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Vox Sentences: A very Donald Trump Supreme Court

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President Trump tries to make oil pipelines great again; Merrick Garland's replacement is almost at hand; OSCARS.

A tar sands oil is gonna flow (probably)

Protesters against the Keystone XL pipeline Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
  • President Trump on Tuesday issued two presidential memoranda to initiate the process of approving the Keystone XL pipeline and speed construction of the Dakota Access pipeline. [White House]
  • These don't mean that either pipeline is a 100 percent sure thing. But it does make both likelier.
  • The Dakota Access pipeline is about 80 percent finished, but due in part to widespread protests the portion near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation has not been completed. The Army Corps of Engineers has launched an environmental review of the proposed route as well as alternative routes, further from the reservation. [NYT / Jack Healy and Nicholas Fandos]
  • The Army Corps could keep on with the environmental review despite Trump's memorandum, or it could abandon the review entirely. Whichever it chooses, a Trump appointee, the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, and the US Army Corps of Engineers will ultimately decide which route gets built. [Vox / Brad Plumer]
  • The Keystone XL pipeline was formally rejected by the Obama administration in 2015. Trump's memorandum invites TransCanada, the Canadian firm building the pipeline, to resubmit an application, presumably with the understanding that it will be approved this time. TransCanada has already said it's reapplying. [CTV News / Dan Healing]
  • The decisions, while horrifying to environmental and indigenous rights activists, were widely expected. Somewhat more idiosyncratic was another memorandum Trump issued, encouraging the use of American-made steel in building these and other future pipelines. [Bloomberg / Jennifer Dlouhy, Meenal Vamburkar, and Jennifer Jacobs]

Merrick Garland sheds a slow, solitary tear

William Pryor Alabama Attorney General’s Office/Getty Images
  • Some-crazy-how, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's desperate plan to block Obama nominee Merrick Garland and keep a Supreme Court seat open for a Republican president to fill has worked.
  • And that Republican president isn't wasting any time. Politico reports that Trump's shortlist of candidates has been whittled down from 21 contenders to just three: Neil Gorsuch, Thomas Hardiman, and Bill Pryor. [Politico / Eliana Johnson and Shane Goldmacher]
  • All three are federal Circuit Court of Appeals judges; all three are George W. Bush appointees; all three are in their late 40s or early 50s; all three have solid conservative bona fides; and all three are white men.
  • Gorsuch, 49, is the most intellectually accomplished of the bunch. He's the author of a book on the philosophy and law of euthanasia, which he strongly opposes, writing that "human life is fundamentally and inherently valuable." You don't have to stretch very hard to figure out what that means for his abortion jurisprudence. [National Review / Ed Whelan]
  • He's also a deep admirer of Justice Antonin Scalia, his potential predecessor on the Court, saying in a speech after Scalia's death that "the great project of Justice Scalia’s career was to remind us of the differences between judges and legislators … that legislators may appeal to their own moral convictions and to claims about social utility to reshape the law as they think it should be in the future, but that judges should do none of these things in a democratic society." [Case Western Reserve Law Review / Neil Gorsuch]
  • Hardiman, 51, has a reputation as a hard-liner on criminal justice issues, having argued that the First Amendment doesn't give citizens the right to videotape police. [Kelly v. Borough of Carlisle]
  • Pryor, 54, was subject to a years-long fight when Bush appointed him to the 11th Circuit, not least because of statements that Roe v. Wade is "the worst abomination in the history of constitutional law," and that it has "led to the slaughter of millions of innocent unborn children." He also purposely rescheduled a family trip to Disney World to avoid attending during "Gay Day," and as attorney general of Alabama wrote an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to uphold laws banning gay sex. [Vox / Dylan Matthews and Dara Lind]
  • Despite that extensive social conservative pedigree, some conservatives are reportedly pushing against Pryor as a pick because of a pro–transgender rights ruling he made in 2011. [Politico / Eliana Johnson and Shane Goldmacher]
  • Which of the three is likeliest isn't clear. Politico says Gorsuch and Hardiman are the frontrunners with Pryor behind, while the New York Times touts Gorsuch and Pryor and doesn't even mention Hardiman. [NYT / Adam Liptak]
  • We won't have to wait long, though. Trump announced on Tuesday that he's planning to reveal his choice next week. [NBC News / Halimah Abdullah]

