Supreme Court announces broad protections for Internet-surfing rights. Even for sex offenders.

Lester Gerard Packingham was forced to register as a sex offender following a guilty plea involving charges relating to a 13-year-old girl. As part of that conviction, he became subject to a North Carolina law which forbade him from accessing any “commercial social networking Web site where the sex offender knows that the site permits minor children to become members or to create or maintain personal Web pages.” And while we can bore deeply into the details, suffice it to say that such sites are basically defined as the ones where you can create a personal page and communicate with others.

Undaunted, Packingham set up a Facebook page using a pseudonym. In 2010, he went onto the site to exclaim “Man God is Good!” after he had a traffic ticket dismissed … and the local police cross-referenced the date with court actions and, eventually, the folks in the crime lab figured

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Unanimous Supreme Court upholding right to racist trademarks is good news for Washington NFL team

(Warning: this diary, of necessity, contains language which may offend.)

As Simon Shiao Tam explained it to the Supreme Court, when he formed a rock band in 2006, his “purpose was not just to play music. He also intended the band to be a vehicle for expressing his views on discrimination against Asian-Americans. To that end, he recruited Asian-American band members, and he called the band The Slants … We want to take on these stereotypes that people have about us, like the slanted eyes, and own them.”

The band wanted to trademark the name—which is crucial if you want to make sure no one else can sell your merchandise, for instance. Problem was, there’s this thing in the trademark law that says you can’t register a trademark for something that “may disparage … persons, living or dead … or bring them into contempt, or disrepute.” And their trademark

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Voting Rights Roundup: Supreme Court strikes down North Carolina GOP’s legislative gerrymanders

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North Carolina: In a major victory for voting rights on Monday, the Supreme Court affirmed a lower court ruling issued last year that had struck down 28 of North Carolina’s 170 state legislative districts on the grounds that Republicans had unconstitutionally relied too heavily on race when drawing them in 2011. These lines will now have to be redrawn, and new elections will be held using these new maps, but it’s a big open question when those elections will occur. When they do, Democrats could finally break the GOP’s years-long veto-proof supermajorities in the legislature, which Republicans have used to run roughshod over democratic norms and impose a radical conservative agenda on an evenly divided swing state.

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So why did the courts determine these lines were invalid? Republicans had taken seats like the 21st State Senate District in Fayetteville—the tentacular monstrosity shown in

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Massive win: Supreme Court strikes down North Carolina’s GOP-drawn maps for racial gerrymandering

In a major victory for voting rights on Monday, the Supreme Court affirmed a lower court ruling issued last year that had struck down 28 of North Carolina’s 170 state legislative districts on the grounds that Republicans had unconstitutionally used race in drawing these maps in the first place. These lines will now have to be redrawn, and new elections will be held under them, most likely next year or possibly even later this year. When that happens, Democrats could finally break the GOP’s years-long veto-proof supermajorities in the legislature, which Republicans have used to run roughshod over democratic norms and impose a radical conservative agenda on an evenly divided swing state.

So why did the courts determine these lines were invalid? Republicans had taken seats like the 21st State Senate District in Fayetteville—the tentacular monstrosity you see at the top of this post—that had a plurality of African-American voters

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Voting Rights Roundup: Stubborn Texas Republicans face potential redistricting ‘Armageddon’

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Texas: Like their brethren in North Carolina, Republican legislators in Texas have been embroiled in racial gerrymandering lawsuits almost since the moment they passed new redistricting plans following the 2010 census. Earlier in 2017, a federal district court panel ruled that the GOP’s 2011 congressional and state House maps were intentionally discriminatory against black and Latino voters. Because Republicans had already redrawn those maps in 2013, following court rulings that blocked the 2011 districts from ever taking effect, there will be an expedited July trial over the current maps.

