Tony Perkins claims churches will lose federal tax exemptions over marriage equality ruling

Located in Greenville, South Carolina, Bob Jones University is a deeply conservative institution catering to fundamentalist Christians. The laundry list of rules students must abide by are laughably archaic. I'm sure it will floor you to learn that Bob Jones University once had a serious problem with racism.

As late as 1971, BJU did not accept blacks into their school. This policy would not change until the IRS threatened to pull their federal tax exemptions over their racially discriminatory admissions policies. At that point, they acquiesced and began enrolling black students with the bizarre caveat that they be married, a requirement not demanded of any other students.

With the Runyon v. McCrary case looming at the Supreme Court in 1975 over racial exclusion in private schools, the University Board of Trustees saw the handwriting on the wall. They authorized a change in policy to admit even unmarried black students prior to the Supreme Court decision. But that wouldn't be the end of their woes with the IRS.

Please continue reading below.

Obama touts education programs in weekly address

In a global economy, we’ve got to help ensure that everyone, of every age, in every zip code—urban and rural—has the chance to learn the skills that lead directly to a good job.
President Obama touted his education initiatives in this morning's weekly address, including high-speed internet in schools and free community college. Delivering the address from a public library where he had met with students, Obama said:
All of us have a responsibility to not only make sure our own children have pathways to success but that all children do. And a great education is the ticket to a better life like never before. Making sure all our kids receive one is the surest way to show them that their lives matter. And it’s the smartest way to prove to them that in communities like this, and in a country like ours, we believe in opportunity for all.
To read the transcript in full, check below the fold or visit the White House website.

This week in science: stardrive?

There is great excitement in some corners of the space exploration community this week, as several NASA people opened up a discussion with engineers and others outside the agency over a mysterious, possibly radically new type of engine:  

After consistent reports of thrust measurements from EM Drive experiments in the US, UK, and China – at thrust levels several thousand times in excess of a photon rocket, and now under hard vacuum conditions – the question of where the thrust is coming from deserves serious inquiry.

Applications: The applications of such a propulsion drive are multi-fold, ranging from low Earth orbit (LEO) operations, to transit missions to the Moon, Mars, and the outer solar system, to multi-generation spaceships for interstellar travel.

Under these application considerations, the closest-to-home potential use of EM Drive technology would be for LEO space stations – such as the International Space Station.

Be hopeful, but cautious, and remember cold fusion. It's not at all clear if this thing really works, yet. Even if it pans out in the most ideal way, a lot of hurdles would have to be cleared before a souped up version could be designed.

But in theory, a drive that can accelerate and decelerate up to say, a middling 50-100 miles per second, within a few weeks, and that doesn't have to carry the fuel on board to do so, would open up our solar system in much the same way advances in wind power and navigation enabled the systematic exploration of the Earth's surface during the Age of Discovery starting about 500 years ago.  

  • Science writer Jennifer Ouellette has a flair for fearlessly tackling some of the most complex topics in physics and cosmology with superb writing and top-notch research. Here she dives into a classic form of analysis on a classic paradox in physics and a related, mind-bending idea, written for the benefit of the layperson, and one that we'll flesh out more tomorrow on Sunday Kos, called the holographic principle.
  • Health care is part science, part policy, a bunch of inside baseball from the insurance industry, and a ton of politics these days. Which is why I never miss a post by Richard Mayhew over at Balloon Juice on those topics. I almost always learn something from him.
  • NASA's Messenger Mercury spacecraft intentionally ended its life this week when it finally ran out of fuel for station keeping and plunged into that dense little planet. Craters on Mercury are named after artists and writers, even Tolkien has one! Messenger left a small, respectable crater behind, who do you think should get the honor?
  • Blue Origins rockets into the private space-race:
    Three weeks after revealing that its liquid hydrogen- and liquid oxygen-fueled rocket engine was ready to fly, Blue Origin, a startup space company owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, launched its New Shepard spaceship on its first flight into suborbital space, the company said Thursday.

