The Supreme Court Has Lost Its Way …

The Supreme Court, the branch of the federal government that is supposed to be most independent, that is intended to hold the executive and legislative branches accountable, has made two major decisions today that indicate they have fallen and landed squarely in the camp of Donald Trump.  I am beyond disappointed … I am incensed, and I see our rights as citizens of this plutocracy going down the drain. supreme court justices


Supreme Court revives Trump’s transgender military ban

The Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed the Trump administration to go ahead with its plan to restrict military service by transgender people while court challenges continue.  The court split 5-4 in allowing the plan to take effect, with the court’s five conservatives greenlighting it and its four liberal members saying they would not have.

Until a few years ago service members could be discharged from the military for being transgender. That changed under President Barack Obama. The military announced in 2016 that transgender individuals already serving in the military would be allowed to serve openly. And the military set July 1, 2017 as the date when transgender individuals would be allowed to enlist.

Trump, of course, had to undo that, for two reasons:  a) it was a decision made during the Obama administration, and Trump has a goal to undo every single thing Obama did, and b) because Donald Trump and his supporters are homophobic bigots.  There is no viable reason to ban transgender people from the military, and this decision does not reflect the feelings of the majority in this nation!

Supreme Court returns to gun rights for 1st time in 9 years

The Supreme Court said Tuesday it will take up its first gun rights case in nine years, a challenge to New York City’s prohibition on carrying a licensed, locked and unloaded handgun outside the city limits.  The court’s decision to hear the appeal filed by three New York residents and New York’s National Rifle Association affiliate could signal a revived interest in gun rights by a more conservative court. The case won’t be argued until October.

New York’s ordinance allows people licensed to have handguns to carry them outside the home to gun ranges in the city. The guns must be locked and unloaded.  The city residents who filed suit want to practice shooting at target ranges outside the city or take their guns to second homes elsewhere in New York state.  The city’s top lawyer, Zachary Carter, urged the court to reject the case, arguing that the restrictions allowed New York police to reduce the number of guns carried in public.

Just about the last … the very last … thing we need in this country is an expansion of 2nd Amendment ‘rights’!  The NRA has already nearly ensured that gun deaths in the U.S. will continue to be the highest per capita on the globe.  What do we want … are we shooting for some sort of record here … “let’s see if we can top last year’s gun deaths”?


Both of these issues are beyond merely concerning on their own merit, but the even greater concern is the trend that is appearing.  It is a trend we all feared when first, Neil Gorsuch, then Brett Kavanaugh were seated on the Supreme Court.  It is deeply disturbing that the Supreme Court appears to be making decisions strictly along partisan lines rather than considering issues on Constitutional merit.  The real concern, however, lies on the path ahead.  There are two prior Supreme Court rulings that ultra-conservative republicans, evangelicals, Trump’s base, want to see overturned:  Roe v Wade, and Obergefell v Hodges.  The first guarantees a woman the right to make decisions about her own body, her own life.  The second guarantees same-sex couples the right to marry.  Both were long, hard-fought battles and are, in short, about human rights … civil rights.

In addition to those, it is highly likely that the Supreme Court will soon be asked to hear cases involving gerrymandering and voter disenfranchisement.  Our constitutional rights … all of them … may be in jeopardy if the Court cannot manage to overcome it’s partisanship.  After Kavanaugh’s contentious confirmation, Chief Justice John Roberts, in an effort to quell growing concerns of partisanship on the Court, made the following statement:

“… We do not sit on opposite sides of an aisle, we do not caucus in separate rooms, we do not serve one party or one interest. We serve one nation. And I want to assure all of you that we will continue to do that to the best of our abilities, whether times are calm or contentious.”

Prove that to us, please, Chief Justice.

A Thumb-Up For The Chief Justice

In the past week, since the November 6th mid-term elections, we have seen the very worst of Donald Trump.  He has acted alternately like a madman and a two-year-old, determined, it would seem to do as much damage to the nation, the government, and the Constitution as he possibly can before the 116th Congress is seated on January 3rd.  It has been, frankly, de-moralizing and we have had a forewarning of the tyranny Trump might yet inflict upon this nation.  But just in the past couple of days, a few people have slowly begun waking up … people in power are beginning to push back against Trump, to say, “No, sir, you cannot do that”.

