Lookin’ Good, Merrick Garland!

Merrick-GarlandYesterday was the first of the two-day confirmation hearings for Merrick Garland, President Biden’s choice to head the Department of Justice.  I have felt for weeks that Garland would be confirmed by the Senate, for he is both liked and respected by those on both sides of the aisle.  According to an article in The Washington Post …

“… there was little acrimony and many Democrats and Republicans on the panel appeared to treat his confirmation almost as a foregone conclusion.”

Several Republicans seem certain that Garland will be confirmed …

“I believe so. There were people that weren’t totally satisfied with his answers, but i didn’t hear anybody get really irritated. … For the most part, he answered pretty well.” – Senator Chuck Grassley (republican) from Iowa

“That certainly seems likely. I thought he did fine. It was frustrating in that he answered very few questions. He approached it more like a judicial nominee dodging every question.” – Senator Ted Cruz (republican) from Texas

“Judge Garland is about as sure a bet as you can have in the Congress these days that he will be confirmed. He has navigated these questions with extraordinary adroitness and aplomb.” – Senator Richard Blumenthal (democrat) from Connecticut

To be sure, there were contentious lines of questioning, especially from the likes of Senator John Neeley Kennedy, a republican from Louisiana, and the ignoble Josh Hawley who cheered the attackers on January 6th, and did everything in his power to try to overturn our votes on that day.  But, Garland remained cool and his answers brought no rebuttal.  For example, Hawley arrogantly twirled his pencil while attempting to goad Garland into a conversation on defunding the police, and on what constitutes ‘domestic terrorism’.

Garland, who prosecuted the Oklahoma City bombing perpetrators before becoming a federal judge,  looked Hawley straight in the eye and responded …

“As you no doubt know, President Biden has said he does not support defunding the police, and neither do I. We saw how difficult the lives of police officers were in the body-cam videos we saw when they were defending the Capitol.  The use of violence or threats of violence in an attempt to disrupt democratic processes.  So an attack on a courthouse while in operation trying to prevent judges from deciding cases, that plainly is domestic extremism, domestic terrorism.”

Lindsey Graham, who would not allow Garland’s hearing to take place earlier this month, reared his typically ugly head, quizzed Garland on whether he thought James Comey, who was fired by the former guy early in his administration, was a good FBI Director.  Garland calmly replied that the question was not useful and that he didn’t intend to get into critiquing other directors.  Then Graham responded churlishly with …

“Well, you’ve been very political, and appropriately so, at times. I just find it pretty stunning that you can’t say, in my view, that he was a terrible FBI director.”

However, at the end of the day, Lindsey told Garland, “I think you’re a very good pick for this job.”  Even Senator Kennedy, one of the more obnoxious among republican senators, said “You’ll be a good attorney general.”

Perhaps Garland’s most powerful statement, at least in my eyes, was when he said …

“I am not the president’s lawyer, I am the United States’ lawyer.”

Quite the contrast from previous Attorney General William Barr who saw himself and the entire Department of Justice as tools at the former guy’s disposal.

No doubt there will be some Republicans who will oppose the nomination, likely Tom Cotton, Mike Lee, and Josh Hawley among them, but the general consensus is that Garland will win senate confirmation when the vote is taken on March 1st.  Score one for justice.

The Former Guy

I took a brief hiatus yesterday … my sanity depended on it.  But today I return … renewed, refreshed, and …. Oh heck, it’s all a lie. Who do I think I’m kidding?  I am neither renewed nor refreshed … I am, rather, exhausted and depressed, but for better or for worse, I am back with my usual … um … bit of ‘tude.


Trump is now “the former guy”

Remember January 20th, 2017 when President Obama left the White House, attended the inauguration of Donald Trump, and then was rarely in the news?  His time in the limelight was over, it was time to pass the baton, and move on with his life.  That is as it should be, folks.  So why the Sam Hell is Donald Trump’s face continually splattered over every media site, and his every word published ad nauseam?

It is time to step away from Donald Trump, my friends.  It is time for the media to focus on today’s reality, not yesterday’s lies.  I call on the press to stop … cease and desist … before they make the same mistake they made in 2016 of giving him so much free airtime that ultimately he was seen as something he wasn’t:  human.  A few days ago, Biden chose not to refer to Trump by name, and called him ‘the former guy’.  I suggest that become his new moniker … it suggests his current irrelevance, and that is what is needed right now if this nation stands a chance of healing.  He has no meaning to us, is naught but a private citizen like you and I.  I hope to be writing about the charges, both federal and state, against him over the coming year, but that’s about all I care about regarding him or his activities or rhetoric.