Basically the only thing Titanic and La La Land have in common

Oscar statue Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images
  • The Oscar nominations are out! La La Land leads the field with 14 nominations — including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Actress, Best Original Screenplay, two Best Original Song nods, and a bevy of technical nominations — tying a record set by All About Eve in 1950 and matched by Titanic in 1997. [Vox / Todd VanDerWerff, Alissa Wilkinson, Constance Grady, and Alex Abad-Santos]
  • The nomination list is less lily-white than usual. Moonlight, with an almost entirely black cast and crew, got eight nominations, and six of the 20 acting nominations went to black actors (and a seventh to Dev Patel). Four of the five Best Documentary Feature nominees have black directors. [Vox / Todd VanDerWerff]
  • That being said, the most nominated film, La La Land, is about a white boy on a mission to save jazz, which regardless of the flim's other merits is not a great look (and makes one wonder what the movie would've been like with Michael B. Jordan, who was considered during casting, in Ryan Gosling's part). [MTV News / Ira Madison]
  • The Academy also appears willing to forgive male celebrities for violence against women. Mel Gibson, who pleaded no contest to domestic violence charges in 2011 after he punched his girlfriend so hard he knocked out her two front teeth, got a Best Director nod for Hacksaw Ridge, his first nomination since Braveheart. Casey Affleck, who has faced multiple sexual harassment lawsuits, is a frontrunner for Best Actor for Manchester by the Sea. [Slate / Sam Adams]
  • The success of both men, along with the shutout of Nate Parker's The Birth of a Nation after copious media coverage of rape charges against Parker, is instructive in how Hollywood works. Part of the distinction is attributable to race (Parker is black; Affleck and Gibson are obviously white). But some of it is a matter of having powerful friends, like, in Affleck's case, his brother Ben and his buddy Matt Damon. [The Verge / Kaitlyn Tiffany]
  • Most of the nominated films are still out in theaters, but you can catch a few (Hell or High Water, Kubo and the Two Strings, Zootopia, and The Lobster among them) on rental or streaming services. [Vox / Caroline Framke]


  • Google is exploring having AI software write its own AI software. Hug your loved ones. [Technology Review / Tom Simonite]
  • Pepin County, Wisconsin, had voted Democratic in every election since 1972 and has a tiny 3 percent unemployment rate. So how did Trump flip it? [Politico / Michael Kruse]
  • The pro-Trump army of dank meme makers has moved on to backing Marine Le Pen. [BuzzFeed / Ryan Broderick]
  • A man in Seattle got a tattoo of a black swastika in a red circle with a slash through it, as an anti-fascist statement inspired by a NOFX song. He got shot by someone who mistook it for an actual, like, swastika tattoo. [Seattle Times/ Steve Miletich and Susan Kelleher]
  • 10 theses on the punching of Nazis in the face. [Popehat / Ken White]


  • "We’ve seen your tweets and would like to be friends rather than foes. After all, we believe in connecting the dots." [Dippin' Dots CEO Scott Fischer to Sean Spicer]
  • "Trump is not easy to translate, first of all, because, most of the time, when he speaks he seems not to know quite where he’s going." [Bérengère Viennot to LA Review of Books / Robert Zaretsky]
  • "How long would a liberal have to cry to fill such a mug with tears? … We’ll assume the liberal in question is having a good cry, producing about 20 tears a minute, or one every 3 seconds. A teardrop is roughly 6 millionths of a liter. A standard mug is about 12 ounces, and it would take 354,882 millionths of a liter (or microliters) of liquid to fill 12 ounces—or 59,147 tears. So it would take 2,957 minutes, or more than two days of solid, relentless weeping." [Slate / Molly Olmstead]
  • "If you can hold polite conversation with strangers, you can run for office." [Slate / Osita Nwanevu]
  • "We know men always want more money. What do women want? More time." [Rep. Marsha Blackburn to Washington Post / Sean Sullivan and Robert Costa]

Watch this: Republicans have one major problem on Obamacare

What Republicans and what Americans hate about Obamacare are different. [YouTube / Ezra Klein, Gina Barton, Nicholas Garbaty, and Liz Scheltens]

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