Nel's New Day

September 17, 2018

Court Rulings Mostly Right Wrongs

Election Day is only 50 days away, and the GOP continues its attempts at voter suppression. In an honest move that may cause them to lose the 2018 North Carolina election, progressive groups Common Cause and the League of Women Voters that won the redrawing of gerrymandered districts said that there was not enough time to complete the task in the next two months. The contortions of district lines caused the state to have 10 of 13 seats in the U.S. House with only 53 percent of the vote.

The majority in a panel of three judges from the 9th Circuit, two appointed by George W. Bush, upheld Arizona laws that prevent anyone except a family member, caretaker, or postal worker from turning ballots into elections officials and blocked out-of-precinct voting. The decision is especially onerous for Native Americans who are many miles from both voting precincts and post offices. As usual, the fake reason for the law is to avoid voter fraud, but the rationale comes from white entitlement and lack of understanding about other cultures and living conditions. The decision will be appealed to the full court but stays in effect for the upcoming election.

A Missouri judge made Republicans happy when he removed a redistricting measure for this fall’s ballot.

Yet not all bodes well for Republicans in court decisions.

Federal prosecutors have postponed their demand that North Carolina state and local elections officials give them well over 20 million ballots, poll books, and voter authorization forms going back almost nine years by September 25. Subpoenas also required photo images of voters, and subpoenas to the state DMV required DMV voter registration documents and those completed in a language other than English from both citizens and people not born in the U.S. Almost 2.3 million absentee ballots could be traced back to individual voters which caused privacy concerns. The subpoenas for these records cited ICE and a grand jury in Wilmington as the source for the demand after U.S. Attorney Bobby Higdon announced charges against 19 non-U.S. citizens for illegal voting. A state audit counted 41 non-U.S. citizens acknowledged voting out of 4.8 million ballots. Higdon hopes to get the documents in January 2019.

A court in North Carolina also ruled in favor of expanding Gov. Roy Cooper’s authority to make certain appointments, ruling that the legislators had overstepped their authority and violated the separation of powers’ requirement. When Cooper was elected, the GOP legislature immediately passed several laws to restrict his abilities compared to that of his GOP predecessor.

For the second time in four years, federal judges struck down the GOP Virginia General Assembly boundaries of 11 electoral districts that pack minorities together so that white candidates in adjacent districts can win elections. Little progress has been made before the October 30 deadline. With the GOP failure to more forward, the governor has asked the GOP speaker of the state house to turn the project over to the courts. The districts will be used for state elections in 2019.

A Virginia judge also removed an independent candidate from the ballot in the 2nd District congressional race because of “forgery” and “out and out fraud” on her petition. Staffers working for the GOP candidate had collected many of the signatures to get her onto the ballot to split the progressive vote and ensure a win for their boss. Of the 377 signatures that five of them put on petitions, at least 146 were false, some of them for people who had died.

Florida Republicans thought they could keep Puerto Ricans who had fled their island after Hurricane Maria from voting if they refused them Spanish-language ballots. A district judge disagreed and ruled that 32 counties across the state had violated the Voting Rights Act. He ordered them to provide bilingual voting materials, including ballots and poll worker support, for Spanish-speaking Puerto Rican voters. According to his ruling:

“Puerto Ricans are American citizens. Unique among Americans, they are not educated primarily in English — and do not need to be. But, like all American citizens, they possess the fundamental right to vote.”

The enactment is on an expedited basis to give Florida officials “ample” time to appeal if “they seek to block their fellow citizens, many of whom fled after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, from casting meaningful ballots,” according to the judge. “It is remarkable that it takes a coalition of voting rights organizations and individuals to sue in federal court to seek minimal compliance with the plain language of a venerable 53-year-old law,” he added.

A federal appeals court has ruled that the so-called “charity” Americans for Prosperity (AFP) Foundation, linked to billionaire Charles Koch, must disclose its donors to California officials. The three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court reversed a lower court ruling from last year.

A grand jury will be convened to investigate whether Republican gubernatorial candidate and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach intentionally failed to register voters in 2016.

The court woes of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) continue. He tried to get out of going to court over paying hush-money for a nondisclosure agreement with Stormy Daniels so that he and former attorney Michael Cohen don’t have to give dispositions. By not contesting the suit, DDT thinks that he has escaped, but Daniels still has a defamation suit against DDT.

The fate of DDT’s IRS returns is still in court, this time the Washington, D.C. Circuit. EPIC’s Freedom of Information Act case is arguing that IRS must release his returns to correct misstatements of fact about his financial ties to Russia in his tweets. At least two-thirds of people want DDT to release the returns. The 98-page financial disclosure that DDT is forced to make public shows that his biggest windfalls come from his property that he frequently visits. For example, he made $37 million from Mar-a-Lago, up from $15 million in 2015, and $20 from his nearby golf club.

A federal judge refused to stop the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, ruling that Texas and six other conservative states couldn’t prove irreparable harm from the program. He also stated that he believed the program is unconstitutional, but the time has passed to rescind it.

Cities can’t prosecute people for sleeping on the streets if they have nowhere else to go because it amounts to unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment, according to a 9th Circuit Court ruling in Boise (ID). Six homeless people sued the city in 2009. The judge also wrote:

“A city cannot, via the threat of prosecution, coerce an individual to attend religion-based treatment programs consistently with the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.”

A federal judge in Boston ruled that ICE should not remove undocumented people in the process of applying for green cards even if they have final orders of removal. The ruling may not require a penalty from the government or apply outside the New England area. Five couples are suing DHS, ICE, DDT, and law enforcement because spouses were detained by ICE when they went for marriage interviews with U.S.-citizen spouses, a requirement for the application process to prove they have legitimate marriages. Emails show coordination between ICE and Citizenship and Immigration Services to coordinate interviews and arrests. The suit began with a woman who was brought from Guatemala when she was three years old and married U.S. citizen Luis Gordillo. They have two children.

A Canadian court unanimously overturned Ottawa’s approval of a pipeline project because the government failed to consider concerns of some First Nations and did not consider the impact of increased tanker traffic. The pipeline, almost 700 miles long, would take bitumen from Alberta to the western ports to ship to Asia. The ship traffic has already had a devastating affect on southern resident orcas which are almost extinct.

Parents of a Sandy Hook victim may continue its defamation lawsuit against conspiracy theorist Alex Jones after his repeated lies that the 2012 massacre killing 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school was a “fraud.” Six other Sandy Hook families also filed a defamation lawsuit against Jones in May. Jones’ Infowars is also facing a lawsuit for misidentifying a person as the shooter at the Parkland (FL) school who killed 17 people and another defamation suit from the person who recorded the vehicular murder of Heather Heyer at the Charlottesville (VA) rally last year. Jones’ law firm is also representing the co-founder of the neo-Nazi, white supremacist website The Stormer.

An arbitrator has denied the NFL request to throw out Colin Kaepernick’s grievance that owners conspired to keep him out of the league because of his protests for social injustice. The ruling shows that Kaepernick has sufficient evidence of collusion for a lawsuit. Eric Reid’s grievance for joining the protests is still pending. The NFL had to put on hold its policy that would require players to stand if they are on the sideline during the national anthem because of problems that it classified protests as conduct detrimental to the team.

August 30, 2018

Lawsuits Proliferate As Progressives Win

Filed under: Judiciary — trp2011 @ 8:58 PM
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Lawsuits about the orders of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) continue to pile up, and decisions continue to go against him and his conservative views.

In a union victory against DDT’s attempts to weaken organized labor, a judge struck down most of three executive orders to enable government agencies to easily fire workers and restrict union negotiation with managers. The decision stated that DDT violated congressional opinion that good-faith union negotiations are vital to the public interest:

“It is undisputed that no [executive] orders can operate to eviscerate the right to bargain collectively as envisioned in the [statute].”

DDT’s failed orders would have reduced improvement of work performance from four to three months before employees are fired, created greater difficulty in appealing performance evaluations, blocked negotiations on important workplace issues could not be negotiated, and greatly reduced time for union business during work hours. One remaining provision allows agency changes to a union agreement for bargaining in bad faith.

A federal judge ruled against DDT and the NRA in favor of AGs from 19 states and Washington, D.C. to stop the posting of 3-D printed guns online until the lawsuit is settled. The DOJ had stated that posting the directions was a national security problem until last April when it reversed that conclusion.

The judge who ordered the DOJ to “turn that plane around” has demanded the government not to deport a pregnant Honduran woman seeking asylum after she fled her home country because her partner “beat her, raped her, and threatened to kill her and their unborn child.”

A Maryland KKK leader, 53-year-old Richard Preston, was sentenced to four years in prison for firing a gun at a black counterprotester within 1,000 feet of school property during last year’s deadly white supremacy rally in Charlottesville (VA). Most of the racist protesters at the rallies who haven’t been given prison time lost their jobs, Patreon has blocked Robert Spencer from its platform, and white supremacist Richard Spencer can’t find a lawyer for a federal lawsuit about his role in the rally.

In North Carolina, the Supreme Court permitted two constitutional amendments to be on the ballot after a panel had blocked them.  Voters are being asked to change the way that state boards and commission members are appointed and the way that judges are picked to fill vacant spots. GOP legislators initiated these amendments to remove power of appointments from the governor after the state elected a Democratic governor, Roy Cooper. All five living governors from both political parties objected to the amendments and supported Cooper’s position. GOP legislators’ rewrite of the amendments still lacks clarity, according to Democrats, and Cooper will appeal because the court did not rule on the merits of the case.

