Friday, June 24, 2016

Affirmative action upheld by the Supreme Court

The case was Fisher v University of Texas. The vote was narrow.

- Click here for Scotusblog's page on the case.
- Click here for Oyez's.

Basic info from Oyez:

Question: Does the University of Texas’ use of race as a consideration in the admissions process violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?

Conclusion: The University of Texas’ use of race as a consideration in the admissions process did not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy delivered the opinion for the 4-3 majority. The Court held that the University of Texas’ use of race as a factor in the holistic review used to fill the spots remaining after the Top Ten Percent Plan was narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest. Previous precedent had established that educational diversity is a compelling interest as long as it is expressed as a concrete and precise goal that is neither a quote of minority students nor an amorphous idea of diversity. In this case, the Court determined that the University of Texas sufficiently expressed a series of concrete goals along with a reasoned explanation for its decision to pursue these goals along with a thoughtful consideration of why previous attempts to achieve the goals had not been successful. The University of Texas’ plan is also narrowly tailored to serve this compelling interest because there are no other available and workable alternatives for doing so.


- How Affirmative Action Won the Day.
- How Anthony Kennedy Came Around on Affirmative Action.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

From The Week: Superdelegates, explained

Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the Democratic primary process was their use of party regulars in the presidential selection process.

- Click here for the article.

. . . superdelegates are not bound to follow the will of the voters, nor are they required to stay true to the candidate they've pledged to support. But they may well decide the Democratic race. It's certainly possible, and perhaps even likely, that neither Clinton nor Sanders will get to 2,383 without superdelegates.

So who are these superdelegates, and how does their power work? Here's what you need to know:

Who gets to be a superdelegate?
A superdelegate is typically an elite member of the Democratic Party falling into
one of three categories:

1. A major elected official, including senators, members of the House, governors, and leaders from each state's Democratic Party. For example, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren are superdelegates.

2. A notable party figure, such as former and current presidents and vice presidents. For example, former President Bill Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden are superdelegates.

3. Select leaders of organizations affiliated with the Democratic National Committee. These select party elders get their superdelegate status automatically by virtue of the fact that they've been elected to public office. For example, DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Louis Elrod of Young Democrats of America are superdelegates.

How many Democratic superdelegates are there?
712. They
control about 15 percent of the nominating process. The remaining 85 percent is controlled by delegates apportioned by the results of primaries and caucuses.

How are superdelegates different from regular delegates?
Superdelegates are free to support whichever candidate they choose, even if that candidate is not the voters' pick. As for normal delegates: Each state
has a different system for selecting who they'll send to the convention as a delegate. But unlike superdelegates, delegates are allotted to candidates in proportion to their share of the vote in the state's primary or caucus and are then pledged to vote for that candidate.

Why do we have superdelegates in the first place?
For most of the Democratic Party's
history, party elders picked the nominee. It was only in recent decades that the Democratic Party began experimenting with the idea of opening up the nomination process to give voters more of a say in choosing the nominee.

From Politico: Walker: GOP delegates should ‘vote the way they see fit’

Strange things can happen at conventions - well usually they don't, but they can.

- Click here for the article

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said Tuesday that delegates to next month's Republican National Convention in Cleveland should “vote the way they see fit,” which could mean not necessarily supporting presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.

Walker, a former Republican presidential candidate and delegate to the convention, said he would cast his ballot in the first round for Ted Cruz, as the Texas senator won the Wisconsin primary, according to a report from
The Associated Press.

Referring to remarks from Paul Ryan on NBC's "Meet the Press" in which the speaker of the House remarked that he
would not ask fellow party members to violate their conscience by supporting Trump, Walker said the Wisconsin Republican lawmaker's comments "are legitimate."

"I think historically, not just this year, delegates are and should be able to vote the way they see fit," Walker said, according to the AP. "We'll see how things go between now and the convention as to what the next steps are. I'm not going to speculate now only because you all know the situation may change by this afternoon, let alone between now and the convention."

Walker has said he would support Trump as the presumptive nominee, but has called for him to rescind and clarify his comments regarding the judge involved in the lawsuit over Trump University. Trump questioned Judge Gonzalo Curiel’s ability to preside over the case because of his Mexican heritage. Walker said he is still looking for clarity from Trump.

See also: Republican leaders consider rewriting convention rules.

From Vox: House Democrats are staging a sit-in to force a vote on gun control

This doesn't happen everyday.

- Click here for the article.

A week after a Senate filibuster forced a vote on gun control measures, Democrats in the House of Representatives are holding a sit-in on the House floor to try to get Republicans there to do the same.

"The time for silence and patience is long gone," Rep. John Lewis, the Georgia Democrat and hero of the civil rights movement who is leading the sit-in, said in a stirring speech Wednesday morning. "The American people are demanding action. Do we have the courage, do we have the raw courage to make at least a down payment on ending
gun violence in America?"

Here's a look at it from a media perspective.

- How C-SPAN is skirting the House TV blackout on Democrats' sit-in.

A more comprehensive look from Roll Call:

- House Democrats Stage Chamber Floor Sit-In For Gun Vote.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

What is an "independent expenditure?"

It's what makes a PAC different than a Super PAC. The expenditures are independent of the campaigns of the candidates they support and its all the Super PAC can spend. Super PACs are more accurately called "independent expenditure-only committees." But the expenditures are limitless, which explains their popularity. The problems is determining if the expenditures are in fact independent - if they are not coordinated.

This link in Ballotpedia helps explain how this is done: Click here for detail.

From the Pew Research Center: A Deep Dive Into Party Affiliation

Something to chew on for today's look at political parties.

- Click here for the article.

Strong Groups for the Democratic and Republican Parties

Donald Trump and the Super PACs

Some are for him. Some are not.

Great America PAC:

A pro-Donald Trump super PAC is launching a new spot on Monday citing the Orlando attacks to bolster Trump's credentials as a possible commander-in-chief.
Great America PAC, one of the earlier pro-Trump groups to mobilize on his behalf, also plans to announce that it raised about $1 million in May, Eric Beach, the group's finance head told CNN. The super PAC also collected another $1.3 million in commitments since June 1, he said, with an expectation it will raise more than $2 million this month.

The group is one of several pro-Trump super PACs ramping up its fundraising and advertising in an effort to become the top outside organization backing the presumptive Republican nominee
"The goal of a super PAC in this election cycle is to make sure Donald Trump has the necessary resources in the swing states," said Eric Beach, the group's finance head. "We have a sound strategy to win those states."

Americans Against Insecure Billionaires with Tiny Hands:

He’s been pummeled on policy and his pugnacious stump speeches but now Donald Trump faces attack ads focusing on something altogether different – the size of his hands.

A super PAC titled "Americans Against Insecure Billionaires with Tiny Hands" released a
minute-long ad questioning whether or not the real estate mogul-turned-presumptive Republican presidential nominee would be able to serve as president with his "little hands."

A spokesman for the PAC said that the ad aired once on MSNBC in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia on Wednesday night during primetime. MSNBC did not immediately return ABC News' request for confirmation.

The Wall Street Journal has a more complete list here.

From Politico: Senate rejects all gun bills

More on last night's vote:

- Click here for the article.

The Senate voted down four separate gun measures Monday in the aftermath of the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history — showing the partisan paralysis over gun control has barely moved on Capitol Hill despite the stream of continued gun violence across the country.

