Trump vs The 1st Amendment

Since the U.S. Senate handed Donald Trump the keys to the castle and told him to “have fun” and promised that “we’ve got your back” no matter what he does, he has been on quite a spree.  Last week, it was the firing of qualified career people within the administration and their replacement with highly unqualified people.  Then came the news that any non-loyalists, any not willing to basically swear an oath of fealty to Trump, would be fired and replaced with those loyal to the king Trump.

All last week, I waited for the other shoe to fall.  What ‘other shoe’ you ask?  The press, my friends.  Ever since the day he threw his hat in the proverbial ring in mid-2015, Trump has been denigrating the press, referring to them as “the enemy of the people”, attempting to revoke press passes of those like Jim Acosta who had the unmitigated gall to ask him the uncomfortable questions he didn’t want to answer.  And remember how, during his first year in office, he often threatened to change federal libel laws to make it more difficult for the free press to report the truth?

Yesterday morning it was announced that the Trump re-election campaign is filing a libel suit against the New York Times in the New York state court.  Their claim is that the Times had intentionally published a false opinion article that suggested Russia and the campaign had an overarching deal in the 2016 U.S. election.  The suit accuses the times of “extreme bias against and animosity toward the campaign,” and cited what it called the Times’ “exuberance to improperly influence the presidential election in November 2020.”

The New York Times responded with a statement:

“The Trump Campaign has turned to the courts to try to punish an opinion writer for having an opinion they find unacceptable. Fortunately, the law protects the right of Americans to express their judgments and conclusions, especially about events of public importance. We look forward to vindicating that right in this case.”

Interestingly, the Times had not yet, at that point, been served official notice of the case, but rather had learned of it through media reports.

The case relates to a March 27, 2019, opinion article written by Max Frankel, a former executive editor of the Times who left the paper in 1994.

You may remember that the New York Times was involved in a landmark 1964 Supreme Court ruling that has served as a safeguard for media reporting on public figures. In the case New York Times v. Sullivan, the court decided that the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment protection for freedom of the press allows even statements that are false to be published as long as the publication was not done with “actual malice.”  Thus, the suit, according to the draft copy released by the campaign, accused the newspaper of a “malicious motive” and “reckless disregard for the truth.”

Now, note that this OpEd was written just under a year ago, and two years after Trump took office, and just under three weeks before the redacted version of the Mueller report was released.  The Mueller report documented Moscow’s campaign of hacking and social media propaganda to boost Trump’s 2016 candidacy and harm his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton. It also documented numerous contacts between people associated with Trump’s campaign and Russians.  What it did not do, as Trump claimed, was ‘exonerate’ him.

A portion of Frankel’s piece stated …

“Collusion – or a lack of it – turns out to have been the rhetorical trap that ensnared President Trump’s pursuers.  There was no need for detailed electoral collusion between the Trump campaign and Vladimir Putin’s oligarchy because they had an overarching deal: the quid of help in the campaign against Hillary Clinton for the quo of a new pro-Russian foreign policy, starting with relief from the Obama administration’s burdensome economic sanctions. The Trumpites knew about the quid and held out the prospect of the quo.”

All of which is, in this writer’s opinion, proven true.  And, although it took him two years, Trump did lift the Obama administration’s sanctions on Russia in January 2019.

A spokesperson for Trump’s campaign said yesterday …

“The statements were and are 100 percent false and defamatory. The complaint alleges The Times was aware of the falsity at the time it published them but did so for the intentional purpose of hurting the campaign, while misleading its own readers in the process.”

Well … seems to me the statements were true, but either way, it was an opinion piece written by somebody who was not on the Times’ staff.  Thing is, Trump has just been itching for an excuse to shred the “freedom of press” portion of the 1st Amendment since even before taking office.  Now that he is feeling newly emboldened, feeling invincible and that he can do anything he pleases, this is but his first step in the process of attempting to rein in the media.

Stuart Karle, an adjunct professor of media law at Columbia Journalism School, told Forbes the lawsuit is “an abuse of the court system and completely inappropriate.”  Karle said he didn’t think Trump’s campaign expects to win the case, and believes it was filed for political reasons: “It’s using the courts to argue with their critics.”

I don’t see how he could possibly win this case, but … it feels very much like a portent of things to come.  It feels very much as if this is designed to send a message to the media as a whole.  I don’t like it … not one bit.  At the very least, he is wasting taxpayer dollars, tying up the courts.  At the very most, he will gain the attention of his faithful followers who will, of course, be more convinced than ever in the months leading up to the election, that the press is against Trump and that they should not believe a word that is said about him unless it comes from his chosen Fox “News”.

Keep your eye on this ball, friends …

Back With More … Snarky Snippets

Today, I woke already filled with residual snark from last night.  Then, the day added it’s own dose, and the net result is that Filosofa is once again grrrrrrrowling.  Wait … did I ever stop growling?