In a loss for GOP legislators, a panel of three federal judges from the 4th Circuit Court ruled that North Carolina’s congressional districts were unconstitutionally gerrymandered to favor Republicans over Democrats and mandated new districts before the November elections although primaries have already resulted in the selection of candidates. Courts have already determined that the districts violate constitutional standards. North Carolina legislators plan to ask the Supreme Court for help which could result in a 4-4 split leaving the decision with the lower court. The Supreme Court had told the three-judge panel to review their decision after the high court’s decision in the Wisconsin partisan gerrymandering case stopped because the plaintiffs lacked standing. The Supreme Court addressed gerrymandering cases from Wisconsin and Maryland but avoided any decision of their merits. The 4th Circuit Court panel suggested appointing a special master to draw new districts, ignore party primaries for the general election, or making the November elections a primary with a general election before January when the 116th Congress convenes.

A federal judge dismissed a suit from conservatives accusing Dallas County (TX) commissions of discrimination against white voters. He said the reverse was true, that the white voters’ “voting power has been strengthened, rather than diluted, by the concentration of Anglos in [Precinct 2].” Three of the five county commissioners are white, but only one is a Republican. A strategist pointed out that redrawing the map might cause the board to have only Democrats.

A judge ruled that Nick Lyon, Michigan’s state health director, will stand trial for involuntary manslaughter over two deaths linked to Flint’s water crisis because he failed to notify the public about Legionnaires’ disease in Flint that killed 12 people and sickened another 90 in 2014 and 2015.

Smithfield Foods, the biggest pork producer in the world, was hit with a $473.5 million judgment to neighbors of three hog farms in North Carolina. Another 500 neighbors are awaiting litigation because North Carolina lawmakers are trying to protect Smithfield. This description shows an unhealthy and stinking environment around the farms and the maltreatment of the pigs. Unlike North Carolina, Missouri forced Smithfield to reduce the odor.

Approximately 600 LGBTQ inmates at San Bernardino County Jail (CA) have been awarded up to $1 million for being forced into the jail’s “Alternative Lifestyle Isolation Tank,” pending approval by the U.S. District Court in Riverside. They were locked in the “Tank” for up to 23 hours a day with no access to specialized programming, social interaction, or other outside activities, denied equal access to opportunities that other prisoners were provided in job training, educational, drug rehabilitation, religious, and community re-entry programs. Openly gay Dan McKibben, former sheriff’s deputy who died in 2016, initiated the lawsuit in 2014.

In Illinois, Marsha Wetzel won a landmark court victory after suing her retirement home that failed to protect her from harassment because she is a lesbian. The 7th Circuit Court disagreed with a lower ruling that claimed a landlord cannot be held responsible for other residents’ behavior. Instead, the court determined that the Fair Housing Act bars landlords from “purposefully failing to protect” a tenant from “harassment, discrimination and violence” and sent the case back to the lower court.

Pending suits:

Seven states—Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia—suing to end the DACA program have been joined by Kansas, Maine, and Mississippi. Their unsubstantiated excuses of additional costs for education, health, and law enforcement ignore losses from losing DACA recipients who contribute to the economy through employment (89 percent), business entrepreneurs (6 percent, car purchases (62 percent), and home purchases (14 percent). The loss of 144,000 DACA recipients in these ten states can remove $7.4 billion in their annual GDP, 82 percent of it in Texas. The ten states would also annually lose $311 million in tax revenue, $245 million in just Texas. A win for these ten states against DACA could cause the same losses for the other 40 states that would lose $35 billion in annual GDP.

People for the American Way (PFAW) is suing to get information about the Bible study sessions for Cabinet members in the capitol after being refused any materials for nine months. Conservative pastor Ralph Drollinger has influenced U.S. members of Congress and brags about his influence with Cabinet members, describing Capitol Ministries as a “factory” to produce politicians like Michele Bachmann who “sees the world through a scriptural lens.”

Sixteen states are asking the Supreme Court for permission to legally fire people for being transgender. The 6th Circuit Court had ruled against the firing of Aimee Stephens for transition while at her job with a Michigan funeral home. The mis-named Alliance Defending Freedom maintains that the word “sex” means only biological sex and cannot be used for gender identity. The states in the suit include Nebraska, Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming as well as Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R), Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R), and Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R). Kentucky AG Andy Beshear (D), who refused to sign the brief on behalf of the state, called Bevin’s decision to sign on “surprising” given that Kentucky state employees do enjoy protections against anti-LGBTQ discrimination, thanks to an executive order that Bevin has not rescinded.

Approximately 8,000 U.S. lawsuits have been filed against Monsanto, recently purchased by the German drugmaker Bayer, regarding the possible cancer risks of glyphosate-based weedkillers. The most recent settlement against Monsanto was $289 million.

Released from Central California Women’s Facility after a 15-year term, Stacy Rojas filed a lawsuit against the sexual abuse that she and other inmates suffer in the prison. Rojas reported that guards stamped on one woman’s breast, cut the clothing off another, left women in isolation cells so long that they had to soil themselves, and harassed them with graphic sexual insults and suggestions. In addition to seeking damages, Rojas wants a whistleblowing process externally managed to hold guards and other staff accountable for mistreatment and excessive force as well as accessing adequate medical care, food, and clothing.

Across the country, people are suing public schools to get a quality education for their children.

  • Racial integration: a father in Minnesota is fighting for children to attend racially integrated schools because segregated schools lower test scores and graduation rates for low-income and nonwhite children.
  • Funding: parents are turning to state courts for sufficient school funding because a 1973 Supreme Court decision ruled that unequal school funding does not violate the U.S. Constitution. A New Mexico judge mandated a new funding system for schools because of underfunded schools, especially those that serve large numbers of Native American, Hispanic, and low-income students. Kansas ruled that underfunding schools is unconstitutional, and Pennsylvania and Florida courts agreed to hear similar cases.
  • Literacy: last year a federal judge in Michigan ruled that “access to literacy” is not a fundamental federal right for Detroit students, but most state constitutions guarantee the right to an adequate education.

AG Jeff Sessions expressed his discontent with federal judges to an audience of judicial system officials in Iowa, especially their rulings against DDT’s Muslim ban and for so-called “sanctuary cities” because the decisions brought media criticism of DDT. Yet DDT abuses Sessions every day.

June 18, 2018

Courts Feature DDT’s Problems

Today’s post is about recent legal decisions and lawsuit filings, but I’ll begin with the separation of children from their families at the Mexico border.

  • A letter to the editor complained about Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) for not doing his job because he tried to visit to incarceration facilities for these children. This is part of his job.
  • NPR, which now gets large donations from far-right contributors such as the Koch brothers, allowed statements that children are better off being separated from their parents with no one explaining the physical and emotional damage of the separations.
  • Yesterday DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen tweeted, “We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period.” Today she backed down at a White House briefing but supported the lies of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) by blaming Democrats and adding other lies of her own.

People watching nothing but conservative media such as Fox are spared horrific tapes of the cries of abducted children separated from their parents. A six-year-old girl kept repeating her aunt’s telephone number and pleading for someone to call her. When the call was finally made, the aunt in El Salvador could do nothing because she and her daughter cannot get asylum in the U.S. because the DOJ no longer accepts people fleeing from gangs and domestic violence. The six-year-old’s mother will probably be deported without her daughter.

As bad as things are for DDT, the courts are pursuing him. New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood filed a lawsuit against DDT, his three oldest children, and the Donald J. Trump foundation because DDT’s charity allegedly engaged in “illegal conduct” by raising over $2.8 million to influence the presidential election in DDT’s campaign. The suit calls for dissolving the foundation, repaying the $2.8 million along with other penalties, a 10-year ban on DDT serving as director of a New York nonprofit, and a one-year ban on his serving on a nonprofit board for each of his children. Prison could also be a possibility. Underwood also sent referral letters to the IRS and FEC, listing potential law violations for more investigation and legal action.

Summer Zervos’ defamation civil suit for DDT accusation that his sexual assault victims are liars can continue, according to New York’s Supreme Court. Zervos’ lawyer said that they look forward to the “discovery process,” which could reveal information that DDT is hiding.

Rudy Giuliani tried to defame Stormy Daniels because of her profession as an adult film star, saying that she cannot be trusted. In return, Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti tweeted his 500,000+ followers in a search for Giuliani’s porn-watching habits.

An Emoluments Clause lawsuit against DDT for taking gifts from state and foreign governments, a case with no direct precedent, should be decided by the end of July. DDT’s legal team claims that DDT cannot be sued, that his proceeds are not emoluments, and that he has donated his profits to the Treasury. DDT has no evidence for his statement that he made only $151,470. In another emoluments case, 200 congressional Democrats state that DDT has to ask Congress for the right to receive emoluments. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington failed its first round in an emoluments claim for having no standing, but the group is appealing. Any case that manages a requirement of discovery is victorious because DDT has thus far hidden his financial records.

A federal judge in Seattle refused to stay an earlier injunction halting DDT’s transgender military ban while the government is appealing because the government has no new arguments. The judge is one of four issuing preliminary injunctions against Trump’s transgender military ban.

The day after the official end of net neutrality in the United States, an action allowing more profit-making to internet servers, a George W. Bush-appointed judge approved the $85.4 billion merger between AT&T and Time Warner with no conditions. The owners of DirecTV, U-verse, AT&T mobile and broadband, Cricket wireless, etc. will now possess HBO, TNT, CNN, Cartoon Network, Warner Brothers Studios, a stake in Hulu, etc. The judge ruled that the merger did not violate antitrust laws because of the consumer welfare standard that examines only consumer costs. Monopolies are now legal; for example, ultra-conservative Sinclair Publishing can move into almost all the local markets across the nation. Comcast entered a bidding war with Disney for Fox TV and movie assets. T-Mobile, which partners with Netflix, has a deal to buy Sprint. Leon’s ruling also leaves Aetna open to join with CVS, and other health corporations can merge.

In another permit for a huge merger earlier this year, the German pharmaceutical and chemical company Bayer can buy agricultural giant Monsanto, creating the world’s biggest pesticides and seeds monopoly.  After the $66 billion purchase, just three megacorporations–Bayer-Monsanto, Dow-DuPont, and Syngenta-ChemChina–will control 61 percent of global seeds and pesticides production, worrying farmers about prices with no competition. Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds have trapped farmers into dependence and reliance on chemicals.

