Nel's New Day

February 28, 2019

Good News across the U.S.

The week has been filled with testimony from Michael Cohen about the corruption of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) and DDT’s failure—and its GOP spin—at the highly vaunted summit with North Korea. Across the United States, however, bits of good news gleam from time to time.

Thanks to Maxine Waters (D-CA), chair of the House Financial Services, Deutsche Bank is cooperating in an investigation into DDT’s finances.

The House has passed its second gun control bill within two days, this one closing the “Charleston loophole.” A white supremacist was able to kill nine people in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church because a background check couldn’t be finished within three days. Three Republicans joined Democrats in the vote of 228-198. Before yesterday, the last gun control bill to pass the house was the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act 25 years ago. In 2017, over 6,000 guns were sold to people with criminal histories or other factors prevent sales because of the three-day deadline, 50 percent up from 2016. Also in 2017, the three-day deadline kept the FBI from completing 310,232 gun background checks.

After almost 50 years, Jack Baker and Michael McConnell are finally legally married in the eyes of Social Security. They had successfully obtained a marriage license in Minnesota in 1971 because the clerk didn’t realize it was for two men, and the state didn’t request that the marriage be dissolved. Minnesota just pretended the marriage wasn’t valid. On September 18, 2018, a district court in Minnesota declared their marriage “in all respects valid.”

Overturning a State Department decision, a federal judge has ruled that Aiden and Ethan Dvash-Banks, twin boys born to a surrogate mother for a gay couple, have the same rights as U.S. citizens. One egg donor is a U.S. citizen, the other an Israeli, and they married in Canada in 2017. When one father applied for U.S. passports for both boys before moving to the U.S., immigration officials refused to recognize that the U.S. citizen was the legal father of both children and demanded a DNA test for the twins’ citizenship. The U.S. consulate in Toronto provided citizenship for only the one twin biologically related to the U.S. citizen and required him to sponsor the other twin as his “step-son” although he is listed on the birth certificate as the boy’s father. The two men sued for recognition of their marital status, and the judge ruled that federal law “does not require a person born during their parents’ marriage to demonstrate a biological relationship with both of their married parents.” The judge cited two court cases which clearly state the word “parents” is not limited to biological parents,” meaning that the twins will be allowed to stay together and with their married parents.

Another family is still fighting for their legal rights. U.S. citizen Allison Blixt married Italian citizen Stefania Zaccari in London because the U.S. Defense of Marriage Act had not yet been struck down. Blixt’s son was recognized as a U.S. citizen, but the State Department used a policy about unwed mothers to deny citizenship to Zaccari’s son. Both children were born after the two women were legally married, but Blixt was told that she had to register her son, born to Zaccari, as her “step-son.”

The State Department language on its website, that transferring a parent’s U.S. citizenship to a child born abroad requires “a biological relationship, or blood relationship,” violates the Immigration and Nationality Act that permits children to inherit married parents’ U.S. citizenship if the adult lived in the U.S. for at least five years and meets other requirements. The State Department appears to ignore the legal marriage of same-gender couples.

A federal judge ordered Texas to stop its purge of electoral rolls because evidence shows no widespread voter fraud in Texas. He described the planned purging “ham-handed” and “threatening.” Writing about the blatantly inaccurate numbers of non-citizens voted, the judge stated:

“It appears this is a solution looking for a problem…. [The policy] exemplifies the power of government to strike fear and anxiety and to intimidate the least powerful among us.”

Two weeks ago, 80-year-old Goodloe Sutton, the editor and owner of the 140-year-old Democrat-Reporter in Linden (AL), population 2,123, wrote an editorial asking the Ku Klux Klan to “ride again” into communities of Democrats who consider raising taxes before he advocated lynching for his political opponents in an interview with the Montgomery Adviser. Both Alabama senators called for his resignation, the Alabama Press Association censured him, and the University of Southern Mississippi removed him from its Hall of Fame. Sutton, known for his racist, anti-Semitic, sexist, and homophobic editorials, has now stepped down to be replaced by Elecia R. Dexter, a black woman, as the newspaper’s publisher and editor. In a recent interview, Sutton said the publicity was worth $10 million and that Democratic lawmakers are “terrible” while the KKK is “the nicest.” Dexter has no journalism background and started working at the newspaper two months ago as a clerk.

The New York legislature, now controlled by Democrats, may pass a law requiring DDT to release his state income tax returns. The NY TRUTH Act would require all statewide elected officials, including the president and vice president if they file taxes in the state, to publicly release their taxes each year.

With a pledge from new Dem Gov J.B. Pritzker to make Illinois the “most progressive state in the nation … for women’s reproductive rights,” state Democratic legislators introduced two measures to expand abortion access, repealing parental notification requirements for minors and restrictions for late pregnancies. The act would also require private insurance in the state to cover abortions like any other reproductive healthcare for women and allow advance-practice nurses to perform abortions. A 1975 law criminalizing doctors who perform abortions would be abolished. Former GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner had signed legislation permitting Medicaid and state health insurance coverage to be used for abortions.

The Wisconsin National Guard is reviewing whether Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) violated the law when he criticized Wisconsin governor, Tony Evers, in tweets and on Fox for withdrawing troops from the southern U.S. border. Hours before Evers issued an executive order for the troops, Zinzinger questioned in a tweet whether the governor’s decision was “based solely on politics.” Federal laws and Wisconsin laws call for “any commissioned officer who uses contemptuous words against the president, the vice-president, members of Congress, the secretary of defense, the secretary of a military department, the secretary of homeland security, or the governor or legislature of the state of Wisconsin” to be punished. Kinzinger has the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Wisconsin Air National Guard; as governor, Evers is his commander-in-chief. A spokeswoman for Kinzinger says that he can say anything he wants when he’s “off-duty,” but a First Amendment law expert disagrees.

New Michigan governor, Gretchen Whitmer, canceled the sale of a former state prison site to a for-profit private prison company that planned to detain hundreds of immigrants in the facility. The company would not guarantee that the prison “would not be used to detain adults who had been separated from their children or other family members.”

Thanks to grassroots activists and the state of Illinois, the cost of telephone calls for prisoners has gone from the most inflated in the U.S. to under a penny a minute, the lowest cost in the country, although some costly fees put a 30-minute call at $2. DDT had overturned FCC regulations for prisoners’ telephone prices.

Chief Justice John Roberts joined the “liberals” to order a review of the death penalty for an inmate suffering from dementia so severe that he cannot understand why he is being punished. The decision requires a lower court to examine whether Vernon Madison’s strokes and vascular dementia leave him unable to remember his crime and the reason that the state wants to execute him. Earlier the court had ruled that people suffering from schizophrenic and psychotic delusions may not be put to death; in her opinion for the majority, Justice Elena Kagan stated that the same logic applies to dementia. He had been on death row for 33 years. Brett Kavanaugh did not vote because he was not confirmed when the case was argued.

May we have more good news.

October 17, 2018

DDT, Kavanaugh – Liars Running the U.S.

Filed under: Judiciary — trp2011 @ 9:06 PM
Tags: , , ,

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), known for his lies, has concentrated on trying to exonerate Saudi Arabia in its killing of the U.S. reporter Jamal Khashoggi.  First DDT appeared to think that the “problem” would blow over if he just ignored the entire event. Backlash caused him to call the Saudi king about the killing and report that the king doesn’t know anything about it. (DDT has a tendency to support world dictators by appearing to believe their denials, just as he did with Russia’s interference in the U.S. presidential election.)

In the face of escalating anger from the people of the United States and members of Congress, including Republicans, DDT used the same excuse for exonerating his Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh: Khashoggi may have been murdered, but the Saudi royalty isn’t to blame. Somebody else did it. “These could have been rogue killers,” DDT said. He ignored the group of 15 Saudis, one of them a specialist in autopsies and bringing a bone saw, who arrived in Turkey on a private jet about 3:00 in the morning before the murder. Someone tried to maintain that they were “tourists,” but they left the same day—after Khashoggi disappeared into the embassy—as diplomatic pouches left the Saudi embassy in Turkey. Two planes returned the murder squad to Saudi Arabia. When Turkey gained access to the embassy for an investigation, a cleaning crew had preceded them, and some places in the embassy had been freshly painted.

Saudi’s dictator oversaw 48 beheadings in 2018’s first four months; he would have found a single dismembering to be simple. If Saudi Arabia decides to take DDT’s lead in blaming someone not connected with the government, whoever they finger will be killed. DDT can then claim the murdering as proof of “rogue killers.”

DDT maintains that he has “no financial interests” in Saudi Arabia, but he loves Saudis because they give him money. Even Fox network reported on his fiscal involvement. Saudis launder their money by purchasing his apartments in inflated prices, they may give him permits to build his desired hotel in Jeddah if he behaves, a Saudi royal billionaire, Prince Alwaleed bin-Talal bailed out DDT in the 1990s by buying his yacht and a stake in New York’s Plaza Hotel, and they spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to stay at his hotel in Washington.

