We The People …

“… government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

The above words were spoken by President Abraham Lincoln on Thursday, November 19, 1863, at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  The speech was to become one of the best-known speeches in the history of this nation.  Read the words again, please. lincolnToday, I truthfully and without rhetoric or bombast, state that the government of the people, by the people, and for the people has, in fact, perished from at least the United States.  The word ‘democracy’ is a fantasy that is bandied about by some, but the majority of us can plainly see what is before our very eyes … we have been had.

Earlier this year, four of the world’s largest auto makers — Ford Motor Company, Volkswagen of America, Honda and BMW – struck a deal with the State of California to ignore Trump’s rollback of emissions standards and continue their efforts to reduce CO2 emissions in an effort to stem the tide of climate change.  Our health depends on it.  The air we breathe and the water we drink depends on it.  The lives of 7+ billion people, including you and me, depend on it.  I applaud this cooperative effort between one of the most polluting industries and the State of California.

The federal government does not applaud this effort, and in fact is challenging it.  Today, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it will open an investigation as to whether the four automakers violated federal antitrust laws by reaching a side deal to follow California’s stricter rules.  Additionally, Trump is considering a plan to revoke California’s legal authority to enforce stricter greenhouse gas emissions rules within its state borders.

To put this into the simplest possible terms … California is saying that they want to try to rescue our environment, save lives, and Trump is saying, “No … you must make the air as unhealthy as possible!”.

And, if you aren’t concerned enough about the environment, think of your own wallets!  Trump is actively promoting cars that use more fuel, which means you will be buying more fuel just to get to work and back home each day.

According to the New York Times

Top lawyers from the Environmental Protection Agency and Transportation Department on Friday sent a letter to Mary Nichols, California’s top clean air official, saying, “The purpose of this letter is to put California on notice” that its deal with automakers “appears to be inconsistent with federal law.”

Government for the people?  I think not.  More like … government for the rich fossil fuel barons.  Government by the people?  With a billionaire in the White House and 358 of the 535 members of Congress being millionaires, I don’t think we can say it is a government by the people.  Government of the people?  Our elections are increasingly unfair and dishonest:  think voter disenfranchisement, lack of voter security against outside influences, gerrymandering.  Additionally, once elected, our senators and representatives seem to forget the best interest of those of us who put them in office.  So no, I don’t think our government is of the people, either.  Mr. Lincoln was fortunate not to have lived to see this day.lincoln

 

 

21st Century … or Dark Ages???

“It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer … to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”

— Title VII, Civil Rights Act of 1964

There has been considerable debate about whether Title VII extends protections against discrimination to the LGBT community, and at present, it varies by state and locality, despite the fact that the entire Civil Rights Act is a federal law.  At this time, only 21 states have outlawed discrimination against members of the LGBT community.  A bill, the Equality Act,  was introduced into the House of Representatives in March of this year by Representative David Cicilline. The bill has passed in the House and is now languishing in the Senate committee, but the odds of it becoming the law of the land seem slim at the moment, given the makeup of the current Senate, and the fact that Donald Trump spoke against it after right-wing religious organizations urged the White House to issue an opposition statement to the bill.

There are currently three cases on the docket of the U.S. Supreme Court that will be heard on October 8th.  Briefly …

Zarda v Altitude Express:  Donald Zarda was fired from Altitude Express, where he worked as a skydiver. He informed a woman he was gay while they were strapped to each other because he thought it would make her feel more comfortable. She later informed his employer that she wasn’t happy with his sharing his being gay and he was subsequently fired. Zarda died in 2014 but his estate pursued the case.

Bostock v Clayton County:  Gerald Bostock, a child welfare services coordinator, was in a gay recreational softball league. He said his participation in the league and his sexual orientation became a problem with someone at work. Then he was fired for “conduct unbecoming of a county employee,” which he said was tied to his sexuality.

Harris Funeral Homes v EEOC:  Aimee Stephens, a trans woman, was fired from her job at a funeral parlor after she informed the funeral director she worked for that she was transgender. She had worked in funeral services for nearly 20 years and received positive feedback from her employer.

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in all three cases on the same day, and according to Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, senior attorney at Lambda Legal, a civil rights organization focused on LGBTQ people …

“This is a momentous occasion. It is a pivotal moment and the public should be paying attention.  These cases will affect the ability of LGBTQ people to be full members of society and to contribute to society by entering the workplace and be free of discrimination.”

Meanwhile, the United States Justice Department under Trump’s hand-picked Attorney General William Barr sent a brief to the Supreme Court two days ago stating that they should find in favour of the employer in the Harris Funeral Homes case, arguing that …

“In 1964, the ordinary public meaning of ‘sex’ was biological sex. It did not encompass transgender status. In the particular context of Title VII — legislation originally designed to eliminate employment discrimination against racial and other minorities — it was especially clear that the prohibition on discrimination because of ‘sex’ referred to unequal treatment of men and women in the workplace.”

