposition to it show you're not the kind of problem-solver that American voters want?" CNBC anchor Carl Quintanilla asked the presidential candidate. 
"This is not a cage match. And you look at the questions -- Donald Trump, are you a comic book villain? Ben Carson, can you do math? John Kasich, will you insult two people over here? Marco Rubio, why don't you resign? Jeb Bush, why have your numbers fallen? How about talking about the substantive issues," Cruz said to commanding applause from the audience. 
"Do we get credit for this one," Quintanilla asked Cruz? 
"And Carl, I'm not finished yet. The contrast with the Democratic debate, where every thought and question from the media was, which of you is more handsome and why?" Cruz asked and then paused to cough. 
"You have 30 seconds left to answer should you choose to do so," Quintanilla told the candidate. 
"Let me be clear," Cruz said. "The men and women on this stage have more ideas, more experience, more common sense, than ever participant in the Democratic debate. That debate reflected a debate between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks." 
"Nobody believes that the moderators have any intention of voting in a Republican primary," Cruz said. 
"The questions being asked shouldn't be trying to get people to tear into each other, it should be what are your substantive solutions to people at home," Cruz said before getting cut off. 
"I asked you about the debt limit and got no answer," Quintanilla said.
"You want an answer to that question?" Cruz asked. "I'd be happy to answer your question."
Cruz was interrupted this time by John Harwood who said "we're moving on."
"Senator [Rand] Paul, I've got a question for you," Harwood said in his attempt to move on.
"So you don't actually want to hear the answer, John?" Cruz called out the anchor. 
"You don't want to hear the answer, you just want to incite insults." 
"You used your time on something else," a dismissive Harwood said. 
"You're not interested in an answer," Cruz scolded. 
"I'm interested in an answer from Senator Paul," Harwood retorted.
"Let me say something at the outset," the Senator from Texas said. "The questions asked in this debate illustrate why the American people don't trust the media."

Once again Cruz avoids having to answer a tough question, all the while bitching about media bias. A funny thing happened on the way to the forum when Cruz attacked CNBC for their "liberal media," biased questioning.

While the fantasy football question was a bit absurd, most questions were legitimate attempts to get these clowns to clear their extreme ideology on the record, instead they chose to whine about being picked on and not being fair. Yet again, complaining about being America being toPC [politically correct] and then expecting to be treated with PC queries.

The hypocrisy of the right is matched by none!


Roger West

Wednesday, October 28, 2015


Two-thirds of North Carolina Republican voters would support immediately impeaching Hillary Clinton if she’s elected president, according to a poll released Tuesday.

Conducted by Public Policy Polling, the survey drew from the responses of 425 self-identified Republicans likely to vote in the 2016 presidential primary. Along with various questions about the Republican candidates, it asked voters if they would either “support or oppose impeaching Clinton the day she takes office.”

Sixty-six percent of respondents said they would support immediate impeachment for Clinton, while only 24 percent said they would oppose it. Ten percent said they were not sure, according to the poll.

Impeachment is not the removal of a president from office — rather, it’s the formal process of accusing a public official of unlawful activity, which may or may not lead to removal from office.

Tuesday’s poll did not ask its Republican respondents why they would support impeachment for Clinton, though it likely has something to do her use of a private email server while Secretary of State.

Though the Justice Department has not found evidence of wrongdoing on Clinton’s part, prominent Republican politicians have been frequently accusing her of criminality. Presidential candidate Donald Trump called her actions “criminal”; presidential candidate and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said Clinton was “literally one email away from going to jail.”

Republicans in Congress have also been using Clinton’s emails to try and prove that she mishandled the events leading up to and following the 2012 terror attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Those Republicans have undertaken eight separate Congressional investigations into Clinton for that purpose. None have found substantive evidence to warrant an official accusation of wrongdoing by the Department of Justice.

The idea that Clinton should be impeached on her first day of office is not new. Rep. Mo Brooks recently suggested Clinton should be impeached for her use of a private email server while secretary of state.

Unfortunately for Brooks and the majority of North Carolina Republicans, however, impeachment does not seem like a reality as a sitting presidents can not be impeached for alleged crimes that occurred before they were elected.

The unfettered ignorance of republicans in North Carolina is overwhelming.

Roger West

Tuesday, October 27, 2015


A Columbia, South Carolina sheriff’s deputy can be seen throwing a female student to the ground in video posted online by New York Daily News writer Shaun King.

The footage shows the officer approaching the student at Spring Valley High before grabbing her and wrapping an arm around her head and neck. The student is then seen falling backwards as he flips her over in her chair, before throwing her on the floor and pinning her to the ground. A teacher can be seen standing off to the side during the incident, but does nothing.

The officer can then be heard ordering the student to put her hands behind her back. King identified the officer as Ben Fields, saying that more than a dozen students have told him that they are scared to death of Fields.

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott told WIS-TV that the student was being arrested for refusing to leave class. However, he did not comment on the officer throwing her down.

REALTED: S.C. cop caught in school attack being sued for ‘recklessly’ accusing black students of gang activity

A local advocacy group quickly released a statement calling the officer’s actions “egregious.”
“Parents are heartbroken as this is just another example of the intolerance that continues to be of issue in Richland School District Two particularly with families and children of color,” the statement read. “As we have stated in the past, we stand ready to work in collaboration to address these horrible acts of violence and inequities among our children”.
Update: WLTX-TV confirmed that Fields was the officer seen in the video. He has been placed on administrative duty and will not be allowed to work at any schools pending an investigation.

Monday, October 26, 2015


 On NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday, GOP presidential contender — and recent Iowa frontrunner — Ben Carson compared women who decided to have abortions to slaveowners who “thought that they had the right to do whatever they wanted to that slave.”

The discussion came after host Chuck Todd asked if life began at conception, to which Carson answered “I believe it does.” Todd asked whose right should be superseded — the mother or the child.
“In the ideal situation, the mother should not believe that the baby is her enemy, and should not be looking to terminate her baby,” Carson said. “Things are set up in such a way that the person in the world who has the greatest interest in protecting her baby is the mother.”
Carson said “purveyors of a vision” have been allowed to “make mothers believe that baby is her enemy and that they have a right to kill it. Can you see how perverted that line of thinking is?

Todd asked what happens if someone has an unwanted pregnancy — should they have a right to terminate it?

No. Think about this. During slavery — and I know that’s one of those words you’re not supposed to say, but I’m saying it. During slavery, a lot of the slaveowners thought that they had the right to do whatever they wanted to that slave. Anything that they chose to do. And, you know, what if the abolitionists had said “I don’t believe in slavery, I think it’s wrong, but you guys do whatever you want to do.” Where would we be?

