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Paul LePage Vows To Veto Every Democratic Bill Until Party Helps Kill Maine's Income Tax

Amanda Terkel   |   May 29, 2015    5:28 PM ET

WASHINGTON -- Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) pledged on Friday to veto every single bill sponsored by Democratic state lawmakers until they allow his constitutional amendment banning the income tax to pass through the legislature.

Amending Maine's state constitution requires the approval of two-thirds of the legislature and a majority of voters.

In a fiery press conference Friday, LePage went after Democrats for opposing the amendment and pledged to make their lives miserable unless they allowed the income tax repeal to get on the ballot in November 2016.

"The governor of Maine is going to make sure that every bill that comes down from the House and the Senate with a Democrat sponsor, will be required to have a two-thirds vote. Because I'm going to veto every one. And I did a bunch this morning," LePage said.

The governor also accused Democrats of disenfranchising voters by blocking his proposal.

"The Maine people deserve to have a say in the income tax, and until they lift it, that's my leverage," he said. "And, yes, is that politics? I'm playing their game. I am finally learning to play the game of the politician. And it’s despicable what they are doing."

LePage's amendment is part of a budget plan that proposes making up the lost revenue from an abolished income tax by increasing sales taxes, taxing some nonprofit organizations and ending state revenue-sharing with towns and cities.

In March, when explaining his budget at a town hall in Auburn, LePage said that "frankly, the income tax never should have been here. Bringing in the income tax was the start of the downslide in the state of Maine.”

LePage also openly mocked state Democratic leaders during his Friday press conference, specifically naming House Speaker Mark Eves and Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond, among others. He expressed frustration that the lawmakers had delayed a vote on his nominee for the Maine Public Utilities Commission.

"This is not why I work 80 hours a week on behalf of the Maine people, to have these children come and play games in the State House,” said LePage. "I think the Speaker of the House should go back home to where he was born, and I think that Mr. Alfond should be put in a playpen."

Eves is from California.

State House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe (D) afterward called LePage “angry,” “unglued” and “unhinged," according to the Bangor Daily News.

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Amber Ferguson   |   May 29, 2015   11:17 AM ET

Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) received a strange call from a man in Yorkville, Ill., while on C-SPAN in 2014, which is making the rounds in light of the Justice Department's indictment Thursday.

“Hello, Denny,” said the man, who went by the name "Bruce." “Do you remember me from Yorkville?”

Bruce then laughed and hung up.

On Thursday, the Department of Justice announced Hastert's indictment surrounding his $3.5 million in payments to keep an unnamed individual quiet about his “prior misconduct.” The nature of that misconduct is not detailed.

The indictment indicated that the person whom Hastert paid has been a Yorkville resident and known Hastert most of his or her life. It also prominently noted that Hastert was a teacher and wrestling coach before serving in Congress.

There's no indication that the C-SPAN call is related to the new allegations.

Hastert resigned from Congress after the 2006 elections, where Republicans were dogged by their handling of then-Rep. Mark Foley's (R-Fla.) sexually explicit instant messages and emails that he sent to male congressional pages.

Watch the video above.

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Amanda Terkel   |   May 27, 2015   12:53 PM ET

Vice President Joe Biden praised Ireland for its historic vote legalizing marriage equality, saying on Wednesday that the country took a "courageous stand for love and family when they overwhelmingly chose marriage equality."

"I cannot improve upon the perfectly Irish statements [Irish political leaders] made following this historic vote, but I can echo the [prime minister's] words when he described the Irish as 'a generous, compassionate, bold and joyful people,' and that their choice will be 'heard loudly across the living world as a sound of pioneering leadership,'" he wrote in an op-ed in the Advocate, a publication that focuses on news for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Last week, Irish citizens voted in a landslide -- 62.1 percent -- to change the country's constitution to define marriage as a union "by two persons without distinction as to their sex."

The vote made Ireland the first country to approve marriage equality in a popular national vote. The strong support for the referendum was especially surprising because of the Catholic Church's influence in Ireland. A top Vatican official, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, called the outcome a "defeat for humanity."

Same-sex marriage is legal in 19 other countries and 37 U.S. states, plus the District of Columbia. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue a decision next month to settle whether same-sex couples in the United States have a constitutional right to wed.

