Saturday, November 10, 2018
I often write about religion and Christianity because since the 12th century conservative Christianity has been the nemesis of LGBT individuals, with homophobia spread by Christian missionaries like a plague across the globe. Countless LGBT lives harmed or even snuffed out during periods that gays were executed, often by burning, give rise to the pejorative "faggot." Women too have suffered from the blame placed on Eve, a mythical figure, for induce her mate, Adam, to eat of the forbidden fruit. All of this persecution and subordination of women based on 12th century knowledge and lack of understanding of normal human sexuality. Sparking and leading this misogyny for centuries is the Roman Catholic Church, an institution wracked with dishonesty and hypocrisy and the cover up of crimes against children and youths. A piece in the New York Review of Books looks at a new book entitled "Sins of Celibacy" that traces the current crisis in the Catholic Church and the global sex abuse scandal to celibacy and the Church's refusal to reject 12th century ignorance and adjust to modern knowledge and, indeed, modernity itself. The premise is consistent with what I have long argued and which is set out at length in "The Origins and Role of Same-Sex Relationships in Human Societies" which I have referenced in past posts. Here are lengthy excerpts from the review:
On August 25 Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò published an eleven-page letter in which he accused Pope Francis of ignoring and covering up evidence of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and called for his resignation. It was a declaration of civil war by the church’s conservative wing. . . . He was the central figure in the 2012 scandal that involved documents leaked by Pope Benedict XVI’s personal butler, including letters Viganò wrote about corruption in Vatican finances, and that contributed to Benedict’s startling decision to abdicate the following year. Angry at not having been made a cardinal and alarmed by Francis’s supposedly liberal tendencies, Viganò seems determined to take out the pope.As a result of Viganò’s latest accusations and the release eleven days earlier of a Pennsylvania grand jury report that outlines in excruciating detail decades of sexual abuse of children by priests, as well as further revelations of sexual misconduct by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, D.C., Francis’s papacy is now in a deep, possibly fatal crisis. After two weeks of silence, Francis announced in mid-September that he would convene a large-scale gathering of the church’s bishops in February to discuss the protection of minors against sexual abuse by priests.
The case of Cardinal McCarrick, which figures heavily in Viganò’s letter, is emblematic of the church’s failure to act on the problem of sexual abuse . . . . . Despite explicit allegations that were relayed to Rome, in 2000 Pope John Paul II appointed him archbishop of Washington, D.C., and made him a cardinal. Viganò speculates that the pope was too ill to know about the allegations, but does not mention that the appointment came five years before John Paul’s death. He also praises Benedict XVI for finally taking action against McCarrick by sentencing him to a life of retirement and penance, and then accuses Francis of revoking the punishment and relying on McCarrick for advice on important church appointments. If Benedict did in fact punish McCarrick, it was a very well kept secret, because he continued to appear at major church events and celebrate mass; he was even photographed with Viganò at a church celebration.
Viganò’s partial account of the way the church handled the allegations about McCarrick is meant to absolve Pope Francis’s predecessors, whose conservative ideology he shares. Viganò lays the principal blame for failing to punish McCarrick on Francis, who does appear to have mishandled the situation—one he largely inherited.
The greatest responsibility for the problem of sexual abuse in the church clearly lies with Pope John Paul II, who turned a blind eye to it for more than twenty years. From the mid-1980s to 2004, the church spent $2.6 billion settling lawsuits in the US, mostly paying victims to remain silent. Cases in Ireland, Australia, England, Canada, and Mexico followed the same depressing pattern: victims were ignored or bullied, even as offending priests were quietly transferred to new parishes, where they often abused again. “John Paul knew the score: he protected the guilty priests and he protected the bishops who covered for them, he protected the institution from scandal,” . . . .
Benedict was somewhat more energetic in dealing with the problem, but his papacy began after a cascade of reporting had appeared on priestly abuse, beginning with an investigation published by the Boston Globe in 2002 (the basis for Spotlight, the Oscar-winning film of 2015). The church was faced with mass defections and the collapse of donations from angry parishioners, which forced Benedict to confront the issue directly.
“I feel badly for Francis because he doesn’t know whom to trust,” Father Doyle said. Almost everyone in a senior position in the Catholic Church bears some guilt for covering up abuse, looking the other way, or resisting transparency. . . . . Francis may have hoped that the problem would go away and feared that a true housecleaning would leave him with no allies in the Curia.
Much of the press coverage of the scandal has been of the Watergate variety: what the pope knows, when he found out, and so forth. This ignores a much bigger issue that no one in the church wants to talk about: the sexuality of priests and the failure of priestly celibacy.
In his letter Viganò repeats the finding in the John Jay Report that 81 percent of the sexual abuse cases involve men abusing boys. But he ignores its finding that those who actually identify as homosexual are unlikely to engage in abuse and are more likely to seek out adult partners. Priests who abuse boys are often confused about their sexuality; they frequently have a negative view of homosexuality, yet are troubled by their own homoerotic urges.
Viganò approvingly cites Sipe’s work four times. But he ignores Sipe’s larger argument, made on his website in 2005, that “the practice of celibacy is the basic problem for bishops and priests.” Sipe also wrote, “The Vatican focus on homosexual orientation is a smoke screen to cover the pervasive and greater danger of exposing the sexual behavior of clerics generally. Gay priests and bishops practice celibacy (or fail at it) in the same proportions as straight priests and bishops do.”
Viganò believes that the church’s moral crisis derives uniquely from its abandonment of clear, unequivocal, strict teaching on moral matters, and from overly permissive attitudes toward homosexuality in particular. He does not want to consider the ways in which its traditional teaching on sexuality—emphasized incessantly by recent popes—has contributed to the present crisis. The modern church has boxed itself into a terrible predicament. Until about half a century ago, it was able to maintain an attitude of wise hypocrisy, accepting that priests were often sexually active but pretending that they weren’t. The randy priests and monks (and nuns) in Chaucer and Boccaccio were not simply literary tropes; they reflected a simple reality: priests often found it impossible to live the celibate life. Many priests had a female “housekeeper” who relieved their loneliness and doubled as life companions. Priests frequently had affairs with their female parishioners and fathered illegitimate children. The power and prestige of the church helped to keep this sort of thing a matter of local gossip rather than international scandal.
