Saturday, January 22, 2022
The photo is of me at right with my husband who indulges me when it comes to the time devoted to this blog.
In December, Chief Justice John Roberts released his year-end report on the federal judiciary. According to a recent Gallup poll, the Supreme Court has its lowest public-approval rating in history—in part because it is viewed as being overly politicized. President Joe Biden recently established a bipartisan commission to consider reforms to the Court, and members of Congress have introduced legislation that would require Justices to adhere to the same types of ethics standards as other judges. Roberts’s report, however, defiantly warned everyone to back off. “The Judiciary’s power to manage its internal affairs insulates courts from inappropriate political influence,” he wrote. His statement followed a series of defensive speeches from members of the Court’s conservative wing, which now holds a super-majority of 6–3. Last fall, Justice Clarence Thomas, in an address at Notre Dame, accused the media of spreading the false notion that the Justices are merely politicians in robes.
The claim that the Justices’ opinions are politically neutral is becoming increasingly hard to accept, especially from Thomas, whose wife, Virginia (Ginni) Thomas, is a vocal right-wing activist. She has declared that America is in existential danger because of the “deep state” and the “fascist left,” which includes “transsexual fascists.” Thomas, a lawyer who runs a small political-lobbying firm, Liberty Consulting, has become a prominent member of various hard-line groups. Her political activism has caused controversy for years. For the most part, it has been dismissed as the harmless action of an independent spouse. But now the Court appears likely to secure victories for her allies in a number of highly polarizing cases—on abortion, affirmative action, and gun rights.
Many Americans first became aware of Ginni Thomas’s activism on January 6, 2021. That morning, before the Stop the Steal rally in Washington, D.C., turned into an assault on the Capitol resulting in the deaths of at least five people, she cheered on the supporters of President Donald Trump who had gathered to overturn Biden’s election. . . . Her next status update said, “GOD BLESS EACH OF YOU STANDING UP or PRAYING.” Two days after the insurrection, she added a disclaimer to her feed, noting that she’d written the posts “before violence in US Capitol.” (The posts are no longer public.)
Later that January, the Washington Post revealed that she had also been agitating about Trump’s loss on a private Listserv, Thomas Clerk World, which includes former law clerks of Justice Thomas’s. The online discussion had been contentious. John Eastman, a former Thomas clerk and a key instigator of the lie that Trump actually won in 2020, was on the same side as Ginni Thomas, and he drew rebukes. According to the Post, Thomas eventually apologized to the group for causing internal rancor.
Clarence and Ginni Thomas declined to be interviewed for this article. In recent years, Justice Thomas, long one of the Court’s most reticent members, has been speaking up more in oral arguments. His wife, meanwhile, has become less publicly visible, but she has remained busy, aligning herself with many activists who have brought issues in front of the Court. She has been one of the directors of C.N.P. Action, a dark-money wing of the conservative pressure group the Council for National Policy. C.N.P. Action, behind closed doors, connects wealthy donors with some of the most radical right-wing figures in America. Ginni Thomas has also been on the advisory board of Turning Point USA, a pro-Trump student group, whose founder, Charlie Kirk, boasted of sending busloads of protesters to Washington on January 6th.
Stephen Gillers, a law professor at N.Y.U. and a prominent judicial ethicist, told me, “I think Ginni Thomas is behaving horribly, and she’s hurt the Supreme Court and the administration of justice. It’s reprehensible. If you could take a secret poll of the other eight Justices, I have no doubt that they are appalled by Virginia Thomas’s behavior. But what can they do?”
Gillers thinks that the Supreme Court should be bound by a code of conduct, just as all lower-court judges in the federal system are. That code requires a judge to recuse himself from hearing any case in which personal entanglements could lead a fair-minded member of the public to question his impartiality. Gillers stressed that “it’s an appearance test,” adding, “It doesn’t require an actual conflict.
The Constitution offers only one remedy for misconduct on the Supreme Court: impeachment. This was attempted once, in 1804, but it resulted in an acquittal, underscoring the independence of the judicial branch. Since then, only one Justice, Abe Fortas, has been forced to step down; he resigned in 1969, after members of Congress threatened to impeach him over alleged financial conflicts of interest.