"There is still work to be done," wrote Biden, who is Catholic and has Irish roots. "There are still too many nations that deny people even the right to be safe from violence and severe discrimination, and too many states here in America that allow a person to be fired simply for being lesbian, gay, transgender, or bisexual."

"But the progress is undeniable," he added. "As advocates in Ireland, in the United States, and around the world have proven time and again, where there’s passion and commitment, there is opportunity."

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Sam Levine   |   May 23, 2015   12:34 PM ET

Things are getting weirder for a former Virginia lawmaker who admitted to fathering a child with his teenage employee.

Former state Del. Joe Morrissey, 57, who recently acknowledged having a child with his former secretary, Myrna Pride, gave a reporter a picture of him and Pride with their son, all dressed in antebellum period clothing.

In December, Morrissey was sentenced to six months in jail for contributing to the delinquency of a minor after he was charged with having an inappropriate relationship with Pride, who was 17 when she worked in Morrissey's law office.

Morrissey denied the charges, but entered a plea in which he admitted no wrongdoing but that there was enough evidence to convict him. Morrissey's term was eventually reduced to a 90-day work-release sentence.

Morrissey resigned his seat after the charges, but won it back in a special election in January, before facing even more charges.

Pride initially denied that she and Morrissey had sex, but Morrissey on Wednesday admitted that he was the father of Pride's child. Pride, who is now 19, said on Thursday that she had not had sex with Morrissey until she was a legal adult.

"I am as engaged in Chase's life as a man could be. I'm super proud of Myrna and I love Chase," Morrissey said during a radio interview on "The Jack Gravely Show." "Chase is my blood."

Morrissey also told reporters on Thursday that he planned on marrying Pride.

Morrissey has resigned his seat in the Virginia House of Delegates and is currently running for the Virginia state Senate as an independent.

The headline of this post has been updated to reflect Morrissey is a former lawmaker.

Lawmaker Says Congress Needs A Pay Raise So People Who Aren't Wealthy Can Serve

Janie Velencia   |   May 19, 2015    6:53 PM ET

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) on Monday spoke in favor of a pay raise for members of Congress before the House Rules Committee, arguing that the current system doesn't offer enough incentives for less-affluent citizens to enter public service.

"I will say it until I leave," he lamented, as reported by CQ Roll Call. "Members deserve to be paid, staff deserve to be paid and the cost of living here is causing serious problems for people who are not wealthy to be able to serve in this institution."

Members of Congress, with the exception of those who serve in leadership, earn $174,000 a year. They are not eligible for any additional subsidies for housing or living expenses. Congress is entitled to a cost-of-living pay raise that takes place automatically every year. In 2009, however, as many Americans were feeling the effects of the falling economy, Congress voted for a pay freeze. They have continued to vote for the freeze for the last six years.

As the most senior member of the House Rules Committee, Hastings was speaking to his colleagues as the 2016 appropriations bill, which includes a pay freeze, was under consideration.

Hastings took the time to share his personal struggle in dealing with the high cost of rent in the nation's capital, and the public misconception that all members live a comfortable existence in Washington.

"People think we live up here free, they think we all have chauffeurs, they think we eat free, that we don't have to buy groceries, and they perceive this place as the shining city on the Hill where everyone is doing well," he said.

Members of Congress may feel like they can't keep up with their current pay, but what they make is still far higher than the median household income in America.

Hastings has also called for an increase in the national minimum wage and advocated for a fairer tax system. Other lawmakers have also called for pay increases -- sometimes facing political backlash for seeming tone deaf to what their voters are experiencing.

House Minority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) echoed Hastings' sentiment on Tuesday, stating that the current salary “dictates the only people who can serve are the rich. I don’t think that’s what the Founding Fathers had in mind.”

Congress, as a whole, is extremely wealthy, with some members worth hundreds of millions of dollars. As CQ Roll Call noted, however, Hastings and Hoyer rank among the poorest members of Congress.

In 2014, retiring Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) spoke out in favor of raising pay for members. He worried that the current policy would attract people to Congress who are already wealthy or seek to use the position as a way to leverage themselves into a higher-paying job once they leave office.