Lawmakers took up two separate issues involving gun regulations: how to improve the nation’s background check system for those who want to purchase firearms, and how to ensure those with terrorist ties do not obtain a gun. But those questions remained unresolved by lawmakers as of Monday night.

Instead, Democrats made it clear they want to make it as painful for Republicans to oppose their gun amendments, whether through a flood of advocacy calls to their Senate offices or at the ballot box in November.

For a look at the actual votes, click here: Senate Roll Call Votes.

The votes were not for a unique stand alone bill on gun control. Instead they were offered as amendment to one of the appropriations bills that has to passed later this year. Click here for it:

- H.R.2578 - Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2016.

For more on the appropriations process:

- House Committee on Appropriations.
- Congress.Gov: Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2017.

From the NRA-ILA: NRA Statement on the Senate Voting Down Anti-Gun Bills

- Click here for the link.

The executive director of the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA), Chris W. Cox, today issued the following statement in response to political maneuvering in the United States Senate that prevented the passage of legislation to prohibit terrorists from obtaining firearms:
“Today, the American people witnessed an embarrassing display in the United States Senate. President Obama and his allies proved they are more interested in playing politics than addressing their failure to keep Americans safe from the threat of radical Islamic terrorism.
“We all agree that terrorists should not be allowed to purchase or possess firearms. We should all agree that law-abiding Americans who are wrongly put on a secret government list should not be denied their constitutional right to due process. These are not mutually exclusive ideas. It is shocking that the safety of the American people is taking a backseat to political theatre.
“We thank the majority of the senators for rejecting the gun control proposals of Senators Feinstein and Murphy. We applaud Senators Cornyn and Grassley for securing majorities for their common-sense proposals. We look forward to working with those interested in real solutions to keep the American people safe, including their right to defend themselves in the face of government failure."

- Click here for their Grades and Endorsements.

From the NYT: Donald Trump Starts Summer Push With Crippling Money Deficit

Trumps non-traditional campaign continues.

- Click here for the story.
Donald J. Trump enters the general election campaign laboring under the worst financial and organizational disadvantage of any major party nominee in recent history, placing both his candidacy and his party in political peril.
Mr. Trump began June with just $1.3 million in cash on hand, a figure more typical for a campaign for the House of Representatives than the White House. He trailed Hillary Clinton, who raised more than $28 million in May, by more than $41 million, according to reports filed late Monday night with the Federal Election Commission.
He has a staff of around 70 people — compared with nearly 700 for Mrs. Clinton — suggesting only the barest effort toward preparing to contest swing states this fall. And he fired his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, on Monday, after concerns among allies and donors about his ability to run a competitive race.
The Trump campaign has not aired a television advertisement since he effectively secured the nomination in May and has not booked any advertising for the summer or fall. Mrs. Clinton and her allies spent nearly $26 million on advertising in June alone, according to the Campaign Media Analysis Group, pummeling Mr. Trump over his temperament, his statements and his mocking of a disabled reporter. The only sustained reply, aside from Mr. Trump’s gibes at rallies and on Twitter, has come from a pair of groups that spent less than $2 million combined.
Mr. Trump’s fund-raising for May reflects his lag in assembling the core of a national finance team. In the same month that he clinched the Republican nomination, Mr. Trump raised just $3.1 million and was forced to lend himself $2 million to meet costs. Some invitations to Trump fund-raising events have featured the same short list of national Republican finance volunteers regardless of what city the event is held in, suggesting Mr. Trump has had some trouble lining up local co-hosts.

A spokesman for Mr. Trump did not respond to an inquiry about the campaign’s spending plans. During an interview on Monday on CNN, Mr. Lewandowski defended the candidate’s bare-bones approach.
“We are leaner, meaner, more efficient, more effective. Get bigger crowds. Get better coverage,” Mr. Lewandowski said. “If this was the business world, people would be commending Mr. Trump for the way he’s run this campaign.”

Rules in the News

Bloomberg: More Drones for Hire Coming to U.S. Skies in Landmark Rules.

The Obama administration is opening U.S. skies to more commercial drones with long-awaited regulations that the government hopes will spawn new businesses inspecting bridges, monitoring crops and taking aerial photography.
In the most comprehensive set of rules yet for the burgeoning unmanned aircraft industry, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday went far beyond its original restrictive proposal issued last year. Drone operators will be able to petition the agency to fly beyond the horizon, at night and over people if they can show such flights are safe.
"We are in the early days of an aviation revolution that will change the way we do business, keep people safe, and gather information about our world,” President Barack Obama said in an interview with Bloomberg News. “This is just a first step, but this is the kind of innovative thinking that helps make change work for us -- not only to grow the economy, but to improve the lives of the American people."

Constitution Daily: Federal appeals court upholds ‘net neutrality’ rules.

On June 14, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit made a two-to-one decision to uphold the authority of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to enforce the principle of net neutrality. However, the road leading to the recent decision was fraught with conflict and the aftermath is likely to be the same.
The battle over net neutrality has been a long one fought primarily between the FCC and large internet service providers. The term itself was coined in a paper by Columbia University law professor Tim Wu in 2003 but was little more than just a term until 2010, when the FCC passed the Open Internet Order. The order called for ISPs to honor the principle of net neutrality through transparency on network management practices, refraining from blocking content on their networks, and avoiding unreasonable discrimination against (or favorable treatment towards) content on their networks.

Business News Daily: What You Need to Know About the New Federal Overtime Rules.
A rule change announced May 18 by the U.S. Department of Labor (U.S. DOL) would expand overtime protections to an estimated 4.2 million workers, extending the rule to cover those making less than $47,476 per year and removing long-standing exemptions in the law. Business News Daily dug into the specifics of the new regulation and spoke with labor policy experts and human resources professionals about the anticipated effects of the change, for both employers and workers.
Scheduled to go into effect Dec. 1, 2016, the new rule changes overtime regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act's minimum wage and overtime protections. Previously, employees were excluded if they were salaried, earned at least $455 per week ($23,660 per year) or were in positions considered executive, administrative or professional. Now, those exemptions will be lifted and the pay threshold for overtime protections will be raised to $913 per week, or an annual salary of $47,476. That pay threshold will be updated once every three years, indexed to wage growth over time.

From the Dallas Morning News: Report: Texas among worst in country for high numbers of teen moms, uninsured kids

Here's an example of how an advocacy group - a think tank actually, but they promote liberal causes - uses the media to highlight issues they'd like addressed. The organization is the Center for Public Priorities - which is the liberal counterweight to the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation.

- You can see the report here: The 2016 KIDS COUNT Data Book.

- Click here for the article.

Texas has some of the highest rates of uninsured kids and teen births in the country despite progress in recent years, according to a report released Tuesday.
The Center for Public Policy Priorities, a center-left think tank in Austin, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation ranked Texas 43rd in the nation for overall child well-being in their 2016 KIDS COUNT Data Book. The groups found that 25 percent of Texas children are living in poverty and 11 percent are uninsured.
Texas has more uninsured children than any other state by a long shot. About 784,000 Texas children had no health insurance in 2014.
Texas is tied with Alaska for the highest percentage of uninsured kids, but in Alaska, 11 percent amounts to 21,000 children. California had the next-highest number of uninsured kids -- 497,000, which is 5 percent there.

Success will be judged based on how many of their findings impact legislation passed in the upcoming session of the Texas Legislature.

