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The Hillary Circus Is Coming To A Town Near You

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton launched a book tour on Tuesday to promote the release of her new memoir, Hard Choices, beginning at a Barnes & Noble in New York City. Hundreds of supporters flocked to the first stop in downtown Manhattan, bearing their “Hillary” t-shirts, hats, and stickers — and making the event an all-out spectacle.

The crowd began queuing up on Monday evening, and by 10am on Tuesday the line for admission stretched around the block. A Barnes & Noble employee told The National Memo that security began clearing people to enter at 8am, and within two hours nearly 200 were already inside awaiting Clinton’s arrival. Over 100 more supporters waited outside for their chance to meet the potential presidential candidate.

Several organizations that support a potential Clinton candidacy were also in attendance. The most notable was Ready For Hillary, a SuperPAC that bills itself as a “nationwide grassroots movement encouraging the former Secretary of State to run for president in 2016.”

The group arrived with over 30 volunteers on hand to collect signatures and hand out Ready For Hillary stickers, pins, signs, and bumperstickers.

Last week, the PAC unveiled the Hillary Bus. The tour bus, which was built in Iowa by union workers, made its debut at Tuesday’s event.

“In addition to generating excitement among millions of individuals who are already signed up with Ready for Hillary, the Bus is a mobile advertisement allowing our organization to reach new supporters in every corner of America as Hillary backers who see the Bus are prompted to sign up at readyforhillary.com,” the PAC’s website explains.

The Hillary Bus will follow Clinton’s book tour  on a cross-country trip through Chicago, Washington D.C., Austin, and San Francisco. Once the book tour concludes, the bus will continue traveling to “Democratic events, state fairs and community festivals, followed by college campuses and key midterm states in the fall.”

Smaller groups also turned out on Tuesday to voice their support for Clinton.

2016 Elect Hillary, a group that operates separately from RFH but donates some of its proceeds to the PAC, set up shop on the sidewalk selling its own independently designed t-shirts and tote bags. One t-shirt caricature depicts President Obama and former president Bill Clinton standing behind Hillary, giving her the thumbs-up on a presidential run.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pantsuit began as a joke in 2008 when Hillary Clinton told late-night host Conan O’Brien to stop making jokes about her wardrobe. A group of women in New York was listening, and formed the organization bearing that name, which remains dedicated to encouraging Mrs. Clinton to run for office. Women affiliated with the group passed out various pins on Tuesday, one of which read: “Clinton. Again.

Of course, not all in attendance were there to voice support. Fox News sent Jesse Watters — host of Watters World, a by-product of Bill O’Reilly’s O’Reilly Factor — to ask New Yorkers about Benghazi (of course). As The Wire reported, this wasn’t well received by many in attendance; volunteers deemed Watters “an idiot,” and called O’Reilly “a farce.”

The hype surrounding the mere chance that Hillary Clinton will run for president in 2016 is palpable — and a big business. Seventeen months before the 2016 general election, and before Clinton has announced her plans, the circus-like publicity surrounding Hard Choices provides a preview of the inevitable media circus to come.

Photo: @TheHillaryBus via Twitter

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Poll Roundup: Is McConnell Safe In Kentucky?

As the 2014 midterm elections draw closer, pollsters across the country will begin releasing masses of data and their predictions of who will control the House of Representatives, the Senate, and statehouses across the country. We’ll put those predictions in focus and provide a brief summary of key polls. Here’s our roundup from the week of May 25:

Oregon:

Pediatric neurosurgeon and GOP Senate candidate Monica Wehby won the May 20 primary by a 12-point advantage over her closest challenger, Representative Jason Conger (R-OR). November’s general election however, is unlikely to provide another easy win for the Wehby camp.

According to a new Public Policy Polling survey released on Thursday, incumbent Democratic senator Jeff Merkley is ahead by 50-36 among Oregon voters. While Merkley’s job performance number remains at a tepid 41 percent, the negative news surrounding Wehby’s divorce and accusations of stalking may give Merkley an extra boost in the polls.

Said PPP president Dean Debnam, “Democrats in Oregon start out ahead by double digits in the major races for this fall. The Republican candidates aren’t that well known at this point, so they do have room to grow. But for now Merkley and [Governor of Oregon John] Kitzhaber are strong favorites.”

Mississippi:

In last week’s roundup, we cited a Citizens United Political Victory Fund poll that had Tea Party state senator and candidate for U.S. Senate Chris McDaniel ahead of incumbent Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS). But a new poll shows fluctuating opinion among Mississippi voters.

According to a Harper Polling survey conducted this week, Cochran now holds a 5-point advantage over McDaniel—just outside the 4-point margin of error.

McDaniel is currently fighting allegations that individuals affiliated with his campaign illegally broke into a nursing home and videotaped Cochran’s wife, who suffers from dementia.

Harper Polling explained in its memo that although Cochran has a slight edge, he is slipping in the polls and faces a tough re-election fight, since the videotape scandal isn’t convincing undecided voters to vote against McDaniel. The memo also stated, “The McDaniel campaign has not persuaded voters to dislike Cochran, but the argument for a fresh start is proving compelling. Compelling enough for voters who are in fact fond of the six-term senator to give serious consideration to bringing him home.”

Kentucky:

While Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) easily defeated Tea Party challenger Matt Bevin in the state’s GOP primary, facing Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes will not be an effortless task for the incumbent senator.

Real Clear Politics shows McConnell with a mere 2-point average over Grimes, six months ahead of the race. Senate polls emerging from the Bluegrass State have been conflicting, however. Real Clear Politics also shows McConnell’s advantage over Grimes may be a growing trend. A poll conducted on May 7 was the first that had McConnell ahead, and his small lead seems to be increasing.

Arkansas:

Term limits placed on governors in Arkansas mean that Governor Mike Beebe (D-AR) will be leaving office after 2014. Former U.S. Representatives Mike Ross (D-AR) and Asa Hutchinson (R-AR) are vying for the open seat.

