My stress level is sky high lately. If only I could relax like a cat, blissfully unaware of the daily shocks we humans have to deal with these days. At least it’s the weekend, so maybe we’ll get a break–or maybe even some good news? Here’s the latest:
With the US supreme court apparently poised to overturn the 1973 landmark decision which made abortion legal, hundreds of thousands of people across America are planning to take to the streets to protest the looming decision.
A coalition of groups such as Planned Parenthood, UltraViolet, MoveOn and the Women’s March are organizing Saturday’s demonstrations, whose rallying cry is “Bans Off Our Bodies”. More than 370 protests are planned, including in Washington DC, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago….
The “Bans Off Our Bodies” gatherings will take place three days after Democrats in the US Senate on Wednesday made a largely symbolic effort to advance legislation that would codify the right to an abortion into federal law. All 50 Republicans and one conservative-aligned Democrat – West Virginia’s Joe Manchin – voted against the measure, leaving it well short of the 60 votes necessary for it to advance.
Also from The Guardian: Protesters rally outside US supreme court justices’ homes ahead of pro-choice marches.
Pro-choice demonstrators continue to turn up outside the homes of supreme court justices, with the latest target being conservative Amy Coney Barrett, who signed on to a majority draft opinion that was leaked to reveal an intention to overturn the constitutional right to seek an abortion in the US.
“The right to your own body – to do what you want with your own body – is the most personal freedom you can have,” one protester said from among a group wearing long red “handmaid” capes and white bonnets earlier this week to symbolize forced childbearing, as members of the Virginia state police watched nearby….
Several organizations, led by Planned Parenthood and the Women’s March, are preparing for a nationwide day of pro-choice marches on Saturday….
Protesters have so far gathered outside the residences in the Washington DC area of Samuel Alito, who wrote the scorching draft opinion, and Brett Kavanaugh, as well as Barrett and the chief justice, John Roberts, who did not sign on to the draft opinion, unlike the other three and Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch.
Yesterday, British medical journal The Lancet released a scathing editorial warning the U.S. Supreme Court that if they overturn Roe v. Wade, they will have women’s “blood on their hands.”
The Lancet: Why Roe v. Wade Must Be Defended.
“Abortion presents a profound moral issue on which Americans hold sharply conflicting views.” So begins a draft opinion by Associate Justice Samuel Alito, leaked from the US Supreme Court on May 2, 2022. If confirmed, this judgement would overrule the Court’s past decisions to establish the right to access abortion. In Alito’s words, “the authority to regulate abortion must be returned to the people and their elected representatives”. The Court’s opinion rests on a strictly historical interpretation of the US Constitution: “The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision.” His extraordinary text repeatedly equates abortion with murder.
The Due Process clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution has been the main foundation underpinning the right of American women to an abortion. That 1868 Amendment was passed during the period of American Reconstruction, when states’ powers were being subjected to certain limitations. The goal of the Amendment was to prevent states from unduly restricting the freedoms of their citizens. That guarantee of personal liberty, so the Supreme Court had previously held, extended to pregnant women, with qualifications, who decided to seek an abortion. Alito rejected that reasoning. He argued that for any right not mentioned in the Constitution to be protected, it must be shown to have had deep roots in the nation’s history and tradition. Abortion does not fulfil that test. Worse, Roe was an exercise in “raw judicial power”, it “short-circuited the democratic process”, and it was “egregiously wrong” from the very beginning. It was now time, according to Alito, “to set the record straight”.
What is so shocking, inhuman, and irrational about this draft opinion is that the Court is basing its decision on an 18th century document ignorant of 21st century realities for women. History and tradition can be respected, but they must only be partial guides. The law should be able to adapt to new and previously unanticipated challenges and predicaments. Although Alito gives an exhaustive legal history of abortion, he utterly fails to consider the health of women today who seek abortion. Unintended pregnancy and abortion are universal phenomena. Worldwide, around 120 million unintended pregnancies occur annually. Of these, three-fifths end in abortion. And of these, some 55% are estimated to be safe—that is, completed using a medically recommended method and performed by a trained provider. This leaves 33 million women undergoing unsafe abortions, their lives put at risk because laws restrict access to safe abortion services.
Read the rest at the link.
At The Washington Post, Dana Millbank writes: Roe’s impending reversal is a 9/11 attack on America’s social fabric.
Washington’s reaction to the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade has been typically myopic.
Republicans first tried to make people believe that the issue wasn’t the opinion itself but the leak. Now they’re absurdly trying to portray Democrats as supporters of infanticide. Democrats, in turn, squabbled among themselves before a show vote on a doomed abortion rights bill. And the news media have reverted to our usual horse-race speculation about how it will affect the midterms.
This small-bore response misses the radical change to society that Justice Samuel Alito and his co-conspirators are poised to ram down the throats of Americans. Their stunning action might well change the course of the midterms — but more importantly, it is upending who we are as a people.
Assuming little changes from the draft, overturning Roe would be a shock to our way of life, the social equivalent of the 9/11 attacks (which shattered our sense of physical security) or the crash of 2008 (which undid our sense of financial security). As epoch-making decisions go, this is Brown v. Board of Education, but in reverse: taking away an entrenched right Americans have relied upon for half a century. We remember Brown because it changed us forever, not because it altered the 1954 midterms.