Opposing priestly marriage and contraception placed the church on the conservative side of the sexual revolution and made adherence to strict sexual norms a litmus test for being a good Catholic, at a time when customs were moving rapidly in the other direction. Only sex between a man and a woman meant for procreation and within the institution of holy matrimony was allowed. That a man and a woman might have sex merely for pleasure was seen as selfish and sinful. . . . Priestly vocations plummeted.
Conversely, the proportion of gay priests increased, since it was far easier to hide one’s sex life in an all-male community with a strong culture of secrecy and aversion to scandal. Many devout young Catholic men also entered the priesthood in order to try to escape their unconfessable urges, hoping that a vow of celibacy would help them suppress their homosexual leanings. But they often found themselves in seminaries full of sexual activity. Father Doyle estimates that approximately 10 percent of Catholic seminarians were abused (that is, drawn into nonconsensual sexual relationships) by priests, administrators, or other seminarians. This problem is nothing new.
Priestly celibacy was not firmly established until the twelfth century, after which many priests had secret wives or lived in what the church termed “concubinage.”
The obsession with enforcing unenforceable standards of sexual continence that run contrary to human nature (according to one study, 95 percent of priests report that they masturbate) has led to an extremely unhealthy atmosphere within the modern church that contributed greatly to the sexual abuse crisis. A 1971 Loyola Study, which was also commissioned by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, concluded that a large majority of American priests were psychologically immature, underdeveloped, or maldeveloped. It also found that a solid majority of priests—including those ordained in the 1940s, well before the sexual revolution—described themselves as very or somewhat sexually active.
Sipe, during his decades of work treating priests as a psychotherapist, also concluded that the lack of education about sexuality and the nature of celibate life tended to make priests immature, often more comfortable around teenagers than around other adults. All this, along with a homosocial environment and the church’s culture of secrecy, has made seminaries a breeding ground for sexual abuse.
There are possible ways out of this dilemma for Francis. He could allow priests to marry, declare homosexuality to be not sinful, or even move to reform the patriarchal nature of the church—and to address the collapse in the number of nuns, which has decreased by 30 percent since the 1960s even though the number of the world’s Catholics has nearly doubled in that time—by allowing the ordination of women. But any of those actions would spark a revolt by conservatives in the church who already regard Francis with deep suspicion, if not downright aversion.
Since the French Revolution and the spread of liberal democracy in the nineteenth century, the Catholic Church has been torn between the urge to adapt to a changing world and the impulse to resist it at all cost. Pope Pius IX, at whose urging the First Vatican Council in 1870 adopted the doctrine of papal infallibility, published in 1864 his “Syllabus of Errors,” which roundly condemned modernity, freedom of the press, and the separation of church and state.
John XXIII, who became pope in 1958, saw a profound need for what he called aggiornamento—updating—precisely the kind of reconciling of the church to a changing world that Pius IX considered anathema. John XXIII was one of the high-ranking church leaders who regarded the Nazi genocide of the Jews as a moral crossroads in history. An important part of his reforms at Vatican II was to remove all references to the Jews as a “deicide” people and to adopt an ecumenical spirit that deems other faiths worthy of respect. After Vatican II, the church made optional much of the traditional window-dressing of Catholicism—the Latin Mass, the elaborate habits of nuns, the traditional prohibition against meat on Friday—but John died before the council took up more controversial issues of doctrine.
Both radical change and the failure to change are fraught with danger, making Francis’s path an almost impossible one. He is under great pressure from victims who are demanding that the church conduct an exhaustive investigation into the responsibility of monsignors, bishops, and cardinals who knew of abusing priests but did nothing—something he is likely to resist. Such an accounting might force many of the church’s leaders into retirement and paralyze it for years to come—but his failure to act could paralyze it as well. As for the larger challenges facing the church, Francis’s best option might be to make changes within the narrow limits constraining him, such as expanding the participation of the laity in church deliberations and allowing women to become deacons. But that may be too little, too late.
The longer the Vatican refuses to clean house and reject ignorance based dogma, the larger the defection of educated western Catholics and the further the concentration of Catholicism in the ignorant, least educated parts of the world.
Throughout his questionable real estate career which has involved ignoring the law and associations with mobsters and the Russian Mafia, three things have defined Donald Trump: (i) putting self interest/ego ahead of all else, (ii) con artist behavior, and (iii) using threats and bullying to fend off much deserved adverse consequences. Since taking office and desecrating the White House, these three themes have continued and Trump's white supremacist and Christofascist base have happily allowed themselves to be played for fools, blinded by their thrill of seeing Trump's open racism on display and/or attacks on favored Christofascist targets. Now, with Democrats set to take control of the House of Representatives come January, 2019, Trump may be on the verge of finally being held accountable. Trump's reaction? Lies, threats and efforts to subvert the law. A piece in New York Magazine looks at the phenomenon. Here are highlights:
On November 7,
PresidentTrump woke up to a world in which Democrats had smashed through a gerrymandered map to win three dozen House seats, depriving him of both his legislative majority and his effective immunity from congressional oversight and accountability. He responded in the most Trumpian way: with an atavistic display of brute dominance. He insisted the election had been a triumph (“I thought it was a very close to complete victory”), belittled Republicans who had lost for declining his “embrace,” pulled the press pass from CNN reporter Jim Acosta, and warned Democrats not to investigate anything in his administration or he would refuse to work with them and have Senate Republicans investigate them back.And he fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whose sole offense, in Trump’s eyes, was recusing himself from the Russia investigation. Trump maintains the attorney general’s job is to protect [Trump's] the president’spolitical interests, even if [Trump] the presidentor his allies have committed serious crimes.
