What’s Good, March 11 to March 24
Good News from the ballot box!
- As you may have heard a wee bit about, Democrat Conor Lamb won the special election for the Congressional House District PA-18, which had been vacated by the resignation of vocally anti-choice and suicidally hypocritical GOP Rep. Tim Murphy. Trump carried this district by a 20% margin in 2016; it had been considered so red that the Democrats didn’t even bother to field a House candidate there in 2014 and 2016.
- Bonus high-fives to Indivisible members who helped text out the vote for Lamb, who won by less than 1,000 votes!
- Later the same week, musing on the possibility of widespread GOP election losses later this year, Republican Senator Jeff Flake said that “If [Republicans] are going to cloister ourselves in the alternative truth of an erratic leader, if we are going to refuse to live in a world that everyone else lives in … then my party might not deserve to lead.”
Good News from the courts!
- Two GOP-directed recall campaigns threatening to swing control of the Nevada State Senate from Democrat to Republican were significantly weakened when a District Judge ruled that the Nevada Secretary of State must honor requests from recall petition signatories who are now asking to recant their signatures.
- A Federal court and the Supreme Court itself rejected Republican challenges to the new congressional map imposed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for the 2018 elections.
- A state circuit judge ordered Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who has been stalling on holding special elections to fill two vacant state legislature seats, to schedule the damn elections already.
- A federal district court denied a request by Trump and the American Petroleum Institute to dismiss a lawsuit holding up President Trump’s attempt to repeal a ban on new offshore oil and gas drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans. (In other words, new drilling = still not allowed.)
- A district judge granted a temporary restraining order blocking Mississippi’s new law banning abortions after 15 weeks. The restraining order allows Mississippi’s only remaining abortion clinic to remain open— at least for now.
Good News from Congress! (what?!?)
- The Democrats kicked the Republicans’ asses in the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill negotiations. With mere hours to spare before yet another government shutdown, the Republican Congress passed, and the Republican president signed, a bill that while by no means perfect generally reads like a Democrat wish list.
- Democrat wish list items included in the bill:
- Increased funding for the IRS, NIH, Census Bureau, National Park Service, and major public infrastructure projects
- An explicit ban on employers taking their employees’ tips (an insane practice that, believe it or not, Trump’s Department of Labor has publicly advocated for)
- Grants for states to upgrade voting equipment
- Funding for the FBI to fight Russian cyberattacks
- The STOP School Violence Act, which appropriates funding to help students, school personnel, and law enforcement identify and avert potential school shootings, as well as to invest in physical security improvements at schools.
- But the funding is explicitly prohibited from being used to arm teachers!
- Improved gun background checks and the lifting of a ban on gun violence research by the CDC
- Republican wish list items not included in the bill:
- Anything more than a pittance for Trump’s border wall boondoggle
- Repeal of the Johnson Amendment (aka the law prohibiting Dark Money from Jesus)
- Concealed carry reciprocity (aka Guns Everywhere, And State Gun-Control Laws Be Damned)
- Defunding of sanctuary cities and Planned Parenthood
- Complete elimination of funding for the National Endowment for the Arts
- In fact, the bill increases NEA’s funding instead!
- Language exempting Native American tribal lands from enforcement of US labor laws
- House Freedom Caucus haz a super duper sad!
Good News from the Swamp!
- In Russia investigation developments, Special Counsel Robert Mueller took the step of subpoenaing the Trump Organization for documents for the first time. After five hours of testimony and questioning by the Special Counsel, former Trump aide Sam Nunberg said of the Special Counsel investigation “I don’t think it’s a witch hunt. It’s warranted because there’s a lot there, and that’s the sad truth.” After the House Intelligence Committee’s Republican majority declared its Russia investigation closed– without interviewing most of the key witnesses or examining relevant documents– member Tre “Benghazi!” Gowdy contradicted his own committee’s conclusion by publicly stating that he believes Russia was “motivated in whole or in part by a desire to harm [Hillary Clinton’s] candidacy.”
- Despite his Captain Ahab-esque vendetta against the Wacky Weed, Attorney General Jeff Sessions says Federal prosecutors won’t pursue small marijuana cases.
Good News from far and wide!
- Philadelphia’s recently elected progressive district attorney, Larry Krasner, is delivering on his promise to revolutionize his office, rolling out unprecedented experimental criminal justice reforms such as not charging sex workers with prostitution unless they have 3+ prior convictions, and offering plea bargains at or below the bottom end of the state’s guidelines for nonviolent and nonsexual crimes.
