Grim SCOTUS

Most religious groups are no doubt applauding the latest Supreme Court ruling, but when you dissect it, the ruling is actually one of the biggest blows to religious freedom in the history of this nation. Clay Jones of Claytoonz has an excellent cartoon and accompanying commentary on the SCOTUS ruling …

claytoonz

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The biggest takeaway from the Supreme Court’s ruling that churches in New York can remain open, because placing restrictions on them is infringing upon their Constitutionally-protected religious freedom, is where the court will be years from now.

The court ruled on similar cases just a few months ago, and ruled 5-4, with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the liberals, that the government can place restrictions on churches. On Wednesday night, it was another 5-4 ruling, this time in favor of the churches and again, with Roberts joining the liberals.

The big takeaway here is that Amy Coney Barrett was the vote putting it over the top. The last time the court voted on this, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was on the court and actually understood the case.

The argument here is that New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, was being harder on churches than places like retail businesses. But the thing is…

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Character Matters? Not to This GOP

The majority of people in this country, including republicans, felt the confirmation and swearing in of Amy Barrett was improper and inappropriate, that a nomination should have waited until after January 20th when we have a new (please, please, please …) president. The entire confirmation process was rushed through, and Barrett is not at all qualified for the position, never even having tried a case! She can never fill the shoes of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg … perhaps nobody can, but Barrett damn sure cannot. Our friend Jeff has put into words what I think the majority of us are feeling. Thank you, Jeff!

On The Fence Voters

Back during the Clinton years, all you heard from the Republican Party was how important character was for a president of the United States. Now, of course, you’ll never hear that word in any shape or form from the current Republican occupants in Congress. Gee, I wonder why?

It’s a trend that’s been going on for a while now. Embracing the current president as they’ve done for nearly four years shows that the party could give a rat’s you know what about character. They parked themselves squarely in Donald Trump’s orbit, rarely a whisper or a peep of discontent, other than the occasional “privately, many Senators are appalled at the president’s statements.” Privately?

Cowards – every damn one of them.

And while we’re speaking about character, how about we address a certain newly confirmed Supreme Court Justice by the name of Amy Comey Barrett? Can we please talk about her…

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Food For Thought …

Today it is likely that Amy Barrett will be confirmed by a majority in the U.S. Senate.  Unconscionable?  Yes, for many reasons, but nonetheless inevitable.  In yesterday’s edition of The Guardian, Robert Reich wrote about what needs to happen next, assuming that Joe Biden is the next president and that the democrats can keep a majority in the House and gain a majority in the Senate – once considered unlikely, but far more realistic today.


Trump assaulted American democracy – here’s how Democrats can save it

Amy Coney Barrett is heading for confirmation but supreme court and Senate reform is possible if Biden wins and acts fast

Robert Reich-4Robert Reich

Barring a miracle, Amy Coney Barrett will be confirmed on Monday as the ninth justice on the US supreme court.

This is a travesty of democracy.

The vote on Barrett’s confirmation will occur just eight days before election day. By contrast, the Senate didn’t even hold a hearing on Merrick Garland, who Barack Obama nominated almost a year before the end of his term. Majority leader Mitch McConnell argued at the time that any vote should wait “until we have a new president”.

Barrett was nominated by a president who lost the popular vote by nearly 3m ballots, and who was impeached by the House of Representatives. When Barrett joins the court, five of the nine justices will have been appointed by presidents who lost the popular vote.

The Republican senators who will vote for her represent 15 million fewer Americans than their Democratic colleagues.

Once on the high court, Barrett will join five other reactionaries who together will be able to declare laws unconstitutional, for perhaps a generation.

Barrett’s confirmation is the culmination of years in which a shrinking and increasingly conservative, rural and white segment of the US population has been imposing its will on the rest of America. They’ve been bankrolled by big business, seeking lower taxes and fewer regulations.

In the event Joe Biden becomes president on 20 January and both houses of Congress come under control of the Democrats, they can reverse this trend. It may be the last chance – both for the Democrats and, more importantly, for American democracy.

How?

For starters, increase the size of the supreme court. The constitution says nothing about the number of justices. The court changed size seven times in its first 80 years, from as few as five justices under John Adams to 10 under Abraham Lincoln.