Hutchinson ran in 2006 against Beebe and was defeated by a 55-41 percent margin. According to a Rasmussen Reports poll released on Friday, Hutchinson may have the advantage come November. The poll conducted among likely voters has Hutchinson ahead by a 48-41 percent spread. Hutchinson may be able to hold the advantage over Ross until November and turn the Arkansas capitol red again.

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

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Controversy Hampers Rising GOP Star Wehby As Primary Approaches

Republicans in Oregon were hopeful that Salem-based pediatric neurosurgeon Monica Wehby could give Democrats a run for their money in the state’s 2014 Senate race. But the spotlight that has shone on the first-time candidate may have them rethinking whether Wehby is the formidable candidate they hoped for.

On Friday, Politico reported that Wehby was accused of stalking her ex-boyfriend Andrew Miller in April 2013. According to a police report, Miller claimed that Wehby entered his home without permission and even harassed his employees. He claims he now regrets calling the police, and that he and Wehby remain friends to this day.

Complicating matters, Miller’s company, Stimson Lumber, is one of the Wehby campaign’s primary donors. Miller also teamed up with Nevada businessman and sex hypnotherapist Loren Parks to create “If He Votes That Way in Salem, Imagine What He Will Do in Congress,” a committee directly dedicated to challenging Wehby’s primary opponent, state representative Jason Conger. The team privately funded attack ads against Conger, with Miller providing over $30,000 and Parks offering $70,000.

This prompted the Democratic Party of Oregon to file a formal complaint with the Federal Election Commission. The complaint alleges that given the relationship between Wehby and Miller, it is impossible that she did not know about their plan to release the ad. Whether Wehby was aware of the ads prior to their release, or if Miller — a private donor — is privy to campaign strategy, she may be in violation of election law and could be required to pay a fine.

Wehby’s troubles don’t end there. On Monday, she appeared before a judge to defend surgeries she performed on children under the care of Katherine Parker. Parker is accused of 18 counts of criminal mistreatment or first-degree assault for convincing doctors her children needed unnecessary surgery.

Conservative-leaning groups Wenzel Strategies and the Taxpayer Association of Oregon PAC both released polls in early May showing Wehby leading Conger by 21 and 20 points, respectively. But a mid-April survey from Democratic pollster Benenson Strategy Group found Conger leading by 2 percent, with most Oregon Republicans undecided.

Since Oregon employs a vote-by-mail system, many ballots were mailed and returned before the negative accusations against Wehby broke. But even if the incidents create only a minor backlash in the primary election, they could hurt her already difficult bid to unseat the Democratic incumbent, Senator Jeff Merkley.

In a general election matchup, a Daily Caller poll finds Wehby ahead of Senator Merkley 45-41 percent. Alternatively, Benenson shows Merkley leading by a 20 percent margin.

In any case, unseating the incumbent will be a challenging task in Oregon, where voters haven’t elected a Republican in a statewide election in 12 years.

Screenshot: Monica For Congress YouTube

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WATCH: Arizona GOP Candidate Accuses Democrats Of Mass Shootings

During a GOP congressional primary debate in Arizona’s 1st district on Saturday, candidate Gary Kiehne was asked what he would do to protect citizens’ Second Amendment rights.

In his response, he boasted to voters about owning more firearms than any of his competitors. He then went on to make a shocking argument — that Democrats are in fact responsible for pulling the trigger in 99 percent of mass shootings.

“It’s totally ridiculous if you look at all of the fiascos that have occurred, 99 percent of them have been by Democrats pulling their guns out and shooting people,” said Kiehne. “So, I don’t think you have a problem with the Republicans.”
Watch the video here, via The Raw Story

H/t: The Raw Story

Screenshot: YouTube

Poll Roundup: Can Arkansas Stay Blue?

As the 2014 midterm elections draw closer, pollsters across the country will begin releasing masses of data and their predictions of who will control the House of Representatives, the Senate, and statehouses across the country. We’ll put those predictions in focus and provide a brief summary of key polls. Here’s our roundup from the week of May 11:

Arkansas:

According to an NBC News/Marist poll released on Monday, incumbent Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR), leads challenger Representative Tom Cotton (R-AR) by 11 points (51-40 with a +/- 3.3 percent margin of error) ahead of the November general election.

Republicans were hopeful they would be able to grab this seat to bring them closer to a majority in the upper chamber. However, Cotton’s favorability statewide has dipped since entering the race, giving Pryor a bit of an edge. According to the same NBC News/Marist poll, Pryor has a 50 percent favorability rating among registered voters versus Cotton’s 38 percent among the same group.

The general election is still six months away, but Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, told NBC News: “These are competitive states [Arkansas, Georgia, and Kentucky] as far as the general [election] is concerned. Arkansas, which was once thought to be Democrats’ most vulnerable [contest for incumbent], may not be the most vulnerable.”

Georgia:

The race to fill the seat of retiring Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) has become a focus of this primary season. With a competitive collection of Republican candidates — and not one looking likely to receive more than 50 percent of the vote — chances are they are heading for a runoff election this summer.

According to Real Clear Politics the two top candidates, former Reebok CEO David Perdue, leading with 25 percent of the vote, and Representative Jack Kingston (R-GA), trailing him with 18 percent, represent the GOP’s best shots at winning this seat. Looking ahead to the primary on Tuesday, it may be a tough push for Georgia’s former Secretary of State Karen Handel (R) to grab the number two spot—she’s trailing Kingston by three points with 15.5 percent.

Republicans should hope for a Perdue/Kingston runoff come July, the GOP’s best-case scenario to rival Democratic challenger Michelle Nunn, businesswoman and daughter of former Senator Sam Nunn (D-GA). Polling against Nunn, Perdue currently holds an average 3-point lead. Against Kingston, Nunn has the edge with a 42 to 39 lead.

Nebraska:

Tea Party candidate Ben Sasse made headlines this week when he defeated his conservative opponents to secure the Republican nomination for retiring Senator Mike Johanns’ (R-NE) vacant seat. Sasse won with 49 percent of the vote, 27 points ahead of his closest competitor Omaha banker Sid Dinsdale.