In 2013, Carson compared the Affordable Care Act to slavery, saying it was the worst thing that happened to America since slavery, adding “it is slavery, in a way.”

Slavery was a brutal system that trapped millions and millions of people in bondage for over 200 years. Obamacare is a law that Congress passed which has helped 17.6 million people get health insurance through the private insurance market and existing government health care programs.

Earlier this year, Carson revived the conspiracy theory that Planned Parenthood concentrated their clinics in black neighborhoods as a “way to control the population.”

Todd then asked about an interview with Yahoo! News’ Jon Ward wherein Carson would not say whether he wanted to see Roe v. Wade overturned. “I favor life. That’s what I favor,” Carson had said in response to questions about the case. “It means that we will try to protect human life because all people in our country have a right to the protections of the law,” he said describing the Supreme Court justices he’d appoint — those who “believe in life” and “understand that a baby in the uterus is a human being and is protected by the Constitution.”

Carson went farther than that on overturning the case on Sunday. “I would like to see it done in the right way,” he said, again mentioning an examination of the judges he would appoint, “how have they behaved, who have they associated with, rather than what they say in an interview.”

On the court case, Carson said “ultimately I would love to see it overturned.” Asked whether that would contained exceptions, Carson said “I’m a reasonable person, and if people can come up with a reasonable explanation of why they would like to kill a baby, I’ll listen.” To Carson, an abortion in the case where the life or health of the mother is threatened was “extraordinarily rare situation” but that if that “rare” situation occurred “I believe there’s room to discuss that.” He said he “would not be in favor of killing a baby” that came about because of rape or incest.

He pointed to the “many stories” of people who have led “useful lives” after being born as a result of rape or incest.

Ben Carson has surged ahead of Donald Trump in recent Iowa polls, with Chris Wallace calling him the frontrunner there, citing an 84 percent favorability rating in a Quinnipiac poll on Fox News Sunday.

Iowa Republican voters find many of Carson’s extreme statements attractive, according to a recent Bloomberg/Des Moines Register poll. However, one area of his biography that repels them is the fact that he conducted research using tissue from aborted fetuses.

Chuck Todd asked Carson about his sometimes inflammatory rhetoric, such as about the Holocaust and guns and his accusation that Obama is a psychopath.
“As people get to know me, they know that I’m not a hateful, pathological person like some people try to make me out to be,” he said.

Chuck Todd asked why he so easily went to Nazi metaphors, like referring to the Gestapo when talking about health care. Carson said some rabbis had told him recently that he was “spot-on,” and blamed the media for being shallow and not thoughtful about his full meaning.

[cross-posted from thinkprogress]


Sunday, October 25, 2015



A few months back, a video went viral showing a Hungarian camerawoman tripping a Syrian refugee carrying his child.

The refugee — named Osama Abdul Mohsen — experienced a fairytale ending as he was offered residency, a professional soccer coaching job, and housing in Spain. His youngest son, Zaid, even got to meet a personal hero in soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo.

But not all stories have fairytale endings. Petra Laszlo, the woman in the video above, was fired from her job with Hungarian television station N1TV and quickly became the target of abuse from numerous social media users. Laszlo then apologized in an open letter to a Hungarian newspaper. “Then something snapped in me,” she wrote in Magyar Nemzet. “I just thought that I was attacked and I have to protect myself. It’s hard to make good decisions at a time when people are in a panic.”

She added, “I’m not a heartless, racist, children-kicking camerawoman.”

Assumptions are hard to make in such situations. Nonetheless, Laszlo’s kicking doesn’t appear to be defensive, as she sticks her leg out while the camera stays near her eye. Nor was Abdul Mohsen the only refugee she kicked, as evident in the video. And any sympathy for a woman who wrote the words, “I’m just an unemployed mother of small children, who made a bad decision. I am truly sorry,” is sure to fade as she’s announced her intent to sue Abdul Mohsen — the refugee she tripped — and, oddly enough, Facebook.

Her lawsuits aren’t likely to stand up in court very long.

“We [her and her husband] believe Facebook played a major role in my situation. It helped embitter people against me,” Laszlo told Russian-daily Izvestia, according to Al-Jazeera. “It is safe to say that my life is broken,” she said.

But her lawsuits aren’t likely to stand up in court very long. “Anyone who’s conducting a harassment campaign against her might be liable directly,” Eric Goldman, an expert on internet law at Santa Clara University, told The Washington Post. “They’re the real wrongdoers, but they’re hard to find, there may be many of them and they might not have much money.”

[cross-posted from thinkprogress]


Saturday, October 24, 2015


A San Diego-based company announced on Thursday that it would compete with Martin Shkreli’s Turing Pharmaceuticals by offering the same drug used to help AIDS and cancer patients for $1 a pill, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

Imprimis Pharmaceuticals, a compounding-drug firm, said it would begin selling its own version of the generic drug pyrimethamine, which Turing was marketing under the name Daraprim. Shkreli was roundly criticized last month after his company raised the price for the drug from $13.50 a pill to $750 a pill after acquiring the patent.

The version Imprimis will be selling includes pyrimethamine and another generic drug, leucovorin, which is typically used to help cancer patients going through chemotherapy. The two drugs are the active ingredients in Daraprim.

Mark Baum, Imprimis’ CEO, said his company plans to offer similar compounded drugs soon.

“We are looking at all of these cases where the sole-source generic companies are jacking the price way up,” he told the Associated Press. “There’ll be many more of these.”
According to Baum, his company’s mix of the two drugs has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. However, both the ingredients themselves and the company’s compounding work have been approved. The drug can only be sold after being prescribed by a doctor to a specific individual.

The company is selling a bottle of 100 pills for $99 through its website.


Friday, October 23, 2015


A visibly irritated Rachel Maddow slammed House Republicans on Thursday for their handling of the Benghazi commission investigation, calling it a first for congressional probes of its kind.
“Republicans have turned it all into one big hilarious partisan joke,” she said. “If God loves America, we will find out soon that somewhere there is a reset button that we can hit after this is over to erase this as a potential precedent for our country moving forward.”


Maddow explained that the GOP members on the commission were fixated on criticizing former Secretary of State for convening an accountability review board following the fatal 2012 attack, ignoring that she was required to do so under a law signed by Republican icon Ronald Reagan during his presidency.

The law came into effect following a chain of attacks against US troops in Lebanon, she said, beginning with a December 1983 bombing inside a Marine barracks in Beirut that killed 241 service members. And in the investigations since, partisanship was seen as “repellent and unwelcome.” But no longer.
“We have never had a congressional partisan carnival like this over an attack on a US outpost overseas — never,” Maddow said. “In the history of Beirut, in the history of Khobar Towers, of the East Africa embassy bombings, of the 9/11 commission, even, of the attack on the USS Cole,on even the intelligence leading up to the Iraq war.”