From the NYT: ‘Super PAC’ Backing Hillary Clinton Raised Largest Haul of the Year in May

A Super PAC in action:

- Click here for the article.

The main “super PAC” supporting Hillary Clinton raised $12.1 million in May, the group said on Monday — its largest haul of the year as Mrs. Clinton shifts from the Democratic presidential primary to a likely showdown with Donald J. Trump in the fall.
The group, Priorities USA Action, said it had entered June with over $50 million in cash on hand after securing more than $130 million in donations and commitments during the election cycle to date.
Priorities USA Action has reserved about $147 million in television, radio and digital platform spending across eight states: Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Nevada, Colorado, North Carolina, Iowa and New Hampshire.
“In the last few weeks Donald Trump accused President Obama of working with ISIS, took a victory lap following a national tragedy and mimed shooting someone at one of his events,” Guy Cecil, the group’s chief strategist, said in a statement, using an acronym for the Islamic State. “Priorities USA is not going to let this man anywhere near the White House because he is far too dangerous and divisive to ever be president of the United States.”
The efforts highlight the significant fund-raising and organizational advantages Mrs. Clinton and her allies enjoy against supporters of Mr. Trump, whose super PACs have yet to establish a meaningful footprint.

For more on Priorities USA Action:

- Open Secrets: Priorities USA Action.
- Politico: Here's how Hillary Clinton's allies plan to go after Trump.

- Mother Jones: Can Harold Ickes Make It Rain for Obama?

From the Texas Tribune: Platforms Reveal Common Ground Between Texas GOP, Democrats

For out look at political parties. A comparison of the party platforms of the Texas Republican and Democratic Party platforms.

- Click here for the article.

Though they disagree on nearly every major policy issue, from education funding to abortion to immigration, Texas Republicans and Democrats apparently have common ground on a few things, according to the platforms approved at recent state conventions.
Both state parties approve new platforms every two years, covering dozens of issues. Republicans put their platform together in May in Dallas. Democrats followed suit last week in San Antonio.
The platforms provide an opportunity for activists in both parties to outline the positions they expect their candidates and elected officials to hold, though there's always some that choose to ignore some of their party's positions.
While much of the two parties' platforms is irreconcilable, there are a handful of policy areas where Republicans and Democrats appear to come together.
- Medical Marijuana
- Toll Roads
- Trans-Pacific Partnership
- Campaign Finance
- Space Exploration

Click here for the respective platforms:

- Texas Democratic Party Platform.
- Texas Republican Party Platform.

Monday, June 20, 2016

From the USA today: Supreme Court allows searches based on outstanding arrest warrants

The Exclusionary Rule took a bog hit today at the Supreme Court.

- Click here for the article.

The Supreme Court divided largely along ideological lines Monday in ruling that police can seize evidence from an unconstitutional search if they first discover the suspect has one or more outstanding arrest warrants.

The court's four conservative justices, joined by Justice Stephen Breyer, ruled that even if police violate the Constitution by stopping someone without suspicion, an arrest warrant entitles them to conduct a search. In that circumstance, they said, there is no "flagrant police misconduct."

"Evidence is admissible when the connection between unconstitutional police conduct and the evidence is remote or has been interrupted by some intervening circumstance," Justice Clarence Thomas wrote. The vote was 5-3.

The decision was controversial because in some cities thousands of people have arrest warrants pending against them, mostly for traffic violations as insignificant as unpaid parking tickets.

There were 16,000 outstanding arrest warrants in Ferguson, Mo., as of 2015 — a figure that amounts to roughly 75% of the city’s population — the Justice Department found during its investigation into the 2014 police shooting of an unarmed, 18-year-old African-American man. Cincinnati recently had more than 100,000 warrants pending for failure to appear in court. New York City has 1.2 million outstanding warrants.

The high court case involved a Utah narcotics detective's detention of a man leaving a house that was under observation for possible drug dealing. Based on the discovery of an outstanding arrest warrant for a minor traffic infraction, the man was searched and found to have illegal drugs.

- Background from ScotusBlog.
- Read Sonia Sotomayor’s Atomic Bomb of a Dissent Slamming Racial Profiling and Mass Imprisonment.
- “So Little Justification that the State Has Never Tried to Defend Its Legality

From Foreign Policy: The Syria Dissent Channel Message Means The System Is Working The State Department Syria memo isn't some dangerous sign of insurrection. It's an essential instrument for sparking essential debate.

For out look at the media's relationship with government officials. The State Department has a process in place to allow administrative policy to be challenged by its rank and file. They don't always get leaked, but one did last week, and it points out conflict within the administration regarding Syria.

Here's an inside look at how this is done.

- Click here for the article.

The New York Times details the leak here:

More than 50 State Department diplomats have signed an internal memo sharply critical of the Obama administration’s policy in Syria, urging the United States to carry out military strikes against the government of President Bashar al-Assad to stop its persistent violations of a cease-fire in the country’s five-year-old civil war.
The memo, a draft of which was provided to The New York Times by a State Department official, says American policy has been “overwhelmed” by the unrelenting violence in Syria. It calls for “a judicious use of stand-off and air weapons, which would undergird and drive a more focused and hard-nosed U.S.-led diplomatic process.”
Such a step would represent a radical shift in the administration’s approach to the civil war in Syria, and there is little evidence thatPresident Obama has plans to change course. Mr. Obama has emphasized the military campaign against the Islamic State over efforts to dislodge Mr. Assad. Diplomatic efforts to end the conflict, led by Secretary of State John Kerry, have all but collapsed.
But the memo, filed in the State Department’s “dissent channel,” underscores the deep rifts and lingering frustration within the administration over how to deal with a war that has killed more than 400,000 people.
The State Department set up the channel during the Vietnam War as a way for employees who had disagreements with policies to register their protest with the secretary of state and other top officials, without fear of reprisal. While dissent cables are not that unusual, the number of signatures on this document, 51, is extremely large, if not unprecedented.

For more:

- AFSA: The Dissent Channel.
- Cato Institute: The Dissent Channel Goes Public.

From the Washington Post: Supreme Court refuses to hear challenge to Connecticut’s ban on ‘assault weapons’

This addresses a question posed last week about whether the Supreme Court might decide whether the Second Amendment applies to assault rifles. Their refusal to hear the appeal implicitly means that a majority thinks it does not.

- Click here for the article.
The Supreme Court declined Monday to review bans on a lengthy list of firearms that Connecticut classified as “assault weapons,” the latest example of the court’s reluctance to be drawn into an emotional national debate on gun control.
The justices decided without comment not to review a lower court decision that upheld the laws; Connecticut’s was enacted shortly after a gunman used one of the military-style semiautomatic weapons on the list to kill 20 students and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown in 2012.
The decision was not a surprise, as the court has previously declined to review other court decisions that uphold bans passed by cities and states. Maryland, California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York, as well as many cities and towns, have similar laws. None of the legal challenges to them have been successful in lower courts.

They were enacted after a federal ban expired in 2004. Attempts to revive the federal ban have failed. But Congress is once again embroiled in a debate over gun control after the massacre at an Orlando nightclub left 49 victims dead.
Like other laws, Connecticut’s ban includes semiautomatic guns and high-capacity magazines, and covers popular weapons such as AR-­15s and AK-­47s.
. . . The court’s action Monday continues a pattern. After recognizing the individual right for the first time in Heller, which covered the federal enclave of the District, the court made clear in a subsequent case that state and local governments, like Congress, could not prohibit individual gun ownership.
But since then, the justices have avoided all cases that might clarify whether that right is more expansive or which restrictions are too burdensome.