According to a Rasmussen Reports poll released on Friday, this seat appears to be a safe hold for the GOP. Sasse currently leads Democratic opponent David Domina 51-34 percent with a +/- 4 percent margin of error. This has narrowed from Rasumussen’s first general election poll on this race in early April — Sasse at that time held a 25-point lead over Domina.

Iowa:

The Iowa primary is still a few weeks away, but new polling data out of Loras College on Thursday finds hog-castrating state senator Joni Ernst gaining steadily on her Republican rivals.

The director of the Loras College Poll, Christopher Budzisz,  said, “State Senator Ernst has captured momentum in this race and has opened up a substantial lead, according to our polling. Whether it was from her recent notable ad campaigns and endorsements, or not, she is the clear frontrunner now.”

Ernst has 30 percent of the vote with her closest challenger, energy company CEO Mark Jacobs, trailing by double digits.

According to Real Clear Politics, as recently as early April Ernst held a mere 2- point lead over Jacobs. Thanks to a recent campaign ad that attracted national attention, Ernst has been able to increase her name recognition among voters in the Hawkeye State. With the GOP primary nearing on June 3, it’s unlikely other GOP candidates will be able to catch up.

Photo: uacescomm via Flickr

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This Week In Crazy: God Wrote The Constitution, And The Rest Of The Worst Of The Right

Welcome to “This Week In Crazy,” The National Memo’s weekly update on the wildest attacks, conspiracy theories, and other loony behavior from the perpetually unhinged right wing. Starting our countdown:

5. Operation American Spring

Screenshot: YouTube

Screenshot: YouTube

Operation American Spring, the revolutionary group dedicated to removing the “despotic and tyrannical federal leadership” from office, makes a return appearance to our list this week after “winning” the coveted number one spot last time.

These self-styled patriots have a big day ahead of them on Friday as they make their way to Washington, D.C. to carry out their coup against the federal government.

A leader of the group, retired Army colonel Harry Riley, said, “We are calling for the removal of Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, and Eric Holder as a start toward constitutional restoration.” Their objective is simple — to preserve the very existence of America and restore our country to its free citizens by removing the “greedy, self-serving occupant[s] of the White House or Congress” and “removing the flea infestation that is sucking the blood out of America.”

Riley is optimistic that he’ll get a decent showing for the coup d’état on Friday. “We have well over 1 million militia members mobilizing; bikers, truckers, hunters, Tea Party groups—citizens across America. No, I don’t think 10 million [participants] is high at all.”

It gets crazier: Another right-wing blogger warned other patriots that Friday’s protest is itself a nefarious plot. David Chase Taylor wrote, “In essence, ‘Operation American Spring’ is a trap to set up well-meaning ‘patriots’ [his scare quotes] for acts of state-sponsored terror so that Obama’s political opposition can be vilified and a civil war can commence.”

Taylor continued: “It is during one or both of these seemingly harmless events that a state-sponsored coup d’état and/or terror attacks will likely take place. Although terror plots are always subject to change, most likely target is Washington, D.C., namely the Obama White House and the Washington Monument.”

Feeling inspired yet? Watch here for more, via Operation American Spring’s YouTube:

H/t: RawStory

4. Louie Gohmert

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

This Week In Crazy veteran Representative Louie Gohmert (R-TX) makes the cut yet again.

Speaking on the House floor, Gohmert preached against the “intellectual fascism” plaguing American society. “Now, with this new intellectual fascism that has arisen in our universities, some of them — far too many of them, actually — say: ‘If you disagree with our position, we don’t want you here. We want you eliminated. We don’t want you to have work. We want your family defiled. We just don’t want you to succeed in any way whatsoever.”

Gohmert was furious over two recent instances where he believes liberals used the same discriminatory policies characteristic of Nazism: Brandeis University’s decision to rescind an honorary degree before awarding it to former Dutch politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali, owing to her remarks bashing Islam and Muslims; and the cancelation of HGTV’s Flip It Forward in a backlash against anti-gay statements by its hosts, David and Jason Benham.

“We stand up for those things, but there is no hate for individuals, yet those who are the most hate-filled, who do not follow the teachings of Jesus, seek to impose or to project upon those of us who are Christians–and some orthodox Jews and even atheists or secularists like Ms. Ayaan Hirsi Ali —their own hate, their own intolerance,” said Gohmert. “We really need to understand what is going on.” Then he continued:

It is not tolerance that becomes intolerant and says a woman who was tortured — I don’t know what else you would call some of the procedures that were done to her most private areas in the name of religion. It was not voluntary. She was ordered into a marriage she wanted no part of. She did not want to have to be covered up and stay in a back room and never own property and never drive. She kind of thought, like most of us do in America — except for the intolerant fascist liberals – that, ‘Gee, women ought to be able to own property, we ought to be able to marry whom we wish, we ought to be able to espouse our own views without being called hatemongers.’

See it for yourself, via The Raw Story:

H/t: The Raw Story

3. Sean Hannity

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Fox News Channel and syndicated radio host Sean Hannity announced on Thursday that he will fulfill his promise to pack up his Long Island home and leave the state of New York.

Hannity made the threat in January after New York governor Andrew Andrew Cuomo (D) said in a radio interview that “extreme conservatives, who are right-to-life, pro-assault weapon, anti-gay… have no place in the state of New York.”

“I can’t wait to get out of here. I really can’t,” Hannity responded. “I don’t want to pay their 10 percent state tax anymore. I live in the second-highest property-taxed county in the entire country in Nassau County. I can’t wait to sell my house to somebody who wants it. I can’t wait to pay no state income tax down in Florida or Texas.”

He ended his temper tantrum by promising: “Gov. Cuomo, I’m going to leave and I’m taking all of my money with me – every single solitary penny.” 

Hannity continued this tirade for months, insisting he was a victim of Cuomo’s intolerant views. The conclusion came on Thursday, during an interview with Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), when Hannity  announced, “I’m going to Florida, and I’m going to get a little Texas ranch. I’ve decided I’m leaving New York when my kid graduates high school.”

