Saturday, June 01, 2019
Historically, Virginia Beach has been a Republican bastion, although during the last few election cycles that distinction is fading as the city becomes more racially and socially diverse. Yesterday, some of the Virginia GOP's anti-gun control agenda came home to roost as 12 innocent city of Virginia Beach employees were murdered at the city municipal center by another city employee armed with a gun with a silencer and multiple extended magazines - things one does not need if one merely has a weapon for self-protection. The event was chilling for me since when I worked in the past with a large Virginia Beach law firm and represented developers, I frequently went to meetings in Building 2 at the municipal center which is now a major crime scene.
As one friend on Facebook asked "How many mass shootings is it going to take before we say NO to the murder merchants at the NRA and YES to gun legislation that actually works?" Any politician who sends "thoughts and prayers" to the victims and their families yet has voted against gun control legislation is nothing short of a lying hypocrite. In their own way, they have blood on their hands just as much as the shooter who from the facts known fits the pattern of the quiet loner filled with hate inside - precisely who should not have a gun with multiple extended magazines. I suspect as more information becomes known, it will be found that the shooter legally purchased the weapon and magazines used to snuff out 12 lives. Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring summed it up well:
In recent years there have been mass shootings at American elementary schools, colleges, government buildings, offices, concerts, movie theaters, nightclubs…even churches, mosques, and synagogues. We have to do more to stop this kind of violence. Life doesn’t have to be this way, and it shouldn’t be this way.
New Zealand acted decisively in the wake of its recent mass shooting. The usual suspects will whine that now is not the time to talk gun control, which is patently untrue. The USA could do the same as New Zealand if politicians ceased taking NRA and gun manufacturer gun money and voted for common sense gun control that included strict background checks and rigidly restricted automatic weapons and extended magazines.
Come November, the entire Virginia General Assembly is up for election. Take the time to register to vote and get out and vote for pro-gun control candidates - which will mean voting a straight Democrat ticket. Vote the political whores of the NRA and gun lobby out of office. Regular mass shootings does NOT have to be the norm.
Friday, May 31, 2019
As noted before on this blog, the only group that has consistently seen its agenda pushed by the Trump/Pence regime are the the Christofascists. Trump/Pence has been relentless in its effort to roll back LGBT and women's rights to the delight of those who want a Christian theocracy and the to inflict their toxic form of Christianity on all Americans. The latest move is the establishment of a panel on international human rights and “natural law,” that seems aimed at narrowing protections for women and members of the LGBT community. Christofascists and far right Catholics have long used "natural law" to argue against LGBT rights and to push for patriarchal control of families and the subjugation of women - the Catholic Church's "natural law" has not evolved since the 12th century - so it is doubtful the panel will be embracing modern knowledge and concepts of equality. Politico looks at this disturbing development:
The new body, to be called the Commission on Unalienable Rights, will advise Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, according to a notice the State Department quietly published Thursday on the Federal Register.“The Commission will provide fresh thinking about human rights discourse where such discourse has departed from our nation's founding principles of natural law and natural rights,” states the notice, which is dated May 22.
Several human rights activists said Thursday that they were surprised by the move and trying to learn details. Some privately said they worry that talk of the “nation’s founding principles” and “natural law” are coded signals of plans to focus less on protecting women and LGBT people.
The word “natural” in such context is often interpreted to mean “God-given,” a phrasing that is less common in modern human rights literature but which could signal a religious component, experts said.
Activists and former U.S. officials noted that the Trump administration’s record on human rights so far is spotty at best.
The State Department already has an entire bureau devoted to the issues of human rights, democracy and labor, and it was not clear whether officials in that bureau were involved or even aware of the plans for the new commission.
The top State Department contact listed on the notice was Kiron Skinner, Pompeo's director of policy planning. . . . . Skinner drew criticism recently for seeming to suggest that China, a rising power, is such a fundamentally different culture from the United States that arguments about human rights may not have much effect in dialogue with Beijing.
Former top U.S. officials who dealt with rights issues expressed puzzlement over the commission’s creation.
“On the one hand it’s commendable that the secretary wants to place more emphasis on these issues, given that the administration to date has not been very outspoken on them,” said David Kramer, who served as the assistant secretary of State for human rights under the administration of Republican President George W. Bush. “On the other hand, I’m not sure what this commission is supposed to do that the human rights bureau doesn’t already do.”
PresidentDonald Trump and his aides have de-emphasized the role of human rights in their foreign policy, raising the issue only selectively — typically to raise pressure on countries considered adversaries.
The Republican administration has, for instance, highlighted the plight of female activists seeking more freedom in Iran, a longtime U.S. nemesis, but largely ignored similar challenges facing such activists in Saudi Arabia, a longtime U.S. ally.
The administration has made promoting religious freedom overseas a high priority, a move that has delighted Trump’s many evangelical Christian supporters.
But the administration also has rolled back domestic regulations aimed at protecting members of the LGBT community, especially those who are transgender.
It also has cut down sections about women’s reproductive rights in the State Department’s annual human rights report and made attempts to eliminate references to “sexual and reproductive health” in U.N. documents.
If some of the who's who of Christofascists who have Trump's ear end up on this panel, it will be a sign that the panel will have a sinister agenda. As for Skinner, she is a former Fox News contributor, which does little to instill any shred of confidence.It is not clear who will serve on the panel or when their appointments will take effect, but activists and former U.S. officials noted that its composition will greatly affect the policies it promotes.