You call this a debate???????????

Last night’s debate was a most disgusting display, and if this is an indicator of things to come, please shoot me now.  These debates … they are not opportunities to hear the candidates’ platforms and ideologies.  They are naught but popularity contests … a chance to see and be seen, to be heard, to see who can scream the loudest, who can …  get the best dig in at one or more of the other candidates.  They are a chance for the people of this country to see what a shamble we have devolved into. debate-2Arm-waving, fist-shaking, yelling and talking over one another … it reminds me more of a neo-Nazi rally than a political debate.  I did not watch past the 20-minute mark, so I don’t know who was the ‘winner’.  In my book, based on what little I saw, there were no winners … only a bunch of losers on the stage.

This nation has been without a leader for more than three years now.  We have had no president, or one in name only.  And, it appears that we will have none for the next four years if what I saw last night on the debate stage was any indication.  Whatever happened to the days when politicians spoke well and in a reasonable tone of voice, when they acted like humans instead of hyenas?

The remaining three or four candidates who still stand some chance of winning the nomination in July damn well better get their act together, better re-think their strategy and stand above the fray, for if they don’t, they will be responsible for putting the final nail in the coffin of the United States.eyes-2020

He demands what????

Even while Donald Trump, along with his family, was enjoying a two-day vacation in India (at our expense), he didn’t let that stop him from meddling in Supreme Court business.  Please note that the Executive branch (president, vice-president, and cabinet) is completely independent from the Judicial branch (courts) as per the U.S. Constitution.  However, Trump took it upon himself to practically demand that two members of the Supreme Court, Justice Sandra Sotomayor and Justice Ruth Ginsburg, recuse themselves from any cases that involved him.

His beef with Justice Sotomayor was her dissenting opinion last Friday when the court ruled 5-4 to allow Trump & Co. to deny green cards to immigrants who might likely need some form of assistance, who do not meet a certain “wealth test”.  Well, first of all, immigrants coming to this country left their homeland with little other than the clothes on their backs and of course they will need a bit of a leg up!  Second, the Court’s decision was strictly along party lines … something that is happening more and more these days and that should give us all cause for concern.

Trump seems to have picked up his outrage on Sotomayor’s opinion from none other than the ridiculous Laura Ingraham of Fox ‘News’ fame:

“‘Sotomayor accuses GOP appointed Justices of being biased in favor of Trump.’  This is a terrible thing to say. Trying to ‘shame’ some into voting her way? She never criticized Justice Ginsberg when she called me a ‘faker’. Both should recuse themselves on all Trump, or Trump related, matters!  While ‘elections have consequences, I only ask for fairness, especially when it comes to decisions made by the United States Supreme Court!”

And, of course his antagonism toward Justice Ginsburg goes all the way back to 2016, when she called him a ‘fake’ and said she could not imagine him as president.  She was so spot on!  I still cannot imagine him as president!

This is unprecedented behaviour and cause for grave concern. It is my hope that Chief Justice John Roberts will, once again, admonish Mr. Trump and remind him of the separation of powers as per the U.S. Constitution … a document Trump took an oath to uphold, yet has never read.  As I said in my first snippet, we have no president.  We have a pathetic excuse for one.

Junior is out for bear

Donald Trump Jr has been granted the right to hunt a grizzly bear in north-western Alaska.  You all know how I feel about hunting beautiful animals (or even ugly ones, for that matter), so this has me growling anyway, but there’s more …

grizzly-bearFor the license to go out and brutally murder an innocent creature, Junior paid exactly $1,160!  That is as much as some families spend on food for a four-month period!  That is a full month’s rent for my family!  If the Trump clan have nothing better to do with their riches than use them to buy a permit to kill an animal … grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.  I hope the bear eats Junior.

A day to remember …

Trayvon-MartinIt was eight years ago on this day that young Trayvon Martin was murdered by a trigger-happy man named George Zimmerman.  Martin, a young black man had gone to a convenience store to buy a soda, was on his way home, doing nothing wrong other than … being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Zimmerman saw him, decided a black teenager didn’t belong in the neighborhood, wrestled him to the ground, and ultimately shot and killed him.

George Zimmerman, a white man, got off scot-free.  Had the tables been turned, Trayvon Martin would be on death row today.  This should be a reminder, folks, that justice in the United States is not colour-blind, but is still very much tilted toward white privilege.  Equal justice for all?  I think not.

Considering Michael Bloomberg And A Worry For Another Time

Greg is the other half of On the Fence Voters, though for a number of reasons, he has been unable to post for several months. But, yesterday he wrote a very thoughtful and thought-provoking post about Michael Bloomberg’s candidacy, and he brought up some points that I think we must all be willing to consider. Please take a few minutes to read this excellent post and let Greg know your thoughts! Thank you, Greg, and it’s great to hear from you!