Roger West 

Thursday, October 22, 2015



A Florida county is considering changes to its charter review board after two elected members have focused on punishing political enemies through extralegal tactics instead of government business.

The Sarasota County charter review board typically proposes minor changes to the county charter when they meet three times a year, but critics say two of its members — Pat Wayman and Steven R. Fields — have been using their positions to usurp authority from other elected officials, reported the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

The pair have voted to establish a “people’s common law grand jury,” which sovereign citizens and other anti-government extremists have proposed to investigate and prosecute government officials for treason — which, as they frequently point out, carries a potential death penalty.

“Take a look at the French Revolution and what took place there,” said Mike Bolam, who has attended charter review board meetings to support the common law grand juries.

The board voted 4-4 in May to study a proposal by Rodger Dowdell, a Tea Party activist who denies being a sovereign citizen but, nonetheless, spouts sovereign citizen rhetoric.

“Grand jury powers come from God,” Dowdell said, advocating a return to the post-Revolution legal system where there were no police departments and judges rode horseback to hear cases brought by groups of 25 citizens.

Most importantly, he told the Herald-Tribune, those rulings would be kept out of reach of presidential and even U.S. Supreme Court authority.
“A people’s common law grand jury can, without any probable cause, go into any nook or cranny of government — local, state or federal — research anything that’s going on and root out corruption,” Dowdell said. “We want to government to recognize the contract we call the constitution, and start obeying the law. It’s very simple.”
His proposal failed due to the tie vote.

Tea Party activists have been trying to set up common law grand juries, which don’t actually carry any legal authority, for years in hopes of convicting — and hanging — President Barack Obama for treason.

Dowdell, state coordinator of the right-wing National Liberty Alliance, claims a common law grand jury was already operating in Manatee County, Florida, but he offered no proof.
“I can’t talk about it,” he said. “Everything is secret. In order to keep innocents who may be investigated from being damaged, whatever a grand jury does is secret.”
Wayman, the charter board member, posted a petition Oct. 12 on her Facebook page calling for Obama’s arrest on murder and treason charges, and she has also posted videos questioning whether mass shootings were staged in Sandy Hook and Oregon.

She also promotes the pro-gun extremist III Percent group and warns against a United Nations takeover of the United States through its non-binding Agenda 21 agreement.

Fields, the other charter board member, expresses conservative political views that are a bit more mainstream — with posts expressing his love for guns, law enforcement, the military, Glenn Beck, Andrew Breitbart and Ronald Reagan — but he also voted for Dowdell’s measure.
“If someone brings an idea that we can do, that’s something we should take a look at,” Fields said.
 “I’ve seen the federal government grabbing more rights away from people. They bribe states into federal control. The Charter Review Board should not be acting like the County Commission and protecting the status quo. And I don’t think (the people’s common law grand jury) has anything to do with sovereign citizens.”

The other members of the board are also unaware of the links between common law grand juries and the sovereign citizen movement — which federal authorities consider a domestic terrorist threat.
“That’s the antithesis of what I’m all about,” said Donna Barcomb, the Republican chairwoman of the charter review board, told the Herald-Tribune. “I don’t think board knew anything about that concept. It was a group of individuals who presented a concept to the board. That’s what the Charter Review Board does — not leaning one way or another. Frequently, the board will look at something and determine if it’s appropriate or in the best interests of the county. For the most part, and I include myself in this, we’re completely ignorant about the concepts.”

She said the charter board could recommend a ballot initiative that would put Sarasota County in line with all other Florida counties, which appoint charter board members instead of electing them.

However, just about 200 miles north, sovereign citizens are threatening to arrest or physically harm elected officials in Dixie County, Florida — where a Tea Party activist was arrested after trying to turn a legitimate jury into a common law grand jury.
“I’m getting harassing emails and threatening faxes saying they’re going to arrest me,” said Dana Johnson, the clerk of courts, told the Herald-Tribune. “This one says they want info on bonds and oaths. There are further demands. I’m concerned about my safety. The local sheriff has alerted (the Florida Department of Law Enforcement) and the FBI. Anytime they come up on our public agenda we have security with us at all times.”
Terry Trussell, who helped organize the failed Operation American Spring rally to drive Obama from office, has been charged with 14 counts of impersonating court officials.
“Once Trussell got selected to serve on a legitimate grand jury, it became the perfect storm,” Johnson said. “From that point, he’s taken it on his own authority to create a sovereign citizen board of common law grand jurors. I am constantly scared.”
The Dixie County sheriff, who said he’s known Trussell all his life and is acquainted with Dowdell, said the anti-government activists had asked him to help with their indictments.
“I said any order has to be signed by a judge — whether it’s a warrant or whatever — it’s got to be a legal court document,” said Sheriff Dewey Hatcher. “They ‘indicted’ everyone from the governor and (Attorney General) Pam Bondi on down to the president of our school board, and they said the school board attorney should be fired.”
The sheriff said he has not arrested anyone in connection with those indictments.

[crossposted from the raw story]

Roger West

Wednesday, October 21, 2015



Paul Ryan, who has said repeatedly he does not want to be House Speaker – will now consider the position -but only if the all Republican House members, including the hard-line “Freedom Caucus,” agree to a series of demands.

What the Freedom Caucus wants

The Freedom Caucus, which consists of about 40 members, had been demanding that potential candidates for speaker make a detailed set of substantive commitments in exchange for their support. Kevin McCarthy wouldn’t agree to these, so the Freedom Caucus endorsed another candidate. McCarthy was then forced to drop out because he didn’t have enough support to be elected speaker.

McCarthy had good reason to resist. Although Freedom Caucus members say they want “process reforms,” they are actually seeking a series of commitments from a potential speaker candidates that would send the country over a cliff.

For example, they want the next speaker to refuse to raise the debt ceiling unless it is tied to cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. This is something the Democrats in Congress and President Obama would never agree to, potentially setting up the country for catastrophic default.

What Paul Ryan wants

Paul Ryan has a list of demands.

First, Paul Ryan refuses to agree to anything in advance of being elected speaker. He will not pre-commit to anything the Freedom Caucus wants.

Second, He wants the Freedom Caucus to publicly endorse him for speaker anyway. This would require four-fifths of the Freedom Caucus to vote to support him.

Third, he want the Freedom Caucus to agree to rule changes that would vastly limit their power moving forward. Specifically, he wants to eliminate their ability to oust a sitting speaker by making a motion to “Vacate The Chair.” This is where, fundamentally, the Freedom Caucus derives much of their power.