Biden says if elected he’ll create a bipartisan commission to study a possible court overhaul “because it’s getting out of whack”. That’s fine, but he’ll need to move quickly. The window of opportunity could close by the 2022 midterm elections.

Second, abolish the Senate filibuster. Under current rules, 60 votes are needed to enact legislation. This means that if Democrats win a bare majority there, Republicans could block any new legislation Biden hopes to pass.

The filibuster could be ended with a rule change requiring 51 votes. There is growing support among Democrats for doing this if they gain that many seats. During the campaign, Biden acknowledged that the filibuster has become a negative force in government.

The filibuster is not in the constitution either.

The most ambitious structural reform would be to rebalance the Senate itself. For decades, rural states have been emptying as the US population has shifted to vast megalopolises. The result is a growing disparity in representation, especially of nonwhite voters.

For example, both California, with a population of 40 million, and Wyoming, whose population is 579,000, get two senators. If population trends continue, by 2040 some 40% of Americans will live in just five states, and half of America will be represented by 18 Senators, the other half by 82.

This distortion also skews the electoral college, because each state’s number of electors equals its total of senators and representatives. Hence, the recent presidents who have lost the popular vote.

This growing imbalance can be remedied by creating more states representing a larger majority of Americans. At the least, statehood should be granted to Washington DC. And given that one out of eight Americans now lives in California – whose economy, if it were a separate country, would be the ninth-largest in the world – why not split it into a North and South California?

The constitution is also silent on the number of states.

Those who recoil from structural reforms such as the three I’ve outlined warn that Republicans will retaliate when they return to power. That’s rubbish. Republicans have already altered the ground rules. In 2016, they failed to win a majority of votes cast for the House, Senate or the presidency, yet secured control of all three.

Barrett’s ascent is the latest illustration of how grotesque the power imbalance has become, and how it continues to entrench itself ever more deeply. If not reversed soon, it will be impossible to remedy.

What’s at stake is not partisan politics. It is representative government. If Democrats get the opportunity, they must redress this growing imbalance – for the sake of democracy.

Wise Words And A Question

ACBAlways a voice of reason, Nicholas Kristof has written yet another introspective and timely column in yesterday’s New York Times.  Whereas I tend to rant, Kristof is the calm voice of reason, yet even he admits that the United States may be on a backward-facing treadmill.  He concludes his column with an important question for us all.  I urge you to read what he says …


Will We Choose the Right Side of History?

In Amy Coney Barrett, Republicans are once again backing a Supreme Court nominee who could take us backward.

nicholas-kristof-thumblargeBy Nicholas Kristof

Opinion Columnist

Amy Coney Barrett has been following recent precedent in her confirmation hearing before the Senate, pretending that she has never had an interesting thought in her life.

Is it illegal to intimidate voters at the polls? She didn’t want to weigh in. A president postponing an election? Hmm. She’d have to think about that.

What about climate change? “I have read things about climate change,” she acknowledged, warily emphasizing that she is not a scientist. “I would not say I have firm views on it.”

If she had been asked about astronomy, she might have explained: “I have read things about the Earth being round. I would not say I have firm views on it.”

But for all the obfuscation, which nominees of Democratic presidents have engaged in as well, there is no hiding the essential truths that Barrett: A) is very bright; and B) would solidify a conservative Supreme Court majority whose judicial philosophy has been on the wrong side of many of the great issues of my lifetime.

We sometimes distinguish between “liberal judges” and “conservative judges.” Perhaps the divide instead is between forward-thinking judges and backward-thinking judges.

Partly because of paralysis by legislators, partly because of racist political systems, forward-thinking judges sometimes had to step up over the last 70 years to tug the United States ahead. Those judges chipped away at Jim Crow and overturned laws against interracial marriage, against contraception, and fought racial and sexual discrimination.

Just this week, Bernard Cohen, the lawyer who won the interracial marriage case in the Supreme Court in 1967, died — a reminder of how recent such progress is. In that case, Richard and Mildred Loving, a white man and Black woman who married in Washington, D.C., had moved to Virginia, where the police barged into their home at 2 a.m. and arrested them in bed for violating an anti-miscegenation law. Forward-thinking justices struck down such laws — and that wasn’t about “activist judges” but about decency, humanity and the 14th Amendment.