In recent years, Democrats have been trying to impose stronger ethics standards on the Justices—a response, in part, to what Justice Sonia Sotomayor has described as the “stench” of partisanship on the Court. . . . Last summer, Democrats in Congress introduced a bill that would require the Judicial Conference of the United States to create a binding code of conduct for members of the Supreme Court. They also proposed legislation that would require more disclosures about the financial backers behind amicus briefs—arguments submitted by “friends of the court” who are supporting one side in a case.
So far, these proposals haven’t gone anywhere, but Gillers notes that there are extant laws circumscribing the ethical behavior of all federal judges, including the Justices. Arguably, Clarence Thomas has edged unusually close to testing them. All judges, even those on the Court, are required to recuse themselves from any case in which their spouse is “a party to the proceeding” or is “an officer, director, or trustee” of an organization that is a party to a case. Ginni Thomas has not been a named party in any case on the Court’s docket; nor is she litigating in any such case. But she has held leadership positions at conservative pressure groups that have either been involved in cases before the Court or have had members engaged in such cases.
Bruce Green, a professor at Fordham specializing in legal ethics, notes, “In the twenty-first century, there’s a feeling that spouses are not joined at the hip.” He concedes, though, that “the appearance” created by Ginni Thomas’s political pursuits “is awful—they look like a mom-and-pop political-hack group, where she does the political stuff and he does the judging.”
The writer Kurt Andersen, who grew up across the street from the [Ginni Thomas’] family, recalls, “Her parents were the roots of the modern, crazy Republican Party. My parents were Goldwater Republicans, but even they thought the Lamp family was nuts.”
The Justice Department has so far charged more than seven hundred people in connection with the insurrection, and Attorney General Merrick Garland has said that the federal government will prosecute people “at any level” who may have instigated the riots—perhaps even Trump. On January 19th, the Supreme Court rejected the former President’s request that it intervene to stop the congressional committee from accessing his records. Justice Thomas was the lone Justice to dissent. (Meadows had filed an amicus brief in support of Trump.) Ginni Thomas, meanwhile, has denounced the very legitimacy of the congressional committee.
A current member of the Conservative Action Project told me that Ginni Thomas is part of the group not because of her qualifications but “because she’s married to Clarence.” The member asked to have his name withheld because, he said, Ginni is “volatile” and becomes “edgy” when challenged. He added, “The best word to describe her is ‘tribal.’ You’re either part of her group or you’re the enemy.”
Ginni Thomas has her own links to the January 6th insurrection. Her Web site, which touts her consulting acumen, features a glowing testimonial from Kimberly Fletcher, . . . . Fletcher spoke at two protests in Washington on January 5, 2021, promoting the falsehood that the 2020 election was fraudulent. At the first, which she planned, Fletcher praised the previous speaker, Representative Mary Miller, a freshman Republican from Illinois, saying, “Amen!” Other people who heard Miller’s speech called for her resignation: she’d declared, “Hitler was right on one thing—he said, ‘Whoever has the youth has the future.’ ” At the second protest, not far from the Trump International Hotel, Fletcher declared that, when her children and grandchildren one day asked her, “Where were you when the Republic was on the verge of collapse?,” she would answer, “I was right here, fighting to my last breath to save it!”
A program from Liberty XPO & Symposium, a 2010 convention that has been described as the “largest conservative training event in history,” indicates that Fletcher and Thomas co-hosted a Remember the Ladies Banquet. A list of other speakers at the symposium includes Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the Oath Keepers, an extremist militia group. Rhodes was arrested earlier this month and charged, along with ten associates, with seditious conspiracy . . .
Another organizer of the January 6th uprising who has been subpoenaed by the congressional committee, Ali Alexander, also has long-standing ties to Ginni Thomas. Like Fletcher, Alexander spoke at a rally in Washington the night before the riot, leading a chant of “Victory or death!”
Norman Eisen, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who, between 2009 and 2011, served as the special counsel and special assistant to the President for ethics and government reform, told me that “it is hard to understand how Justice Thomas can be impartial when hearing cases related to the upheaval on January 6th, in light of his wife’s documented affiliation with January 6th instigators and Stop the Steal organizers.” He argues that “Justice Thomas should recuse himself, given his wife’s interests in the outcome of these cases.”