I and other bloggers have focused on the attacks of January 6th, incited and financed by the former guy, and the related impeachment trial, in hopes he would be held accountable for his actions for once.  The impeachment is over, the Republican Party is forever stained for their refusal to hold him accountable, and no, we won’t forget … ever.  However, it’s time now to realize that the former guy is no longer relevant to our lives, and focus on what is happening in our government, in the world today.  The former guy is history, he is boring for he is a broken record with only 5 phrases on his track.  A recent survey, taken 3 days after the pathetic impeachment vote, claims that 54% of republicans plan to back Trump as a presidential candidate in 2024.  Okay, fine, wonderful, but the election is not for another three-and-a-half years, some 45 months from now. There is work being done by the Biden administration that is far more important than what the former guy does or says.  And frankly, I think the squirrel on my back porch has as much chance of winning in 2024 as Trump.  So, let’s put the ugly man aside, leave him to languish in his fancy digs or rot in prison, and let us focus more on the things that matter in our lives.

Joe Biden brings to our government fresh blood, people who are intelligent, educated, and knowledgeable in their fields, and he brings policies that will make positive contributions to our lives, our health, and our environment.


The Biden cabinet

To date, seven of President Biden’s nominations for cabinet positions have been confirmed, most by a significant majority:

  • Tony Blinken, Secretary of State, was confirmed on January 26th by a vote of 78-22
  • Janet Yellen, Secretary of Treasury, was confirmed on January 25th by a vote of 84-15
  • Lloyd Austin, Secretary of Defense, was confirmed on January 22nd by a vote of 93-2
  • Pete Buttigieg, Secretary of Transportation, was confirmed on February 2nd by a vote of 86-13
  • Denis McDonough, Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs, was confirmed on January 27th by a vote of 87-7
  • Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of Homeland Security, was confirmed on February 2nd by a vote of 56-43
  • Avril Haines, Director of National Intelligence, was confirmed on January 20th by a vote of 84-10

Next week, confirmation hearings are scheduled for …

  • Merrick Garland, Attorney General, February 22-23
  • Debra Haaland, Secretary of the Interior, February 23
  • Xavier Becerra, Secretary of Health and Human Services, February 23

The Biden cabinet is coming together nicely, and I’m pleased that there has been no significant disruption in the process, apart from the time spent in the impeachment trial.  Every one of these people have the background, education and experience to handle the job, unlike their counterparts in the previous administration.  I don’t foresee a problem with the confirmations of Garland, Haaland, or Becerra, though I could always be overlooking something.  After all, it was me who declared 5 years ago that the former guy didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning the presidency.  Sigh.  Sooner of later I’ve got to be right … right?

Good News, Humorous News, and Lindsey Graham

First, the good news

The Department of Transportation, formerly under the leadership of Elaine Chao, Mitch McConnell’s wife, has a new leader!  Yesterday, the Senate confirmed Pete Buttigieg, aka Mayor Pete, to the position of Secretary of Transportation!

buttigiegYou’ll remember that Mayor Pete ran as a candidate for president in the 2020 Democratic Party presidential primaries and gained significant momentum in mid-2019 when he participated in several town halls and debates. Buttigieg narrowly won the Iowa caucuses and placed a close second in the New Hampshire primary.  By winning Iowa, he became the first openly gay candidate to win a presidential primary or caucus. Buttigieg dropped out of the race on March 1st 2020, and endorsed Joe Biden the following day.

Under Ms. Chao, the Department of Transportation faded into the background, for she was rarely available to speak to the press, but make no mistake – this is a very important agency that oversees aviation safety, railroads, transit, highways and more.  At age 39, Buttigieg is also the youngest Cabinet secretary in the Biden administration and youngest person to serve as Secretary of Transportation.

Congratulations, Mayor Pete!


Now for the humorous

You all know that Trump has a golf course in Scotland, right?  Actually, he owns two of them.  The Scottish Parliament is considering launching an investigation into the financing of those golf courses.  Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie is urging the government to seek what is called an unexplained wealth order (UWO) against the Trump Organization’s two golf courses in Scotland.

A UWO is a relatively new piece of British criminal legislation, requiring the subject, in this case Donald Trump, to explain how exactly their assets were acquired. If their reasoning is not satisfactory, then the assets are “presumed to be recoverable property,” meaning they could be seized.  Reading this was my first chuckle of the day today!

Now, nobody in the Trump family can be accused of having an excess of intelligence, but the dumbest of them all is son Eric, who is said to be fuming at the possibility of the investigation …

junior-eric“Patrick Harvie is nothing more than a national embarrassment with his pathetic antics that only serve himself and his political agenda.  If Harvie and the rest of the Scottish government continue to treat overseas investors like this, it will deter future investors from conducting business in Scotland, ultimately crushing their economy, tourism and hospitality industries.”