How the Freedom Caucus, and the right wing, is reacting to Paul Ryan’s demands….Not well.

There are 40 members of the Freedom Caucus, so the ultimate outcome is still in doubt. They will be under severe pressure from the Republican establishment to reverse course and support Ryan. But the early signs for Ryan are not positive.

Roger West

Tuesday, October 20, 2015


During the latest stop in his media tour to defend his brother’s actions as president, Jeb Bush asked on CNN Sunday if anyone actually blames his brother for the attacks on 9/11, saying if they do, “they’re totally marginalized in our society.”

CNN’s Jake Tapper pushed back, asking Bush about the Republican Party’s double standard.
“Obviously Al-Qaeda was responsible for the terrorist attack of 9/11,” Tapper said. “But how do you respond to critics who ask if your brother and his administration bear no responsibility at all, how do you then make the jump that President Obama and Secretary Clinton are responsible for what happened at Benghazi?”

The younger Bush bumbled and stumbled with his answer.
“Well I, it’s the question on Benghazi which is hopefully will now finally get the truth to it, is: was that, was the place secure?” he said, clearly flustered. “They had a responsibility, Department of State, to have proper security.”

Bush pointed out that “it’s what you do after that matters” when it comes to leadership, yet he could not explain why the Republican Party continues to attack Clinton for the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya that left a U.S. ambassador dead.

The controversy began on Friday when Donald Trump asserted that the older Bush brother was president at the time of the 9/11 attacks. “When you talk about George Bush, I mean, say what you want, the World Trade Center came down during his time,” Trump said. “He was president, O.K.?”

Jeb Bush then contested the seemingly indisputable comment, calling Trump’s comments “pathetic” and insisting “my brother kept us safe.” The New York Times reported that “[b]laming 9/11 on Mr. Bush is taboo for Republicans and has largely been off-limits for Democrats.” Yet Republicans will force Clinton to testify before a public hearing of the U.S. House Select Committee on Benghazi this week.

Roger West

Monday, October 19, 2015


Trey Gowdy, the chair of the Select Committee on Benghazi, has at times aligned some very serious charge against Hillary Clinton in an October 7 letter. Gowdy asserted that Hillary Clinton disclosed the name of CIA source in an email sent from her private server. Gowdy wrote that the information was “some of the most protected information in our intelligence community, the release of which could jeopardize not only national security but human lives.”

The Washington Examiner covered the story with this headline: “Clinton burns CIA Libya contact.”

This does not appear to be true.

A letter from Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the committee, reveals that the CIA reviewed the email in question and found that the information in question was not classified.

Cummings said that Gowdy’s accusation was “irresponsible” and suggested he owes “an immediate apology” to Hillary Clinton.

In response, Gowdy acknowledged the CIA’s view but said that “the name of the alleged source was redacted from the material cleared for public release by someone in the Executive Branch.” Cummings explained that the name was redacted “not for classification reasons, but to protect the individual’s privacy and avoid bringing additional undue attention to this person.”

The dustup comes on the heels of a number of embarrassing revelations from the Benghazi committee. Republican Major Leader Kevin McCarthy bragged that the committee had successfully driven down Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers. Another Republican Congressman, Mark Hanna, said the committee was “designed to go after” Clinton.

Clinton is scheduled to testify in front of the committee this week.

Roger West

Sunday, October 18, 2015

"The Armor of Light"

A Christian documentary scheduled for release later this month, a pastor confronts the moral quagmire of a heavily pro-gun culture that is simultaneously pro-life.

The point is driven home by former GOP Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who illuminates a rather strange version of a faith that many have characterized as pacifist and charitable — a version that has nevertheless come to dominate right wing Christianity in the United States.

The documentary, “The Armor of Light,” asks whether it’s possible to be both pro-gun and pro-life, according to the website Addicting Info. The film follows Rob Schenck, “an Evangelical minister trying to find the courage to preach about the growing toll of gun violence in America.”

In one scene, Sarah Palin tells a cheering National Rifle Association crowd not to waste ammunition on a warning shot.

In the clip, Palin warns about efforts to “strip away our Second Amendment rights.”
“When pastors, preachers, bible teachers, ignore these questions, it creates a vacuum,” Schenck says in a voice over. “And other voices fill that vacuum.”
At this point Palin goes into a disturbing tirade about shooting first and asking questions later.
“Speaking of which, Joe Biden, remember this, telling women before an assault just to fire a warning shot,” Palin tells the crowd. “Just aim up in the air, that was his directive…Gals, you know that nowadays, ammo is expensive. Don’t waste a bullet on a warning shot.”

Schenck says he wonders about the “ethical dimensions of having a constant, defensive posture.”

The video then cuts to Wayne La Pierre fear mongering about how many threats there are in the world, including “terrorists, home invaders, drug cartels, car jackers, knock-out gamers, rapers, haters, campus killers, airport killers, shopping mall killers.”

The clip ends with Schenck pointing out, “And the gun is almost an invitation to give in to the temptation of fear. And fear should not be a controlling element in the life of a Christian.”


Saturday, October 17, 2015


On HBO's Real Time last night Bill Maher people should stop trying to blame video games or a lack of religion for mass shooting attacks, and instead focus on how lacking many of the culprits are when it comes to a love-life.
“This is a pattern no one is talking about: mass killers are almost always male, and almost always women-repellent,” Maher argued. “And what must make it even worse for them is America. Because if you live in America, it just looks like everyone is getting laid all the time.”

Maher noted that Chris Harper Mercer, Timothy McVeigh, and Adam Lanza — among others — were either virgins, constantly single, or both. And they also tended to complain about those facts in explaining their actions.
“They may have been on Prozac because they were feeling blue,” Maher said. “But you know what else was feeling blue? Their balls.”

Roger West

Friday, October 16, 2015


The United States criminal justice system could be improved if we sell poor people convicted of crimes into slavery, according to Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.

The former Arkansas governor weighed in on our nation’s current criminal justice system during an appearance yesterday on Mickelson in the Morning, a leading Iowa radio program.

Host Jan Mickelson began by bemoaning that the “criminal justice system has been taken over by progressives.” In order to fight back, he argued, conservatives should look to the biblical Book of Exodus. “It says, if a person steals, they have to pay it back two-fold, four-fold,” Mickelson explained. “If they don’t have anything, we’re supposed to take them down and sell them.”