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it will not decide on two gerrymandering cases from Wisconsin and Maryland. The non-decision gave Wisconsin to the Republicans and Maryland to Democrats. For Wisconsin, the high court’s opinion, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, ruled that challenges must come from each district by voters with standing because the court’s role is only for “individual rights.” The case was sent back to a lower court to determine whether plaintiffs existed in all districts. Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch wanted to end the Wisconsin case. An unsigned opinion stated that the Maryland case is at a preliminary stage but that the lower court was not wrong in refusing to order the congressional maps redrawn. The next Supreme Court decision about gerrymandering could come from North Carolina where the GOP controls 10 of 13 congressional districts.

Last Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court narrowly struck down Minnesota’s ban on political apparel in polling places with the 7-2 ruling that the law was too broad. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that a state may prohibit some apparel, but it must have a “reasonable” line. An example is the California law that defines political information.

Last week, a 4-4 split on the Supreme Court after Justice Anthony Kennedy recused himself left in place a lower court decision supporting the salmon rights of 21 Northwest Native American tribes who sued Washington state for the replacement of almost 1,000 culverts. The decision, that the state cannot impede the salmon that tribes have a right to fish, could affect development, construction, and farming practices in the Northwest by engaging tribes in decision-making.  Tribes may also look at other treaty rights outside fishing and hunting, such as the preservation of national parks and opposition to pipelines.

Healthcare specialist Mark Horton’s lawsuit against St. Louis-based Midwest Geriatric Management, now pending in the 8th Circuit Court, comes from the company’s pulling his job offer after it discovered he is gay. Major companies such as Microsoft and Airbnb joined EEOC to support Horton’s case; conservative states oppose it. The 2nd Circuit Court ruled that the Civil Right Act protects LGBTQ workers.

A federal judge in Missouri this week upheld a state law restricting access to medication to induce abortions as the case awaits trial.

A California appeals court reinstated the state’s right-to-die law until a lawsuit goes to court. A lower court had blocked the law on the grounds that the legislature could not pass the law during a special session limited to other issues. Oregon was the first to pass a death-with-dignity law in 1997 before it was joined by Washington, Vermont, Colorado, Hawaii, and Washington D.C.

Kentucky is suing Walgreens for allegedly aggravating the opioid crisis as both distributor and dispenser in filling huge quantities of prescription narcotic pain medication. This is the sixth opioid-related lawsuit filed by Kentucky. Other states are doing the same—Florida, Delaware, and the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma. Massachusetts is also suing Purdue Pharma and 16 of the OxyContin maker’s executives for misleading doctors and patients about the risks of opioids. Alabama filed a suit against the company four months ago.

A federal judge blocked Indiana from immediately purging registered voters with personal records elsewhere on the faulty Crosschecks computer program.

A question about citizenship abruptly added to the 2020 census with no vetting has brought lawsuits from over two dozen states and cities in opposition. The subsequent release of 1,320 internal memos, emails, and other documents sheds light on this decision. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said that the cost of the last-minute addition would be insignificant, but John Abowd, the Census Bureau’s chief scientist, conservatively estimates the expense at $27.5 million. The question came from Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, known for his work to disenfranchise progressive voter. He objected to undocumented immigrants being used to determine the number of congressional seats, despite the fact that this constitutional practice has been used since the first census in 1790.

Earlier this year, Kobach was fined $1,000 for misleading the court about documents in a folder he took to a meeting with DDT soon after the presidential election. Kobach said he paid the fee “out of his own pocket,” but he used a state credit card issued to Craig McCullah, deputy assistant secretary of state under Kobach, for the payment. McCullah, in Ukraine deployed with the Oklahoma Army National Guard when the payment was made, was not told about it. Kobach was also found to have disobeyed orders to notify thousands of Kansans that they were legally registered to vote in 2016. He is running for governor of Kansas.

West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry was suspended from the bench for 32 counts of lying and using his public office for personal gain. Those seem to be actions reserved for the president of the United States.

January 23, 2018

How DDT Claims to Make U.S. Safe

More news from the last week of Dictator Donald Trump’s (DDT) of his first year:

DDT’s request for more foreign workers at his winery could benefit from Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s (R-VA) proposed bill deporting all immigrant workers and replacing them with migrant workers who can be exploited by removing benefits such as housing and transportation, gutting protections and drastically lowering wages. Employers could withhold ten percent of wages to deposit them into a U.S. embassy or consulate in the workers’ home countries.

DDT has stopped a program to help health workers and families identify effective substance abuse and behavioral health programs.

Republicans reauthorized the warrantless surveillance act of Section 702 and added warrantless searches of millions of Americans’ online and phone communications. The bill almost failed when DDT heard Andrew Napolitano tell Fox & Friends that Section 702 was responsible for accusing DDT of Russian collusion, and DDT tweeted against it. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) spent 30 minutes on the phone explaining the bill to DDT.

Immigrant-hater Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK), favored by DDT, is threatening dissenting constituents with police action even for written communication.

The Pentagon took climate change from its National Defense Strategy, added in George W. Bush’s 2008 report. The term also disappeared from the list of threats in the National Security Strategy. A 1990 U.S. Naval War College report found that its operations could be greatly affected by global climate change. The world’s largest naval base, Naval Station Norfolk, has routine flooding, even on sunny days, with no plans to fix the problem.

With his new sycophant Mike Mulvaney in charge of the consumer bureau, DDT plans to let the $40 billion payday lending industry prey on the poor after the industry paid $8 million to GOP legislators and part and $1,275,000 to DDT’s inauguration. Mulvaney’s piece to drop payday lending rules got him $55,000 in campaign donations. The Community Financial Services Association of America’s annual conference is scheduled at the Trump National Doral resort in Miami.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) did even better from the new tax bill; he got $1 million–$500,000 from the Koch brothers for saving them 40 percent of their tax bill a special deduction for oil and gas investors and another $500,000 from five other businessmen.

The Supreme Court declared that the redrawing of North Carolina’s GOP-oriented gerrymandered districts on hold during an appeal. In a state with a bare majority for Republicans, they took ten of thirteen House positions in the last election.

A month ago, DDT congratulated the LGBTQ  Log Cabin Republicans on their 40th anniversary and declared them “equal” under the law and the constitution. This week, he continued his persecution of LGBTQ people by promoting the discriminatory practice of healthcare workers denying treatment of LGBTQ patients for moral or religious reasons through a new division of the civil right office. Before President Obama, an ambulance driver’s refusal to take a transgender woman to a hospital led to her death, lesbian couples were denied fertility treatment, and children of same-gender couples were denied health care. The Department of Education is already refusing to hear civil rights complaints from transgender students.

The new guidelines can discriminate against other people, including denying access to abortions, “assisted suicide,” sterilization, in vitro fertilization, contraception, and other “certain health-care services.” Some people have access only to Catholic-based healthcare, which controls over 14 percent of the hospitals in the United States and 40 percent of the hospitals in five states.

The investigation into Russian involvement with DDT still moves forward.

The National Rifle Association is now involved in the Russian connection after the discovery that Russia gave them money in their work to elect DDT. Other suspicious activities are connected to financial activity with Russia during crisis times for that country in Ukraine.

Steve Bannon so infuriated the House Intelligence Committee by saying that the White House wouldn’t let him answer questions that they slapped him with a subpoena on the spot. Only a president can use executive privilege to not answer questions; anyone else must use their 5th Amendment rights. Bannon did slip up and admitted that he talked to Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer, and Mark Corallo about Donald Trump, Jr.’s June 2016 meeting with Russians in the Trump Tower. Bannon’s lawyer was on the phone with a White House official during the testimony, possibly an obstruction of justice. Special investigator Robert Mueller also subpoenaed Bannon to testify before a grand jury. Bannon dressed up for his House appearance.

The week’s maybe most bizarre story fits into a thriller novel. Jared Kushner, DDT’s son-in-law, was warned a year ago about his friendship with Wendi Deng Murdoch because she might be using him to promote China’s business interests. Wendi Deng is the ex-wife of Rupert Murdoch, divorced after a purported affair with UK’s former prime minister Tony Blair, and a close friend of Kushner’s wife, Ivanka Trump. Wendy Deng lobbied for a $100 million Chinese garden fewer than five miles from the Capitol and the White House that included a tower tall enough to be used for surveillance. The Wall Street Journal, owned by Rupert Murdoch, broke the story.

Appointments:

The good news! Because of his vicious racist, sexist, and homophobic statements, Carl Higbie has resigned as nominee for chief of external affairs for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) that manages programs such as AmeriCorps and other volunteer services.

Kenneth Marcus’ nomination to head up the Office for Civil Rights will have a full vote after the party-line vote of the Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee. Over 200 civil rights organizations opposed his confirmation after his statement that he could not think of any situation in which he would disagree with DDT’s positions on women’s rights or civil rights. Marcus opposes affirmative action and equal opportunity, stating that evidence of racial disparities in student discipline, i.e., black students suffering harsh discipline at much higher rates than white students, comes from paperwork errors. He also supports the reversal of guidance on campus sexual assault and opposes the Commission on Civil Rights’ investigation of human rights violations against the LGBTQ community. The Office for Civil Rights is responsible for protecting students from discrimination.

Ten of 12 members of the National Park Service Advisory Board quit after Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke failed to meet with the committee. Created in 1935, the board helps preserve American heritage by designating historic or natural landmarks. Zinke previously disbanded the Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council and the Advisory Committee on Climate Change and Natural Resource Science.

Sexual Misconduct:

Another woman, Alana Evans, has claimed that DDT offered her money to “party.” Recent revelations of cover ups show that DDT is willing to lie about his sexual affairs (a given), making him vulnerable to blackmail and extortion. DDT’s lawyer Michael Cohen paid porn queen Stormy Daniels through a shell company that he created in Delaware.