According to Harvie, the fact that Trump’s businesses and business practices are the subject of a massive investigation in New York prompted his call for an UWO.  Makes perfect sense to me, knowing that Trump has been involved in some 6,000 lawsuits!


And last … ol’ Lindsey Graham

President Biden nominated Merrick Garland as Attorney General, the top position in the Department of Justice.  This is a key and critical position and Merrick Garland is more than qualified to fill it.  Merrick Garland was literally screwed over by Mitch McConnell and his gang of republican thugs in 2016 when President Obama nominated him to fill the Supreme Court seat vacated upon the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.  McConnell would not even permit the Senate to interview Garland then, saying that the next president should be the one to fill that seat … some 9 months before even the election, 11 months before that ‘next’ president would take office.  (Isn’t it funny how he changed his tune last year and hustled to confirm the bigoted and unqualified Amy Barrett to the seat vacated by Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death?)

Merrick-GarlandMerrick Garland is … or should be … a shoo-in for the Attorney General position, and confirmation hearings are likely to be more of a formality, as he is well-known and well-respected by members of both parties.  But Lindsey Graham likes to play games, even when his games are a threat to the nation.  Because as of yesterday, the two parties had not yet managed to come to terms on the ‘organizing resolution’ for the Senate, which is currently split 50-50, Lindsey Graham is still the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman.

When the incoming chairman, Dick Durbin, requested scheduling the confirmation hearing for Garland on February 8th, Lindsey immediately rejected the notion.  Why?  Because it would take place the day before the start of Trump’s impeachment trial.

“A one-day hearing as you are proposing the day before the impeachment trial of a former president is insufficient. Democrats do not get to score political points in an unprecedented act of political theater on one hand while also trying to claim the mantle of good government on the other.”

OH HO HO HO … read that last sentence again!  Is this not the ultimate hypocrisy?  But then, the entire GOP has become the very definition of the word ‘hypocrisy’.  Expecting to hold a confirmation hearing for the top spot in the Justice Department a full month after the nomination is ‘political theater’?  Somebody really needs to send Lindsey Graham back home to South Carolina!

But there is a bright spot in this story.  This morning, Senators Schumer and McConnell finally managed to reach an agreement.  According to Schumer …

“I am happy to report this morning that the leadership of both parties have finalized the organizing resolution for the Senate. We will pass the resolution through the Senate today, which means that committees can promptly set up and get to work.”

So, by tomorrow, Mr. Graham will likely no longer be the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman and the decision will not be his to make!  Let us hope that Senator Durbin will get the confirmation hearings on the schedule for next week, and that the process is completed quickly so that Merrick Garland can take his place as Attorney General and begin doing the serious work that must be done in the aftermath of the January 6th attacks on Congress.Lindsey-Graham

Snarky Snippets With A Twist

There is much I could find to write a scathing rant about today, but there is also some good news, so I thought just for once I’d try to focus on that.  Don’t expect this to become the new norm, though!


Score one for justice!

On March 16, 2016, President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland to fill the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.  Garland is politically moderate, and Obama’s hope was that he would not be found offensive to either side, particularly Republicans in the Senate led by Mitch McConnell.  His hopes were to be dashed, for McConnell was determined that President Obama would not be allowed to fill that seat.  Period.

Republicans themselves had spent years suggesting Garland as an acceptable Democratic choice for the Court, and it is said that Mitch McConnell and Merrick Garland were friends.  However, McConnell and other Senate Republicans refused to even so much as hold a hearing or vote on the nomination, claiming that with only eight months until the presidential election, the seat should remain open for the incoming president to fill.  Some even said that if Hillary Clinton were elected, the seat should remain open for four years … or forever!

It had nothing whatsoever to do with Merrick Garland’s qualifications, and everything to do with partisanship.  The Senate Republicans wanted only an ultra-conservative to fill that seat, not a liberal or even a moderate.  Why?  Their goal was to gain a conservative majority in the Court that would be willing to overturn two previous Supreme Court decisions if the opportunity arose:  Roe v Wade, and Obergefell v Hodges.

Well, today it is Merrick Garland who will have the last laugh, for President-elect Joe Biden, who will take the Oath of Office in just two weeks from today, has announced his intention to nominate Merrick Garland as United States Attorney General!  From what little I know of Garland, I think he will be a fine Attorney General, and I’m admittedly not above being thrilled to know that Mitch McConnell and his uber-conservative cronies must be pulling their hair out … or will be once today’s circus in Congress has finished.


Score two for justice!