On The Fence Voters

I’ve heard a lot of disapproving talk about Michael Bloomberg trying to ‘buy’ his way into the Presidency, and it’s certainly understandable.  It’s true that electing our president should only be about finding the best man or woman to lead our country.  It shouldn’t be about who can outspend all the others, but unfortunately that’s what it’s come to in America.  In this election year, however, our top priority must be in nominating whichever candidate seems most likely to defeat Donald Trump. We should be thinking of almost nothing else. Money in our politics is definitely a problem but I think this time around, it’s a worry for another time.

It doesn’t bother me so much that Bloomberg has unlimited funds to spend in his campaign because I think there are simply too many other pressing concerns.  I admit I’m looking for a savior.  Most people I talk to are…

View original post 2,156 more words

Snarky HAH!!! Snippets

I bet you’re really surprised to find that Filosofa is once again feeling snarky, aren’t you?  I mean, whatever could possibly have set me off now?  The impeachment trial is going so well, Donald Trump is keeping his mouth closed and the republican senators are showing their wisdom and integrity and … gaaaakkk … I cannot even carry on that charade!  I’m making myself sick!  However, for the moment, I shan’t touch on the impeachment trial … perhaps later today.

Another 5-4 decision …

Well, I had held onto a thin thread of hope that the courts in this nation, especially the U.S. Supreme Court, would retain their independence, their integrity, even in the face of the Trump regime, but that hope is fading fast.

It started back in June 2018, the Supreme Court upheld Trump’s discriminatory travel ban against people from predominantly Muslim nations.  Since the text of Trump’s proclamation did not specifically say it was a ban against Muslims, though it was, Chief Justice John Roberts, along with four other justices, deemed it to be valid.

Since then, the Court has ruled to uphold numerous of Trump’s mandates that had been struck down repeatedly by the lower courts.  And then came yesterday where, once again, the Court proved in a 5-4 decision that they are no longer a non-partisan, fair and impartial branch of government.  The ruling allows his administration to implement a rule denying legal permanent residency to certain immigrants deemed likely to require government assistance in the future.  Now, the problem with this is multi-fold, but the first thing that jumps to mind for me is … who decides, and based on what criteria, which immigrants are “likely to require government assistance in the future”?

Do we trust ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) to apply a fair and equitable standard?  Ha ha ha ha ha!  ICE, the ones who happily separated children from their parents three years ago and unconscionably put them in cages, without bothering to do the due diligence to ensure that the children could be reunited with their parents at some point!

This policy is almost certain to become a wealth test … only the wealthiest will be allowed to apply for permanent residency (green card), for it is only wealthy people Trump has any use for.  Make no mistake … this is discriminatory on many levels, and the Justices who sit on the Supreme Court all know it.  Impartial?  Fair?  Honourable?  HAH!

The peacemaker???  HAH!!!

Question:  How can a ‘man’ who cannot even keep peace within his own nation, who has only further divided his own nation since taking office three years ago, possibly be the person to develop a peace plan for the most volatile area on the globe?

Answer:  He can’t.

Not only is he a divider rather than a peacemaker, but he does not understand, has never understood, and doesn’t care to learn the complexities of the Middle East.  And yet, he claims to have a plan that he will unveil at noon today.  Funny, Jared Kushner … whose only qualification to even set foot in the White House is his father-in-law’s claim to the Oval Office … was allegedly the one who drafted the ‘peace plan’.  Kushner, like his father-in-law, has experience as a shady business mogul … not any in government, history, or foreign affairs, and apart from the fact that he is Jewish, likely knows less about the Middle East than I do!

So, what’s in this ‘peace plan’ that Trump only presented to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu (another who is as corrupt as Trump himself) yesterday?  I don’t know, but according to an Israeli television report, it is “the most generous proposal ever presented to Israel.”  Speculation among Israeli media claims that it would pave the way for Israel’s annexation of virtually all settlements in the West Bank, which Israel has controlled since the Six-Day War of 1967, give Israel full sovereignty over Jerusalem, and make no major provision for returning Palestinian refugees.  That, my friends, would lead to all-out war.  But, again, that is speculative.  I understand that Trump/Kushner did not meet with Palestinians while preparing this plan.

A headline in Haaretz, a bi-lingual Israeli newspaper, raised my hackles …

Trump’s Peace Plan Means Settlements Are Permanent. Democrats, Get Used to It

And the article begins …

“Even when Democrats hold the White House again, they won’t be able to reverse the core terms of Trump’s Middle East peace plan, and U.S. leverage over Israel will have diminished.”

Part of me wants to tell Israel where to put it, walk away and leave them to their own devices.  My father was Jewish, and I was raised in a Jewish/Catholic household, but today I have no use for either of those religions.  The Jewish state has become arrogant, domineering, and cruel, stealing land from Palestinians, killing wantonly, and claiming it is their god-given right to do so.  However, for the U.S. to walk away would mean certain death for large numbers of Palestinians, because Netanyahu, like Donald Trump, cannot be trusted to place any value on any human life other than his own.