2. Tom DeLay

Photo: Jimmy Bramlett via Flickr

Photo: Jimmy Bramlett via Flickr

This week’s runner-up award goes to former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX). Earlier this year, DeLay explained who he believes actually wrote the U.S. Constitution — God.  DeLay said in an interview that the American people seemed to have forgotten “that God created this nation [and] that He wrote the Constitution, that it’s based on Biblical principles.”

The former House Republican boss, an unsavory figure known as “The Hammer” in his heyday, returned to this religious revelation on Wednesday, when he called for “a revolution for the Constitution.” DeLay said, “The Consitution was created by God. I got attacked just a few weeks ago by the left because I said God wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and they ripped me to shreds over that one.”

The radio interviewer quickly added: “They need to read some of the founders’ quotes and how they said you could see the figure of God in what happened.”

DeLay agreed: “Alexander Hamilton himself said that the Declaration and the Constitution were written as with a sunbeam in the whole volume of human nature by the hand of divinity itself. So I’m just quoting him.” 

While Hamilton did in fact make that statement, notice that it doesn’t refer directly to the founding documents. That’s because he penned those words in The Farmer Refuted in February 1775 — a full 12 years before the Constitution was drafted and a year before the founders penned the Declaration of Independence.

Listen to DeLay’s remarks here, via Right Wing Watch

[sound width=”166″ height=”100″ id=”https://soundcloud.com/rightwingwatch/tom-delay-defends-himself-by-spreading-false-history”]

H/t: Right Wing Watch

1. Joel Gilbert

This week’s “winner” is right-wing activist and producer Joel Gilbert — for his new film There’s No Place Like Utopia.

Gilbert’s latest movie is a bizarre reworking of The Wizard of Oz, in which President Obama brings Communism to the U.S. by introducing social welfare programs and immigration.

Watch the trailer here, via Right Wing Watch:

In the movie, Gilbert interviews far-right authors including Jack Cashill, Dr. Jerome Corsi, and David Horowitz.

According to its website, “There’s No Place Like Utopia is a humorous and horrifying exploration of Progressivism, amnesty for illegals, race relations, Islam in America, political correctness, and Barack Obama himself, who promises to ‘remake the world as it should be’.” 

Gilbert’s first movie, Dreams from My Real Father, aims to convince viewers that President Obama’s actual father was a former Communist Party activist named Frank Marshall Davis — and that he tried covering up this embarrassing fact by getting a nose job

H/t: Right Wing Watch

Screenshot: YouTube

Check out previous editions of This Week In Crazy here. Think we missed something? Let us know in the comments!

Chris Christie: Everyone But Me To Blame For New Jersey Economy

In an interview at the Peter G. Peterson Foundation Fiscal Summit on Wednesday afternoon, Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) answered for the significant budget problems in New Jersey that continue to worsen on his watch.

Moderator Bob Schieffer of CBS News wasted no time questioning Christie’s strategy to combat the dismal economic reports coming out of the Garden State in recent weeks. “The news is not so good about New Jersey,” Schieffer said. “You’re facing a shortfall in your budget of $807 million, credit rating was recently downgraded again, there’s concern the state will be unable to make its pension payments, you’ve got low job growth when compared to some other states—so I guess I’ll just begin with a general question, where do you start? Can you fix this and can you do all of it at once?”

Recall that in 2012, Governor Christie told voters that he would change New Jersey’s economy and return it to a path of prosperity, but the facts point to more stagnation than progress. From March 2013 to March 2014, New Jersey ranked last in national job growth; it is currently the country’s fifth worst state economy; and for the sixth time during Christie’s tenure in office, Moody’s Investor Service has downgraded the state’s credit rating.

Christie defended the actions his administration has taken thus far, remarking that “the comeback we’ve made has been exceptional but not complete.”

The governor went on to blame—well, anyone but himself. “I’m trying in the last five years to fix problems that we’ve accumulated over the last 20,” Christie said.

DNC National Press Secretary Michael Czin, a persistent Christie critic,  issued the following response on Wednesday afternoon: “For all his bluster and claims of straight talk, the bottom line is that Chris Christie will deflect, blame and attack others on nearly every issue—from Bridgegate to his budget crisis—while failing to take responsibility for his miserable record.”

Christie began by blaming the state’s economists, whom he says he pressed on how they were so wrong on their predictions. “They said, ‘we just missed it.’ And the great thing about an economist is that’s all they have to say.” But, he continued, “I’m the one that has to fix your mess.”

His predecessors were next on the governor’s list of reasons the New Jersey economy has faltered. When asked about the state’s failure to make pension payments, Christie responded, “Of that [owed] $1.6 billion, only $650 million is for the current pension bill for this year. $1 billion is for unaccrued liability that my predecessors didn’t pay. For a decade New Jersey governors made no pension payments.” After naming the former governors he views as the true culprits, Christie reasoned that “my job is not only to pay for what I’m accumulating now, but also to pay back what they never paid.”

The Obama administration didn’t escape unscathed, either. Christie blustered that the only way to avoid future economic trouble is to “stop the insanity” of entitlement spending and health benefits. He blamed the Affordable Care Act for harming the state’s economy.

One thing Christie will not do to balance the budget? Raise taxes. “The top 10 income tax payers in New Jersey pay more than the bottom two million filers,” he explained. “If they get up and decide to hang out with [Republican governor] Rick Scott in Florida, I’m losing the equivalent in revenue what the bottom 2 million pay, that’s why I’m not raising taxes.”

Meanwhile, Jersey residents will have to stay tuned for Christie’s concrete plan to fix the state’s budget and economy. He announced  that his administration will be releasing a new strategy next week.

In a separate question, Schieffer asked the GOP favorite if he is considering a run in 2016 and when he’ll be deciding. “Yes and later” was his response.