Gillers, of N.Y.U., and other legal scholars say that there is little chance of such a recusal. . . . Roth, of Fix the Court, told me that there is an evident need “for a clearer and more exacting recusal standard at the Supreme Court—especially now, as it’s constantly being thrust into partisan battles, and as the public’s faith in its impartiality is waning.”
As Maggie Haberman, of the Times, and Jonathan Swan, of Axios, have reported, not long after Clarence and Ginni Thomas had a private dinner at the White House with Donald and Melania Trump, the President’s staff gave in to a months-long campaign by Ginni to bring her, Gaffney, and several other associates to the White House to press the President on policy and personnel issues. The White House was not informed that Gaffney’s group had been paying Liberty Consulting for the previous two years.
Ginni Thomas has held so many leadership or advisory positions at conservative pressure groups that it’s hard to keep track of them. And many, if not all, of these groups have been involved in cases that have come before her husband.
For lawyers involved in cases before the Supreme Court, it can be deeply disturbing to know that Ginni Thomas is an additional opponent. In 2019, David Dinielli, the visiting lecturer at Yale Law School, was a deputy legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which had submitted an amicus brief in a gay-rights case before the Court. . . . For Dinielli, the idea that a Justice’s spouse belonged to a group that had urged its members to repeatedly attack his organization was “counter to everything you’d expect if you want to get a fair shake” before the Court. He explained, “These activities aren’t just political. They’re aimed at raising up or denigrating actors specifically in front of the Supreme Court. She’s one step away from holding up a sign in front of her husband saying ‘This person is a pedophile.’ ”
[T]his degrades it [the Court], mocks it, and threatens it.” He warned, “Since the Court doesn’t have an army, it relies on how it behaves to command respect. Once the veneer cracks, it’s very hard to get it back.”
Friday, January 21, 2022
No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any state legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any state, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.
Relying on this provision, in North Carolina a lawsuit has been filed to bar Representative Madison Cawthorn - a clear supporter of the January 6th insurrectionists who has encouraged violence - from standing for re-election to Congress. A column in the New York Times by a a former U.S. attorney and deputy assistant attorney general looks at how this provision of the 14th Amendment should bar others - including Donald Trump - from holding office in the future. Here are excerpts:
Representative Madison Cawthorn has breezily dismissed a candidacy challenge filed by voters in his home state, North Carolina, seeking to bar him from re-election to the House of Representatives based on his role in the events of Jan. 6.
Mr. Cawthorn is being too quick to scoff. The 14th Amendment provision in question, while little known and not employed since 1919, is a close fit for his conduct around Jan. 6 — as well as that of at least a half-dozen Republican colleagues whom the organization spearheading the challenge, Free Speech For People, suggests will be next.
The critical point to understand is that Section 3 added a qualification to hold office, one of the very few in the Constitution. The others are that members of the House must be at least 25, a U.S. citizen for seven years and live in the state the individual represents. It is no different in this respect from the qualification that the president be at least 35 and a natural-born citizen.
So, if the voter challenge succeeds in establishing that Mr. Cawthorn engaged in “insurrection or rebellion,” he would be as ineligible to serve in Congress as if it were revealed that he is 24 years old. Under North Carolina law, once challengers advance enough evidence to show reasonable suspicion that a candidate is not qualified, the burden shifts to the would-be candidate to demonstrate the contrary.
The North Carolina State Board of Elections will create a five-member panel composed of people from counties in the new district in which Mr. Cawthorn intends to run (which is more Republican leaning than his current one). The panel’s decision could be appealed to the entire State Board of Elections, and after that to the state’s court system. The board’s decision will be delayed until after a state court rules on a separate redistricting challenge in North Carolina. But the issue will have to be resolved in time for the state’s primary election, currently set for May, so the normal Trump playbook of stalling until the issue becomes moot is not an option.
The key question in the challenge will be whether Mr. Cawthorn’s acts of support for the Jan. 6 uprising rise to the level of engaging in an insurrection against the government.