Read more at the WaPo.
Clarence Thomas, husband of Ginni Thomas, who supported a coup against the U.S. government, is still whining about the SCOTUS link, which most likely came from a right wing source. Adam Liptak at The New York Times: Justice Thomas Says Leaked Opinion Destroyed Trust at the Supreme Court.
The leak of a draft opinion has done irreparable damage to the Supreme Court, Justice Clarence Thomas said at a conference in Dallas on Friday night, adding that it had destroyed trust among its members.
“What happened at the court is tremendously bad,” Justice Thomas said. “I wonder how long we’re going to have these institutions at the rate we’re undermining them.”
The leak of the opinion, which would overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion, was “like kind of an infidelity,” Justice Thomas said.
“Look where we are, where that trust or that belief is gone forever,” he said. “And when you lose that trust, especially in the institution that I’m in, it changes the institution fundamentally. You begin to look over your shoulder.”
Tough shit. My trust in SCOTUS was gone after Thomas was confirmed by lying about his sexual harassment of Anita HIll.
I won’t quote from this one, but if you want to read an argument by a constitutional scholar who is a Democrat who supports abortion rights but opposes Roe, check out this article at The Wall Street Journal by Akhil Reed Amar: The End of Roe v. Wade. I found it interesting but not that helpful for women who are facing a disastrous and traumatic future around pregnancy and childbirth. The article wasn’t behind the paywall when I opened it.
In other news, Republican Senators refused to visit Ukraine with Democrats, but then they organized their own trip. Please note that one of their GOP colleagues, Rand Paul, is currently blocking a bill to provide more aid to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia. The New York Times: McConnell and other Republican senators make a secret visit to Ukraine.
Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, visited Ukraine on Saturday to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky, leading the latest delegation of American lawmakers to the country as the United States deepens its commitment to Kyiv’s fight against the Russian invasion.
The surprise visit by Mr. McConnell, who was accompanied by three other Republican senators, comes as the Senate is working to pass a $40 billion emergency military and humanitarian aid package for Ukraine. It follows a string of other clandestine visits, including by the first lady, Jill Biden, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi….
“Helping Ukraine is not an instance of mere philanthropy — it bears directly on America’s national security and vital interests that Russia’s naked aggression not succeed and carries significant costs,” Mr. McConnell said this week. “If Ukraine fails to repel Russian aggression, there is no question that the threat to American and European security will grow.”
The trip was disclosed by Mr. Zelensky’s office. Details were not yet available from the lawmakers.
Mr. McConnell was joined by Senators John Barrasso of Wyoming, a member of his leadership team and the Foreign Relations Committee; John Cornyn of Texas, a member of the Intelligence Committee; and Susan Collins of Maine, who sits on both the Intelligence Committee and the Appropriations Committee, which oversees government funding.
In the photos I’ve seen, Zelensky doesn’t look as happy as he did when Jill Biden and Nancy Pelosi visited him.
The New York Times’s Luke Broadwater and Emily Cochrane on the subpoenas of members of Congress by the January 6th committee: Subpoenas for Republicans Raise New Questions for Jan. 6 Panel.
The decision by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol to issue subpoenas to five Republican members of Congress, including Representative Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader, has sent a shock wave through Capitol Hill, heightening tensions in an already hostile environment and raising questions about the future of the inquiry and the institution itself.
The move by the Democratic-led panel set up a showdown with Republicans that could result in the threat of jail time against sitting members of Congress — including Mr. McCarthy, who is in line to be speaker if his party wins control of the House in November. It also had major implications for the investigation, and whether the country will ever get full answers about the deadly mob attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, that disrupted the peaceful transfer of power and left more than 150 police officers injured.
Some Democrats immediately began clamoring for Mr. McCarthy and other lawmakers to be held in criminal contempt if they fail to appear at their scheduled depositions in late May, while Republicans warned of retaliation if they take control of the House after the midterm elections.
“I wouldn’t be for it, but turnabout is fair play,” Representative Thomas Massie, Republican of Kentucky, said of retaliatory subpoenas. He called the Jan. 6 committee’s subpoenas a “horrible precedent for the institution,” adding: “It’s a race to the bottom.”
I’d say the refusal of Republicans and Trump associates to honor Congressional subpoenas looks bad for Republicans, especially if they try to investigate Democrats in the future; but for the NYT, it’s always about how everything that happens is bad for Democrats.
Meanwhile at Axios: More bombshells for Jan. 6 committee before June hearings.
The Jan. 6 committee may seek testimony from additional lawmakers as soon as next week, ahead of blockbuster TV hearings that kick off next month, Axios has learned.
Driving the news: Chiefs of staff and other aides to members of the House select committee were told Friday on their weekly call with committee staff to brace for more bombshells ahead of the June 9 start to public hearings, according to two sources on the call….
The big picture: The committee created a major stir with post-election implications when on Thursday it issued subpoenas to five House Republicans, including two of the GOP’s top brass — House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and the Judiciary Committee’s ranking member Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).
— Members haven’t said how they would enforce those subpoenas.
— Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a member of the committee, told Axios on Thursday that “the fact-gathering process will continue through the hearings.”
What we’re hearing: A U.S. Capitol Police security briefing for members and their chiefs of staff, to prepare for the June hearings, is scheduled for May 20.