The Missouri GOP governor in trouble for blackmailing a woman after having an affair with her and then taking nude photographs of her under duress is in more trouble. Eric Greitens refused to resign, despite bipartisan pressure, and used a state-paid lawyer to try to make the problem go away. A GOP state senator tweeted, “Stick a fork in him.”

Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.) has been removed from the Ethics Committee after it was reported he used thousands of dollars in taxpayer money to settle a misconduct complaint by a decades-younger former staffer. The Ethics Committee will investigate Meehan.

Tennessee megachurch pastor Andy Savage chuckled through his description of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old congregant and called it consensual and “flirtatious.” His congregation had previously applauded his “confession,” but his publisher pulled his book and he’s on a leave of absence from his pastor position.

Almost 140 girls and women have given testimony against Larry Nassar, USA Gymnastics medical coordinator, in a sentence hearing about his sexual assaults conviction. Nassar, 54, already has a 60-year federal sentence for a child pornography conviction and pled guilty to several state sexual assault charges. An NCAA investigation is exploring why Michigan State refused to address repeated reports of sexual abuse by their former university faculty member and practicing physician at the school’s sports medicine clinic from 1997 until he was fired in 2016. A cross country runner was told that he “knew what he was doing” when he penetrated her vagina for a hamstring “treatment.” All other complaints were dismissed.

The GOP supporting “family values” has gotten rid of one “bad hombre”: Jorge Garcia, brought to the U.S. involuntarily 29 years ago, is married to a U.S. citizen, has two U.S. citizen kids, and has no criminal record. He regularly reported to his ICE check-in and spent $125,000 trying to legally stay in the country. This week ICE deported him on Martin Luther King Jr Day. And he’s not the first in that situation to be separated from his family.

Another loss is Lukasz Niec, 5 years old when his parents brought him and his sister legally to the United States from Poland in 1979, two years before the country’s authoritarian communist government declared martial law. He is married to a U.S. citizen and has visited Poland only once when he was a teenager. With a green card, Niec became a legal permanent resident and a doctor, like both his parents. ICE arrested the 43-year-old man at his home and detained him in a county jail. As a teenager, he had two misdemeanor convictions of malicious destruction of property under $100 and receiving and concealing stolen property over $100. The second offense had been expunged from his criminal record.

DDT: Make our country safe.

June 27, 2017

DDT: Week Twenty-Two – Russia, Other Bizarre Happenings

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) seemed tamer earlier last week, but he always winds up before his weekend vacations when he can ditch his keepers. Maybe his daily 6:30 am calls to his legal time have given him food for thought. He has far too many lawyers for a man who has nothing to hide. Some of his own lawyers are even hiring their own lawyers.

DDT’s biggest loss to Russia could be the Senate vote of 98-2 that limits DDT’s power to remove sanctions from Russia. The U.S. shooting down a Syrian Air Force fighter didn’t make this nation popular with Russia, a Syrian supporter. In retaliation, Russia declared any U.S.-led coalition craft west of the Euphrates river as a possible target and ended the Syrian air safety agreement with the U.S. to avoid aircraft collisions. DDT had already turned all military decisions to Secretary of Defense James Mattis, thereby losing all control and possibly forecasting war. The result was 4,000 more troops sent to Afghanistan and a massive increase in U.S.-caused civilian casualties in Syria and Iraq, more than 35 percent more in five months since DDT’s inauguration than in all of 2016. May saw a record number of women and children killed. It was only two months ago that DDT said that “we’re not going into Syria.”

Each week gives greater information about Russian hacking into the U.S. election, including attempts to delete or change voter data. A DHS official testified that 21 states were target although a total of 39 states is possible.

Russian revelations keep surfacing. Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn missed reporting a 2015 trip to Saudi Arabia lobbying a U.S./Russia business plan to build nuclear reactors. The legality of foreign payments to Michael Flynn’s business partner Bijan Kianthe is also being investigated.  Another casualty could be CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who kept briefing Flynn on highly classified secrets after he knew Flynn was subject to Russian blackmail. The Justice Department has one month to make public part of AG Jeff Sessions’ clearance form that was supposed to disclose Russian official contact, according to a U.S. District Court judge. Sessions has hired his own lawyer. The judge gave the same time limit to search Chief of Staff Reince Priebus’ communication with the FBI to repudiate links between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Much of the media was taken up last week with the announcement of the senate health care bill, prepared in secret by GOP leader’s staffers, according to Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT). The sole purpose of the bill is tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, indicating that the name might be better Trumpcut than Trumpcare.

In his continuation of hosting foreign leaders—perhaps hoping that they will want his golf courses and resorts—DDT praised the U.S. for doing “a good job building [the Panama Canal].” Panama’s President Juan Carlos Varela responded, “Yeah, about 100 years ago.”

The Supreme Court decided to hear a gerrymandering case from Wisconsin that could—or might not—reduce voter suppression throughout the United States. The fourth solid red district stayed red after reelections for DDT’s nominations. All of them, however, are turning purple as the most recent one in Georgia where Dem Jon Osoff lost by under two points after GOP Tom Price won it by 23 percent just six months ago. Democrats overperformed in the other elections too, despite the Republians’ lies.

The circus of White House press conferences continued with refusals to even tape the event before Spicer backed down. Despite rumors of Sean Spicer’s departure—and his requirement to interview for his replacement—the press secretary is still there and repeating his line about not speaking to DDT about the subject of the question, any question.

After weeks of teasing his audience about possible tapes of himself and former FBI director James Comey, DDT has announced that he lied, that there are no tapes. His claim about taping could be defined as an attempt to intimidate a witness. DDT could still be lying about the existence of tapes if he thinks that they don’t support his version of conversations with Comey. According to former employees, DDT taped conversations at Trump Tower in New York City and recorded his guests’ telephone calls at Mar-a-Lago. To cover himself, DDT said that he didn’t rule out the possibility that “electronic surveillance” had picked up their talks.

DDT sent a statement with “warm greetings” to Muslims celebrating Ramadan but eliminated the two-decade tradition of an Iftar dinner representing the end of the Islamic holy month of fasting.

Two organizations are suing DDT for illegally destroying communications that federal law demands be preserved. Messages sent from the White House supposedly use an “auto-delete” app to erase messages after they are read. Jordan Libowitz, CREW spokesman, said that the purpose is to “keep them secret from the American people,” as part of a “larger, troubling pattern” of information suppression in the Trump administration, which also includes deletion of the president’s tweets.” DDT continually slammed Hillary Clinton for not saving her emails, asking Russia to find them.

Ivanka Trump is also involved in a lawsuit. She has been ordered to testify in a lawsuit from an Italian shoemaker who is accusing her of copying one of his designs.

DDT has gone back to finding ambassadors. He picked two owners of sports franchises, New York Jets owner Woody Johnson to go to the UK and former LA Dodgers baseball team owner Jamie McCourt for Belgium. Top donor and fundraiser Kelly Knight Craft may be headed to Canada. She and her husband Joe Craft, president of a coal company Alliance Resource Partners, gave $1.3 million to GOP candidates and SuperPACs last year. Fourteen of his 19 ambassador picks are campaign donors.

In another choice, DDT nominated Christopher Wray to replace James Comey as head of the FBI. In early January 2017, Wray deleted a line from his law firm bio referencing a 2006 case in which he represented a U.S. energy executive being investigated by the Russian government. As Chris Christie’s personal lawyer, Wray got the New Jersey governor off from a charge of the George Washington Bridge closing. Wray had a phone with text messages and a former staffer during legislative testimony that Christie claimed he gave to the Department of Justice, but a judge refused to subpoena the phone in evidence against Christie. Wray’s firm also worked on DDT’s “blind trust.” Several candidates for the FBI position had already withdrawn from consideration.

A Washington Post analysis found that DDT’s Mar-a-Lago club is booking fewer charity banquets and events since his campaign than in the previous seven years. These banquets account for almost half the annual revenue. DDT’s  real estate business is also struggling with a decline in condo and land sales. Listing prices for several high-end NYC condos are being drastically cut while the city’s condo market is booming. DDT did manage to sell a penthouse to a Chinese American tied to high-ranking Chinese government officials and organizations linked to Chinese military intelligence groups. The large revenue on DDT’s financial disclosure forms show gross and not net revenue.

DDT tried to rally his troops in a speech in Iowa ten days ago. It was his first west of the Mississippi, and he told at least 18 lies according to fact checkers. One was his promise to pass “new immigration rules which say that those seeking admission into our country must be able to support themselves financially and should not use welfare for a period of at least five years.”  DDT’s mandate has been law for 20 years. He also bragged about bringing back coal jobs while delivering multiple lies about the Paris Agreement. Iowa not only has no coal jobs but also gets one-third of its electricity from wind. DDT ridiculed the state for its wind energy, indicating that people will have no electricity when the wind doesn’t blow and complaining about wind turbines “killing all the birds.” Cell phone towers killed 6.8 million birds a year, and glass buildings do away with one billion. Climate change can finish off the rest of them.

Last fall DDT proudly announced that he had saved jobs because Ford wouldn’t be expanding its production in Mexico. The corporation is centralizing its small-car production in China. Ford has said it will cut as many as 1,400 jobs in less than a year. General Motors has cut production at four U.S. assembly lines, costing 4,400 workers their jobs. Fiat Chrysler laid off another 1,300 workers at their assembly line in Detroit. The 600 Carrier jobs that DDT bragged about saving last year are going to Mexico, and Boeing is pink-slipping an unknown number of employees.

As Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said,  American leadership was better under President Obama than under DDT.

[Note: My apologies for being late with the 22nd week. Look for the 23rd week in a few days. DDT keeps making news!]