One such person is Chief Supreme Court Justice John Roberts, who has finally had enough.  I have had concerns that Roberts was letting the Supreme Court be turned into a partisan arm of the government, that he was turning out to be yet another of Trump’s boot-lickers.  But, yesterday he seems to have found his cojones and spoke out after Trump denigrated yet another federal judge.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Jon S. Tigar of San Francisco issued a nationwide restraining order barring enforcement of the policy Trump announced Nov. 8.  Trump’s policy would have allowed only people who cross at legal checkpoints to request asylum, a transformation of long-established asylum procedures, codified both at the international level and by Congress.

“Whatever the scope of the President’s authority, he may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden,” ruled Judge Tigar. The ruling is in effect until December 19th, at which point it will be argued before the courts.

And predictably, Trump threw one of his tiresome tirades …

“That’s not law. Every case that gets filed in the Ninth Circuit we get beaten. It’s a disgrace. This was an Obama judge. Everybody that wants to sue the United States, they file their case in the Ninth Circuit, and it means an automatic loss no matter what you do, no matter how good your case is. I’ll tell you what, it’s not going to happen like this anymore. The Ninth Circuit is really something we have to take a look at because it’s not fair. People should not be allowed to immediately run to this very friendly circuit and file their case.”

It was the part where he called Judge Tigar an “Obama judge” that raised the hackles of Justice Roberts …

Chief Justice John Roberts“We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges. What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them. That independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for.”

I have not always been pleased with Justice Robert’s decisions, especially in the last two years, but I give him a thumbs up on this, for it is important for all to remember that the courts do not answer to either Congress or the president but are indeed intended to be a fully independent branch.  Trump appears not to understand that, and in truth, now that Brett Kavanaugh holds a seat on the bench of the Supreme Court, I am seriously concerned about the independence of the judiciary.

But then, of course, the fool on the hill had to hit back …

“Sorry Chief Justice John Roberts, but you do indeed have ‘Obama judges,’ and they have a much different point of view than the people who are charged with the safety of our country. It would be great if the 9th Circuit was indeed an ‘independent judiciary,’ but if it is why are so many opposing view cases filed there, and why are a vast number of those cases overturned. Please study the numbers, they are shocking. We need protection and security — these rulings are making our country unsafe! Very dangerous and unwise!”

There seems to be, among some of Trump’s loyalists, a prevailing notion that if he is the president, he can say and do anything he wants.  Funny, but when Obama was president, these same people took the opposite view, that if Obama did virtually anything, he was overstepping his bounds.  At least as of today, 22 November 2018, Trump is only a president, not a dictator, and no, he cannot do whatever he pleases.  He does not have the right to change the law to suit his whims, he does not have the right to do as he has already done and send troops on a costly fool’s mission to the southern border to “defend the nation” against old men, women and children!  Donald Trump is not, at least at this time, above the law and his position gives him only limited privileges.  It’s time that he and his loyalists realize and accept that, for the rest of us are sick and tired of his mouth.

The GOP Ain’t Atticus Finch!!!

In the past weeks, and especially the past few days, I have seen some of the most asinine comments come from the mouths of men and women who are supposed to be well-educated, reasonable human beings. Men and women who are paid a sizable chunk of money by us to represent us.  That would be … us … all of us … as in, We The People.  It isn’t bad enough that they are not doing their job, that they are playing games with our lives, gambling away the future of this nation, but on top of that, we have to listen to them spout ugly and stupid rhetoric!

Tonight I focus on one such fool, John Cornyn III, a United States Senator from the State of Texas.  A brief bio …

John_Cornyn_(cropped)Cornyn is a graduate from Trinity University and St. Mary’s University School of Law, receiving his LL.M. from the University of Virginia School of Law. Cornyn was a Judge on Texas’ 37th District Court from 1985 to 1991, until he was elected an associate justice of the Texas Supreme Court, where he served 1991 to 1997. In 1998, Cornyn was elected Attorney General of Texas, serving one term until winning a seat in the U.S. Senate in 2002. He was re-elected to a second term in 2008 and to a third term in 2014.

Cornyn was the subject of a number of controversies during his single term as Attorney General of Texas, involving deals with the Koch brothers, injecting religion into schools, and others that I wish I had the time and space to delve into, but for tonight I shall stay the course.  What has set me off now is his inane comment about the republican senators who shoved Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation through, despite at least five valid reasons not to do so.  He had the unmitigated gall to compare these jerks to the fictional character Atticus Finch, from Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill A Mockingbird.

atticus-finch-qoeAtticus Finch, you may remember, played by Gregory Peck, was a lawyer in a small fictional southern town of Maycomb, Alabama.  Finch was representing a black man, Tom Robinson,  falsely accused of raping a white woman, Mayella Ewell.  The character of Atticus Finch represents morality and reason.  He is soft-spoken, believes in fighting for justice and equality, and is a moral hero in every sense of the word.