That’s what’s happening so far today, as I see it. What’s on your mind?
You’ve probably heard about actor Bruce Willis having stopped acting because he has aphasia. Aphasia is most commonly caused by a stroke that affects language areas–usually located on the left side of the brain. It can but it can also follow a severe head injury or other brain trauma. It can result from traumatic brain injuries suffered by athletes in contact sports like football and hockey. Willis’ family has declined to explain the cause of his aphasia, so we don’t know if he had a stroke or some other type of brain injury or if he has Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. There’s an interesting story at the LA Times on other celebrities who have struggled with aphasia, including Sharon Stone, Dick Clark, Kirk Douglas, and Patricia Neal.
Apparently Willis showed signs of cognitive decline as far back as 2017, but he continued working. His performances apparently deteriorated enough that he received a “Razzie” award (now rescinded) for “worst performance in a 2021 movie.” I’m not sure what to think about this, but it made me uncomfortable when I learned about this. Abigail Weinberg writes at Mother Jones: For Years, Hollywood Suspected Bruce Willis’ Deteriorating Health. They Exploited Him Anyway This is a labor issue.
After an illustrious career that featured starring roles in movies like Pulp Fiction and The Sixth Sense, Willis had in recent years taken to churning out dozens of low-budget productions. A new Los Angeles Times article reveals just how bad things were on the set of those movies—and gives the impression that the actor was being taken advantage of.
Two crew members from the upcoming film White Elephant told the Times that Willis asked aloud, “Why am I here?” “Someone would give him a line and he didn’t understand what it meant,” a crew member said. “He was just being puppeted.”
The incidents ranged from relatively benign to potentially dangerous: A crew member from the 2020 movie Hard Kill said that Willis repeatedly fired a gun loaded with blanks on the wrong cue. The incident seems particularly stark in light of Alec Baldwin’s gun accidentally firing and killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of Rust last year.
So, why were the dozens of people involved in these films so set on working with someone who wasn’t cognitively fit to perform? Well, the money, of course. “His involvement in films—even if for a fleeting few minutes—helped low-budget independent filmmakers sell their films internationally,” the Times explains. “Having Willis’ face on a movie poster or a lineup of streaming service thumbnails helped draw viewers to his films.”
Seems a tad exploitative, no? I’m no Hollywood insider, but I hope these revelations will spur the industry to work toward safer on-set conditions for workers on- and off-screen.
Being rich and famous doesn’t protect you from exploitation.
Another labor story from The Daily Beast: Amazon Workers Claim Historic Union Win in Big Blow to Bezos.
An Amazon warehouse in New York City made history on Friday when workers said they had won a vote to form the retail behemoth’s first union, a breakthrough that represented another sign that support for labor unions is resurgent in America.
Over 2,000 employees at the fulfillment center known as JFK8 voted to form a union, organizers said, after facing down months of hostile messaging that workers say included daily mandatory meetings with Amazon’s anti-union consultants.
The victory was especially significant because employees not only appeared to unionize a facility controlled by one of the world’s most powerful companies—but also to join the Amazon Labor Union (ALU). The grassroots group is led by current and former warehouse workers who waged a hard-fought battle frequently billed as Davids battling a $1.6-trillion Goliath.
Outside the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) office in Brooklyn, ALU president Chris Smalls and other organizers popped champagne once the win was official.
“It’s not about me,” Smalls told reporters at a press conference. “Amazon tried to make it about me from Day 1. And I never said it was going to be Amazon versus Chris Smalls. It’s always going to be Amazon versus the people, and today the people have spoken, and the people wanted a union.”
During his remarks, the new union president took aim at Amazon’s billionaire founder, saying, “We want to thank Jeff Bezos for going to space because when he was up there, we was signing people up.”
The Ginni and Clarence Thomas story continues to develop. Yesterday, Dakinikat posted the Daily Beast story about Thomas’s influence on Trump’s hiring and firing decisions. Jane Mayer, who wrote a book about Clarence Thomas, added this to the story:
This situation presents serious problems for the Supreme Court and for Congress. It’s unlikely that Clarence Thomas will voluntarily recuse himself from January 6 cases and I doubt if Chief Justice Roberts will take action unless there is a massive public outcry. At The Washington Post, Paul Waldman writes: What can Democrats do about Clarence Thomas?
The controversy over Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, Clarence Thomas and the Jan. 6 insurrection is demonstrating one profound difference between Democrats and Republicans: how they view the value of making a stink….
Given his wife’s role in encouraging the effort to overturn the election that culminated in the awful events of that day, Clarence Thomas should obviously recuse himself from any case having to do with Jan. 6. But what can Democrats do about him?
The way Democrats are answering that question tells us a lot about their party.
This Friday, 17 progressive organizations are releasing a letter calling on Democrats to launch a congressional investigation of Justice Thomas’s “misconduct in his handling of cases regarding the January 6 insurrection, the 2020 presidential election, and other cases involving his wife’s political activities.”
As the groups note in their letter, which is spearheaded by Take Back the Court, Supreme Court justices are bound by a federal statute that says they, like other judges, should recuse themselves from any case in which their “impartiality might reasonably be questioned.”
In addition, in the past, Thomas has failed to properly disclose his wife’s income from political groups (he later amended his disclosures after the omissions were revealed), and she reportedly works with groups that have business before her husband.