Time was that we had intelligent Middle-East experts in our government … experts that advised the president in areas of foreign policy and diplomacy.  They have all left now, and we are left with the pompous Pompeo, the ignorant, cruel Kushner, and Trump himself.  What could possibly go wrong?

A quiz …

I came across this interactive quiz in The Washington Post yesterday.  I found it fun and interesting, and thought you might, too, so check it out if you feel so inclined.

And Then There Were Two … More … Snarky Snippets

I have just two bits of snark … well, actually I have around 15, but I won’t make you listen to them all …

Remember when almost immediately after moving into the White House, Trump initiated a travel ban on people from seven predominantly Muslin nations?  The courts struck it down almost as quickly as he initiated it, and after much back and forth, he got some watered-down version of it.  Well, now he is considering another travel ban, this one expected to be implemented next Monday, to mark the 3-year anniversary of his original travel ban.  I am thoroughly confused by the countries he intends to include in this ban:

  • Belarus
  • Myanmar (also known as Burma)
  • Eritrea
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Nigeria
  • Sudan
  • Tanzania

I can see not one shred of justification for banning people coming from a single one of those nations, can you?  However, it is interesting to note that four of those countries are African nations.  Hmmm … nah, surely fair and equitable Trump wouldn’t discriminate based on something like skin colour … would he?  Yes, of course he would, and my guess is that for those four nations, that is precisely his reason.

I have read no less than 7 articles on this topic, trying to get a feel for the method behind the madness.  One article promised …

Trump’s call to dramatically expand the travel ban, explained

… but it lied … it explained nothing that I didn’t already know from the other articles.  Now, back in 2018, the Supreme Court affirmed that Trump has broad authority to restrict immigration where national security demands it. But to the best of anyone’s knowledge, these countries do not pose any threat to national security.  Every time somebody in Trump’s cadre mentions the threat of terrorism from the outside, I want to scream, for the terrorism we have experienced in the last several years has been domestic terrorism … homegrown nutcases.

So, I still puzzle over the connection of these seven nations, and why on earth he wishes to ban people coming to the U.S. from those countries.  I also, at this point, puzzle over why anybody from any other nation would even want to come to the U.S.  Take my word for it, folks … if you don’t have a good reason, you’d be better off going to almost anywhere but here!

It is interesting to note, however, that other, similar nations … nations where Trump, Inc. has businesses, say hotels, golf courses and the like … nations like Turkey, Egypt, Azerbaijan, United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Suadi Arabia are never mentioned in talk of a travel ban.  Hmmmmm …

This has largely flown under the radar, in the shadow of the impeachment trial and Trump’s trip to Davos, but I think it bears watching.

Yesterday, our friend Scott (sklawlor) sent me an article about a proposed bill in the Kentucky State Legislature, Senate Bill 89 that would give police new powers to stop people on the street and demand that they identify themselves and explain their actions, rather like New York’s stop-and-frisk laws that ended two years ago.  The program was highly discriminatory, with officers stopping disproportionately larger numbers of African-Americans and Hispanics than others.

By the end of the day, the Kentucky Senate bill had been withdrawn, but it left a bad taste in my mouth and disturbed both Scott and me that after the experience with stop-and-frisk in New York, any lawmakers would even consider such legislation.  So, I did a bit of digging … and … I was truly shocked to find that no less than 24 states … nearly half the states in the nation … have some form of “stop-and-identify” statutes!  So, in the following states, if you are walking down the street, you can be stopped by a police officer and forced to show identification and explain why you are walking down the bloody street!

Arizona Ari. Rev. Stat. Tit. 13, §2412 (enacted 2005) & Tit. 28, §1595
Arkansas Ark. Code Ann. [1]§ 5-71-213 – Loitering
Colorado Colo. Rev. Stat. §16-3-103(1)
Delaware Del. Code Ann., Tit. 11, §§1902, 1321(6)
Florida Fla. Stat. §901.151 (Stop and Frisk Law); §856.021(2) (loitering and prowling)
Georgia Ga. Code Ann. §16-11-36(b) (loitering)
Illinois Ill. Comp. Stat., ch. 725, §5/107-14
Indiana Indiana Code §34-28-5-3.5
Kansas Kan. Stat. Ann. §22-2402(1)
Louisiana La. Code Crim. Proc. Ann., Art. 215.1(A); La. Rev. Stat. 14:108(B)(1)(c)
Missouri (Kansas City Only) Mo. Rev. Stat. §84.710(2)
Montana Mont. Code Ann. §46-5-401
Nebraska Neb. Rev. Stat. §29-829
Nevada Nev. Rev. Stat. §171.123
New Hampshire N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. §594:2, §644:6
New Mexico N.M. Stat. Ann. §30-22-3
New York N.Y. Crim. Proc. Law Laws of New York → CPL §140.50 (requires suspicion of crime)
North Carolina State v Friend + N.C. Gen.Stat. § 14–223
North Dakota N.D. Cent. Code §29-29-21 (PDF)
Ohio Ohio Rev. Code §2921.29 (enacted 2006)
Rhode Island R.I. Gen. Laws §12-7-1
Utah Utah Code Ann. §77-7-15
Vermont Vt. Stat. Ann., Tit. 24, §1983
Wisconsin Wis. Stat. §968.24