- Here is a link to the decision made by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

From the Washington Post: Hillary Clinton’s lead in the polls may be larger than it seems. Here’s why.

Building off our discussion of current problems with polling.

- Click here for the article.
In 2012, national polls in October suggested the presidential race was a virtual tie. The Real Clear Politics polling average gave Barack Obama a slight 0.7 point lead over Mitt Romney, but he actually won by almost 4 points. Of the final 11 national polls released in 2012, as reported on Real Clear Politics, 7 were a tie or had Romney ahead, while only 4 had Obama ahead.
Why were so many of the polls wrong? In part, because they failed to capture how minorities would vote. Unfortunately, some pollsters may be making the same mistakes in 2016 — and thereby underestimating Hillary Clinton’s lead in the polls.
In 2012, many polls underestimated how many minorities would vote and how many would vote for Obama. For example, a Politico poll released the morning of Election Day said the race was tied at 47 percent each for Obama and Romney. The poll said that 62 percent of Latinos supported Obama, while the exit polls reported 71 percent, and Latino Decisions reported 75 percent. Among the “another race” category, which is mostly comprised of Asian Americans, Politico reported that 47 percent supported Obama, while the exit polls reported 73 percent, and an Asian American Decisions exit poll reported 72 percent.
. . . In 2016, the country is even more diverse. Pollsters need to take steps to more accurately estimate the political attitudes and behavior of black, Latino and Asian American voters. Polls that are conducted only in English and that do few or no callbacks to try contact hard-to-reach populations are not going to accurately reflect the American electorate. Polls that are conducted via online panels need to ensure that they are not under-representing minority voters with less formal education and lower incomes. Finally, pollsters should take steps to make sure each racial subgroup in their poll is weighted to match the American Community Survey’s estimates for that particular group, not just their national sample overall.

From 538: The GOP’s House Majority Is Safe … Right?

There's more than just the presidency at stake right now

Both from 538:

- The GOP’s House Majority Is Safe … Right?

It’s very possible Clinton could achieve that margin of victory. But even in an era of high straight-ticket voting, extending those coattails to House races will be difficult because Republicans’ down-ballot advantages still exceed Democrats’. Let’s take a quick tour:
Why Democrats will gain House seats in 2016:
- Rebound
- Court-ordered redistricting
- Open seats
Why Republicans will probably keep their majority:
- The great sort
- Timing
- Ticket-splitting

- Senate 2016: The Democrats Strike Back.

It may come as a shock given all the attention being paid to the presidential race this year, but the president isn’t all-powerful. In fact, the U.S. Congress is supposed to be a coequal branchof the federal government. From voting on important legislation to confirming Cabinet appointees and federal judges, the Senate matters.
Right now, Republicans hold 54 seats to the Democrats’ 46 (including two independents who caucus with the Democrats). The Democrats have a favorable map in 2016: Of the 34 seats up for grabs, 24 are held by Republicans. Democrats need to net four seats to win control of the Senate if Hillary Clinton wins the presidency and five seats if Donald Trump wins. We’ll launch our official Senate projections later this year, but it’s not too early to take a more informal tour through the races. The combination of the polling, the political lean of the states being contested and the candidates running suggests a close race for control of the chamber.
The biggest factor working in the Democrats’ favor is fairly simple: Senate election results are increasingly tied to the presidential vote in each state.
And of the eight seats most likely to change hands in 2016, six are held by Republicans in states that President Obama won twice, and one is held by a Democrat in a state that former President George W. Bush won twice. If Trump does better in the presidential race than expected, Democratic gains could be kept to a minimum, but the field is tilted in their favor.

What impact will Gary Johnson have on the 2016 election?

Johnson is the Libertarian nominee and might have an impact on the election by pulling enough vote from either mayor party's candidate to tip the vote in competitive states one way or another. The question is whether Democratic or Republican voters are more likely to defect.

It's generally held that Libertarian candidates pull votes from Republicans while Green Party candidates pull them from Democrats, but the trendy prediction now is that Johnson might hurt Clinton more then Trump. Some also think his candidacy will deny Trump or Clinton a majority vote in the electoral college, which would thrown the election to the House of Representatives for the first time since 1824.

Some thoughts:

- The National Review: It will take some maneuvering, but Gary Johnson can make the difference.
Because the Libertarian platform is much closer to the Republican platform than to the Democratic, the conventional wisdom is that Johnson will pull many more votes from Trump than from Clinton. And that will probably prove to be the case. But if Trump’s campaign is willing to try something radical — and the evidence suggests it is — it can use Johnson to keep Hillary out of the White House. If Trump’s campaign is willing to try something radical — and the evidence suggests it is — it can use Johnson to keep Hillary out of the White House. 
At the moment, there is limited general-election polling that includes Johnson; a Trump–Clinton–Johnson race has been polled in only a handful of states. And, this long before the election, what polling there is is suspect. Nonetheless, it’s worth noting that there are three solid Democratic states in which polling shows support for Johnson exceeding Clinton’s lead over Trump. Which means that if Trump’s supporters were to vote Johnson, Hillary could be denied those states’ reliably Democratic electoral votes.

- From Yahoo News: This time around, Gary Johnson’s third-party bid makes sense.
Johnson — who will be on the ballot in all 50 states — is approaching the national electorate this year more from the left than the right. He’s appealing to Bernie Sanders supporters on the basis of his pro-pot, pro-gay rights, anti-surveillance views.
“Of all the candidates left, running for president, I side most with Bernie Sanders,” Johnson told Politico’s Glenn Thrush this week.
Going after Sanders supporters makes sense. Many of them are loath to support Clinton, and even Trump made explicit overtures to them this week.
But the resistance to Trump among conservatives equals and probably dwarfs the distaste for Clinton among liberal progressives. Many on the right hate Clinton, are disgusted with the idea that they might have to vote for Trump to stop her, and are desperate for an alternative.
Yet the barriers for social conservatives to support Johnson are just as high as they are for liberal progressives, if not higher.
Johnson will have to convince progressives that cutting government spending by 23 percent, eliminating the personal and corporate income tax, payroll, Medicare and Medicaid taxes, and moving to a 28 percent consumption tax on goods and services — are good ideas.
But social conservatives are resolute on the issue of religious liberty, and Johnson has sided decisively with gay rights when discussing cases over the past few years in which bakers, photographers and others have declined to provide services for gay weddings.
Johnson is clear that social conservatism was one of the things that bothered him most as a Republican governor and presidential candidate.

And a handful more, it you care to check them out:

- CBS News: 2016 by the numbers: Will Gary Johnson disrupt Clinton vs. Trump race?
- The Fiscal Times: Could Libertarian Gary Johnson Play the Spoiler in November?
- USA Today: Gary Johnson could give us President Paul Ryan.

From the Economist: America's primaries are over; how would they have turned out under a parliamentary system?

Embedded image

Or rather - what if we had proportional representation instead of winner take all elections?

Hot Air has great commentary:

- Click here for it.