Mickelson went on to argue why jails, which he claimed are a “pagan invention,” are inferior to slavery: “We indenture them and they have to spend their time not sitting on their stump in a jail cell, they’re supposed to be working off the debt.”
“Wouldn’t that be a better choice?” the host asked.
“Well, it really would be,” Huckabee replied without missing a beat. “Sometimes the best way to deal with a nonviolent criminal behavior is what you just suggested.”

Huckabee, who was a Baptist pastor before entering politics, is no doubt familiar with the Exodus 22:3 passage to which Mickelson referred: “Anyone who steals must certainly make restitution, but if they have nothing, they must be sold to pay for their theft.”

But U.S. law, unlike biblical penal prescriptions, forbids selling human beings like chattel. The United States also bans debtors’ prisons and the Supreme Court has ruled that it is unconstitutional to imprison people who are too destitute to pay court fines. (Contra these bans, many localities are being sued for still running debtors’ prisons.)

This isn’t the first time Mickelson has endorsed reinstating slavery in the United States. In August, Mickelson argued that undocumented immigrants should “become property of the state,” who should “extort or exploit or indenture their labor.” After a caller pointed out that what he was describing is slavery, Mickelson responded, “Well, what’s wrong with slavery?”

But Huckabee’s comments, which come 150 years after the 13th Amendment’s adoption, appear to be the first time in modern history that a credible presidential candidate has joined the fringe call to reinstate slavery.

[cross posted from thinkprogress]


Thursday, October 15, 2015


A second House Republican has now conceded that the overarching purpose of the House Select Committee on Benghazi has been to attack former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

In September, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy argued that one of House Republicans’ successes has been using the Benghazi Committee to drive down Clinton’s poll numbers. Though McCarthy tried to walk back his controversial comments, Rep. Richard Hanna argued on Wednesday that the Majority Leader had it right to begin with.
“Sometimes the biggest sin you can commit in D.C. is to tell the truth,” Hanna said in an interview on Keeler in the Morning, a radio show in upstate New York. The third-term congressman paused for a moment, perhaps recognizing the importance of what he was about to say, before going on to agree with McCarthy’s original statement.
“This may not be politically correct, but I think that there was a big part of this investigation that was designed to go after people and an individual, Hillary Clinton,” Hanna said.
He explained further why he believes the Benghazi Committee’s purpose has been in part to attack Clinton. “After what Kevin McCarthy said, it’s difficult to accept at least a part of it was not,” Hanna said. “I think that’s the way Washington works. But you’d like to expect more from a committee that’s spent millions of dollars and tons of time.”

Listen to it (relevant section starts at 9:45):

For years, House Republicans had claimed the Benghazi probe was about investigating the events surrounding the 2012 attack in Libya that left four Americans dead, including U.S.

Ambassador Chris Stevens, rather than undermining Clinton’s potential presidential bid.

But after McCarthy’s Kinsley gaffe, which was among the factors that doomed his seemingly-inevitable rise to the House Speakership, and now Hanna’s admission, there is growing doubt even among GOPers about the Benghazi Committee’s true purpose.

McCarthy and Hanna aren’t the only Republicans to publicly declare that the Benghazi Committee has been on a partisan quest. Over the weekend, Maj. Bradley Podliska, a Republican investigator formerly working on the Committee, revealed that he had lost his job for refusing to solely focus his investigation on Clinton. Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), who heads the Committee, denies the charge.

Clinton is set to testify before the Committee, which has now continued longer than the Watergate probe, on October 22nd.

[cross-posted from thinkprogress]


Wednesday, October 14, 2015


While all eyes were on Donald Trump’s Twitter feed after he promised to live-tweet the Democratic debate, GOP candidate Mike Huckabee managed to win the night for the most outrageous tweet with an incredibly racist tweet aimed at Bernie Sanders.

After tweeting, “Racism exists because we have a sin problem in American, not a skin problem,” Huckabee followed up with … a racist joke:

Huckabee’s comment is based on a common slur against Asians, inferring that they would like to eat you pet dog.


Tuesday, October 13, 2015


A man who shot another man in the head after a Dallas Cowboys football game was reportedly egged on by the crowd of people watching the fight.

The New York Daily News reported that the shooting took place at AT&T stadium in Arlington about an hour after the New England Patriots beat the Dallas Cowboys 30-6.

Witnesses reported that the two men got into an argument, which escalated to a fistfight. Then, as the gunman held his weapon to the head of the victim, the crowd urged him to shoot, which he did.

Paramedics and police were called to the scene and the unnamed victim, a male in his early 40s, was taken to a local hospital with life-threatening injuries.

The shooter was apprehended by police after he tripped over a low retaining wall and injured his leg while trying to flee the scene.
“I didn’t think he was going to pull the trigger,” said witness Leslie Williams to the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram.

Lt. Chris Cook of the Arlington Police told the Star-Telegram that the two men were tailgaters who had been at the stadium since the afternoon. Their relationship to each other is unknown. The investigation into the shooting, Cook said, is ongoing.


Monday, October 12, 2015


A Cleveland cop was justified in fatally shooting Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy carrying a toy gun, according to a pair of reports released on Saturday.

The reports, which were commissioned by the prosecutor’s office investigating Rice’s death, were prepared by two experts from outside the state: Kimberly Crawford, a retired FBI agent, and S. Lamar Sims, a Colorado-based prosecutor. The reports will be turned over to a grand jury, which will ultimately decide whether to indict the cops involved in Rice’s death.

An attorney for Rice’s family called the reports a “charade” and blasted the prosecutor’s office for “releasing supposed “expert reports” in an effort to absolve the officers involved in Tamir’s death of responsibility.”

In a statement provided on Facebook, Subodh Chandra, Rice’s family attorney, wrote: “These hired guns—all pro-police—dodge the simple fact that the officers rushed Tamir and shot him immediately without assessing the situation in the least. Reasonable jurors could find that conduct unreasonable. But they will never get the chance because the prosecutor is working diligently to ensure that there is no indictment and no accountability.”

Nevertheless, both of the reports released on Saturday concluded that Rice presented a threat to police officer Timothy Loehmann, who opened fire on the 12-year-old boy just seconds after pulling up next to him outside a recreation center in November 2014.
“There can be no doubt that Rice’s death was tragic and, indeed, when one considers his age, heartbreaking,” wrote S. Lamar Sims, the Colorado prosecutor. “However, for all the reasons discussed herein, I conclude that Officer Loehmann’s belief that Rice posed a threat of serious physical harm or death was objectively reasonable as was his response to that perceived threat.”
Rice was gunned down while he was playing with a toy gun, which had its orange safety tip removed, in a park near his house. A man who saw Rice playing in the park called 911 and reported that a man appeared to be pointing and waving around a gun. Although the caller remarked that the gun may have been fake and that the person holding it was “probably a juvenile,” his observations were not passed along to the two the police officers who were later dispatched to the scene.

