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.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Cracking Up

The wall that Mitch McConnell put up to block any Supreme Court appointment, built before the late Antonin Scalia was even buried, is showing some cracks.

When President Obama first nominated Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, Senate Republicans were united in their wall of opposition — no meetings, no hearing, no vote.

And while Garland’s path remains a very uphill battle, some Republicans are starting to shift their tone.

Two weeks into the nomination fight, 16 Republican senators now say they will meet with Garland — over 25 percent of the GOP caucus — according to a running count by NBC News.

That includes senators up for re-election in Blue States, such as New Hampshire’s Kelly Ayotte and Illinois’ Mark Kirk, who will be the first Republican to actually meet with Garland when they talk Tuesday.

[…]

According to Garland’s boosters and some GOP strategists, Republicans are abandoning opposition to meetings because it could make them appear obstructionist — or even rude.

“Mitch McConell’s knee-jerk response after Justice Scalia’s death is a public relations debacle for the Republican Party,” said former McCain strategist Steve Schmidt.

To defeat a presidential nomination, Schmidt suggested, it is usually better to “derail it slowly over time” — not announce blanket opposition up front.

Well, that last thing the Republicans want to be seen as is rude.  Oh, my.

This doesn’t mean that Judge Garland’s nomination will go anywhere; they could politely meet with him and then go about their business as if President Blackguy’s term was already over and whatever he did doesn’t count.  But at least they’re going to meet with him, which, in this environment, is better than getting the door slammed in his face.

I would never wish for any kind of natural disaster like a flood or a tornado to hit the state of Kentucky — it is springtime when things like that happen — and Sen. McConnell is in need of a federal disaster declaration from the president:

“Oh, gee, Mitch, I’d love to help, but according to you, I can’t do my job during an election year.  Let’s wait until the next president is in office, okay?” [Click.]

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Well Played, Mr. President

Charlie Pierce on the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court and the Republicans reaction to it:

They’re in a tough spot. Merrick Garland is an almost universally respected jurist who no less than Orrin Hatch has praised fulsomely on a number of different occasions. In fact, it can be argued that the president flipped the script on Hatch. Oh, Merrick Garland is somebody for whom you could vote? Cool beans, O.H. I happen to have Merrick Garland right here.

Mr. Obama demanded a fair hearing for Judge Garland and said that refusing to even consider his nomination would provoke “an endless cycle of more tit for tat” that would undermine the democratic process for years to come. “I simply ask Republicans in the Senate to give him a fair hearing, and then an up or down vote,” Mr. Obama said. “If you don’t, then it will not only be an abdication of the Senate’s constitutional duty, it will indicate a process for nominating and confirming judges that is beyond repair.”

So it’s a masterpiece of trolling from a guy who’s become very, very good at that. I understand the frustration of the president’s progressive supporters at the idea of a 60-ish white guy replacing a 70-ish dead white guy on the Supreme Court. (I would’ve preferred Jane Kelly from the Eighth Circuit, who already had heads exploding.) I’m sure there were several dozen more diverse, and clearly no-more-fcks-to-give, choices he could’ve made. But Garland’s work as a supervising DOJ attorney in the Oklahoma City bombing case intrigues me, and it is likely to light up the far distant precincts of wingnuttia as well. At the very least, he’s aware of the wildness loose in the country. He seems moderate and judicious and very unlikely to stray too far out of bounds from what this president and his supporters think a Supreme Court justice should be. His opinions on the appellate rights of criminal defendants could use some work, but he’s not likely to join with the likes of Samuel Alito to take an ax to things like the Miranda decision. He’s not a law’n’order guy. Tom Goldstein of the invaluable SCOTUSBlog put together a solid compendium of Garland’s record the last time his name arose to fill a vacancy on the Court, when Garland was passed over in favor of Justice Elena Kagan.

All of which is, for the moment, anyway, moot. This is a purely tactical move, and it’s an awfully good one. Right now, Republican senators are saying that they won’t even take one-on-one meetings with the guy, let alone give him a committee vote, let alone give him a confirmation vote in the Senate. This was precisely the reaction the president was hoping for, although he didn’t exactly have to be Nostradamus to make this play. But I want to know more about this comic book collection.

“[SCOTUS nominee Merrick Garland] put himself through Harvard Law School by working as a tutor, by stocking shoes in a shoe store, and in what is always a painful moment for any young man, by selling his comic book collection,” Obama said. “It’s tough. [I’ve] been there.”

Hey, at least Garland cashed in. My mother threw all of mine out when I went away to college. I coulda been somebody. I coulda had class. I coulda had a cool robe and a lifetime job.

I am sure that Judge Garland knew from the moment he picked up the phone from the White House that he was being nominated as part of a Jedi mind trick on behalf of the president.  Now that Mitch McConnell has backed himself into the corner and tucked his head under his carapace, getting confirmed by this Senate is problematic at best.

The GOP is already dragging Robert Bork out of this crypt to say “Hey, you Democrats did the same thing to him!”  No, actually Judge Bork got a hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee where he was able to elaborate on his 18th century views of women and minority rights.  The committee voted 9-5 against him, but they let the nomination go to the full Senate where he was rejected.  But he got a vote.  If the Republicans want to bork Judge Garland, they have to let him at least get to a hearing.