Governor Christie’s road to the White House is increasingly fraught with self-inflicted obstacles. If “Bridgegate” damaged his prospects of becoming a 2016 contender, it will be interesting to see how the stain of an abysmal state economy will affect his chances.

Watch the full interview here:

Photo: Fiscal Summit via Twitter

Cliven Bundy Endorses Armed, Illegal ATV Protest

Cliven Bundy, the racist Nevada rancher who became a right-wing hero for refusing to pay more than $1 million in owed grazing fees, won’t be surrendering his 15 minutes of fame just yet.

On Saturday, Bundy advised his supporters to take part in another anti-government protest in neighboring Blanding, Utah to take back federally protected public land.

The protest was organized by San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman (R-UT), who had called on protesters to join him in “assert[ing] county jurisdiction in the face of federal ‘overreach.’”

Bundy agreed and in an email to supporters stated, “We need to help the people of Blanding re-establish who is in control of the land. This is your next stand. Will you be there to help them like you helped us?”

The disagreement over access to Recapture Canyon has been brewing for years. A plan to build a 14-mile path for all-terrain vehicles has been in the works for over eight years, but no real progress has ever been made towards its completion. In December the Bureau of Land Management sought public input on a proposed path, but that was the extent of its effort to move this plan forward and appease the ATV enthusiasts in the area.

While Recapture Canyon is public land open to hikers and horseback riders, the BLM closed the cultural site to any motorized recreational use in 2007 after extensive damage was done to archaeological sites by ATV riders using unauthorized trails.

“Recapture Canyon is public land belonging to all Americans and contains ancient cultural sites and artifacts that are at serious risk of being destroyed or damaged,” BLM director Juan Palma said in a news release at the time. Recapture Canyon is the homeland of ancestral Puebloans, and contains archaeological evidence that proves the land was occupied for at least 2,000 years.

At Bundy and Lyman’s behest, roughly 200 people, some armed, assembled at a park near the canyon where Lyman proposed taking an illegal ATV ride through the protected land. Some objected, but Lyman declared that the land belongs to the people, and they therefore have the right to ride despite the long-standing law. Bundy’s sons Ryan and Aamon were also in attendance. It was Aamon who reportedly urged riders to follow Lyman and take part in the protest.

Protestors mounted their ATVs and followed Lyman through the preserved area of Recapture Canyon against the direct request of BLM director Palma.

Mark Maryboy, a former Navajo Nation Council delegate said, “Those ancient sites are the equivalent to churches. It’s very disappointing that they have no respect for Native American culture.”

Governor Gary Herbert (R-UT) released a statement saying he would be working with the BLM during its investigations and urged Utahns to “uphold the law and not do anything that could disrupt public safety.”

Former BLM director Patrick Shea told The Los Angeles Times that he has always been afraid of violence perpetrated by those with anti-government sentiments. Shea said of these citizen militias, “They’re just roaming bands of loners who want to pretend they’re 19th-century cowboys. They scare me. If someone gets drunk or angry and decides to use their weapon, then we have bloodshed. And there’s always a loose nut who’s going to show how much testosterone he has.”

People like Bundy and Lyman believe their anti-government views and protests are the beginning of a movement, even comparing their actions to those of Rosa Parks. The precedent that Bundy and now Lyman, an elected public official, are setting is not only misguided but dangerous as well.

Screenshot: YouTube

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Poll Roundup: Are Democrats Done In Montana?

As the 2014 midterm elections draw closer, pollsters across the country will begin releasing masses of data and their predictions of who will control the House of Representatives, the Senate, and statehouses across the country. We’ll put those polls in focus and provide a brief summary of some key polls. Here’s a poll roundup from the week of May 4:

Montana:

According to a Hickman Analytics poll released on Thursday, Montana is shaping up to be an easy win for the GOP come November. The poll shows that Representative Steve Daines (R-MT) holding a 12-point advantage over Democratic senator John Walsh.

President Obama appointed former senator Max Baucus (D-MT) — who had announced that he would not seek re-election — as U.S. ambassador to China in December. In February, Governor Steve Bullock (D-MT) appointed Walsh, then the state’s lieutenant governor, to complete Baucus’ term. Walsh had already been the favorite for the Democratic nomination to replace Baucus. It appears that his months of incumbency have not helped him gain much traction in deep-red Montana, however.

According to the same Hickman poll, Daines holds a 48 percent approval rating across the state. That’s a 10 points better than Walsh or President Obama, who lost the state by 14 points in 2012.

Kentucky:

Polls show Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) with a wide lead over Tea Party challenger Matt Bevin in Kentucky’s May 20 Republican primary — but the general election continues to pose a challenge for the incumbent senator seeking his fifth term.

The most recent Hickman Analytics poll out of Kentucky has Senator McConnell with a narrow 1-point advantage over his Democratic challenger, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. McConnell holds 46 percent of the vote among likely voters, versus Grimes’ 45 percent — well within the poll’s +/- 4.4 percent margin of error.

McConnell and Grimes have been running even throughout the campaign, and all signs point to a tight race until November. Although Kentucky is a reliably red state, the minority leader’s approval rating has fallen as low as 32 percent in February, and remains comparable to President Obama’s in the Bluegrass State.

Georgia:

An InsiderAdvantage poll released on Wednesday confirmed previous surveys showing former Reebok CEO David Perdue jumping ahead of his challengers for Georgia’s open Senate seat. The poll shows Perdue with a solid 8 percent advantage ahead of the May 20 primary.

Georgia’s former Secretary of State Karen Handel (R) and Representative Jack Kingston (R-GA) remain virtually tied for second. InsiderAdvantage CEO Matt Towery is not ready to count out Handel and Kingston from gaining the Republican nomination. If they secure enough of the overall vote during the primary and force a runoff, Towery is convinced they may be able to pull ahead of Perdue for the Republican nomination.

“One thing that might lower Perdue’s actual Election Day performance is his lack of a major voter turnout machine,” Towery said. “Both Handel and Kingston have natural political bases of support, and they can and will come out to vote. The next week could see several more shifts as voters now get down to actually paying attention.”