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures and requires any warrant to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause.  After one lawsuit, Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial District Court of Nevada, made its way to the Supreme Court in 2003, the Court upheld the legality of officers stopping people so long as there was “reasonable and articulable suspicion of criminal involvement”.  Well, that’s probably fair enough … if you’re skin is pale and you speak flawless English.  But if you are black or brown, or speak with an accent … how fair do you suppose it is?

An August 16, 2019 article in the Los Angeles Times says that getting killed by police is a leading cause of death for young black men in America.

My friend Rob, an African-American, told me a couple of years ago that about half the time he drives downtown, he is pulled over for no reason or some minor reason … something a white person almost certainly would not have been pulled over for.  His son has been stopped more in the few short years he’s been driving than I have been in my entire lifetime.  After the blatant racism that has resulted in killings of unarmed black men by police – Michael Brown, Walter Scott, Alton Sterling, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Freddy Gray and more – do you trust police to act only when there is “probable cause”?

I don’t.

Okay friends … now that I’ve given you something to frown about, let me finish by giving you something to laugh at … well, sort of anyway.

Chief Justice John Roberts Speaks …

Yesterday Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts issued his annual year-end report on the federal judiciary.  The report is too long to replicate in its entirety, but there are a few salient points that are worth sharing.  A summary from the SCOTUS blog

The report began with the story of the Federalist Papers, which Roberts described as “America’s greatest civics lesson.” Roberts recounted how John Jay, one of the papers’ three authors along with Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, “shouldered the lightest load of the trio, producing only five of the articles.” “Perhaps if Jay had been more productive,” Roberts observed, “America might have rewarded him with a Broadway musical.” But the reality, Roberts explained, is that Jay had fewer contributions because he was injured by “a rock thrown by a rioter motivated by a rumor.”

From there, Roberts segued to the need for civic education: “In our age, when social media can instantly spread rumor and false information on a grand scale, the public’s need to understand our government, and the protections it provides, is ever more vital.” Roberts described various ways in which the “judges and staff of our federal courts are taking up the challenge” of the judiciary’s “important role to play in civic education.” Not only are judges issuing opinions, now online, that the public can read, but the judiciary is also developing educational programs for students and the general public, courthouses are hosting “learning centers” and judges are participating in naturalization ceremonies. (Roberts did not, however, mention the practice of some federal appeals courts of providing live audio or video of oral arguments, which the Supreme Court has resisted.) Roberts gave a shout-out to the “current Chief Judge of the District of Columbia Circuit” – Merrick Garland, who was nominated but never confirmed to fill the vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016 – for his longtime volunteer work as a tutor at a local elementary school.

Roberts also cited efforts beyond the judiciary, including the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia and the iCivics program founded by retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. (Referring to the video games created by iCivics, Roberts wryly observed that “[a]s they say, to reach people, you have to meet them where they are.”)

Roberts’ conclusion turned away from the topic of civic education to send a message to his fellow judges. Perhaps echoing his insistence in 2018 that there is no such thing as a “Trump judge” or an “Obama judge,” and with a docket full of hot-button issues for the Supreme Court to decide in the new year, Roberts urged his colleagues to “continue their efforts to promote public confidence in the judiciary, both through their rulings and through civic outreach.” “We should celebrate our strong and independent judiciary,” Roberts continued, “a key source of national unity and stability. But we should also remember,” he cautioned, “that justice is not inevitable. We should reflect on our duty to judge without fear or favor, deciding each matter with humility, integrity, and dispatch.”

Supreme-Court-2019.jpgThe Supreme Court is our last bastion against the corruption in Washington.  More than once in the past years, I have been very disappointed in the decisions of the Court.  The most disappointing, I think, was their ruling in the case of Citizens United v FEC in 2010, a ruling that left the door wide open for corporations and lobbyists to literally buy the votes of members of Congress.  And just last June, the Court ruled that federal courts are powerless to hear challenges to partisan gerrymandering … another disappointment.

With the additions of first Neil Gorsuch and later Brett Kavanaugh, two judges appointed by Trump, but recommended by the ultra-conservative Federalist Society, a group with entirely too much power in our government,  the Court has swung too far to the right, and many question whether at this point we still have a fully independent, non-partisan Judiciary Branch as the Founding Fathers intended.  Chief Justice Roberts’ words in his annual report are encouraging and seem to indicate that he sees more than we may think, but with many crucial cases on the docket for the new year, the proof will be, as they say, in the pudding.