What might a congressional investigation accomplish? The letter argues that it might determine “whether Justice Thomas’ conduct was consistent with basic principles of judicial ethics, whether he violated federal law and his oath to ‘impartially discharge and perform his judicial duties, and what actions must be taken in response.”
But so far, Democrats have largely been restrained in response to the Ginni Thomas revelations. While a few more liberal lawmakers, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) have said Clarence Thomas should resign or be impeached, Democratic leaders have not.
Read the rest at the WaPo. You can also check out this post from Emptywheel today: On Ginni Thomas’ Obstruction Exposure and Clarence’s Former Clerk Carl Nichols.
There’s also more news today about the gap in the White House phone logs during the January 6 Capitol insurrection. Dakinikat also wrote yesterday about the Axios claim that it was no big deal; the Trump executive assistant who kept track of the call log was out that day. I don’t buy it. That’s just too convenient an excuse.
Just days before the US Capitol riot, White House officials started providing fewer details about then-President Donald Trump‘s calls and visits, the person in charge of compiling those activities for the official record told the House select committee investigating January 6, 2021, according to two sources with knowledge of the probe.
The committee interviewed Trump’s presidential diarist roughly two weeks ago. That interview has not been previously reported, nor has the testimony describing a noticeable drop-off in information provided by Oval Office staff leading up to January 6.
Other witnesses also have told the panel there was significantly less information being shared with those involved in White House record-keeping during the same time period, according to three sources familiar with the investigation.
One source described how White House record-keepers appeared to be “iced out” in the days leading up to January 6.
“The last day that normal information was sent was the 4th,” said another source familiar with the investigation. “So, starting the 5th, the diarist didn’t receive the annotated calls and notes. This was a dramatic departure. That is all out of the ordinary.”
The White House diarist normally receives many streams of information, including the phone logs from the switchboard, the president’s movements from the US Secret Service and, critically, the notes from Oval Office operations, which detail calls, guests and activities.
The Guardian’s Ed Pilkington doesn’t seem to buy the Axios excuse either. He writes today: What is Trump hiding? The Capitol riot-sized hole in White House call log.
At 2.26pm on 6 January last year, Donald Trump picked up a White House phone and placed a call to Mike Lee, the Republican senator from Utah. The communication came at a very significant moment.
Thirty-seven minutes earlier, a riot had been declared by Washington DC police. Minutes after that the then vice-president, Mike Pence, was rushed out of the Senate chamber, where he had been presiding over Congress’s certification of Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election, and put into hiding.
Fifteen minutes before Trump made the call his supporters, exhorted by the sitting president to “fight like hell” against what he falsely claimed was a rigged election, broke through a window in the south front of the Capitol and entered the heart of American democracy.
And we know Trump was watching it on TV.
Yet when you look for recorded details of Trump’s 2.26pm call which was made, as Hugo Lowell of the Guardian revealed, on an official White House landline, they are nowhere to be found. The Lee call was one of an unknown number that Trump made during a mysterious gap of 7 hours 37 minutes that exists in the call logs – precisely the timeframe of the Capitol attack.
Those missing call logs, disclosed by the Washington Post and CBS News, raise several burning questions – how did the records disappear? who carried out the excising? – but none more urgent than this: what was Trump trying to hide?
“A gap like this doesn’t happen by accident. It’s not a coincidence,” said Charlie Sykes, columnist at the Trump-resistant conservative outlet the Bulwark. “There is no innocent explanation here – somebody made the decision to rip up the record for the crucial hours of January 6 and there has to be a reason why.”
What Trump is trying to hide lies at the heart of the House committee investigation into the January 6 insurrection. The former president has consistently tried to block information flowing to the committee – pressuring his inner circle not to testify, tearing up documents before they were handed over.
The stakes in the tussle over evidence rose sharply this week when a federal judge said in a ruling that Trump “more likely than not … dishonestly conspired to obstruct” Congress on 6 January. That would be a criminal act.
Read the rest at The Guardian.
Finally, Merrick Garland spoke publicly again yesterday. CNN’s Tierney Sneed reports: Garland says the only pressure DOJ feels on January 6 probes is to ‘do the right thing.’
After several recent developments in the January 6 investigations that put the Justice Department in the center of the political whirlwinds, Attorney General Merrick Garland said Friday that the only pressure his agency feels is to “do the right thing” by following “the facts and the law.”
“The only pressure I feel, and the only pressure that our line prosecutors feel, is to do the right thing. That means we follow the facts and the law, wherever they may lead,” Garland said at a news conference Friday, where he was announcing new charges in an unrelated gun trafficking case.
Garland was asked about political pressure on the agency at the end of a momentous week for the efforts to scrutinize the 2020 election reversal plot.
On Monday, a federal judge said that it was “more likely than not that President Trump corruptly attempted to obstruct” Congress’ electoral certification vote. The assertion by US District Judge David Carter came in a documents disclosure case related to the House select committee investigation of the January 6 attack on the Capitol….
On Friday, Garland would not weigh in on the Carter opinion or on the status of the Meadows referral.
“We follow the facts and the law wherever they lead, and that’s all I can say about the investigation,” Garland said when asked about the ruling, as he referenced department policy of not commenting on ongoing investigations. “The best way to undermine an investigation is to say things out of court about how they’re going.”