Judge Garland doesn’t appear to be the icon of a campaign on the part of the DNC, the DNSCC, or any of the other lobbying groups that are already inundating my in-box with appeals to sign the petitions to get the Senate Republicans to confirm him (oh, and toss some coin in the hat while you’re at it), but if they and the Senate Democrats follow the lead of the president and act as if there’s a snowball’s chance that they can slip in through the cracks that are already appearing in the Republicans’ wall of No.  There are at least five senators who are up for re-election in the fall who are already on shaky ground at home and who could be vulnerable to an ad campaign featuring an ominous chorus of “O Fortuna” and the image of a slamming door.  Let’s see how long this laugh-line about “let the voters decide” lasts when it looks like the voters could vote those senators into their next gig as a lobbyist or talking head on Fox.

Short Takes

Merrick Garland is President Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court.

American ISIS fighter is a “gold mine” for U.S. intelligence.

U.S. hits North Korea with new sanctions for nuclear tests.

Denmark regains its standing as the “happiest nation.”

What if Fox had a debate and nobody came?

R.I.P. Frank Sinatra, Jr., 72.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Supreme Sacrifice

President Obama may name his choice for the vacancy on the Supreme Court as early as today.

WASHINGTON — President Obama is close to a decision on a Supreme Court nominee based purely on qualifications and experience, White House officials insisted on Monday, but the president’s allies said that political considerations — including whether a nominee had an easily defensible record or appeal to Republicans — were clearly part of Mr. Obama’s calculus.

Speculation now centers on three potential nominees, all federal circuit court judges: Sri Srinivasan, 49, who was confirmed in 2013 with a 97-to-0 vote; Merrick B. Garland, 63, a moderate who has been a finalist in Mr. Obama’s previous Supreme Court searches; and Paul J. Watford, 48, a judge on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California.

[…]

Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, said Mr. Obama must decide whether to pick a “grand-slam” candidate — one like Judge Srinivasan, who is young, moderate and could have a profound effect on the court — or a “sacrifice fly,” like Judge Watford, an impressive judge whose positions on the death penalty and immigration would draw criticism from conservatives but whose nomination could exact a political price from Republicans who oppose him.

“The Obama White House are the ultimate practitioners of realpolitik — they have to be making a careful calculus, but the real question is not how do they win, it’s what game are they playing?” Mr. Turley said.

I don’t think anyone is in favor of picking someone solely on the basis of daring the Senate not to confirm them — as if Clarence Thomas wasn’t picked to replace Thurgood Marshall based on that consideration — but that’s what’s happening here.  And as I noted before, the one distinction that the nominee will have is that ten years from now they will be the answer to a presidential trivia question.

However… if the Republicans are so insistent that the “American voters have a say,” which they already did in 2012 when President Obama was re-elected, the Democrats could parlay the GOP obstructionism to their advantage.  Let the vulnerable Senate Republican incumbents run against an energized Democratic base, especially if the candidate is Donald Trump, and see how willing they are to sacrifice their career for a party that is basically saying “the N- don’t get to choose.”

Friday, March 11, 2016

Playing The Right Way

The Republicans claim that President Obama is “playing politics” with the Supreme Court vacancy by having the nerve to tell them that he will nominate someone to the court despite the GOP’s firm stand against him because he’s not really the president any more, or, to some of them, never was.  Besides, if you want to play politics, you have to really do it right.

Like this guy:

“It’s a different situation,” Johnson said. “Generally, and this is the way it works out politically, if you’re replacing — if a conservative president’s replacing a conservative justice, there’s a little more accommodation to it.”

That’s how it’s done, folks.

I can’t wait until Russ Feingold whips his ass.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Just Doing Their Job

Oh, look, the Senate Judiciary Committee is planning to do something.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said the Senate Judiciary Committee will have a “full-blown debate” Thursday on whether to hold a hearing on a Supreme Court nomination.

“If you want to hear a full-blown debate on this issue, I think we’ll probably have one before our committee tomorrow while we’re also considering three of four judges and a piece of legislation as well,” he said.

A spokeswoman for the Senate Judiciary Committee said the debate is expected to take place during the committee’s regularly scheduled business meeting in the morning. The judges being considered are to fill vacancies on the United States Court of International Trade and the United States District Court of Hawaii.

Grassley, the Judiciary Committee chair, made the announcement during an oversight hearing of the U.S. Department of Justice at which Attorney General Loretta Lynch testified on Wednesday morning.

Grassley was responding to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who criticized Republicans for meeting behind closed doors and voting to block any Obama nominee without any input from Democrats.

In other words, they’re going to have a “full-blown debate” about whether or not they’re going to do their job.

I used to work with a guy who made elaborate plans to arrange meetings to decide if we should have a meeting to discuss meeting about getting right on a particular task.  The boss eventually got around to firing him.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Sacrificial Lamb

Via the New York Times:

WASHINGTON — President Obama is vetting Jane L. Kelly, a federal appellate judge in Iowa, as a potential nominee for the Supreme Court, weighing a selection that could pose an awkward dilemma for her home-state senator Charles E. Grassley, who has pledged to block the president from filling the vacancy.

The F.B.I. has been conducting background interviews on Judge Kelly, 51, according to a person with knowledge of the process. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the White House is closely guarding details about Mr. Obama’s search to fill the opening created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

And I’m sure the White House told her not to sell her house in Iowa or even plan to rent in D.C. because no matter how qualified she is or how awkward it might be for Chuck Grassley, she’s not going to even be seen by the Senate Judiciary Committee because the Republicans are a bunch of sniveling assholes.

The only thing that she can look forward to is being the answer to a trivia question in ten years.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016