In an attempt to smooth over the problem, DDT sent Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to tell the Saudi Crown Prince how much DDT loves the prince. Pompeo said that “we need to make sure we are mindful” of the important US-Saudi ties to conclude what happened to Khaghoggi. Every time that reporters ask DDT about Khashoggi, DDT brags about the giant–and possibly non-existent–arms deal with Saudi Arabia. He cannot make the deal on his own, however; Congress must approve the sale of weapons that Saudi Arabia uses to kill civilians in the Middle East. DDT says he’s awaiting the “investigation,” probably as effective as the one into Brett Kavanaugh, and Jared Kushner, the Saudi prince’s BFF is hiding from the situation.

In another continuing lie, DDT constantly makes a big and offensive deal about Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) for her comment that she has Native American heritage, going so far as to say that he would donate $1 million to her selection of a charity if she took a DNA test proving her claim. After his usual slur of calling her “Pocahantas,” he said at a rally, “I will give you a million dollars to your favorite charity, paid for by Trump, if you take the test and it shows you’re an Indian [sic],” he announced. She did, but he now says, “I didn’t say that.” Maybe he doesn’t have the money.

DDT tried to convince Lesley Stahl during an interview on 60 Minutes that he “didn’t really make fun” of Kavanaugh’s victim, Christine Blasey Ford. After Stahl pointed out that he did mock her, and he defended himself by saying that without his ridicule “we would not have won.” DDT continued by stating that he is “bringing people together” in the country instead of the polarization under President Obama immediately before he complained how “horribly” Democrat senators behaved during Kavanaugh’s hearings. Questioned about the “unity” of this action, DDT said he bashed Democrats because they “don’t wanna be healed.” He also dodged questions about why he refuses to accept that Russia meddled in the election and why he has never said anything negative about Putin. DDT did acknowledge that Putin might be involved in assassinations, but that wasn’t criticism about him because assassinations in another country don’t trouble DDT.

DDT and the White House lied about Democrats leaking information about the name of the person who accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault. When the media obtained the information, only Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the FBI, and the White House had a copy of the letter. DDT’s theory was that Kavanaugh’s “poor treatment” would help Republicans in the midterm election.

Kavanaugh’s penchant for lying parallels that of DDT. The only difference between the lies by these two men is that Kavanaugh incessantly lied under oath. Here’s a sample, much of it from his last angry testimony when he treated Democrats with great rudeness and showed that he lacks the demeanor to be any judge, let alone a life-time term for the U.S. Supreme Court:

  • Kavanaugh’s grandfather was a Yale graduate, negating his claim that he had no family connections with the school and got in by hard work.
  •  Kavanaugh was not of legal age to drink in high school; he lied about when the law for the drinking age was changed to 18. He also wasn’t of legal drinking age during at Yale during his first couple of years.
  • Witnesses did not “refute Ford’s testimony, a common law from both Kavanaugh and other Republicans: his friends said that they didn’t “remember.”
  • Kavanaugh’s claim that he did not drink to excess was refuted by a large number of classmates who saw him belligerent and stumbling drunk.
  • ”Boofed” refers to anal sex, not flatulence.
  • ”Devil’s Triangle” is a sexual act among two men and one woman, not a “drinking game.” (By now it also describes a disaster!)
  • Kavanaugh’s social group associated with Ford, as indicated by multiple members of his class at Georgetown Prep.
  • Kavanaugh lied about his ignorance of a sexual assault claim against him before a NYT story was released; text messages show that he and his team knew it earlier.
  • Kavanaugh said that he didn’t know if he was “Bart,” but he wrote a letter that he signed Bart.
  • Kavanaugh did not rule in favor of environmental controls “many times,” as he claimed: almost 90 percent of his rulings opposed any attempt to control climate change, and DDT praised him for overruling federal regulators “75 times on cases involving clean air, consumer protections, net neutrality and other issues.”
  • Kavanaugh lied about violating secrecy laws governing grand juries during Bill Clinton’s Ken Starr investigation when he claimed that a Chris Ruddy, peddler of conspiracy theories, gave him information “off the record,” something that doesn’t apply to grand jury secrecy, and then lied to the Senate under oath about having committed this crime.
  • In 2004, Kavanaugh lied about his handling of the controversial nomination of federal Judge William Pryor as emails now show.
  • Kavanaugh lied about his involvement to steal Democratic staff emails connected to judicial confirmations.
  • In 2006, Kavanaugh lied about his involvement in the controversial nomination of federal Judge Charles Pickering and his role in nominating William Haynes, the Pentagon general counsel involved in creating the Bush administration’s interrogation policies.

All the above were lies that Kavanaugh told under oath; he frequently perjured himself. He also lied when he assured Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) that  Roe v. Wade is “settled law”: within the last year he tried to prevent an immigrant girl from getting an abortion by imprisoning her in an ICE facility.

Juries are always directed to follow this instruction:

“If a witness is shown knowingly to have testified falsely about any material matter, you have a right to distrust such witness’ other testimony and you may reject all the testimony of that witness.”

Thus neither DDT nor Kavanaugh can be believed in anything that they say, and they control two of the three branches of government.

July 27, 2018

Kavanaugh, A Disaster for the United States, Part 2

When Brett Kavanaugh accepted the nomination for Supreme Court justice, he gave a lovely speech, full of admiration for women and children and minorities. The wealth of his rulings and dissents show that much of what he said was a farce. Possibly even his wife thought so too, from the look on her face.

Separation of Powers – PHH Corp. v. CFPB (2017): Striking down the single-director structure of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Kavanaugh opposed the president’s needing a reason to fire the CFPB director. Later, the entire D.C. Circuit Court overrode Kavanaugh’s decision.

Abortion – Garza v. Hargan (2017): The complete D.C. Circuit Court vacated an order preventing an undocumented pregnant teenager from having an abortion. Kavanaugh dissented with the statement that “the en banc majority … reflects a philosophy that unlawful immigrant minors have a right to immediate abortion on demand, not to be interfered with even by government efforts to help minors navigate what is undeniably a difficult situation by expeditiously transferring them to their sponsors.” The 17-year-old girl had been held prisoner without permission to see a doctor to keep her from having an abortion as the administration tried to postpone any decision until the fetus was too developed for the procedure.

Contraception – Priests for Life v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2016): When the D.C. Circuit Court refused to hear a case about employers opting out of birth control coverage by submitting a form, dissented because of the employers’ “religious privilege.” Filling out the form seemed to burden their exercise of religion. Kavanaugh’s view is that courts must accept, without question, any religious claim because any employer has the right to deny birth control coverage to their employees through insurance.

Healthcare – Seven Sky v. Holder (2011): In dissenting to the ruling that upheld the Affordable Care Act, Kavanaugh claimed the Anti-Injunction Act, “which carefully limits the jurisdiction of federal courts over tax-related matters.” He argued that a president is not required to enforce the ACA or any other law if he makes that choice. A pending lawsuit regarding the constitutionality of the ACA could be decided by the Supreme Court.

Voting Restrictions – South Carolina v. United States (2012): Kavanaugh wrote the opinion upholding South Carolina’s voter ID law opposed by the DOJ because of serious racial disparities in photo ID requirements blocking over 60,000 minority registered voters from the polls.

Discrimination – Howard v. Office of the Chief Administrative Officer of the U.S. House of Representatives (2013): Kavanaugh’s dissent in this case, if successful, would ban workers in congressional offices from suing on the basis of racism, sexual harassment, and retaliation.  He also claimed in Miller v. Clinton (2012) that the State Department is exempt from being sued for age discrimination. In Rattigan v. Holder (2012), Kavanaugh dissented from the majority rule that a black FBI agent could pursue a case of inappropriate retaliation for filing a discrimination claim when the agency began a security investigation against him.

Hostility to Workers’ Rights – SeaWorld of Fla., LLC v. Perez (2014): Kavanaugh opposed a majority ruling upholding a safety citation after a trainer died while working with an orca that had previously killed three other trainers. He said that the government shouldn’t be responsible for protecting these workers. The nominee has a pattern of ruling against workers in other issues such as worker privacy and union disputes. In National Labor Relations Board v. CNN America, Inc. (2017) Judge Kavanaugh dissented from the majority opinion upholding a National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) order that CNN recognize and bargain with a worker’s union. and finding that CNN violated the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) by discriminating against union members in hiring. Another Kavanaugh dissent in National Federation of Federal Employees v. Vilsack (2012) called for drug testing despite the lack of policy. His majority ruling in American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO v. Gates (2007) could allow the Secretary of Defense to eviscerate collective bargaining.

Immigration – Fogo de Chao Inc. v. Department of Homeland Security (2014): The case agreed that specialized cultural knowledge regarding Brazilian-style cooking was valid for a temporary visa, but Kavanaugh wanted to exclude “any and all knowledge or skills … learned from family or community rather than in-company trainers.”

Gun ownership – Heller v. District of Columbia (2011): The ruling in the D.C. Circuit Court supported a law that prohibited assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and that required certain firearms to be registered. Kavanaugh dissented: “semi-automatic rifles, like semi-automatic handguns, have not traditionally been banned and are in common use by law-abiding citizens for self-defense in the home, hunting, and other lawful uses.” He also stated, “A ban on a class of arms is … equivalent to a ban on a category of speech.” The Supreme Court later overturned Heller.