May 26, 2017

DDT: Week Eighteen, More GOP Losses

Good news for investors, albeit temporary, is the announcement from U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta that President Obama’s order, the fiduciary rule, will go into effect on June 9 instead of another postponement from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). Stock companies and brokers hate the rule that requires them to act in the best interest of their customers. Acosta’s decision caused several stocks to drop because of the industry’s disappointment in not being able to push more expensive products to benefit themselves.

Another failure for DDT: The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to reinstate its nation-wide Muslim ban, ruling 10-3  that DDT’s executive order “speaks with vague words of national security, but in context drips with religious intolerance, animus and discrimination.” The Maryland court order blocking the ban remains in place.

The Supreme Court has determined that two North Carolina GOP lawmakers used racial demographics to design two congressional districts. Elena Kagan, author of the majority opinion, described District 12 (below) as “snakelike.” The vote of 5-3 was opposed by John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy, and Alito.

AG Jeff Sessions also had to pull back on his official definition of “sanctuary cities” and acknowledged that the federal government has very limited ability to revoke funding. As a judge had earlier ruled, the law only requires governments to share information about immigrants’ citizenship or legal status—nothing else.

Another fight that DDT may lose is a request from the Office of Government Ethics to release all the waivers DDT has provided to former lobbyists hired in the White House or federal agencies so that they can work with former issues they had been involved with or clients. DDT’s executive order stated that he would follow President Obama’s practices to prohibit lobbyists from representing their former clients and issues without waivers, but he told Walter Shaub, the head of the Ethics section, that he won’t sent copies of the waivers. Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney has refused to provide the waivers.

Mulvaney also has a money problem because taxes are coming in “slower than expected,” meaning that the government could have fewer months before running out of cash. The current projection is October 2, even if some payments are suspended. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin urged a House committee to raise the debt limit before summer recess. The House Freedom Caucus opposed any increase in the debt limit without further cuts to the budget, meaning that Ryan may have to turn to Democrats.

DDT was elected partly because he promised jobs and used Carrier as one of his examples, saying it was a “100 percent chance” he would save the jobs that might move if he were elected. Carrier just announced that it was cutting 622 workers from its Indianapolis factory.

Loose lips sink ships—or in some cases, submarines. Pentagon officials are extremely upset because DDT told Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte on April 29 that two nuclear submarines had been moved towards North Korea. Aircraft carriers don’t need to hide because the U.S. uses them as a show of force, but submarines are hidden as a means of strategic deterrence. According to the Philippine transcript of the call, DDT also told Duterte he was doing an “unbelievable job on the drug problem” and “keep up [the] good work; you are doing an amazing job.” Duterte has supported the extrajudicial killing of 9,000 people in less than a year, wants to “slaughter” millions of drug addicts just like Adolf Hitler “massacred” millions of Jewish people, and put his country under martial law. Today Duterte “joked” about his soldiers raping women.

Another leak keeping the U.S. out of the intelligence loop is the naming of Salman Abedi as the recent bomber in Manchester by “U.S. officials.” The UK press kept the name secret because the UK government and Greater Manchester police wanted to make their investigation more effective, but the U.S. ruined the investigators’ plans. Police briefly stopped sharing information about the investigation with anyone in the U.S. until Secretary of State Rex Tillerson apologized. UK Prime Minister announced that she will “make clear” that leaking of sensitive information must stop. That’s at least three big intelligence mistakes in less than a month.

Last week Turkish security guards attacked protesters standing across the street from the country’s embassy in Washington, D.C. while President Recep Erdogan watched from his car. Local police reported that Turkish guards savagely attacked protesters with Erdogan guards shown on video kicking and choking protesters. Yet Turkey criticized “the inability of U.S. authorities to take sufficient precautions at every stage of the official program” and demanded that the U.S. conduct a “full investigation of this diplomatic incident and provide the necessary explanation.” Turkey is also furious with the U.S. over DDT’s decision to arm Kurds to fight ISIS in Syria, maintaining that they are an affiliate of a terrorist organization.

Erdogan has indefinitely extended his dictated “state of emergency,” mandated after last year’s failed coup, until the country achieves “welfare and peace.” The decree permits him to make law without the Parliament of the courts.

DDT’s need to hire a private lawyer reflects the seriousness of the Russian investigation. His choice, New Yorker Marc Kasowitz, is known as a litigator and not a criminal defense lawyer with no background in constitutional cases. His experience with DDT is in civil cases, several of which he has lost—for example, DDT suing an author who claimed that DDT isn’t a billionaire, women accusing him of sexual misconduct, and students at Trump University. Kasowitz also represents Russia’s largest state-owned bank, OJSC Sberbank, which is currently in an open U.S. federal court case.

In other Russia news:

Former CIA Director John Brennan told the House Intelligence Committee that he believes Russia “brazenly” interfered in last year’s presidential election and that he knew of contacts between Trump associates and Russian officials. The interactions were enough for the FBI to investigate a possibility a collusion between the campaign and Moscow. Brennan informed eight senior congressional members last summer–long before the election–that Russia was working to elect DDT as present. He also briefed both President Obama and DDT in January that Vladimir Putin had personally ordered an “influence campaign” targeting the presidential election.

Another revelation is that DDT asked both the director of national intelligence, Daniel Coats, and Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, to publicly deny any collusion between his campaign and Russia. Both refused DDT’s requests. In their failure to understand the independence of intelligence agencies, senior White House officials asked if they could ask Comey to stop his investigation of Michael Flynn, DDT’s former national security adviser.

After refusing to submit subpoenaed materials and pleading the Fifth Amendment, former national security adviser Michael Flynn was found to have lied in his interview for a 2016 security clearance renewal, according to a letter from Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD). Flynn told investigators that he was paid by “U.S. companies” when a Russian media propaganda arm, RT, paid him to travel to Russia. The Fifth Amendment, however, does not protect Flynn from incriminatory documents; he could be convicted of criminal charges for withholding any documents. Flynn had discussed a back channel of communication with Russian Ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, in order to skip the U.S. national security bureaucracy—like DDT meeting Russian officials in the Oval Office with only Russian media present. During the presidential race, Russian officials bragged that they could use Flynn to influence DDT, causing intelligence officials to try to curb information given Flynn after DDT’s election.

AG Jeff Sessions also failed to disclose his meetings with the Russians when he applied for his security clearance. His excuse was that he was a senator at the time, but a legal expert differs with that opinion. During his confirmation hearing, Sessions testified that he “did not have communication” with the Russians during the campaign and asserted the same lie in an official questionnaire. Later Republicans let him cover himself by amending his testimony. Sessions canceled appearances before two congressional committees this week. Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) is now spreading lies about the Sessions’ stories being wrong. In advising DDT to fire James Comey, Sessions also violated two oaths to recuse himself from issues dealing with Hillary Clinton’s emails and with the Russian investigation.

Also under investigation for deliberately manipulating the election through hacking or distributing hacked materials are Republican operative and DDT adviser Roger Stone.

DDT’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is the latest to be caught up in the FBI investigation about Russian collusion. He has been declared a “person of interest” in his relationship with Flynn and his contacts with the Russians. One of his past meetings, not reported on his security clearance forms, was with Sergey Gorkov, the head of Russian-owned development bank Vnesheconombank that is sanctioned by the United States for Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea. DDT put Kushner in charge of an extensive number of presidential duties including peace in the Middle East, the opioid solution, a $1 trillion infrastructure plans, recreation of government IT, and the reform of Veterans Affairs. Kushner left DDT’s world visit to return with his wife, Ivanka, to Washington yesterday when the news about his status broke.

 

Earlier, it was reported that Flynn discussed a back channel of communication with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. The world now knows that in December Kushner may have been with Flynn in suggesting that DDT’s transition team and the Russian government use Russia’s diplomatic facilities in this secret communication. Kushner also had far more meetings with Russia officials than earlier reported. (The above graphic is a few weeks old; people may have been added since then.)

In another Kushner “oops,” Jared and his wife, Ivanka Trump, failed to disclose their multimillion-dollar art collection in public financial disclosures. By now, however, that seems like a minor problem for them.

If you question that DDT could be suffering from dementia, you need to read this article.

July 4, 2016

Voting Restrictions: Independence Day 2016

Filed under: Voting — trp2011 @ 3:11 PM
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It’s Independence Day, and gun owners will be proclaiming their freedom to own as many guns as they want with no restrictions because of the Constitution. Conservatives believe in an unfettered Second Amendment but refuse to accept the rights of people to vote. Although five amendments deal with voting, states can still limit voting rights, and five million people may not be able to cast their votes in the next presidential election because of these restrictions. The difference between freedom to vote in red and blue states has created a two-tiered system for the people of the United States.

In the past decade, more and more GOP-controlled states have passed restrictive laws to keep minorities, people in poverty, and women from casting their votes with the hopes that this will increase the number of Republican elected officials. With the 2010 election of Gov. Scott Walker and a GOP legislature, Wisconsin, a progressive leader in the nation during the 20th century, passed laws mandating voter IDs, cutting early voting from 30 days to twelve, eliminating night and weekend voting, banning straight-ticket voting, tightening residency requirements, and increasing difficulties in voter registration and absentee voting. The non-partisan agency to oversee state elections and educate the public about voter-ID laws is gone. Wisconsin is an example of how the abolishment of freedom to vote in the nation’s red states makes them redder.

In contrast, neighboring Minnesota, with highly similar geography, demographics, and cultural history, went in the opposite direction. Its residents elected Democrat Mark Dayton as governor in 2010 and a Democratic legislature two years later. The state raised taxes on the wealthy, invested in public education, expanded health care, and boosted unions as Wisconsin followed the opposite path toward Alabama and Mississippi status. Minnesota now has faster job growth, higher wages, lower unemployment—and the freedom to vote. Despite a beginning popularity for voter ID, the population defeated this ballot initiative in 2012 with 54 percent of the electorate and changed its caucus system to the more inclusive presidential primary.