Since when is it right and proper for the Department of Justice to tell the Supreme Court how to rule???  The Judiciary is an independent branch that is intended to be apolitical, not influenced by partisan politics.  However, the reality does not always match the intent.  Today, there are 5 justices who lean toward conservative opinions, 4 who are more liberal.  Chief Justice John Roberts is typically the more moderate of the conservative-leaning justices, often casting the deciding vote.  It is likely to come down to his single vote, and there are serious concerns, for he wrote a dissenting opinion in the 2014 case of Obergefell v Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage at the federal level.  And lately he has disappointed us a few times, such as his vote to give state lawmakers virtually unlimited authority to draw district lines (gerrymandering) once every 10 years, pick their voters and entrench their political power.

This is the 21st century, not the Dark Ages.  It is time we learn to accept people … ALL people … for who they are.  If the employers in these three cases are allowed to prevail, it will indeed be a dark day in the United States, and no doubt it will then be only a matter of time until we see cases coming before the court dealing with discrimination in housing, in education, in every aspect of life.  I’m convinced that it is only a matter of time until a case comes before the Supreme Court that challenges Obergefell v Hodges.  And then what?  If we strip the LGBT community of their rights, will we soon see cases attempting to strip African-Americans of their rights by challenging other aspects of the Civil Rights Act, or of the Voting Rights Act?

Keep your eyes on this one, folks, for how these three cases are decided will be the best indicator yet whether or not there is still “liberty and justice for all” in this nation.

Just A Few More Snarky Snippets

My friends … I don’t even know where to begin today.  When they say, ‘truth is stranger than fiction’, they aren’t kidding!  Nobody, in their wildest dreams, could have written the script for the madness and mayhem that is the federal government of the ‘United’ States today.


Good grief …

good griefFirst on the agenda is the fact that Trump’s approval rating has climbed.  He still hasn’t hit 50%, but according to the latest Gallup poll, he is at 46%, while according to the FiveThirtyEight aggregate of polls, he has climbed to 42.7, a 1.5% jump since last Thursday.  Why?  The only thing I can figure out is because his base, who largely do not bother to investigate facts, believe him when he says the Mueller report “completely exonerated” him.  It didn’t, and in fact it pointed out at least ten instances where he was guilty of obstruction that would have landed him in jail if he were not president.  But, Trump supporters don’t read the report.  They also don’t question why he is going to so much trouble to keep Mueller, McGahn and others from testifying if he believes he is exonerated.  They don’t ask why he isn’t encouraging those testimonies that would show us mean ol’ liberals just how innocent he is.

What’s even more concerning is that the jump in his approval rating is not necessarily among republicans but rather democrats and independents!  Among Democrats where Trump’s job approval has improved the most month-to-month, just 4% approved of the job he was doing in March compared to 10% who said the same in April. Independents went from 33% job approval for Trump in March to 39% in April.  Now, I don’t put much faith in the numbers of the polls, for each is biased in its own way, but it’s the trend that is relevant.  What the Sam Heck has he said or done that has democrats swaying in his favour?  Anybody?


Can he do that?

President-Elect Donald Trump Holds Meetings At Trump Tower

Judge Napolitano

Second, let’s talk about freedom of the press, shall we?  Remember a week or so ago Gronda wrote a piece about Judge Andrew P. Napolitano, Senior legal analyst for Fox News, who wrote an OpEd whereby he opined that Trump is, in fact, guilty of obstruction of justice and should be charged as such.  Trump, needless to say, was not happy with the man who he once referred to as a “very talented legal mind”.  I made a comment at the time on Gronda’s post that I wondered how long it will be before he is relieved of his duties at Fox.  And now, Trump is hinting at just that just that to happen.

Trump retweeted an obscure Twitter account on Sunday morning …

trump-re-tweetIf Trump were just anybody, one might overlook it and say he was just blowing off some steam.  But, for better or for worse … mostly worse … he is the president of a nation of some 330 million people and thus is to be held to a higher standard than Joe Blow. This one bears watching, my friends, for this is about more than a difference of opinion or a dispute between Trump and the judge … this one may set a precedent in terms of freedom of the press.


And about those pesky subpoenas …

Last Thursday, Trump said he did not believe he would allow former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify to committees in Congress, saying McGahn had already spoken to the special counsel on the Russia probe.

“I would say it’s done. I’ve had him testifying already for 30 hours.”