John Cronyn and his bunch are definitely not Atticus Finch.

“Some commentators have called this our Atticus Finch moment. We all remember that Atticus Finch was a lawyer who did not believe that a mere accusation was synonymous with guilt. He represented an unpopular person who many people presumed was guilty of a heinous crime because of his race and his race alone. We could learn from Atticus Finch now.”

The comparison is 180° off base, for while Atticus Finch was defending a Black man from a white woman who had accused him of a rape he didn’t commit, in the Jim Crow South, the GOP are trying to ensure a privileged white judge gets an even more privileged position on the Supreme Court.

And while Cornyn’s is the most bombastic comment, others in the GOP, now that they have gotten their way and feel they have nothing to lose, have dropped the masks of decency and are showing their true colours.Mitch McConnell said that the allegations made against Kavanaugh were “uncorroborated mud” and that blocking his nomination would be a “fundamentally un-American precedent.”  Never mind, I suppose, that McConnell was the force behind blocking the nomination of Merrick Garland, a highly qualified candidate, under President Obama, for more than a year!

Lindsey Graham, meanwhile, has accused Democrats of spurring an “unethical sham”, and is insisting that democrat Amy Klobuchar apologize for the “smear campaign”.  Such nice language these so-called professional men use, eh?

It’s funny, isn’t it, that the republicans got their way, by hook or by crook … mostly crook, for the FBI investigation was not an investigation, but a farce, and many credible allegations were simply ignored … and yet they still feel a need to push conspiracy theories, lie, and denigrate innocent people.  At first I was confounded by this behaviour, but then I recalled that they are only talking to their own base, the minority, if you will, of the population of this nation.  Remember that, folks, when you are tempted to lose heart, when you feel like the guys in the black hats are winning the game.  They are only winning amongst about one-third of the country, for the rest of us are not buying their snake oil pitch.  The thing we must do is take away their rosy glow next month at the polls.  It’s our last, best hope … our only hope for a semblance of sanity, of decency to return to at least one branch of government.mlk quote

Super-Snarky Friday …

Well, Jeff Flake and Susan Collins will vote to confirm Kavanaugh. surprise. not.  The Senate has the votes to confirm the jerk and by Monday, no doubt he will have donned his robes. And that is all I have to say about that. PPBBBBBTTTTTHHHH.


For those of you who may have wondered whether I retain the capacity of logical thought, allow me to share with you a conversation between me and myself this morning as I went about the Friday house chores:

Me: Chris’ birthday is on the 26th.  If it’s a weekday, we should send her flowers to her office.

Myself:  What day of the week is it?

Me:  I dunno.  What’s today?

Myself:  Friday.

Me:  No, stupid, I mean the date.

Myself:  I dunno.  Yesterday was the 4th.

Me:  (pulls cellphone out of pocket, clicks on calendar app)  Hey!  It’s a Friday … three weeks from today.

Myself:  Duh.


Juan Romero died on Monday of a heart attack.  He was only 68, one year older than me.  Who, you ask, is Juan Romero?Juan RomeroJuan was 18 years old in 1968 and was working as a busboy when Robert F. Kennedy was fatally shot in the kitchen of the Ambassador hotel in Los Angeles, California.  Juan has carried the guilt of Kennedy’s death with him his entire life, for he had reached out to shake Kennedy’s hand and as Kennedy stopped to shake hands with the young busboy, the shots rang out.

“If I wouldn’t have extended my hand, he wouldn’t have gotten shot,” he once told his daughter Josefina.  Of course, we all know better, and perhaps so did Juan, but he nonetheless carried the guilt for 50 years.Juan Romero-2


Melania Trump is touring Africa … nobody is quite sure why, other than she wanted to get as far away from her husband as possible – who can blame her?  Anyway, my friend Senam – he calls me his Big Sis and he is my li’l Bro – who lives in Ghana wrote to me a couple of nights ago to say that she was visiting Ghana, but that it was very low key … “Nobody really cares.”

Rather a fitting statement, don’t you think?Melania-jacket


Ben and Jackee Belnap of Salt Lake City, Utah are not very happy campers today.  They had borrowed money from Ben’s parents to buy University of Utah American football season tickets, and had been saving to repay them.  Finally, they managed to save the $1,060 (for football tickets???  What were these people thinking???) and had taken the money from their locked safe and put it on the counter so they wouldn’t forget it when they went to visit the parents.