Net Neutrality – United States Telecom Association v. FCC (2017): After a panel of judges ruled that internet service providers cannot discriminate among content providers, the D.C. Circuit Court refused to rehear the case. Kavanaugh dissented, claiming that the FCC should rely on the 1934 Communications Act which does not allow the FCC to regulate Internet service providers.” The FCC now permits this discrimination.

Environment – EME Homer City Generation, L.P. v. EPA (2012): Kavanaugh wrote the opinion in this decision that the EPA could not require companies to replace refrigerant chemicals of greenhouse gasses with more sustainable alternatives.  In his dissent to White Stallion Energy Ctr. LLC v. EPA (2014), he stated that the EPA should have considered the cost to the power industry before regulating toxic air pollution. The Supreme Court cited his dissent when it reversed the D.C. Circuit Court’s ruling that had upheld the standards. In Howmet Corp. v. EPA (2010) Kavanaugh dissented from a decision to approve an EPA fine of over $300,000 against a company that had improperly shipped a corrosive chemical to be added to fertilizer without properly labelling it and taking other precautions to treat it as a hazardous waste.

Unlimited Campaign Donations – EMILY’s List v. Federal Election Commission (2009): Kavanaugh wrote the opinion that led to the creation of super PACs. In Independence Institute v. Federal Election Commission (2016), he wrote the opinion which Demos and Campaign Legal Center called “a novel theory that would limit disclosure based on a spender’s tax-status, a theory subsequently rejected by a three-judge court and the Supreme Court.”

A civil rights group wrote:

“Judge Kavanaugh’s 12-year record on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, as well as his known writings, speeches, and legal career, demonstrate that if he were confirmed to the Supreme Court, he would be the fifth and decisive vote to undermine many of our core rights and legal protections.  In case after case, he has ruled against individuals and the environment in favor of corporations, the wealthy, and the powerful.  He has advanced extreme legal theories to overturn longstanding precedent to diminish the power of federal agencies to help people.  And he has demonstrated an expansive view of presidential power that includes his belief that presidents should not be subject to civil suits or criminal investigations while in office despite what misconduct may have occurred.”

Putting Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court can vastly increase the economic inequality in a nation where it is greater than at any time during almost a century, an equality marked by gender and race. Lack of healthcare in the United States has caused it to have a higher maternal mortality rate than any other developed country. Taking contraception from women keeps many of them from getting and keeping jobs, advancing their careers, furthering their education, and financially supporting themselves. The loss of contraception also produces higher abortion rates.

In the past century, unions have been responsible for decreasing income inequality. As the number of people in unions grew, so did the percentage of people in the middle class. The reverse is also true, especially for women who comprise the majority of public sector workers that Janus v. AFSCME has tried to destroy. The day after the Supreme Court decision allowed workers to have union benefits without charge, it authorized crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) to continue to lie to women about their services and the dangers of abortions. Two weeks later, the current administration proposed prevention of home care workers unions.

Brett Kavanaugh is part of the conservative strategy to demolish the structure that attempts to protect the well-being of women and families, the foundation for the United States’ economy and democracy. Gone will be reproductive rights for women, safety and privacy rights for workers, union rights, individual rights, immigration rights, voting rights, religious rights, a clean environment, etc. Big business will be god, and the president will be above the law.

With Kavanaugh as justice—or someone like him—the Supreme Court will be a disaster for the nation.

July 25, 2018

Kavanaugh, A Disaster for the United States, Part 1

Filed under: Judiciary — trp2011 @ 11:59 PM
Tags: ,

On July 9, 2018, Brett Kavanaugh accepted the nomination for Supreme Court Justice to replace Anthony Kennedy whose resignation takes effect on July 31. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has managed to deflect attention away from his nominee with news about the meeting with Vladimir Putin, his attack on Iran, and his trade war. Other events have also distracted the media: DDT’s incessant lies, the release of tapes between DDT and Michael Cohen showing that he was involved in hiding the story about his affair with Karen McDougal, etc. Media about Kavanaugh largely focuses on the losses of people’s rights—especially women’s reproductive rights—if Kavanaugh is approved.

The biggest concern facing the people in the United States with Brett Kavanaugh as a justice on the highest court, however, should be that he could put DDT above the law. In the past, he protected George W. Bush by writing that sitting presidents should not have to concern himself with civil suits, criminal probes, prosecutors’ questioning—any “time-consuming and distracting” lawsuits and investigations.

Worse, Kavanaugh said three times on a panel with other lawyers that the unanimous Supreme Court ruling in 1974 requiring Richard Nixon to turn over the Watergate tapes was wrong. Kavanaugh said that Nixon may have had the authority to hide incriminating evidence from federal investigators and that U.S. v. Nixon should perhaps be “overruled.” In 2009, Kavanaugh argued that “Congress might consider a law exempting a President—while in office—from criminal prosecution and investigation, including from questioning by criminal prosecutors or defense counsel.”

In addition to making the president above the law—at least a GOP president—Kavanaugh proposed a six-year presidential term by repealing the 23rd Amendment to the constitution. [That would give DDT six years to campaign instead of the four years that he’s using at this time.]

Kavanaugh’s opinion may be for only Republican presidents. He helped author the 1998 Starr Report which gave the case Bill Clinton’s impeachment and removal from office. The document states that a president who lies, whether or not under oath, could be impeached. By 2004, the George W. Bush nominee for a federal judgeship had changed his mind:

“It was not our place to say what the House should do with that or what the Senate should do with that evidence.”

Likely decisions from a Supreme Court with Kavanaugh based on his earlier rulings:

  • Overturning Roe v. Wade, permitting abortions, or at the least allowing states to make the decision and creating inequality for women throughout the nation.
  • Loss of the Affordable Care Act.
  • Establishment of a Christian theocracy for the United States with the distorted view of “religious liberty” that discriminates against all minorities and women.
  • Control by the judiciary over regulations by overturning the Chevron doctrine.
  • Eradication of any agencies independent from executive control.
  • Elimination of the balance of powers. 
  • Almost unlimited ownership of guns, including semi-automatic rifles.
  • Permission for foreigners to donate money for U.S. candidates by allowing them to spend money on independent advocacy campaigns.

The Federalist Society picked Kavanaugh for the nomination—although Kennedy may have leveraged the deal. Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah refused to answer a question about whether DDT told Kennedy he would nominate Kavanaugh if Kennedy retired. Kennedy could be in control of a SCOTUS seat for 60 years—30 years for himself and 30 or more for the 53-year-old Kavanaugh.” Kennedy’s son bailed Jared Kushner out of a nasty loan when rents on Kushner’s $1.8 billion purchase of 666 Fifth Avenue met only 65 percent of his loan payments. Vornado, servicer on the loan from LNR Partners where Kennedy’s son worked, reduced the principal and deferred part of the interest on the interest-only loan until February 2019.

Kavanaugh’s last confirmation took three years for approval. The American Bar downgraded Kavanaugh’s qualification rating judges and colleagues described him as “less than adequate,” “sanctimonious,” “insulated,” and “immovable and very stubborn.”  In 2006, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) complained that Kavanaugh “spoke of making rulings and whatnot that would make President Bush proud.”

Cleared by anti-LGBTQ and anti-choice organizations, Kavanaugh suggested that Roe v. Wade was incorrectly decided and claimed that a president can refuse to enforce a statute that a court has ruled constitutional. He could also vote to overturn Griswold v. Connecticut and Eisenstadt v. Baird, that legalize contraception for unmarried women. One of his dissents was to nullify the ACA preexisting condition coverage, including for people with HIV. His dissent in the decision that a migrant girl could have an abortion claimed that the government created a “new right” for immigrants in custody “to obtain immediate abortion on demand” for “unlawful immigrant minors.”

Comments about Kavanaugh:

Demand Progress: “Trump’s SCOTUS pick Brett Kavanaugh is an enemy of net neutrality and has sided with big cable companies in the lower courts.”

Politico’s Tim Starks: Kavanaugh “has a history of embracing warrantless surveillance and rejecting Fourth Amendment challenges to it.”

Vox’s Dylan Matthews:  “He’s a veteran of every conservative cause you can imagine, from the 2000 Florida recount to the fight against Obamacare.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA): “He believes that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is unconstitutional, he tried to strike down net neutrality, and he’s worked to make it harder for federal watchdogs to hold corporate criminals accountable and protect public health, safety, and economic security.”

Chris Murphy: “Brett Kavanaugh is an anti-consumer zealot, an opponent of preexisting condition protections, a critic of abortion rights and access to contraception, a Second Amendment radical, and a bad choice for the Supreme Court.”

Although Yale Law School’s press release about Kavanaugh sang his virtues, over 600 of the school’s students, staff members, and alumni signed a letter calling for the school to rescind this support citing Kavanaugh’s rulings to show that his conservative bias could place SCOTUS rulings at risk. The letter also stated that Kavanaugh would act as a “rubber stamp for President Trump’s fraud and abuse.” It added:

“At a time when the President and his associates are under investigation for various serious crimes, including colluding with the Russian government and obstructing justice, Judge Kavanaugh’s extreme deference to the Executive poses a direct threat to our democracy.”