Thursday, May 30, 2019
As a previous post looked at, many Democrats have worries about nominating a candidate who is "too old." This is a potential problem for both Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, but Sanders seemingly faces the larger hurdle, especially among older voters. As a piece in Politico points out, Sanders' description of himself as a "Democratic Socialist" turns off many older voters. Then too, there is - at least in my view - Sanders' less than likable personality. The Sanders campaign knows it has a problem, but to date has been unable to crack Biden's huge lead among older voters who like it or not vote in larger percentages than Millennials and voters under age 45. Perhaps the debates will change the perception of Sanders, but his age and prickly personality may well continue to plague him regardless of the loyalty of his cult-like supporters. Here are highlights from Politico:
Bernie Sanders, 77, has a problem with old people.In poll after poll, he places a distant second behind former Vice President Joe Biden among the senior set, the demographic that has long had more sway over who becomes president than any other. His campaign acknowledges it's a problem and is trying — so far, unsuccessfully — to fix it.
It’s a familiar issue for the septuagenarian senator: In 2016, Sanders won more voters from young people than Hillary Clinton and President Donald Trump combined. But Clinton crushed him among older Americans at the ballot box, denying him the nomination.
The possibility of the same weakness thwarting Sanders’ second bid for the White House looms over his campaign. . . . . his aides are optimistic that his plans to expand Social Security and Medicare benefits will help.
But some of the same qualities that have made Sanders a folk hero among millennials could be repelling seniors. His embrace of democratic socialism and calls for a political revolution are likely a tougher sell to many older voters who lived through the Cold War and are generally more conservative. And in a year when Democrats just want to beat President Donald Trump, the Vermont independent is seen by some Democrats as less electable than, say, Joe Biden.
Biden has higher perceptions of electability, and it could be hard to convince people they should be voting for Bernie when they're already familiar with this other guy, and their main concern is getting Trump out of office."
In the latest Morning Consult weekly tracking poll, Sanders leads Biden by 12 points among Democratic primary voters under 30, and Biden has only a 1-point lead among voters aged 30-44. But Biden leads Sanders by 44 points among seniors, 53 percent to 9 percent.
Similarly, a Fox News poll conducted earlier this month showed Biden leading Sanders, 45 percent to 11 percent among Democratic voters older than 45. Among voters younger than that, Sanders was marginally ahead of Biden, 25 percent to 22 percent.
Iowa is a case study of how Sanders’ unpopularity with older voters could haunt him. In 2016, . . . it was his performance among older voters that prevented him from winning Iowa outright: Sanders overwhelmingly won voters under 45, but Clinton drubbed him, 69 percent to 26 percent, among those 65 and older, according to entrance polls.
Count me among those who do not believe that Sanders can beat Trump.There’s also an ideological hurdle Sanders needs to clear. Older Americans tend to have dimmer views of socialism than people in their 20s and 30s. Sanders, a democratic socialist, has taken pains to explain his ideology, at times by embracing Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Wednesday, May 29, 2019
Robert Mueller finally broke his silence and released a statement that he read today. The statement confirms that Mueller's investigation did NOT conclude that Trump/his campaign had not committed a crime. Stated another way, the report in way exonerates Trump. Trump's claims to the contrary are, like so many other of his utterances, lies. Mueller's statement also makes it clear that Attorney General William Barr has mislead the American public and seemingly has been more concerned with acting as Trump's consigliere than serving the citizens of America. One columnist in the Washington Post summed up Mueller's statement and the perilous state of our democracy in this manner:
If this man of precise language was not inviting Congress to impeach the president, he certainly seemed to be inviting the belief that he didn’t charge Trump with crimes only because he couldn’t. And because Mueller chooses words carefully, it’s also worth noting which one he didn’t use: “collusion.” Instead, he implicitly rebuked a president who constantly, maddeningly, refers to Vladimir Putin’s interference in the 2016 election as the “Russian hoax.”Mueller ended his nearly 10-minute statement where it began, and where the entire investigation began: with a Russian attack on the United States. There “were multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election, and that allegation deserves the attention of every American,” Mueller said.
If our country’s political health were better, the Russian attack would get the attention of every American. But Mueller gives us more credit than we deserve. His report assumed that our leaders would take seriously the Russian threat when presented with overwhelming evidence. It assumed that political leaders would soberly weigh the evidence that Trump obstructed his investigation.
Instead, Trump laughs about the whole thing with Putin, Republican leaders quash bipartisan efforts to protect the 2020 election from another attack, and GOP lawmakers, instead of pondering the president’s culpability and Mueller’s damning findings, demand investigations of investigators’ “treason” and attempted “coup.” In appealing to their better angels, Mueller was naive.
Russia is preparing to attack us — again. Trump is poised to benefit — again. Unlike in 2016, we now know Russia’s bad intentions, thanks to Mueller. That Trump and his allies facilitate the Russian attack by refusing to protect against it is the essence of collusion.
Frighteningly, as the column notes, Trump, Putin, Russian intelligence agents and William Barr have other would be co-conspirators: Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham and every other Republican member of Congress who continues to act to protect Trump - and their own re-election chances - and giving Trump and his base political fellatio at the express of the nation as a whole. For those inclined to read (which rules out Fox News viewers), the following is Mueller's entire statement as published by CNN. Read it if you question my reading of it.
Two years ago, the Acting Attorney General asked me to serve as Special Counsel, and he created the Special Counsel's Office.
The appointment order directed the office to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. This included investigating any links or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump campaign.
I have not spoken publicly during our investigation. I am speaking today because our investigation is complete. The Attorney General has made the report on our investigation largely public. And we are formally closing the Special Counsel's Office. As well, I am resigning from the Department of Justice and returning to private life.