Enter two-year-old son, Leo.  Now, at two years of age, I find this one hard to credit, but the Belnaps have already shown they aren’t the brightest bulbs in the pack, right?  Apparently Jackee had taught little Leo to use the family’s office paper shredder.  When Leo spotted that envelope full of cash cluttering up the kitchen counter, he decided to be helpful … and … yeah, you got it … Leo shredded the entire $1,060!  Where were Ben & Jackee?  Who knows, but they weren’t watching Leo!  Shredders are dangerous things … they can mangle fingers and other body parts.  In my opinion, being in full snark-mode today, this couple got exactly what the deserved.  And Ben’s parents will need to wait a while longer to get their money, but hey … they raised Ben, so maybe they get what they deserve too!


Maybe I do have one last thing to say regarding the Kavanaugh fiasco.  This morning, the a$$ in the White House declared that the two women who confronted Jeff Flake in the elevator last week were paid to do so.

“Don’t fall for it! Also, look at all of the professionally made identical signs. Paid for by Soros and others. These are not signs made in the basement from love!”

Way to go, Republicans, for voting this jackass into office.  Thanks a million.


And on that note, I shall stop for today.  I am obviously in no mood to play nice.  I hope you all have a great weekend and I’ll be back in the morning with Saturday Surprise!

Farewell Last Bastion of Justice

Barring anything significantly changing, Brett Kavanaugh will likely be confirmed to the United States Supreme Court, despite having lied under oath, despite having taken off the mask and shown himself to be a man possessed of a whiny and cruel temperament, and despite the numerous allegations of sexual assault.  Even if the democrats win every possible seat in the Senate next month, and even if there is a democratic majority in the House of Representatives come January, Brett Kavanaugh will not be impeached in 2019.  That said, let us for a moment look beyond the three-ring circus that this confirmation process has become and address something even more significant:  The U.S. Supreme Court itself.

In February 2017 I wrote a piece titled The Supreme Court – Our Best Hope which I began with

“Now that Congress has ‘fallen into line’ and is pandering to Trump’s every whim, licking his boots and kissing his posterior, there is one last bastion of justice remaining:  the United States Supreme Court.”

This was a time just before Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation, when I hoped that the three oldest Justices, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Anthony Kennedy would be able to hold on and keep working for a few more years.  It was a time when I still believed Donald Trump would be gone from office within a year.  It was a time when there was still hope that our nation would be turned around before any lasting damage took place.  It was a time, apparently, when I was still wearing my rose-coloured glasses.

The intention of the framers of the U.S. Constitution was that the Supreme Court would be above partisan politics.  Surely, they realized that every man, even Supreme Court Justices would have their own set of beliefs, their own ideologies, but when they are sitting on the bench, they are expected to set aside their personal feelings and make decisions according to their interpretation of the Constitution based on the facts at hand.  It is an idealist philosophy, and hasn’t always been strictly followed, but by and large it has worked well.  This is how we saw Roe v Wade passed in 1973 with only two dissenting opinions:  Byron White and William Rehnquist.  The court deemed abortion a fundamental right under the United States Constitution, a ruling that has seen controversy since its birth, but that has not been successfully challenged, nor should it be.

This post is not specifically about Roe v Wade, but rather I use it as an example of how the Supreme Court is supposed to function.  A look at the justices in 1973:

Harry Blackmun – appointed in 1970 by Republican President Richard M. Nixon, became one of the more liberal justices on the court.

William Brennan – appointed in 1956 by Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower in a recess appointment, became known as the leader of the Court’s liberal wing.

Lewis Powell – appointed in 1971 by Richard M. Nixon, was a conservative, but known for compromise and often was the swing vote.

Thurgood Marshall – appointed in 1967 by Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson, was the first African-American appointed to the Supreme Court.  Marshall was a former Civil Rights activist, and expectedly his views were liberal to the extreme.

Warren Burger – appointed in 1969 by Richard M. Nixon, Chief Justice Burger was a conservative, but voted as a liberal when he felt it was right.

William Douglas – appointed by Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939, Douglas was primarily a liberal and a strict literalist in terms of interpreting the First Amendment.

Potter Stewart – appointed by Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1958, was firmly a centrist, often a swing vote.

William Rehnquist – appointed in 1972 by Richard M. Nixon, was a strong conservative.

Byron White – appointed by Democratic President John F. Kennedy in 1962 was neither liberal nor conservative, but by his own admission was a fact-based justice.

Nixon, a republican, had appointed four of the nine justices on the court when Roe v Wade came up for consideration, and Eisenhower had appointed two.  It is worth noting that all nine justices were males. Six justices had been appointed by republican presidents, only three by democrats, and yet legalized abortion became the law of the land.  This is what is meant by a court that rises above partisanship.  This is how it is supposed to work.  This is how ‘justice’ happens, folks.  It does not happen when a president appoints justices solely because he expects them to vote according to his wishes every time!