Asked about the status of the Meadows referral, Garland said, “We don’t comment on ongoing referrals.”
I don’t know what else he is supposed to say. He has said repeatedly that he will follow the evidence up to and including people at the top. But the Garland detractors aren’t going to stop whining.
That’s all I have for you today. What are your thoughts? What stories are you following?
Daknikat has a cell phone emergency, so I’m filling in and starting really late–just beginning to look at the news. There’s quite a bit happening.
The Washington Post’s Michael Kranish has a big story about Ted Cruz and January 6: Inside Ted Cruz’s last-ditch battle to keep Trump in power. It turns out that Cruz and John Eastman, the lawyer who wrote a memo explaining how Pence could supposedly refuse to certify the election, have known each other for 27 years. Not only that, Trump asked Cruz if he would argue the case to overturn the election if they could get the Supreme Court to hear it. From the article:
An examination by The Washington Post of Cruz’s actions between Election Day and Jan. 6, 2021, shows just how deeply he was involved, working directly with Trump to concoct a plan that came closer than widely realized to keeping him in power. As Cruz went to extraordinary lengths to court Trump’s base and lay the groundwork for his own potential 2024 presidential bid, he also alienated close allies and longtime friends who accused him of abandoning his principles.
Now, Cruz’s efforts are of interest to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, in particular whether Cruz was in contact with Trump lawyerJohn Eastman, a conservative attorney who has been his friend for decades and who wrote key legal memos aimed at denying Biden’s victory.
As Eastman outlined a scenario in which Vice President Mike Pence could denycertifying Biden’s election, Cruz crafted a complementary plan in the Senate. He proposedobjecting to the results in six swing states and delayingaccepting the electoral college results on Jan. 6 in favor of a 10-day “audit” — thus potentiallyenabling GOP state legislatures to overturn the result. Ten other senators backed hisproposal, which Cruz continued to advocate on the day rioters attacked the Capitol.
The committee’s interest in Cruz is notable as investigators zero in on how closely Trump’s allies coordinated with members of Congress in the attempt to block or delay certifying Biden’s victory. If Cruz’s plan worked, it could have created enough chaos for Trump to remain in power.
“It was a very dangerous proposal, and, you know, could very easily have put us into territory where we got to the inauguration and there was not a president,” Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), a Jan. 6 committee member, said earlier this year on the podcast “Honestly.” “And I think that Senator Cruz knew exactly what he was doing. I think that Senator Cruz is somebody who knows what the Constitution calls for, knows what his duties and obligations are, and was willing, frankly, to set that aside.”
Eastman and Cruz both worked for Michael Luttig, who was then on the U.S. Appeals Court. Here’s what Luttig has to say about Cruz’s actions:
Luttig told The Post that he believes that Cruz — who once said that Luttig was “like a father to me” — played a paramount role in the events leading to Jan. 6.
“Once Ted Cruz promised to object, January 6 was all but foreordained, because Cruz was the most influential figure in the Congress willing to force a vote on Trump’s claim that the election was stolen,” Luttig said in a statement to The Post. “He was also the most knowledgeable of the intricacies of both the Electoral Count Act and the Constitution, and the ways to exploit the two.”
The story also says that Eastman took the Fifth when the Committee asked him about communications with Cruz.
Also from The Washington Post: Jan. 6 committee to seek interview with Ginni Thomas.
Joe Biden wasn’t my first choice for the Democratic nomination in 2020; in fact, I didn’t want him to run at all. But I was wrong. He has been a good president so far, and his deep foreign policy knowledge and experience have been showcased during the Ukraine crisis. This morning Biden was in Poland meeting with U.S. troops at the Ukraine border. It appears he’s a hit as commander-in-chief.
Yesterday the majority of the Supreme Court acknowledged that Biden is in fact commander-in-chief of the U.S. armed forces, but Alito, Gorsuch, and Thomas disagreed. Ian Millhiser at Vox: The Supreme Court rules that Joe Biden is commander-in-chief. Three justices dissent.
The Supreme Court on Friday evening decided, no, it was not going to needlessly insert itself in the military chain of command above President Joe Biden.
The Court’s decision in Austin v. U.S. Navy SEALs 1-26 largely halted a lower court order that permitted certain sailors to defy a direct order. A group of Navy special operations personnel sought an exemption from the Pentagon’s requirement that all active duty service members get vaccinated against Covid-19, claiming that they should receive a religious exemption.
A majority of the Court effectively ruled that, yes, in fact, troops do have to follow orders, including an order to take a vaccine.
The decision is undeniably a win for the balance of power between the executive branch and the judiciary that has prevailed for many decades. But the fact that the Court had to weigh in on this at all — not to mention that three justices, Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch, dissented from the majority — is a worrisome sign about America’s judiciary.
Brett Kavanagh explained why he sided with the majority:
…laying out why the lower court erred, this court “in effect inserted itself into the Navy’s chain of command, overriding military commanders’ professional military judgments.” Had the Court ruled the other way in SEALs, it would have effectively placed itself at the apex of the military’s chain of command, displacing Biden as commander-in-chief.
But as Kavanaugh correctly notes in his concurring opinion, there is a long line of Supreme Court precedents establishing that courts should be exceedingly reluctant to interfere with military affairs.