I am not a lawyer and hesitate to make a proclamation about what can or cannot be done, but I’ve done a bit of research and as best I can tell a private citizen, which McGahn is and Mueller will soon be, does not have to take orders from the ‘man’ in the Oval Office.  Now, if he were being asked to testify about state secrets or the location of nuclear weapons stashes, that would be a different story.  But, McGahn is being asked only to clarify and elucidate his previous testimony before the special counsel.

Trump is also attempting to keep Mueller from testifying.  It was assumed that Mueller would resign from the DOJ in April, and I have no idea why the delay, unless it is for this very reason, to keep him from testifying.

And Attorney General William Barr has both ignored the summons to testify before the House Judiciary Committee last week, and refused to release the unredacted Mueller report as requested by subpoena by the deadline yesterday.

Mick Mulvaney, acting as White House Chief of Staff, said in early April that the democrats would never see Trump’s tax returns.  This was in response to a subpoena for six years’ worth of returns, something that every other president since Reagan has submitted voluntarily.  Then yesterday, Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin refused to allow the Internal Revenue Service to release Trump’s tax returns.

ENOUGH!!!!!!!!

Either Donald Trump wants to be the president or he does not.  He cannot be considered the leader of this nation if he cannot even be held accountable to We the People who are paying his salary.  And before any of you say, “but he doesn’t take a salary” … yes, he does receive a salary.  If he donates it somewhere, that is his choice, but he does receive a salary of $400,000 per year.  As comedian Seth Meyers said, Trump should pay his taxes instead of donating his salary. And what are we getting in return?  Obstruction of justice, corruption extraordinaire, destruction of our environment, an average of twelve blatant lies each day, incited divisiveness of our nation, and a ‘man’ who believes himself to be above the law of the land.

Imagine what would happen if either you or I simply ignored or willfully defied a subpoena? Anybody know how to bake a cake with a saw in it? We do not have a president, folks, we have an autocratic wanna-be dictator who has trampled our Constitution, has trampled our democracy, and is trampling on our lives.


And now that I have managed to raise your blood pressure by at least 30 points, I shall leave you to ponder while I go clean my kitchen.  I had a bit of a cooking mishap this evening and there are grease and rice sticks all over the place!  Ever deep fry rice sticks?  I’ll tell you all about it later.

Trampling The Constitution — Part I

Mueller-letter-page-1

Mueller letter to Barr – page 1

Mueller-letter-page-2

Mueller letter to Barr — page 2

The above letter was written to Attorney General William Barr by Special Counselor Robert Mueller on March 27th, just three days after Barr presented an abbreviated 4-page “summary” of the full report.  Mr. Mueller followed up with a subsequent phone call in which he again expressed his displeasure at Barr’s handling of the report.  Robert Mueller has spent the better part of two years digging and investigating the Russian’s influence over our election, as well as the relationships between Trump, his family, and his campaign staff with the Russians who were de facto interfering with our elections.  He is much more well-versed and knowledgeable on this topic than William Barr, who has only been in his position since February 14th, less than three months, but Barr purported to know more than Mueller about what Mueller’s own report said.

Yesterday, Barr testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, headed by Trump sycophant Lindsey Graham.  When asked about Mr. Mueller’s letter, Barr discounted it, saying he thought it was “a little snitty”, and concluded it was probably written by a staffer rather than Mueller himself.  Excuse me?  Under the circumstances, it seems to me that the letter was quite cordial. And, he called Barr in person to follow up, so that rather negates the idea that a ‘staffer’ wrote the letter.

I have heard it said numerous times over the past month that AG Barr is acting more like Trump’s personal attorney than the attorney general who took an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution.  I would agree.

Barr attempted to blame the media for Mueller’s displeasure of his handling of the report, but as you will note, at no point did Robert Mueller even mention the media.  He tried to argue that Trump directing Don McGahn to “get rid of” Mueller did not constitute obstruction of justice.  Barr claimed that Trump never told McGahn to “fire” Mueller but rather to remove him from his position due to alleged conflicts of interest.  First, there was no conflict of interest, and second, that is splitting hairs. In May 2017, the Department of Justice made clear that Mueller had no ethical conflicts and was perfectly capable of overseeing the special counsel investigation.  It was a month later that Trump told McGahn to get rid of Mueller.

Senator Kamala Harris asked Barr one simple question:  Did anyone in the White House ask or suggest that he open an investigation into a person or people?  Easy, right?  Barr, who has a good, solid education and a Doctorate of Jurisprudence from George Washington University Law School, struggled to understand the meaning of the word ‘suggest’.  He stumbled about with that question, never actually answering it.  Now, you can make of that what you will, but … I take it as outright obfuscation, and why, unless there is something to hide, would he struggle with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question that contains the word ‘suggest’ … a word most of us knew and understood by age five?