Here is what the first-term congressman did, based on public reports and allegations in the challenge: In advance of the riot at the Capitol, he met with planners of the demonstrations and tweeted that “the future of this Republic hinges on the actions of a solitary few … It’s time to fight.” He spoke at the pre-attack rally at the Ellipse, near the White House, where he helped work the crowd into frenzy, saying the crowd had “some fight in it” and that the Democrats were trying to silence them. And in the aftermath of the mob violence, he extolled the rioters as “political hostages” and “political prisoners,” and suggested that if he knew where they were incarcerated, he would like to “bust them out.”
The constitutional term “insurrection” is less cut-and-dried than, say, whether a candidate is 25 years old. In other contexts, courts have defined it as a usually violent uprising by a group or movement acting for the purpose of overthrowing the legitimately constituted government and seizing its powers. That accurately describes the collective pro-Trump effort to undermine the certification of the November 2020 election.
In the hours after the riot, Mitch McConnell, then the Senate majority leader, described the attack as a “failed insurrection”; one of President Trump’s own lawyers in the impeachment trial stated that “everyone agrees” there was a “violent insurrection”; and Mr. Cawthorn himself voted for a resolution that described the attackers as “insurrectionists.” He’ll be hard pressed to run from that label now.
Even before more facts are developed in the case — including a possible deposition of Mr. Cawthorn — the tweet exhorting demonstrators to fight because the future of the Republic hinges on it seems plainly designed to aid the enterprise.
The indictment of Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the far-right Oath Keepers, and 10 other Jan. 6 participants on seditious conspiracy charges reinforces the notion that the crimes of Jan. 6 were not simply offenses of property or disorder but were attacks against the government itself, the same core idea as with insurrection.
If the North Carolina courts rule against him, expect Mr. Cawthorn to make a quick dash to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that it has final authority to interpret the federal constitutional term “insurrection.” At that point, a conservative majority that includes three justices appointed by Donald Trump might well sympathize with Mr. Cawthorn.
But while it may be rare, the North Carolina voter challenge is no joke. The challengers have a strong case, and Mr. Cawthorn would be foolish to take it lightly.
Let's hope similar challenges are filed against other insurrectionist Republican office holders.
Thursday, January 20, 2022
It is sad, depressing and enraging to watch as the Senate refuses to defend voting rights, largely those of Black and brown people.
This rue-the-day moment is also a déjà vu moment. As a country, we have been here before, and it ended in about 70 years of brutally effective suppression of Black voters during the Jim Crow era. There was a democracy in America, a white one. African Americans and some other nonwhite Americans simply weren’t part of it.
It didn’t have to be this way. The courts could have stopped Southern states from implementing Jim Crow, but they didn’t. Congress could have stepped in, but it, too, failed to act, refusing to protect Black people and their access to the ballot.
As Michael Waldman, president of Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, writes in his brilliant book, “The Fight to Vote,” Republicans — the liberal party at that time — took control of the presidency and Congress, still committed to securing the right to vote for all citizens, including Black ones.
As Waldman wrote:
Then, in 1890, Boston Brahmin congressman Henry Cabot Lodge proposed legislation to federally supervise Southern elections, aimed at securing equal voting rights. Opponents dubbed the mild measure the “Lodge Force Bill” and panicked. The bill passed the House, but a thirty-three-day filibuster blocked it in the Senate. This was the first successful Southern filibuster of a federal civil rights bill: a cherished tradition begins.
And yet, as if blind to history, or in eager desire to repeat it, here we are again. The mustaches and dresses have less volume, but the racism carries the same venom.
It is important to be reminded of how that first civil rights filibuster unfolded, as well as the lead up to the fight, because the similarities today are eerie.
The year 1890 was 13 years after Reconstruction was allowed to fail, paving the way for Democrats, the conservatives then, to actively suppress Black voters in Southern states. And it was in 1890 that Mississippi became one of the first states to call a constitutional convention to write voter suppression into its DNA. Other Southern states would soon follow Mississippi’s example.
The Lodge Force Bill could have stopped them, but it faced strong opposition from Democrats in Congress, and not even all Republicans supported the bill.
After the bill passed the House, it encountered opposition in the Senate, and Senate Republicans eventually rewrote the bill, according to The Times, as “a much milder measure, something to which no reasonable person could object.”