The Supreme Court has most always been looked upon with respect and dignity.  Historically, it has been a place where a lay person feels they should whisper, so as not to waken the ghosts of the many great men who have passed through its halls.  Once Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed, that dignity will be gone, for he brings baggage that will soil the landscape, that will remove much of the honour that was brought by some of the greatest judges the nation has known:

  • John Marshall, Chief Justice 1801-1835
  • Earl Warren, Chief Justice 1953-1969
  • Louis Brandeis, Associate Justice 1916-1939
  • William Brennan, Associate Justice 1956-1990
  • Oliver Wendell Holmes, Associate Justice 1902-1932
  • John Marshall Harlan, Associate Justice 1877-1911
  • Hugo Black, Associate Justice 1937-1971

And many other fine men and women.  The dignity, the non-partisan justice of the court will be another bastion of our democratic process gone.  When Senator Jeff Flake commented the other day that there is no value in reaching across the aisle to work toward compromise solutions, we knew Congress was no longer accountable to We The People.  If Brett Kavanaugh is allowed to take his place on the Supreme Court, then the court will no longer belong to We The People either.  Both Congress and the Court will have become a tool of the madman in the Oval Office.

You will find Fareed Zakaria’s column in The Washington Post to be of interest on this same topic.

The Trump Circus

I mentioned to a few people yesterday that the thing that bothered me the most about Trump’s mockery and denigration of Dr. Christine Ford at one of his rallies on Tuesday was the fact that the audience approved.  They laughed.  They applauded.  Even far-right republicans, I thought, surely couldn’t approve of this b.s. by Trump, but it appeared that they did. Even women, some of whom surely had also been victims of sexual abuse, cheered.  I find this deeply disturbing.  This morning, as I was perusing various news outlets, I stumbled across an editorial by Charles M. Blow of the New York Times.  I believe Mr. Blow has hit the nail squarely on the head with his explanations for that crass behaviour that is so often exhibited these days at Trump rallies, and I thought his ideas were worth sharing with you …

Charles BlowThe Trump Circus

By Charles M. Blow

03 October 2018

It is a scene that has become all too common, and dare I say dangerously close to becoming mundane: Donald Trump said something outrageous at one of his political rallies and his supporters, those hopelessly beguiled by the bully, cheered.

This week, Trump trekked to Southaven, Miss., where he took the degenerate step of mocking Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault.

Trump imitated and chided her:

Thirty-six years ago this happened. I had one beer, right? I had one beer … How did you get home? I don’t remember. How’d you get there? I don’t remember. Where is the place? I don’t remember. How many years ago was it? I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. What neighborhood was it in? I don’t know. Where’s the house? I don’t know. Upstairs, downstairs, where was it? I don’t know. But I had one beer. That’s the only thing I remember.

It was a repulsively grotesque spectacle, and yet from the assemblage of thousands came applause and roars of approval for Trump.

It is at moments like these that I try to step back from the particulars, to create some distance, so that I can ask myself the larger, more profound questions. How did we as a country arrive at the point where this is even possible? And how are there so many Americans willing to accept Trump’s corrosion of our culture and our discourse, to gleefully follow him as he plumbs the depths, probing for a bottom of acceptability that, in his world, seems to have been obliterated?

There are multiple explanations, to be sure: racism, xenophobia, ethnic hostility, Islamophobia, nationalism, Fox News, reduced access to privilege, lingering anti-Obama sentiments, a pronounced distrust of media in particular and truth writ large.

But I believe there are two other explanations that are much more base: entertainment and ownership.

First, the entire Trump presidency is a show, and many Americans find it quite entertaining, viewing Trump as its antihero.

He is brash, unconventional, emotional, sometimes raging and sometimes funny.

His rock-and-rage rallies (he has held nearly two dozen since being elected) are simply an extension of that, only more raw and raucous. Trump brings the big show and the big media with their big cameras to places and people who feel forgotten and isolated, looked over by the bustling coasts and the urban centers.

He is their entree to power, a personification and articulation of anger and anti-intellectualism, a way to wrap their hatreds in humor.

The rallies are part tent revival, part circus, part call-and-response game show. Like-minded people with look-alike faces populate them. They are orgies of sameness in which crowd dynamics produce and escalate a tornado of affirmation and acceptance until it is perfectly admissible to surrender any remaining morality to the mob.