I think they’ve got the nomenclature right for Trump’s, Clinton’s, and Sanders’s movements, but no self-respecting conservative is going to cede that label to John farking Kasich and his merry band of centrists. Call that party the Republicans (or the Tories, in honor of the squishy British version of conservatism) and let the group to their right be the Conservatives. Also, while Cruz might emerge as Conservative leader, it’s unlikely that an also-ran like Kasich would head the Republicans. Kasich made the cut here only because he refused to take a hint and drop out in April despite having no chance of winning the nomination. He’s a placeholder. But that raises the question: Who would lead the Republicans? One enjoyable dilemma created by a formal Republican/Conservative split would be watching center-right pols try to calculate which party would be better for their careers and, consequently, which of their principles they should abandon. Should Marco Rubio join the Conservative Party and battle Cruz for the leadership? Or, fearing he can’t win, should he go all-in on amnesty, social liberalism, etc, and rebrand as a center-right Republican?
If the vote turned out this way, Hillary would obviously be a strong favorite to emerge as prime minister. She and Bernie would probably form a coalition, giving her a 54 percent majority in parliament, but Sanders would have leverage. His party plus Trump’s could create a different majority coalition; he’d warn Hillary that if she doesn’t promise to do things his way on trade, for instance, he’ll bolt and he and Trump will make a deal for one of them to run the government. That’s sort of what Bernie’s doing right now in holding out on endorsing Hillary, but once she’s safely elected president she can choose to keep her promise or not and won’t have to worry about consequences until 2020. In a parliamentary system, her job would depend day-to-day on keeping that promise. No matter how you slice and dice these numbers, though, the Conservatives and the Republicans end up as nonfactors. Cruz and the Republican leader would be at the mercy of the ruling coalition. That feels like a fitting takeaway from 2016.

Last Week Tonight With John Oliver - The NRA June 19 2016 (HBO)

For our look at interest groups and political participation

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

From Politico: Democrats mount gun control filibuster

A procedure we will cover later the semester.

- Click here for the story.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) launched a talking filibuster on the Senate floor — which was quickly joined by fellow Democrats — in an effort to pressure Republicans to accept legislation that would deny suspected terrorists from purchasing firearms and require universal background checks.
The Senate is debating a spending bill that Democrats hope to offer gun amendments to, but Murphy said that the Senate should “not proceed with debate on amendments to this bill until we have figured out a way to come together on, at the very least, two simple ideas.”
“I’m going to remain on this floor until we get some signal, some sign that we can come together on these two measures, that we can get a path forward on addressing this epidemic in a meaningful, bipartisan way,” Murphy continued on the Senate floor on Wednesday, after he first started his filibuster at about 11:20 a.m.
Most of the Democratic caucus was unaware of Murphy's plans until he took the floor, two senior aides said, though there had been some talk Tuesday about lining up speeches throughout the night Wednesday.
At the same time, Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) are exploring whether there is common ground on a deal to prevent suspected terrorists from buying firearms. Currently, the two parties are backing very different approaches to resolving instances where someone feels they've been wrongly put on a watch list and therefore cannot purchase a gun.

For more:

- Wikipedia: Filibuster.
- Wikipedia: Filibuster in the U.S. Senate.

Group differences in public opinion

For discussion in class:

- Race and Ethnicity.
- Gender Gap.
- Hispanic Trends.
- Generations.

And for a look at the differences in all these categories one specific question:

- Changing Attitudes on Gay Marriage.

From the Washington Monthly: Asian-Americans and Affirmative Action

For out look at civil rights policy - a twist on the use of affirmative action.

- Click here for it.

Affirmative action has survived decades of conservative antagonism, an unfriendly Supreme Court, and attacks by Republican state legislatures, but the institution’s future looks bleaker than ever.
While long a staple of the progressive agenda, race-conscious affirmative action has quickly been relegated to the relative fringes of the liberal platform. While both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are both supporters, it’s been a non-issue so far in the campaign. But while it’s been mostly missing from the national stage, the frame of the affirmative action debate has also shifted – the rise of Asian-Americans as the country’s anointed “model minority” has helped to disrupt the common understanding of affirmative action as an issue of black versus white.
The question is whether Asian-American achievement – or rather understanding its underlying mechanisms – could hold the key to affirmative action 2.0. New research attempts to answer that question and highlight alternatives to race-conscious affirmative action. There are no easy answers, though, and with universities preferring to maintain statistical rankings rather than foster true diversity, it’s hard to find a practical example of affirmative action innovation. One thing’s for sure: If affirmative action is to continue to live up to its ideal, something needs to change.

Full Faith and Credit and Handgun Laws

A question was raised in class about why the full faith and credit clause applies to marriage licenses and other public records and laws, but not - currently anyway - to gun laws, especially concealed and open carry rules. I really don't know as of yet, but here are a few readings that might help us figure this out.

- Jurist: Survey of State Open and Concealed Carry Laws.
- Gun Debate: Concealed Carry Reciprocity and the Constitution.
- Volokh Conspiracy: Full Faith and Credit, Pardons, and Gun Rights.
- The Fiscal Times: A New Gun Law Pits Virginia Against the Constitution.

From the Nation:  Millennials Have Lived Through a Doubling of School Segregation The old methods of encouraging integration in our public education are failing.

Brown v Board didn't quite have the impact alleged.

- Click here for the story.

About 62 years after the Supreme Court declared “separate but equal” in America’s schools unconstitutional, on the cusp of a demographic tip toward a majority of people of color, the lessons of Brown v. Board of Education seem to be skipping a generation.

The racial disparities surfacing in school data have been dialing back history. Since 2001, according to a report by Government Accountability Office (GAO), the number of poor, racially segregated schools (with more than three-fourths of one race and high poverty rates) jumped from 9 percent to 16 percent. So today’s millennials have, from the time they entered first grade through high-school graduation, witnessed the degree of educational segregation more than double, from about 7,000 segregated schools to 15,000 nationwide. GAO criticized the Department of Education for being lax in using legal intervention in cases of extreme educational discrimination.
But segregation is less about the extremes than abouteveryday discrimination. Among predominantly black or Latino schools, for example, students tend to have less access to core college-prep classes—so about a third of mostly black and brown schools offer calculus, compared to over half of schools with high white populations.
Even within schools, enrollment in “gifted” and advanced placement programs skew white—suggesting that subsurface prejudice and resource gaps operate even in an “integrated” school setting.
Under the grip of the school-to-prison pipeline, repeated suspensions, and other disciplinary actions—which lead to chronic absenteeism and impede academic progress—are especially high for black, Latino, multiracial, and Native American high schoolers.
The cumulative effect isn’t just an “achievement gap,” but a social gap that leaves communities of color increasingly isolated, hampering social mobility and deepening inter generational poverty.

From the Gallup Poll: Presidential Candidates and the Challenge of Fixing the Government

And another from Gallup - this involves attitudes about the government, but it points out some conflicting info based on how questions are addressed.

- Click here for the article.

Approval of the job Congress is doing is now at 18%. Just 8% of Americans have "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in Congress, putting it at the bottom of a list of U.S. institutions tested. Further, 15%rate the job that Congress is doing as "excellent" or "good," a percentage that drops to 7% among those who are the most knowledgeable about Congress. Over half say that most members of Congress are corrupt, and the perceived honesty and ethics of members of Congress are near the bottom of a list of all professions tested.
All of this shows up when we ask Americans about the most important problem facing the nation today. "Dissatisfaction with government" is near the top of the list, and was the single most commonly mentioned concern for all of 2015. 
Yet, few Americans mention Congress or dysfunctional government when asked in an open-ended fashion to name the top issue on which they want the next president to focus. In other words, the major perceived problems with how the U.S. government functions clearly come to mind when Americans think about the top issues facing the country, but not when Americans think about the problems the next president should address.