Crawford, the retired FBI agent, concluded Loehmann’s deadly use of force did not violate Rice’s constitutional rights. “It is my conclusion that Officer Loehmann’s use of deadly force falls within the realm of reasonableness under the dictates of the Fourth Amendment,” she wrote, noting that Loehmann had to make a “split-second” decision after encountering Rice.
“When he exited the police car, the officer was likely focused on Rice’s hands as they moved to his waist and lifted his jacket, and not on Rice’s age. Even if Officer Loehmann was aware of Rice’s age, it would not have made his use of force unreasonable. A 12-year-old with a gun, unquestionably old enough to pull a trigger, poses a threat equal to that of a full-grown adult in a similar situation.”
Grand jury proceedings are not public, and the decision by the prosecutor’s office to release the reports before the grand jury review is unusual.

In a statement released to the New York Times, Rice’s family attorney Jonathan S. Abady expressed concern over the influence of prosecutors and the possibility that “there will be no criminal prosecution.”
“Prosecutors exercise substantial influence over the grand jury process and whether an indictment will issue or not,” Abady said. “The video footage and other evidence readily available from the outset made clear that this was a completely unreasonable use of deadly force against Tamir.”
The two outside reports come despite a local Cleveland municipal Judge’s findings after reviewing all of the available evidence that there is probable cause for charges of murder, involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide, and negligent homicide duty against Loehmann.

In December, records released revealed that Loehmann, a rookie cop, admitted on his job application for the Cleveland Police Department that his primary source of income prior to his hiring was “under-the-table jobs.”

Moreover, a troubling letter in Loehmann’s file from the Independence, Ohio Police Department where the officer previously worked, concluded that Loehmann did not possess the maturity necessary to perform well as an officer and recommended that he be “released from the employment of the City of Independence. I do not believe Ptl. Loehmann shows the maturity needed to work in our employment…I do not believe time, nor training, will be able to change or correct these deficiencies.”

[cross-posted from thinkprogress]


Sunday, October 11, 2015


Saturday Night Live last night punked America’s for its love affair with guns in a warm and fuzzy ad that the NRA might have produced — but without the self-awareness of how crazy it is

In the ad we see various moments in people’s lives — first love, the birth of a child, inter-generational connections — made better by the introduction of a gun.


A woman in labor refuses to go into emergency room without carrying her rifle, an intimate dinner is topped off with the gift of a gun instead of a engagement ring, a woman enjoys the exhilaration of running in the park by randomly shooting a handgun into the air.

The ad concludes with the a voice-over reminding us: “Wherever life takes you. Guns. We’re here to stay.”

Roger West

Saturday, October 10, 2015


Railing against what he called an obsession with cell phones in general on Friday, Real Time host Bill Maher was particularly irked that young fans of Pope Francis marked his visit by taking pictures and “selfies.”
“Someone should’ve told those kids, you’re never gonna get another chance to actually meet this man,” Maher argued. “And also, for God’s sake kids, never turn your back on a priest.”
Maher also displayed a photo of fans lining the streets holding up their phones to take pictures of the pontiff as he passed through.

“They’ve got maybe 10 seconds to actually see their hero,” he said of the crowd. “And they’re choosing to give that up to view him through a phone. Gosh, if there only existed some sort of profession whose job it was to take great photos of big events so that you could enjoy the moment. We could call them photo-graphers.”
He also slammed people caught taking “selfies” during what should be big moments, like trying to avoid being gored by a bull or during their own wedding ceremony.
“There’s a photographer standing right behind you,” he said to the couple. “Can’t you put your phone away and be fully present for this? You’re getting married. It might be the last time you look into each others’ eyes and smile.”
However, Maher said, his disgust with the “selfie” phenomenon was not because of his age.
“I understand it. It’s not hard to understand,” he insisted. “It’s just fucking stupid.”

Roger West

Friday, October 9, 2015


Neurosurgeon and Republican wing-nut presidential candidate Ben Carson told CNN on Thursday that he supports News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch, who controversially tweeted earlier this week, comparing the authenticity of Carson and President Barack Obama’s black identities.

Murdoch later claimed he was referring to a New York Magazine article detailing the various ways President Obama has fallen short in helping communities of color, and followed up on the tweet saying, “Apologies! No offense meant. Personally find both men charming.”

In a Thursday interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, who said he found the comment “pretty shocking” and “ugly,” Carson defended the Australian mogul:

Carson began by assuring viewers that Murdoch is “not a racist by any stretch of the imagination,” and said those outraged at the suggestion that President Obama is not a “real black president” are making “much ado about nothing.”
“Everybody’s entitled to their opinion,” he said. “I believe what he was making reference to was the fact that here was a man who was a black president that the black community was very excited about who came in and whose policies have not really elevated the black community. He has not been beneficial. There’s more unemployment, more poverty, and I believe that’s what he was really referring to.”

Though the percent of Americans living in poverty has ticked up by about 1 percent, it has gone down every year since 2010. The president’s 2009 stimulus created millions of jobs and kept 6 million people out of poverty. During Obama’s first six years in office, the U.S. has added nearly five times more jobs than it did during the entire eight years under President George W. Bush. The unemployment rate is currently lower than when President Obama took office in 2009.

However, as the New York Magazine article emphasizes, millions of Americans continue to struggle financially — especially people of color.

Roger West

Thursday, October 8, 2015

How Many “Good Guys With A Gun” Does It Take To Stop A Shoplifter

The only thing that stops a shoplifter is a vigilante bystander with a gun. Or, at least, that’s what an unidentified woman apparently decided shortly before she opened fire on an SUV carrying a man who was fleeing the nearby Home Depot.

The incident occurred Tuesday afternoon at a Home Depot parking lot in Auburn Hills, Michigan. Store security chased the alleged shoplifter as he jumped into an SUV that was waiting to help him flee. According to the Detroit Free Press, that’s when a 48 year-old woman drew a gun and began firing shots at the vehicle.

The woman, who has a license to carry a concealed firearm, is reportedly “cooperating with police.”

If this “Good Gal” with a gun were an actual cop, she almost certainly would have violated the Constitution. Under the Supreme Court’s decision in Tennessee v. Garner, law enforcement may not use deadly force “unless it is necessary to prevent the escape and the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others.”

Based on publicly available information, there’s no indication that the fleeing man, who allegedly stole power tools and welding equipment, presented a sufficient threat to the public to justify the use of deadly force.