Your Morning Dose Of Snarky Snippets …

Good Tuesday morn, friends!  The madness just never stops, does it?  Every day there is some new atrocity taking place in Washington, something new to set our teeth on edge and our blood pressure soaring.  I wonder if we will even get a break from it on Thanksgiving?  At least there is one upside … I never have to go looking for a topic to write about!  Snarky Snippets started out as a one-off … one day I had a number of notes on things I wanted to write of, but none were worthy of an entire post by themselves, so I decided to compile them into a ‘bits ‘n pieces’ type of post.  Perhaps a day will come when there is no snark, when I go back to reviewing books and writing humorous pieces.  I doubt it, though.

Off with his head!

Remember yesterday when I told you that the Secretary of the Navy, Richard Spencer, had threatened to resign if Trump had his way in attempting to micromanage the Navy and override Spencer’s decision to oust Edward Gallagher?  Well, it seems that Secretary Spencer displeased Donald Trump with his views, and you know what happens to any who have the courage to have a viewpoint that opposes Trump’s own whims … off with their heads!

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, a Trump sycophant since day #1, requested Secretary Spencer’s resignation.  In other words, Trump ordered him fired for not supporting Trump’s demand that the Navy fully reinstate Mr. Gallagher, despite his humiliating behaviour.  According to the New York Times

“In a statement, Mr. Esper said he had lost trust in Mr. Spencer because his private statements about the Navy SEAL case differed from what he advocated in public. But Defense Department officials said Mr. Spencer prompted the ire of Mr. Trump when he threatened to resign over the president’s handling of the case of the SEALs member, Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, and publicly said he disagreed with the president’s handling of the matter.”

So, there you have it folks … you speak against the whims of Trump, and … off with your head!off-with-his-head

She’s baaaaaack …

Sarah-cartoon-2Sarah Huckabee Sanders, former White House Press Secretary, is rather like a bad penny that just never goes away.  In her former position, she was a spectacular failure.  She presided over punishing Jim Acosta of CNN by suspending his White House access. She phased out the daily press briefings that in recent history have been the main way presidents answer to the public. Her legacy would be “defending the indefensible and not being truthful with the American people,” according to David Axelrod, a former top adviser to President Barack Obama.

As she left the White House for the final time, Trump said …

“I hope she decides to run for Governor of Arkansas — she would be fantastic. Sarah, thank you for a job well done!”

Well, guess what?  She recently told the New York Times that she believes she has “been called” to take up the mantle, to become the next Governor of Arkansas.  No word on just who ‘called’ her.

“There are two types of people who run for office. People that are called and people that just want to be a senator or governor. I feel like I’ve been called.”

All I can say is I’m glad I don’t live in Arkansas!  Sanders’ father, Mike Huckabee, was governor of Arkansas from 1996 to 2007, and I generally respected the man, though I rarely agreed with him.  Suffice it to say that Sarah is not the (wo)man her father was.

Where is the justice?

The House of Representatives has been trying to gain access to Trump’s tax returns and related financial records for months.  In April, the House Oversight Committee subpoenaed his longtime accounting firm Mazars LLP, for those records.  Last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled against Trump’s attempt to block Mazars from complying …

“Contrary to the President’s arguments, the Committee possesses authority under both the House Rules and the Constitution to issue the subpoena, and Mazars must comply. We conclude that in issuing the challenged subpoena, the Committee was engaged in a ‘legitimate legislative investigation.’”

Once again, justice prevailed … for a few short weeks.  Naturally, Trump’s lawyers filed an appeal.  There was only one place left for them to go … the U.S. Supreme Court.  And go there, they did.  And guess what, folks?  The Supreme Court bowed to “his majesty”.

Yesterday, at Trump’s request, the Supreme Court issued a stay of the mandate of the lower court.  Five justices signed the stay, and it is said that “no justice publicly noted any opposition”.  I can guess which five signed the document, and I can also guess why no opposition was noted.

SCOTUS-1.jpgThe stay is just that … it is good only until for ten days, until noon on December 5th.  If Trump’s lawyers fail to file a formal petition to the Supreme Court for a hearing on the case, the stay will expire, and Mazars will have to turn over the subpoenaed records.  Does anybody actually believe that will happen?  Y’know … the more he fights turning over his financial records, the more suspicious I become.  I am now fully convinced that those records would put an end to his presidency, and possibly even land him in prison, else he would have allowed them to be released before now.

If the person who should by all rights be held to the highest standards of accountability is above the law, then I think we can only conclude that there is no law in this nation.Trump-Liberty

Now that I’ve started your morning out with a bit of snark, go forth and share the snark!  Snarl at somebody wearing a red hat!

Will The Court Do The Right Thing?