While some liberals objected to the rewrite, saying the life of the original bill had been “amended out of it,” The Times disagreed, writing that the Senate bill was just as strong as the House one, only shorter. . . . . The Times’s coverage of the bill was not exemplary. It’s riddled with derisive framing. One article began: “Senators have abandoned all attempts to have that obnoxious measure taken up during the present session of Congress.”
Consideration of the bill dragged on into 1891, when William Pitt Kellogg, a former governor of Louisiana and a strong supporter of African American voters, chastised President Benjamin Harrison in a statement for at first not being strongly in favor of nationally supervised elections and only fully endorsing them later.
According to Kellogg, Harrison was so interested in attracting white supporters from the South that his administration “openly proposed to ignore the colored voter on committees and delegations, as in the party organizations and generally in appointments to office, and push to the front only white men, trusting to the loyalty of the colored voters to stand by the Republican Party, as they had always done in the past.”
Harrison didn’t fully engage on the election bill as it made its way through Congress. It was much later, after a tariff bill was in trouble and he began to be worried about losses in the next election, that, as Kellogg put it, “the President formulated his message to Congress for the first time openly, strongly, and unqualifiedly urging the passage of the Elections bill. Selfish interest invoked action.”
It was already too late for the president to have the influence on the debate that the office of the presidency affords.
Kellogg concluded that “the selfish, narrow policy of the administration” had “once more run upon a political sandbar.”
The racists won and Black voters lost because the party they supported and considered their friends did not fully mobilize to defend them from the party that sought to oppress them.
Switch a few names and dates, and this story could read like today’s news. The great tragedy is that, in spirit, it is today’s news.
Wednesday, January 19, 2022
The New York State attorney general, Letitia James, accused Donald J. Trump’s family business late Tuesday of repeatedly misrepresenting the value of its assets to bolster its bottom line, saying in court papers that the company had engaged in “fraudulent or misleading” practices.
The filing came in response to Mr. Trump’s recent effort to block Ms. James from questioning him and two of his adult children under oath as part of a civil investigation of his business, the Trump Organization. Ms. James’s inquiry into Mr. Trump and the company is ongoing, and it is unclear whether her lawyers will ultimately file a lawsuit against them.
Still, the filing marked the first time that the attorney general’s office leveled such specific accusations against the former president’s company. Her broadside ratchets up the pressure on Mr. Trump as he seeks to shut down her investigation, . . . The filing outlined what Ms. James’s office termed misleading statements about the value of six Trump properties, as well as the “Trump brand.” The properties included golf clubs in Westchester County, N.Y., and Scotland, flagship buildings such as 40 Wall Street in Manhattan and Mr. Trump’s own penthouse home in Trump Tower.
[T]he company misstated the value of the properties to lenders, insurers and the Internal Revenue Service. Many of the statements, the filing argued, were “generally inflated as part of a pattern to suggest that Mr. Trump’s net worth was higher than it otherwise would have appeared.”
Ms. James highlighted details of how she said the company inflated the valuations: $150,000 initiation fees into Mr. Trump’s golf club in Westchester that it never collected; mansions that had not yet been built on one of his private estates; and 20,000 square feet in his Trump Tower triplex that did not exist.
“We have uncovered significant evidence that suggests Donald J. Trump and the Trump Organization falsely and fraudulently valued multiple assets and misrepresented those values to financial institutions for economic benefit,” Ms. James said in a statement.
Lawyers for Mr. Trump and his company did not respond to requests for comment.
Because Ms. James’s investigation is civil, she can sue Mr. Trump and his company but cannot file criminal charges. Her inquiry is running parallel to a criminal investigation led by the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, which is examining some of the same conduct. Ms. James’s office is participating in that separate investigation, which is continuing.
In early December, Ms. James issued a subpoena for Mr. Trump as well as for Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump, seeking to question them as part of her civil inquiry. Ms. James already questioned another of Mr. Trump’s sons, Eric Trump, in October 2020. He invoked his Fifth Amendment right against incriminating himself in response to more than 500 questions, the new court filing said.
Ms. James has been investigating Mr. Trump’s business practices since March 2019. In previous filings, she described some of the properties she was scrutinizing and said that her investigators were looking into whether Mr. Trump had inflated values in order to secure loans and obtain economic and tax benefits.
