Thursday, March 23, 2017

Short Takes

Five dead in attack outside U.K. Parliament.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) says there’s “more than circumstantial evidence” on Trump/Russia connection.

GOP healthcare bill in doubt.

Tough questions for Neil Gorsuch on Bush torture policy.

Arctic winter sea ice drops to lowest level ever recorded.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Let’s Play Dodgeball

I caught a few minutes of Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) questioning Neil Gorsuch at his Senate Judiciary Committee hearing yesterday afternoon, including the part where Mr. Franken asked him point-blank where he stood on marriage equality.

Sen. Franken asked Judge Gorsuch how he felt volunteering to help re-elect President George W. Bush knowing that same-sex couples were facing having their relationships attacked as unequal.

“The amendments sent a clear message to lesbian and gay couples that their unions were not equal in the eyes of the law,” Franken said. “How’d you feel about the right to marry being put to the popular vote?”

Dodging, and saying he didn’t remember any involvement in the push to ban marriage, Gorsuch was then asked how he felt about marriage being banned for same-sex couples.

“My personal views? Any revelation of my personal views on this matter would indicate to people how I might rule as a judge – mistakenly, but it might,” Gorsuch insisted.

After reading a statement made by Ken Mehlman, who came out as gay several years ago, Franken asked Gorsuch how his views on marriage have changed since the 2004 election.

“Senator, my personal views, if I were to begin speaking about my personal views on this subject which every American has views on, would send a misleading signal to the American people – ”

“It is settled law,” Franken interjected.”

“It is absolutely settled law,” Gorsuch acknowledged. “There’s ongoing litigation about its application, and its impact, right now, and I cannot begin to share my personal views without suggesting mistakenly – ”

Franken again interjected and moved on.

This whole kabuki of asking a Supreme Court nominee a question like that isn’t to get him or her to come out and actually make a statement.  We all know that they’re going to dodge the questions just as Mr. Gorsuch did.  We saw that from every nominee going all the way back to Sandra Day O’Connor, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a nominee from a Democratic president — assuming they even get a hearing — or a Republican.

So why bother?  Why go through all of this ritual knowing that they will hedge and dodge and then once they’re on the court do exactly what the president who appointed him and the groups that backed him hired him to do?  Once he’s on the court it’s too late; he can’t be fired.  (It should be noted that presidents of both parties have been sandbagged by their own appointees.)

In this case I don’t think it’s aimed at Judge Gorsuch so much as it is at the senators who will vote to confirm his appointment.  I fully expect the Republicans to back him all the way, but I will be interested to hear from any Democrats who vote in favor of him how they can justify their vote after what the Republicans did to Barack Obama and Merrick Garland.  I’d like to see how they dodge that question.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Short Takes

F.B.I. confirms probe into Trump-Russia connection.

Neil Gorsuch goes before Senate committee.

U.S. to ban electronics on certain flights to and from the Middle East.

Stephen Hawking fears he may not be welcome in Trump’s America.

R.I.P David Rockefeller, 101, last grandchild of John D. Rockefeller.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Short Takes

Kim Jong-nam killed by VX nerve agent.

Arms Race: Trump calls for U.S. nuclear supremacy.

Hang in there, RBG — Ruth Bader Ginsburg says she’ll stay on SCOTUS as long as she can.

Miami-Dade and Broward schools to keep protections for transgender students.

Cheap Seats — Airlines’ no-frills flying taking off.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Court 3, Trump 0

The short version of the ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals is that the Government can’t ban people from coming into the country based on the principle of “because we say so.”

A US appeals court has rejected President Donald Trump’s attempt to reinstate his ban on visitors from seven mainly Muslim countries.

The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals said it would not block a lower-court ruling that halted the order.

Mr Trump responded with an angry tweet saying national security was at risk and there would be a legal challenge.

But the unanimous 3-0 ruling said the government had not proved the terror threat justified the ban.

“The government has pointed to no evidence that any alien from any of the countries named in the Order has perpetrated a terrorist attack in the United States,” the ruling said.

It also rejected the argument that the president had sole discretion to set immigration policy.

“Rather than present evidence to explain the need for the executive order, the government has taken the position that we must not review its decision at all,” said the ruling. “We disagree, as explained above.”

Donald Trump’s lawyers did not make their case. In fact, according to three Ninth Circuit judges, they didn’t even really try to make their case. Rather than explaining why the temporary travel ban was needed, the administration argued that the president’s authority on immigration was so sweeping that they didn’t have to explain why the order was necessary.