Trump finally acted on this vision, skipping the normal chain of command and declaring Matthew Whitaker the acting attorney general. As recently as three years ago, Whitaker worked for a scam company that catered to customers with invention ideas and “provided almost no service in return,” according to the Federal Trade Commission. Whitaker’s role was to testify to the company’s integrity . . . . and serve as legal muscle, firing off threatening letters to customers who complained they had been bilked.
Aside from his now highly relevant experience working for con men, Whitaker’s primary qualification to serve as the nation’s highest law-enforcement official is a fanatical adherence to the right-wing legal agenda. As an unsuccessful far-right Senate candidate in Iowa, Whitaker declared he would be “very concerned” about any judge with a “secular worldview” and should instead follow a “biblical view of justice.”
Whitaker’s hostility to the Mueller investigation is surely what recommended him to [Trump]
the president.He claimed Trump’s campaign had not colluded with Russia . . . . . at a time when such a defense could not possibly be known. He even denied that Russia interfered in the election at all, a conclusion directly at odds with what U.S. intelligence agencies have found. . . . Trump had appointed Whitaker as Sessions’s chief of staff, a position that reportedly allowed him to serve as the president’s eyes and ears within the building.
Whitaker will have ample opportunity to undermine or quash Mueller’s investigation, but his authority over Mueller is not the only weapon at Whitaker’s disposal. Nor is the Mueller investigation the only threat to the president. Trump is a crook who is drawn to other crooks, and the potential criminal exposure across his administration is vast. We barely have a handle on the criminality that has already occurred — it has only been in the last few weeks that we learned, via the Times, that Trump committed systematic tax fraud over many decades. A lawsuit credibly accusing Trump of having run a variety of “fraudulent schemes” came out October 29 — nearly two years after his election.
[I]t is difficult to estimate how much misconduct has escaped detection. Weeks before the election, congressional Republicans privately circulated a lengthy list of Trump scandals that would be investigated if Democrats won Congress. The list ranges from Trump’s tax returns (which Republicans had voted to keep hidden) to his acceptance of undisclosed payments from foreign and domestic interests while in office to more routine incompetence and sleaze, like lavish expenses by Cabinet members and the hurricane response in Puerto Rico.
In public, Republicans are warning that investigating any of these matters will backfire on Democrats. . . . . Yes, sometimes aggressive congressional oversight can backfire, like when Republicans fanatically pursued conspiracy theories like Benghazi and “IRS targeting” during the Obama years. . . . . Even if Congress somehow overreaches in its pursuit of Trump — a prospect that is almost logistically impossible, given the staggering list of misconduct already in plain sight — it would still probably help the Democrats’s 2020 presidential candidate run against the mess in Washington.
From the very beginning, when Donald Trump and his father ignored demands from the Nixon Justice Department that they stop discriminating against African-Americans, through his repeated tax fraud and financial scams, legal impunity has formed the through-line of his career. Holding him accountable serves not only Democrats’ self-interest but the rule of law. That process begins now.
Friday, November 09, 2018
|Telemachus Orfanos (right), a 27-year-old Navy
veteran, was among |
the victims of the shooting in Thousand Oaks, Calif. (Facebook).
Stunned and distraught families deal with the needless loss of loved ones in the wake of the mass shooting in Thousand Oaks, California - often rated among the safest places in America - one is hearing the usual disingenuous refrain from legislators (especially Republicans) of sending "thoughts and prayers" to the victims and their families. I'm sorry, but when one has failed and refused to enact strict gun control that could have prevented such often repeating tragedy's the statement is nothing short of a complete insult to the dead and their families since actions demonstrate that the speakers don't even mean the words. Thoughts and prayers are bullshit uttered by those complicit in the slaughter. As is the case over and over, the shooter had "legally purchased" the gun used to commit 12 murders. Thankfully, the parents of one of the victims are rejecting the meaningless, dishonest statements of "thoughts and prayers" and speaking out for gun control now. Only a mass movement demanding gun legislation and a repudiation of "thoughts and prayers" for the enablers of mass murder will bring America the legislative change it so desperately needs. A piece in the Washington Post looks at this rejection of the bullshit response so favored by legislators in the pockets of the gun lobby. Here are excerpts:
Marc and Susan Orfanos awoke at 2 a.m. on Thursday in Thousand Oaks, Calif., to a call from a relative in New York. The groggy-eyed couple stumbled into a ritual that is familiar to parents in Columbine, Blacksburg, Aurora, Newtown, Orlando, Parkland — and, as of this week, also in the quiet outpost of Los Angeles.
They waited to find out if their child, who had survived the deadliest gun massacre in modern American history last year in Las Vegas, had perished in another mass-casualty shooting.
It wasn’t until noon on Thursday that a police officer told them the news: Their 27-year-old son, Telemachus Orfanos, was dead.
But what distinguished their plea was an utter disavowal of the stock response to the violence that claimed their son’s life.
“I don’t want prayers. I don’t want thoughts. I want gun control," Susan Orfanos said on local TV.
“And I hope to God nobody else sends me any more prayers," she said, vigorously shaking her head. She emphasized each word, demanding: "No more guns.”
Whether anyone will listen, her husband said, the victim’s parents know that’s hardly certain.
“If mowing down 5-year-olds at Sandy Hook didn’t make an impression, nothing will,” said Orfanos, a semiretired substitute teacher. “The bottom line is the NRA owns most of the Republican Party, and probably some of the Democratic Party as well. Until that vise is broken, this is not going to end.”
Everytown for Gun Safety, founded and financed by former New York mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, urged “common-sense, strategic actions” to reduce gun violence. Gabrielle Giffords, the former Democratic congresswoman from Arizona who was shot in 2011, said she was “heartbroken, angry, and never going to accept this as normal.”
The NRA, meanwhile, pointed to California’s already-tight controls — the state was the first to ban assault rifles, nearly 30 years ago. The organization’s spokesman, Dana Loesch, [dishonestly] aimed to make the debate about mental illness, which is a problem that is not particular to the United States, where the rate of gun homicides is nevertheless much [much] higher than it is in other high-income countries.