I'll make a few remarks about the results of our work. But beyond these few remarks, it is important that the office's written work speak for itself.
Let me begin where the appointment order begins: and that is interference in the 2016 presidential election.
As alleged by the grand jury in an indictment, Russian intelligence officers who were part of the Russian military launched a concerted attack on our political system.
The indictment alleges that they used sophisticated cyber techniques to hack into computers and networks used by the Clinton campaign. They stole private information, and then released that information through fake online identities and through the organization WikiLeaks. The releases were designed and timed to interfere with our election and to damage a presidential candidate.
And at the same time, as the grand jury alleged in a separate indictment, a private Russian entity engaged in a social media operation where Russian citizens posed as Americans in order to interfere in the election.
These indictments contain allegations. And we are not commenting on the guilt or innocence of any specific defendant. Every defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in court.
The indictments allege, and the other activities in our report describe, efforts to interfere in our political system. They needed to be investigated and understood. That is among the reasons why the Department of Justice established our office.
That is also a reason we investigated efforts to obstruct the investigation. The matters we investigated were of paramount importance. It was critical for us to obtain full and accurate information from every person we questioned. When a subject of an investigation obstructs that investigation or lies to investigators, it strikes at the core of the government's effort to find the truth and hold wrongdoers accountable.
Let me say a word about the report. The report has two parts addressing the two main issues we were asked to investigate.
The first volume of the report details numerous efforts emanating from Russia to influence the election. This volume includes a discussion of the Trump campaign's response to this activity, as well as our conclusion that there was insufficient evidence to charge a broader conspiracy.
And in the second volume, the report describes the results and analysis of our obstruction of justice investigation involving the President.
The order appointing me Special Counsel authorized us to investigate actions that could obstruct the investigation. We conducted that investigation and we kept the office of the Acting Attorney General apprised of the progress of our work.
As set forth in our report, after that investigation, if we had confidence that the President clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said that.
We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the President did commit a crime. The introduction to volume two of our report explains that decision.
It explains that under long-standing Department policy, a President cannot be charged with a federal crime while he is in office. That is unconstitutional. Even if the charge is kept under seal and hidden from public view—that too is prohibited.
The Special Counsel's Office is part of the Department of Justice and, by regulation, it was bound by that Department policy. Charging [Trump]
the Presidentwith a crime was therefore not an option we could consider.
The Department's written opinion explaining the policy against charging a President makes several important points that further informed our handling of the obstruction investigation. Those points are summarized in our report. And I will describe two of them:
First, the opinion explicitly permits the investigation of a sitting President because it is important to preserve evidence while memories are fresh and documents are available. Among other things, that evidence could be used if there were co-conspirators who could now be charged.
And second, the opinion says that the Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting President of wrongdoing.
And beyond Department policy, we were guided by principles of fairness. It would be unfair to potentially accuse somebody of a crime when there can be no court resolution of an actual charge.
So that was the Justice Department policy and those were the principles under which we operated. From them we concluded that we would not reach a determination -- one way or the other -- about whether [Trump]
the Presidentcommitted a crime. That is the office's final position and we will not comment on any other conclusions or hypotheticals about the President.
We conducted an independent criminal investigation and reported the results to the Attorney General—as required by Department regulations.
The Attorney General then concluded that it was appropriate to provide our report to Congress and the American people.
At one point in time I requested that certain portions of the report be released. The Attorney General preferred to make the entire report public all at once. We appreciate that the Attorney General made the report largely public. I do not question the Attorney General's good faith in that decision.
I hope and expect this to be the only time that I will speak about this matter. I am making that decision myself—no one has told me whether I can or should testify or speak further about this matter.
There has been discussion about an appearance before Congress. Any testimony from this office would not go beyond our report. It contains our findings and analysis, and the reasons for the decisions we made. We chose those words carefully, and the work speaks for itself.
The report is my testimony. I would not provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before Congress.
In addition, access to our underlying work product is being decided in a process that does not involve our office.
So beyond what I have said here today and what is contained in our written work, I do not believe it is appropriate for me to speak further about the investigation or to comment on the actions of the Justice Department or Congress.
It is for that reason that I will not take questions here today.
Before I step away, I want to thank the attorneys, the FBI agents, the analysts, and the professional staff who helped us conduct this investigation in a fair and independent manner. These individuals, who spent nearly two years with the Special Counsel's Office, were of the highest integrity.
I will close by reiterating the central allegation of our indictments—that there were multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election. That allegation deserves the attention of every American.Thank you.
I for one are very fearful for the future if Republicans continue to put their increasingly toxic and corrupt party ahead of the best interests of the nation. Hopefully, history will deal with Trump, McConnell, Graham and others very harshly and they will rank with Hitler's collaborators who similarly worked to destroy Germany's democracy in the 1930's.
If there is anyone betraying the best interest of the United States, I would argue that it is Donald Trump who is shredding our alliances and violating the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution daily. Yet like Hitler did with his opponents who recognized him for the threat that he posed to Germany, Trump is wildly claiming the it is U.S. intelligence agencies and the FBI that are the traitors. Trump seemingly views himself as the government in the form of a monarch and thereby any investigation of him and his dirty business dealings is "treason." While James Comey is hardly among my favorite individuals - his bungling of the Clinton email red herring helped elect Trump - in a column in the Washington Post he reminds us that facts matter and that Trump's baseless lies need to be confronted. One can only hope that the media listens and goes after Trump and his minions accordingly. Here are op-ed highlights:
It is tempting for normal people to ignore [Trump]
our presidentwhen he starts ranting about treason and corruption at the FBI. I understand the temptation. I’m the object of many of his rants, and even I try to ignore him.But we shouldn’t, because millions of goodpeople believe what a president of the United States says. In normal times, that’s healthy. But not now, when the president is a liar who doesn’t care what damage he does to vital institutions. We must call out his lies that the FBI was corrupt and committed treason, that we spied on the Trump campaign and tried to defeat Donald Trump. We must constantly return to the stubborn facts.