Hastings sees a similar problem. "Now where we are headed, is to becoming an elite institution. And I predict 20 years out, that the only people that will be able to serve in this institution will be people who are wealthy," he said.

And his concern isn't restricted to member pay. The congressman said he has lost three top staffers for reasons he suspected were related to compensation, adding that "bringing on staff becomes difficult when we're competing in many respects with the private sector."

Julia Craven   |   May 19, 2015    6:11 PM ET

On Sunday, over 190 members of a biker gang were arrested after a bloody shootout in Waco, Texas, that left nine people dead. Waco Police Sgt. Patrick Swanton said the scene was "probably one of the most gruesome crime scenes I've ever seen in my 34 years of law enforcement."

But Sandy Rios, governmental affairs director for the conservative American Family Association, sees potential in these men to put their talents to good use.

“Police have their hands full fighting our real enemies -- the cartels, the Islamists -- and now they’re fighting motorcycle gangs?” Rios said during her radio show on Monday. “I find myself thinking, let’s have a little retraining for motorcycle gangs and put them on our side fighting our enemies. That’s what we really need.”

It might be tough to get these gangs to start combating drug cartels, since they themselves are drug cartels. Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs, according to the 2013 report from the FBI's National Gang Intelligence Center, are "highly structured criminal organizations whose members engage in criminal activities such as violent crime, weapons trafficking, and drug trafficking."

Though OMGs comprise only 2.5 percent of U.S. gang activity, an FBI survey of law enforcement officers found that 14 percent of respondents identified OMGs as the most problematic gangs in their jurisdictions due to "solid organizational structure, criminal sophistication, and their tendency to employ violence to protect their interests."

The conversation around the biker gang shootout has been significantly different from the reaction to urban street gangs. No pundits have inquired about white-on-white violence, the lack of positive male leadership or why these bikers would ransack their own community.

Check out a clip of her comments below and the full show here.

[H/T Right Wing Watch]

Russ Feingold Was Progressive Before It Was Cool

Daniel Marans   |   May 19, 2015    2:24 PM ET

On a number of key issues -- the Iraq war, surveillance, criminal justice and same-sex marriage, among others -- Republicans and Democrats alike are rushing to calibrate their policy positions with public opinion that has become more progressive, and answer for controversial past votes. As former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) showed last week, some politicians are having a harder go of it than others.

Much rarer though are nationally prominent politicians in either party who supported the current consensus on controversial issues before it was popular -- and have the votes to prove it.

If there is one person who comes close, it may just be former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis). Feingold, who lost his bid for a fourth Senate term in 2010 to Republican Ron Johnson, recently announced that he will be running to reclaim his old seat in 2016.

Below is a list of Feingold’s votes that were controversial at the time, but now reflect widely held views in both parties:

The 1994 Crime Bill
The 1994 crime bill, officially called the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, imposed tougher sentences and provided more funding for police and prisons. It gave Democrats, including then-President Bill Clinton, the opportunity to show they could be tough on crime.

Recently though, as mass incarceration has replaced crime as a national concern, the 1994 crime bill has been subject to increasing criticism. Even Clinton has said that the crime bill went too far, and contributed to the preponderance of young men of color in prison.

At the time of the law’s passage though, Feingold was the only Democrat in the Senate to vote against the law. (Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby voted against it, too, but just a few months later switched to the Republican Party.) In a speech explaining his decision to vote against the law, Feingold cited as his chief reasons “the absurd extension of the death penalty” and “the dangerous trend toward the federalization of law enforcement." Feingold argued the death penalty was used disproportionately against people of color, a conclusion for which there is ample evidence. (Watch the conclusion of the speech on C-SPAN here.)

The Patriot Act
There are few important votes in recent legislative history as lopsided as the one that passed the Patriot Act into law. Feingold was the only senator to vote against it.

In a speech on the Senate floor explaining why he planned to vote against the Patriot Act, Feingold specifically denounced Section 215 of the law, which provided the legal basis for the mass surveillance of Americans. At the time of the law’s passage, Section 215 was known as the “library provision,” since the greatest fear it evoked was that the government would use it to spy on Americans’ reading habits. Feingold presciently called Section 215 a “truly breathtaking expansion of police power.”