It was as recent as 2003 that enlightened Supreme Court judges struck down state sodomy laws that could be used to prosecute same-sex lovers. Three backward-thinking justices, including Antonin Scalia, Barrett’s mentor, would have allowed Taliban-style prosecutions of gay people for intimacy in the bedroom. (Barrett refused in the hearing Wednesday to say whether the case was rightly decided.)

It is true, as some conservatives argue, that this path toward social progress would ideally have been blazed by legislators, not judges. But it is difficult for people who are denied voting rights to protect their voting rights, and judicial passivism in these cases would have buttressed discrimination, racism, sexism and bigotry.

That brings us to another historical area where conservatives, Barrett included, have also been on the wrong side of history — access to health care.

Over the last hundred years, advanced countries have, one by one, adopted universal health care systems, with one notable exception: the United States. That’s one reason next month’s election is such a milestone, for one political party in America is trying to join the rest of the civilized world and provide universal health care, and the other is doing its best to take away what we have.

The G.O.P. is succeeding. Census data show that even before the Covid-19 pandemic the number of uninsured Americans had risen by 2.3 million under Trump — and another 2.9 million have lost insurance since the pandemic hit. Most troubling of all, about one million children have lost insurance under Trump over all, according to a new Georgetown study.

I’m not trying to scare readers about Barrett joining a conservative majority to overturn the Affordable Care Act. My take is that Democrats are exaggerating that risk; the Republican argument in the case, to be heard next month, is such a legal stretch that it’s unlikely to succeed fully, even if Barrett is on the court.

But it is possible, and that would be such a cataclysm — perhaps 20 million Americans losing insurance during a pandemic — that it’s worth a shudder. It should also remind us of the importance of renewing the imperfect, on-again-off-again march of civilization in America, away from bigotry and toward empowerment of all citizens.

Barrett is not a horrible person; on the contrary, she seems to be a smart lawyer with an admirable personal story. Yet she’s working with a gang of Republican senators to steal a seat on the Supreme Court. This grand larceny may well succeed. But for voters, this hearing should underscore the larger battle over the direction of the country.

Voters can’t weigh in on the Barrett nomination, but they can correct this country’s course.

Here’s the fundamental question: Will voters reward the party that is working to provide more health care, or the party that has painstakingly robbed one million children of insurance? Will voters help tug the United States forward, or will they support the backward thinkers who have been on the side of discrimination, racism, bigotry and voter suppression?

At the polls, which side of history will you stand on?

S-s-snarky S-s-snippets

I am in rather a dark mood tonight … I even yelled at an animated character, a cute li’l octopus, on television and called her a … well, you get the picture.  Two things in particular stirred my angst tonight, and both, I think, are well deserving of venting a bit of snarky steam.


Pathetic

“Suburban women: Will you please like me? Please. Please. I saved your damn neighborhood, okay? The other thing: I don’t have that much time to be that nice. You know, I can do it, but I gotta go quickly. They want me to be politically correct. I got rid of a regulation that was a disaster and it was really unfair, and you’ve been reading about it for a long time and it’s gotten a lot worse under Obama and Biden. We’re going to see that the women really like Trump a lot. Remember four years ago, they said women will never vote, then I got 52 percent. … You damn well better vote for me Pennsylvania, you better vote.”

These are the words of the incumbent in the Oval Office, spoken during a rally in Johnstown, Pennsylvania on Tuesday night.  First he begs and cajoles, then he threatens.  And this is the person who has ‘led’ this nation into chaos for the past nearly four years and hopes to be given another four years to complete the destruction.

Joe Biden, by the way, is leading in the polls in Pennsylvania by an average of 6 points.


Pointless

I have not paid particular attention to, nor written about, the hearings taking place in the Senate to determine whether or not to confirm Trump’s nominee to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the U.S. Supreme Court.  It’s not that I’m not interested – I am.  It’s not that I don’t think it’s important – I do.  It’s just that from what I have read it is just another … yawn … Republican dog-and-pony show with the outcome predetermined.  I truly have better things to do with my time than watch the Republicans preen and Ms. Barrett deflect.