In Tuesday’s filing, she went further, giving examples in which she said the former president’s business had misrepresented the worth of some of its properties and showing how those claims had benefited the company, allowing it to receive favorable loans, insurance coverage and tax benefits.
The accusations center on Mr. Trump’s statements of financial condition, the annual record of his assets and liabilities that he gave to lenders and insurers.
Mr. Trump’s lawyers are likely to point to disclaimers in these statements that the data had not been audited or authenticated. But Ms. James’s office said that he “was personally involved in reviewing and approving the statements of financial condition before their issuance.”
Tuesday, January 18, 2022
Politicians rarely set out to piss off their constituents, much less admit to doing so. So when French President Emmanuel Macron expressed his desire to antagonize France’s unvaccinated citizens into receiving COVID vaccinations, observers and many of his rivals were appalled, and some were a bit confused. Macron is up for reelection in April, and a quarter of his country remains unimmunized.
But what looked like a risky move for Macron could prove to be a more politically shrewd calculation, not because of whom it alienates, but rather because of whom it doesn’t. In France, and in other democratic countries around the world, the unvaccinated make up a relatively small segment of the population. Macron and his peers in countries such as Australia and Italy have calculated that condemning this group could be more politically effective than pandering to it. Even world-famous celebrities such as tennis star Novak Djokovic, whose unvaccinated status dashed his hopes of defending his Australian Open title, have become the targets of politicians’ ire. By taking a tougher line on the unvaccinated, Macron and other democratically elected leaders facing elections this year may be courting an energetic new voter base: the vaccinated, and ever more impatient, majority.
For all of the attention that has been paid to the growing political cleavage between the jabbed and the jabless, getting vaccinated is extremely popular in countries where vaccines are widely available. . . . It stands to reason, then, that politicians would seek to use this popular issue to their political advantage. This is particularly true in the French context, where it is estimated that only 5 million people over the age of 12 have yet to receive a single dose. By recently passing new rules restricting those without proof of vaccination from accessing restaurants, transport, and other public venues, the French government is clearly trying to encourage the country’s remaining holdouts to get the jab. As Macron colorfully put it, his government wants to make being unvaccinated so inconvenient that it “piss[es] them off.” Until recently, unimmunized French people could still access public spaces so long as they could provide proof of a negative COVID test, . . By shifting to a more punitive model, Macron seems to be kicking off his as-yet-undeclared presidential campaign with a pledge to stick it to the unvaccinated.
In Macron’s case, it might just work. Patience with the unimmunized is waning in France, where nearly half of the population believes that those who are unvaccinated should have to pay for their own hospital bills (health care in France, as in most of Europe, is financed by the state). Two-thirds support the new vaccine-passport requirements to access public spaces. The way many French people see it, widespread vaccination was their ticket to a semblance of normalcy over the summer.
This same logic informed the Austrian government’s decision last year to impose restrictions solely on the country’s 2 million or so unvaccinated individuals, a policy that several other European countries later mimicked.
By targeting the unvaccinated, Macron is positioning himself as an ally of the vaccinated majority. He is also putting his political opponents in the uncomfortable position of having to stand up for the unvaccinated, which, as The New Statesman’s Ido Vock noted, “can have only limited electoral appeal, because the primary constituency it targets is so marginal.”
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, who last week introduced a series of new restrictions barring unvaccinated people from public spaces such as restaurants, theaters, and transport, has also taken the unvaccinated to task. “Most of the problems we are facing today depend on the fact that there are unvaccinated people,” . . . .
And like most Europeans, the majority of Italians are in favor of the country’s vaccine passports. The Italian government’s recent decision to mandate COVID vaccines for people older than 50 also enjoys broad support.
But perhaps the most high-profile example of this political strategy could be seen in Australia, which over the weekend brought an end to its 10-day legal standoff with Djokovic, who was deported from the country yesterday, on the eve of what would have been his opening match. . . . The Australian public, which has endured some of the world’s harshest pandemic-related border restrictions, widely opposed Djokovic’s being allowed an exception simply because he’s extremely good at tennis. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, perhaps sensing an opportunity to boost his party’s dwindling popularity ahead of the country’s upcoming election, invoked his authority to cancel Djokovic’s visa on the grounds that “no one is above [the] rules.”