Fast-forward to 2015 and the Patriot Act has lost much of its political backing. Section 215, in particular, is on life support. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, has vowed to do "everything humanly possible" -- including filibuster -- to allow Section 215 to expire. In April 2015, Sens. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) introduced The USA Freedom Act, a law that would end bulk data collection. The Republican-controlled House already passed a similar law.

The Iraq War
Jeb Bush unleashed a feeding frenzy from his likely peers in the Republican presidential field when he seemed to suggest that he still would have gone to war in Iraq. He has since said that he would not have gone to war if he'd had the information we have now.

The near-unanimity among Republican presidential candidates that the Iraq war was a mistake represents a tidal change in American politics since the war began. When Congress passed a law authorizing President George W. Bush to go to war in Iraq, only 23 senators voted against it.

Feingold was one of them. In a speech at the time, Feingold predicted that the war would hinder U.S. attempts to fight terrorism.

“I am concerned that the president is pushing us into a mistaken and counterproductive course of action,” Feingold said. “Instead of this war being crucial on the war on terrorism, I fear it could have the opposite effect.”

Same-Sex Marriage and Gay Rights
In 1996, Feingold was one of 14 senators to vote against the Defense of Marriage Act. Feingold “evolved” on same-sex marriage long before other Democrats, confirming his support for marriage equality in 2006. At the time, Feingold was spoken of as a possible 2008 presidential candidate. The Washington Post noted that the position would “put him to the left of many likely rivals.”

Amanda Terkel   |   May 18, 2015    4:26 PM ET

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) stood behind the invasion of Iraq Saturday night, although he criticized questions like the kind that have tripped up former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) in recent days.

On Saturday in Des Moines, Iowa, ABC News asked Jindal whether the United States should have invaded Iraq, knowing now that Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction.

"I don't think that the parlor games are helpful," said Jindal, who just launched a presidential exploratory committee.

"What is helpful," he said, "is that at the time, given the information that they had, President [George W.] Bush made absolutely the right decision. Let's remember, the world is a better place without Saddam Hussein."

Last week, Jeb Bush struggled to answer this question. When Fox News host Megyn Kelly asked Bush whether he would have invaded Iraq "knowing what we know now" about the non-existent weapons of mass destruction, Bush said he would have done so -- just like his brother did.

After several prominent conservatives criticized Bush's answer, the likely GOP presidential candidate said Tuesday that he "interpreted the question wrong."

"I don't know what that decision would have been -- that's a hypothetical," he added. "Simple fact is, mistakes were made."

And like Jindal, he said he would rather avoid uncomfortable questions looking back at the start of the war.

"Going back in time and talking about hypotheticals -- what would have happened, what could have happened -- I think, does a disservice for them [the family members of service men and women who lost their lives in the war]. What we ought to be focusing on is what are the lessons learned," said Bush.

Finally, at the end of the week, Bush said he would not have invaded Iraq if he had known the weapons of mass destruction claims were wrong.

Last week, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), another presidential hopeful, also addressed this issue.

“Not only would I not have been in favor of it, President [George W.] Bush would not have been in favor of it," Rubio said following a major foreign policy speech at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. In the past, he has argued, that the "world is a better place because Saddam Hussein is not in Iraq."

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Sam Levine   |   May 16, 2015    4:50 PM ET

Former President George W. Bush defended religious freedom during his commencement address at Southern Methodist University Saturday-- his first commencement address since leaving office in 2009.

"You can be hopeful because there is a loving God. Whether you agree with that statement or not is your choice. It is not your government's choice," Bush said to applause. "It is essential to this nation's future that we remember that the freedom to worship who we want and how we want, or not worship at all, is a core belief of our founding."

Bush's speech at the school that houses his presidential library and where his wife, Laura Bush, is a trustee, comes as his brother Jeb is on the verge of a likely White House run. Jeb, the former Florida governor, faced difficult questions over his brother's invasion of Iraq this week, including one from a college student who claimed that George W. Bush was responsible for the rise of the Islamic State.

In his speech Saturday, the 43rd president said he was optimistic about the future.

“Some say America’s best days are behind us,” he said. “I say, given our strengths — one of which is a bright new generation like you — these are not dark days, these are great days.”