It is a religious experience of conversion and immersion, a born-again baptism in which people emerge bound to one another and bound to Trump.

Trying to pry them apart from Trump, to make them somehow see the light and turn on him, is a time- and energy-wasting exercise. Trump is wielding a Jim Jones-level of influence and control over these people, and deprogramming the members of his cult would take more effort than most are willing to commit.

Lindsey’s Great Tirade …

There was a time I had some respect for Lindsey Graham.  However, since that time, he has fallen prey to the machinations of the far, far right movement and its current icon, Donald Trump, and I now find Lindsey to be despicable … and that was the kindest word I could come up with.

Lindsey used to be known for his willingness to be bipartisan and work with Democrats on many issues like campaign finance reform, line item veto, global warming, waterboarding ban, immigration reform and more.  In the beginning, he was opposed to the Tea Party movement, arguing for a more inclusive Republican Party.  After his own brief, unsuccessful run for president in 2015, he threw his support behind Jeb Bush, and when Bush dropped out, behind Ted Cruz.  He adamantly refused to support Donald Trump, and I applauded his values. But that was then, and this is now.Lindsey-Graham-4Since the 2016 election, Graham has become a boot-licker just like all the rest, often speaking out in defense of Trump, even when his actions are indefensible.  Last week during the Judiciary Committee hearing, Lindsay Graham decided to go into a tirade leveled at the democratic senators in the room, and by extension, all democrats.  Here are some snippets from that rant, along with my own snarky remarkys in blue:

“What you want to do is destroy this guy’s life, hold this seat open and hope you win in 2020.”  Wait just a damn minute, Linds … wasn’t that precisely what YOU did when President Obama nominated a candidate with integrity, Merrick Garland???  YOU wouldn’t even talk to him and held the seat open for one year and 58 days!

“This is the most unethical sham since I’ve been in politics. And if you really wanted to know the truth, you sure as hell wouldn’t have done what you’ve done to this guy … y’all want power and I hope you don’t get it.  If you vote no, you are legitimizing the most despicable thing I’ve ever seen in my time in politics.”  The most unethical sham I see is your behavior, ranting and pointing fingers, blaming everyone except those who deserve the blame:  Trump & Kavanaugh & the unethical senators who are doing Trump’s bidding.

“This is going to destroy the ability of good people to come forward because of this crap – your high school yearbook.  You have interacted professional women all your life, not one accusation.  You’re supposed to be Bill Cosby when you’re a junior and senior in high school and all of a sudden you got over it. It’s been my understanding that if you drug women and rape them for two years in high school, you probably don’t stop.”  I thought your degree was in the field of Law, not Clinical Psychology?  It is your determination to push, shove and cram this nominee who, as we can see, has a problem controlling his temper, onto the bench of the highest court in the land that is the problem.  Mr. Kavanaugh has shown us multiple times in the past week how he reacts under pressure, and it is not what we would expect of a Supreme Court justice.

Graham’s performance was unhinged, irrational, and nakedly partisan.  But after his outburst, other republican senators began apologizing … apologizing to Kavanaugh!  Sarah Huckabee Sanders and doofus Eric Trump weighed in on Twitter …sanders-trump tweets

And it is reported that Melania Trump passed along a message that she was “very proud” of him, although we have only Graham’s word on that one. If Lindsey Graham is now the face of the Republican Party, either the party is doomed, or the nation is.  This is not the first complaint, however, that I have had about Lindsey.  In 2009, he supported a climate change bill along with democratic Senators John Kerry and Joe Lieberman.  Then in 2010, he withdrew his support, saying, “The science about global warming has changed. I think they’ve oversold this stuff, quite frankly. I think they’ve been alarmist and the science is in question. The whole movement has taken a giant step backward.”  Somewhere between 2009 & 2010, the Tea Party/Donald Trump brainwashing machine apparently got to him.

Lindsey Graham is showing his true colours and that he is a party minion rather than a man who is willing to stand for truth, justice, and equal rights.  Oh, and by the way, it might interest you to know that in May 2016, Graham made this statement:

“I think Donald Trump is going to places where very few people have gone and I’m not going with him.” 

And while he voted for independent candidate Evan McMullin, he did get on that train with Donald Trump and is now licking his boots and asking, “How high?” when Trump says “Jump!”