Senator Patrick Leahy asked this question:

“Special counsel [Mueller] did uncover evidence of underlying crimes here, including one that directly implicated the president. Did we learn, due to the special counsel’s investigation that Donald Trump known as “Individual 1″ in the Southern District of New York, directing hush payments as part of a criminal scheme to violate campaign finance laws. That matter was discovered by special counsel [and] referred to the [United States Attorney for the] Southern District in New York. Is that correct?”

Barr answered simply: “Yes.”  This is, by the way, a felony.Barr-Senate-Judiciary-CommitteeOkay, so that covers the highlights of Barr’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, though I do have more to say another time about Lindsey Graham, but that must wait.  Today, then, Barr was scheduled to testify before the House Judiciary Committee, but apparently yesterdays testimony must have given him a tummy-ache, for he is declining the ‘invitation’ to testify.  Not only that … the full un-redacted version of the Mueller report was subpoenaed with a deadline of yesterday, but it was not produced and all indications are that Barr has no intention of producing it.

Some House democrats have called to begin impeachment against Barr, but Nancy Pelosi, again the calmer head, prevailed when she suggested it would detract from the greater issue of the investigations into Trump, so they have decided to ‘give him a day or two’ to have a change of heart.  If he fails to do so, then they will seek a contempt citation against Mr. Barr.Warren-on-BarrPersonally, I am of a mind that we should impeach the entire corrupt administration and start over.  Of course, my opinion is largely irrelevant, so don’t hold your breath on that one.  However, we need to step back a minute and take a look at the big picture.  There is enough factual evidence, even in the redacted version of the Mueller report that we have, to know that Donald Trump did, in fact, obstruct justice.  However, he and his trained pets in the form of Barr, Graham, and others, are continuing to obstruct justice, making the case against them stronger by the day.  How so?  By ignoring subpoenas, or in Trump’s case, suing those who have received subpoenas, tying the matter up in court and disrupting the flow of information.

Folks, what Trump, Barr and others are doing is criminal.  It is a crime against the U.S. Constitution, and it is a crime against We the People, We the Citizens, We the Taxpayers.  I am not exaggerating when I say that our very system of ‘separation of powers’, of ‘checks and balances’, of ‘rule of law’ are being trampled as never before.  If Trump & Co. get by with this, if they are allowed to impede the investigative committees, then it will have been confirmed that Trump and his cabinet members are, in fact, above the law, that the law only applies to us peons, not to them.  And you know what the next step is, if that happens?  Think about it.

Bits ‘n Pieces of …

I’m not sure if this post can legitimately be called one of my Snarky Snippets pieces, for there really isn’t any snark involved, just anger and disgust.  So, we’ll consider it to be just a Bits ‘n Pieces post, for lack of a better name.  I’m suffering mind bounce and exhaustion, so I was working on a longer piece but kept losing focus, and all these little things were weighing on my mind, so how could I not share them with you, my friends!


Poetic Justice …

David-BerryDavid Berry, Jr. along with his father and brother are the most despicable of all people.  What did they do?  They are murderers.  They are serial poachers, convicted of killing not one, not two, but hundreds of deer, taking the deer’s heads, and leaving their bodies in the woods to rot.    DeerThe case is reportedly one of the biggest poaching cases in Missouri’s history.  So far Berry’s father and brother have not been sentenced, although both have lost their hunting and fishing licenses for life.  But last week, David Jr. was sentenced by Judge Robert George.  His sentence was only one year in prison, along with another 120 days for firearms violations.  Not nearly enough … but there was a caveat that I rather liked.  Berry Jr. is to watch the Disney animated movie Bambi prior to December 23rd, and again once every month for the rest of his one-year sentence. BambiThe judge likely thinks that seeing the scene where Bambi’s mother is shot and killed by a hunter will induce some empathy, perhaps even instill a conscience.  I sincerely doubt it, but I rather liked the sentence.  I would like it better if it accompanied a 35-year prison sentence.


Above the law???

Article I, Section 9, Paragraph 8 of the United States Constitution reads …

“No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no person holding any office or profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.”

This short clause is known as the Nobility Clause, or the Emoluments Clause.  In short, the clause prohibits federal officeholders from receiving any gift, payment, or other thing of value from a foreign state or its rulers, officers, or representatives.  The intent at the time the framers were drafting the Constitution was to ensure that the country’s leaders would not be improperly influenced, even unconsciously, through gift giving, then a common and generally corrupt practice among European rulers and diplomats.

That seems laughable in this, the Reign of Trump, for it is obvious he has no qualms about making profit from foreign entities.  Today, there is a lawsuit against Donald Trump, brought by the District of Columbia and the State of Maryland. The suit alleges that Trump has violated the emoluments clause, in part by accepting payments from foreign governments that patronize the Trump International Hotel, just blocks from the White House.