And in other positive news, the Georgia runoff elections for Georgia’s two seats in the U.S. Senate was yesterday.  While the count is only about 98% complete as of this writing, Raphael Warnock, the democratic candidate, has been declared the winner over Kelly Loeffler, although by a narrow margin of 1.2%.

The other race, being even closer, has not yet been called as of this writing, but Democrat Jon Ossoff is leading over David Perdue by about .4%, or 17,567 votes.  I fail to understand how so many people in Georgia could vote for Loeffler and Perdue, both of whom have allegations of insider trading and other criminal conduct in their past.  However, a narrow win is better than no win.  For the sake of my own health, I have stayed largely off of Twitter today, so haven’t seen any of Trump’s tweets, but I’m sure he is crying “Foul” as loudly and ignorantly as usual.  However, his voice is becoming less and less relevant, even to many Republicans.


Tidbits

Rumour had it that Trump was planning to head for his golf course in Scotland on the 19th, the day before Joe Biden will be sworn in as President of the United States.  However, Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says that Trump will not be allowed into Scotland, for the country is in strict lockdown and nobody is allowed to enter, including Trump!  Guess he’ll just have to settle for Mar-a-Lago for a while.

We all need a chuckle today.  You’ll love this parody of Trump’s felonious phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger last Saturday, put to the Stevie Wonder song, I Just Called to Say I Love You

Rainy Day Snarky Snippets

The dreary gloom outside matches my mood inside, so … It’s time for some snarky snippets!  Granted, most of what I write these days is snark-filled, but still there is more … it’s never-ending.


AR-15 vs pandemic

Junior, aka Donald Trump, Jr., has contracted the coronavirus.  He says he is doing well … too bad.  He also said he will pass the time in isolation battling with the virus by cleaning his collection of guns.  I wonder just how many he has?  And what … does he think if he gets those guns all nice and clean (how did they get dirty, anyway?) that he can just shoot the virus and make it go away?  Or perhaps he’s planning another killing spree with his brother soon …

trump-killer-1


The last party …

Meanwhile, Karen Pence, has invited Congressional Club members to an afternoon “Christmas Craft” at the VP’s residence on December 9th at 1 p.m. Attendees are requested to wear ‘Holiday Attire’, but the invite makes no mention of masks. The event comes as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has discouraged holiday gatherings, and as we have set new records nearly every day for new cases and deaths due to the pandemic. Her husband, Vice-president Mike Pence, is allegedly the head of the White House’s coronavirus task force, which has said indoor gatherings should be limited.  Oh, the irony!  The delusion!  The stupidity!

Karen-Pence-invite

Thankfully, this will likely be the last time she gets to use that title.


Poetic justice …

Merrick-GarlandIn a bit of fun irony, it is reported that President-elect Biden is considering Merrick Garland for the position of Attorney General!  You’ll remember that moderate Garland was President Obama’s pick to fill the Supreme Court seat left open on the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in 2012.  Mitch McConnell single-handedly refused to allow the Senate to even interview Garland or consider the nomination, claiming the seat should remain open for the next ‘president’ to fill.  Funny, isn’t it, how he changed his tune this year after the death of Justice Ginsburg?  I wonder if Moscow Mitch will find some objection to Garland as Attorney General?  Wouldn’t it be nice if the other republican senators grew a pair and stood up to Mitch … just once?


mnuchinGiving Americans a middle finger

It isn’t bad enough that Trump is certifiably insane and is throwing roadblocks up all over the place to deny President-elect Biden access to information that would allow for a peaceful, smooth transition in January, but his minions are playing the game also.  On-his-way-out treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin has decided to end a variety of programs aimed at helping markets, businesses and municipalities weather the pandemic and asking the central bank to return the funds earmarked to support those efforts.

By ending the programs, Mnuchin is taking away a source of economic support just as the new administration comes into office and as rising virus cases dog the recovery. By asking the Fed to return the money that enables the emergency efforts, he could make it harder for Democrats to restart them at a large scale and on more generous terms.  This is another trumpeter giving We the People a middle finger.  Again.  If this country goes into a deep recession next year, don’t even think of blaming the Biden administration … put the blame where it belongs, in Donald Trump’s court.


The murderer is back on the streets

Remember Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old white supremacist punk who shot and killed two people at a Black Lives Matter protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin back in August?  Well, he is out of prison on $2 million cash bond as of yesterday.