Democrats have asked for hundreds of thousands of pages to examine Kavanaugh’s history. One black mark against him may be his testimony that he knew nothing about the George W. Bush administration torture of detainees. Senators had earlier confirmed Jay Bybee to the 9th Circuit Court before they discovered his part in writing the memos justifying this torture. Kavanaugh may not have directly lied, but he waffled enough to mislead the senators. He was asked to recuse himself from any cases dealing with detainee-related issues but refused. The person who signed his letter of exoneration is Brian Benczkowski who was confirmed to lead DOJ’s criminal division after he worked for the largest Russian bank with ties to Vladimir Putin. Two members who felt misled by Kavanaugh still sit on the Judiciary Committee.

One oddity about Kavanaugh is his large decade-long credit card debt—between $60,000 and $200,000—to buy Washington Nationals’ season tickets and baseball playoff games for himself and a “handful” of friends. Shah claimed that some of his debts during the past decade were for home improvement and that Kavanaugh’s friends reimbursed him for their share of the baseball tickets later. Kavanaugh’s only listed assets are his home with a $865,000 mortgage, his wife’s retirement fund between $15,000 and $65,000, and his own retirement fund. His wife annually makes $66,000 as town manager for Chevy Chase; their daughters’ annual tuition is $20,050.

A minority of people in the U.S. will determine the direction of the United States for decades: a president elected by a minority of voters has nominated another white Catholic male for the U.S. Supreme Court, and senators elected by a minority of the voters will in most likelihood confirm the nominee. And the situation will get only worse in the future. By 2040, 70 percent of people will live in 15 states, leaving the 70 senators from the remaining 30 percent—older, whiter, more rural, and more male—will be able to confirm—or not confirm—the president’s nominees. That’s the conclusion of conservative Norm Ornstein based on population estimates. With almost half the population in only eight states by 2040, half the U.S. population will control 84 percent of the Senate.

[To be continued with Kavanaugh’s major cases.]

June 26, 2018

Conservative Supremes Move U.S. to Christian-only Nation

After several mild—in fact, wishy-washy—decisions earlier this month, the Supreme Court came out today with two rulings that eradicate any hope for freedom of religion. Instead, the five conservative justices pushed its Christian message and support for an anti-freedom president.

In Trump v. Hawaii, the conservative majority ruled that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) can ban people from majority-Muslim countries under the guise of “national security.” DDT has spent the past three years denouncing all religions except Christians and assuring people that he bill ban them from the United States. Four old white men and Clarence Thomas has given him that right to—quoting DDT—call for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” Accused of being anti-Muslim in court rulings, he said that he’ll just use territory instead of religion to accomplish his anti-Islam goals.

Chief Justice John Roberts admitted that after his inauguration, DDT “retweeted links to three anti-Muslim propaganda videos” and that he connected the content to his ban on travel.  To Roberts, however, DDT’s open anti-Muslim bias makes no difference because he doesn’t want “inhibit the flexibility to respond to changing world conditions.” Declaring that the ban was not from “animus,” Roberts wrote that authority was not undermined by “this President’s words,” ignoring that the intent to discriminate is not constitutional. After lower courts ruled against DDT’s two earlier iteration of a Muslim ban, the somewhat watered-down version doesn’t protect “national security,” but it does create a symbolic ban against Muslims.

In an ironic twist, Roberts refused to use DDT’s words to rule against a travel ban on Muslims, but he used the words of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission to permit a baker to discriminate against a gay couple trying to purchase a wedding cake. These two decisions each set precedents on the opposite sides of an issue. Lawyers can use Hawaii to argue that prior words don’t matter while others can argue the opposite position with a recent ruling of Masterpiece Cakeshop.  

In her rebuttal to Hawaii, Justice Sonia Sotomayor quoted DDT’s hateful comments and said that today’s decision “repeats the tragic mistakes of the past” and “tells members of minority religions” in the United States that “they are outsiders.” The court, she said, “blindly accepts the government’s invitation to sanction an openly discriminatory policy” and is essentially “replacing one gravely wrong decision with another.” She also compared the Hawaii decision to that of the 1944 Korematsu v. United States when the Supreme upheld the detention of Japanese Americans during World War II with no justification.  

Roberts strenuously objected and wrote, “It is wholly inapt to liken that morally repugnant order to a facially neutral policy denying certain foreign nationals the privilege of admission.” While still supporting the Muslim ban, he repudiated Korematsu by saying that it has “no place in law under the Constitution.”

In one way, Korematsu differs from Hawaii because justices didn’t realize that the lawyers arguing for the case hid evidence and lied to the court. DDT’s incessant tweets, rally speeches, and other statements clearly showed his intent to discriminate although the DOJ Solicitor General Noel Francisco, arguing for the travel ban, did lie about DDT’s statements of animus. Francisco also lied that the travel ban had a “waiver” program to show that DDT’s ban was fair. No one in charge of immigration knows anything about any program because it is a sham.

Two presidents, Gerald Ford in 1976 and Jimmy Carter in 1980, took actions to clear the interned Japanese-Americans, and U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel vacated Fred Korematsu’s conviction for evading internment. She wrote:

“The judicial process is seriously impaired when the government’s law enforcement officers violate their ethical obligations to the court. [The original Supreme Court opinion in Korematsu] stands as a caution that in times of distress the shield of military necessity and national security must not be used to protect governmental actions from close scrutiny and accountability.”

Roberts has added to his record of opposing civil rights, allowing unlimited donations to campaigns, and putting Christianity above all other beliefs in the diverse United States with this shameful decision. His court will go down in the history books for its infamy. Some day, a more rationale Supreme Court will hopefully repudiate Hawaii in the same way that Roberts tried to salvage his career by overturning Korematsu.  

In a second opinion today, this one for NIFLA v. Becerra, the same conservative majority ruled that Christian crisis pregnancy centers cannot be required to tell clients about state-offered reproductive services because it opposes the centers’ mission of not having abortions. The centers also do not have to tell clients whether the centers are licensed as medical facilities. The California law did not focus on crisis pregnancy centers: all medical facilities have the same requirements whether they are CPCs or not.

This ruling against a content-based regulation of speech comes from the same court that upholds state laws providing the text that doctors must read to women seeking abortions. Sometimes this mandated information contains lies that doctors are ordered to tell their patients in the privacy of medical counseling. Planned Parenthood v. Casey allows states to mandate that abortion providers tell patients about the age of the fetus, health risks, and the “availability of printed materials from the State” in an effort to discourage women from having abortions. Six states tell women that personhood begins at conception, and 13 states require women be told that fetuses feel pain.

Yet Thomas’ opinion stated that California’s law is unconstitutional because anti-choice advocates are required to “speak a particular message” while reiterating the ruling in Casey.

Justice Stephen Breyer pointed out that almost all disclosure laws might be considered “content based” because they all require people “to speak a particular message.” In this case, the conservatives assume that “speech about abortion is special.” Laws about this simple medical procedure, connected to religious beliefs, should apply fairly to diverse points of view. Anthony Kennedy took the position that mandated lies in warning women about the procedure are no problem, but that demanding the truth from the religious centers is authoritarianism. The ruling in Becerra gives anti-choice people First Amendment rights while abortion providers lack the right to free speech.

Imagine if other businesses–maybe contractors or taxi services–would not need to tell clients if they are licensed. Although this suggestion may sound far-fetched, so is the current government.

As the conservative court moves the United States toward a forced following of Christianity and away from individual rights, conservatives are preening themselves on the new justice who DDT appointed. Religious fundamentalist VP Mike Pence Senate takes great pride in removing all reproductive rights from girls and women, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who used to criticize DDT’s hatred for Muslims, is now in full support of the travel ban. Neil Gorsuch (center) is on the court only because McConnell held up all hearings for an appointed Supreme Court Justice for almost a year, blocking President Obama’s nominee. Until Gorsuch, presidents appointed nominees, and the Senate vetted them. Sometimes they turned them down, but never before did a Senate leader refuse to allow even a committee hearing on a president’s nominee. [Photo: Reuters/Joshua Roberts]

McConnell has set a new pattern of absolute rule in the Senate. He can push through as many conservative judicial nominees as possible until he loses the majority. If Democrats pattern themselves after Republicans, Democrats can refuse to give any conservative nominees even a hearing. The nation objects to the constant gridlock that comes from the GOP determination to block Democrats at any cost. The schism in Republicans only adds to the problem. At this point, however, the United States may be better off with gridlock than the egregious legislation that the GOP promotes.

 

June 25, 2018

The Supremes Close to Finish Rulings

Filed under: Judiciary — trp2011 @ 9:45 PM
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The U.S. Supreme Court has been very “cautious” in several of its June rulings—sending some back or refusing to hear other high-profile cases. Tired of cake, they turned down an Oregon Supreme Court ruling against bakery owners who had refused to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple, and they sent another case, one in which a lower court ruled that a florist couldn’t refuse to provide flowers for a gay couple’s wedding because she opposed marriage equality, back to the lower court. The Washington state Supreme Court had written that public accommodation laws do more than guarantee access to goods and services:

“Instead, they serve a broader societal purpose: eradicating barriers to the equal treatment of all citizens in the commercial marketplace. Were we to carve out a patchwork of exceptions for ostensibly justified discrimination, that purpose would be fatally undermined.”