The vigilante shooter may face criminal charges. Among other things, Michigan law provides that anyone who “because of carelessness, recklessness or negligence . . . shall cause or allow any firearm under his control to be discharged so as to destroy or injure the property of another” may be sentenced to up to 90 days in jail. Depending on the woman’s intent at the time of the crime, she could potentially face much more serious charges — including attempted murder.

Roger West

Wednesday, October 7, 2015


If the GOP planned on making Beghazi one of the centerpieces of their eventual nominee’s campaign, they might want to shred those attack ad storyboards and think again after Hillary Clinton struck first with a devastating ad featuring House Speaker front runner Kevin McCarthy shooting his mouth off.

In a brilliant preemptive strike, Clinton released the ad, called “Admit,” excerpting comments by McCarthy owning up to the latest GOP-led Benghazi investigative committee was designed to harm her presidential chances.

Using a clip recorded last week on Sean Hannity’s show on Fox News, McCarthy is seen explaining that Hillary looked unbeatable Republicans and the GOP had to do something about it.
“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?” McCarthy explains. “But we put together a Benghazi special committee. What are her numbers today?”

Clinton Ad

It should be noted that the most recent in a long line of Benghazi committees has been “investigating” Clinton for sixteen months — at a cost of over $4.5 million dollars.

Hopefully the Republican National Committee can expect a bill from the U.S. Government for services rendered.

McCarthy should probably stop thinking about moving into John Boehner’s warm spot.

Roger West

Tuesday, October 6, 2015


Wing Nut presidential candidate Ben Carson said on Tuesday that President Barack Obama should skip visiting Oregon after the recent mass shooting and then “go to the next one” instead.

After the White House announced this week that the president would “visit privately with families of victims,” conservative journalist David Jaques said that Obama was not welcome in his state because it would be “a campaign stop for agenda to take away American citizen’s right to own firearms.”
“Imagine a politician politicizing something,” Carson quipped to the hosts of Fox & Friends on Tuesday. “When do we have people that actually want to solve our problems rather than just politicize everything?”

“But, Dr. Carson, would you go?” host Brian Kilmeade wondered. “If the people of the community say don’t go, would you still go if you were president on Friday?” 
“Probably not,” Carson replied. “I mean, I would probably have so many things on my agenda that I would go to the next one.”

The GOP hopeful also explained that he would be willing to “listen” to ideas about how to stop mass shootings, but he insisted that no gun control proposal would solve the problem.
“Anything that they’ve proposed doesn’t stop anything,” he said. “Guns don’t kill people, and the Second Amendment is extremely important. And Daniel Webster said that America would never suffer tyranny because people are armed.”


Monday, October 5, 2015


The mother of the Roseburg, Oregon shooter stockpiled firearms because she feared stricter gun laws. Laurel Harper, the mother of the shooter, shared an apartment with her son. She was aware that he had mental problems, but chose to stockpile guns in her home because she feared the Obama administration was going to pass laws making it more difficult to get guns. She would seek the least restrictive gun ranges to take her son so the two of them could shoot as they desired. She had purchased several guns just weeks before her son killed nine innocent people.

For more on this story, click New York Daily News EXCLUSIVE: Mom of Oregon mass killer stockpiled firearms out of fear of stricter gun laws, took son to shooting range.


Sunday, October 4, 2015


In the wake of another campus shooting that is prompting calls for stricter gun control, Republican presidential candidates have gone to great lengths to avoid offering any policy solutions and risking the National Rifle Association’s wrath. But none have been quite as explicit as Jeb Bush, whose response to the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon was: “Stuff happens.”

“Look, stuff happens and the impulse is always to do something and it’s not necessarily the right thing to do,” Bush said Friday.

When asked later to clarify his comments, he used a specific example to illustrate how laws are not always the right way to address a tragedy.
“A child drowns in a pool and the impulse is to pass a law that puts fencing around pools,” Bush explained. “Well, it may not change it…the cumulative effect of this is in some cases, you don’t solve the problem by passing the law, and you’re imposing on large numbers of people, burdens that make it harder for our economy to grow, make it harder for people to protect liberty.”
But, as some have pointed out, Bush actually did just that. After a child in Florida fell into a pool and nearly drowned, then-Gov. Bush signed a law in 2000 to require pool owners to choose a way to prevent unsupervised children from going into the water. The law specifically required that pool owners install either fencing directly around the pool, safety covers, door alarms or self-latching doors — or face jail time or a fine.

Bush also drastically expanded gun rights during his tenure as governor, signing the infamous Stand Your Ground law that police used to explain why they didn’t initially charge George Zimmerman for the murder of teenager Trayvon Martin. A study showed that gun violence rates rose in Florida in the wake of the Stand Your Ground law even as violent crime rates dropped. Guns now account for 75 percent of all murders in the state, up from 56 percent in 2000.

Nor is gun control like pool regulation, which may or may not have an impact on pool deaths. States with fewer gun restrictions have higher rates of gun deaths. Johns Hopkins researchers have linked the loosening of certain permit requirements to significant increases in states’ murder rates. In fact, even Jeb Bush himself recently admitted that passing background checks and a 72-hour waiting period in his state reduced gun violence.

Roger West

Saturday, October 3, 2015



Bill Maher slams and shames GOP Catholics and schools them on what Jesus really said.

Just as there are two Americas, Bill Maher argued Real Time last night that there are now two versions of Jesus on the political landscape.

While liberals were still worshiping the traditional version of Jesus, he said, Republicans had created “supply-side Jesus,” who he described as “a small businessman from Galilei whose main gripe is big government who wants to make Nazareth great again.”
“He’d love to help the less fortunate — but he’s got investors to think about,” Maher explained.


In that regard, he said, Republicans are more likely to worship someone like “Pharma Bro” Martin Shkreli, who infamously tried to raise the price of Daraprim, a drug used by both AIDS and cancer patients, to $750 a pill before finally reversing course amid massive public criticism.

But tactics like Shkreli’s, the host argued, are commonplace in the pharmaceutical industry, where cancer medication cost $10,000 a month.
“This cartel owns the US government every bit as much as Mexican drug lords own theirs,” Maher observed.
With that in mind, Maher said, Donald Trump is the perfect candidate for today’s Republican Party.
He says — he does — that his two favorite books are the Bible and The Art Of The Deal,” Maher pointed out. “Trump says one is about a perfect God who teaches humanity the right way to live. And the other is the Bible.

Roger West

Friday, October 2, 2015


Virginia is one of the most gerrymandered states in the country. During the last presidential election, President Obama won the state by three points, but Republicans still picked up 8 of the state’s 11 congressional districts under the GOP-friendly maps drawn by the state legislature.