Russia engaged in a massive effort to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. Near as I can tell, there is only one U.S. leader who still denies that fact. The FBI saw the attack starting in mid-June 2016, with the first dumping of stolen emails. In late July, when we were hard at work trying to understand the scope of the effort, we learned that one of Trump’s foreign policy advisers knew about the Russian effort seven weeks before we did.
Of course, nobody from the Trump campaign told us this (or about later Russian approaches); we had to learn it, months after the fact, from an allied ambassador.
But when we finally learned of it in late July, what should the FBI have done? Let it go? Go tell the Trump campaign? Tell the press? No. Investigate, to see what the facts were. We didn’t know what was true. Maybe there was nothing to it, or maybe Americans were actively conspiring with the Russians. To find out, the FBI would live up to its name and investigate. . . . If there was something to it, we didn’t want to let corrupt Americans know we were onto them. So, we kept it secret. That’s how the FBI approaches all counterintelligence cases.
And there’s the first problem with Trump’s whole “treason” narrative. If we were “deep state” Clinton loyalists bent on stopping him, why would we keep it secret? Why wouldn’t the much-maligned FBI supervisor Peter Strzok — the alleged kingpin of the “treasonous” plot to stop Trump — tell anyone? He was one of the very few people who knew what we were investigating.
We didn’t “spy” on anyone’s campaign. We investigated to see whether it was true that Americans associated with the campaign had taken the Russians up on any offer of help. By late October, the investigators thought they had probable cause to get a federal court order to conduct electronic surveillance of a former Trump campaign adviser named Carter Page. Page was no longer with the campaign, but there was reason to believe he was acting as an agent of the Russian government.
There is a reason the non-fringe media doesn’t spend much time on this “treason” and “corruption” business. The conspiracy theory makes no sense. The FBI wasn’t out to get Donald Trump. It also wasn’t out to get Hillary Clinton. It was out to do its best to investigate serious matters while walking through a vicious political minefield.
But go ahead, investigate the investigators, if you must. When those investigations are over, you will find the work was done appropriately and focused only on discerning the truth of very serious allegations. There was no corruption. There was no treason. There was no attempted coup. Those are lies, and dumb lies at that. There were just good people trying to figure out what was true, under unprecedented circumstances.
Sadly, Attorney General William Barr is acting more like the consigliere to a Mafia crime boss than attorney general of the United States. Rather than protect the American people and the justice system, his sole allegiance appears to be to Trump.
Yesterday, anti-transgender Christofascists lost a round at the U.S. Supreme Court when the Court refused to hear a challenge from students - no doubt pushed by their parents - who claimed that a school system's bathroom policy allowing transgender students to use restrooms appropriate for the gender identity violated the privacy rights of the anti-trans students. The rejected challenge is part of a larger Christofascist effort - which is being aided by the Trump/Pence regime - to reverse rights that transgender (and gays) have achieved under the Obama administration. A piece in Bloomberg Law looks at the Court's action. Here are excerpts:
The U.S. Supreme Court won’t take up the controversy over bathroom use by transgender students. The justices turned away a challenge by four students from Boyertown Area High School in Pennsylvania who claim a school policy of allowing LGBT students to use their preferred bathroom violates their right to privacy.
Controversies have erupted nationwide as school districts decide whether to let LGBT students use bathrooms corresponding to their gender identity rather than their gender at birth.
Some challengers say it’s a violation of federal anti-discrimination laws not to accommodate LGBT students. The Supreme Court was preparing to hear a similar case at the end of the Obama administration when a policy change by the Trump administration undid much of the lawsuit. The justices nixed the case.
The case is Doe v. Boyertown Area School Dist., U.S., No. 18-658, review denied 5/28/19.
Sadly, the Christofascists continue to believe that their rights override everyone elses and Trump is only too happy to play to this self-centered crowd.
Tuesday, May 28, 2019
|Meet the Press gives Sarah Huckabee Sanders a platform to spew lies.|
It's only the early stages of the lead up to the 2020 presidential election and already much of the mainstream media appears set to repeat the mistakes of the 2016 election campaign cycle as Trump and his minions lie with abandon and find little or no challenge or push back from talking heads and anchors. These instances of journalist malfeasance go far beyond the absurd obsession of false equivalency where somehow dishonest statements and outright lies are treated as a counterpoint to actual fact and science based positions of Democrat elected officials and candidates. A column in the Washington Post by former Republican Jennifer Rubin takes the media to task and focuses on both Trump's lies and the lies of his minions, Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Liz Cheney, one the daughter of little more nowadays than a scamvangelist and the other the daughter of the cynical liar, Dick Cheney who pushed to have America squander thousands of lives and billions and billions of dollars in the Iraq War fiasco (one would almost believe that lying is genetic). Lies and untruths need to be challenged and exposed as lies. Here are column highlights:
The New York Times gives prominent placement on its home page to list all of President Trump’s juvenile nicknames for the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, including the racist Native American slur directed at Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). This serves no purpose other than to highlight his name-calling and reinforce his abusive conduct.Meanwhile, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders goes on “Meet the Press” to repeatedly accuse former FBI director James B. Comey of treason. She insists everyone knows about corruption at the top levels of the Justice Department. . . . She claims “they” leaked information and lied. (Who? What information? When?) . . . Sanders falsely insists the FBI was guilty of “unprecedented obstruction and corruption.”