Authorities said Ian David Long, 28, had legally purchased the .45-caliber handgun he had wielded inside the bar. He also used an extended magazine, which officials said required additional analysis to determine how many rounds it could hold, and whether it may have violated state law.
Democratic lawmakers expressed hope that the new balance of power in Washington, ratified by the midterm election on Tuesday, would shift the debate. There were notable victories for gun control advocates, including Lucy McBath, whose son was killed in a 2012 shooting. The Democrat seized a closely watched House seat in the Atlanta suburbs.
“It is unfortunately not surprising that on the same day I officially became a congresswoman-elect, other families in this country are receiving the same exact call that I did six years ago when I learned my son had been murdered,” McBath said in a Thursday statement posted on Twitter. She said she would work to “make our communities safer.”
In the Colorado district that includes Aurora, the Denver suburb where 12 people were killed in a movie theater in 2012, Democrat Jason Crow unseated Republican Rep. Mike Coffman. Guns were also a fault line in Northern Virginia, where Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock fell to Democrat Jennifer Wexton.
But the NRA also had gains to celebrate. . . . The NRA helped oust Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly in Indiana, and it helped elevate Senator-elect Marsha Blackburn, a Republican congresswoman in Tennessee.
He [Marc Orfanos] said the country’s “gun culture" is the cause of his son’s death — a culture maintained by what he condemned as the fearmongering of the NRA.
“I blame flat out the Wayne LaPierres of the world, the Dana Loesches, because they put the fear of God in some of these people who think they need to have guns up the wazoo,” Orfanos said, referring to the executive vice president of the NRA and the group’s prominent spokeswoman.
The only way to change the culture, he said, is to pass “rational gun legislation” that protects people’s ability to arm themselves in the interest of self-defense but prohibits weapons such as AR-15s and high-power handguns.
To pass such legislation, it will be necessary to defeat more Republicans, the handmaidens of the NRA. In Virginia, 2019 will offer the opportunity to have the Democrats take control of the Virginia legislature and pass legislation that has been repeatedly blocked by Republicans. Thus, in Virginia, if you support gun control, it's not too early to get involved in targeting Republicans for defeat.
|Lying Marco wants to ignore possible Democrat votes.|
The more I see and hear about Marco Rubio anti-democratic bloviating, the more despicable I findA case in point is Rubio - and other Republicans' whining about the recounts that will likely take place in Florida's gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races where it seems that a significant number of votes were not counted. From the additional votes discovered so far, the winning margins of the supposed Republican victors have shrunk to under the threshold for a manual recount. A piece in New York Magazine looks at Rubio's shameless effort to have votes not counted. Here re article highlights:
On Tuesday night in Florida, Democratic senator Bill Nelson conceded a Senate race to Republican Rick Scott, because he was trailing the Florida governor by more than 57,000 voters. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, meanwhile, conceded Florida’s governor race to Republican Ron DeSantis, because he was trailing the congressman by an even larger margin.
And then, Nelson and Gillum discovered that there were more outstanding votes from heavily Democratic counties than they had realized. By Thursday afternoon, Nelson’s deficit had fallen to just 17,000, or 0.22 percent. State law requires a manual recount of any election with an initial margin under 0.25 percent. Gillum’s deficit, meanwhile, fell to 38,000, or 0.47 percent, which is under the 0.5 percent threshold that triggers an automatic machine recount, under state law.
More significantly (and alarmingly), irregularities began to emerge in Nelson’s pattern of support. Specifically, an aberrant percentage of voters in Broward County marked their ballots for gubernatorial candidates — but left the Senate ballot-line blank.
[U]ndervoting in the Senate race was especially pronounced in Florida’s 24th Congressional District, where no House race was listed (as the incumbent ran unopposed), and thus the Senate race box was even lower down on the ballot’s left-hand side. . . . it is also possible that vote-processing machines in Broward suffered a technical glitch that caused them not to read Senate votes that were properly marked on paper ballots — and if that is the case, then a recount would very likely tip the Senate race to Nelson.
For this and other reasons, lawyers for Nelson and Gillum decided to call on the state of Florida to honor its statutory obligation to perform a recount.
In response, Florida senator Marco Rubio decided to accuse the Democratic Party of conspiring with Broward County election officials to illicitly overturn the will of the electorate, and illegitimately install Bill Nelson into the U.S. Senate.
Rubio offered no evidence to support the claim that Democratic lawyers have been very clear that they don’t want every vote to count, and are merely seeking to win the election by any means necessary (even if that involves not counting all the votes), nor did he specify what “ongoing” violations of the law Broward County election officials were engaged in. He also neglected to mention that the election supervisor who is supposedly trying to rig the election for Nelson was appointed by former Republican governor (and Rubio ally) Jeb Bush.
Many #NeverTrump conservatives like to fantasize about a world in which Marco Rubio won the 2016 GOP nomination — and, as a result, the Republican Party retained its commitment to civility over demagoguery, and democratic ideals over the raw pursuit of power. There are many problems with this fantasy. But two conspicuous ones are that Rubio spent much of his 2016 campaign baselessly accusing America’s first black president of deliberately sabotaging the country (“he knows exactly what he’s doing”); and that he is now telling his supporters, without evidence, that if Bill Nelson wins a recount they should regard the outcome of the 2018 Florida Senate race as illegitimate.
Which suggests that an affinity for reckless demagoguery, and hostility to liberal democratic norms, weren’t qualities that Trump introduced to Republican politics — they were actually embedded deep inside the party all along.