Hours after the release, one of his attorneys, Lin Wood, posted this picture of Rittenhouse alongside actor Ricky Schroder.

rittenhouse

“Free at last!!!,” Wood wrote, above the smiling photograph in which the newly freed Rittenhouse is wearing a Black Rifle Coffee Company t-shirt.  Well, not exactly ‘free’, since he faces five felony charges of first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide and attempted first-degree intentional homicide.  In another tweet, Wood called Rittenhouse “a hero”.  And this may well define just what is wrong with half of this nation today.  When we applaud killing, when we call cold-blooded killers ‘heroes’, then we have for damn sure lost all shreds of humanity.

Personally, I hope Rittenhouse goes to prison and doesn’t come back into society until he is too old and doddery to even walk straight, let along shoot straight.


A final note …

And last but not least, Fox News’ idiot Geraldo Rivera thinks Trump should be honoured by having the coronavirus vaccine named after him.  Personally, I think it would be more appropriate to name the virus itself after Trump, for he has the blood of hundreds of thousands on his hands due to his intentionally inept response.  Yes, the trumptanicvirus … or TTV … sounds about right to me.

He Nominates A Conservative For SCOTUS … surprise

And now, the moment you have all been waiting for … after much anticipation, we finally know who Trump’s pick to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia is:  Neil Gorsuch.  Now, maybe you have heard of Gorsuch, maybe you haven’t, so let me give you a little brief bit of background on the man and his views, though it should suffice to say he is rich, white, and male, as have most all of Trump’s nominees for advisory and cabinet positions.

gorsuchNeil McGill Gorsuch is a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit since being appointed by President George W. Bush in 2006. Gorsuch has the typical pedigree of a high court justice. He graduated from Columbia, Harvard and Oxford, clerked for two Supreme Court justices and did a stint at the Department of Justice. He is a conservative, of course, and  ruled in the case of Zubik v Burwell, commonly known as the Hobby Lobby case, in which Gorsuch held that the requirement in the Affordable Care Act that employers provide insurance coverage for contraceptives without a co-pay violated the rights of those employers that object to use of contraceptives on religious grounds. His ruling was later overturned by the Supreme Court.

Gorsuch favours the death penalty and is a strict constitutional originalist.  A brief explanation of that term may be in order.  There are two theories in constitutional interpretation:

  1. Originalism is the idea that the Constitution should be interpreted from the point of view of the framers who created the document in 1787, and
  2. Pragmatism is the theory that in the 230 years since the Constitution was written, many changes have taken place in society and the nation that necessitate a broader interpretation

And that, folks, is pretty much all I know about Mr. Gorsuch.  You didn’t ask, but I thought the Hobby Lobby decision was a bad one, as it opened the door for a host of other discriminatory Laws on the grounds of ‘religious freedom’.  I do not support the death penalty.  I believe that the pragmatic approach to constitutional interpretation makes the most sense (I actually have a paper I wrote on this topic for a Constitutional Law class several years back, if anybody is interested … 🙂  ).  So, in at least three major areas I disagree with Gorsuch.  But then, we didn’t think Trump would pick a candidate who thought like Filosofa, did we?

Trump has made no secret of the fact that his choice to fill this seat would be one who would cast his vote to overturn Roe v Wade, so we must assume that there has already been conversation and agreement on that major issue between Trump and Gorsuch.  Again, I disagree on this topic, but nobody asked me.

The process to confirm Gorsuch:

  • Referral to the 20-member Judiciary Committee (11 Republicans & 9 Democrats)
  • Pre-hearing research where his background and past rulings will be reviewed
  • Confirmation hearing
  • Committee vote
  • Full Senate vote

The only stage where I see a possible stumbling block in the process is the final, the full senate vote.  Democratic senators can filibuster and force a 60-vote requirement for confirmation, and there are only 52 Republicans in the senate.  Given the fact that the Republicans effectively blocked President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, by refusing to even hold confirmation hearings, the Democrats in the senate are still bitter and not much in the mood to play nice.  Senators Chuck Schumer and Jeff Merkley have both vowed to oppose any nominee other than Garland, as have other Senate Democrats.  It could be interesting, but I suspect that at the end of the day, Trump will have his way in this as he has everything else in the last 12 days.

“In light of the unconstitutional actions of our new President in just his first week, the Senate owes the American people a thorough and unsparing examination of this nomination. I had hoped that President Trump would work in a bipartisan way to pick a mainstream nominee like Merrick Garland and bring the country together. Instead, he outsourced this process to far-right interest groups. This is no way to treat a co-equal branch of government, or to protect the independence of our Federal judiciary.” – Senator Patrick Leahy, Democratic Senator from Vermont, 31 January 2017

“The Senate should respect the result of the election and treat this newly elected president’s nominee in the same way that nominees of newly elected presidents have been treated.” – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, 30 January 2017

McConnell was outspoken in his refusal to hold confirmation hearings for Merrick Garland, yet he says this????