Trump’s press secretary is not challenged on her exaggerations, distortions and outright lies, although she in essence concedes Trump has already made up his mind, issued his verdict and is expecting the attorney general to come back with evidence.
Former federal prosecutor Joyce Vance White tells me, “I think what is crucially important to remember here is that two FBI agents can’t launch a coup against a president, even if they want to.” She explains, “Our system is set up so that independent judges must sign off on warrants and wiretaps. And given all the contact between the campaign and Russia, it would have been irresponsible for the FBI not to investigate.” She adds, “I have never heard a response from Trump to that point.”
The same Trump talking points were used by Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) without challenge on “This Week.”
This is balderdash. In no sense were either of them [Peter Strzok and Lisa Page] “in charge of launching the investigation,” and in any case, private gossip doesn’t amount to “treason.” Cheney is not challenged on her assertions. Were Trump appointees former deputy attorney general Rod J. Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher A. Wray also guilty of treason?
Aside from repeating the same factual distortions, White suggests that Cheney “needs to read the Constitution, because this can’t possible be treason.” She says, “It’s irresponsible for an elected official to engage in talk of coups and treason, knowing it’s untrue but also that there is a possibility it could incite additional attempts at violence.”
Constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe concurs. Cheney “is too smart to believe even a bit of what she’s saying. That makes her prattling away about a ‘coup’ and particularly about ‘treason’ especially pernicious and dangerous,” he says. “Only dictators threaten those who dare to question and investigate their use of power with prosecution for treason.”
The mainstream media must pick up its game. Its role is not to act as Trump’s megaphone for childish insults, which directly aids his efforts to defame presidential opponents. It’s one thing to explain that Trump uses insults and to debunk them; it’s another to reinforce and popularize them.
More important, Republicans who repeat blatantly untrue talking points should not go unchallenged. To do so merely assists Trump in his war on the truth and his efforts to smear national security officials. Republicans would like to bury an already-completed inspector general’s report that found Strzok and Page did not influence the investigation.
The courts are doing their part. House Democrats are doing their part. Now, the media need to exercise the same diligence in calling out Trump’s lies. Instead of learning from the mistakes of 2016 — when Trump was allowed to spew his racism and falsehoods at length on live TV coverage of rallies — the media risk a repeat by simply recycling his slurs and lies. Do better, please.
|Trump advisers want to return the Supreme Court to the 1930's.|
Anyone who was ill-served by the nation's laws in the 1930's - e.g., blacks, gays, women, other minorities, etc. - should be terrified at the prospect of where the Trump/Pence regime and its judge whisperer want to take constitutional law in America. It was an era where white privilege reigned supreme and life was brutal - and much shorter - for a majority of the population and Jim Crow laws were alive and well. A piece in Slate profiles one of Trump's top advisers on judicial appointments and the future that he envisions. It is nothing less than terrifying and one has to wonder what type of sick and perverted individuals would want to return to laws that were harmful to so many. What's frightening, is Leonard Leo, Trump's adviser already has three of his favored jurists on the U.S. Supreme Court: Roberts, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh. Here are article highlights:
Last week, the Washington Post published a profile of Federalist Society Executive Vice President Leonard Leo, focusing in part on a speech he gave to the Council for National Policy in which he warmly predicted the Supreme Court would soon return to the pre–New Deal era of “limited, constitutional government.” Leo believes, in other words, that the court’s view of the Constitution was better off 85 years ago than it is today.“I think we stand at the threshold of an exciting moment in our republic,” Leo told the council at a closed-door meeting in February, audio of which was obtained by the Post. “This is really, I think, at least in recent memory, a newfound embrace of limited constitutional government in our country. I don’t think this has really happened since probably before the New Deal.”
The average American doesn’t know who Leo is, but as the Post piece makes clear, he‘s one of the most influential lawyers in the country. A longtime leader within the Federalist Society, Leo has had Donald Trump’s ear on judicial appointments and has been the main curator of the president’s list of Supreme Court candidates. Two of Leo’s personal picks, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, have been elevated to the highest court in the country since Trump’s election. So when Leonard Leo says he wants to return to a pre–New Deal Constitution, you should listen. And you should be alarmed.
As Leo knows, constitutional law was very different in the 1930s from what it is today. And in a word, it sucked.
In the 1930s, the courts were fully complicit in maintaining the country as a thoroughgoing ethnocracy, governed openly for the benefit of white men. Public schools in 21 states were racially segregated by law. “Separate but equal” schools had been affirmed by the Supreme Court as late as 1927, in a unanimous decision allowing Mississippi to kick a Chinese American girl out of her local “white” school for being a member of the “yellow” race. The outlawing of segregation is settled law in our country, and nobody would dare dream of returning to those antiquated judicial interpretations, you might say? Several of Trump’s judicial nominees have conspicuously, outrageously, refused to say whether they thought Brown v. Board of Education, which ended legal school segregation in 1954, was correctly decided.
In the 1930s, through a combination of discriminatory literacy tests, poll taxes, “good character” requirements, and straight-up violence, less than 1 percent of black people in the Deep South—where they represented more than a third of the population—were registered to vote. The Supreme Court had blessed these intimidation practices for decades, ever since a 1903 decision in which the court said it couldn’t do anything about Alabama’s self-described effort “to establish white supremacy in this state” by refusing to register black voters. Discriminatory voting practices of this sort weren’t banned until the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the most significant provision of which was gutted six years ago in an opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts (whom Leo also helped elevate to the court).
