TPM Cafe: Opinion

When the Texas legislature met to debate a bill that would reorganize some of the functions in the Department of State Health Services, few people were expecting a battle over abortion rights to occur. After all, Texas has already passed some of the most restrictive laws in the nation, resulting in the closure of many of the clinics in the state, an effective ban on medication abortions, and a lawsuit winding its way up to the Supreme Court.

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On the fifth floor of the federal courthouse in Newark before the same judge who heard David Wildstein's guilty plea in the BridgeGate case on Friday, Bill Baroni and Bridget Anne Kelly today both entered not guilty pleas to the nine-count indictment against them that was unsealed.

Both camps signaled that their clients would take the stand in their defense at a trial set to begin in early July. And Bridget Kelly's attorney Michael Critchley signaled that he would soon put the so-called "Mastro Report" – the investigation by the law firm Gibson Dunn Crutcher done at the behest of Gov. Chris Christie to clear Gov. Chris Christie – under a microscope. He also left open the possibility that the governor may be called as a witness in the trial.

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As the NFL draft began, all eyes were on Florida State University’s controversial but talented quarterback Jameis Winston, the highly anticipated number 1 pick. The intensity of that gaze was, and is, focused as much on his stellar playing ability as it is on the many transgressions that have increased his time in the public eye–theft, public embarrassment on campus, and a persistent rape charge. This time last year, critical eyes fell on a young man who struggled to behave off the field as much as he excelled on it: former Texas A&M quarterback and current Browns player Johnny Manziel. While his mistakes were less severe in many ways, the worries that accompanied them pushed the talented prospect to the near end of the draft’s first round. What caused minor off-field antics to weigh so heavily on one of these young men, while major ones seem so dismissible in another? That question invites another question: Who do we expect to be able to behave?

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In the aftermath of the 1898 Wilmington coup and massacre, the national media coverage of the event was shaped and carried forward in very specific, overtly discriminatory ways. That process began with a piece in the popular national magazine Collier’s by Alfred Waddell, one of the North Carolina white supremacists behind the Wilmington events. Waddell deemed those events a “race riot,” and his article, accompanied by H. Ditzler’s cover illustration of a rampaging mob of armed African Americans, became a definitive text in shaping national narratives and images of Wilmington. But even prior to the publication of Waddell’s article, the national media were more than willing to participate in creating those narratives, as exemplified by a November 5th New York Times article headlined “North Carolina Politics: The Combination of the White Voters to Resist the Possibility of Negro Domination.”

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Four hundred seventy-seven days after receiving a referral from the Inspector General of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the office of U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Paul J. Fishman today laid out a first glimpse of the criminal prosecutions arising from Bridgegate.

For four days in September 2013, approach lanes that guide traffic from Fort Lee, N.J. to the eastbound upper deck of the George Washington Bridge, the busiest bridge in the world, were condensed into one lane.

From afar, that may seem like a trivial traffic pattern alteration. But on the ground, it was a nightmare for the residents of Fort Lee, the 36,000 person town perched atop cliffs along the Hudson River. The traffic jam began on the first day of school. Buses full of children were late to school – not by minutes but by hours. Already edgy commuters called city hall. Ambulance crews and EMTs had to abandon their vehicles to reach sick residents on foot. The local police chief tried, with no success, to reach counterparts at the Port Authority Police Department to get an explanation and seek relief. Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich phoned New Jersey’s top executive at the agency, which owns and operates the bridge, seeking an explanation. After getting no response, he phoned the governor’s office. Again, no response. On the fourth day of the closings he sent a letter seeking to quietly persuade the Port Authority to reverse its changes, detailing the hardships being imposed on his borough’s residents.

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Dear Mr. Maher,

On April 25th you asked, “If ISIS is so anathema to moderate Muslims, how come zero have gone to fight them?” My question to you is this, sir: How do you define “moderate Muslims”? And how exactly do you propose that they go fight ISIS?

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When President Obama used the word “thugs” in a press conference, his overt and implied meaning escaped me at first. I watched the Rose Garden briefing—like many of my friends did—as an excerpted blip on my newsfeed. The condemnation of violence being attributed to “criminals and thugs” seemed like the usual verbal overcompensation black politicians engage in during times of civil unrest to avoid the un-American claims. If Obama doesn’t deeply mourn the death of an officer in public, have a large enough flag pin on his lapel, or hold his hand over his heart while the national anthem is being sung (even though it’s incorrect procedure) then he is “doing it wrong.” It’s just another sign to an increasingly unhinged and racist rightwing population that black leaders don’t and can’t love their America.

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According to reporting from Bloomberg – apparently single-source reporting that no other outlets feel comfortable confirming yet – David Wildstein, a political fixture in New Jersey and formerly one of Gov. Chris Christie’s top appointees at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is set to plead guilty to a still-unknown charge or charges “as early as” Friday at the federal courthouse in downtown Newark.

Originally, Bloomberg’s story pegged the date for that plea as Thursday. Then Friday. Now “as early as” Friday, which could mean that we’ll see flying cars sooner.

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Want to contribute to TPM Cafe? Email ideas for your pieces to us at talk@talkingpointsmemo.com

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