One case that the high court refused to hear will kill a man because he is gay. Chief Justice John Roberts has piously written that the “law punishes people for what they do, not who they are.” Yet a South Dakota jury sentenced Charles Rhines to death because they thought he would enjoy prison with other men. A juror said that life in prison would mean “sending him where he wants to go.” Upset about this possibility, the jury sentenced Rhines to death rather than life in prison. Thus this man was sentenced for who he is, not for what he did.

Abbott v. Perez, a Texas case, gave the strongest statement today when the conservative majority overturned a lower court ruling that several districts are gerrymandered. Overturning the lower ruling leaves in place discrimination against Hispanic voters. Only one district, according to five justices, was racially gerrymandered. In her dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote:

“The Court today goes out of its way to permit the State of Texas to use maps that he three-judge District Court unanimously found were adopted for the purpose of preserving the racial discrimination that tainted its previous maps. […]

“It means that, after years of litigation and undeniable proof of intentional discrimination, minority voters in Texas—despite constituting a majority of the population of the State—will continue to be underrepresented in the political process.”

As for North Carolina’s gerrymandering, the Supreme Court sent the case back to a lower court to determine whether the plaintiffs have standing, the same way that it did to Wisconsin. The Court had never found a map so infected by politics that violated voters’ constitutional rights as it did in Wisconsin, but justices did not rule on the merits of the case. In North Carolina, GOP leaders open declared that they were drawing the map to elect Republicans, and they succeeded. With 53 percent GOP vote, 11 of 13 representatives are Republicans. The Supreme Court’s inaction in gerrymandering will leave maps intact until the 2020 election.

Supreme Court Rulings from Thursday, June 21:

Ohio v. American Express: The wealthy benefit from the conservative 5-4 decision that American Express can insist that merchants don’t encourage customers to use other cards. AmEx charges higher fees than Visa or Mastercard but promotes competition with rewards programs for affluent clients. In an unusual move, Stephen Breyer read his dissent from the bench, saying that the ruling can hurt competition in other areas. Stephanie Martz from the National Retail Federal described the ruling as “a blow to competition and transparency” because retailers cannot educate people about how the AmEx “swipe fees” increase the cost of merchandise. The Supreme Court’s ruling overturned the decision from the 2nd Circuit Court that stated that a lower court ruling for AmEx had concentrated on interests of merchants “while discounting the interests of cardholders.”

Many people fail to understand how the use and selection of credit cards influences income inequality because the wealthy pay less for the same object or service that working and middle-class people, who may pay ten percent of their payment for processing a payment. The charge is the same, but credit card fees are different. AmEx costs more for processing, but people pay the same fees no matter what cards they use. The only option merchants have now is to not accept AmEx cards. 

Wisconsin Central v. United States: Justice Neil Gorsuch’s majority opinion explained that stocks are not money. The Railroad Retirement Tax Act of 1937 requires private railroads and their employees to pay income tax on “compensation,” defined as “any form of money remuneration.” Thanks to the Supreme Court, people who receive these stocks are not required to pay taxes on them.

Lucia v. Securities and Exchange Commission: The decision that SEC administrative law judges are “officers of the United States,” requiring them to be appointed by the president and approved by the Senate, may bleed over into the argument about whether special investigator Robert Mueller is the same type of “officer” instead of an “inferior official.” To declare this position means that everything he has done—evidence, indictments, convictions, etc.—can be thrown out.

Pereira v. Sessions: This immigration case rules that a “notice to appear” must specify either the time or place for it to trigger a “stop-time” rule when continuous residence or continuous physical presence ends and that information must be received. Eight justices agreed that they did not need to follow an ambiguous statute; Justice Samuel Alito dissented, using the 1984 Chevron case that the court should accept any reasonable from an agency implementing the statute. Although the decision benefits Pereira and many other immigrants, it also gives the Supreme Court, growing in ideology, in charge of determining orders from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) if a future administration tries to overturn them.

South Dakota v. Wayfair: In a 5-4 vote, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy ruled in a mixed majority permitting states to require online retailers without a physical presence in the state to collect sales tax revenue for the states. The ruling, opposed by John Roberts, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor overturns the 1992 decision in Quill v. North Dakota. Nineteen of the 20 largest online retailers already follow this practice although Wayfair, Overstock, and Newegg do not.

Major decisions Still Missing:

Janus v. AFSCME: Mark Janus doesn’t want pay anything to a union for the collective bargaining that benefits him. His free speech argument is that the fee directly influences government policies on salary, benefits, and pension. The Supreme Court has addressed this issue three separate times. In the first case,  the high court stated that the challengers weren’t government employees, and the second time was a 4-4 decision after Antonin Scalia’s death, pointing toward a ruling that unions that will have to pay for “takers” who want all the union benefits without paying for them.

NIFLA v. Becerra:  The question in this California case is whether Christian crisis-pregnancy centers, that are opposed to abortion and provide minimal services to women, are required to post disclaimers so that their clients will be aware that the services don’t provide medical help. CPCs argue that free speech allows them to keep this information from clients.

Trump v. Hawaii: Known as the travel ban—or Muslim ban—the limitation of travel to eight countries is argued on the basis that an executive order violates the Constitution’s establishment clause, barring government from preferential treatment for specific religions. Earlier cases have been decided with the use of DDT’s prejudicial tweets about Muslims that show he wants to keep people in one specific religion from coming into the United States.

The Oddest Dissent:

Carpenter v. United States: A majority vote of four liberal judges plus Chief Justice Roberts determined that police must get warrants to use cell phone records as a location device for suspects’ travel. Neil Gorsuch wrote about his interpretation of the Fourth Amendment being more “tied to the law” that the last half-century of Supreme Court opinions but finishes that he agrees with the government’s case because he wants to repeal and replace established law. New technology since the Founding Fathers has changed interpretations of “unreasonable searches and seizures.” The government’s argument was that no warrant was necessary because of no “actual physical invasion.” This argument was reversed in 1967 when Katz v. United States decided that warrants were necessary to listen in on a phone call. The Fourth Amendment was triggered by a “reasonable expectation of privacy.”

Richard Nixon’s judges gave police more authority without warrants, and Gorsuch’s dissent provides ridiculous results with the change in tests for this privacy. Yet he radically shifts to the “traditional approach” that permits privacy only if “a house, paper or effect was yours under the law.” If not, police don’t need a warrant. Gorsuch admits that his argument has no clarity but claims to know more than his colleagues. His “traditional approach” would allow law enforcement unlimited right to examine all technology—including telephone conversations and internet usage. His conclusions supposedly come from “positive law,” the argument that all these records are protected by state or federal law and not the Constitution. Gorsuch wants a Supreme Court decision to rewrite the Fourth Amendment.

June 11, 2018

Supreme Court Permits Vote Purging, Other Court Actions

Monday in June means the dribbling of decisions from major Supreme Court cases for the year. Today’s ruling in a 5-4 vote legitimizes the purging of registered voters from rolls if they miss elections. Ohio’s law may be unethical (my opinion) but not against federal law (Samuel Alito’s opinion). The National Voting Rights Act prevents the removal of voters because they fail to vote but requires states to keep accurate rolls. The court’s justification for the ruling comes from the lack of response to a postcard followed by four years of not voting. Cases still waiting for announced decisions concern DDT’s travel ban, gerrymandering, internet sales taxes, union fees, mobile phone privacy, and credit card fees.

Policies promulgated by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) are crossing the line into illegal. Despite DOJ AG Jeff Sessions’ claim that all children are removed from parents when immigrants try to cross the southern border, HHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen refused to be specific about this aim in a Senate hearing and avoided the term “deterrence” because she knows that this policy is illegal. A federal judge blocked President Obama in 2015 from locking up Central American immigrant mothers and their children without bond to stop others from crossing the border, and the 1997 Flores settlement bars locking up children in detention centers. To avoid this problem, the DOJ takes children from parents and treats them as if they came by themselves. The ACLU has filed a lawsuit and asked for a nationwide injunction to stop DDT’s family separation policy.

The DOJ lawyer claimed that they weren’t systematically separating mothers, but three days later Sessions announced that the “zero tolerance” police included mothers with their children. The judge ruled that the case against the policy can move forward because it “arbitrarily tears at the sacred bond between parent and child. Such conduct, if true, as it is assumed to be on the present motion, is brutal, offensive, and fails to comport with traditional notions of fair play and decency.”

Until the World of Trump, the DOJ defended federal law, no matter the political views of the DOJ and the sitting president. Now AG Jeff Sessions is supporting lawsuits from 20 GOP states to invalidate the provisions in the Affordable Care Act mandating that all people buy insurance and thus removing the requirement that healthcare provide for pre-existing conditions. The 17 Democratic-led states have filed a brief to argue for the retention of the ACA, and three career DOJ attorneys refuse to back DOJ support. Instability will cause higher charges for healthcare premiums in 2019. The DOJ controls the nation’s laws by deciding which ones to defend—legal decisions by caprice.