- Although voting rights are under attack in many states, they are also expanding significantly in many states. For example, in the past two weeks, Washington passed a package of bills enhancing voting access, and Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin publicly signaled his support in advance of an expected Massachusetts automatic voter registration bill. In related news, Washington, DC’s mayor, who formerly opposed the idea, reversed her position and signed the city’s Fair Elections Act, which creates publicly financed elections.
- It was a bad two weeks for haters: Alt-Right leader Richard Spencer is considering suspending his national tour because the increasing violence attending his speeches and rallies is making them not “fun” anymore. Meanwhile, Facebook shut down the pages of Britain’s far-right group Britain First as well as two of its leading figures.
- DeAndre Harris, a Black man who was videotaped being brutally assaulted by a crowd of white supremacists in Charlottesville last year yet was charged with assault himself, was found Not Guilty.
- Fashion superpower Versace and accessories maker Furla will no longer use real fur in their designs, joining a growing list of luxury labels abandoning the fur industry.
- Starbucks has finally responded to ongoing pressure from environmental groups by announcing a $10 million grant challenge to solicit designs for a more easily recycled coffee cup design.
- Amazon’s search for a satellite HQ2 office location, which has pitted finalists against each other in a race to the bottom to see who will offer the most lavish corporate welfare handouts to the world’s second-most valuable company, is meeting increasing resistance across the country.
- But not all Amazon-related news is an evil: comedian John Oliver’s parody of the Pence family’s book about their pet rabbit Marlon Bundo– in Oliver’s version, Marlon is gay and falls in love with another gay rabbit– overtook former FBI Director James Comey’s memoir to become the #1 book on Amazon’s best-seller list.
- And in other local bookseller Good News, the owners of SomerBridge’s own Porter Square Books sold half of the store to their employees. The ten-year financing agreement puts nine veteran employees on track to buy the bookstore in its entirety when the owners decide to retire.
Bad News for the NRA!
- Massive protests against gun violence are the new norm in America: On Wednesday March 14, tens of thousands of students across the country walked out of their schools, followed on Saturday March 24 by hundreds of thousands of Americans of all ages attending hundreds of March For Our Lives events across the country. Even Trump-loving New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft got in on the action, lending the Patriots’ official plane to fly Parkland shooting survivors and victims’ families to Washington, DC for the main event.
- The day after the March For Our Lives, Pope Francis encouraged young people to speak up against injustice in a Palm Sunday sermon: “The temptation to silence young people has always existed… Dear young people, you have it in you to shout.”
- Barron Trump’s swanky prep school signed an open letter with 100 other DC- and Maryland-area schools asking his father to act on gun violence, and also affirming support for the stance that arming teachers is Really Dumb.
- A Maine state legislature candidate who attacked one Parkland survivor as a “skinhead lesbian'” and another as a “bald-faced liar” flew straight into a giant cloud of PR flak and bailed out of his race.
And lastly, a few chaser shots of 150-proof Neener Neener to make all that Good News go down smoother:
- Swamp-on-Swamp violence-a-palooza: President Trump fired ExxonMobil CEO-turned-US-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson over Twitter while Tillerson was abroad on State Department business AND THEN Trump’s lead attorney representing him in the Special Counsel Russia inquiry resigned AND THEN Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, Trump’s National Security adviser, resigned AND THEN Trump hired conspiracy theory-pushing Fox News analyst Joseph diGenova to join his Special Counsel legal team AND THEN the White House announced that Trump will not in fact hire diGenova. PSYCHE!
- In lesser Swamp exodus news: San Francisco’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman resigned, saying he couldn’t continue to justify the Trump administration’s torrent of false statements AND THEN a Housing and Urban Development adviser advocating radical privatization of America’s cities resigned amid accusations of fraud and CV inaccuracies AND THEN former Republican congressman Charles Djou of Hawaii announced that he is abandoning the Republican Party AND THEN Lt. Col. Ralph Peters, a longtime Fox News security commentator, resigned from Fox News. In an eyebrow-singeing email to his colleagues, Peters called the network “a propaganda machine” and said that he was “ashamed” of what it has become.
- Ryan Bundy, the son of controversial Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, announced that he will run for Nevada governor this year– as an independent.
- Why is this Good News? Consider which party a gun-crazy states’ rights anarcho-secessionist might be more likely to take votes from in a swing state in Anno Domini 2018.
- In response to a Trump Tweetstorm about the firing of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, former CIA Director John Brennan tweeted back at Trump “you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America…America will triumph over you.”
- Ladies and gents, try not to get too excited, but Donald Trump, Jr. is back on the market: his wife Vanessa has filed for divorce.