Thursday, November 08, 2018
|Trump sycophant and illegally appointed acting AG Matthew Whitaker (who seemingly is trying for the Mussolini look).|
Not to diminish the horror of the mass shooting in Thousand Oaks, California - or the need for the Democrat controlled House to pass gun legislation come January, 2019 - Donald Trump is deliberately causing a Constitutional crisis as he ignores the U.S. Constitution's requirements and (i) seeks to place an unfit (in my view and that of many others) individual in the office of Attorney General and (ii) in all likelihood seeks to kill the Russiagate investigation of his own potential wrongdoing. The move is something one would expect of Vladimir Putin, Josef Stalin or some other self-absorbed dictator. Ironically, in today's New York Times the husband of Kelly Anne Conway - one of Trump's skanks-in-chief in my view - a noted DC attorney in his own right co-authored a column that flat out calls Trumps appointment of Trump sycophant Matthew Whitaker unconstitutional. Trump, of course, has always viewed himself above the law as demonstrated by his years in New York City working with the mob and then the Russian Mafia. It should come as no surprise that Trump holds constitutional requirements in contempt. Here are column highlights:
What now seems an eternity ago, the conservative law professor Steven Calabresi published an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal in May arguing that Robert Mueller’s appointment as special counsel was unconstitutional. . . . . He argued that Mr. Mueller was a principal officer because he is exercising significant law enforcement authority and that since he has not been confirmed by the Senate, his appointment was unconstitutional. As one of us argued at the time, he was wrong. What makes an officer a principal officer is that he or she reports only to the president. No one else in government is that person’s boss. But Mr. Mueller reports to Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general. So, Mr. Mueller is what is known as an inferior officer, not a principal one, and his appointment without Senate approval was valid.
But Professor Calabresi and Mr. Trump were right about the core principle. A principal officer must be confirmed by the Senate. And that has a very significant consequence today. It means that Mr. Trump’s installation of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general of the United States after forcing the resignation of Jeff Sessions is unconstitutional. It’s illegal. And it means that anything Mr. Whitaker does, or tries to do, in that position is invalid.
Much of the commentary about Mr. Whitaker’s appointment has focused on all sorts of technical points about the Vacancies Reform Act and Justice Department succession statutes. But the flaw in the appointment of Mr. Whitaker, who was Mr. Sessions’s chief of staff at the Justice Department, runs much deeper. It defies one of the explicit checks and balances set out in the Constitution, a provision designed to protect us all against the centralization of government power.
If you don’t believe us, then take it from Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, whom Mr. Trump once called his “favorite” sitting justice. Last year, the Supreme Court examined the question of whether the general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board had been lawfully appointed to his job without Senate confirmation. The Supreme Court held the appointment invalid on a statutory ground.
Justice Thomas agreed with the judgment, but wrote separately to emphasize that even if the statute had allowed the appointment, the Constitution’s Appointments Clause would not have. The officer in question was a principal officer, he concluded. And the public interest protected by the Appointments Clause was a critical one: The Constitution’s drafters, Justice Thomas argued, “recognized the serious risk for abuse and corruption posed by permitting one person to fill every office in the government.” Which is why, he pointed out, the framers provided for advice and consent of the Senate.
What goes for a mere lawyer at the N.L.R.B. goes in spades for the attorney general of the United States, the head of the Justice Department and one of the most important people in the federal government.
We cannot tolerate such an evasion of the Constitution’s very explicit, textually precise design. Senate confirmation exists for a simple, and good, reason. Constitutionally, Matthew Whitaker is a nobody. His job as Mr. Sessions’s chief of staff did not require Senate confirmation. (Yes, he was confirmed as a federal prosecutor in Iowa, in 2004, but Mr. Trump can’t cut and paste that old, lapsed confirmation to today.) For the president to install Mr. Whitaker as our chief law enforcement officer is to betray the entire structure of our charter document.
Because Mr. Whitaker has not undergone the process of Senate confirmation, there has been no mechanism for scrutinizing whether he has the character and ability to evenhandedly enforce the law in a position of such grave responsibility. The public is entitled to that assurance, especially since Mr. Whitaker’s only supervisor is Mr. Trump himself, and the president is hopelessly compromised by the Mueller investigation. That is why adherence to the requirements of the Appointments Clause is so important here, and always.
[T]he Constitution is a bipartisan document, written for the ages to guard against wrongdoing by officials of any party. Mr. Whitaker’s installation makes a mockery of our Constitution and our founders’ ideals. As Justice Thomas’s opinion in the N.L.R.B. case reminds us, the Constitution’s framers “had lived under a form of government that permitted arbitrary governmental acts to go unchecked.” He added “they knew that liberty could be preserved only by ensuring that the powers of government would never be consolidated in one body.” We must heed those words today.
Very well said and accurate. One can only hope that Senate Republicans will remember that thir oath is to the U.S. Constitution and NOT to Der Trumpenführer.
|U.S. Senate chamber.|
The U.S. Senate, which Founding Fathers thought was a good check on possible rash actions by a majority of voters, is quickly becoming the vehicle whereby a minority of voters - mainly in red states - can block the will of the majority time and time again. Ironically, meanwhile, it is the majority and the blue states that provide the taxes that allow federal handouts to red states which are in ways akin to the "welfare queens" their Republican elected officials constantly deride. They receive far more in federal funding than they pay in and they despise those in the states that are footing the bill. Something needs to be done to either reform the Senate - something not likely to happen - or to change the funding formula to reduce the amounts freeloading red states receive. As Millennials become even more engaged in politics, the Senate will loom larger and larger in blocking democracy and allowing a tyranny of a shrinking minority. A column in the Washington Post looks at a problem that will fester more and more over the coming years. Here are highlights:
Tuesday’s midterm elections were much more than a national repudiation of
PresidentTrump, a reminder that the president is still strong in red states or a return to the divided government that Americans so often favor. They were a sign of the political nightmare that will define a generation of millennial politics.
The Democrats took the House thanks to an anti-Trump surge not just among traditional Democratic groups such as minority voters, but also among college-educated people, particularly women, in America’s sprawling suburbs. Republicans expanded their Senate majority as they ran up the score in red states such as Indiana, Missouri and North Dakota. Democratic incumbents lost big in each of these states.