The reason the framers of the Constitution made Supreme Court positions lifetime appointments was to shield justices from partisanship.  They were intended to be accountable to their consciences rather than an electorate.  I am not sure that is the case today, especially in light of this nominee who, undoubtedly was chosen for his political views. Assuming he is confirmed, the Supreme Court will then consist of 4 liberal-leaning justices, 4 conservative-leaning, and 1 moderate (Anthony Kennedy).  With this composition, I think it unlikely that Trump will get his way and see Roe v Wade overturned quickly. The danger comes later, if Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is 84, and Anthony Kennedy, age 81 decide to retire before Trump leaves office.  If he has the opportunity to appoint two more justices, then all bets are off.  Stay tuned …

And Then There Were Eight … Seven … Six … Five … Supreme Court Justices

 

While I do not often agree with his political views, I basically respect Senator John McCain.  Yes, he is a republican, a conservative, but his views are more moderate than those of his fellow republicans these days and, I believe, he is basically a good human being.  His rankings by the non-partisan National Journal for 2005-2006 rate him as follows – economic policy: 59 percent conservative and 41 percent liberal; social policy: 54 percent conservative and 38 percent liberal; and foreign policy: 56 percent conservative and 43 percent liberal. Following his 2008 presidential election loss, McCain began adopting more orthodox conservative views. By 2013, some aspects of the older McCain had returned.

Overall, his ideology has seemed to be closer to moderate than the uber-conservative ideologies we see from the Trump camp and others, although I still disagree with him on many issues.

trump-ridicules-mccainMost of us with consciences were horrified last year when Donald Trump singled out McCain for ridicule over his war record, saying that he was not a hero because he was captured.  Senator McCain served in Vietnam and was captured by the North Vietnamese in 1967 when his plane was shot down.  Already badly wounded, the soldiers proceeded to crush his shoulder, then refused medical treatment.  He was tortured and kept imprisoned for five-and-a-half years.  He certainly was a war hero, and Donald Trump actually gave McCain a boost in popularity when he attempted to denigrate him.

Of late, since Donald Trump threw his hat into the ring of fire, I have liked Senator McCain more often than not.  Which brings us to today.  A brick has been placed on each side of the balance scale, and I find myself conflicted.

mccainFirst, I was proud of Senator McCain for withdrawing his support for Trump on October 8th, the day after news broke of a 2005 recording of Trump talking about women in crude and vulgar ways, and even seeming to trivialize sexually groping them. “When Mr. Trump attacks women and demeans the women in our nation and in our society, that is a point where I just have to part company. It’s not pleasant for me to renounce the nominee of my party; he won the nomination fair and square. But I have daughters. I have friends. I have so many wonderful people on my staff. They cannot be degraded and demeaned in that fashion.”

But then came this …

“John McCain: Republicans will block anyone Clinton names to the Supreme Court” – Think Progress

“McCain Suggests GOP Would Oppose Clinton Supreme Court Picks” – The New York Times

“John McCain points to indefinite Supreme Court blockade” – MSNBC

scotus-2The vacancy left when Justice Antonin Scalia died unexpectedly in February should have been filled long ago.  Why wasn’t it?  Because Republican Mitch McConnell called on the Senate to refuse to even consider any nominee, saying that it should be filled by the next president after the November election.  This means that the vacancy will extend, in all likelihood, past the one-year mark, since the incoming president will not be inaugurated until January, and it will take time for candidates to be screened, nominated, and considered by Congress.

The Supreme Court currently stands with eight Justices.  However, in the next year or two, three are likely to retire:  Stephen Breyer is seventy-eight, Anthony Kennedy is eighty, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg is eighty-three.  That would leave a Supreme Court with only five Justices, if the Senate refuses to confirm any nominees.  Those five would be: Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. (nominated by George W. Bush), Clarence Thomas (George H. W. Bush), Samuel Alito (George W. Bush), Sonia Sotomayor (Barack Obama), and Elena Kagan (Obama).

The Constitution places the power to determine the number of Justices in the hands of Congress. The first Judiciary Act, passed in 1789, set the number of Justices at six, one Chief Justice and five Associates. Over the years Congress has passed various acts to change this number, fluctuating from a low of five to a high of ten in 1863. Then in order to prevent President Andrew Johnson, who was soon to be impeached, from naming any new Supreme Court justices, Congress passed the Judicial Circuits Act of 1866. This Act reduced the number from 10 to seven. The decrease was to take effect as the seats became vacant. However, only two seats were freed up by 1869, so there were eight justices. Congress added one seat back in, and decided that there should be nine justices. The Judiciary Act of 1869 officially set the number at nine, and it has not changed since.  Is Congress willing to play a game again next year with the number of Supreme Court appointments, just to keep President Clinton from being able to appoint a single Justice?