In Gilligan v. Morgan (1973), for example, the Court held that “the complex, subtle, and professional decisions as to the composition, training, equipping, and control of a military force are essentially professional military judgments,” and that “it is difficult to conceive of an area of governmental activity in which the courts have less competence.”
Nevertheless, Judge Reed O’Connor, a notoriously partisan judge in Texas who is best known for a failed effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, ruled in favor of the service members who refused to follow a direct order. And the conservative United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit refused the Navy’s request to stay key parts of O’Connor’s order.
That left the responsibility of restoring the military’s proper chain of command to the Supreme Court. Though the Court’s order does not wipe out O’Connor’s decision in its entirety, it temporarily blocks that decision “insofar as it precludes the Navy from considering respondents’ vaccination status in making deployment, assignment, and other operational decisions.”
In other SCOTUS news, the Ginni Thomas story is still snowballing. Daknikat wrote quite a bit about Thomas yesterday; https://skydancingblog.com/2022/03/25/friday-reads-you-shouldnt-go-back-home/if you haven’t read her post, please check it out.
Scott Wong at NBC News: Ginni Thomas pressed for GOP lawmakers to protest 2020 election results.
Shortly after the 2020 election, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, the conservative activist and wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, sent an email to an aide to a prominent House conservative saying she would have nothing to do with his group until his members go “out in the streets,” a congressional source familiar with the exchange told NBC News.
Thomas told an aide to incoming Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Banks, R-Ind., that she was more aligned with the far-right House Freedom Caucus, whose leaders just two months later would lead the fight in Congress to overturn the results of Democrat Joe Biden’s victory.
The RSC was long representative of the most conservative House members, but in the past several years, it has been replaced by the tea party-driven Freedom Caucus.
Thomas wrote to the aide that Freedom Caucus members were tougher than RSC members, were in the fight and had then-President Donald Trump’s back, according to the source familiar with the email contents. Until she saw RSC members “out in the streets” and in the fight, she said, she would not help the RSC, the largest caucus of conservatives on Capitol Hill.
Her November 2020 email came in response to a request from the RSC to offer policy recommendations as Banks was set to take the helm of the group in early 2021. But when Thomas portrayed the RSC as soft in its support for Trump and told its members to take to the streets, the aide thanked her for her suggestions and moved on….
The email exchange suggests Thomas was pressuring Republicans in Congress to get more aggressive in fighting for Trump at a key moment when the lame-duck president and his inner circle were devising a strategy to overturn the results of the 2020 election and keep him in power.
Obviously Thomas has access to powerful politicians only because she is married to Clarence Thomas.
Conservative columnist Matt Lewis at The Daily Beast: If Ginni Thomas’ Big Lie Texts Don’t Shock You, Nothing Will.
“Biden and the Left [are] attempting the greatest Heist of our History.”
“[The] Biden crime family & ballot fraud co-conspirators…are being arrested and…will be living in barges off GITMO to face military tribunals for sedition.”
Oh yeah, and “Watermarked ballots in over 12 states have been part of a huge Trump & military white hat sting operation in 12 key battleground states.”
These aren’t the rantings of some obscure, tinfoil hat-wearing lunatic. These are just a few of the 29 text messages sent by Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, to Donald Trump’s Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. These messages were sent in the wake of Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential victory, as Mrs. Thomas sought to push Meadows to try to overturn the 2020 election results—sometimes quoting far-right websites to make her case.
In a world where more tenuous relationships than a spouse have sparked huge controversies (think Barack Obama’s relationships with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and the former Weather Underground activist Bill Ayers), the level of this conflict of interest should be condemned by intellectually honest conservatives.
As one smart observer put it, “If you had a problem with Bill Clinton meeting with Attorney General Loretta Lynch on the tarmac, you should probably have a problem with Ginni Thomas’s barrage of texts to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in the days preceding a legitimate self-coup attempt.”
Click the link to read the rest.
Another conservative take from David French at The Atlantic: The Worst Ginni Thomas Text Wasn’t From Ginni Thomas. Mark Meadows and the dangerous religious zeal of “Stop the Steal.”
After giving examples of Thomas’s text messages, French writes:
This is the kind of communication that would make you worry about a family member’s connection to reality. When it comes from the wife of a Supreme Court justice who enjoys direct access to the White House chief of staff, it’s not just disturbing; it’s damaging to the Supreme Court….
It is…understandable if ordinary Americans wonder whether she’s made an impact on her husband, and it’s important for Justice Thomas to recuse himself from any future cases that could potentially involve additional disclosures of his wife’s communications with the White House or her involvement in the effort to overturn the election.
But the Ginni Thomas texts were not the most alarming aspect of Woodward and Costa’s story. There was a text in the chain that disturbed me more than anything Ginni Thomas wrote. It came from Meadows, and here’s what it said: This is a fight of good versus evil . . . Evil always looks like the victor until the King of Kings triumphs. Do not grow weary in well doing. The fight continues. I have staked my career on it. Well at least my time in DC on it.
One of the most dangerous aspects of the effort to overturn the election was the extent to which it was an explicitly religious cause. January 6 insurrectionists stampeded into the Senate chamber with prayers on their lips. Prominent religious leaders and leading Christian lawyers threw themselves into the effort to delay election certification or throw out the election results entirely. In the House and Senate, the congressional leaders of the effort to overturn the election included many of Congress’s most public evangelicals.