In the 1930s, women had no constitutional right to equality. They could legally be kept off juries, given different work hours, paid less money, and imprisoned for using birth control. It would be another four decades before the Supreme Court struck down even a single law for discriminating against women. Kavanaugh and Gorsuch—again, both products of Leo’s vetting—recently dissented from the court’s temporary blocking of a Louisiana law that would have left the entire state with just a single doctor able to perform abortions.
In the first half of the 20th century, the police could beat confessions out of arrestees. Poor defendants had no right to a lawyer. Evidence could be illegally seized and used in prosecutions. In 1944, for example, South Carolina executed a 14-year-old black boy named George Stinney for the murders of two white girls. He was questioned alone, without his parents or a lawyer present, and convicted by an all-white jury after a two-hour trial and 10 minutes of deliberation. He wasn’t allowed to appeal. He had to sit on books to fit into the headpiece of the electric chair. Only in 2014, 70 years too late, did a circuit court judge vacate the 14-year-old Stinney’s murder conviction. The Stinney case tells you all you need to know about criminal justice in the age Leo wants to bring back.
The post–New Deal court decisions Leo wishes to repudiate are the ones that gave the government the power to enact minimum wage laws, to create unemployment insurance and Social Security, to provide health insurance to the aged and destitute, and to give workers collective bargaining rights. In the 1930s, those too old to work and too poor not to could often expect a quick but painful death. This is the human toll of “limited government.”
If we’re looking for Reagan’s shining city upon a hill, we won’t find it in America’s now-distant past. Not most of us, anyway. And if it’s what Leo is promising us, we can only hope it’s not in America’s future.
Monday, May 27, 2019
Democrats seems to be demonstrating a case of Schizophrenia in that surveys indicate that they want younger presidential candidates even as the current two front runners - Biden and Sanders - are well into old geezer status. I am nowhere near Biden's or Sanders' age, yet even I know I am not what I was physically 15 to 20 years ago - spreading 45 bags of mulch this weekend has made that very clear. But seriously, age also impacts mental ability and given the duties of the office of president, if properly performed - something not happening currently - mental cognition and memory ability are crucial. Besides needing to talk on the level of his base, Trump's constant speaking at an elementary school level may be a sign of declining mental abilities. A piece in New York Magazine looks at the dichotomy between what Democrats want and what Biden and Sanders represent. Here are highlights:
[P]ublic opinion indicators keep showing that Americans, and particularly Democrats, don’t like the idea of having a really old president. It’s hard to square with an early 2020 Democratic presidential contest in which the two front-runners are over 75.Back in late February a NBC/Wall Street Journal survey of adults without regard to party asked about desirable and undesirable traits in presidential candidates. Fully 62 percent said they’d either have reservations about, or would be very uncomfortable, with such a prospect (ranking second only to “a socialist” as a discomforting characteristic, which was less than great news for the 77-year old self-described socialist Bernie Sanders).
A Reuters/Ipsos poll in April showed that among Democrats over half said they’d be less likely to support a presidential candidate if they discovered he or she is over 70.
And then a May Pew survey of Democrats asked the best age for a president. Only 3 percent reported a preference for septuagenarians (at 47 percent, the 50s were the plurality winner as ideal for presidents).
So what’s up with that? Are Democrats simply finding other qualities of oldsters that outweigh age considerations?
It’s possible voters simply don’t know these popular public figures are as old as they actually are. I can’t find any research testing that hypothesis. But whether it’s a matter of ignorance or not thinking deeply about it, this data does open up some possibilities for the campaigns of younger candidates.
First, they could do the research that the public pollsters apparently aren’t doing about voter awareness of candidate age, and whether being informed that a candidate has achieved advanced geezerhood might have an impact.
And second, they could subtly get their comparative youthfulness across in ads that touted their energy and fresh ideas, while presenting images that silently conveyed the decrepitude of the old folks. It could serve as a rehearsal for general election reminders that the junk-food-devouring Donald J. Trump will turn 74 next year.
One objection to age-based comparisons like this is that it might honk off older voters. But there’s some evidence (notably in the Ipsos/Reuters survey) that seniors are more concerned about age-related candidate impairment than anyone, perhaps because they understand what it’s like to lose a step.
There’s also scientific research on the cognitive consequences of that lost step, as Robert Kaiser recently explained:
Studies of old people conclude that between 16 percent and 23 percent of Americans over 65 experience some form of cognitive impairment. Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology found that these subjects performed worse than others on tasks involving working memory — the ability to remember information while manipulating it, as when calculating the tip on a restaurant bill — and that they’re more impaired when those tasks become more complex. Older adults also have difficulties with tasks that require dividing or switching attention . . . .
If the 2020 general election really does match Trump against either Biden or Sanders (or arguably Elizabeth Warren, who turns 70 next month, though women’s brains tend to age more slowly than men’s), looking at such sobering evidence could even be conducted on a bipartisan basis, perhaps in conjunction with a closer look than is customary at the qualifications of the Democratic and Republican veep nominees.
Today is Memorial Day when we honor those who died in America's wars and to a lesser extent those who served in the military. My father and his brothers all served in the military in World War II. My mother's parents both served in World War I and one of her sisters served in World War II. One of my sons-in-laws volunteered and did three tours in Afghanistan before being seriously wounded. (By the time I came of age in the Vietnam era, the draft had become a lottery and with a lottery number of 269, I was never called up).