A trial court judge has ruled that the case may proceed and has authorized some 38 subpoenas for Trump’s financial records, including tax returns.  Needless to say, Trump is fighting against providing the information.  He claimed, erroneously, that ‘emoluments’ referred only to outright bribes.  Wrong.

And so yesterday, the Department of Justice asked a federal appeals court to throw out or at least temporarily halt the lawsuit.  Don’t you just love it when they say “The Justice Department asked …” or “The administration says …”  The Justice Department is comprised of a number of humans, as is the administration, and likely one specific individual is responsible for that request, but we are not told who … only that the department requested.  I could make a good guess, and I’m sure you can too … the ‘acting Attorney General’ Matthew Whitaker who is naught but a boot-licker planted in the position for this very reason.

In asking that the case be thrown out or delayed, Trump is, via the voice of the Department of Justice, claiming that he is above the law.  He is claiming that he is superior to you, to me, to any other individual in this nation.  If, in fact, the rule of law does not apply to Donald Trump, then he is no longer the president, but rather the dictator.  Let us hope that the courts have more of a conscience, more concern for the laws of this nation than the boot-lickers at the Justice Department.  Stay tuned …


Freedom of Speech vs Donald Trump

You’ll remember long ago when Trump said …

“We are going to take a strong look at our country’s libel laws, so that when somebody says something that is false and defamatory about someone, that person will have meaningful recourse in our courts.”

Instead, he decided early in his tenure to simply discredit the media by calling them “fake news” and worse, “the enemy of the people”.  Unfortunately, the 40% or so of people who actually think Trump has legitimacy, believed him and turned, instead, to state media outlet Fox News. But Trump never tires of finding ways to heckle the press.  It was just last month that he pulled the press credentials of CNN reporter Jim Acosta when Acosta repeatedly asked Trump a tough question that he didn’t want to answer.  The court overruled him and Jim now has his press creds back.

However, this week the thin-skinned ‘man’ in the Oval Office is taking up the issue once again, for he was offended by a Saturday Night Live sketch depicting what life might be like had Donald Trump never been elected, in the style of the 1946 film, It’s A Wonderful Life.  (Sounds like a winning scenario, don’t you think?)  Take a look … I promise it is worth the few minutes …

On Sunday morning, Trump tweeted …

“A REAL scandal is the one sided coverage, hour by hour, of networks like NBC & Democrat spin machines like Saturday Night Live. It is all nothing less than unfair news coverage and Dem commercials. Should be tested in courts, can’t be legal? Only defame & belittle! Collusion?”

trump tantrumIn response, a number of people took to Twitter to remind Trump of that little part of the Constitution that we refer to lovingly as the First Amendment, that thing that separates a democratic republic from a dictatorship.  Yes, he’s blowing hot air … again … and no, he isn’t going to be successful in taking Saturday Night Live or CNN or The Washington Post to court.  But it’s the fact that he keeps doing this that is wearing thin, grating on our nerves.

After the horrendous murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi and Trump’s nonchalant response, I think most thinking people in this nation, most people possessed of a conscience, are sick and tired of Trump’s juvenile rantings against the press. His attacks against the media are dangerous and it’s time to put a stop to them.  Words have consequences, even for the ‘man’ who considers himself to be above the law.


And on that note, I bid you ‘adieu’.

Score Four For Justice!!!

There are some signs that perhaps judges and the courts are finally getting a bit fed up with the shenanigans of Donald Trump and his fellow GOP bullies.


Yesterday in Georgia, U.S. District Judge Eleanor L. Ross ruled that Georgia’s restrictive voting laws are likely to result in the violation of voting rights for a large group of people and needed to be halted immediately.

As I noted in a previous post the republican candidate running for governor, Brian Kemp, currently holds the position of Secretary of State and as such is the overseer of elections. Kemp has implemented strict “exact match” laws that may disqualify voters based on simple discrepancies, such as a dropped hyphen between the persons voter registration and other identification, such as a driver’s license.  Last month, a coalition of civil rights groups filed suit against Kemp.

In Friday’s ruling, Judge Ross said Kemp’s restrictions raised “grave concerns for the Court about the differential treatment inflicted on a group of individuals who are predominantly minorities.”  The preliminary injunction she issued required the state to change its procedures immediately to allow those flagged, some 3,100 individuals, to prove their citizenship more easily, with a U.S. passport or similar documentation.

Kemp was also ordered to issue a news release explaining how those flagged for potential citizenship issues could still vote by proving their citizenship, as well as offering a phone number for them to call with any questions.  Kemp’s actions as Secretary of State have been scrutinized in the wake of a report from the Associated Press that he had stalled more than 50,000 voter registrations by disproportionately black voters under the state’s exact-match requirements.