They didn’t just approach the election fight with religious zeal; they approached it with an absolute conviction that they enjoyed divine sanction. The merger of faith and partisanship was damaging enough, but the merger of faith with lawlessness and even outright delusion represented a profound perversion of the role of the Christian in the public square.
Read the rest at The Atlantic.
More Ginni Thomas stories:
The Washington Post: Ethics experts see Ginni Thomas’s texts as a problem for Supreme Court.
The Washington Post Editorial Board: Justice Thomas’s wife is a political extremist. This is now a problem for the court.
There are quite a few stories today that deal with the disrespectful treatment that Supreme Court Nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson received from Republicans in her Senate confirmation hearings.
I really liked this one from Kevin Cullen at The Boston Globe, because he trotted out an old saying that my Dad often used: You can always tell a Harvard man, but you can’t tell him much.
One of life’s inexplicable wonders is how Harvard can produce someone as grounded and poised and principledas Ketanji Brown Jackson and also someoneas unmoored and annoying and unscrupulous as Ted Cruz.
Providing clear evidence of how pathetic my existence is, I watched Jackson’s confirmation hearing start to finish, a marathon of high drama and low farce.
Am I a loser? Yes, but nothing likethe preening senators who treated Jackson with appalling disrespect, with constant interruptions and cynical questions meant to gin up their base, not ascertain whether Jackson is qualified to sit on the Supreme Court.
If you had to boil down the objections of Republicans to Jackson it is this: She’s a soft-on-crime, pedophile-coddling, racist-baby-kissing, terrorist-hugging Critical Race Theory nut job.
Other than that, they acknowledged, she seems nice enough.
It was hard to decide which senator combined rudeness and pandering to produce the greatest mix of condescension. Besides Cruz, Senators Lindsey Graham, Josh Hawley, and Tom Cotton – another Harvard man! – all covered themselves in something less than glory.
But when it comes unctuousness, Cruz takes the cake.
That he and Jackson served together on the Harvard Law Review didn’t spare Jackson from his unremitting bile.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin repeatedly told Cruz he was going over his allotted time and violating rules. Proving the old adage that you can always tell a Harvard man but you can’t tell him much, Cruz ignored Durbin.
Cruz was too busy yammering about racist babies and fake women and child pornographers to pay attention to something as inconsequential as rules.
When Cruz said, “Under the modern leftist sensibilities, if I decide right now that I’m a woman, then apparently I’m a woman,” I thought, “This guy went to Harvard Law School?”
Read the rest if you can use a laugh.
More follow up stories on the Jackson hearings:
Dana Millbank at The Washington Post: Ivy League Republicans’ phony rebellion against the ‘elites.’
Ruth Marcus at The Washington Post: Forget advise and consent. This is smear and degrade.
Two articles on Wesley Hawkins, who was sentenced by Jackson as an 18-year-old and was the subject of much of the GOP screaming and yelling about child porn cases:
The Washington Post: Wesley Hawkins, talk of the Jackson hearings, describes life after pornography sentence.
Sorry this is so late. WordPress deleted my post in progress twice and I had to reconstruct it. Have a great weekend!
I’ve guess you all have seen the latest paintings from the tRumptonian artist Jon McNaughton?
“Trump endeavors to cross the ‘swamp’ of Washington D.C. as he carries the light of truth, hope and prosperity,” McNaughton wrote. “The murky water of the deep state is laced with dangerous vermin, perfectly willing to destroy American prosperity for their personal ideologies and financial gain.”
Take a peek at the link to see the various jokes, I’ve posted one of the funnier ones below, which conveniently also shows what the original painting looks like….
You can also see another new “work of art” (excuse me while I vomit) below…I don’t know what the name of that piece of shit is…but it must have Strangling the Mueller somewhere in the title.
Nah, see? It is called Expose the Truth. God it is fucking disgusting.
So, now that I have posted some of the visual images for the thread, I suppose I should get around to throwing some links in the pie as well.
I don’t know what to make at that tweet above… I know whatever is being done with the attacks on the press is dangerous. Just like the paintings of tRump strangling Mueller with a tie…it crosses the line.
From enemy of the people to jungle journalism….
The pastor delivering the invocation at President Trump’s rally in Ohio on Saturday called for God to shield Trump from “jungle journalism.”
CNN reported that Gary Click, a pastor and member of the Ohio GOP’s State Central Committee, delivered the prayer ahead of Trump’s remarks, asking for God to “protect our President and his family with a shield of faith, Lord.”
“That shield of faith against the fiery darts of the wicked one, Lord, against that jungle journalism that extorts the truth and distorts honesty and integrity every single day, gets in his face with lies and mistruths and innuendos,” Click continued.
I doubt they hired that preacher from craigslist.
Even Fox News is sensing the danger:
But tRump still threatens:
President Trump bragged about his prowess in defeating the Republicans who oppose him, saying at an Ohio rally that he “destroys” the careers of GOP politicians who dare defy him.
“How do you get 100 percent of anything? We always have somebody who says ‘I don’t like Trump, I don’t like our president, he destroyed my career,’ ” Trump said.
“I only destroy their career because they said bad things about me and you fight back and they go down the tubes and that’s OK,” he added.
He is a fucking thug, and it looks like Sunday will only be used for more threats and blows toward Mueller.
Read more at that link.