According to the court, the government was unable to say why Mr Trump’s ban addressed a pressing national security threat that a temporary stay of the order would worsen. The lawyers for the challenging states, on the other hand, convinced the judges that re-imposing the order at this point would create further chaos by infringing on the due process rights of those on US soil, regardless of their immigration status.

By issuing a unanimous, unsigned opinion, the judges avoid accusations of partisan bias, as one of the three was a Republican appointee.

Mr Trump tweeted a sharp “SEE YOU IN COURT” following the decision.

The case will most likely go to the Supreme Court, and it will take a vote of five of the justices to overturn the lower court ruling.  Since there are only eight justices on the court — four liberal and four conservatives — chances aren’t too good that Trump will prevail.  In fact, that’s one of the reasons the court ruled to uphold the lower court: the Government did not prove that it would likely prevail.

In the spirit of our fearless leader, “NEENER NEENER.”

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Save Us A Seat

Mother Jones has the background on Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court.

An Oxford and Harvard grad, Gorsuch, 49, is also one of the youngest sitting federal judges on Trump’s list—a selling point for a president looking to leave a lasting legacy on the court. He is a conservative in the mold of the late Justice Antonin Scalia and is considered an “originalist” who tries to interpret the law as the Founders would have. Also in his column: As one of the 10th Circuit judges who ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby against the Obama administration—exempting the company from federal requirements to provide employees with insurance plans that included free contraceptive coverage—his religious-right bona fides are solid.

But hard-core anti-abortion activists have been lobbying against Gorsuch and recently asked Trump to consider judges with a more proven record of anti-abortion advocacy from the bench. Andrew Schlafly, son of the late conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly, recently sent out an alert to supporters arguing that Gorsuch is “NOT pro-life” because he wrote an opinion noting his obligation to follow court precedent. Schlafly sees adherence to precedent as a deal-breaker and a sign that a judge won’t overturn Roe.

All that is very nice and I’m sure he’s probably very qualified, at least as far as his legal training and background, but I suggest that Senate Democrats give him the same due consideration that the last Senate gave President Obama’s nominee to fill the vacancy.

We have about 1,300 days until the next presidential election, so I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t wait until America chooses a president to fill the seat, and any Democrat who votes to confirm Mr. Gorsuch should be have his ass primaried by a real Democrat next time he or she comes up for election.

And every time Mitch McConnell or John McCain or some other whiny or harrumphing obstructionist takes to the airwaves to complain about the Democrats playing politics with the Court or disrupting America’s business, we laugh in his face and reply “Merrick Garland.”

Short Takes

Trump picks Neil Gorsuch for Supreme Court.

Senate Democrats boycott two cabinet hearings, delaying vote.

California legislature considers statewide “sanctuary” law.

Homeland Security chief says he knew Trump immigrant ban was coming.

Trump state visit to Britain “difficult” for the Queen.

Israel not happy over Iran missile test.

Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit.

Friday, November 4, 2016

That Was Then, This Is Now

As I noted the other day, the Republicans are hell-bent on preventing a Democratic president from filling a vacancy on the Supreme Court.  And as I noted, that’s a bad idea.

It’s nice to find someone in the Senate who agrees with me on that.

Obstructing votes on Presidential nominees threatens the future of our judicial system and the nature of the Supreme Court. You see, I am not sure that many Americans have stopped to think: Well, what happens if this is exercised for Supreme Court Justices? Because I believe in the next several years we will have one or two or possibly more Supreme Court nominees to consider.

That’s Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC).  Wow, a staunch Republican up for re-election in 2016 who is bucking his party’s stand.  I’m impressed.

Oh, wait.  That was in 2005 when he was worried that the Democrats would be the ones holding the Court’s vacancies hostage.  Today he’s saying that it would be fine with him if the Senate didn’t replace Scalia ever.

If Hillary becomes president, I’m going to do everything I can do to make sure that four years from now, we’re still going to have an opening on the Supreme Court.

As President Obama asked, “What, only Republican Presidents get to nominate judges? Is that in the Constitution? I used to teach constitutional law. I’ve never seen that provision.”

HT to Steve Benen.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Three Little Words Again

Back in June of 2004 I wrote:

So while presidents may come and go, their legacy lives on after them and the consequences of a Supreme Court vacancy can change the course of the nation. Anyone who may have doubts about John Kerry or quibble with his stand on the war in Iraq should keep three little words in mind when they go into the voting booth in November: The Supreme Court.