Score one for justice!  ⚖️


Did you think that with the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court last month, the Court would be naught more than a mouthpiece for Trump and his policies?  Think again.  Yesterday, the Court refused a request by the Trump administration to delay an upcoming trial in which a number of states and civil rights organizations allege there was an improper political motive in Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.  The trial will begin as scheduled on Monday.

Administration lawyers had more than once asked the Supreme Court to disallow challengers from questioning Ross and other administration officials about their motivations in adding the question.  When they were unsuccessful, they then asked that the trial be delayed, presumably until some point after the mid-term elections.

Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch said they would have granted the Trump administration’s request to delay the trial.  It is unknown how Kavanaugh voted.

Score another for justice!  ⚖️


Also, on Friday evening, the Supreme Court once again ruled against Trump in the case filed by 21 young people who argue that the failure of government leaders to combat climate change violates their constitutional right to a clean environment.  The suit is currently pending before a federal judge in Oregon, but the Trump administration sought to halt the lawsuit, claiming that the “suit is based on an assortment of unprecedented legal theories, such as a substantive due process right to certain climate conditions, and an equal protection right to live in the same climate as enjoyed by prior generations.”

The goal of the lawsuit is to compel the government to scale back its support for fossil fuel extraction and production and to support policies aimed at reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.

This is by no means the end, and the case is almost certain to ultimately land back in the laps of the Supreme Court justices, but for now, Trump did not have his way.

Score yet another for justice!  ⚖️


And finally, also on Friday, U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte in Greenbelt, Maryland, denied Trump’s request to stay a lawsuit alleging he is violating the Constitution by doing business with foreign governments.  Apart from the ruling against Kemp in Georgia, this is the one that had my heart doing a happy dance.

Additionally, Judge Messitte sharply questioned the president’s position that his business does not improperly accept gifts or payments — called emoluments — as defined by the Constitution.

The plaintiffs in the case, the District of Columbia and the State of Maryland, contend that the Trump hotel unfairly competes with convention centers and hotels in their jurisdictions. Among other documents, they are expected to seek records that reveal the identity of hotel guests who visited the White House on official business, as well as how much the president has profited. Ultimately, they could try to go after the president’s tax returns.

The Justice Department asked for the judge’s permission to appeal his rulings and to delay discovery in the meantime. But Judge Messitte said the department could follow the typical legal process and appeal when the case is over.

“If the president is permitted to appeal the court’s decisions in piecemeal fashion, ultimate resolution of the case could be delayed significantly, perhaps for years. That, as a matter of justice, cannot be countenanced.”

The judge also dismissed the president’s argument that discovery would be unduly burdensome, noting that Mr. Trump had threatened to sue his former campaign chief and others. “The president himself appears to have had little reluctance to pursue personal litigation despite the supposed distractions it imposes upon his office,” he wrote.

Score one more for truth and justice! ⚖️


Some of these cases may turn in the coming weeks/months, but for today, the judicial branch has shown Trump that he is not yet a dictator and that there is still a demand for both truth and justice, honesty and integrity in the American system.

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

Where Are The Children?

It was one week ago today that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) missed the court-mandated deadline to reunite all immigrant children under the age of five with their parents.  It was, apart from Trump’s nomination of Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, the most important news story of the day one short week ago.  The government had only managed to reunited some 50% of the children.  In 20% of the cases, HHS lost track of the parents after they were either deported or released into the U.S.  In other cases, the excuse was they were doing DNA testing to verify parentage, but the bottom line was that far too many toddlers were still left sleeping behind wire and crying for their mommies every night.

Then Trump went abroad where he ruined relations with our NATO allies, trashed our kinship with the UK, and sold the U.S. to Putin in Helsinki.  And the plight of the children, probably to the relief of HHS Secretary Alex Azar, fell off the front pages and for a brief time, out of our minds.  I awakened this morning with these children very much on my mind and determined I would do some digging to find out the latest status.

According to USA Today …

U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw said Monday he’s become “exasperated” by the Trump administration’s slow work to reunify more than 2,600 children separated from their parents, and he ordered the government to halt all deportations of parents for at least a week.

Sabraw scolded the Department of Health and Human Services for taking so long to reunite children in its care with their parents held in separate government facilities. The judge responded to a court filing by Chris Meekins, a senior HHS official who wrote that the judge’s order requiring accelerated reunifications was leading to “increased risks to child welfare.”