Alienating Serbia is clearly undesirable, but giving Djokovic a pass would have been politically dangerous, particularly in a country such as Australia, which boasts a 92 percent vaccination rate. As much as Morrison might have been protecting public health, he was also protecting his own political standing.
Perhaps the biggest concern about anti-anti-vax rhetoric—one that has been repeatedly expressed by public-health experts—is that it could make the unvaccinated even less likely to get the jab. But many in the vaccinated majority, whose patience with the pandemic and compassion for their unvaccinated counterparts is growing thin, may feel a kind of relief: After almost two years of COVID-19, their leaders are telling them exactly whom to blame.
Would that the USA would take such common sense measures. Clearly, under Youngkin it will not happen under Youngkin and people will die as a result and the pandemic will last longer.
Monday, January 17, 2022
a number of large school divisions e.g., Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax, Richmond, Henrico, have given Youngkin the poverbial finger and made it clear that they intend to ignore Youngkin's exective order and comply with CDC guidelines. In response Youngkin has basically threatened school divisions and said he will “consider all options” in forcing school divisions to put the whim of a minority of [demented] parents over the health and safety ofa majority of students, teachers and school staff, confirming once agai that Youngkin is a extremist. One can only hope thst the mindless "soccer moms" who voted for Youngkin are waking up to the gravity of their mistake. A piece at WTOP News looks at the Northern Virginia school divisions' common sense responses:
Virginia’s freshly inaugurated governor, Glenn Youngkin, signed executive orders removing school masking requirements across the state on Saturday afternoon. Since that moment, Arlington and Alexandria school systems have joined Fairfax County Public Schools in reminding families that masking policies remain in place.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki, in response to coverage from WTOP’s Nick Iannelli on Sunday, voiced her support for the move as an Arlington County parent — a title, she noted, newly minted governor Glenn Youngkin does not have. “Thank you to [Arlington Public Schools] for standing up for our kids, teachers and administrators and their safety in the midst of a transmissible variant,” Psaki wrote.
Virginia Delegate Patrick Hope of Arlington County also responded to Gov. Youngkin’s statement in a discussion with WTOP. He said that the state’s governor has “no authority at all” to determine how mask mandates operate at individual school systems.
“We are governed by the Virginia code,” Hope told WTOP. “And the Virginia code states very clearly that school districts should adhere by the CDC’s recommendations.”
Less than 12 hours after Virginia’s first Republican governor since 2009 entered office and signed those executive orders, Arlington Public Schools announced that their mask mandates are still in effect.
Citing the state’s bipartisan Senate Bill 1303, the school system said that students would remain bound to mask requirements within their bounds. The bill, signed into law in early 2021, encourages in-person instruction using mitigation strategies provided by the Centers for Disease Control. Those strategies continue to include mask-wearing for those ages two and up.
“Arlington Public Schools implemented our mask requirement this school year prior to Gov. Northam’s K-12 mask mandate, and we will continue to make decisions that prioritize the health, safety and well-being of our students and staff, following the guidance of local and national health professionals,” the system wrote in a statement.
Alexandria City schools followed suit, saying they would also be keeping their mask requirement in place.
“ACPS will continue to abide by the health and safety guidelines of the CDC and the Alexandria Health Department and continue to require all individuals to wear masks that cover the nose and mouth in ACPS schools, facilities and buses,” the school system said on Twitter.
Articles in the Virginian Pilot and the Washington Post also looks at the issue and the strong reaction from school divisions and note that if Youngkin pushes his dangerous and irresponsible agenda litigation - which hopefully kills any popularity Youngkin might have hoed for with a majoeity of parents - will be the likely result. Here are excerpts from the Post story:
The [Youngkin’s] order, with health and safety implications for millions of children and teachers, has elicited confusion and conflicting vows of defiance from districts in more liberal parts of the state, suggesting heightened tension between Virginia schools superintendents and the governor in the first week of his administration. School districts in the immediate D.C. suburbs fired back this weekend by asserting that masks will continue to be required inside buildings.
“Like any contentious issue in American politics, this will end up in a courtroom,” said Stephen Farnsworth, a political scientist at the University of Mary Washington. “You really have to go back to the days of massive resistance and desegregation to find education as prominent in the actions of a governor as you have seen in Day One of the Youngkin administration.”