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With the Supreme Court dealing Republicans a major blow in North Carolina (see our North Carolina item below), there’s a good chance Texas Republicans will also suffer a courtroom defeat that could lead to yet another set of new maps in 2018. In late May, the district court invited Republicans to voluntarily redraw

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Huge win: Supreme Court upholds ruling striking down North Carolina GOP’s racist congressional map

On Monday, the Supreme Court upheld a district court ruling issued last year that struck down the congressional map that North Carolina Republicans drew in 2011 on the grounds that lawmakers had engaged in unconstitutional racial gerrymandering, handing voting rights advocates a major victory and dealing a huge blow to what was arguably the most effective congressional gerrymander of the modern era.

As shown on the map at the top of this post (see here for a larger image), Republican legislators used surgical precision to pack black voters into just two districts, the tentacular 1st and the snake-like 12th. The lower court found that these districts targeted voters on the basis of race in violation of the constitution, a move that effectively prevented black voters from electing their preferred candidates in neighboring seats.

Before Republican legislators put these new lines into place, the black population in both the 1st

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Voting Rights Roundup: Supreme Court won’t revive North Carolina GOP’s racist voter suppression law

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North Carolina: On Monday, the Supreme Court delivered a monumental victory for voting rights when it declined to hear an appeal from Republican North Carolina legislators seeking to reinstate one of the broadest restrictive voting laws since Jim Crow after an appeals court struck it down in last year. Passed almost immediately after the Supreme Court gutted a key part of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, this voter suppression law was so flagrantly and intentionally discriminatory that the appellate judges declared it targeted black voters “with almost surgical precision.” Monday’s Supreme Court decision means that that ruling will now stand.

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Just how surgical? ​Republicans had literally ordered data on which voting methods black voters used more frequently than white voters, then eliminated those very methods. Some of the GOP’s other changes to the law included a harsh voter ID

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Huge win: Supreme Court won’t revive North Carolina GOP’s discriminatory voter suppression law

On Monday, the Supreme Court delivered a monumental voting rights victory when it declined to hear an appeal from Republican North Carolina legislators seeking to reinstate one of the broadest restrictive voting laws since Jim Crow after an appeals court struck it down in 2016. Passed almost immediately after the Supreme Court gutted a key part of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, this voter suppression law was so flagrantly and intentionally discriminatory that the Fourth Circuit Appeals Court said it targeted black voters “with almost surgical precision” in its decision invalidating the provisions, and Monday’s Supreme Court decision means that ruling stands.

Republicans had literally ordered data on which voting methods black voters used more than white voters, then eliminated those very methods. Some of the many changes included a harsh voter ID law that precluded types of ID that black voters were more likely to possess, cuts to early voting

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You are not one of us …

When I was in the Army and stationed at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, you could not start the day in the mess hall without reading the obituaries in the The Leaf Chronicle. The obituary writer was really good at his or her job, and could make the most mundane life sound like it was full of fun and excitement. The one that sticks in my mind all these years later is a tribute to an 87-year-old woman who had passed away. She had lived in Clarksville, Tennessee, for almost her entire life. Her family moved there when she was just one year old. Her obituary started out like this: “Though she was not one us …”

Those words came to mind during the past week, when the Supreme Court may have tipped its hand about the hard line being taken in immigration cases. During arguments for Maslenjak v. United States, the justices seemed somewhat incredulous over

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Gorsuch already trying to blow up the Supreme Court

Monday was the first day of arguments at the Supreme Court for Neil Gorsuch, the guy Mitch McConnell blew up the Senate for by first enacting a total blockade on the rightful nominee—Merrick Garland—and then upending Senate rules when it became clear Gorsuch was too extreme for Democrats to support. If you watched any of the hearings then you won’t be surprised to learn that Gorsuch is as smug, arrogant, and entitled as an associate justice as he was as a nominee. His first case, fittingly, is about worker rights and how much you can screw them and he is just so into it.