Sabraw tore into Meekins during a court hearing in San Diego on Monday, saying his claims were “deeply troubling” and “completely unhelpful” to what had been a mutual spirit of good faith between the two sides. The judge said Meekins’ filing appeared to represent an effort to deflect blame for any damage caused to children as a result of the government’s family separation policy.

The latest tally seems to be that 57 of the under-five group have been reunited with their parents, just over half.  HHS claims that the others will not be returned to their parents, as the parents have been found ‘unfit’, most due to criminal records.  There was a time I would have believed the government, but frankly, I no longer believe a word of it.  So, there are still 46 children under five-years-old, living in detention centers under conditions that we do not know, for the media has been barred from touring those facilities.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a joint statement that the 57 reunifications show the government has done everything it can to comply with Sabraw’s order.

According to the administration, some of the cases that were not completed include:

  • 11 parents who were found to have a “serious criminal history,” including charges or convictions of child cruelty, kidnapping and murder, making them a danger to their children.
  • 12 parents who had already been deported. Sabraw agreed to give the government more time to identify those parents and create a system to reunify them with their children.
  • 11 adults who are in federal and state custody on non-immigration, criminal charges.
  • Seven adults who were determined not to be a parent. The government has been conducting DNA tests of all alleged families to ensure that children are not released to human smugglers.
  • One parent whose identity remains unknown. The Department of Justice said the child, who has been in custody for more than a year, may be a U.S. citizen.

Sarah Fabian, an attorney for the Department of Justice argued against Judge Sabraw’s order to halt deportations, saying it would affect the government’s ability to maintain its pace of reunifications. She said there is a limited number of detention facilities where families can be held together and said they may fill up as deportations are on hold.  Judge Sabraw appears to have run out of patience with the U.S. government’s bungling efforts and simply said, “That is not an option. The government will have to make space.”  I like Judge Sabraw!

The next deadline, that to reunite the 2,551 children age five and older, is July 26th.  Already HHS admits to having lost track of at least 71 of those parents, so the odds are that this effort will be as much a disaster as the prior one.

This was all the information I could find this morning, and it was about what I expected.  We need to keep our eye on this ball.  Yes, Donald Trump’s actions abroad are without precedent and are extremely important to the future of our nation, but these children cannot fall by the wayside either.  What has happened to these children, these families, is nothing short of a crime against humanity and must be treated as such.  Where we once welcomed immigrants with open arms, we now take their children from them and lock them away.  This, my friends, is unconscionable.

Snarky Snippets To Start The Weekend …

Today I am running short on time and short on patience, so I decided to humour myself by indulging in a bit of snarkiness to start your weekend!


Pruitt Out, Wheeler In …

I let out a WHOOP when I saw the news banner cross my screen, then just a few seconds later heard the ‘knock,  knock, knock’ on my cell phone that indicates breaking news from The Washington Post.  The news?  Scott Pruitt was out … O.U.T. … at the EPA.  I quickly posted the story on my Facebook page, sent Herb a quick message, then sat back to read the whole story and … gloat … only … wait …

My ‘whoop’ turned sour. Turns out, we may be even worse off than before!  My joy dims …

The agency’s deputy administrator, Andrew Wheeler, will be temporarily filling Pruitt’s position, and may end up being Trump’s nominee to fill the position permanently.  Wheeler has a few ‘claims to fame’, but perhaps two bother me the most:

He was a top aide to Senator Jim Inhofe  (you will remember that he is the one who earned the honour of being my first and so far, only Idiot of the Week).  And … this is the most concerning … he was a lobbyist for Murray Coal Company, one of the most corrupt in the industry.

Wheeler is said to be every bit as determined as Pruitt was to follow a path of deregulation of environmental regulations.  Environmental groups say they fear Wheeler even more than they did Pruitt!  “Wheeler is much smarter and will try to keep his efforts under the radar in implementing Trump’s destructive agenda,” said Jeremy Symons, vice president for political affairs at the Environmental Defense Fund. “That should scare anyone who breathes.”


They Can’t Find The Kids …

On Tuesday, 26 June, US District Court Judge Dana Sabraw ordered that the migrant children who had been separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexican border be returned to their parents quickly.  Children under the age of 5 were to be returned within 14 days, and older children within 30 days.

Now, just 4 days before the first deadline, the Trump administration is asking for an unspecified extension of time, saying that the tight timeline is putting them at risk of violating their “statutory obligations to ensure the safety of children before transferring them out of HHS custody.” 

Translation:  We do not know where all the children are, did not engage in good record-keeping when we removed the 3,000 children, and do not know which child belongs to which parent.

They claim they are using DNA testing to match children to parents, saying …

“Given the possibility of false claims of parentage, confirming parentage is critical to ensure that children are returned to their parents, not to potential traffickers.”

Bullpoop!