The Kavanaugh Circus

The Kavanaugh confirmation process has dominated the headlines for a couple of weeks now, and that is precisely why it has not dominated this blog.  I prefer to look behind the scenes, to find the news that is hidden by the smoke and mirrors of whatever is front-and-center.  But today I am compelled to address a couple of things pertaining to this three-ring-circus, for it has turned into a nightmare for most of us.  Kavanaugh must not be confirmed.  He has shown that he has neither the temperament nor the integrity to sit on the bench of any court, let alone the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court.  But this post is not about Kavanaugh, his dishonesty, or his childish temper tantrums.  This is about two of the three rings of this circus …


The Measure of a Man

Senator Jeff Flake earned high marks for calling for an FBI investigation into the subject of Kavanaugh’s possible abuse of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and another woman, Debbie Ramirez. He stated that, while he had voted for the Kavanaugh nomination to be moved to the Senate floor for a confirmation vote, he would not vote unless there was an investigation.  For this, he received many kudos.  My own thoughts were that if he truly felt the Kavanaugh nomination was in doubt, he should not have voted to move it into the full senate, but he did, and therefore I offered no pats on the back, no ‘Attaboy’.

My thoughts were confirmed last night in a 60 Minutes interview with Scott Pelley, where Flake and democratic Senator Chris Coons told about the discussion(s) that led to Flake’s request for an FBI investigation.  Pelley asked perhaps the most important question in the 13-minute interview:

Pelley:  Senator Flake, you’ve announced that you’re not running for re-election, and I wonder … could you have done this if you were running?

Flake:  No, not a chance …

Pelley:  Not a chance? Because politics has become too sharp?  Too partisan?

Flake:  Yeah, there’s no value to reaching across the aisle.  There’s no currency for that anymore, and there’s no incentive.

There’s no incentive, no value, to doing the right thing for the nation, for the people who voted him into office and whose hard-earned tax dollars pay his salary.  Take a few minutes to think about that one, folks, because your own representatives in Congress feel the same.  In fact, Flake is one of the better ones, and that speaks volumes.

So, now that you’ve processed that, do you still want to high-five Mr. Flake?  Still want to praise him as a man who followed his conscience?


FOUL!!!

Once Senators Jeff Flake and Lisa Murkowski said they could not vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court without an FBI investigation, it left Trump with no real choice but to order said investigation.  So, on Friday afternoon, he did just that.  BUT …

The investigation he ordered is extremely limited in both scope and timing, to the point that it is likely to be a sham of an investigation.  First, Trump gave the FBI only until next Friday to complete the investigation.  Then, the White House counsel’s office under Don McGahn gave the FBI a list of witnesses they are permitted to interview.  FBI investigators caution that such a limited scope may make it difficult to pursue additional leads.

There are other constraints as well.  Investigators plan to meet with Mark Judge, a high school classmate and friend of Kavanaugh’s whom Ford named as a witness and participant to her alleged assault. But the FBI cannot ask the supermarket that employed Judge for records verifying when he was employed there.  The FBI will also not be able to examine why Kavanaugh’s account of his drinking at Yale University differs from those of some former classmates, who have said he was known as a heavy drinker.

And while the investigators will be looking into the allegations of Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez, the bureau is not to be permitted to investigate the claims of Julie Swetnick, who has accused Kavanaugh of engaging in sexual misconduct at parties while he was a student at Georgetown Preparatory School in the 1980s.

All of these limitations and constraints amount to tying the hands of the FBI, and make it less likely that the truth will be discovered in less than a week.  However, Trump claims that the FBI has “free reign” …

“They’re going to do whatever they have to do. Whatever it is they do, they’ll be doing — things that we never even thought of. And hopefully at the conclusion everything will be fine.”

Such an eloquent speaker, eh?  And such a smart man, saying, “Whatever it is they do …”

At this point, there is nothing left to be done, it would seem, but wait and see.  We must hope that the FBI agents in charge are wise enough and dedicated enough to dig deeply and work quickly.  Then we must hope that there is no monkey business, that the results are clear and not swept under the rug.  Bets, anyone?


Kavanaugh

NOT the man I want on the bench

As I have said to a few friends, if Kavanaugh is confirmed and takes his seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, we might as well hang coloured streamers, balloons, paint clown faces on the Supreme Court Building and sell peanuts in the entrance hall, for it will have lost its dignity and turned into a circus where partisanship reigns and justice is not to be found.

I Smell A Rat …

In March, the Department of Justice petitioned Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross for the addition of a question regarding citizenship to be added to the 2020 census forms.  Their claim was that it needs a better count of voting-age citizens from the census in order to enforce protections against voting discrimination under the Voting Rights Act.  This is such a thin veil of hypocrisy that almost nobody believed their justification, certainly not civil rights groups who understand the potential effects of such an action.

Frankly, it boils down to one simple question:  Do you trust your government to use this information only for the stated purposes?  My answer is “No, I absolutely do not!