Maybe something big is coming?
I thought this was a true enough tweet below.
Yeah, that is gross:
Twenty percent of the quiet justice’s former clerks owe their current jobs to President Trump.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is by far the court’s quietest and most conservative justice. He went 10 years without asking a single question from the bench, a streak broken in 2016, not long after the death of his friend Justice Antonin Scalia. Since then, Thomas hasn’t uttered a word in court. His opinions are so quirky and radically conservative that his colleagues on the bench often seem reluctant to sign on to them, making him perhaps one of the least influential justices in the court’s history.
But the court’s only African-American justice is having an outsize influence in one important sphere: the Trump administration. A new report by the AP’s Mark Sherman indicates that roughly 20 percent of the clerks—a total of 22—Thomas has hired since his confirmation in 1991 are either now working as political appointees in the administration or have been appointed by Trump to federal judgeships.
In other news, this headline got me thinking…what the fuck is she doing back? Hope Hicks Spotted Boarding Air Force One
Check it out, I wonder if this was agreed on at the summit:
Russian President Vladimir Putin presented a Russian passport to the US actor in 2016, and now Seagal will expand his ties, serving as a goodwill ambassador. He will receive no salary, the Ministry said, adding, “It’s a case of people’s diplomacy intersecting with traditional diplomacy.”
Seagal’s new role was noted by Kremlin-backed TV station RT, who noted Seagal as welcoming the appointment.
“I’ve always had a very strong desire to do all I can to help improve Russian-American relations,” RT quoted Seagal. “I have worked tirelessly in this direction for many years unofficially and I am now very grateful for the opportunity to do the same thing officially.”
While Seagal is popular in Russia, he has been accused in the US of sexual misconduct.
In March of this year, two women who previously accused Steven Seagal of rape and sexual assault stepped forward to offer more detailed accounts of the actor’s alleged misconduct. Los Angeles attorney Lisa Bloom told reporters in a press conference that she will represent former Dutch model Faviola Dadis and one-time aspiring actress Regina Simons as they seek justice.
Actresses Juliana Margulies and Pamela Anderson have also complained about Seagal’s conduct during auditions.
Looks like DC is trying to make the relations between the Neo Nazis holding a rally and folks counterprotesting the racist KKK white nationalist fucks:
In an effort to head off violence between white nationalists and counterprotesters, the District of Columbia metro transit system is considering providing separate trains for those attending the white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally Aug. 12. The use of separate trains for such a purpose would be unprecedented.
“We’re not trying to give anyone special treatment. We’re just trying to avoid scuffles and things of that nature.”
It doesn’t look like special treatment helped the situation in Portland:
Hundreds of far-right protesters from as far away as Florida gathered on the waterfront in Portland, Oregon for a “Freedom March” on Saturday. Dozens of those interviewed said they were there to utilize their “freedom of speech.” To do so, they came armed with bats, weighted fighting gloves, wooden poles, canisters of mace, knives, shields and body armor.
The police had declared a day earlier that all such weapons were illegal in Portland parks. But no effort was witnessed to confiscate the weapons or arrest the weapon-holders.
For hours, four lines of riot police kept the far right separated from a much larger crowd of anti-fascists. The Portland police seemingly wanted to avoid a replay of June 30, when they took a hands-off approach to another far-right rally that quickly degenerated into a violent brawl of about 100 people, resulting in five hospitalizations.
This time it was the police who sent protesters to the hospital. Later in the day, when the far right decided to march into the city, police decided to sweep the streets of counter-protesters. Neither side had permits, but police provided protection to the far right to march for two blocks.
To clear the way, police shot dozens of flash-bang grenades at more than 1,000 people who had gathered to oppose what they say are white supremacists.
There are exclusive pictures of the wounded at the Raw Story link.
About the latest tRump tariffs:
Here are a few links above various things….
There was a strange assassination attempt last night…WATCH: Speech By Venezuelan President Maduro Cut Off After Reported Explosion
Maduro was unharmed in the attempt, but many of the military members in attendance were seen reacting to the explosion.
Footage of the speech, circulated on social media, showed Maduro delivering a speech before the sound cuts out, and those on the stage duck. A camera then shows soldiers running from in a square, before the footage cuts completely.
According to Patricia Laya, Bloomberg News’s Venezuela Bureau Chief, the feed cut after an explosion was heard near the stage.
Iam essentially a hack, a commercial person,” Orson Welles once said. “If I had a hobby, I would immediately make money on it or abandon it.” Self-deprecation aside, this most creatively ambitious and restless of US directors was hardly a hack. Welles did have a hobby, though – one he never abandoned or monetised, and one that is now shedding fresh light on a mighty career.
For in private, the great man worked quietly as an artist – yielding a vast, varied collection of paintings, drawings and doodles that has rarely been given serious scrutiny. That output is the subject of The Eyes of Orson Welles, a whimsical documentary by film critic, historian and lifelong Welles devotee Mark Cousins. An exhibition of the artworks, on which Cousins advised, is also now running at Edinburgh’s Summerhall galleries.
For those who think of Welles chiefly as the stern, booming talent behind such concrete American standards as Citizen Kane, Cousins’s film is revelatory, exposing a wry, playful, angry, often lovestruck man behind the Hollywood legend.
That is all I have today, hope everybody is doing well.
This is an open thread.