Hearing arguments in his first case Monday—a procedural dispute involving the rights of federal employees who lose their jobs—Gorsuch waited only 10 minutes before unleashing a barrage of questions and suggesting both sides in the case were misreading a key federal law. […]
By the end

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Cartoon: Mitch McConnell rewrites the rules

After denying Merrick Garland’s appointment to the Supreme Court for nearly a year, Mitch McConnell blew up the rulebook to put Neil Gorsuch into dead Scalia’s seat. If they ever regain power, the Democrats would be wise to use the same tactics to shut out Republicans, instead of pining for the “Days of Decorum” that only existed in pundits’ fever dreams.

Mitch McConnell proves revisionist history isn’t just for old Soviets

Yep, Mitch McConnell is a steaming pile of an un-American, unprincipled, opportunist, rabid extremist. And the Washington Post decided to let him ooze all over their op-ed page.

On Thursday, Democrats mounted the first successful partisan filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee in U.S. history; in other words, a partisan Democratic minority tried to block the bipartisan majority that supported Gorsuch from even voting on his nomination. It was a direct attack on the traditions of the Senate and yet another extreme escalation in Democrats’ decades-long drive to transform judicial confirmations from constructive debates over qualifications into raw ideological struggles.

He writes that without even blinking, as if Merrick Garland and his nomination to the court never existed. As if Garland wasn’t such a consensus nominee that Sen. Orrin Hatch, flaming right-winger from Utah, hadn’t recommended him. He writes that as if he had not led the filibuster of 79

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Democrats who did the right thing in filibustering Gorsuch have no regrets

It’s taken 10 years, but Democrats finally understand the essence of Mitch McConnell: he’s a complete and total partisan, his promises are worth less than nothing, and nothing they say or do will keep him from doing his worst. The only choice is to resist him, and not bemoan the consequences.

Democrats heard the argument throughout the Senate’s bitter debate over Neil Gorsuch: Don’t filibuster this Supreme Court nominee—save your leverage for President Donald Trump’s next pick, the one who could change the court’s balance of power for a generation.
But most Democrats decided that holding their fire this time would make no difference in the end.

Trump would choose the judges he wants, without regard to how Democrats might react, they concluded. And Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was intent on blowing up the filibuster for high court nominees, if not now, then next time, in order to maintain the

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Gorsuch likely to prove a double-edged ‘win’ for Trump

When your first 100 days is as disastrous as popular vote loser Donald Trump’s, you have to stretch to find a win and take what you can get. So that’s what they’re going to call Mitch McConnell’s blowing up the Senate to get Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court.

“I think it’s a big shot in the arm,” Trump ally Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, said of Gorsuch’s confirmation. “It gives Republicans a taste of victory and reminds them we can have many more.” […]
Many conservative activists and lawmakers noted that the key to Gorsuch’s confirmation was GOP unity from the beginning. Trump drew Gorsuch’s name from a list of 21 candidates that he released during the campaign, and announced his pick in a prime-time address from the White House’s East Room.

Conservatives expressed enthusiasm for the pick — as he was seen in the

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Senate confirms Neil Gorsuch to Supreme Court, under big, black cloud of corruption

Neil Gorsuch, Republican operative and Scalia wanna-be, has been confirmed to the Supreme Court seat that Mitch McConnell stole for him in a 54-45 vote. In fact, here’s McConnell this morning, on how he engineered this theft.

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Not to put too fine a point on it, but McConnell stole this seat from the duly elected President Obama and his highly qualified, consensus, nominee. He stole this seat—with the full complicity of his Republican colleagues—on behalf of Donald Trump. Who he has known since August of 2016 was possibly colluding with the Russians in his presidential campaign.

It’s a small comfort, but Neil Gorsuch will serve the rest of his life on this court with an asterisk by his name—the associate justice

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NY Times is smoking something, says end of the SCOTUS filibuster makes the Senate more bipartisan

Oh, lordy. Spare us, please.