The craziness with voter IDs was launched after the Supreme Court declared them constitutional in 2008. Liberal Justice John Paul Stevens, now retired, wrote the majority opinion but now calls it a “fairly unfortunately decision.” In a discussion with Justice Elena Kagan, he talked about whether judges should base their decisions on the information provided them or add research they conduct on their own. Judge Richard Posner, who wrote the 7th Circuit Court opinion based on the idea that voter IDs will not negatively impact minorities and poor people also now says that the decision was wrong and that the photo-ID requirement is “now widely regarded as a means of voter suppression rather than of fraud prevention.”

Over 80 percent of the 22 states passing new voting restrictions since 2010 are under GOP control while five Democratic states such as Oregon and California reformed its systems with automatic voter registration. Those who doubt that the GOP want to restrict voting rights in order to win more races should listen to the arguments of people who passed these laws. Wisconsin’s then-State Sen. Glenn Grothman said, “What I’m concerned about is winning. We better get this done while we have the opportunity.” A ruling should be announced in late July.

Now a U.S. representative, Grothman (R-WI) said that he thinks the voter ID law will help Donald Trump win Wisconsin this November. The county clerk of Waukesha County, a Milwaukee suburb that is 95 percent white and staunchly conservative, insisted that early voting gave “too much access” to Democratic voters in Milwaukee and Madison. In a search for voter fraud in Wisconsin, only three were found—two of them by Republicans and none that could have been stopped by voter IDs or curtailment of early voting.

Former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), now head of the conservative Heritage Foundation, explained that the GOP has fought to keep the restrictive laws “because in the states where they do have voter ID laws you’ve seen, actually, elections begin to change towards more conservative candidates.

Technically, poll taxes, requiring voters to pay to vote, are illegal, but the presidential swing state of Ohio is considering privatizing part of elections by taxing polls left open because of Election Day emergencies such as a natural disaster. A bill approved in May would have forced people to put up a cash bond if they petitioned a court to extend voting hours for a few hours. Only the people who paid for the bond would be allowed to vote after hours. In the past, local Ohio courts have ruled that unforeseen emergencies, such as a software glitch that temporarily wiped out poll books and a huge car wreck that cut off a county’s main highway, called for keeping the polls open longer to keep waiting voters from being disenfranchised. Gov. John Kasich did veto the bill which followed a federal ruling that cuts to early voting hours are unconstitutional. Yet a judge just upheld Ohio’s purging almost two million voters from the rolls during the past five years.

Lawsuits across the country are fighting back against restrictive voter laws. A federal court is determining whether Wisconsin laws are constitutional where black voters are more than five times as likely to need free IDs and far more likely to be denied. Two women died during the over six-month wait after the application. The ID itself is technically free, but there are costs for transportation to the DMV office, time off from work to go through the process, or the documents necessary to qualify for an ID. A ruling should be announced in late July.

A lawsuit filed against Alabama used the example of a high schooler who can’t vote because she lacks a driver’s license. She can’t get a state-issued voter ID at the DMV because the nearest one is open only one day a month and there is no public transportation to one requiring a 40-mile roundtrip.

A lawyer supporting the Texas law said that geographical obstacles are the “reality to life of choosing to live in that part of Texas.” Other lawsuits oppose voter ID laws in Virginia, Ohio, and North Carolina. Texas voter ID stays in effect while the entire 5th Circuit Court rehears a case determined by a three-judge panel to be discriminatory but not intentionally.   Some states have lost lawsuits and declined to appeal, for example Pennsylvania in 2014.

Kris Kobach, the Kansas Secretary of State who took the lead in disenfranchising voters, had a setback when U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson ruled that the state’s proof-of-citizenship requirements likely violate a provision in the National Voter Registration Act that requires only “minimal information” to determine a voter’s eligibility. She ordered Kansas to register thousands of voters whose paperwork is on hold because they did not comply with the requirement. Another judge backed up this opinion, but Kobach, who is in charge of registering voters, is ignoring the court’s rulings.

Kobach is so dishonest that Kansas has different information in voter registration guides in English and Spanish. Spanish-speaking people were told that they had six days longer to register and vote than Kansas law. The Spanish version also fails to list passports as a document that can be used for first-time voter registrants.

Gerrymandering is another difference between Wisconsin and Minnesota. Republicans controlled Wisconsin’s redistricting process for the first time in 50 years after the 2010 census and manipulated boundaries to maintain GOP power for at least the next decade. In 2012, Obama won Wisconsin by seven points, but the GOP won over half of the state legislature. Only 10 percent of legislative seats are now considered competitive, leaving the GOP an airtight majority.

At this time, the 7th Circuit Court is hearing a case about redistricting in Wisconsin that was developed in secrecy behind a private law firm’s closed doors. No one except GOP legislators was permitted to see the plan until a few days before it was rushed through the legislature with only one hearing.

Expert Michael Li called the Wisconsin case “the most significant gerrymandering challenge in 30 years” and predicted that it will go to the Supreme Court. He added that Justice Anthony Kennedy has shown a strong interest in the case. In his closing statement May 27 to the judges in defending the GOP electoral map, Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General Brian Keenan insisted that this is what democracy looks like. “This is actually democracy,” Keenan stated. “The Republicans won the 2010 election. The Constitution gives them the right to [draw district lines].”

Republican-imposed plans in a number of other states—including Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, and Texas—can be affected by Wisconsin’s redistricting ruling. The Supreme Court has now agreed to hear gerrymandering lawsuits from North Carolina and Virginia. State Rep. David Lewis, chairman of the House Redistricting Committee, told fellow legislators that one of the seven criteria for drawing new districts was “partisan advantage” that that it is not against the law. A federal three-judge panel upheld the districting, citing a previous U.S. Supreme Court decision declaring that politics used in redistricting is constitutional “so long as it does not go too far.” In the past, Kennedy has voted with the conservative majority, but without a replacement for Antonin Scalia, the decision could be a 4-4 split.

For the first time in 50 years, people do not have the protection of the Voter Right Act as they try to select a president. Studies show that stricter voter laws have depressed voter turnout, especially among minority groups. It also cuts back turnout among younger, newly registered, and black voters. The confusion of whether people have the correct ID also cuts back on the voting. A small number of voters can skew the results. In 2008, Barack Obama won North Carolina by 14,177 votes; in 2012, Mitt Romney beat Barack Obama by 92,004 votes. Now the state has the most restrictive voting laws which reduced 2014 turnout by at least 30,000 voters. A federal judge has upheld North Carolina’s voting restrictions, but an appeal may overturn it.

This is what voting in the United States looks like on Independence Day 2016. Be grateful if you can vote. I’m extra grateful because I live in the first state in the nation with mandatory vote by mail, meaning no lines and a paper trail for all the votes. Washington and Colorado have now followed this practice. Oregon also started automatic voter registration followed by California, Connecticut, Vermont, and West Virginia.

Meanwhile the red states are spending millions of dollars defending their unconstitutional laws.

July 9, 2015

GOP Transgressions Outdo Those of Clinton; Media Ignores Them

When GOP presidential candidates talk, they are usually more concerned about smearing Hillary Clinton than explaining what they can do for the United States. The candidates have a lot of company in this area: the media follows suit in lambasting Clinton, calling what she’s done in the past or present as “scandalous.”

Clinton’s supposedly erased emails and her family foundation’s fundraising methods occupy reporters at infinitum while they ignore missing from Republicans. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s private emails have been erased, and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice claimed to never use email when the State Department asked her for hers. Yet reporters and conservatives have evidenced no interest in what Powell and Rice communicated about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.

Other GOP presidential candidates with records of private and deleted emails:

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker: He called Clinton’s use of the private email address an “outrage” while he was caught running a secret e-mail network for his inner circle of advisers when he was Milwaukee County executive.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio: He deleted emails from his private account while in state government despite using his personal account to conduct business related to his official duties.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie: Lawyers hired to protect him in the George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal found that members of his staff communicated through private emails.

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal: Although both GOP governors conducted official business from their private email accounts, they have not released the emails for public scrutiny.

Reporters also ignored the Bush/Cheney White House losing millions of important emails and Mitt Romney going to great lengths to hide his public emails from scrutiny in the last presidential campaign.

Other high officials have also used private email accounts:

While governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin kept a separate personal email account, separate from her official government account and regular personal account, to conduct official business. Eventually she was forced to release almost 25,000 emails for all these accounts.

While governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney and top aides used private email accounts for state business although his administration warned state agencies against private email accounts.

While top advisor to then President George W. Bush, Karl Rove made inappropriate use of RNC email resulting in the disappearance of four years of correspondence–22 million emails. As many as 22 other Bush aides did the same thing.

GOP-deleted emails were a part of the Florida’s Supreme Court ruling against the legislature’s design of congressional districts to defraud voters and win more seats. Five years ago, the state’s voters passed a constitutional amendment to make gerrymandering illegal. The GOP process to circumvent the amendment was to get rid of any evidence that they were manipulating the congressional districts. Because the GOP members of the state legislature knew that communication between Speaker Dean Cannon and political consultant Marc Reichelderfer was not privileged—and therefore available in litigation—they failed to keep these communications.  Redistricting maps were sent to Reichelderfer with a personal e-mail account and a since-deleted “Dropbox” account.

gerrymandering

Above is an example of one of the congressional district carefully designed in secret. Black voters were collected in this strangely-elongated district so that their votes wouldn’t interfere in other districts for white, GOP candidates. Corrine Brown won the black district, and the other districts were handed to Republicans. The Supreme Court ruling requires redrawing the districts before the 2016 election, and one of the mandates for deciding congressional districts is that all emails and documents related to drawing the map should be preserved.