[T]here is a trend at work bigger than the president. The nation is diversifying. Its cities are growing. Its coasts are increasingly vibrant, diverse and open to the world. These values better fit educated suburbanites than Trump’s xenophobia. These facts suggest that the Democratic coalition is likely to win more votes nationwide, as it has in every presidential election but one since 1992. Virginia, whose northern suburban districts turned the state from red to purple to blue over just a decade, is a harbinger. Given time, as electoral votes and congressional seats shift to these areas, the House and presidential elections are likely to be the Democrats’ to lose. Tuesday’s results are an early indication of this shift.
But the Senate is different. The chamber was never meant to reflect the will of the American majority, and it increasingly will not. . . . Republican tribalists will not suffer a Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) or a Joe Donnelly (Ind.) representing their states, no matter how centrist their records. Both lost, and by unexpectedly wide margins. The survival of West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin III and Montana Democrat Jon Tester look like ever-rarer aberrations.
Democrats will eventually pick off Senate seats that Republicans still hold in bluer territories, such as Susan Collins’s seat in Maine. But for electoral purposes, Republican voters are much more efficiently distributed across the country. No matter how many people vote in California, they still get only two senators, the same as tiny Idaho, South Dakota and Wyoming.
The Founders imagined that the Senate would check and cool the impulses of the majority. But the body is poised to serve as a reactionary rural veto on a center-left country, routinely thwarting efforts to address major issues such as immigration, climate change, the national debt, health care, international cooperation and wealth inequality. Staffing the government and the courts could become impossible, as GOP senators refuse to approve Democratic appointees. The judiciary could become more politicized and even more conservative.
The United States could fail to compete in providing the sort of modern, competent and responsive government that fosters economic prosperity and attracts foreign talent and investment, unless Republicans start electing moderates who will compromise with Democrats. With the increasing geographic and identity-based divisions in the country, it is more likely that Republican voters will prefer candidates who will promise to take nothing over a compromise. My elementary school teachers taught me and my fellow children, succored as we were on multicultural urbanism while growing up in Los Angeles, that we benefited from a symbiotic relationship with the rural Americans who grew our food, watched over our nation’s vast open spaces and defined so much of the American experience for so long. We, by contrast, provided a market for their products, connected them to the rest of the world and provided the economic innovation that underpinned national progress. Neither could exist without the other, and both deserve respect.
Increasingly, the relationship will not be defined by respect, but by resentment. The result will be a toxic stalemate.
Once again America's insane gun laws have claimed a dozen lives (13 if you cont the shooter) in a mass shooting in California. The slaughter - in which every member of Congress who accepts NRA money and votes against common sense gun laws shares complicity - took place at a bar packed with college students in Thousand Oaks, a city considered among the safest in America. The lessons are two fold: (i) only comprehensive European or Australian style gun laws will lessen the carnage, and (ii) nowhere is truly safe as long as guns can be freely purchased. Only America has continued mass shootings and, I'm sorry, but it is because of our insane laws that allow almost anyone to acquire a gun. No doubt we will hear more bullshit refrains of "thoughts and prayers" rather than see any meaningful change in America's laws that allow the slaughter to continue. Here are highlights from the Los Angeles Times:
At least 13 people are dead after a mass shooting inside a crowded Thousand Oaks bar late Wednesday night, with a gunman throwing smoke bombs and raining bullets on an event popular with college students.The shooting at the Borderline Bar & Grill left 12 people dead, according to Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean. A sheriff’s department sergeant responding to the scene was shot several times and died at a hospital. The gunman is also died. More people were wounded.
The gunman, who is believed to be among the dead, burst into the bar around 11:20 p.m., cloaked in all black as he threw smoke bombs and began shooting at targets as young as 18 authorities and witnesses said. Several witnesses described the weapon used as a pistol.
Deputies arrived and got into a firefight with the suspect, which left one deputy seriously injured, according to Capt. Garo Kuredjian, a Ventura County Sheriff’s department spokesman.
Witnesses reported a horrifying scene as gunfire echoed through the club and those inside ran for cover, in some cases using chairs to break windows to escape the building. Others hid in bathrooms and an attic as they frantically called loved ones who were hearing reports of the shooting.
Teylor Whittler went to Borderline to celebrate her 21st birthday on Wednesday night. She was dancing with friends in the bar when she heard what sounded like firecrackers. She quickly turned and followed the noise, only to find a man holding a gun near the entrance to Borderline.
The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force had been dispatched to the scene, according to an agency spokeswoman. She could not immediately comment on a motive in the shooting. Representatives from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives had also been dispatched. Kuredjian said hundreds of people were inside the bar at the time of the shooting, but he could not comment on the extent of the injuries suffered by those shot. The number of people injured is likely to rise, he said, as many victims transported themselves to area hospitals and emergency rooms with injuries.
Wednesday nights are college-themed nights open to students as young as 18, according to the bar’s website. Witnesses said the event is popular with Moorpark college students, and the Pepperdine student newspaper tweeted that students from its campus were also inside at the time of the shooting.
Some witnesses said the bar was a hub for country music fans. Many of the attendees Wednesday night normally attended the Stage Coach country music festival in California and, tragically, some were survivors of the massacre at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas that left 58 dead last year.
Until we have meaningful gun control laws in America, the death count will continue to grow. Meanwhile, the gun industry laughs all the way to the bank. Utterly disgusting and morally wrong.
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
One very next day after the 2018 midterm elections saw Democrats set to retake control of the House of Representatives, Donald Trump reminded us all that he is a clear and present danger to the rule of law, continues to be a strident racist and will perhaps go to any and all lengths to kill the Mueller Russiagate investigation to protect family members and himself from criminal indictment and/or impeachment. By firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Trump seems to be openly endeavoring to obstruct justice and place himself above the law. For those of us of a certain age, it brings back a sense of deja vu of the Watergate "Saturday Night Massacre." The main difference between then and now is that today's Congressional Republicans put their party over democracy and the U.S. Constitution. Trump's rant today that he can fire anyone he wants and trashing of news reports shows that he has a mind set akin to that of the dictators of the 1930's. A piece in the Washington Post looks at the looming constitutional crisis. Here are excerpts:
Just in case the Democratic capture of the House of Representatives tempted you to relax for a moment about the state of our country,
PresidentTrump quickly moved to remind us that we still have no idea how low he’s going to sink — or how much damage he’ll do along the way.