Doing away with the ACA could be a GOP ecological approach to reducing population and make Republicans an endangered species. Although a majority of die-hard Republicans oppose the ACA, 54 percent of people have a favorable view with strong support by independents. Support for the law grows each time that the GOP tries to repeal it.

Philadelphia will keep its status as a so-called sanctuary city after it won its lawsuit against the federal government. The DOJ had pulled a grant because the city would not allow ICE agents into city prisons, notify them when undocumented immigrants leave prisons, and give them information about their immigration status. The city argued that its police force is not an arm of federal agencies, and the judge wrote that the refusal was based in “reasonable, rational,” and “equitable” logic.

Arizona has agreed to allow voters to register without providing proof of citizenship at the time of registration.

The Arizona Court of Appeals upheld a Phoenix ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, citing the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop. The three-judge panel wrote: “[A]llowing a vendor who provides goods and services for marriages and weddings to refuse similar services for gay persons would result in ‘a community-wide stigma inconsistent with the history and dynamics of civil rights laws that ensure equal access to goods, services and public accommodations.’” They added that the law “regulates conduct, not speech.” The baker won his case not to sell one wedding cake to a gay couple but the opinion essentially ruled in favor of LGBTQ rights.

The 9th Circuit Court has just ruled that Maricopa County (AZ) is liable for the racist traffic stop policies of former Joe Arpaio, now a GOP candidate for U.S. Senate. After the federal district court ruling, Arpaio was found in civil contempt of court and criminal contempt for continuing his discriminatory practices after a court order not to enforce federal immigration law on a local level. DDT pardoned him on the civil contempt charges, but the cost to the county is almost $100 million. Maricopa County claimed it wasn’t liable for his actions because he was a policymaker for his own office or the entire state—not the county. The three-judge panel for the 9th Circuit Court disagreed.

DDT’s NFL problem with keeping players from kneeling during the national anthem won’t go away: Colin Kaepernick is suing the NFL for collusion against him because he was blacklisted for leading the NFL players’ protest of police brutality against blacks. Kaepernick’s lawyers plan to request subpoenas for DDT, VP Mike Pence, and White House officials in seeking the DDT administration’s involvement in making players stand during the national anthem. DDT suggested pardoning Ali when he said that he was looking at “thousands of names” of people he can pardon. A lawyer for Ali already turned down DDT, stating that there is no crime for DDT to pardon. Ron Tweel pointed out that the Supreme Court unanimously overturned the conviction in 1971 for Ali’s resisting the draft in June 1967. DDT’s comment was made after he made his appeal to black voters by pardoning Alice Marie Johnson, who has already served 21 years of a life term for nonviolent offenses, a week after he met with Kim Kardashian West. Johnson was convicted on money laundering, one of the charges against Paul Manafort. About DDT pardoning Muhammad Ali, his wife said that “the pardon should go to those who kneel.”

The number of lawsuits surrounding Stormy Daniels has increased after Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti discovered that other women were forced to sign non-disclosure agreements for extramarital affairs with DDT At least one of them was represented by Daniels’ previous lawyer, Keith Davidson. The new lawsuit claims that he “colluded” with DDT’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen to get Daniels on Sean Hannity’s Fox program to falsely deny that she had an affair with DDT. The lawsuit also alleges that DDT was aware of the two lawyers’ coordination but Daniels wasn’t. Another allegation is that Davidson broke client confidentiality by telling Cohen that Daniels was getting a new lawyer and announcing that she had an affair with DDT. Texts show that the two lawyers agreed that Daniels would have no interviews except through Davidson. DDT and Sean Hannity may be called as witnesses.

Davidson retaliated with his own lawsuit against Daniels and Avenatti with a separate one against Cohen for illegally recording phone calls with Davidson. He claimed that he only communicated with Cohen after instructed by his client.

The DOJ seized phone and email records from New York Times reporter Ali Watkins in its investigation into James Wolfe, formerly Senate Intelligence Committee’s director of security, who was indicted for lying to investigators. Watkins said that they had a personal relationship, but he was not a source for her. It is the first case of DDT seizing a reporter’s records, and Wolfe was not charged with passing classified information despite DDT’s inuendos. Leaking unclassified government information is not illegal. DOJ rules require officials to exhaust all of possibilities and negotiate with the reporter before taking legal action to get the records. There was no negotiation, and other actions before taking the records were not made clear. Watkins broke the news about DDT’s associate Carter Page meeting with a Russian spy in 2013.

The UN is demanding an immediate stop to the U.S. removal of children from families at the border because it violates their right and international law. The U.S. refuses to stop the practice and declares all entries as illegal although families requesting asylum, not an illegal entry, are also being separated. The A.C.L.U. has filed a class-action lawsuit, demanding a stop to the separation and reunification of families.

In the UN, the U.S. vetoed an Arab-backed Kuwait measure with ten votes to protect Palestinians from Israelis. U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley’s resolution to condemn Hamas for Israeli violence in Gaza got only the U.S. vote. Israelis have killed 124 Palestinians, including journalists and medics, and wounded over a thousand more along the fence to Gaza where two million poor Palestinians, displaced by Israelis in 1948, live. No Israelis have been killed.

The Treasury Department has threatened governments and private companies if they trade with Iran. Under Secretary of the Treasury Sigal Mandelker said:

“Companies doing business in Iran face substantial risks, and those risks are even greater as we reimpose nuclear-related sanctions. We will hold those doing prohibited business in Iran to account.”

This website tracks court cases in which citizens, tribal nations, state and local governments, business owners, and others are standing up for U.S. conservation laws, common-sense energy rules, and ethics and transparency standards at the Department of the Interior.

June 5, 2018

Supreme Court Winds Up Year, More Court Cases

Mondays in June mean decisions from the Supreme Court. This week the justices gave extremely narrow rulings on two major case, leaving both sides dissatisfied. The first, dealing with whether religious beliefs can be used to discriminate against others, concerned a Colorado baker who would not sell a wedding cake to a gay couple. The ruling came out on the side of the baker but left no decision for the legality of allowing religious beliefs or free speech rights as justification for refusing services to LGBTQ people. The Supreme Court decision, with only Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsberg dissenting, claimed that the members of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission showed “religious hostility” which “cast doubt on the fairness and impartiality of the Commission’s adjudication of Phillips’ case.”

Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Kristen Waggoner for the baker approved of the statement that “government hostility toward people of faith has no place in our society,” a ruling that may also be used to assert that hostility from people’s faith likewise has no place in the United States. She refused to answer a question about future rulings if the baker again refused to sell a wedding cake to a same-gender couple. Using state anti-discrimination laws requiring public businesses to equally serve all potential customers, several courts have turned down self-identified artists such as florists, bakers, and photographers who claim violation of their rights if they have to give business to same-gender couples, a claim that this ruling doesn’t decide.

Author of the ruling, Anthony Kennedy, wrote that LGBTQ people “cannot be treated as social outcasts or as inferior in dignity and worth.” He added that future cases “must be resolved … without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market.” According to the ruling, the U.S. has a “general rule” that religious and other objections “do not allow business owners and other actors in the economy and in society to deny … equal access to goods and services.”

In dissension among justices, Gorsuch and Alito asserted that the Supreme Court cannot tell a baker “that a wedding cake is just like any other,” using sacramental bread as an analogy. Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer disagreed, stating that a wedding cake doesn’t change just because “a vendor like Phillips invests its sale to particular customers with ‘religious significance.’ ” Kagan referenced a 1968 decision requiring a barbecue restaurant owner to serve black customers despite his claim that his religion opposes racial equality.

The cake people failed to get a ruling that the Constitution protects discrimination, but it does give states the right to legislate against discrimination, including against LGBTQ people. The ruling against religious animus is an interesting comparison to the religious animus in DDT’s travel ban, another Supreme Court ruling to be released this month.

In a case about the DOJ imprisoning an undocumented migrant girl so that she could not get a legal abortion, the Supreme Court gave a mixed ruling. It declared the lower court’s ruling to be moot and therefore not binding because the girl had already had an abortion but declined to sanction the opposing lawyers to the DOJ for what the DOJ called deception because the procedure was rushed through before the DOJ could appeal to the Supreme Court. The high court has never before been petitioned to sanction lawyers. The decision in this case does not affect an ongoing class-action case about the rights of immigrant teens in government custody to obtain abortions. DOJ is declaring the case a win for them, but the narrow ruling was for only one girl who had already had an abortion.

The Supreme Court is also due to consider whether to review a Washington state Supreme Court decision that a florist could not legally decline to provide flowers to a same-gender wedding. Major decisions in June concern partisan gerrymandering and DDT’s travel ban.

The Supreme Court refused to address an Arkansas law that ends the use of medication abortions in the state and closes two of the state’s three abortion clinics because they perform only medical abortions. Doctors who provide medication abortions must have a contract with a specialist who has hospital admitting privileges, a burdensome, unnecessary mandate because complications are extremely during the use of two pills in the first nine weeks of pregnancy and can easily be dealt with in an emergency room or hospital. A three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit Court had earlier upheld the Arkansas law, but Planned Parenthood will appeal the case to lower courts. U.S. District Judge Kristine G. Baker temporarily blocked the law, saying that it was “a solution in search of a problem.” Two years ago, the Supreme Court overturned a Texas law requiring doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges in a local hospital.