Nearly a million young people may soon find themselves adrift, without a home or a job, and yet it is barely a blip on the radar, lost in the hoopla surrounding the impeachment proceedings.  Granted, the impeachment of a corrupt president is high priority, is perhaps the most important thing happening in this nation at the moment.  But, the lives of 700,000+ young people are pretty important, too.

Imagine you came to this country as a very young child … your first memories are of life in the United States.  You speak English, you went to school in this country, got an after-school job when you were 16, graduated high school with honours, and now you’re in college, studying to become a doctor, a teacher, or an accountant.  Your grades have earned you a partial scholarship, you are working nights at a food processing plant … and tomorrow it could all be taken away.  You could lose your job, be kicked out of school, and in fact be deported.

Deported?  To where?  You’ve never been outside the U.S. in your conscious memory!  This is your home!  You know nobody in the country of your parents’ origin.  What will you do?  How will you live?  You barely even speak Spanish!  And why?  What have you done wrong?  You’ve never even had so much as a parking ticket … you’ve lived your life well, respecting others, respecting the country that gave your family the opportunity for a better life.

More than 700,000 young people may face this situation soon, if he Supreme Court rules in Trump’s favour on the issue of ending DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy that has been in effect since 2012.  Yesterday, the Court heard arguments from both sides, and indications are that they will likely rule in Trump’s favour.

In 2012, President Barack Obama introduced the program, which shields people who were brought to the United States as children from deportation. It was intended as a stopgap measure, and didn’t provide a pathway to citizenship. But it did allow participants, known as Dreamers, to get work permits, and in some states, including California, to access in-state tuition and legally drive. Dreamers can renew their status in two-year intervals.

To be eligible for DACA status, applicants had to show that they had arrived in the United States before they turned 16 and were no older than 30, had lived in the United States for at least the previous five years, were a high school graduate or a veteran, and had committed no serious crimes. The status lasts for two years, allows recipients to work legally and is renewable, but it does not provide a path to citizenship.

In 2017, for reasons I cannot understand, Trump decided to end the program.  Trump had previously indicated his support for DACA, but it was the work of white supremacist Stephen Miller and racist former Attorney General Jeff Sessions that convinced Trump to end the program.  They claimed that the program was illegal and unconstitutional, and apparently Trump, never having read the Constitution, decided to end the program.  In his formal announcement to end the program, Trump wrote …

“I do not favor punishing children. The program is unlawful and unconstitutional and cannot be successfully defended in court.”

However, it has been successfully defended in court, not once, not twice, but three times.  Three federal appeals courts have ruled that when an administration revokes a policy like this, on which so many people, businesses and even the U.S. economy have relied, the administration must provide a fully supported rationale that weighs the pros and cons of the program, the costs and the benefits. Faced with those lower court decisions, the Trump administration appealed to the Supreme Court, where it now awaits its fate.

These young people have faced discrimination that nobody reading this post has likely ever faced. They are banned from many colleges, are not eligible for any federal grants or loans, and in most states,  they cannot even qualify for in-state tuition.  And yet thousands of them have graduated from college in the United States. How do they do it? The motivation of many of these students is so strong it is almost absurd.  And if Trump has his way, it may well be a death sentence for many of the 700,000.

Maria Nava, who graduated from high school in 2003, received no state aid. But her generous sister promised to contribute her own earnings to help put Nava through college. Trouble was, their combined earnings weren’t much. Nava used up the small private scholarships she earned as a top-ranking student. Most semesters, the sisters could afford just one class at Nava’s local community college. One class at a time. Nava graduated from her two-year college in 11 years.

If the Supreme Court overturns lower court injunctions and says Trump followed the law in rescinding DACA, not one of these amazing, accomplished young people will be able to work for a law-abiding employer in the United States.  After Nava’s 11 years at a two-year college, after more than 8,000 DACA teachers have been hired by U.S. school systems, after 14,000 DACA nurses and other professionals got jobs in health care — all who have jobs will have to be fired when their DACA expires. Those who are students will be ineligible for a job with a law-abiding employer.

I sincerely hope that there are five justices on the Supreme Court who have not exchanged their conscience for partisanship.  If the Court sides with Donald Trump & Stephen Miller on this issue, we will know that the Judiciary Branch of our government is no longer an independent, non-partisan branch, but rather an extension of the Executive Branch, currently led by a bigoted, corrupt, wanna-be dictator.

Ralph Nader Speaks …

Ralph Nader is an American political activist, author, lecturer, and attorney, noted for his involvement in consumer protection, environmentalism, and government reform causes.  I hadn’t heard anything from Nader for years, but he has a blog titled In the Public Interest where he writes once a week or so.

Nader has a long history of activism, which has been directly credited with the passage of several landmark pieces of American consumer protection legislation including the Clean Water Act, the Freedom of Information Act, the Consumer Product Safety Act, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the Whistleblower Protection Act, and the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act. He has been repeatedly named to lists of the “100 Most Influential Americans”, including those published by Life Magazine, Time Magazine, and The Atlantic, among others.