    Powered by the recently completed BE-3 engine, the rocket blasted off from Blue’s privately owned test site in West Texas on Wednesday (the time was not disclosed) and soared almost to the edge of space 62 miles (100 kilometers) above the planet.

Abbreviated Pundit Round-up: Chris Christie's end will be bitter and messy

.@mikiebarb all but declares Christie over
NY Times:
No matter how Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey spins the George Washington Bridge scandal as he eyes a run for president, one thing should be clear: These are his people, charged with a conspiracy to exact revenge against a local mayor by closing lanes to one of the world’s busiest bridges.
There have been plenty of pundits refusing to admit Chris Christie is toast (I'm not one of them.) But the end game is upon us.

NY Times:

Brigid Harrison, a professor of political science at Montclair State University who has studied Mr. Christie closely for years, said the indictments of Bridget Anne Kelly and Bill Baroni, once two of the governor’s most loyal and trusted lieutenants, spelled the death knell for his national aspirations.

“Even if he is not directly connected to the indictments,” Professor Harrison said, “he is guilty of creating a political culture in which corruption was allowed to flourish.”

Mr. Christie faces the specter of a lengthy and embarrassing criminal trial overshadowing the 2016 presidential campaign, in which the star witness — David Wildstein, a onetime Christie loyalist who pleaded guilty on Friday to two counts of conspiracy — still maintains the governor was aware of the lane-closing plot as it happened.

Nate Cohn on Bernie Sanders' political issues:
The presidential candidacy of Bernie Sanders, a senator from Vermont and self-described socialist who will most likely champion the liberal cause, won’t change that fact that Hillary Rodham Clinton is poised to win the Democratic nomination without a serious contest.

That’s true even though the Democratic Party’s liberal activist base, which strongly opposed her bid in 2008, has considerable reservations about her ties to Wall Street, her foreign policy, the recent allegations about foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation and the revelations about the private email account and server she used when she was the secretary of state.

This is mainly because of Mr. Sanders’s own weaknesses as a candidate and Mrs. Clinton’s strengths. But there is another, strangely simple reason Mrs. Clinton will have an easy road to the nomination: The left wing of the Democratic Party just isn’t big enough to support a challenge to the left of a mainstream liberal Democrat like Mrs. Clinton.

I love Bernie, and I'm glad he's running. But political reality is what it is.

More politics and policy below the fold.

Open thread for night owls: FAIR takes on economist pundit who disappeared economist critics of TPP

At Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, Jim Naureckaswrites NYT Lets Economic Pundit Disappear TPP’s Economist Critics:
The New York Times (4/24/15) handed its readers an exploding cigar this weekend–in the form of an “Economic View” piece by Greg Mankiw headlined “Economists Actually Agree on This: The Wisdom of Free Trade.” In this piece, Mankiw–an economic adviser to George W. Bush and Mitt Romney who writes regularly for the Times–put forward an argument in favor of fast-tracking the TPP and TIPP trade pacts whose logic was so tortured it might shock Dick Cheney.
“The issue at hand,” wrote Mankiw, is whether Congress will give President Obama “fast track” authority to negotiate a trade deal with our trading partners in the Pacific…. Among economists, the issue is a no-brainer…. Economists are famous for disagreeing with one another…. But economists reach near unanimity on some topics, including international trade.

So all economists are for TPP because TPP is a “free trade” bill and all economists are for “free trade.” Simple, right? The only reason Congress wouldn’t pass fast track, Mankiw suggests, is if politicians listened to voters who were “worse than ignorant about the principles of good policy.”

You would never know, reading Mankiw’s piece, that many economists in factoppose TPP and fast track. Or that economists can and do reject the characterization of TPP and the like as “free trade” bills. Or that there is no consensus in the economics field that free trade necessarily benefits most people. [...]

Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2005Buffett: Thumbs Down on Bush's SS Piratization:

Warren Buffet doesn't think much of Bush's SS scam. This quote below is from the Omaha World-Herald (registration required):

Warren Buffett, the 74-year-old chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, and his 81-year-old partner, Charlie Munger, launched an impassioned defense of Social Security at the company's annual meeting Saturday, with Munger terming Republican efforts to overhaul the program "twaddle."