Connecticut:

Incumbent governor Dannel Malloy (D-CT) faces a close election against Republican frontrunner and 2010 challenger Tom Foley.

A Quinnipiac poll released on Friday finds Malloy and Foley in a 43-43 percent tie, with a +/- 2.4 percent margin of error. Governor Malloy has a slight image advantage, with a 46 percent favorability rating; Foley’s is just 36 percent.

Republicans have been criticizing Malloy for his handling of the state budget and taxes, and for failing to deliver a promised $55 per person tax refund. The Quinnipiac survey demonstrates this may not hold any significant weight with voters when they head to the polls, however.

“Economic issues are dragging Governor Malloy down,” said Quinnipiac University poll director Douglas Schwartz, PhD. “A bright spot for Malloy is that voters think he has strong leadership qualities and is honest and trustworthy.”

Malloy won the 2010 gubernatorial race against Foley by less than 1 percent of the vote.

Photo by “jimmywayne” via Flickr

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Lawyers Slam Controversial Republican Attack Ad

The South Carolina Bar Association has condemned an ad that brutally attacks Vincent Sheheen, the Democratic candidate for governor in South Carolina, for legal cases he took on during his time as a criminal defense attorney.

The Republican Governors Association released an ad on Monday, saying, “Sheheen defended violent criminals who abused women, and went to work setting them free. So next time Sheheen says he’ll protect women from violent criminals, ask him: What about the ones who paid him?”

That angered South Carolina Bar Association President Alice Paylor, who expressed her disapproval in a Tuesday press release.

“The political season has blossomed, and a few people are again attacking the Constitutional principles that are essential to a free society,” she said. “Every day lawyers step up to the plate and ensure that each citizen is afforded the rights guaranteed to us all and essential to protect our liberties. It would be refreshing to see comment on the merits of positions rather than attacks seeking to evoke a gut response.”

“The truth is that each and every one of us has a professional duty to ensure that justice is not rationed but is available to everyone,” Paylor added. “It is the job of a criminal defense lawyer to ensure his or her client has a fair trial, not to defend the crime.”

The South Carolina Bar Association is a non-partisan organization and typically does not intervene in political races. The RGA ad, however, triggered Paylor to announce the launch of a website — sclawyerfacts.org — which is aimed at “refut[ing] the misinformation that is being spread and provid[ing] education about the legal profession and the service provided by lawyers to the citizens of South Carolina.”

The RGA continues to defend the ad and refuses to take it off air.

New Jersey governor Chris Christie (R), the RGA’s current chairman and a lawyer by trade, hasn’t personally commented on the ad. But a lawyer representing the Christie campaign and the New Jersey Republican State Committee during the federal investigation into “Bridgegate” has criticized the spot, calling it a “disgrace.”

“The people who talk incessantly about American exceptionalism ought to demonstrate some understanding—and some respect—for what makes our system truly admirable: That includes the willingness of lawyers to stand up for their clients no matter how ugly the allegation. But a lawyer is only ever an advocate; he’s not a co-conspirator or an enabler,” Robert D. Luskin of the law firm Patton Boggs told The Huffington Post.

Incumbent governor Nikki Haley (R) has said that her Democratic opponent certainly had a right to represent the accused, but added: “Just like South Carolinians have the right to know exactly who Vince is and who he chose to represent when they vote for governor.”

Watch the RGA ad here:

h/t: The Maddow Blog

Screenshot: YouTube

Poll: GOP Movement To Repeal Obamacare Is Dead

In mid-March, House Republicans took their 52nd vote in 38 months to repeal the Affordable Care Act. While a majority of the House voted in favor of the bill, however, public support for these continued efforts to repeal the health care law is progressively shrinking.

According to a Kaiser Foundation poll released on Wednesday, only 18 percent of Americans still wish to see the law repealed and not replaced — 11 percent want to repeal the law and replace it with a Republican alternative, 10 percent want it to remain as is, and a 49 percent majority want to keep it and improve it.

It seems repeated GOP efforts to defund the law have hit a standstill, representing a possible warning to Republicans who exclusively focus on the ACA in the upcoming midterm elections. According to the poll, a growing number of Americans have accepted the ACA as the law of the land. Some 53 percent of those polled now say they are tired of debating the already implemented law, and would prefer to move on to other important issues.

In fact, 47 percent of those who identify as Republicans — as well as those who already hold an unfavorable opinion of the health care law — agree that Congress should focus on other issues and stop debating Obamacare. Kaiser Poll half-say-they-are-tired-of-hearing-about-aca-debate-polling Though a majority of the population remains opposed to the president’s health care law, this is a narrowing bloc. Public opinion of the ACA has taken a positive turn for the first time since the glitchy website rollout. According to the Kaiser Foundation, 46 percent hold an unfavorable view of the ACA while 38 percent remain in favor. The current 8-point margin has tapered considerably since January, when it stood at 16 percent.

Specific provisions are very popular — 80 percent of Americans are in favor of allowing young adults to remain on their parents’ health insurance until the age of 26. Furthermore, a bipartisan 79 percent favor closing the Medicare “donut hole” for prescription drug coverage; 77 percent support subsidy assistance to low-income Americans to purchase coverage, as well as the provision that eliminates out-of-pocket costs for preventative services; and 74 percent back Medicaid expansion.

Republicans have had some successes in their attempts to discredit the law — 46 percent of Americans falsely believe that the ACA would allow undocumented immigrants to receive government assistance to purchase health insurance coverage. The mythical “death panel” is also a common misconception; though this has been largely corrected, 34 percent still believe that the government would create a panel of individuals responsible for deciding end-of-life care for Medicare recipients.

House Republicans are surely strategizing vote number 53 to overturn the law, but the numbers remain stacked against them. Americans are becoming more accepting of Obamacare, ready to move on from the repeal debate, and over four million people have enrolled in health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

The Kaiser Foundation poll surveyed 1,504 adults nationally from March 11-17, and has a +/- 3 percent margin of error. Full poll results can be accessed here.