In a court filing offered by the Republican members of Virginia’s congressional delegation, the lawmakers who benefit most from these gerrymandered maps admitted that the GOP intentionally rigged the state’s congressional districts in order to produce a lopsided delegation. The state legislature’s “overarching priorities” in drawing the maps, according to the court filing, was “incumbency protection and preservation of cores to maintain the 8-3 partisan division established in the 2010 election.”

2010 was a very good year for Republicans, enabling the GOP to capture unusually large portions of state congressional delegations. 2012, by contrast, was a strong year for Democrats which saw the reelection of President Obama. And yet, by these Republican lawmakers’ own admission, the maps drawn between the 2010 and 2012 elections were draw for the explicit purpose of ensuring that the GOP’s unusually strong performance in 2010 would be replicated year after year — even in years when the electorate was more favorable to Democrats. The GOP’s goal, in other words, was to render congressional elections little more than political theater, an annual ritual that would produce the same 8-3 delegation every single time.

The lawmakers’ admission that Virginia’s maps were drawn to lock in a delegation that’s unusually favorable to the GOP came as part of ongoing litigation over the legality of the state’s maps. As a general rule, the Supreme Court does not permit lawsuits challenging partisan gerrymandering(that’s despite the fact that a majority of the Court has, at times, indicated its belief that partisan gerrymanders can violate the Constitution). Under current precedents, however, congressional maps can be struck down because they engage in an impermissible racial gerrymander. And, indeed, a federal court did strike down Virginia’s current maps because of a racially impermissible district.

Various interest groups are now fighting over how the court should redraw the Virginia’s maps in order to cure the problem with this district. The brief filed on behalf of the state’s Republican members of Congress argues that the court is obligated to draw this map in order to preserve the state’s partisan gerrymander — essentially requiring the court to maintain the same 8-3 partisan split that Republican lawmakers sought to lock in when they drew the original map. Quoting past Supreme Court decisions, the Republicans argue that “when ‘faced with the necessity of drawing district lines by judicial order,'” a court must “be guided by the legislative policies underlying” the original maps “‘to the extent those policies do not lead to violations of the Constitution or the Voting Rights Act.”

There is, indeed, some precedent supporting the idea that courts should not second-guess the decisions of state mapmakers, unless those decisions violate the Constitution or federal law. But the Republicans’ proposal confounds two distinct legal concepts and assumes, wrongly, that partisan gerrymanders are constitutional.

In the 2004 case Vieth v. Jubelirer the Supreme Court held 5-4 that a particular partisan gerrymandering suit could not proceed. Notably, however, the Court did not declare that gerrymander constitutional. Rather, it rested its opinion on the notion that courts are not often competent to determine when a partisan gerrymander has occurred or to devise a way to fix it. As Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for a plurality of four justices, “no judicially discernible and manageable standards for adjudicating political gerrymandering claims have emerged.”

The key fifth vote was supplied by Justice Anthony Kennedy, who also warned that “we have no basis on which to define clear, manageable, and politically neutral standards for measuring the particular burden a given partisan classification imposes on representational rights.” Thus, he concluded that many partisan gerrymanders would have to be tolerated — even if they violate the Constitution — because he did not believe that courts currently have the tools they need to identify and cure such gerrymanders.

Significantly, however, Kennedy also left open the possibility that a standard could emerge in a future case that would allow partisan gerrymanders to be challenged in court. He also strongly suggested that these gerrymanders violate the Constitution. “First Amendment concerns arise where a State enacts a law that has the purpose and effect of subjecting a group of voters or their party to disfavored treatment by reason of their views,” Kennedy wrote. “In the context of partisan gerrymandering, that means that First Amendment concerns arise where an apportionment has the purpose and effect of burdening a group of voters’ representational rights.”

Scalia and Kennedy’s concern that it is difficult for judges to develop a principled rule that allows them to sort unconstitutional gerrymanders from some other kind is not frivolous. Does a map become unconstitutional if Republicans make up 40 percent of a state’s voters but 45 percent of its members of Congress? What if Republicans receive 60 percent of the state’s congressional seats? What if they receive none of them? At least in marginal cases, it is not at all easy for judges to tell an intentionally gerrymandered state from a mere mathematical anomaly.

But Virginia is not a marginal case. Among other things, in most partisan gerrymandering cases, the state’s Republican delegation to the House of Representatives typically does not show up in court with a brief openly admitting that the state’s maps were drawn with the explicit purpose of rigging congressional elections in order to ensure an 8-3 delegation. This is not, in other words, a case where there are “no judicially discernible and manageable standards” that will enable a court to determine whether a particular set of districts constitutes a partisan gerrymander. The court need only listen to what the Republican lawmakers who benefit most from this gerrymander have conceded to the court.

The Republican lawmakers’ admission, in other words, should enable the courts to broaden the scope of this litigation. It is an admission that each of the state’s districts was drawn with an anti-democratic and, if Justice Kennedy is to be believed, unconstitutional purpose, and should justify tossing out the entire map. This is, admittedly, an unlikely outcome given the current makeup of the Supreme Court, but it is the correct outcome under the Constitution.

[cross posted from thinkprogress]

Roger West

Thursday, October 1, 2015


Extreme GOP Right Wing nut and presidential candidate Donald Trump responded to a question about whether he was homophobic on Wednesday by talking about conservative groups.
“I think that I’m a very nice person,” Trump told CNN host Don Lemon. “I love people, and I have to tell you, when you look at those polls, it’s across the board. You know who loves me? The Tea Party. The evangelicals. I’m leading with evangelicals — I love them, they love me. I’m Presbyterian, I’m Protestant, and they like me. You know why? Because they think I’m gonna do a great job for the country.”
“Some people may perceive you as racist,” Lemon later asked. “Answer me that.” 
“I just did a speech for the African-American Chamber of Commerce of South Carolina,” Trump responded. “They just wrote me the most beautiful letter I’ve gotten in a long time saying how unfairly I got treated by the press.” 
Trump said he spoke at the event as a favor to “a couple of friends who just happen to be African-American,” but then complained that Lemon’s network made him “look bad” by showing empty seats at the event. 
“I was surrounded by a tremendous amount of people,” the candidate said, adding that “the press is very, very unfair.” 
He also insisted he did nothing wrong by not questioning the unidentified Islamophobic supporter who accused President Barack Obama of being a Muslim earlier this month while complaining about “a problem in our country called Muslims.”

“I don’t feel I have to defend President Obama,” Trump said. 
“But some would say you’re not defending the president — you’re defending the truth,” Lemon countered. 
“You’re not saying I defended. I didn’t respond,” Trump said. “It’s the first time in my life I’ve caused controversy by not responding.”