Bush, who graduated from Yale with a C+ average, also made fun of his mediocre academic record, telling graduates that they shouldn't let grades limit them.

"Those of you who are graduating this afternoon with high honors, awards and distinctions, I say well done," he said. "And as I like to tell the C students: you too can be president."

Sam Levine   |   May 15, 2015    4:07 PM ET

Attorney General Loretta Lynch said on Friday that a jury's decision to sentence Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was appropriate.

The jury sentenced Tsarnaev to death on 6 of the 17 counts he was charged with in connection to his involvement in the 2013 Boston Marathon attacks, including use of a weapon of mass destruction, bombing of a public place and malicious destruction of property. The government had sought the death penalty in the case. The only alternative sentence could have been life without parole.

"We know all too well that no verdict can heal the souls of those who lost loved ones, nor the minds and bodies of those who suffered life-changing injuries from this cowardly attack. But the ultimate penalty is a fitting punishment for this horrific crime and we hope that the completion of this prosecution will bring some measure of closure to the victims and their families," Lynch said in a statement after the sentence was announced.

During her confirmation hearing, Lynch said that she thought the death penalty was an "effective penalty."

The jury reached the decision on Friday after deliberating for 14 hours over three days.

Read Lynch's full statement below:

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev coldly and callously perpetrated a terrorist attack that injured hundreds of Americans and ultimately took the lives of three individuals: Krystle Marie Campbell, a 29-year-old native of Medford; Lingzi Lu, a 23-year-old Boston University graduate student from China; and Martin Richard, an 8-year-old boy from Dorchester who was watching the marathon with his family just a few feet from the second bomb. In the aftermath of the attack, Tsarnaev and his brother murdered Sean Collier, a 27-year-old patrol officer on the MIT campus, extinguishing a life dedicated to family and service. We know all too well that no verdict can heal the souls of those who lost loved ones, nor the minds and bodies of those who suffered life-changing injuries from this cowardly attack. But the ultimate penalty is a fitting punishment for this horrific crime and we hope that the completion of this prosecution will bring some measure of closure to the victims and their families. We thank the jurors for their service, the people of Boston for their vigilance, resilience and support and the law enforcement community in Boston and throughout the country for their important work.

Julia Craven   |   May 15, 2015   10:52 AM ET

Mitt Romney is a self-professed lover of sport. On Friday, the former Republican heavyweight will square up with former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield for a charity boxing match. In an interview with The New York Times about the bout, Romney gave us more Mitt Romneyness than we could have hoped for in our wildest dreams.

Remember the "fancy raincoats" (i.e. ponchos) that a group of Nascar fans were wearing? Or the 7-Eleven cookies he just could not bear to feast upon? Or the “small varmints” he’s procured whilst out hunting?

Here are a few more equally patrician comments from Romney's interview with The New York Times Magazine's Mark Leibovich:

  • On the pre-match staredown with his opponent: “I will get in Evander’s face with compliments and good humor. I want to keep him very happy and very friendly.”
  • On what happens at a boxing match: “And between rounds, there will be young women holding up round numbers walking in the ring.”
  • On his attire during the engagement: “I was affectionately known as Bird Legs during high school. I’m afraid the bird legs will be unveiled one more time. But I’m very pleased that Under Armour has agreed to sponsor the bout. They have graciously sent me their apparel items, which I will avail myself of.” Not grammatically correct, but still strangely proper!
  • On his arrival to the duel: “We will come in tuxedos. Then I will change. My son has procured a red silk robe complete with hood. And I’ll have red silk shorts.”
  • On the finality of the match: “I expect to be beaten but unbowed.”
  • On former boxer Harry Reid, who famously questioned Romney's honor: “I did not ask Harry for advice, but if I’m successful in the bout with Evander, then my next bout is going to be with Harry.”

Not likely. HuffPost asked Reid's office if such a showdown could come to pass. "To quote Frozen, let it go," said Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson.

Good show, fine sir. Good show.

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Witness to a "Crisis:" 1950s Black Youth Activism That Propels Many Today

Ravi K. Perry   |   May 14, 2015    2:47 PM ET

Excerpts from Little Rock Crisis: What Desegregation Politics Says About Us

One generation to the next, in city after city, the justice road is being built by each of us

Let America be America again. Let it be the dream it used to be. -Langston Hughes

As we approach the anniversary of the landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education, on May 17th, the story of struggle and progress in Little Rock reminds us of the roots of Black youth activism in American racial history.