This happened on multiple fronts. Here’s the most immediate one:
Attorney General Jeff Sessions resigned on Wednesday at President Trump’s request, ending the tenure of a loyalist Trump had soured on shortly after Sessions took office in 2017 because the former senator from Alabama had recused himself from oversight of the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.
At the center of this decision to force out Sessions is the ongoing investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Trump has long raged at Sessions for recusing himself from the probe, rather than constraining it on Trump’s behalf. We all knew this day would come as a result, because, as The Post notes, the two men were fundamentally at odds over whether it’s the proper role of the nation’s chief law enforcement officer to protect Trump’s personal and legal interests . . . . it has long been obvious that any attorney general who did not place Trump’s own interests over those of the country would have to go.
Democrats immediately pounced on the news that Whitaker will replace him, pointing to highly questionable comments he’s made about the Mueller probe. Before becoming Sessions’s chief of staff, Whitaker suggested regulations allowed for Trump to put in an acting replacement for the attorney general — meaning one who would not have to be confirmed by the Senate — who could, if he wished, starve the Mueller probe of funds . . . . Now this person, conveniently enough, is Whitaker.
Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein oversees the investigation, but the new acting attorney general, by not recusing himself, might be able to carry out such a scenario. According to legal expert Stephen Vladeck, Whitaker supplants Rosenstein as overseer of the investigation. This raises at least the possibility that some sort of effort to constrain the probe could be put in motion during the lame-duck period, that is, before Democrats take over the House.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer is calling on Whitaker to recuse himself over his previous comments. And Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a member of the Intelligence Committee, just put out a statement pointing out that “replacing the Attorney General with a non-Senate-confirmed political staffer is highly irregular and unacceptable.” Blumenthal called for new legislation to protect the Mueller investigation, describing this as a “break the glass moment.”
[N]ote that it comes after Trump gave a startlingly unhinged performance at a news conference Wednesday. He flatly declared he can “fire” everyone associated with the Mueller investigation if he wishes . . . . . then, after a reporter pressed Trump on whether his declaration that he is a “nationalist” amounted to an embrace of white nationalism . . . . [Trump] dress[ed] down a black reporter’s question (Trump was also very abusive toward another black female reporter, April Ryan) about his white nationalism as “racist.” Given that these groups are already emboldened by the ongoing mainstreaming of their views at the hands of Trump and others, this is just an extraordinary act of malicious and destructive intent.
There is a tendency after big electoral victories such as the one last night to grow a bit complacent, to imagine that a semblance of normalcy has been restored. In multiple ways, Trump reminded us today that we can’t relax even for a second.
I remain convinced that, if allowed to do his job, Mueller will likely expose massive money laundering operations involving Trump and his organizations and Russians and perhaps even treason. Crimes that would put Trump in prison for the rest of his life and see Ivanka and Donnie Jr. spend many years in prison along with him. The Mueller investigation must be protected at all costs.
With the Democrat takeover of control of the U.S. House of Representatives, the days of Republicans killing investigations in to Donald Trump's likely criminality and perhaps worse are over. While sadly re-elected, Devin Nunes' agenda of cover ups and conspiring with Trump are over. Longer term the results in urban and suburban districts ought to send warning flags to Republicans. As the cities and suburbs grow and rural populations shrink - and aging whites die off - the day may be fast approaching where the GOP agenda of racism, bigotry, and reverse Robin Hood no longer wins in many statewide races outside of backward rural/red states which are the federal equivalent of welfare recipients that they so strongly condemn. The big unanswered question also remains of what House and Mueller investigations of Trump may reveal . A piece in Politico looks at the new political reality:
Democrats wanted a base of power in Donald Trump’s Washington and they got it.They also wanted to wake up Wednesday morning to a radically changed country. They wanted permission to dismiss the past two years as a fluke of history, a hallucination now fading. And they wanted something more: to rub the president’s nose in the dirt of defeat and repudiation so badly that it would be hard to see him doing more than limp through the balance of his first term, much less with a credible path to a second.
Those things Democrats did not get. To the contrary, the GOP defeat was not nearly as severe as the Democratic one in 2010 . . . . This leaves 2018 as the “Yes, but” election—not fully satisfying but by no means fully deflating for partisans of either side.
Yes: the Democratic march into once-unfavorable suburban terrain across the country was impressive. No amount of prattle about the “expectations game” or historical averages can diminish the reality that Nancy Pelosi is poised to retake the speaker’s gavel and the vast appropriations and investigatory power this gives the opposition party to check a hostile executive.
But: There is scant evidence of a mandate for a scorched-earth pursuit of Trump, and Tuesday’s gains in the Senate for Republicans (as well as the recent Brett Kavanaugh nomination battle that likely contributed to this outcome) underline the risks of this approach. . . . the electoral path Trump navigated to the presidency in 2016 remains plausible in 2020.
But: The midterms offered redundant evidence (some GOP strategists have been warning of this for a generation) that the party’s base is predominately rural in a country growing more urban and suburban, predominately white and culturally conservative in a country growing more diverse and culturally tolerant. Do Republicans really think that losing a majority of people who voted – as they did in 2016 and did again Tuesday night – but clinging to power through institutions designed to buffer democracy like the Senate and Electoral College is a wise strategy long-term?
The suburbs, which formed the bedrock of the Republican Party for half a century, are increasingly Democratic ground. The slow suburban exodus from the GOP has accelerated and even expanded beyond the Midwest and Northeast to the South and across the Sunbelt. Name the big metro – Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Minneapolis, Philadelphia – and chances are there’s a Republican incumbent who lost Tuesday night or barely escaped.
By accident or design, however, divided government of the sort Trump will now preside over is the historical norm. In the 38 years since Ronald Reagan’s victory, presidents have faced having at least one chamber of Congress controlled by the opposition party in 28 years.