From the Gallup Poll: Party Groups Agree on Importance of Big Election Issues

This ties together a variety of class topic, including public opinion, parties, and the current campaign.

- Click here for the story, and the graphs.

Republicans and Democrats place differing emphases on the importance of the candidates' positions on climate change, the treatment of minority groups and the size and scope of government. Additionally, Democrats put more emphasis on a variety of other social and income equality issues, while Republicans put greater emphasis on certain national security and fiscal issues.
Despite these differences, Republicans and Democrats are united on their top priorities: the economy, jobs, healthcare, national defense and education. These issues represent a common denominator for the electorate that should make it easy for the candidates to know where to focus their attention this year. The candidates' ability to convince Americans that they have a plan or the skill to solve these problems could go a long way toward enhancing their appeal to a broad base of voters.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

From the Legal Information Institute: Incorporation Doctrine

A more precise look at the selective incorporation of the Bill of Rights to the states.

- Click here for it.

From the Constitution Daily: Is there a constitutional right to have a rapidly firing assault gun?

This is timely.

- Click here for the article.
. . . here are the key issues that have been coming up regularly (none of which has yet been answered by the Supreme Court):
First, do assault-weapons and high-volume magazines get any protection under the Second Amendment, or are they outside of it in the same way that a military machine gun would be?
Second, is such a flat ban unconstitutional when the weapon involved is highly popular, and thus is recognized as one that is in common use – one of the factors that the Supreme Court has said should be considered?
Third, is such a flat ban always unconstitutional because it allows no exceptions, and thus puts such a commonly used weapon completely out of the hands of even trustworthy, law-abiding citizens?
Fourth, is the fact that the weapon is very much like the one that the military has traditionally used on the battlefield (the M-16) an indication that it should not be allowed for the general public – that is, is it too dangerous?
Fifth, if the Second Amendment does provide some protection for private possession of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, how rigorous should the constitutional test be? Should it be the tough test of “strict scrutiny,” or something less demanding?

Snyder v Phelps

One of the more colorful - and disturbing - court cases involving the limits of free speech.

- Oyez.
- Supreme Court Sides With Westboro Church On Funeral Protests.

From the Atlantic: The Most Powerful Dissent in American History

A look at Holmes' dissent in Abrams v. United States.

The author is obviously fond of it.

- Click here for the article.

- Here is Oyes' page on the case.

What is a "sincerely held religious belief?"

It's the term used to what a law cannot violate. - such as the ACA's contraception requirement - but its a bit vague and tough to define precisely.

How doe the court determine which beliefs are sincere and which are not?

Here are some attempts to explain it.

- The Sincerely Held Religious Belief: Hobby Lobby and the Bible.
- Questioning Sincerity: The Role of the Courts After Hobby Lobby.
- “Sincerely Held Religious Beliefs” in Religious Discrimination Cases.

And a critical look at the test. Will it lead to further divisions in society?:

- ‘Sincerely Held Religious Beliefs’ and the Fraying of America.

Several states have recently introduced bills that would allow people to withhold services to their fellow Americans if they base their decision on “sincerely held religious beliefs.” In Arizona, one of these bills has made it all the way to Gov. Jan Brewer’s desk, and she is currently deciding whether or not to sign the bill into law.

These bills are deemed necessary by religious conservatives on account of several cases where Christian business owners refused to offer services to LGBT people, claiming that serving them would violate their own religious convictions about homosexuality and same-sex relationships. In one of the most celebrated examples, a case made it all the way to the Supreme Court of New Mexico, where it was ruled that a Christian photographer did not have the right to refuse to take photographs of a same-sex couple’s commitment ceremony based on her religious beliefs.

Giving a special pass that allows an individual with “sincerely held religious beliefs” to chose not to do business is fraught with problems.

For instance, who is to decide what is sincere? Are the religious beliefs sincere if a cake seller will sell a cake to two divorced individuals for their second marriage but not to a same-sex couple for their first? Or does this cafeteria-style approach to Christianity expose a lack of sincerity of religious belief? This raises the question of who will determine the sincerity of a belief. The courts? If so, which religious leaders will advise the courts on that question, as it is clear that religious leaders increasingly disagree on the question of gay marriage and the full dignity of LGBT people?

Also, will the freedom to refuse to serve those who offend “sincerely held religious beliefs” extend to people of one faith expressing hostility toward people of another faith? If a Christian believes that Hindus worship a deity or deities that she finds offensive, will she be allowed to refuse to photograph a Hindu wedding or make a cake for a Hindu holy day based on her “sincerely held religious beliefs”?

And what about sincerely held beliefs that are not religious? At a time when 40 percent of people under 30 hold no specific religious affiliation, and when many of those identify as “spiritual but not religious,” how will the laws address those with “sincerely held spiritual beliefs”? And given the rise of atheism and secular humanism, will those who espouse no formal religion also have their sincerely held beliefs protected?

Religious people should be very hesitant to go down the path of discrimination based on “sincerely held” beliefs, as it could be used against them. What if someone were to claim that their sincerely held belief caused them to not serve fundamentalist religious people? If these bills pass, you can guarantee that the reputation of religious people is gong to take a serious hit.

Laws that say we can pick and choose whom we work with based on our “sincerely held religious beliefs” are dangerous to our society. These bills promote further division at a time when America is already deeply divided, and they encourage self-segregation into isolated communities that only serve people with whom we are “sincerely” compatible.

From Oyez: Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores

Worth a look as we try to understand current disputes over religious freedom in the United States. Can the government require an employer to provide services - through their insurance policies - they object to on religious grounds?

- Click here for the link.

From the Federalist: How RFRA Works, Explained In One Chart

- Click here for the accompanying article.

Monday, June 13, 2016

From the NYT: Orlando Shooting Reignites Gun Control Debate in Congress

It was a classic example of an agenda setting event. Now comes the debate over the legislative response - assuming there is one.

- click here for the article.

The Orlando, Fla., massacre reignited on Monday the debate over whether Americans like Omar Mateen who have been named on the government’s terrorist watch lists, or have been otherwise suspected by the authorities of ties to terrorist groups, should be allowed to purchase a gun. In Congress, even some supporters of gun rights seemed to be having second thoughts.
Six months after Republicans in Congress defeated a measure that would have closed the so-called terror gap after the San Bernardino, Calif., attack, Senate Democrats moved swiftly on Monday to restart the debate over tightening federal gun laws.
As a first step, the Democrats demanded that Republicans take up legislation aimed at banning the sale of guns or explosives to people who have appeared on watch lists, or who have been suspected by the Justice Department of ties to terrorist organizations.
“In the wake of Orlando, we need to think about what kind of country and Senate we want to be,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, a Democrat, said in a conference call with reporters. “Are we going to take the painfully obvious common-sense steps so that terrorists can’t get guns, or are we going to bow down to the N.R.A.?” he asked, referring to the National Rifle Association.

Mr. Schumer and other Democrats insisted that the legislation that failed in December could have prevented Mr. Mateen, identified as the Orlando gunman, from buying the weapons used in the attack. “We are now living with the consequences of that vote,” Mr. Schumer said. “How many more people have to die at the hands of a terrorist with a gun before the Senate acts?”
Just one Republican, Senator Mark S. Kirk of Illinois, voted in favor of the legislation in December, but Democrats said on Monday they believed that Republicans would come under new pressure. Indeed, there were signs that some Republicans might be reconsidering.