How do we know if the American civil rights movement of the twentieth century has had a measurable impact on our sociopolitical lives, today? You could just turn on your television because we've discovered that the protest actions of a brave few Black youth can determine the political and social attitudes and actions of countless others--even decades later.

In Little Rock Crisis: What Desegregation Politics Says About Us, we frame the story of the Little Rock 1957 desegregation crisis through the lens of memory. Over time, those memories - individual and collective - have motivated Little Rockians for social and political action and engagement.

A Native American saying states, "It takes a thousand voices to tell a single story." Accounts of the 1957 desegregation crisis in Little Rock have taken many voices--all telling a unique story about experience with the crisis. Very few of the numerous accounts of the crisis examine it as a living incident.

For many, that road toward a better democracy began in Little Rock, where they were introduced to nine teenagers who changed the world. But the "crisis" in Little Rock affected many more Blacks than the Nine - both now and then.

It was between 1956 and 1958 that dozens of Black teenagers in Little Rock sought to integrate the capital city's largest high school, Central High School. After several attempts over two years, with varying Black teenagers (and brave parents), nine courageous teenagers met on a September morning in 1957 to try justice again. On first attempt, local and state sanctioned mobs, assisted by the Arkansas National Guard were allowed to prevent the Black teens from going to school.

When the pinnacle of success can be one block over, yet inaccessible to Black you, you are wrought with agony. When the epicenter of "opportunity," denies you because of Black you, you may lose part of you.

Federal law mattered not. Little Rock, like most "desegregation" cities in the south, was not interested in equality for Black youth.

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike? -Langston Hughes

Little Rock, Arkansas, is also the birth home of Mom. Mom was a teenager in 1957, and one year younger than the youngest of the Nine. Her oldest sister was in the same class as Ernest Green, the first African American to graduate from Central High School. My grandmother taught many of the Nine in Sunday School or Choir at Bethel AME Church in Little Rock.

But, Mom could not take part, having been strongly denied by her father, the opportunity to integrate Central:

"As a teenager, however, I was angry with my father's response and his decision to allow providing for his family to take precedence over activism for civil rights. He said "No" so quickly, so forcefully! ... I couldn't have comprehended any logical or illogical explanation about the adult complexities of being dependent for one's livelihood on the whims of a white employer."

Though living Black in America remains a painful experience for many Black youth today, as it did then, there are positive residuals from social movement "crisis." Black Little Rockians, from the Silent Generation to Generation Z, attribute their current engagement in political affairs to community memory of "crisis." The result? Their politics have taken shape. They are more engaged.

Last year, research at Pew indicates that political engagement can take on many different forms, and that on every measure of engagement, "political participation is strongly related to ideology and partisan antipathy."

But, political participation is also strongly linked to one's motivation or impetus for engagement, In The Little Rock Crisis: What Desegregation Politics Says About Us, it is clear that one's introduction to politics through the lens of a social (in)justice movement, such as the Little Rock "crisis," is the reason many cite for why they 1) initially got involved in politics and 2) why they remained involved throughout their lives.

After the Nine, came the Greensboro Four and the Nashville Sit-Ins (of which Mom was also a participant as a student at Fisk University). Then came Freedom Rides, SNCC, the Black Panthers and so many other opportunities for young activists to compel this nation to do what is right.

And, yet today, the criminal injustice systems fought against in the 1960s remain strong in Baltimore, Ferguson, Detroit, Chicago, New York, Cleveland and far too many other communities, and is met with the same injustice in many of our nation's urban schools, where Black youth are left behind day after day. Such is the cycle of structural racism - alive today, alive in Little Rock in 1957.

Over the last few years we've seen the spirit of Little Rock play out across the country as millions of Black youth engage in activism against inequity. Though the cause differs, the quest for universal freedom is the same.

When Black you is made thug you by Black leaders,
you're a stranger in your own house.

Today's Little Rock can be found in Ferguson, Baltimore and countless other locales where injustice reigned, lives were lost, and souls changed forever. And, the secret's out! - We're all better citizens for having been witness to a crisis.