While they did not directly discuss President Bush's proposal to allow Americans to divert some of their Social Security taxes to individual investment accounts, Buffett and Munger said the country faces far more pressing problems than the projected Social Security insolvency in 40 or 50 years. [...]
Munger, who called himself a "right-wing Republican," said, "Republicans are out of their cotton-picking minds to be taking on this issue now. "Munger cited nuclear tensions with North Korea and Iran as issues the administration should be working on instead of "wasting its good will over some twaddle." [...]

Tweet of the Day
in the 60s, cons used "law + order" to get into power, but WHAT IF we on the left decided that LAW AND JUSTICE could be a change catalyst?

On today's Kagro in the Morning show, Capitol GunFAIL! Greg Dworkin rounds up Bridgegate, Sanders, Republican demands for work requirements for Medicaid expansion, Rick Scott's continuing contortions, and Jeb's Charles Murray fandom. The invasion of TX is underway. Conservatives prepare their gay marriage freak-out. A near "perfect storm" of GunFAIL: school cop shoots himself with a derringer in his pocket while at Walmart. Armando on VT's GMO labeling law & TPP, plus Dickerson's thoughts on Sanders. More on ShotSpotter; Samsung's TV that listens to you; the surveillance we "volunteer" for, and; how Motel 6 reportedly started faxing all its guests' names to the cops!

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Daily Kos and coalition partners deliver 160,000+ signatures to Nancy Pelosi against Fast Track

Nancy Pelosi's San Francisco chief of staff Dan Bernal meets with our coalition against fast track to accept the petitions.
Nancy Pelosi's San Francisco chief of staff Dan Bernal meets with Daily Kos, CREDO Action, Sum of Us, Electronic Frontier Foundation & Corporate Accountability International
As House Republicans and the White House whip votes to pass fast-track legislation for the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal, passage depends on House Democrats—and everyone knows it.

Daily Kos members have been very engaged on pressuring Congress to reject Fast Track, and we have been working with coalition partners like CREDO Action, Public Citizen, Sum of Us, Corporate Accountability International, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Food & Water Watch.

Today, I joined a delegation from these groups—all of whom are San Francisco constituents of Nancy Pelosi—to the House minority leader’s office as we delivered 160,000+ signatures against fast track.

“In 2014, Leader Pelosi said no to fast track for the TPP and now she has a chance to be a hero again,” said Murshed Zaheed, Deputy Political Director at CREDO Action. “If Leader Pelosi uses her power and influence to lead Democrats in the House to stop Fast Track, that will mean the end for the TPP.”

President Obama is meeting with 30-odd House members today from the conservative “New Democrat Caucus,” hoping to peel off just enough Democratic votes to pass fast-track. That is why our petition delivery today was so important.

Since Friday, Daily Kos has generated over 1,400 constituent phone calls to House Democrats. If your member of Congress is a Democrat, please call the Capitol Hill switchboard at (202) 224-3121 today or tomorrow and leave the following message with your member’s office:

I am one of your constituents. As a Democrat, I am urging you to stand up for working people and say NO to a secret corporate trade deal that will ship jobs overseas and endanger our environment. Please vote NO on fast-track approval for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement.
House Democrats are under a lot of pressure, so we need to keep enough in line. Please make a quick phone call.

Pat Robertson: Lesbian this, lesbian that, she doesn't know what kind of sex she's supposed to be

Asshole for Jesus, Pat Robertson, had some choice words for the distraught mother of a lesbian teenager: put your kid in a Christian "re-education" camp.

Terry Meeuwsen: "I've been having issues with my daughter lately. She's always been a good Christian and regularly attended church and gone on mission trips with her youth group, but recently she "came out of the closet" and introduced me to her "girlfriend." I've tried to talk her out of it, but she simply refuses to give up the LGBT lifestyle. What should I do?" — LILLIAN.

Pat Robertson: I tell you, you ought to pray very hard and just let her know you don't approve of it and let her know she's not following the commands of the Lord, and just pray that God will straighten her out. It may be a phase she's going through. I mean, a little teenage girl doesn’t know what dress she’s supposed to wear much less what kind of sex she’s supposed to be.