There is a little known clause that requires a quorum of six for the Court do to its work. There is no magic to the number ‘nine’, though it has served us well for 147 years now. But it is, I think, inexcusable for Congress to refuse to even hold confirmation hearings, as they did this year in the case of President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, simply based on their dislike of the president.  One hopes that Congress is comprised of adults, not junior high school students, but more and more I question that premise.

Senator McCain is up for re-election and, as I predicted earlier this year, he is doing well, some 10 points ahead of his opponent.  Until his statement about the Supreme Court, I would have wished him well in the election, but now I am less enthused for his success.  I still believe the Senate will hold a democratic majority at the end of the day on November 8th, and this situation makes the down ballot even more imperative.  I would not like to see the Supreme Court reduced to five Justices for the next four years!

President Obama is a Constitutional Law scholar.  As some have posited before me, would it not be poetic justice for Hillary Clinton to nominate Barack Obama to the Supreme Court, and a majority Democratic Senate confirm him?  John McCain, Mitch McConnell, and their cronies would have only themselves to blame.  President Obama is only 55 years old, so he could serve on the Supreme Court for, say, 20-25 years!

Tuesday Tidbits …

Those who read my morning post, R.I.P. Spooky, will understand why I am finding it difficult to sit and focus on any in-depth topic today.  Instead, I offer a few tidbits that I found either amusing or interesting in today’s news:

  • President Obama, critiquing politicians and the journalists who cover them: “I was going to call it a carnival atmosphere, but that implies fun.”

clowns

  • I wrote a post a week ago (Mitch McConnell Revises The Constitution) about the Senate’s dereliction of duty in refusing to even consider President Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick B. Garland, for the Supreme Court vacancy left by the untimely death of Justice Antonin Scalia.  I noted that the confirmation process, a process defined by the U.S. Constitution, was being blocked only by republican senators (and there are a few notable exceptions).  This morning, I must admit that I had a good chuckle when I read the following New York Times headline:  Unions Win Fee Victory as Supreme Court Ties 4-4.  This was a case that was expected to deal a blow to public unions, but instead ended up delivering a big victory to the unions.  Conservatives argued that forcing public workers to support unions was a violation of the First Amendment, but Justice Scalia’s death left the court deadlocked in a 4-4 partisan split, so the existing rule stands.  This is the second deadlocked case since Justice Scalia’s death last month, but not likely to be the last.  It is unfortunate that the Supreme Court is divided along partisan lines … the framers of the Constitution did everything in their power to avoid just this scenario.  A number of cases dealing with crucial topics such as abortion, affirmative action, contraception, immigration, jury selection, and voting rights are on the docket between now and June.  It may well be that Mitch McConnell and his republican cronies, who are playing a game of demagoguery, emerge with yet more proverbial egg on their faces.  Republicans in the senate, particularly those coming up for re-election in November, have already begun to realize that there can be no winning solution if they stay the course, so a few have begun meeting with Judge Garland in an effort to at least show good faith.  It is likely a case of too little too late.

 

  • The National Rifle Association, better known as the NRA, is out of control and I have to agree with Hillary Clinton on this one:  They Must Be Stopped!  The latest?  They have re-written the children’s fairy tale, Hansel and Gretel.  The revision has the two young innocents packing rifles as they come upon the witch’s gingerbread house. Arming Hansel and Gretel is part of the NRA’s campaign to familiarize children with guns as a supposed safety measure. The fairy tale campaign began in January when the NRA offered “Little Red Riding Hood (Has A Gun)”, in which rather than being devoured along with Grandma by the Big Bad Wolf, Red keeps the wolf at bay with her rifle.  Young children of an age to be reading fairy tales lack the mental and emotional maturity to fully comprehend the difference between right and wrong, and do not understand the finality of death!  These re-written “fairy tales” are the work of Amelia Hamilton, a children’s author and conservative blogger. I find it incredible, jaw-dropping incredible, that anybody in their right mind, anybody with a moral compass, can justify this. The NRA’s focus has shifted over time from its start as an organization focused on training and marksmanship to one that is a major player in the battle over gun control.  It would seem that they have pushed the envelope way too far with this latest escapade, and I think it is time to either end the NRA or at the very least outlaw such insanity as these re-written children’s tales.

 

So that’s it for this evening, folks!  Back tomorrow with more!

Breaking News: Mitch McConnell Revises Constitution

Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution:

He (the President) shall have the Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two-thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate National Rifle Association, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Councils, Judges of the supreme Court … (Emphasis added)

Last Wednesday, 16 March 2016, President Obama nominated Judge Merrick B. Garland to be the 113th Supreme Court Justice.  Let me tell you a bit about Judge Garland.