Those who live(d) in the shadow of crisis believe they have been significantly changed--questioning if what they went through is a crisis at all. We think it is so much more. Each burst of Black youth sociopolitical activism is an American breakthrough that impacts each of us across generations; a re-birth of democracy in action.

Ravi K. Perry, received his Ph.D. in Political Science from Brown University in 2009. He is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Mississippi State University, President of the National Association for Ethnic Studies and the Affiliate Equity Officer at the ACLU of Mississippi. You can follow him on Twitter: @raviperry

D. LaRouth (Smith) Perry received her Ph.D. in American Culture from Bowling Green State University in 1998. She is a Little Rock native and is an Independent Scholar. She resides in Tampa, FL.

Sam Levine   |   May 14, 2015   12:44 PM ET

The field for the GOP presidential nomination is quickly getting crowded, but one Republican decided that he would take a pass on 2016.

John Bolton, who served as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations under former President George W. Bush, announced on Thursday that he would not seek the presidency.

"I have decided not to seek the Republican nomination for president," Bolton said in a video to supporters obtained by the Associated Press that will be released later on Thursday. "I believe I can make the strongest contribution to our future by continuing as a clear and consistent advocate for a strong, Reaganite foreign policy that values peace through strength."

Bolton, who was not considered a serious contender for the nomination, had recently traveled to the early primary states of New Hampshire and Iowa.

The GOP field is filling up quickly. Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas), Rand Paul (Ky.) and Marco Rubio (Fla.) have all already announced that they are running for president. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, neurosurgeon Ben Carson and former Hewlett-Packard executive Carly Fiorina have also announced that they are running.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum are widely expected to announce their candidacy. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former New York Gov. George Pataki are also considering launching campaigns.

Russ Feingold Running For Senate In 2016

Amanda Terkel   |   May 14, 2015    9:35 AM ET

WASHINGTON -- Progressive Democrat Russ Feingold announced Thursday that he will run for Senate in 2016, hoping to win back the seat he lost six years ago.

Feingold made his announcement in a video that was provided in advance to The Huffington Post. In it, he cites issues near and dear to his heart, like taking on corporations and big money in politics, as his justification for running.

"People tell me all the time that our politics and Washington are broken. And that multi-millionaires, billionaires and big corporations are calling the shots," Feingold says in the video. "They especially say this about the U.S. Senate, and it’s hard not to agree. But what are we going to do? Get rid of the Senate?

“Actually, no one I’ve listened to says we should throw in the towel and give up -- and I don’t think that either," he adds. "Instead, let’s fight together for change. That means helping to bring back to the U.S. Senate strong independence, bipartisanship and honesty."

Watch Feingold's announcement video above.

The race will be a rematch between Feingold and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who defeated him during the tea party wave of 2010. Feingold ran what was widely considered to be a lackluster race that year, and many Democrats have stressed that 2016 needs to be different.

But there are several factors working in Feingold's favor this time around: Democratic turnout tends to spike in presidential election years, and recent polls have underscored that Johnson is one of the most vulnerable sitting GOP senators.

A Marquette Law School poll released in mid-April found Feingold leading Johnson by 16 points in a hypothetical match-up, and a March poll by Public Policy Polling found Feingold ahead of Johnson by 9 points.

Johnson brushed off the poll results during an interview last month, saying, "I'm not worried about it. I'll leave other people to do the evaluation. I think it's pretty much meaningless at this point in time."

A longtime opponent of special interests in politics, Feingold co-authored the landmark campaign finance law that the Supreme Court gutted in 2010's Citizens United decision.

Feingold was also known for staking out sometimes lonely positions on national security. In 2001, he was the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act, which greatly expanded the federal government's surveillance powers. He was also one of the 23 senators who voted against the war in Iraq.

After his Senate loss, Feingold started Progressives United, a group dedicated to combating corporations' influence on the political system. From July 2013 until March 2015, he served as the State Department's special envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa.

Anticipating a tough race, Republicans began attacking Feingold even before he announced he was running. The Wisconsin GOP launched a website called and told reporters that he has a "voting record of supporting one disastrous policy after another."

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