Meeuwsen: Of course there's so much pressure in the culture today.

Robertson: There's so much pressure. There’s so much lesbian stuff, I mean, lesbian this, lesbian the other, so much homosexual that the media is pushing this as hard as they can possibly push it. I don’t know what to do, maybe get her in a camp, a Christian camp in the summer where they are really on fire for the Lord and she'll straighten things out.

We all know the struggles of the teenage girl getting dressed in the morning: "Do I wear the polka-dot knee length or my flannel lesbian dress today?"

Christ, the stupidity burns. First of all, Pat, we aren't dealing with the question of gender identity here. We are dealing with a teenager who knows she is a lesbian. It is not all that difficult to understand that they are two entirely different circumstances.

That being said, your advice to ship this poor young woman to one of those evangelical reform schools is cruel. Much work has been done to expose the extraordinarily harmful abuse that takes place at these "camps." Much work remains to be done. They are as dangerous or perhaps even more dangerous than reparative therapy which is actively and rightfully being banned all across this country.

I know that Pat is low-hanging fruit when it comes to these issues. Of course he is batshit insane, but that doesn't mean he should be left to his own devices. When he instructs parents to do harm to their own children, he needs to be called out loudly—every single time.

Roberts Court upholds judicial fundraising restrictions

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts arrives prior to President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech on Capitol Hill in Washington, January 28, 2014. REUTERS/Larry Downing (UNITED STATES  - Tags: POLITICS)   - RTX17Z1K
In a move which stunned many Court observers—certainly including me—the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision today that state rules barring judicial candidates from personally soliciting campaign contributions do not violate the First Amendment.

Thirty of the thirty-nine states which elect judges have rules similar to Florida's Canon 7C(1), the subject of Lanell Williams-Yulee's challenge before the court:

A candidate, including an incumbent judge, for a judicial office that is filled by public election between competing candidates shall not personally solicit campaign funds, or solicit attorneys for publicly stated support, but may establish committees of responsible persons to secure and manage the expenditure of funds for the candidate’s campaign and to obtain public statements of support for his or her candidacy. Such committees are not prohibited from soliciting campaign contributions and public support from any person or corporation authorized by law.
While they're intended to promote public confidence in the judiciary, I think these rules are dumb, and had assumed this one was constitutionally doomed given that the Roberts Court seems to detest any restrictions on campaign finance. But dumb rules can be constitutional, and to his credit the chief justice (writing for himself and the court's four liberals) decided that judicial elections were sufficiently different and that the constitutional calculus must change:
Judges are not politicians, even when they come to the bench by way of the ballot. And a State’s decision to elect its judiciary does not compel it to treat judicial candidates like campaigners for political office. A State may assure its people that judges will apply the law without fear or favor—and without having personally asked anyone for money.
Much much more, including Justice Scalia's Word of the Week, below the gnocchi:

DOT issues oil-train rules. Industry objects. Other critics say rules too weak and deadline too slow

Oil train derailment Feb. 15 near Mount Carbon, West Virginia.
Oil train derailment Feb. 15 near Mount Carbon, West Virginia.
The Obama administration issued the final rules on oil trains Friday. The action by the Department of Transportation was spurred after several oil train derailments have caused numerous fatalities and injuries and well over a billion dollars worth of damage and clean-up costs in the United States and Canada. Moving crude oil by rail has soared from fewer than 10,000 carloads in 2008 to about 500,000 in 2014.

Here's Kate Sheppard on the matter:

The rule, from DOT's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and the Federal Railroad Administration, applies to “high-hazard flammable trains"—that is, those with a continuous row of 20 or more tank cars loaded with flammable liquids, or those carrying a total of 35 or more tank cars with flammable liquids.
New tank cars built after Oct. 1 to carry high-hazard flammable fluids will be required to have walls 9/16th-inch thick instead of the the half-inch thickness both the oil and railroad industries wanted. The thicker the wall, the less oil that can be carried. Electronically controlled pneumatic brakes must be used on most trains carrying high-hazard flammable fluids by 2021 and all such trains by 2023 at the latest. The rules make permanent a provisional DOT rule previously imposed that requires all trains containing one or more tank cars of the older design to travel 40 mph in urban areas. Top speed for all crude oil trains will be 50 mph. There are also routing mandates.