Just for kicks:

- From Should More Gun Control Laws Be Enacted?

From Fox News: Judge rules Kansas cannot require citizenship proof to vote

A story from March illustrating the concept of federalism.

- Click here for the article.

A judge said Tuesday that Kansas can't require people to show proof of U.S. citizenship when registering to vote for federal elections at motor vehicle offices.
U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson ruled that the state's proof-of-citizenship requirements likely violate a provision in the National Voter Registration Act that requires only "minimal information" to determine a voter's eligibility. She ordered Kansas to register thousands of voters whose paperwork is on hold because they did not comply with the requirement. But she put her preliminary injunction on hold until May 31 to give the state a chance to appeal.
The state immediately said it would appeal. Unless a higher court halts Robinson's order before the end of the month, it would take effect then, clearing the way for those residents to cast a ballot in the upcoming federal elections.
Robinson wrote that "even if instances of noncitizens voting cause indirect voter disenfranchisement by diluting the votes of citizens, such instances pale in comparison to the number of qualified citizens who have been disenfranchised by this law."
The evidence shows only three instances in Kansas where noncitizens voted in a federal election between 1995 and 2013, and about 14 noncitizens attempted to register during that time. The court noted the "magnitude of harm" caused by 18,372 applicants at motor vehicle offices who were denied registration due to the state's proof-of-citizenship law.

The national outweighs the state law - and the state has not cleared the burden demonstrating a need for the requirement.

One of the concepts covered in the section on federalism is policy diffusion between the states. The push for Voter ID laws, including providing proof of citizenship, have spread throughout many states - mostly those that are controlled by Republicans. The working theory is that Republicans do better when voter turnout is low, and these laws suppress turnout.

For more:

- Ballotpedia: Voter identification laws by state.

And click here for a look at the National Voter Registration Act.

From the Washington Post: Trump and Clinton and their very different responses to the Orlando shootings

The issues that impact elections can change on a dime.

- click here for the article.

Presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump’s first tweet Sunday morning was a fairly measured comment about the deadly mass shooting in an Orlando gay nightclub. “Really bad shooting in Orlando. Police investigating possible terrorism. Many people dead and wounded.”
His second tweet, an hour and a half later, was a return to campaign trail politics — an attempt to falsely recast a verbal attack he made against a disabled journalist.
Then came another, more sympathetic tweet about the Orlando tragedy, followed by one in which he took credit for “being right on radical Islamic terrorism.” And then Trump went fully on the attack, saying, “Is President Obama going to finally mention the words radical Islamic terrorism? If he doesn’t he should immediately resign in disgrace!”
Trump’s approach to the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history posed a sharp contrast to the conventional one of presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. She first tweeted a note of concern for the victims; hours later, she issued a statement that sought to address the main issues that the tragedy touched on — terrorism, gay rights and gun control.
The disparity between the two encapsulates the choice facing voters this fall: Do they see Trump’s bombast as the solution to a dangerous world, or do they find comfort in Clinton’s more familiar manner?

From Intelligence Squared: The President Has Usurped the Constitutional Power of Congress

More video - a debate about the appropriate limits of presidential power.

From Atlantic Video: Can Religious Freedom and LGBT Rights Co-Exist?

Worth a look in class - click here for it.

From the NYT: 2nd Amendment Does Not Guarantee Right to Carry Concealed Guns, Court Rules

The Second Amendment has yet to be interpreted to apply outside the home. This could provide the Supreme Court the opportunity to do so.

- Click here for article.
A federal appeals court in San Francisco ruled Thursday that the Second Amendment of the Constitution does not guarantee the right of gun owners to carry concealed weapons in public places, upholding a California law that imposes stringent conditions on who may be granted a concealed-carry permit.
The 7-to-4 ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, overturned a decision by a three-judge panel of the same court and was a setback for gun advocates. The California law requires applicants to demonstrate “good cause” for carrying a weapon, like working in a job with a security threat — a restriction sharply attacked by gun advocates as violating the Second Amendment right to bear arms.
“Based on the overwhelming consensus of historical sources, we conclude that the protection of the Second Amendment — whatever the scope of that protection may be — simply does not extend to the carrying of concealed firearms in public by members of the general public,” the court said in a ruling written by Judge William A. Fletcher.
The case was brought by gun owners who were denied permits in Yolo and San Diego Counties. The plaintiffs did not immediately say whether they planned to appeal to the United States Supreme Court.
. . . Gun advocates swiftly condemned the ruling.
“This decision will leave good people defenseless, as it completely ignores the fact that law-abiding Californians who reside in counties with hostile sheriffs will now have no means to carry a firearm outside the home for personal protection,” Chris W. Cox, the executive director of the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action, said in a statement.
With Thursday’s decision, the Ninth Circuit joins several other federal appeals courts in allowing state or local governments to put restrictions on the granting of concealed-carry licenses.
Mr. Winkler, the law professor, noted that the best indicator of whether the Supreme Court would take up a constitutional issue was there was a split among district courts. “Without a split in the circuits, the Supreme Court is less likely to take up the case,” he said.
But Mr. Lowy said that given the stakes of the decision — and the long history of litigation on the issue — he would not be surprised if the court decided to step in. “There is no circuit split, but it’s certainly possible that the court could decide it wants to address this,” he said. “I’d be surprised but not shocked if Supreme Court took this for review.”
The decision by the three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit had thrown out the requirement that a gun owner demonstrate “good cause” for getting a weapon. Within days of that decision, in 2014, counties across the state, which administer the permits, reported getting a flood of applicants seeking concealed weapons permits. Although the decision was stayed pending appeal, some county sheriffs began issuing permits; the status of those permits was not immediately clear.
In a dissent to Thursday’s ruling by the full court, Judge Consuelo Maria Callahan said that the Second Amendment protection to gun owners that applied in the privacy of one’s home — upheld in a 2008 Supreme Court decision involving a law in Washington, D.C. — “extends beyond one’s front door.

From NOLO: The Public Safety Exception to Miranda Officers don't have to abide by Miranda in certain kinds of emergencies.

The Supreme Court carved out an exception to Miranda warning in a 1984 decision.

- Click here for a more thorough description of the exception here.

Here is a look at the exception in light of recent events - notably the bombing of the Boston Marathon.