In contrast to my own family and millions of others, neither Donald Trump nor his father, Fred Trump, served in the military. During World War II, the senior Trump built military housing, including in Newport News and Norfolk, Virginia (Trump, Sr. and others were later investigated by a U.S. Senate Banking committee for windfall gains in dealings with the Federal Housing Administration). Trump, Jr. dogged the draft by claiming he had bone spurs - although the supposed affliction had no adverse impact on his playing tennis and other sports.
Today, we will likely hear utterly disingenuous statements by the liar-in-chief talking about those who sacrificed all for their country even as the Trumps never sacrificed anything. Democrat presidential candidate finds the concept as disgusting as I do and has called Trump out for his false military deferment. Worse yet, Trump wants to pardon some who have been convicted of war crimes, including murdering civilians. A piece in Politico looks at Buttigieg's justified condemnation of Trump. Here are excerpts:
Calling it “an assault on the honor of this country,” Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg on Sunday said “there is no question” that Donald Trump faked an injury to avoid serving in the Vietnam War.“There is no question, I think, to any reasonable observer that the president found a way to falsify a disabled status, taking advantage of his privileged status in order to avoid serving,” the mayor of South Bend, Ind., told ABC’s Martha Raddatz on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”
“You have somebody who thinks it's all right to let somebody go in his place into a deadly war and is willing to pretend to be disabled in order to do it,” he said. “That is an assault on the honor of this country.”
Buttigieg, who served as a Navy intelligence officer in Afghanistan, first accused Trump of using his “privileged status to fake a disability” on Thursday in an hourlong interview with The Washington Post.
Trump was exempted from military service five times at the height of the Vietnam War. He received four draft deferments for his time in college and one medical deferment for having bone spurs. In testimony before Congress, former Trump attorney Michael Cohen said of the medical deferment: “Mr. Trump claimed it was because of a bone spur, but when I asked for medical records, he gave me none.“
Buttigieg also criticized the Trump administration's decision to deploy more than 1,500 military personnel in an effort to deter Iran. He told Raddatz "escalation is the last thing we need in the Middle East right now."
Referring to his own military experience, Buttigieg slammed Trump’s consideration of granting pardons to some service members who have either been accused or convicted of war crimes. One of those who has been considered for a pardon is former Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher, who stands accused of murdering an ISIS prisoner and indiscriminately shooting at civilians.
"The idea that being sent to war turns you into a murderer is exactly the kind of thing that those of us who have served have been trying to beat back for more than a generation," Buttigieg said.
"For a president, especially a president who never served, to say he's going to come in and overrule that system of military justice undermines the very foundations, legal and moral, of this country," he said.
Sunday, May 26, 2019
The political insanity in Alabama continues GOP lunatics who control both houses of the state legislature want to eliminate marriage licenses so that homophobic probate court judges will have no need to issue licenses to same sex couples. The idiocy is part of the Christofascists' agenda of undermining same sex marriage granted in the Obergefell ruling in 2015. One can only hope that if the bill is signed into law - a likely event given the idiot who holds the governorship at present - Alabamians will encounter problems when they venture outside of their knuckle dragging state. Imagine Mobilians having to travel to Pensacola, Florida to make sure they have marriages that will be fully recognized out of state. Having lived in Alabama years ago, I cannot help but wonder at times how insanity has metastasized in Alabama - but then I realize the cause: the rise of the Christofascists in the Republican Party. A piece in Huffington Post looks at this latest batshit craziness in Alabama:
Conservative[Christofascist] Alabama lawmakers are now taking serious aim at marriage law, wasting no time since passing an extreme measure eliminating nearly all abortions in the state.On Friday, the Alabama legislature sent a Republican-backed measure to the desk of Gov. Kay Ivey (R) that would aid officials who oppose same-sex marriage.
Under existing state law, couples are required to obtain a marriage license from a probate judge and hold a ceremony to “solemnize” the union. If Ivey signs the measure introduced by state Sen. Greg Albritton (R), the solemnization requirement would be eliminated and it would become the responsibility of couples themselves to record their own union.
Probate judges would simply be required to pass those records along to a state office and could not reject any marriage for which all paperwork is in order. That means judges who personally oppose same-sex marriages would be able to distance themselves from such unions.
In Alabama, some probate judges stopped issuing marriage licenses altogether after the Supreme Court’s 2015 marriage equality ruling because the judges did not want to be forced to issue licenses to same-sex couples. That has meant that some Alabama couples are required to travel to other counties to obtain a license.
But even as the measure would functionally eliminate barriers to marriage equality, Albritton referenced religious objections to same-sex unions in discussing his bill. Under it, “a minister who has an objection to a particular marriage ceremony, they don’t have to do it,” he said.
Alabama’s political leadership is notoriously hostile to LGBTQ rights; the state’s public television station recently refused to air an episode of the children’s cartoon “Arthur” featuring a same-sex wedding.
Note that I lined through "conservative" at the outset of the article quote. It is far past time that these politicians be called out for what they truly are: religious extremists - or the political whores of religious extremists. There is nothing conservative about being a religious fanatic.“I think it’s far less about good governance and more about protecting folks that don’t want to do their jobs.” The bill was propelled through the state House and Senate largely with Republican support, although some Democrats voted for it.