His latest entry came onto my radar yesterday, and I thought it was worth sharing … it is both a summation of where we are today, and a warning of where we may be heading.

From Trump Tower to Dictatorial Trump Power Over Law

ralph-naderBy Ralph Nader
August 30, 2019


Donald Trump is “dumb as a rock” (to use his phrase) when it comes to the programs and the policies of the federal government agencies over which he is allegedly presiding. However, when it comes to defending and expanding his own political power, Trump is shameless and profoundly cunning.

Trump turns accurate appraisals of himself into accusations that he levies at others. Earlier this month, he questioned whether Joe Biden “is mentally fit to be president.” 

But Trump has found way to spread his toxicity beyond his lying tweets. He has carefully developed formidable barricades to shield himself from the gathering storm regarding his countless impeachable offenses and other serious misbehaviors.

Trump’s remarks, decisions, and asides reveal his plans to stay in office. Trump heaps praise and extra funding on the military. In his travels, Trump likewise incessantly praises the police regardless of the local situations.  Trump has openly said these constituencies are the core foundation against his adversaries that will keep him in office. His White House will keep the military and the police very well endowed.

He also makes sure that big business is happy with him. Some of the bosses are getting anxious about the uncertainty associated with Trump’s use of tariffs and his caustic remarks about leaders of the countries where U.S. companies do business. However, Trump knows that as long as he cuts corporate taxes; deregulates health, safety, and economic requirements on Wall Street; and continues the crony capitalism of subsidies, handouts, and bailouts; the corporate bosses will continue to pay obeisance to Trump.

Manipulating the mass media is child’s play for Trump. He taunts them about how they have to give him top billing because of the profitable ratings his performances brings them. Some in the mass media, nonetheless, expose his wrongdoing with thorough features. Trump, though irritated, ignores these exposés and repels them like water off a duck’s back. It’s all “fake news,” he shouts. His approval polls, though lower than previous presidents, stay firm. So far Trump has faced no real consequences from the revelations of his misdeeds.

The courts, meanwhile, are Donald’s Trump card for endless delays. Who has been sued as president more than Trump? Over two and a half years into his term, litigation against Trump grinds on. Nobody knows how long these court actions will take, what with Trump’s delay tactics and appeals. The top appeal is to the Supreme Court which he believes is 5 to 4 for him on just about everything relating to runaway presidential power and immunities. Trump has appointed 146 judges while in office, including two Supreme Court justices. Trump’s chosen Supreme Court justices are partisan actors who will suit his purposes nicely—it is as if they came from “central casting” for him. Trump has declared unlimited presidential pardon powers, musing that he could even pardon himself.

Labor unions are another big joke to Trump. As they decline, Trump reminds the pro-Democratic Party union leaders that many of their rank and file members voted for him. A troublingly large minority of union workers—over a third— defected to Trump’s camp in 2016, enough to make the union leaders skittish about seriously confronting him.

That leaves the Congress with which he toys. The Republicans are frightened chickens in a coop, peering out at the insatiable Fox. When they look back at their place in history, they’ll have to squint. Sycophants all, except for the late Rep. Walter Jones and Rep. Justin Amash.

As for the Democrats, Trump is blocking subpoenas and orders for witnesses to testify. Trump is also turning down major demands for documents from several House Congressional Committees. Exercising their constitutional authority to oversee the executive branch, the Committee Chairs are filing one law suit after another. Trump laughs and tells his attorneys to keep stonewalling and appealing—which can mean years. That’s how he operated during his sordid failed business career.

Donald Trump, selected by the Electoral College, is daring the Democrats to impeach him. He knows Democrats are divided and can use the Republican dominated Senate as an excuse for inaction. Of course impeachment is a constitutional duty for the House, not a simple political calculation. It is certainly warranted for the most impeachable president in American history.

Trump is thumbing his nose at Democrats daily, blocking oversight, allocating appropriated funds by executive dictate, brazenly freezing enforcement the laws or revoking regulations that protect the health, safety, and economic wellbeing of the American people, enriching himself through emoluments, and also casting aside the Constitution and the rule of law regarding his military and foreign policy aggressions.

Trump has neutralized our country’s checks and balances and separation of powers, including judicial accountability. He adds to his monarchal presidency by unleashing the Republican Party’s suppression of the vote and other electoral shenanigans.

If the law ever catches up to Trump, he has many toadies who are willing to engage in “wag the dog” distractions. They are his war-hawk on steroids, national security advisor lawless John Bolton and the militaristic Secretary of State Michael Pompeo who travels the world threatening half of it. The new Secretary of Defense, from the Raytheon Corporation, presents no restraint in contrast to his predecessor Jim Mattis, cashiered by Trump.

If Trump wins, America loses. The outcome is up to you in November 2020. Be alert and prepared for tumultuous upheavals should Trump lose by a narrow margin.

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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.