Poll: Congressional Republicans Gaining Traction Over Democrats

The number of Americans who are likely to vote for a Republican candidate over a Democrat in the 2014 congressional elections has increased a net 11 points in the last month alone, according to a Fox News poll released on Wednesday.

In October, Fox News’ generic congressional ballot found that 45 percent supported Democratic candidates, and 37 percent backed Republicans. Today, Republicans lead 43 percent to 40 percent.

A majority of Americans blamed the October government shutdown on the GOP, which hurt the party’s poll numbers. But the trajectory has changed now that the government has reopened, and the botched rollout of the Affordable Care Act marketplace has taken over the headlines.

The GOP still maintains a dismally low approval rating among Americans — 73 percent of voters disapprove of Republicans’ job performance, while a mere 21 approve. Democrats are slightly more popular, but their approval rating has also slipped from 33 percent in October to 29 percent in this most recent poll — 65 percent disapprove of their overall job performance.

Chris Anderson, a Democratic pollster who conducted this poll alongside Republican pollster Daron Shaw, explained that the shift was caused by Independent voters and Republicans backing their incumbent representatives.

“Voters aren’t ready to say they think the GOP is doing a good job overall, but are more willing to vote for ‘their’ Republican,” he explained.

The poll serves as a warning sign for Democrats, who remain hopeful of regaining the House in 2014. Not only does the Obamacare marketplace continue to face technical glitches, but the president has also had to apologize to Americans who received cancellation notices from their health insurance companies after he promised they could keep their health insurance if they liked it. And there is reason to believe that things will get worse for the party politically.

President Obama acknowledged as much during a press conference on Thursday. “There is no doubt that our failure to roll out the ACA smoothly has put a burden on Democrats, whether they’re running or not,” he said.

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

Study Confirms Mediterranean Diet Improves Health Later In Life

The results of a 15-year study from the Annals of Internal Medicine released on Tuesday confirm the long-lasting benefits of the acclaimed Mediterranean Diet on physical, internal, and mental health.

The study, which followed over 10,000 women predominantly over the age of 50, found that women who began following the diet in midlife  “had about a 40 percent greater chance of living beyond the age of 70 and doing so healthily than those whose diets were least like the Mediterranean.”

The research mainly focused on women who began eating a mostly American style diet—steak and potatoes—and switched to the Mediterranean Diet approach.

Results show that Mediterranean-style eating habits not only improve cholesterol and blood sugar levels, but also protect against heart disease, Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s disease, and may even lower the risk of developing cancer.

Chris Crowley, co-author of the Younger Next Year book series, told The National Memo, “The world of nutrition and diet is agonizing. The beauty of going Mediterranean is that this stuff tastes wonderful and it truly works. How good is that? Dig in.”

The key to benefiting from a Mediterranean-style diet is just making minor changes to what we already prepare and consume. Chef Michael Friedman of the Red Hen restaurant in Washington, D.C. told NPR that switching from butter to olive oil is a great start, as is increasing daily intake of vegetables.

Other elements of the Mediterranean Diet include nuts, fruits, whole grains, and fish, while decreasing red and processed meats. Researchers also found a moderate amount of alcohol is also a healthy complement to this regimen.

According to Meir Stampfer, co-author of the study, diet also influences our mood. “I’m eating more nuts, berries and fruit, and I’m happier,” Stampfer says.

Click here for Mediterranean diet style recipes from the Mayo Clinic.

Photo: GarryKnight via Flickr

Poll: Americans Don’t Want Republicans In Control Of Congress

As a result of the government shutdown and debt ceiling debacles, the GOP has put itself in a rather vulnerable position as midterm elections approach.

A USA Today/Princeton Survey Research Poll finds that 47 percent of Americans say that Congress would be changed for the better if every member were replaced in the next election cycle. This is an increase from before “wave elections” in 1994 and 2006, when 40 and 42 percent of Americans respectively wanted to re-elect the entire U.S. Congress.

Only 4 percent of respondents say that replacing a majority of elected leaders in Congress would actually make it worse.

Conservative voters’ view of their own party is clearly deteriorating — 52 percent of Republican or Republican-leaning voters agree that Congress would be better if a majority of the current members were replaced.

Respondents also agree that Republicans deserve the blame for the government shutdown, by a 39 to 19 percent margin — 36 percent say both parties are equally responsible. There’s little division among Democrats — 8 in 10 believe Republicans are to blame for the crisis.

Contrary to Republicans’ expectations, the Tea Party-led effort to topple Obamacare actually increased support for the president’s signature health care law.

CNN/ORC reports that 53 percent of Americans support the Affordable Care Act and hope to see its implementation continue. Prior to the government shutdown, that number was just 49 percent.

Similarly, a Washington Post/ABC News poll last month found that voters opposed the health care law by a 42 to 52 percent margin. That number has narrowed in their most recent poll, which finds that 46 percent support the Affordable Care Act and 49 percent still stand in opposition.

As Steven Schier, a political scientist at Carleton College and co-author of American Government and Popular Discontent told USA Today“This is a real warning about the GOP pursuing this strategy in 2014. The telling moment will come in January and February, when we face another debt limit and a possible shutdown.”

With budget talks commencing in three months and midterm elections only a year away, the GOP is in need of damage control. The numerous attempts to repeal Obamacare—a strategy a growing number of Americans oppose—is already alienating voters. And according to polling data, the Tea Party tactic of shutting down the government seems to be something they could pay for in House and Senate seats in 2014.

Photo: SpeakerBoehner via Flickr

Report: Schwarzenegger Considering Presidential Run

Is former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) eyeing the White House in 2016?

The New York Post reported on Friday that the actor-turned-politician-turned-actor has been openly discussing a potential run for president. But Schwarzenegger faces one major obstacle: the U.S. Constitution.

Schwarzenegger was born in Austria, and became a U.S. citizen in 1983. For any other elected office, U.S. citizenship would suffice. But Article II, Section One of the U.S. Constitution clearly states that only natural-born citizens are eligible to become president.