We’ve had more than 200 days to consider the fact that Antonin Scalia’s corpse was still warm when the Republicans announced that they would basically say fuck their constitutionally mandated responsibility; we’re not voting on another one of President Obama’s picks for the Supreme Court until after the election in November, if then.  Now there are those who are saying that they won’t vote on any of Hillary Clinton’s appointees ever.

As Ilya Shapiro at The Federalist smugly notes, the Republicans are fully within their rights to do so because neener neener nyah nyah:

Clinton’s admission that her nominees would “be in the grand tradition of standing up to the powerful”—like some black-robed community organizers—is far more damning than her nonsensical positions on Heller (Second Amendment) or Citizens United (declining to punish producers of a movie criticizing Hillary Clinton).

Should senators rubber-stamp judicial nominees of that ilk, who care not about the law but rather hew to particular policies, out of a sense of tradition or deference to the executive? I simply can’t blame politicians who follow their convictions. If you truly believe that a particular nominee would wreak havoc on America, why not do everything you can to stop him?

[…]

So when you get past the gotcha headlines, breathless reportage, and Inauguration Day, if Hillary Clinton is president it would be completely decent, honorable, and in keeping with the Senate’s constitutional duty to vote against essentially every judicial nominee she names.

There is a simple way to solve this problem and get the Court back to its full complement of justices: elect more Democrats to the Senate than Republicans and get a vote on the nominees.  It would be nice to get more than 60 Democrats elected so that there wouldn’t have to be a fight over the filibuster rule, but we’ll take as many as we can get.  That’s why it’s important to beat Marco Rubio here in Florida, Richard Burr in North Carolina, Roy Blount in Missouri, Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire, and Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania; those at the very least.

Because if we don’t and the Republicans have their way, we could be looking at ten years — assuming Hillary Clinton wins a second term — between the time Justice Scalia checked out and his replacement is seated, and that’s assuming that no one else leaves the Court, either of their own volition or via the hand of the supporting role in Bergman’s “The Seventh Seal.”

Your move, voters.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Short Takes

Wages shot up in 2015 with the biggest hike since 2007.

U.S. bombers send message to China, Russia, and North Korea.

Florida Zika outbreak hits 70 cases.

Supreme Court rejects early voting in Ohio.

NCAA pulls tournament games from North Carolina over bathroom bill.

Tropical Update: TS Julia heads north over northern Florida into Georgia.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Short Takes

Supreme Court blocks transgender bathroom rule for now.

President Obama commutes sentences for over 200 federal inmates.

Jetliner explodes, burns on Dubai runaway; no casualties.

GOP allies plan “intervention” for Trump.

Tropical Update: TS Earl heads for Belize.

The Tigers beat the White Sox 2-1; streak hits 8.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Do The Math

3 + 1 = 4.  5 > 4.

On Monday, the Supreme Court handed down arguably the most important abortion-rights ruling in a generation, prompting the Republican presidential hopeful to say … literally nothing. To the consternation of some of his social-conservative allies, Trump acted as if the court’s decision didn’t exist, offering no response in speeches, interviews, or social media.

It took a few days, but this morning the presumptive GOP nominee broke his unexpected silence in an interview with conservative radio host Mike Gallagher.

“Now if we had Scalia was living, or if Scalia was replaced by me, you wouldn’t have had that, OK? It would’ve been the opposite.”

Actually, no, it wouldn’t have. This week’s ruling was actually a 5-3 decision. Yes, Antonin Scalia’s passing meant the Supreme Court was down one justice, but it doesn’t take a mathematician to know 3 + 1 does not equal 5.  Remember, the decision was on Monday, and today’s Thursday. Trump and his team had three days to come up with the candidate’s response to a major court ruling, and this is what they came up with.

Actually, it’s not even math.  It’s arithmetic.

What this suggests is that Mr. Trump really doesn’t give a shit about appointing a conservative to the Supreme Court because of how he would rule on abortion.  (And trust me, Mr. Trump would nominate a man.  Preferably a white one.)  He would appoint someone to the Supreme Court who would do his bidding.  Don’t like a ruling on something?  Put in a guy who will rule the way you want him to or will at least listen when he picks up the phone and tells him to vote a certain way.  That’s how he operates.  The concept of separation of powers is, in his words, wrong, very wrong.  What is the point of being president if you can’t have your people doing what you want them to do?