In a more positive ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that police need a warrant to search a person’s property, specifically vehicles parted on a driveway or carport. The 8-1 decision followed a 2013 ruling that police may not bring drug-sniffing dogs to the front porch of a home without a search warrant. Samuel Alito said that a search is reasonable because “the vehicle was parked in plain view in a driveway just a few feet from the street.”

Other rulings outside the Supreme Court:

A Manhattan Supreme Court judge has ruled that Donald Trump must have a seven-hour deposition before January 31, 2019, as part of the defamation lawsuit by Summer Zervos, who accused Trump of groping her in 2016. July 13 is the deadline for both parties to issue demands for documents with September 13 the deadline for responses. The case goes to trial after June 7, 2019.

A Maine judge ordered Gov. Paul LePage to start voter-approved Medicaid expansion after he missed the April 3 deadline to file a plan with the federal HHS. After LePage vetoed the expansion in legislature five times, he argued that he couldn’t implement a law not funded by the legislation although the state has a $140 million surplus.

Felony charges have been dropped against ten people arrested protesting DDT’s inauguration because the government failed to turn over evidence it got from Project Veritas, known for James O’Keefe’s doctored videos. The judge barred the government from bringing back the charges in the future. A D.C. jury is deadlocked regarding three others involved in the protest. Forty-seven people of the original 200 charged are still facing court cases, but no defendant has been convicted.

And new cases:

Ambridge Event Center, which managed an event center owned by the Holy Rosary Church in Portland (OR), is suing the church for almost $2 million because its anti-LGBTQ bias hurt business. The negative press from the company’s inability to rent to a PFLAG chapter lost business from government and businesses that believe in equality. If Ambridge worked for the church, the law violation is employment discrimination; if Ambridge is a renter, the church violated the law with housing discrimination. Oregon’s exemption for religious groups applies only if “the use of facilities is closely connected with or related to the primary purposes of the church.” Ambridge has gone out of business.

Rustem Kazazi, a 64-year-old Cleveland resident, is suing U.S. Customs after customs agents at an airport took the family’s life savings–$58,000—that he was taking to Albania to help his family and buy a vacation home. The agency’s website says that there is no limit to the amount of money brought into or taken out of the U.S., but the agents refused to return Kazazi’s money although the family, all four citizens, was not charged with any crime. Agents also refused him a translator, strip-searched him, and gave him a receipt without the amount of money they took. A month after the money was taken, the agency wrote them, claiming that the money was “involved in a smuggling/drug trafficking/money laundering operation.” The letter also reported $770 less than Kazazi had been carrying. The federal government took over $2 billion in assets from people in 2017.

Phoenix is suing the government over the proposed census question on citizenship for fear of losing federal funds and marginalizing residents.

The American Federation of Government Employees, representing 700,000 workers, is suing DDT after he signed an executive order severely restricting the time employees may spend on union activity. The lawsuit claims his order violates the First Amendment and oversteps his constitutional authority. The order restricts “official time” for union leaders to represent workers during work time in grievances about unfair labor practices or disciplinary actions during work time, a guarantee provided by Congress 40 years ago.  The order still allows individuals to work on their grievances while on duty but without union assistance. Administration says that the change could save up to $100 million a year—equivalent to about two-thirds of DDT’s weekend junkets. Other orders instruct agencies to restrict unions in contract negotiations and fire employees more rapidly.

The League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa and ISU student Taylor Blair are suing Iowa’s secretary of state over the state’s voter ID law “apparently timed to disrupt the June 5 primary elections.” Facebook advertisements had stated that “Iowa voters will be asked to show a form of valid identification,” omitting the information that voters without ID could sign a form swearing to their identity and then cast a normal ballot. Another part of the lawsuit claims that the secretary of state’s website omitted some ID permitted under the law, such as an Iowa student identification plus proof of address.

Worried about getting DDT’s conservative judicial nominations approved after the midterms, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has reduced the August recess from four weeks to one week. Another theory for the change is that Democrat senators, defending 26 Senate seats this year, will be hobbled by less time to campaign while their Republican opponents have a free field. The GOP has nine incumbents on the ballot, including Nevada’s Dean Heller who is struggling with re-election.

January 7, 2018

Evangelicals Aim to Control the U.S. People through Discrimination

The Alabama senatorial election is over, and the true “moral majority” won when Roy Moore lost. Religion is at a crossroads between those who use their beliefs as a guidepost to becoming more moral, generous, forgiving, and compassionate and others, supposedly religious, who oppose all those characteristics that Jesus espoused. Like David Brooks, they think that everyone should give up their rights to fundamentalist, evangelical Christian to be “neighborly” and for “community-building.”

Fundamentalist Christians are using the judicial system to force the 75 percent of non-evangelical people in the U.S. to follow fundamentalist Christian believes through a legal army called Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). This group of “freedom” advocates in ADF has trained thousands of lawyers and sent many of them to government levels where they work to establish control. Its over 3,000 attorneys litigate cases pro bono. Its international presence fights LGBTQ equality in the European Union and advises Romanian parliamentarians.

AG Jeff Sessions consults with ADF in drafting DOJ religious-freedom issues, ADF Noel Francisco is DDT’s solicitor general, 18 ADF lawyers work in 10 attorney-general offices, and DDT has appointed at least four ADF judges. Trenton Garmon, the attorney representing Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore after women accused him of sexual assault, belongs to ADF’s “Honor Corps” for donating more than 450 pro bono hours to ADF.

ADF was created almost 25 years ago to protect Colorado’s Amendment 2, a state constitutional amendment allowing discrimination against LGBTQ people. The Supreme Court overturned Amendment 2 in Romer v. Evans (1996) on the basis that it violated the U.S. Constitution’s equal-protection clause. ADF’s co-founders maintained that rights for other people threatened them as Christians, and ADF burgeoned, now receiving largely anonymous $50 million donations annually and placing 58 staff attorneys in its Arizona headquarters and Washington, DC offices.

All ADF “allied attorneys” must agree with an 11-point statement of faith, including a belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ, marriage for only one man and one woman, and homosexuality as “sinful and offensive to God.” Their ideology opposes secular government and law with the belief that conservative Christians face persecution. Only five appellate cases involved non-Christian religious plaintiffs; the others supported religion in the schools and during legislative sessions, anti-choice, anti-abortion activities, and, most recently, campus free-speech wars maintaining that a student counselor could refuse to counsel LGBTQ clients.

As LGBTQ people earned the right to marry and have some other federal benefits, ADF shifted from the unworthiness of same-gender couples to marry to the position that same-gender marriage violates Christian rights, an argument in Masterpiece Cakeshop. ADF declares that Christians are victims if LGBTQ people have rights. The current Supreme Court case is about limiting LGBTQ from equal access to public accommodations by declaring that county clerks, website designers, florists, photographers, and bakers are persecuted by civil rights laws.

In 2004, ADF claimed that “public officials must follow the laws—even laws with which they disagree” when same-gender couples were issued marriage licenses in California. A decade later ADF is claiming that Christians have the right to violate the law in refusing service and goods. Now ADF purports that “free exercise of religion includes the right to act or abstain from action in accordance with one’s religious beliefs”—and persuaded AG Jeff Sessions to install this position into official policy. Their arguments are consistently designed to give Christians the ability to disregard, disobey, and dismantle laws that they see as persecuting them. In September, Sessions argued in favor of restricting a state civil-rights law.

Kristen Waggoner, the ADF lawyer supporting the Colorado baker in the current Supreme Court case, has represented a pharmacist who used religious beliefs to not fill prescriptions for emergency contraceptives and a Washington state florist who refused to provide flowers for a same-gender wedding. Although Waggoner’s argument is that the baker doesn’t object to his gay customers, over one-fourth of the 146 ADF appellate briefs argue for restricting LGBTQ rights. ADF has used terms such as promiscuous and unfit to parent to describe LGBTQ people in briefs against marriage equality.

A former ADF allied attorney, Noel Francisco, DOJ Solicitor General, argued before the Supreme Court in his defense of the baker that the law should allow some “breathing space” for “a small group of individuals” and not compel them “to engage in speech” at events “to which they are deeply opposed.” In his questionnaire for his confirmation, he did not list his membership in ADF because his impartiality in ADF cases might be questioned. DOJ refused to comment about Francisco’s participation undergoing an ethics review. While in private practice, Francisco had given a speech at the Heritage Foundation calling for lawyers representing religious groups to “build powerful cases” with “sympathetic plaintiffs” and to “focus on the florist, on the baker, the sincere small businessmen under attack.” The Southern Poverty Center has declared ADF a hate group; thus a member of a hate group is arguing for the government against the people of the United States before the Supreme Court.

In arguing for the baker, ADF asked for vast exemptions from civil-rights laws for conservative Christians, a 180-degree turn from seven years ago in its amicus brief regarding a case about a public school’s use of a church for graduation ceremonies violating the Constitution’s establishment clause. The ADF dismissed the possible objections of Jewish and Muslim students who could not enter a church. The state, ADF argued, “cannot possibly organize its affairs to comport with the subjective views of all potentially religious groups.”