Judge Garland is the chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He has served on that court since 1997. Garland graduated summa cum laude as valedictorian from Harvard College and graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School. After serving as a law clerk to Judge Henry J. Friendly of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. of the Supreme Court of the United States, he practiced corporate litigation at Arnold & Porter and worked as a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Department of Justice, where he played a leading role in the investigation and prosecution of the Oklahoma City bombers. In 1995, Garland was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and (following a delay in Senate confirmation) took the bench in 1997. In 2009 and 2010, Garland was considered by President Barack Obama for two openings on the Supreme Court.

Yet, despite an illustrious judicial career, the odds of him being confirmed by the Senate this year are slim.  Why?  Basically because the republican-controlled Senate, has vowed that they will do all in their power to block any nomination that President Obama makes, regardless how qualified that person may be.  The biggest slap in the face to We The People, the citizens and taxpayers of this nation, however, came from Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY) yesterday when he stated that he “Can’t imagine that a Republican majority in the United States Senate would want to confirm … a nominee opposed by the National Rifle Association [and] the National Federation of Independent Businesses.”  Excuse me, Mr. McConnell, but neither of those organizations represent my interests nor support my ideology, and I RESENT THAT THEY HAVE CONTROL OVER MY GOVERNMENT!  Yes, I am yelling and my fingers are pounding the keyboard at warp speed as I type this!

Deep breaths now … in … out … in … out …

In 1997, Orrin Hatch (R-UT), a highly respected senator who has served as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee on three separate occasions, said, in regards to Merrick Garland, “Merrick B. Garland is highly qualified to sit on the D.C. circuit. His intelligence and his scholarship cannot be questioned… His legal experience is equally impressive… Accordingly, I believe Mr. Garland is a fine nominee. I know him personally, I know of his integrity, I know of his legal ability, I know of his honesty, I know of his acumen, and he belongs on the court. I believe he is not only a fine nominee, but is as good as Republicans can expect from this administration. In fact, I would place him at the top of the list.”  And in 2010, when Judge Garland was being considered as a nominee to the Supreme Court, Mr. Hatch again praised him, saying that Garland is, “A consensus nominee… I have no doubts that Garland would get a lot of votes. And I will do my best to help him get them… He would be very well supported by all sides and the president knows that.”  So where’s the beef?  Simply this … republican congressmen have decided to ignore their constituency, the vast majority of whom are in support of the Supreme Court vacancy being filled as quickly as possible, and refuse to do their job.  Why?  Who knows?  I suspect simply to show President Obama that they can.  It is a playground mentality and I thought we could expect better from our elected officials.  I was wrong.

President Obama did not choose to nominate a liberal-leaning judge to fill the Supreme Court vacancy.  He intentionally chose a moderate nominee who is well-respected by both sides. He also did not choose a young man who could conceivably serve 20, 30, or even 40 years on the bench.  He did everything in his power to nominate a judge who would be acceptable to both democrats and republicans, as he realizes the importance of filling the vacancy.  It is too bad our senators are not equally intelligent.

Senators earn, at a minimum, $174,000, which does not include the value of various perks and additional monies they “earn”, meaning that on average a senator is paid somewhere in the ballpark of $200,000 plus benefits, per year.  This is more than ten times what I earn for a year, and I am betting it is significantly more than anyone reading this blog earns in a year.  Understand that I have no problem with that – my intent here is not to complain, as some do, that congressmen and women are overpaid.  When they do their job and act responsibly on behalf of We The People, they earn every penny.  Rather, my point is that this year, at least, most republican senators, are failing in their jobs.  They are putting their hands in their pockets and saying, basically, “Screw the American people.  I am not going to do my job until after November.”  Think about it this way … we are the employer, they are the employee.  If you told your employer that you refuse to do the job for which you were hired, would you still be employed next week?  I think not.

I find it interesting that one argument these negligent senators give as their excuse for not considering Judge Garland is the “right of the people to have a say”.  We The People had our say in 2008 and again in 2012, when the majority of voters in this nation selected President Obama to lead our nation. To refuse to even hold hearings to review this nomination is blatant refusal to do the jobs for which they are highly compensated, at our expense.  There may be no solution this year, as we have spoken and the republicans in the senate have turned a deaf ear to us.  But we do have recourse.  As I mentioned in a previous post, there are 24 republican senators up for re-election this November.  I call on the voting public to ensure that not a single one of them retain their seats.  It is the only way to send a message to congress, a message that reminds them that We The People can put them in office or take them out.