The railroad lobby immediately trashed the action, labeling the them a "rash rush to judgment." At the same time, Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington called the rules too weak:

“The new DOT rule is just like saying let the oil trains roll. It does nothing to address explosive volatility, very little to reduce the threat of rail car punctures, and is too slow on the removal of the most dangerous cars. It’s more of a status quo rule than the real safety changes needed to protect the public and first responders.”
Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin agreed with Cantwell and complained, as did Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, about the speed with which the replacement cars will be substituted.

Edward R. Hamberger, president and CEO of the American Association of Railroads responded with a sharply worded complaint about the requirement for electronically controlled pneumatic brakes:

“First and foremost, the DOT has no substantial evidence to support a safety justification for mandating ECP brakes, which will not prevent accidents. The DOT couldn’t make a safety case for ECP but forged ahead anyhow. This is an imprudent decision made without supporting data or analysis. I have a hard time believing the determination to impose ECP brakes is anything but a rash rush to judgment.”
Acting Federal Railroad Administrator Sarah Feinberg responded: “We are not an agency with a goal of making things convenient or inexpensive for industry,” she said. “Our entire goal and mission is safety.” She knows all too well that when safety collides with the bottom line, it's a rare day industry fails to object.

Chances of ending federal executions diminished with Eric Holder's departure

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder listens to a question at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 6, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst    (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW) - RTR3ENGY
Eric Holder was conducting a review of the death penalty, but it wasn't completed
by the time he announced his resignation and now may never be.
Federal executions are rare. In nearly 90 years, there have been only 37 of them. The last—in 2003—was of Louis Jones, Jr., a 22-year Army veteran who had been convicted of kidnapping, rape and murder. There are 61 people on federal death row now, one of them having been there for 22 years. Since 2010 there has been an informal moratorium on federal executions until the matter of lethal injections is sorted out in court.

It was not the prospect of federal executions but rather a screwed-up state execution in Oklahoma a year ago that spurred President Obama to order a Department of Justice review of the death penalty nationwide. Although Obama had supported capital punishment, he said at the time:

“In the application of the death penalty in this country, we have seen significant problems—racial bias, uneven application of the death penalty, you know, situations in which there were individuals on death row who later on were discovered to have been innocent because of exculpatory evidence. And all these, I think, do raise significant questions about how the death penalty is being applied.”
Death penalty
But, while former Attorney General Eric Holder has long been personally opposed to the death penalty, and called for a moratorium nationwide until the Supreme Court rules on lethal injection, the death penalty review he promised was not completed by the time he left the A.G.'s post. Matt Apuzzo reports:
As the Justice Department sought advice from experts on both sides of the issue, opposition to the idea came from unexpected corners. Some of the most outspoken voices against the death penalty also urged the most caution, fearful that a federal announcement would actually do more harm than good.

“From my view, we’re better off with things bubbling up in the states,” said Henderson Hill, the executive director of the Eighth Amendment Project and one of several people consulted by the administration last year. “I’ve never been all that enthusiastic about the executive branch’s role.” While 32 states allow the death penalty, many have their own moratoriums on executions and the number of people put to death is declining.

There was the fear of some death penalty foes that having Obama and Holder as the faces of opposition to capital punishment could make ending it harder by chasing away libertarians and some evangelical Christians who have joined liberals in challenging the continuation of this barbaric practice. In a word, racism could undermine the efforts to challenge the death penalty. Within the administration, there was fear about optics. What would be the political impact if Obama chose to commute the sentences of all or some of those 61 death-row inmates, many of them convicted of heinous crimes?

Whatever the Supreme Court rules in the matter of lethal injections, it seems apparent that we'll see no progress on eliminating the barbaric practice of capital punishment during the current administration.