The Supreme Court case brought by a baker will determine whether businesses can turn away people because of who they are. A common response from conservatives is that people should just go elsewhere when they are refused. It’s easy for people who don’t risk rejection to give this solution because it makes the discrimination seem trivial and it assumes that there will be equal services in the same vicinity. Beyond the fact that LGBTQ people, especially those who do not live in a metropolitan area, cannot always find alternative services, searching for these services after rejection has a negative affect on both psychological and physical well-being.

This discrimination results in humiliation and diminishment of lives. People always wonder if someone will refuse to serve them no matter where they go. According to a report by Caitlin Rooney and Laura E. Durso, “discrimination, prejudice, and stigma can lead to negative health outcomes, including higher rates of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse as well as an increased risk for physical health problems, such as cardiovascular disease…. LGBT people who had experienced discrimination had higher average stress levels than LGBT people who had not.” The impact is permanent because the anticipation of discrimination always exists. After a florist turned away a gay couple, they had the wedding in their home with only eleven guests instead of the celebration that they wanted. A recent survey showed that one-third of LGBTQ people experiencing discrimination were seven times more likely to avoid public places such as stores and restaurant as LGBTQ people who did not.

Recent research shows that pervasive discrimination continues to negatively impact all aspects of LGBTQ lives as they are forced to change their everyday lives. LGBTQ people change their persona and dressing style to avoid bias, hide personal relationships, and commute long distances to work. Even trying to “pass,” eleven to 28 percent of LBG workers lose promotions because of sexual identity, and 27 percent of transgender workers are fired, not hired, or denied promotions. Discrimination causes LGBTQ people to lose homes, access to education, and participation in public life as well as to suffer a sense of well-being. Before the Affordable Care Act in 2010, over half LGBTQ people faced discrimination by healthcare providers. Even in 2014, More recently, a pediatrician refused to care for a child with lesbian parents.

LGBTQ people no longer have support from the Department of Justice. Earlier this year, the DOJ argued in a federal court that employers should be able to fire an employee because he is gay.  Last July, a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit ruled that Title VII does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and the Texas Supreme Court ruled that married same-gender couples do not have the same rights as married heterosexual couples.

Evangelical Christians have separated themselves from Christ when they support the election of a pedophile while claiming that businesses should not serve LGBTQ people. The baker and the ADF are not arguing about freedom of speech or religion; they are arguing for the right to discriminate against anyone in all ways—to refuse to rent to someone or allow people to adopt children or give them health care. The culture of the time increasingly pushes the refusal of services to LGBTQ people, minorities—anyone who the religious right considers “unsuitable.”

In declaring “freedom,” ADF argues that government and business can violate the civil rights of marginalized groups. A Supreme Court that rules in favor of the baker can allow discrimination in other retail, housing, lodging, education, and medical needs. In another six months, the Supreme Court will tell the people of the world whether legalized discrimination is the law in the United States.

May 18, 2016

‘Religion’ Allows Escape from Contracts

Groups continue to use ‘religious liberty’ in an escape from legal obligations through denying women cost-free contraception and expelling a student from school. 

The fight over women’s contraception isn’t over, but it’s been postponed because of Antonin Scalia’s death. In their continued manic desire for power, traditional religious institutions pursued the issue of cost-free contraception for women to the Supreme Court where a non-decision was issued earlier this week. In Zubik v. Burwell the eight justices recently sent back seven cases they heard collectively in March plus another six cases that the court had not agreed to hear. Six lower courts were ordered to issue new rulings based on questions that the court left undecided.

The question in the lawsuit was whether non-church organizations have the right to be exempt from contraceptive mandates in the Affordable Care Act, as Hobby Lobby claimed—and won—in 2014.  The case wasn’t even about whether these protesting religious corporations should have to provide any contraception; they all opposed just filling out a form saying that they wouldn’t provide the contraception in order for the government to cover the cost of women’s contraception. A court suggestion for compromise is that the non-church groups’ insurance companies provide insurance without contraception and notify that employees that they will provide free contraception not subsidized by the non-church groups.

Even worse, the denial of providing contraceptives uses lay opinion rather than scientific fact because of Hobby Lobby. Among denied contraceptives are intrauterine devices and emergency contraceptive medication which simply impedes ovulation or fertilization of the egg. Basically, the groups are doing whatever they can to block women getting contraception.

With its opinion, the court let government pay for contraception and exonerate non-profits from the risk of penalties until the lower courts rule in a way that satisfies the Supreme Court. Not determined by the court’s opinion, however, are whether the Affordable Care Act contraceptive mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, whether the government had a “compelling interesting” in mandating free contraceptives, and whether the method they used with the religious groups to provide cost-free contraceptives was the “least restrictive means.” In taking this inaction, the court hoped that the parties could “resolve any outstanding issues between them” but admitted that “areas of disagreement” between the two sides may continue to exist.

Five of the six lower courts had ruled in favor of the ACA mandate. A deadlock of 4-4 would have ruled that the law be interpreted differently according to the regions of these courts. Gretchen Borchelt, vice president of the National Women’s Law Center, expressed disappointment with the court’s indecision. She said, “Eight of nine circuit courts of appeals have already upheld women’s access to birth control no matter where they work.” The 8th Circuit court is the only one ruling against the accommodation that the government made to religious groups. A three-judge panel ruled  that the ACA mandate “substantially burdened” Dordt College’s free exercise of religion. In addition to Iowa, the decision covers Arkansas, Minnesota, Missouri, and both Dakotas.

Fortunately, the high court’s opinion does not set precedent, and lower courts may not solve the problem for the high court. Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg issued a separate but concurring opinion telling lower courts that the action does not endorse a proposal put forward by the protesting groups that women must have separate policies for contraceptive coverage. ACA protesters to the ACA are viewing the court’s opinion as a victory for their side, but the opinion seems to tell lower courts not to block the government from implementing its regulations to “ensure that women covered by petitioners’ health plans ‘obtain, without cost, the full range of FDA approved contraceptives,'” during the pendency of the litigation:

“Nothing in this opinion, or in the opinions or orders of the courts below, is to affect the ability of the Government to ensure that women covered by petitioners’ health plans ‘obtain, without cost, the full range of FDA approved contraceptives.'”

At this time, almost all the cases have injunctions to keep federal agencies from enforcing their regulations. The question is whether these injunctions will be lifted in light of the court’s opinion. Groups refusing to provide contraception can also find insurance plans that also refuse to provide contraception, based on that company’s “religious beliefs.”  Yet organizations may not notify the government of its insurance company, which leaves female employees without cost-free contraception. Self-insured plans also cause difficulty for women who want contraceptives because the federal government won’t know which groups insure their employees in this way. Basically, the groups want to not only refuse women contraception but also hide whether they can get this right that a federal law provides.

In another case of “religious liberty,” an appeals judge ruled that St. Thomas High School doesn’t have to obey its own contracts because it is a “religious institution. The altercation started when a teacher failed to call the parents in the evening about a grade dispute because, as he told the student, he was preparing a “romantic” night for his wedding anniversary. The parents called the teacher’s explanation sexual harassment—“inadequate, irrelevant, [and] sexually demeaning.”

The Texas school expelled the student because of its policy permitting expulsion from “actions by a parent/guardian or other person responsible for the student which upbraids, insults, threatens or abuses any teacher, administrator, coach or staff member of the school.” Parents claimed a breach of contract because the student wouldn’t educate their son, and the school claimed that the student handbook is a part of the contract allowing them to expel the student.

The case could have been a simple contract dispute, but St. Thomas argued their action came from “ecclesiastical abstention doctrine,” a First Amendment doctrine limiting the courts’ ability to decide cases involving a religious body’s “doctrines, membership, discipline, and internal affairs. The doctrine prevents the courts from even hearing a dispute in the first place, and the appeals court agreed. The court did admit that “churches, their congregations, and their hierarchies exist and function within the civil community … are amenable to rules governing civil, contract, and property rights in appropriate circumstances.”

At least one other Texas case allowed parents to use the doctrine in refusing a student because the education has a “spiritual” element, similar to accepting a church member. The difference in this case is that the dispute was a secular contract dispute, not a federal agency forcing a Catholic school to admit an unwanted student.

If religious schools are permitted to violate all their contracts because of the “ecclesiastical abstention doctrine,” they may lose credibility in their agreements with everyone. People and companies are willing to perform services and sell products to others because breaching the contracts leads to satisfaction in the courts. If, however, St. Thomas shows that religious groups do not need to fulfill any contracts, including educating students, their action may lead to lack of confidence in their institutions, reduced student membership in schools, and inability to work with vendors.

St. Thomas could probably have won their case if they had stuck to the contractual issue. Instead the school chose to use its religious status to show that they are above the law—just as the religious groups have done in Zubik v. Burwell. The question is how far religions will go—not hire women, not pay minimum wage, not fulfilling any obligations that secular groups must—before the country decides that religious groups are not totally above the law.

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