Although critics consider the Clinton Foundation to be suspect, the website has posted the names of its donors for years. At the same time, George W. Bush’s foundation refused to disclose names of the donors who provided $500 million, ostensibly for Bush’s presidential library in Texas. Those donations began while Bush was still in office, an ethical problem especially because Bush raised money from foreign donors and didn’t disclose any names until several years later. While president, he also hosted White House dinners and meetings potential library contributors, also unnamed. He continued to do this until the London Sunday Times found that one of Bush’s lobbyist friends solicited $200,000 for the library from someone representing a Central Asian dictator. Reporters fail to find this behavior “scandalous” although Bush’s brother is running for president and may be influenced by the donors.

Reporters even claim that the Clinton Foundation isn’t even a charity: a Wall Street Journal editorial sniped that any good done by the foundation is merely “incidental to its bigger role as a fund-raising network and a jobs program for Clinton political operatives.” Few of the thousands of employees have political ties, and they take services to the poor throughout the world.

One tax-exempt entity overlooked by the media is the “Campaign for Liberty,” subsidized by Ron Paul’s leftover campaign funds and employing political aides and Paul family members. The group reimbursed Ron Paul’s expenses after taxpayers paid the same travel bills, and the leadership is involved in an Iowa investigation of the alleged bribery of a GOP official who transferred loyalty from Michele Bachman to Ron Paul in 2012. Nothing has been said about the “scandalous” problem surround Sen. Rand Paul (R-TX), another GOP presidential candidate.

Although Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) condemns the “constant scandal” surrounding Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, he has suffered little media attention concerning his own controversies. His ties to Florida billionaire Norman Braman and access to Braman’s private plane have largely flown under the radar despite the way that Rubio has done favors for Braman such as $80 million state funding to finance a genomics university and another $5 million for cancer research at a Miami institute.

Rubio finally broke his connection with scandal-plagued former Rep. David Rivera by selling his Tallahassee house for $18,000 less than what the two men paid ten years ago. Rivera, who Rubio describes as his “most loyal friend and supporter,” has never been formerly charged, but a former girlfriend told prosecutors about his 2012 shadow campaign to undercut a Democratic rival for Congress before he helped her flee to Nicaragua. A Florida ethics commission fined Rivera for $58,000 because he billed the state for travel and other expenses during his time as a legislator while paying the same expenses from campaign accounts. Rubio followed Rivera’s pattern by using the Republican Party credit to buy personal items and even repair the family van. Even after Rivera’s scandals became public, Rubio hosted a fundraiser for him. Three years ago, Rivera was the reason that Mitt Romney turned Rubio down for his vice-presidential candidate.

Conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza, who spreads lies through books and films about Barack Obama, is so desperate to slime Clinton that he photoshopped a Conferate flag into the background of a 1969 picture of her at Wellesley. He tweeted the doctored photo to 198,000 followers with the message, “Look closely at this Hillary photo; isn’t that a Confederate flag behind her on the bookshelf?” He has retracted the allegation, but the photo will certainly appear on millions of conservatives emails.

Reporters whine about how Clinton won’t talk to them. When she does, they complain that she doesn’t say anything. Neither do the GOP presidential candidates—with the exception of Donald Trump—do. Maybe that’s why Trump is getting so much press time.

The latest smear campaign against Clinton comes from Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), chair of the most recent Benghazi investigation committee. Asked whether it was right that she delete mails while facing a subpoena, Clinton said, “I’ve never had a subpoena.” Gowdy called her claim “inaccurate,” but the copy of the subpoena that he released was sent after she had turned more than 55,000 pages of work-related emails to the State Department for review, not while she was reviewing which emails should be preserved or deleted. Gowdy’s subpoena came months after the review. As Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) said, Gowdy’s release is “nothing but a stunt.” Gowdy had issued a press release last March about issuing the subpoena.

The nitpicking about Clinton continues, ad nauseum, because the GOP has no substance to attack.

January 28, 2015

Fix the Supreme Court’s Constitution

Conservative justices serving on the Supreme Court try to make people believe that every ruling that they make follows the U.S. Constitution literally—just as fundamentalist Christian leaders swear that every word out of their mouths came from their bible. Both conservative elements are wrong, however, and retired Justice John Paul Stevens has written a book suggesting how the constitution can be brought back into its original text. Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution presents these recommendations with an explanation of the problem and the history to the issues.

Following is a summary of these amendments, thanks to a posting on Daily Kos.

The “Anti-Commandeering” Rule: A 1997 5-4 ruling bans Congress from ordering state officials to carry out federal duties because two county sheriffs didn’t want to carry out Brady Act-mandated background checks for firearm sales. Now people prone to violence, such as the Virginia Tech mass shooter in 2007, can easily get guns. The ruling also affects other federal laws such as emergency responses to national catastrophes and acts of terror.

Suggested amendment adding the four words in boldface to the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause: “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges and other public officials in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”

Political Gerrymandering: The practice of gerrymandering, loading districts with people registered in one political party, makes politicians more radical and elections less competitive, according to Stevens. A 1986 Supreme Court ruling eliminated most challenges to state legislatures controlling elections of U.S. House members: “[A] finding of unconstitutionality must [show] continued frustration of the will of a majority of the voters or effective denial to a minority of the voters of a fair chance to influence the political process.” Stevens believes that public power should not be allowed to enhance “the political strength of the majority party.”

Suggested amendment: “Districts represented by members of Congress, or by members of any state legislative body, shall be compact and composed of contiguous territory. The state shall have the burden of justifying any departures from this requirement by reference to neutral criteria such as natural, political, or historic boundaries or demographic changes. The interest in enhancing or preserving the political power of the party in control of the state government is not such a neutral criterion.”

Campaign Finance: Congress passed a law 108 years ago that banned all corporate contributions to political candidates; this federal law was followed by many states passing total bans of corporate activity to influence public policy. The laws were slowly reversed, culminating in the 2010 Supreme Court disaster that gave corporations the unlimited right to finance campaign speech. Feeling that they had not gone far enough, the same five justices struck down any limit on total donations a person could make to candidates four years later, giving rich persons the right to spend millions in a single election. Three “sulky Supremes”—Justices Alito, Scalia, and Thomas—annually boycott President Obama’s State of the Union speech because he disagrees with their ruling. Thanks to the Supreme Court, the two Koch brothers plan to spend almost $1 billion in the 2016 election—more than the GOP—to control the results. Stevens purports that the problem can be solved by an amendment stating that corporations are not persons and money is not speech.

Suggested amendment: “Neither the First Amendment nor any other provision of this Constitution shall be construed to prohibit the Congress or any state from imposing reasonable limits on the amount of money that candidates for public office, or their supporters, may spend in election campaigns.”

Sovereign Immunity: Citizens of one state are banned from suing another state in federal court, according to the 11th Amendment. This legal doctrine of “sovereign immunity” originated in 1400 when the king didn’t want to be sued without his consent. It shields the “sovereign,” any of the individual states, from court action by putting it above the law. Stevens disagrees and gives the argument against this amendment from Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes: “It is revolting to have no better reason for a rule of law than that it was so laid down in the time of Henry IV. It is still more revolting if the grounds upon which it was laid down have vanished long since and the rule simply persists from blind imitation of the past.” Chief Justice William Rehnquist began a spate of rulings that extended sovereign immunity and weakened state compliance with national law. For example, Illinois avoided paying damages for non-compliance with a federal law for aiding aged, blind and disabled persons in 1974, and 15 years later the Rehnquist Court used this unwritten state sovereignty rule to keep Congress from authorizing the suing of a state of violating the Fair Labor Standards Act. In this case, Maine successfully refused to pay probation workers overtime. According to Stevens, state-owned institutions such as hospitals or police forces should not have a defense to federal claims that private institutions lack.

Suggested amendment: “Neither the Tenth Amendment, the Eleventh Amendment, nor any other provision of this Constitution, shall be construed to provide any state, state agency, or state officer with an immunity from liability for violating any act of Congress, or any provision of this Constitution.”

The Death Penalty: Arguments for the death penalty such as deterrence of crime are invalid, and DNA technology shows that many convicted murders, some already put to death, are innocent of the crime. Supreme Court rulings, including upholding a judge’s jury instruction to choose death when the evidence for and against it is balanced, made the death penalty more likely.

Suggested amendment adding the five words in boldface to the 8th Amendment: “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments such as the death penalty inflicted.”

Gun Control: No amendment has been more debated in the past few years than the 2nd Amendment. For over two hundred years, federal judges ruled two limitations of this amendment: it applies only for military purposes; and while it limits the power of the federal government, it does not limit the power of state or local governments to regulate ownership or use of firearms. Twice, however, the Roberts Court ruled against governments trying to control gun violence. One was creating a new constitutional right for a resident in Washington, D.C. to keep a handgun in the home, and the other extended this newly-created constitutional right to states.

Suggested amendment returning the 2nd Amendment to its original meaning and the power of regulating firearms to state and local governments with the five words in boldface: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms when serving in the Militia, shall not be infringed.” 

In an interview with NPR, Stevens said:

“I think in time that what I have to say about each of these six issues will be accepted as being consistent with what the framers really intended in the first place. I think in time, reason will prevail.”

We can only hope. 