Traveling to France and the United Kingdom last September, the husband and I found that Americans are still much liked. The same cannot be said for the Trump/Pence regime which is pretty much widely loathed and for good reason. The buffoon in the White House - who in his extreme narcissism thinks himself a genius - has made it very obvious that longstanding treaties and alliances mean nothing. And that's not even factoring the Trump initiated trade wars that are harming American consumers who pay the tariffs in the form of higher prices - even as Trump lies to his moronic base and tells them the foreign nations are paying the tariffs. The long term damage to America's interests will last for years even after Trump is gone from the White House with America's trustworthiness being questioned. A piece in Slate looks at the damage done to date and how all of us will pay a price. Here are article highlights:
Remember Sen. Tom Cotton’s letter to Iran? These days, you can bet that the leaders of Iran do.The letter, sent in March 2015, was one of those events that seemed like a major outrage at the time but now feels like such ancient history that the letter might as well have been written on parchment. At the height of the debate over the Obama administration’s nuclear diplomacy with Iran, the Arkansas senator organized a group of 47 Republican colleagues to send a letter to the “leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran” explaining “features of our Constitution … which you should consider seriously as negotiations progress.” Noting that any deal would be merely an “executive agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei” rather than a formal treaty ratified by Congress and that Barack Obama would be leaving office in January 2017, the letter warned that the next president would revoke it “with the stroke of a pen.”
[T]he thing is, Cotton was completely right: On May 8, 2018, Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the deal the Obama administration had negotiated and re-imposed sanctions lifted as part of it. Tensions between the two countries have been rising ever since.
The five other countries that were party to the deal and the European Union are still committed to it, as is Iran, but just barely. This week, Iranian nuclear officials announced that they had quadrupled the country’s uranium enrichment production, putting them on a path to exceed limits set by the accord.
If the Iranian regime stays in compliance with the deal, it may be only because they know Trump won’t be in office forever, either. Most of the Democratic candidates running for president in 2020 have promised to rejoin the Iran deal, which would entail lifting the sanctions that Trump has re-imposed.
Waiting out the Trump administration is a popular idea these days. Susan Thornton, the former acting assistant secretary of state, told a gathering in Shanghai earlier this month that China should be patient amid the ongoing trade war and not rush to resolve it, telling the audience, “If this skeptical attitude towards talking diplomacy continues in this administration, you might have to wait till another administration.” The parties to the Paris climate agreement may also be somewhat heartened that every major Democratic candidate has pledged to keep the U.S. in the agreement. (The U.S. will technically still be a party to the Paris agreement until November 2020 at the earliest, despite Trump’s withdrawal announcement in 2017.)
This isn’t a very encouraging state of affairs, and not only because there’s a decent chance Trump will be reelected in 2020. If it becomes the norm that agreements struck by a U.S. president will be kept only so long as that president’s party is in power, why would any country ever sign a deal with the U.S. ever again? If the entire disposition of U.S. foreign policy transforms depending on whether a Democrat or a Republican occupies the White House, it will have a destabilizing impact on international relations long after Trump leaves office.
But presidents of both parties have, at the very least, shared a disposition toward international alliances and broad policy objectives that contrasts with domestic political divides.
In today’s U.S. political climate, all issues are becoming culture war issues, and more and more official U.S. policies abroad are coming to resemble the Mexico City Policy—switches to be flipped on or off depending on which domestic constituency the party in power wants to appeal to.
This dynamic has only been getting more acute in recent years. The near impossibility of getting Republican support meant that Obama had to carry out most of his signature diplomatic achievements—the Iran deal, the Paris accord, the normalization of relations with Cuba—via executive action. That also meant those achievements could be undone by executive action.
Meanwhile, Trump has pulled the U.S. out of negotiations for the planned Trans-Pacific Partnership and the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty with Russia. Even the Universal Postal Union hasn’t been safe.
Nearly all the Democratic presidential candidates, to the extent they discuss foreign policy at all, emphasize the importance of rebuilding international alliances. If any of them becomes president, he or she would probably work to rejoin many of the deals and institutions that Trump has pulled out of and reaffirm the U.S. commitment to those, notably NATO, that Trump has simply trashed. But it will be immeasurably more difficult for the next Democratic president to replicate even the limited diplomatic achievements of the Obama years. Why would the leader of any U.S. adversary want to repeat the experience of Iran or Cuba by spending political capital on a rapprochement with the U.S., only to see the offer humiliatingly rescinded by the next president?
The problem isn’t just treaties and agreements. The way Americans view the world, and other countries, is increasingly polarized. Polls show increasing divergences between the parties in views on Mexico, Iran, Russia, Germany, Canada, and other countries. Iran may not be particularly popular on either side of the aisle, but prominent voices on Democratic foreign policy, including Sanders’ foreign policy adviser, have been arguing that Saudi Arabia is viewed as worse. Whether you think the Iranians or the Saudis are a bigger threat to human rights and regional stability may soon become an indicator of partisan loyalty.
Countries may never be entirely neutral topics in each other’s partisan politics—the U.S. certainly hasn’t always been. But at least the ideal state of affairs is that they’re willing to conduct business with whatever party is in power. And that only works if there’s at least a certain level of continuity in foreign policy outlook and strategic goals as well as a baseline willingness to honor agreements signed by the previous administration, even if the new one doesn’t like them very much. If current trends continue, America’s partisan divide will continue to widen, and foreign policy questions will increasingly be treated as culture war fights between the parties.
If future presidents share Trump’s disdain for international institutions and agreements, the credibility of U.S. foreign policy stances will suffer. And if these partisan swings become predicable—in other words, if countries know in advance that certain U.S. policies and agreements only apply when one party or another is in office—it will increase incentives for foreign powers to try to influence and meddle in U.S. elections. What’s a few cyberattacks or Facebook ad buys when the entire foreign policy outlook of the most powerful country is at stake?
Americans are increasingly living in two different countries at home. Soon we may be treated as two different countries abroad as well.