WASHINGTON — The conventional Washington wisdom dictates that the end of the judicial filibuster is also the end of life as it is currently known in the Senate.
In truth, it may not make that much of a difference at all. In an unexpected way, it may well herald the beginning of a better era for the Senate.

Oh? Do tell. After first telling us that this really is the Democrats’ fault for doing it first in 2013 (because no one at the Times remembers McConnell’s SCOTUS nuclear threats of 2005, apparently) and how that “set off a far bigger firestorm, and Republicans have now simply extended that precedent.” Uh, huh. Convenient that you don’t remember why the Democrats did that in 2013.

Republicans are quick to point out — and many Democrats privately agree — that had former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

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Chuck Schumer hollows out the Democrats’ filibuster of Gorsuch by giving up the fight early

The Senate will vote on Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court Friday morning at approximately 11:45 AM ET, about seven hours earlier than necessary. How did the Democrats lose seven hours of debate time on the most consequential of issues? Minority Leader Chuck Schumer agreed to give them away. Does that matter when the result is already baked in, when Mitch McConnell has already changed the rules to assure an outcome—a right-wing ideologue and Republican operative on the court?

Yes it matters. It matters because the stakes right now are very high, because Democrats have few powers, but they have a critical one—to be a thorn in McConnell’s side and to make nothing quick or easy for him. That means using up every potential parliamentary procedure and every single second of time available to them to block him from his malign enabling of an illegitimate president. It’s not

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Thank you, Senate Democrats, for filibustering Neil Gorsuch, and thank YOU for making them do it

Neil Gorsuch is going to be the next Supreme Court justice by the weekend. The final vote will be Friday evening at 7 PM ET, but that’s just a formality. When Majority Leader Mitch McConnell changed the rules on the filibuster, that was that. But Gorsuch will be on the court without the acquiescence of the majority of Democrats, 45 of them, who refused to play by the old rules and accept the stale and flat-out delusional conventional wisdom we used to hear so frequently that they “had to keep their powder dry” for the next bad nominee.

Sure, a small handful with sponges for spines tried to play “bipartisan,” (with Colorado’s Michael Bennet getting dishonorable mention for trying to split the baby, he didn’t join the filibuster, but then voted against moving forward on the nomination under the new majority vote rule), but the majority stood by their principles, recognized

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Democrats filibuster Gorsuch, Mitch McConnell kills the Supreme Court filibuster for Donald Trump

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The first time Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell lost a cloture vote this year, he blew up the Senate. He refused repeated Democratic offers to work with him and popular vote loser Donald Trump to find a consensus nominee. Instead, he forced the Senate rules change that he’s been threatening since 2005.

Remember back then? Democrats, in the minority, were not happy with George W. Bush’s pick of ultra-conservatives Samuel Alito and John Roberts. McConnell threatened then to end the filibuster on Supreme Court nominees, and with that threat, he made the filibuster obsolete. At that point, a bipartisan Senate “gang” came up with a “compromise,” but the filibuster no longer really existed as a viable tool for Democrats. McConnell had shown that he’d yank it and Democrats have known since that if Republicans had the majority under him and there was a Republican in the White House,

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Mitch McConnell will become ‘the worst leader of the Senate ever’ on Gorsuch confirmation

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is set this morning, starting at 11:00 ET, to confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, one way or another. The one way will be by blowing up the filibuster when at least 45 Democrats vote against advancing the nomination. It’s worth remembering now what McConnell said back in 2013, when after years of trying to negotiate with Republicans who had been blocking dozens and dozens of Obama nominees, Harry Reid changed the rules. Reid would “be remembered as the worst leader of the Senate ever” for making that change, charged McConnell. Well, here we go.

Here’s how it happens. The Senate comes in at 10:00 and McConnell bitches and moans about how he’s being forced to do this, what a fine man Gorsuch is and Democrats are ruining the Senate. Then Democratic leader Chuck Schumer will likely remind the body that

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