In general, however, those presidents had a degree of modesty about their new circumstances that would be unusual, so far, for Trump. . . . No one is expecting Trump to come forward in coming days with a message of self-critique or self-correction that by all evidence he believes is wholly unnecessary. In fact, [Trump]
the presidentis likely to cherry-pick the results, pointing to the red-state Senate romp as evidence of the popularity of his agenda while dismissing the suburban losses as minimal, a culling of losers and malcontents that will ultimately strengthen the GOP herd.
Trump’s response was typical of the night’s mixed outcome: Yes, he kept the Senate, but was happy to avert his gaze from whatever traps House Democrats have in store for him.
One can hope that judicious House investigations and the Mueller investigation will ultimately expose Trump - and hopefully Pence as well - and help even red states to lurch back to objective reality.
Virginia continues its transformation into a blue state as Tim Kaine handily defeats GOP extremist and Neo-Confederate Corey Stewart and three Republican members of Congress go down to defeat. Elaine Luria sent Donald Trump puppet Scott Taylor into retirement, pro-Trump David Brat lost to Abigail Spanberger, a former CIA officer, and Jennifer Wexton utterly crushed Barbara Comstock. Following the calls to racism and trends of other recent elections, Virginia's cities and suburbs voted heavily Democrat while its increasingly out of touch with reality, backwater rural regions voted against their own long term economic interest and allowed themselves to be duped by GOP calls to racism and hatred of others. Thankfully, Virginia's urban and suburban areas - the economic dynamo of Virginia's economy - reject GOP efforts to create a new Gilded Age filled with discrimination and bigotry. Here are highlights from the Virginian Pilot:
Virginia voters reproached President Donald Trump for the second year in row as Democrats flipped three congressional races and scored a convincing victory in a U.S. Senate race.
Democrats won GOP-held districts in Northern Virginia, Hampton Roads and the Richmond area, boosted by suburban voters unhappy with the president. The Virginia victories helped put Democrats on track to take control of the U.S. House. All three Democratic congressional victories were by women, two of whom are new to politics.
"We succeeded at the polls tonight because voters rejected the politics of hate, the politics of division and the politics of ideology," said Abigail Spanberger, a former CIA officer. She knocked off Republican Dave Brat in a Richmond-area district. Brat was a tea party favorite who scored a major upset four years ago when he defeated then-U.S. Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a GOP primary.
In Hampton Roads, Elaine Luria defeated Republican Rep. Scott Taylor. Luria, a former Navy commander, had never run for office before, like Spanberger. A former Navy SEAL, Taylor was viewed by many as up and comer in the GOP who had potential for future statewide run.
Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock, another rising star in the GOP, lost her Northern Virginia seat to state Sen. Jennifer Wexton.
Democrats controlled only four out of 11 congressional seats in Virginia prior to Tuesday. Now they are set to control seven seats to the GOP's four.
The strong showing by Democrats highlights Virginia's continued dislike of the president, particularly among suburban voters. Virginia served as an early indicator for anti-Trump energy during its 2017 race for governor. Democrats trounced Republicans in all three statewide races and won more seats in the state House than virtually anyone expected.
Health care and immigration were top issues in voters' mind in this election, according to a wide-ranging survey of the electorate. And nearly 7 in 10 voters said Trump was a reason for their vote.
One bright spot for Republicans was Denver Riggleman, who won an open seat in central Virginia against Democrat Leslie Cockburn in a district that Trump won by 11 percentage points.
With Corey Stewart's huge loss to Tim Kaine, one has to wonder when the Virginia Republicans will decide to come into the 21st century and stop nominating lunatic Neanderthals.
Tuesday, November 06, 2018
|A psychologist who claimed he could "cure" homosexuality and was found looking for gay sex now says he needs help.|
Each time a right wing anti-gay, pro-conversion therapy hypocrite gets "outed" and exposed as a lying fraud, they whine about the pain inflicted on their families, ignoring, of course, their own role in their own undoing. Recently "outed" Florida psychologist Norman Goldwasser - who had a "Manhunt" profile with images of him naked and highlighting his interests in “dating,” “kissing,” “married men,” and “massage” - for years preyed on LGBT youths and their families selling them the snake oil that sexual orientation can be "changed" is no exception. Goldwasser and other charlatans like him care nothing about the harm they have done to members of the LGBT community but want everyone to be sensitive to feelings. The brazen hypocrisy is stunning. A piece in The Advocate looks at Goldwasser's self-centered bleating. Here are excerpts:
Florida psychologist Norman Goldwasser, who provided conversion therapy, designed to make gay people straight, and was found looking for hookups on gay dating apps, has responded to his outing.
"The fact that this story and others have been brought to the public is incredibly painful but will become a catalyst for me seeking the right help for myself," Goldwasser told NBC News in an email.
Goldwasser, who has said that being gay is was an ailment like obsessive-compulsive disorder and claimed he could "cure" it, was found using the screen name "hotnhairy72" on Manhunt and Gay Bear Nation. His Manhunt profile, which is now deleted, included images of him naked and highlighted his interests in “dating,” “kissing,” “married men,” and “massage.”
I obviously was unable to help myself," Goldwasser wrote in his email to NBC News. "There is no justification for my personal behavior and I deeply regret the pain I have caused people in my personal life."
Goldwasser, an Orthodox Jew, is a therapist at Horizon Psychological Services in Miami Beach and previously worked at the now-defunct Jewish conversion therapy program Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality, known by the acronym JONAH. The program, which operated in secret even after courts ordered it shut down, used the Torah to justify homophobia.
“Goldwasser can’t claim his personal life is none of our business when trying to ‘cure’ LGBT people is his business,” [Wayne] Besen said. “Here is a case where a charlatan is committing consumer fraud by misleading clients and adversely affecting their mental health. We are particularly concerned when Goldwassser’s scam preys on young people susceptible to his charade.” Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have outlawed the use of conversion therapy on minors by state-licensed professionals, as have numerous cities. But still, about 700,000 LGBTQ people have been subjected to conversion therapy, according to the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law.