The very phrase “to enforce protections against voting discrimination under the Voting Rights Act” sets off red flags and loud alarms.  It flies in the face of logic, considering that in 2013, the Supreme Court invalidated Section 5, a key part of that very same Voting Rights Act and subsequently gerrymandering and other forms of disenfranchisement have expanded significantly.  So no, I don’t think our government is particularly concerned about protecting the voting rights of minority groups.

As it happens, the Justice Department’s request to Wilbur Ross was actually initiated by none other than Wilbur Ross himself!  Months before the Justice Department submitted the formal request, Ross sent the following email to Commerce Department official, Earl Comstock:

“Where is the DoJ in their analysis ? If they still have not come to a conclusion please let me know your contact person and I will call the AG.”

Comstock responded:

“We need to work with Justice to get them to request that citizenship be added back as a census question.”

Ross followed up with Peter Davidson, the general counsel for the Commerce Department, about three months later …

“Census is about to begin translating the questions into multiple languages and has let the printing contact. We are out of time. Please set up a call for me tomorrow with whoever is the responsible person at Justice. We must have this resolved. WLR”

Now, an inquiring mind wants to know … why was Ross so determined to have the citizenship question on the 2020 census form?  Ross has testified in Congress that the Justice Department “initiated” the request for the question in December 2017, but these emails suggest otherwise.

New York state is leading a group of *18 states, 10 cities, four counties and the U.S. Conference of Mayors in a lawsuit against the Census Bureau and Commerce Department to try to remove the citizenship question from the 2020 census questionnaire.  The last time a citizenship question was asked on the standard U.S. Census form was 68 years ago, in 1950, although Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders apparently failed that question in school, for her response to reporters was:

“This is a question that’s been included in every census since 1965, with the exception of 2010, when it was removed.”

WRONG!  Back to high school civics for you, Sarah!

So what’s the big deal, you ask?  Well, first off, it is likely to discourage residents who are non-citizens from filling out the census form, meaning that the census will be inaccurate, and also that areas with large immigrant populations may not get their fair share of federal funding for schools, roads, etc., as their population would be under-reported.  But perhaps of equal importance goes back to that question about whether or not you trust your government, and of late ours has given us zero reasons to trust.

Although the Census Bureau is legally required to keep answers confidential, even from the FBI and other government entities (think ICE, INS, CBP), in this, the reign of Trump, the administration and its agencies do whatever they damn well please, largely ignoring what is proscribed by law.  Trump and his minions have shown time and again that they believe they are above the law.  And recently, even ‘legal’ immigrants, those with the proper paperwork, are being deported.  So, imagine that you are an immigrant living and working in New York City, you work two jobs to support your family and are taking ESL classes three nights a week.  Are you going to answer that question on the census form, or just not bother to send it in at all?

census form citizenship questionAnd what of those who do send it in, who do check that bottom box, “No, not a U.S. Citizen”?  Do they wake up one morning to pounding on the door by ICE agents?  Do they find themselves here today, gone tomorrow?  Do they find their children taken from them and sent to detention centers?

But back to the lawsuits.  The Trump administration attempted to have the suits dismissed without consideration, but judges in Maryland, California and New York have ruled that the cases have merit and can continue.  In July, Manhattan Judge Jesse Furman said that the plaintiffs “plausibly allege that [Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’] decision to reinstate the citizenship question was motivated at least in part by discriminatory animus and will result in a discriminatory effect.”

furman

Judge Jesse Furman

Citing an email from President Trump’s reelection campaign that said Trump “officially mandated” the question, Furman said it is plausible that Trump was “personally involved in the decision.” He added that the plaintiffs’ claim that Trump administration officials were intentionally discriminating against immigrant communities of color was also plausible, pointing to the president’s comments in January about people from African nations as “people from shithole countries.”

Now, fast-forward to Friday, 28 September, and the attorneys at the Justice Department, representing the administration, are preparing to appeal recent orders by lower courts for the depositions of two key Trump administration officials behind the question: Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Justice Department official John Gore.  I’m smelling a rat … a very large rat.

The trial for the two New York cases is set to start on November 5th, the day before the mid-term elections, but the administration is attempting to force the case to go to the Supreme Court by blocking all remaining depositions and document requests for those two cases “pending review” by the Supreme Court.  That very same Supreme Court that the republicans in the Senate are working so hard to push, cram and shove Brett Kavanaugh onto before … November.  Now do you smell the rat?giant rat* For a complete list of the states, cities and counties included in the lawsuits, visit NPR