The mask order has left some educators and parents reeling, including the father of an immunocompromised second-grader with a brain tumor in Alexandria, who is uncertain whether he will continue to send his child to school, . . . .
Adam Laats, a Binghamton University professor who studies the history of American education, said a lawmaker-led push to “ban something purportedly bad” from education is a long-running tradition. Laats said legislative or gubernatorial bans on subjects or teachings have rarely proved effective, including myriad attempts to prohibit the teaching of the theory of evolution over the years.
“To my mind, that’s a meaningless piece of propaganda,” Laats said of Youngkin’s critical race theory proclamation. “It will have an effect only indirectly by causing confusion, by making administrators and teachers scramble to figure out if they are in compliance.”
Soon after Youngkin announced the order, Democrats denounced it: “The war they have declared on Black history is dangerous, to say the least,” Del. Lamont Bagby (D-Henrico), leader of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, said Saturday.
Sunday, January 16, 2022
Governor Glenn Youngkin signed 11 executive actions on his first day in office, including orders allowing parents to opt out of mask mandates in Virginia schools, . . . he list of executive orders and directives Youngkin signed is as follows, per his office:
- Executive Order Number One delivers on his Day One promise to restore excellence in education by ending the use of divisive concepts, including Critical Race Theory, in public education. [never mind that CRT was never a part of public school cirriculums]
- Executive Order Number Two delivers on his Day One promise to empower Virginia parents in their children’s education and upbringing by allowing parents to make decisions on whether their child wears a mask in school.
- Executive Directive Number Two delivers on his fulfilling his Day One promise to restore individual freedoms and personal privacy by rescinding the vaccine mandate for all state employees.
After a dramatic weeklong fight with the world’s top men’s tennis player, Australia’s immigration authorities wisely decided to revoke Novak Djokovic’s visa a second time because he flouted the country’s COVID-19 policies. Although the Australian authorities and tennis officials aren’t blameless, this is a huge, self-inflicted public-relations crisis for Djokovic that has smeared his legacy.
The 34-year-old reigning Australian Open champion could easily have defended his title by getting a safe, highly effective vaccine that would protect him and others from the coronavirus. Instead, he, like some other high-profile athletes, has made a spectacle of trying to bend the rules—thereby showing that, besides COVID, the other sickness the world is fighting is selfishness.
Unfortunately, the tennis star is among the famous athletes who’d rather create chaos around them than get their shots. In the United States, the Green Bay Packers indulged their quarterback Aaron Rodgers this season as he misled reporters and fans into thinking he had been vaccinated. Even though the Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving cannot legally play home games because of New York City’s vaccination mandate, the team brought him back anyway—fueling some speculation that the team might just accept a $5,000-a-game fine and let him play. (Fortunately, the NBA probably would not allow this.)
Djokovic has enablers too. . . . But in no way does that absolve Djokovic, who brought a lot of unnecessary drama with him to Australia.
The media’s close scrutiny of his schedule and social-media posts also revealed that he had been attending public events in his native Serbia around the time in mid-December when he said he had tested positive for the coronavirus. That conduct might be more forgivable if his behavior earlier in the pandemic hadn’t been equally reckless. Last June, Djokovic held a charity tennis tournament in Serbia that turned into a coronavirus super-spreader event. . . . Numerous photos and videos emerged of Djokovic and other participants maskless, not socially distancing, hugging, and partying.
Djokovic has been a vaccine skeptic from the outset of the coronavirus pandemic, and has never hidden his staunch opposition to vaccine mandates. That an athlete of his fame is using his platform in such a destructive fashion is bad enough; even more despicable is that Djokovic seems so comfortable exploiting his immense privilege to endanger the health and safety of others. It is especially insulting to the Australian people, who have adhered to some of the strictest restrictions during the pandemic in an effort to keep their hospitalizations and death rates low.
Sacrificing is what caring communities do—and it’s something Djokovic knows nothing about. As the top player in men’s tennis, Djokovic has a responsibility to be a good ambassador for his sport. But that, like Australia’s COVID rules, is just another requirement that he’s failed to meet.
Virginia now has a Governor threatening the safety and health of Virginians.