Shorter Question Everything
When you absolutely can’t win any other way, there is always cheating. And the Republicans clearly, and now admittedly, can’t win any other way.
• Redistricting Majority Project, or REDMAP – how Democrats can get more votes and the Republicans still win. Now on the state level, but soon to turn up on the presidential level?
• The report — drafted as a summary of the importance of the RSLC’s Redistricting Majority Project (REDMAP) — serves as a breakdown of the broader GOP plan to take control of state legislatures, giving Republicans free rein to mount an aggressive gerrymandering campaign that allowed the party to keep a House majority, despite getting fewer votes in those races overall. “The rationale was straightforward,” reads the memo. “Controlling the redistricting process in these states would have the greatest impact on determining how both state legislative and congressional district boundaries would be drawn. Drawing new district lines in states with the most redistricting activity presented the opportunity to solidify conservative policymaking at the state level and maintain a Republican stronghold in the U.S. House of Representatives for the next decade.”
• Executive orders are routine, not scandalous: It stood to reason that the right would be unimpressed with President Obama’s new measures on preventing gun violence, but some reactions, especially from sitting senators, were needlessly hysterical, particularly on the issue of executive orders. As we discussed yesterday, the bulk of the White House plan will require congressional action, but the president also approved 23 executive orders. These were hardly outrageous steps — one was nominating a new AFT director. Another was informing state health officials about the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover under current law. As Rachel explained on the show last night, another one of the 23 orders instructs administration officials to send an open letter to licensed gun dealers giving them guidance on how best to facilitate background checks, if they choose to. These were all modest, almost perfunctory steps, taken by a president acting well within his legal authority. Obama doesn’t need Congress’ permission to publicly remind folks about existing law. Does Rubio have any evidence at all that president abused his power? No. Do any of the president’s executive orders require congressional review? No. Is the president ignoring the Constitution? No. Did Rubio even manage to find one executive order that he disagrees with? No. Does Marco Rubio have any idea what he’s talking about? It doesn’t seem like it. But the right-wing Floridian looked almost sensible compared to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).
• Leon Panetta, the man behind the military, said there’s no good reason for a civilian to need an assault weapon. The secretary of defense threw his hat into the gun control debate with his usual uninhibited candor Thursday, Reuters reports, responding to the political action in the wake of the tragic Newtown gun shooting in December that left 20 children and six adults dead. “I mean who the hell needs armor-piercing bullets except you guys in battle?” Panetta told troops at the U.S. Army Garrison Vicenza in Italy.
• At a press conference on Thursday, Republican Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey blasted the National Rifle Association for airing a commercial about President Barack Obama’s daughters. “To talk about the president’s children or any public official’s children who have, not by their own choice, but by requirement, protection and to use that somehow to try to make a political point I think is reprehensible,” he said.
• Former Bush Attorney General Michael Mukasey appeared on the Fox News Channel’s “Hannity” Wednesday night with a message that left the host looking rather disappointed. Rebutting the Republican talk show host, Mukasey said that President Barack Obama’s executive orders so far have been legal, as much as he finds them distasteful. He even expressed agreement with the Supreme Court’s finding that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional, leaving Hannity looking perplexed.
• Recreation: Two men were arrested in Ohio on Wednesday after their target practice with an AK-47 assault rifle accidentally shot up a woman’s home and nearly hit a officer who was responding to reports of gunfire.
In other news
• Genovevo Salinas – silence as guilt?: The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to consider whether a suspect’s refusal to answer police questions prior to being arrested and read his rights can be introduced as evidence of guilt at his subsequent murder trial. Last April, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the conviction but noted that federal appeals courts are split as to whether “pre-arrest, pre-Miranda silence is admissible as substantive evidence of guilt.”
• Mali Islamists ‘better-equipped’ than expected: The seizure of dozens of hostages in neighboring Algeria, where Algerian troops launched a military operation to rescue the captives from “diehard” Islamist militants at a desert gas plant, also raises the possibility that Islamist violence could snowball beyond Mali’s borders. “Our enemies were well-armed, well-equipped, well-trained and determined,” a senior French diplomat said. Some of the militants are believed to have been trained and armed by the government of late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who was ousted and killed by rebels in a 2011 civil war. A number of diplomats said it was clear that the initial French assessments of the militants had underestimated their strength. It is a view that French officials do not dispute. “They are better trained, I think, than the French had anticipated at the beginning and are fighting harder than had been anticipated,” a senior Western diplomat said.
• Algeria: David Cameron has been warned to expect “multiple” Britons to be among up to 34 gas workers killed in the West’s worst hostage crisis in a generation. A botched military attack on a BP gas plant in Algeria, where al-Qaeda kidnappers were holding 41 westerners, led to a bloodbath as helicopter gunships opened fire on the compound.
• US marine Staff sergeant Edward Deptola pleads guilty to urinating on corpse of Taliban fighter in Afghanistan: Likely to be demoted one rank under a plea agreement, although a military judge called for a much harsher sentence.
• Republicans gather at former plantation to discuss minority outreach: After its general election battering, the Republican party has retreated to lick its wounds and ponder what went wrong – on the leafy grounds of a luxury golf resort in Virginia. And what better place for today’s GOP to hold strategy sessions titled “Successful communication with minorities and women” than on the grounds of a former plantation in the south? “When the first English foot was placed in Virginia, it was here on these grounds that once served as a central part of the area’s plantation life in the 1600s through 1800s,” boasts the website of the Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, which draws a discrete veil over whatever events in the 1800s may have caused that to end. But tradition lives on in the name of the resort’s Plantation Golf Course and the 374-seat Burwell Plantation Room – where, as luck would have it, the forum on minorities and women was to be held.
• ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ Is Osama bin Laden’s Last Victory Over America: Zero Dark Thirty is like a gorgeously-rendered monument to the fatal political miscalculation we made during the Bush years. It’s a cliché but it’s true: Bin Laden wanted us to make this mistake. He wanted America to respond to him by throwing off our carefully-crafted blanket of global respectability to reveal a brutal, repressive hypocrite underneath. He wanted us to stop pretending that we’re the country that handcuffs you and reads you your rights instead of extralegally drone-bombing you from the stratosphere, or putting one in your brain in an Egyptian basement somewhere.
• Less than a day into the Manti Te’o revelations, we’ve heard more about a fake dead girlfriend of a Notre Dame football player than a real dead girl. Lizzy Seeberg committed suicide, not long after being intimidated by Notre Dame football players for reporting a sexual assault by one of their teammates. A second woman who was taken to the hospital for a rape exam declined to formally accuse another Notre Dame football player after getting a series of bullying texts from players. The handful of people who immediately took note of the contrast in the attention — both by the press and by the university — are absolutely right to be angry. But no one should be surprised.
• Police in Russia seized nearly 200 pounds of Afghan heroin in three drug investigations, narcotics chief Viktor Ivanov said Friday. The largest portion of the seized drugs came from an apartment in southeastern Moscow where “a citizen of one of the Central Asian countries” lived, RIA Novosti reported. Police discovered 53 packages of heroin, each holding at least 2 pounds of a highly concentrated form of the drug.