According to the Post’s source, “Schwarzenegger has been talking openly about working on getting the Constitutional rules changed so he can run for president in 2016. He is ready to file legal paperwork to challenge the rules.”

“The law is very clear,” Columbia University Law School Professor Michael Dorf told The Post, “but it’s not 100 percent clear that the courts would enforce that law rather than leave it to the political process.”

If Schwarzenegger is in fact lobbying to change the law that would prevent him from running, it would require congressional approval. Both the House and the Senate would have to approve the Constitutional amendment by a two-thirds majority.

While Republicans have eagerly questioned Barack Obama’s eligibility to serve as president due to their enduring certainty that he was born in Kenya, they are less skeptical of their fellow GOP members, even those who were undoubtedly not born in the U.S. In 2004, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced a Constitutional amendment that would allow Schwarzenegger to run.

Of course, it’s possible that Schwarzenegger is less interested in a presidential run than in a bit of free publicity. Schwarzenegger has recently been busy promoting his new movie, Escape Plan, which hit theaters on Friday.

Photo: Port of San Diego Via Flickr

Progressive Leaders Honored At Roosevelt Institute’s Four Freedoms Awards

RooseveltAwards_pbe_01_161013

The Franklin D. Roosevelt Institute honored five recipients for demonstrating a commitment to FDR’s progressive principles, at the Four Freedoms Awards in New York on Wednesday night.

Award recipients included economist and author Paul Krugman, who was awarded the Freedom of Speech and Expression Medal “for challenging economic orthodoxy and advancing a more equitable vision of society,” and NETWORK director Sister Simone Campbell, who won the Freedom of Worship Medal “for championing social justice in the health care reform debate.”

President Roosevelt’s granddaughter Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Roosevelt Institute, provided the welcoming remarks. Referring to the legacy her grandparents left behind, she said, “During the painful days of the last two weeks, how often have we longed for their kind of vision, hope, and leadership in government. And how often have we realized that their legacy resides in us, in you, and in me. And that as FDR said, ‘Government is ourselves, and not an alien power over us.’”

“These awards celebrate the ideals that my grandparents believed in and worked for,” she continued. “They recognize that that work is still ongoing, and they call each of us to renewed commitment.”

King’s Commissioner of Zeeland and chair of The Roosevelt Foundation in the Netherlands, Johannes Polman, used his remarks to explain how this year’s recipients have demonstrated their dedication to FDR’s Four Freedoms. “The 2013 Four Freedoms Awards laureates are outstanding examples to us as ambassadors and advocates of the Four Freedoms  and the great course they represent,” he said. “Our world needs people like you, people with compassion and commitment.”

Krugman accepted his award with humility and appreciation, calling himself an “FDR groupie,” and saying that Roosevelt is a “model of what a leader should be.”

“I’m feeling quite abashed in the company of the other honorees,” Krugman continued. “They are heroes, they are people who have done amazing things and taken huge risks, and I just write stuff in a comfortable office and I even get paid for it. And it’s an incredible privileged existence, but if there’s one thing that FDR taught us is that privilege brings with it duty.”

Sister Campbell explained how her work upheld FDR’s vision for democracy.

“We hold an obligation to ensure that all live in dignity, that all farm workers know that they can raise their families in dignity, that no one suffers gun violence or any other form of violence in our cities,” she said. “We have an obligation to come together as a community. And what I have learned that faith can do is faith can reduce the fear. Because fear is what drives us apart.”

The other 2013 Four Freedom award recipients were Ameena Matthews, who received the Freedom from Fear Medal for her work as a Senior Violence Interrupter for Cure Violence in Chicago; the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, who receieved the Freedom from Want Medal for their work to provide fair wages for farm workers across the country; and poet and farmer Wendell Berry, who was awarded the Freedom Medal for using his platform to advocate that “humans must learn to live in harmony with the natural rhythms of the earth or perish.”

The inspiration for the Four Freedoms awards originates from Roosevelt’s 1941 State of the Union Address to Congress. Roosevelt’s speech, as Anne Roosevelt explained, outlined “his vision of the core principles of a strong and vibrant democracy. These have come to be known as the Four Freedoms.”

The Four Freedoms Awards began in 1963 and are awarded in alternating years by the Roosevelt Institute in the U.S. and Roosevelt Stichting in the Netherlands. Past recipients have included Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, Presidents Truman, Carter, and Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Studs Terkel, and Barbara Ehrenreich, among others.

You can watch the Four Freedoms Awards Ceremony here.

Photo: Prisca Edwards via Roosevelt Institute

Former Halliburton Manager Pleads Guilty To Destroying Evidence In Deepwater Oil Spill

Deepwater Horizon

A former Halliburton manager pleaded guilty in a U.S. District Court on Tuesday to intentionally destroying evidence connected with the 2010 Deepwater Horizon rig oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Prior to the 2010 spill, Halliburton was hired by British Petroleum to run tests on the “centralizers,” plugs that would prevent such a spill from ever happening. Halliburton suggested using 21 centralizers, but BP used just six.

Anthony Badalamenti was the cementing technology director overseeing the Macondo Prospect. The Macondo well was the site of the rig explosion that killed 11 employees and sent 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, setting off the largest offshore oil spill in the history of the United States.

On Tuesday, Badalamenti pleaded guilty to ordering two Halliburton employees to delete the findings of a review regarding the cementing work done at the Macondo well, which was completed after the spill.

Badalamenti isn’t the first person to be charged in connection with the Deepwater Horizon incident. Two well site leaders will face trial for manslaughter charges after ignoring high pressure readings resulting in the explosion and subsequent death of the 11 rig employees. A BP engineer is being charged with deleting correspondence about the oil and gas company’s response to the spill. And a former BP executive is also charged with keeping information from Congress about the actual amount of oil being released into the Gulf during the 87 days it took to contain the spill.

Badalamenti’s sentencing date is set for January 21. If found guilty he could face the maximum sentence of one year in prison.

Photo: ideum via Flickr