To date, apparently Ms. Amy Coney Barrett has refused to answer all relevant questions, so … what is there to write about?  Ms. Barrett is 48 years old, so We the People are likely to be saddled with her religious views becoming the law of the land for the next three decades or so.

The burning questions that she has refused to answer are on the topics of the Affordable Healthcare Act (whether the majority of us will be able to afford medical care when and if we need it), Roe v Wade (whether women will retain control of their own bodies, or be subject to a misogynistic rule), and Obergefell v Hodges (whether a significant portion of the population will be allowed to marry the person they love, or whether that, too, will be dictated by a bigoted Supreme Court).  Ms. Barrett has refused to answer how she would rule on any of these topics.  In my book, that removes her from consideration, for we have a right to know who will be deciding how we must live.  And would somebody please tell me WHY Ms. Barrett’s children are front and center in the hearings???  They have no role in this, they have no place here!  Best I can figure, it’s another ‘photo op’ moment like Trump having citizens forcibly removed from the streets of Washington so he could hold a bloody book in front of a damn church!  Send the children home to do their online learning, Amy!  Better yet … go home with them, since you have proven yourself useless.BarrettIn the Republican’s book however, it is a little different.

Here are some of the questions Ted Cruz, a republican senator from Texas asked of Ms. Barrett:

  • Do you speak any foreign languages? (French)
  • Do you play any musical instruments? (Piano)
  • What was it like staying at home during the pandemic with seven children? (Challenging)
  • Why did she and her husband adopt two children from Haiti? (A long story)

Ooooohhh … what relevant questions for a potential Supreme Court Justice who will be expected to make decisions that may mean life or death for us all!  Way to go, Teddy!

Now, one thing I didn’t mention above was Ms. Barrett’s take on climate change, arguably the single most important issue of the day.

“I’m certainly not a scientist. I have read things about climate change. I would not say I have firm views on it.”

Say WHAT?  You have “read things”???  What things?  Details, woman!  How … HOW can anybody in this, the year 2020 with wildfires consuming much of the West Coast, with devastating hurricanes costing lives and untold property damages, and with the average temperature this past summer 92° in an area that usually has a summertime average of 85° … how can any sane person look at the statistics, step outside and attempt to breathe the air, and still have “no firm views”???  This woman is either very, very stupid, else she is already in the pockets of the corporate donors such as Koch Brothers and the fossil fuel industry!

I’m not a scientist, either, but I still possess some parts that Ms. Barrett may be missing:  a brain, eyes, ears, and lungs … all of which tell me that humans, in their greedy quest for more useless money, have begun and continue the destruction of the environment here on planet Earth.

So, in conclusion, Ms. Barrett refuses to voice an opinion on women’s rights, LGBT rights, the right to medical care, and worst yet, she is stupid about the environment.  GET. HER. OUT.

But no, the boot-lickers in the Senate have a majority, albeit a narrow one, and there doesn’t seem to be a single one with the cojones to “just say ‘no’” to Donald Trump.  On top of that, the unconscionably powerful Koch Brothers have thrown their support behind her nomination.  And thus began the beginning of the end of civilization in what was once known as the United States.


And I shall end on that note, for my temper is about to take me where I ought not to go.  Let me just say, though, that if Donald Trump is elected for and seated for another term, I shall renounce my citizenship from the U.S., if not from the entire world.  I can see nothing good in the future of this nation if the people continue to elect and applaud bloody fools and to put corporate profits ahead of people.

The Week’s Best Cartoons 10/3

Most of us are finding it difficult to find much humour these days, but political cartoonists are a different breed … they can put a humorous spin on even the most dire news events.  Every week, our friend TokyoSand searches the ‘Net for the weeks best ‘toons, and this week is no exception.  Thank you, TS!


Editorial cartoonists from around the nation cover the biggest news stories of the week including the president contracting COVID, Justice Ginsburg’s SCOTUS seat, the 1st debate, and the release of Trump’s tax returns.