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

It’s A Drugstore, Not A Church

A divided Supreme Court turns down a case of religious discrimination.

Ralph’s Thriftway is a grocery store and pharmacy in Washington run by a religious family. It is not a church, or a church-affiliated nonprofit; it is a for-profit business, created and designed to make money for the Stormans. But the Stormans family are devout Christians who believe that Plan B is “tantamount to abortion” and thus refuse to stock it. For years, when customers came to the pharmacy seeking emergency contraception, the Stormans turned them away.

But in 2007, the Washington State Board of Pharmacy issued new regulations declaring that a pharmacy may not “refuse to deliver a drug or device to a patient because its owner objects to delivery on religious, moral, or other personal grounds.” Quite reasonably, the board felt Washington pharmacies should not be permitted to deny patients safe, legal drugs—which was a growing problem within the state: In addition to Plan B, religious pharmacists had refused to give patients diabetic syringes, insulin, HIV-related medications, and Valium. That, the board decided, was unacceptable. Pharmacists have every right to believe whatever they wish, but when those beliefs are manifested in the form of brazen discrimination against customers, they cannot be sanctioned by the law. In 2015, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the constitutionality of Washington’s regulation.

Alito, along with Thomas and Roberts, sees Stormans differently. “There are strong reasons to doubt,” Alito writes, “whether the regulations … actually serve … any legitimate purpose.” What? Clear as day, the Washington regulations ensure that patients can receive timely access to necessary medications without facing discrimination. In what world are safeguards against discrimination in goods and services not even a legitimate interest? Alito’s world, it turns out. Neither he, Roberts, nor Thomas thinks refusal of service is a big deal when patients can hop back in their cars (presuming they have them) and drive to the nearest pharmacy that will deign to provide them with the proper medication. (Live in rural Washington? Hope you can find another pharmacy before the Plan B window closes!)

The simple lesson is that if you want to run a business that is free to discriminate against other people based on your religious beliefs, open a megachurch.  It’s a real money-maker and you won’t even have to pay taxes.

Religious Freedom Ends 05-10-16

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Short Takes

Supreme Court strikes down restrictive abortion rights.

Supreme Court upholds ban on gun sales to those convicted of domestic violence.

U.K. politics in meltdown after Brexit.

Volkswagen agrees to settle U.S. emissions scandal for $14.7 billion.

Clinton and Warren hit the campaign trail in Ohio.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Monday, June 20, 2016

That Would Be Fun

Via the Washington Examiner:

Justice Clarence Thomas, a reliable conservative vote on the Supreme Court, is mulling retirement after the presidential election, according to court watchers.

Thomas, appointed by former President George H.W. Bush and approved by the Senate after a bitter confirmation, has been considering retirement for a while and never planned to stay until he died, they said. He likes to spend summers in his RV with his wife.

His retirement would have a substantial impact on control of the court. The next president is expected to immediately replace the seat opened by the death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, providing a one-vote edge in the court that is currently divided 4-4.

Should Thomas leave, that slight majority would continue if Donald Trump becomes president. If it’s Hillary Clinton, then she would get the chance to flip two Republican seats, giving the liberals a 6-3 majority.

And then we’ll hear the Republicans say that we have to wait until the next election…

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Short Takes

Supreme Court to hear two death penalty cases.

President Obama is itching to campaign for Hillary Clinton.

Fed Chair Yellen speech suggests that they’re rethinking interest rate hike.

R.I.P. Peter Shaffer, playwright.

Tropical Update: TS Colin triggers a state of emergency in central and panhandle counties in Florida.

The Tigers beat the Blue Jays 11-0.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Short Takes

Austria: The racist xenophobic right-wing candidate narrowly lost the presidential election.

Baltimore: One of six officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray was acquitted in a bench trial.

The U.S. Supreme Court tossed the conviction of a black man found guilty by an all-white juror based on overwhelming evidence of racism.

That’s Hot: Temperatures in India hit 123.8 F.

Tropical Update: It’s a little early, but there’s something brewing in the ocean.

The Tigers beat the Phillies 5-4.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Short Takes

The Supreme Court punted on the Obamacare contraception case.

Venezuela is in a state of emergency as the oil-based economy craters.

Oregon and Kentucky have Democratic primaries today.

Number of police killings fell in 2015, reversing 2014 spike.

Cancer patient receives penis transplant.