- Charles Lane: An update for Miranda rights.
Established in Miranda v. Arizona 47 years ago, the you-have-the-right-to-remain-silent litany has “become part of our national culture,” as the Supreme Court noted in a 2000 ruling that reaffirmed Miranda.
My favorite example: In the 1987 film “Robocop,” the eponymous cyborg hero grabs a murderer by the lapels, growls, “You have the right to an attorney” — and hurls the creep through a plate-glass window.
Today, the issue is how, or whether, to apply Miranda to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing. The Obama administration advocates a “public safety” exception that would permit the interrogation of terror suspects for a while before “Mirandizing” them and allow the government to introduce the resulting information at trial.
That puts the administration between some Republican senators who want to dispense with Miranda and designate Tsarnaev an “enemy combatant,” and civil libertarians who fret that the public-safety exception could set a precedent that ends up nullifying Miranda.
None of these positions is entirely satisfactory. Neither is the Miranda doctrine itself — not anymore. Its fault lines were evident well before 9/11 spawned terrorism-related dilemmas.
. . . Miranda seems an especially awkward fit for the Tsarnaev case. The public interest in pumping him for intelligence is high — to detect bombs elsewhere, to unravel a conspiracy and so on. Insisting on reading him his rights immediately anyway seems formalistic, to say the least.
Meanwhile, the government has little incentive to Mirandize Tsarnaev at all, given that the evidence against him seems overwhelming even without a confession. In this case, the Obama administration’s public-safety exception seems like a legalistic attempt to preserve the admissibility of evidence it might not even need. Yet invoking it may enshrine an exception far more expansive than the one created by the 1984 Supreme Court case upon which the administration’s legal theory rests. In that case, the interrogation consisted of immediately asking a hurriedly arrested rape suspect, “Where's the gun?”
Maybe someday the Supreme Court will sort it all out, just as it has attempted to fit a host of other unforeseen applications into the Miranda paradigm over the years.
Wouldn’t it be better to achieve the necessary and legitimate purposes ofMiranda through more efficient means? One alternative made possible by evolving technology would be to require video recording of all in-custody police questioning — to deter abuses and to let juries decide if a confession was voluntary.
Updating Miranda won’t be easy, since the Supreme Court already revisited its basic validity in 2000. However, Chief Justice Earl Warren’s opinion in Mirandanoted that “it is impossible . . . to foresee the potential alternatives for protecting the privilege which might be devised by Congress or the States.” Warren disavowed an intent to “straitjacket” federal and state lawmakers.

From the Washington Post: Fifty years later, the Miranda decision hasn’t accomplished what the Supreme Court intended

For out look at civil liberties - as well as the power (or lack thereof) of the courts.

- Click here for the article.
Fifty years ago today, the Supreme Court handed down the landmark case Miranda v. Arizona. The decision requires police to inform suspects of their constitutional rights to remain silent and obtain an attorney before being questioned.
Miranda remains perhaps the most well-known case in criminal law, thanks in no small part to such TV shows as “Law and Order” and movies like “21 Jump Street.” But that’s a bit like saying the electoral college is widely familiar. Most Americans know it’s important, but they are a little fuzzy on the details.
So, in honor of the anniversary, here are two underappreciated sides to Miranda.
1 - Miranda is an important test of how much power and influence the Supreme Court actually has.
2 - But the Supreme Court’s achievements in Miranda may be less than meets the eye

For a look at the case itself click here for Oyez's page on it.

And a few other cases related to the rights - which conservatives have been trying to overturn for years.

- The right to remain silent, brought you by J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI.
- Miranda rights for children?
- You have a right to a lawyer — but can’t assert it yet.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Putting the pieces back together

And here are a few items related to the respective efforts of each candidate to adjust themselves towards the political center in an effort to win the general election.

The most commonly used term is "pivot." More on that soon.

- The New Republic: How Many Young Bernie Supporters Does Hillary Clinton Really Need?
- The Fiscal Times: Why Sanders’ Supporters Might Not Switch Their Votes.
- NYT: Hillary Clinton Denounces Donald Trump as Untrustworthy on Women’s Issues.
- AP: Back in Washington, Clinton, Trump work toward party unity.
- The Washington Post: Romney loyalists’ divisions over Trump spill out into the open at Utah summit.
- The Washington Post: Trump doesn’t have a national campaign. So the GOP is trying to run one for him.
- The Washington Post: After briefing with Trump’s chief strategist, House Republicans see ‘pivot’.
- The Hill: Evangelicals give Trump stamp of approval.

How Clinton and Trump did it

For summer GOVT 2305 students. Some preliminary info that might help you with your essay. What are commentators telling us about how each won the nominations of their respective parties? Here are a few initial thoughts on the subject. I'll add more as I find them - but feel to look on your own.

- The Fiscal Times: The Strategy That Gave Hillary Clinton the Democratic Nomination.
- The Financial Times: How Trump Won the Nomination.
- Slate: The Process Worked - The Democratic primaries weren’t rigged. Despite their flaws, they produced a nominee with wide support across the party.
- The Atlantic: How the Party Decided on Trump.

About that Paper - What is a Party Faction?

I'll post a few things this week related to the assigned essay for GOVT 2305. Remember that you are free to develop your own topic, but I'd like it to be about some aspect of the 2016 election. I prefer that it be objective - not based on personal opinions.

For a reminder, this is what is in your syllabus:

As you hopefully know, both major parties are close to selecting their nominees for the presidency. Donald Trump will be the Republican Party’s nominee, and though Bernie Sanders is still in the running (and who knows what might happen?) Hillary Clinton looks to be the nominee of the Democratic Party. The primary process was unusually divisive this year, which means there are still hard feelings all around. The job of each nominee will be to try to put the pieces back together. The only way either Clinton or Trump can win the presidency is to have the support of all the various factions that identify with the party – as well as the support of independents and – ideally – some members of the other party. I want you to do some research and figure out how they are going to accomplish that. How are the nominees of the major parties re-positioning themselves for the general election?

One way to approach the question is to think about the two major parties as collections of groups - or factions. Each major party then is better thought of as coalitions of factions. Primary elections tend to involve competition between the preferred candidates of rival factions within each party. If their candidate becomes the party's nominee, then the policies the group promotes may well become enacted into law - assuming other things fall into place as well.

I'd suggest you begin by becoming familiar with the different groups within each party to get a preliminary handle on the subject.

Here are a few places you might want to look:
- Wikipedia: Factions in the Democratic Party (United States).

- Wikipedia: Factions in the Republican Party (United States).
- Directory of American Political Parties.
- The Brooking Institution: Understanding American Parties and Factions.

These collections of past blog posts might also be helpful:

- Democratic Coalition.
- Factions.
- Republican Coalition.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

From the Texas Tribune: The Brief: Texas Files 40th Lawsuit Against Obama Administration

Texas has led the charge suing the federal government - usually on 10th Amendment grounds - to overturn laws impacting the state.

- Click here for the story.

Texas was one of 11 states to file a lawsuit Wednesday to stop a directive from the Obama administration for public school districts to let transgender students use the bathroom of their choice, marking the 40th time the state has filed suit against his administration.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced the lawsuit, calling the federal guidelines "outside the bounds of the constitution."
The Tribune's Morgan Smith wrote that Paxton filed the lawsuit this week because Harrold Independent School District, which sits near the Oklahoma border, passed a policy earlier this week "requiring students to use bathrooms according to the gender cited on their birth certificates."
“Harrold Independent School District fulfilled a responsibility to their community and adopted a bathroom policy puts the safety of their students first,” Paxton said Wednesday at a press conference announcing the lawsuit. “Unfortunately the policy placed them at odds with federal directives handed down earlier this month. That means the district is in the crosshairs of Obama administration which has maintained it will punish anyone who doesn’t comply with their orders.”
. . . Since President Obama took office in 2008, Texas has sued his administration 40 times, the Tribune's Neena Satija, Ryan McCrimmon and Becca Aaronson wrote. Paxton has filed nine of those lawsuits while his predecessor, former Texas Attorney General and current Gov. Greg Abbott, filed 31 of them.
Of the 40 cases that have been filed against the feds by Texas, court documents show the Lone Star State winning six and withdrawing eight. In 10 cases, the courts ruled against the state. The remaining 16 cases are still pending.