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America’s Wake Up Call — Will Democrats Finally Take the Courts Seriously?

Just when you think it can’t get any worse, the Notorious RGB dies and now we have yet another reason that the upcoming elections are the most relevant, most critical, and most chaotic in the history of the U.S.

For this segment of mine and Jeff’s project to inform our readers about the various aspects and issues of the election, Jeff has addressed the situation regarding the Courts, the Judicial branch of our government.


Will Democrats Finally Take the Courts Seriously?

Posted by Brookingslib

In March, as part of myself and Jill’s project to help get out the vote in 2020, I warned about impending doom as it pertains to the courts in America. I highly recommend you read that particular post because it lays out all of the issues we’ll be facing in the coming months. Decisions await in many areas of concern, including the viability of the Affordable Care Act, Roe V Wade, and climate change.

Unfortunately, now we must deal with something I was hoping would not come to fruition. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Notorious RBG as she came to be known, passed away almost two weeks ago, after a long and gallant fight with pancreatic cancer.

Our worst nightmare is now upon us. The current president is again upending the norms and precedents exhibited by previous presidents by nominating Court of Appeals Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. If confirmed, she will replace one of the most legendary and magnificent legal minds we’ve ever seen – not even five weeks before the American people are about to make their choice for president.

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An Answer To My Letter …

You may remember the letter I wrote to Senator Rob Portman a week or so ago regarding the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  One thing I will say about Senator Portman is that he always responds to my emails, and this was no exception.  On Saturday I received this response …

rob-portmanDear Jill,

Thank you for contacting me regarding the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I appreciate your thoughts on the matter and the opportunity to respond.

As the second woman in history confirmed to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice Ginsburg served our country in this important role for 27 years. Her death on September 18, 2020 created a vacancy on the Court.  The U.S. Constitution provides that the President “shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint… Judges of the supreme Court.” Considering we are less than two months from a presidential election, there is controversy regarding whether the Senate should take up a nomination before the election.  The Senate’s historical precedent demonstrates that when the same party controls the presidency and the Senate and a vacancy arises during a presidential election year, the Senate almost always confirms a nominee.

In the more than two dozen vacancies on the U.S. Supreme Court that have arisen during a presidential election year in our nation’s history, the sitting president made a nomination in every single case.  Leader McConnell has said that he will hold a vote on any nominee President Trump sends to the Senate, and I intend to fulfill my role as a U.S. Senator and judge that nominee based on his or her merits. The president was elected in 2016, in part, based on a commitment to nominate men and women to the judiciary who would fairly and impartially apply the law and protect the rights guaranteed by the Constitution, not advance public policy goals by legislating from the bench.  Likewise, in both 2016 and 2018, the American people have re-elected a Republican Senate majority to help President Trump fulfill that commitment.

In 2016, when the vacancy occurred following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, I said “the president has every right to nominate a Supreme Court justice … But the founders also gave the Senate the exclusive right to decide whether to move forward on that nominee.” Since the 1880s, no Senate has confirmed an opposing-party president’s Supreme Court choice when the vacancy occurred in a presidential election year.  In contrast, when the presidency and the Senate are controlled by the same party – as it is today –the precedent is for the president’s nominees to get confirmed. In the occasions that a vacancy has occurred when the President and the Senate are of the same party in a presidential election year, the Senate has confirmed the nominee and filled the seat in every instance but one where there was a bipartisan ethics concern. I look forward to seeing who President Trump plans to nominate and thoroughly assessing his or her qualifications for this important role.

Once again, thank you for taking the time to contact me. For more information, I encourage you to visit my website at portman.senate.gov . Thank you, and please keep in touch.

Sincerely,

Rob Portman
U.S. Senator

My response, if I felt inclined to respond, would be to remind him that the United States Supreme Court is intended, by the Constitution he places so much stock in, to be non-partisan.  They are supposed to judge cases by their constitutionality, not by how the results play into the hands of one political party or another.  What I hear in Senator Portman’s response is that he will continue licking the boots of the Ass in the Oval Office and will vote to confirm the nominee, for he hasn’t the cojones to stand up to either Donald Trump or Mitch McConnell.  I hope I’m wrong.