The other reason they give is that they are running criminal background checks on all the parents in order to ensure they are not returning the child into the hands of a criminal.  Again … Bullpoop!

The Justice Department under Jeff Sessions has said that if the judge wished, they could prepare an alternative timeline.  They are to have a phone conversation this afternoon with Judge Sabraw.  I hope the judge stands his ground, even though it is highly unlikely that the tangled web ICE has woven will be straightened out by the first deadline, next Tuesday.  But if the judge does not relent, and the government does not comply, watch the lawsuits start to fly!  Personally, I hope they do.  This entire thing is unconscionable and should have already been grounds for the impeachment of the man who came up with the idea.


The Coward Heads Abroad …

Next Thursday, Trump heads to the UK for a few days before heading to Brussels for the NATO summit.  I wish he weren’t going to either, for he will certainly shame, humiliate, and embarrass us again, and I have a number of friends in the UK.  But he will not be spending much time in London.  Why?  Because there are mass protests scheduled, and little Donnie is scared.

London-protesters

Londoners protest ahead of Trump’s visit

The citizens of the UK do not want Trump anywhere near their nation, and frankly I don’t blame them.  I doubt very much that Ms. May or the Queen want him, either, but they have this diplomatic duty thing to consider.  But seriously … Trump should feel honoured, for the Londoners have even made a special tribute to Trump — a blimp in his image!  What could be more fitting?  Take a look for yourself …Trump baby blimp-1Trump baby blimp-2Trump baby blimp-3The best we can hope for in this trip is that we not end up in a war with our friends in the UK.  I’m fairly certain he won’t treat them any better than he has treated our Canadian friends, and I am apologizing in advance to my UK friends for the abomination that is about to be unleashed upon your nation.


And that ends today’s snippets, folks.  I must now go mop floors and start chopping veggies for Pasta Primavera tonight!  Have a great weekend!!!weekend

Donnie Sues California … Again

The two single things that Donald Trump is known for are lies & lawsuits.  I have long since lost count of the people and organizations he has threatened to sue just since his inauguration on 20 January 2017.  So the latest should come as no surprise to anyone … he is, once again, suing the State of California.  This is getting ridiculous, folks … he is wasting time and money – ours, I might add – to sue a state for trying to protect the environment.  He really needs to resign so that he can just play golf all day and think up people to sue by night, meanwhile allowing us to find a president who has a sincere desire to run this country the right way, in the best interest of the people.

Last October, the California legislature passed a law, known as Senate Bill 50, that requires the California State Lands Commission be given right of first refusal on any land transfer planned by the federal government.  What that means, in layman’s terms, is that if the federal government decides to sell a certain piece of land, the State of California has the right to purchase it, if it wishes, before it is offered to any other. The reason for the law, in case it isn’t already obvious, is that the Trump administration has announced plans to sell federal lands, including national parklands, to private entities for the purpose of real estate development, mining and drilling, all of which will completely destroy not only the beauty of the affected land, but also displace the delicate balance found in nature and have a negative effect on the environment.

Would you like to see this …Or this …U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a statement:

“The Constitution empowers the federal government—not state legislatures—to decide when and how federal lands are sold. California was admitted to the Union upon the express condition that it would never interfere with the disposal of federal land. Once again, the California legislature has enacted an extreme state law attempting to frustrate federal policy. The Justice Department shouldn’t have to spend valuable time and resources to file this suit today, but we have a duty to defend the rightful prerogatives of the U.S. military, the Interior Department, and other federal agencies to buy, sell, exchange or donate federal properties in a lawful manner in the national interest.” 

Pardon me, but … “the national interest”???  Is it in the national interest to destroy our land, our air and water?  Is it in the national interest to accelerate mining and drilling for fossil fuels which further destroy the environment?  The only ‘interest’ being promoted here, if we are honest, is that of the oil, gas, coal and real estate companies, certainly not the national interest, and absolutely not the interest of We The People!

I am not a lawyer, so I cannot state equivocally how this case will turn out.  Unfortunately, based on my limited knowledge of constitutional law, my take is that eventually the State of California will be over-ruled.  However, I am encouraged by the fact that the state is not backing down. According to California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra …

“California didn’t become our nation’s economic engine and the sixth-largest economy in the world by just sitting back. We blaze trails, we innovate, and we engage in smart stewardship of our precious public lands. Our public lands should not be on the auction block to the highest bidder. We’re prepared, as always, to do what it takes to protect our people, our resources, and our values.”

This will play out in the courts, cost the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, and all so that Donald Trump can keep the promises he made … not to us … but to his wealthy cronies who supported his campaign in exchange for the right to make money by ruining our planet.  Think about that one for a while.

This …. or This?

This …. or This?

This …. or This?