Referenced Supreme Court Cases:

  • Printz v. United States: 1997. 5-4 ruling. Bans Congress from ordering state officials to carry out federal duties. Holding: Scalia, Rehnquist, O’Connor, Kennedy, Thomas; Dissenting: Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, Bryer.
  • Davis v. Bandemer: 1986. 7-2 ruling. Adopts a lofty and cloudy standard for unconstitutional gerrymandering. Holding: White, Brennan, Marshall, Blackmun, Burger, O’Connor, Rehnquist; Dissenting: Powell, Stevens.
  • Citizens United v. FEC: 2010. 5-4 ruling. Gives corporations the unlimited right to finance campaign speech. Holding: Kennedy, Roberts, Alito, Scalia, Thomas; Dissenting: Stevens, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor.
  • McCutcheon v. FEC: 2014. 5-4 ruling. Gives individuals the right to spend millions in a single election. Holding: Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, Alito, Thomas; Dissenting: Breyer, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, Kagan.
  • Edelman v. Jordan: 1974. 5-4 ruling. Lets Illinois avoid paying damages for past non-compliance with a federal law for aiding aged, blind and disabled persons. Holding: Rehnquist, Burger, Stewart, White, Powell; Dissenting: Douglas, Brennan, Marshall, Blackmun.
  • Alden v. Maine: 1999. 5-4 ruling. Cites an unwritten state sovereignty rule imagined to be in the “plan of the [Constitutional] Convention” and forbids Congress to authorize suing a state for violations of Fair Labor Standards Act. Holding: Kennedy, Rehnquist, O’Connor, Scalia, Thomas; Dissenting: Souter, Stevens, Ginsburg, Breyer.
  • Baze v. Rees: 2008. 7-2 ruling. Holds that Kentucky’s three-drug death penalty system is not “cruel and unusual.” Holding: Roberts, Kennedy, Alito, Breyer, Thomas, Scalia, Stevens; Dissenting: Ginsburg, Souter.
  • Kansas v. Marsh: 2006. 5-4 ruling. Allows a judge’s jury instruction to choose the death penalty when aggravating and mitigating evidence were equal in weight. Holding: Thomas, Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, Alito; Dissenting: Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, Breyer.
  • United States v. Miller: 1939. 8-0 ruling. Holds that Congress can ban possession of a sawed-off shotgun because that weapon has no reasonable relation to “a well regulated Militia.” Holding: McReynolds wrote unanimous opinion; Not Involved: William O. Douglas.
  • District of Columbia v. Heller: 2008. 5-4 ruling. Overturns a Washington, D.C., law and creates a new Constitutional right for a civilian in D.C. to keep an enabled handgun at home for self-defense. Holding: Scalia, Roberts, Kennedy, Thomas, Alito; Dissenting: Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, Breyer.
  • McDonald v. Chicago: 2010. 5-4 ruling. Overturns a Chicago handgun ban and extends the Court’s newly-created Constitutional right for a civilian to keep a handgun to the states. Holding: Alito, Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas; Dissenting: Breyer, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, Stevens.

October 13, 2014

Voting Restriction Rulings in Just One Week

Marriage equality didn’t stop for last weekend. Alaska, the first state to ban marriage equality in 1998, now legally recognizes same-sex marriage after U.S. District Court Judge Timothy M. Burgess of the U.S. District Court of Alaska issued his ruling. The Republican governor plans to appeal the decision to the 9th Circuit Court which legalized marriage equality in Nevada and Idaho last week.

Meanwhile, last week saw a rollercoaster of court decisions about voter suppression laws. In passing these laws, the GOP has openly declared that the reason for photo IDs required for voting is to keep Democrats from have their rights at the ballot box. With fewer than 31 fraud cases in over 10 years, the number of legitimate voters kept from voting has vastly increased.  Joy Dunn, 79, is an eligible voter who found out that new laws had disqualified her vote after her absentee ballot in March’s Arkansas special election was rejected. Dunn has been voting in the state since 1954—when she had to pay a $2 poll tax—and was never told that she had to mail a copy of valid ID with her absentee ballot. Arkansas’ new law includes only $300,000 for full implementation, including education, in 75 counties.

Some North Carolina citizens lost voting rights after the Supreme Court overturned a circuit court decision giving voters same-day registration and counting votes cast in the wrong precinct. This temporary ruling covers the November 4 election although the Court has until next year to make a decision about the restricting voting laws. This decision follows the one that upholds limiting votes in Ohio.

In contrast, the Supreme Court gave voting rights to Wisconsin, making three different positions this year. A federal trial court halted the mandatory photo ID for the upcoming election, a panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the ruling and made photo IDS mandatory, and then the Supreme Court overturned the circuit court. Three weeks before the general election, 9 percent of registered voters in Wisconsin didn’t have the necessary voter ID. Even Justice Samuel Alito, one of three judges who voted to keep the restrictive Wisconsin law, admitted that courts should not issue orders affected a state’s election law when the election is near. The accusation of fraud, ostensibly the reason behind the Wisconsin law, found no cases that could have been prevented by a voter ID law. The following chart, an official one from the state to help people “understand” the photo ID law, may have persuaded the other judges how impossibly difficult Wisconsin was trying to make voting.

Wisconsin_voter_id_chart-770x1024 (1)

(The chart is fuzzy, but then so is the concept.)

Judge Richard Posner, who wrote the majority opinion in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board (2008) used to validate restrictive voter ID laws, ruled against the Wisconsin law. He wrote that people needed a government-issued photo ID, but different states make far more restrictive mandates. His most recent decision describes new voting laws as “a mere fig leaf for efforts to disenfranchise voters likely to vote for the political party that does not control the state government.” He also pointed out that the ratio of voter fraud is one for every 14.6 million voters and said that his panel of judges supporting the Wisconsin law “is not troubled by the absence of evidence.”

Texas voters also got a break when U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos struck down that state’s mandatory photo ID for voting, calling it an “unconstitutional poll tax” intended to discriminate against Hispanic and African-American citizens that creates “an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote.” A panel of judges had previously stopped the law because it posed “strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor,” but the striking down of the Voting Rights Act by the Supreme Court a year ago allowed Texas to reinstate the law. As before, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, also a GOP gubernatorial candidate, promised that the state would “immediately appeal.”

People who cheerfully maintain that voter ID makes no difference in voting are now faced with a report from the Government Accountability Office, Congress’ nonpartisan investigative agency.  It found that “states that toughened their voter identification laws saw steeper drops in election turnout than those that did not, with disproportionate falloffs among black and younger voters.” The decline was among eligible and registered voters, not people trying to defraud the government. The greatest affect was on voters 23 and younger, new voters, and blacks. Voters with driver’s licenses or state IDs range from 84 percent of 95 percent, depending on the state; these IDs cost from $14.50 to $58.50. The GAO also found no voter-fraud problem. Despite this information, the Supreme Court is permitting North Carolina’s law to eliminate same-day voter registration and to ban votes cast in the wrong precincts. Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented.

When the GOP took over states in 2010, the legislatures and governors gerrymandered the districts to put as many of their party into Congress as possible. The ten worst gerrymandered districts in 2013 are here. Federal judges have declared the congressional maps in Virginia to be unconstitutional because they isolate blacks into a single district. The order won’t go into effect this year and the case can be appealed to SCOTUS, but at this time the judges have demanded a new map by April. Republicans need to get the Democratic governor to agree to their redistricting. If Gov. Terry McAuliffe won’t sign their map, the judges may end up redrawing the districts. Virginia’s District 3 shows how contorted that gerrymandering has become.

543485db14a74.image

Florida emerged victorious in the gerrymandering debate. The GOP is not only permitted to use the existing racially-drawn map this year but also allowed to have only a slightly changed version in 2016.  Earlier this year, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case about Alabama’s gerrymandering that may have raised the number of blacks in one district to over 70 percent. The Supreme Court is also considering a challenge by Arizona Republicans to the state’s district map after an independent redistricting commission was mandated in 2000 to take politics out of the process. The GOP wants to draw lines for noncompetitive Republican districts. After the upcoming election, gerrymandering may become the next hot-button political topic.

In Ohio, John Husted has figured out a way to put his name front and center inside polling places. After doing everything possible to suppress the vote, Ohio’s Secretary of State put his name in big letters on an “informational” poster that his office requires all polling places to post. One county election official may not to post the name because Husted’s spokesman says that doing so is not a “formal directive.”

Another racial voting issue concerns American Indians. They’ve been able to vote for only 90 years, even a shorter time in states such as Montana that forbid those on reservations from voting because the state didn’t consider them taxpaying citizens. Other states such as Wyoming and Arizona used literacy tests to stop American Indian suffrage. South Dakota directly stopped all American Indians from voting until the 1940s, and Utah Supreme Court ruled in 1956 that Indians could be kept from voting because they were “neither acquainted with the processes of government, nor conversant with activities of the outside world generally.” Even the 1965 Voting Act required an extension ten years later specifying coverage for “language minorities” like American Indians.

Currently, South Dakota suppresses the American Indian vote by failing to put a pre-election satellite voting and registration site in an isolated part of Pine Ridge Reservation despite receiving funding for the facility. Voters have to travel 54 miles roundtrip on poorly-maintained dirt roads in the snow to register and cast ballots.

Another piece of insanity surrounding the election deals with TV commercials. Laws from 1927 and 1934 require that these ads, and those on radio, identify who is paying for the “information. The FCC waived responsibility in this area and now puts the burden of finding this information on the listener/viewer to find out if the entity identified on the ad is not the “true sponsor.” Dark money in Super PACs makes it almost impossible for individuals to discover who is paying for these ads. Even the Supreme Court’s ruling in McCutcheon v. FEC, the decision that gave almost unlimited donation amounts to campaigns, stated that disclosure requirements are  “justified based on a governmental interest in ‘provid[ing] the electorate with information’ about the sources of election-related spending” and help to “deter actual corruption and avoid the appearance of corruption by exposing large contributions and expenditures to the light of publicity.” Justices made the same claim in Citizens United v. FEC (2010) and McConnell v. FEC (2003). The FCC needs to note the Court’s claim that robust speech cannot occur “when organizations hide themselves from the scrutiny of the voting public.”

Over half the contributions for general election advertising comes from undisclosed sources that overwhelmingly benefits GOP candidates. Almost 80 percent of this money comes from secret money donated to the conservative U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Koch brothers Freedom Partners, and Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS. Restrictive voter laws will disenfranchise about 5 million low-income and minorities voters. Facing these odds, progressives will be lucky to get any representation in state and federal legislative chambers.

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