Posted: April 29, 2023 | Author: bostonboomer | Filed under: American Gun Fetish, Cats, caturday, Criminal Justice System, Donald Trump, ethics, SCOTUS | Tags: abortion, AR-15, Dobbs decision, Jane Roberts, John Roberts, mass shootings, nuclear weapons, Samuel Alito, stolen classified documents case, Texas, Trump fund-raising, Ukraine, Wire fraud |
I’m getting a very slow start this morning. It feels like everything is kind of awful today, as it often is lately. The politics news is bad enough, but sadly there’s been another mass shooting and the perpetrator is still at large. Not surprisingly, it’s in Texas, and of course the weapon was an AR-15.
ABC News: 5 dead in Texas ‘execution-style’ shooting, suspect armed with AR-15 is on the loose.
Five people are dead after being shot in a Texas home by a suspect armed with an AR-15 style rifle in a horrific series of “execution style” shootings, police said.
A manhunt is currently underway for the suspect, identified by police as 39-year-old Francisco Oropeza, according to ABC station KTRK in Houston.
A judge has issued an arrest warrant for Oropeza and assigned a $5 million bond. Authorities believe Oropeza left by walking or on a bicycle and is currently within a two mile radius of the scene, KTRK reported.
Police said the incident occurred at 11:31 p.m. local time on Friday when officials from the San Jacinto County Sheriff’s Office received a call about harassment in the town of Cleveland, about 55 miles north of Houston.
When authorities arrived at the location, they found several victims shot at the property, police said. Three of the deceased were females and two were males, including the youngest, an 8-year-old boy.
Two female victims were discovered in the bedroom lying on top of two surviving children, authorities told ABC News.
Three minors were located uninjured, but covered in blood. They were transported to a local hospital.
Police said they believe the massacre occurred after neighbors asked the suspect to stop shooting his gun in the front yard because there was a baby trying to sleep.
“My understanding is that the victims, they came over to the fence and said ‘Hey could [you not do your] shooting out in the yard? We have a young baby that’s trying to go to sleep,” and he had been drinking and he says ‘I’ll do what I want to in my front yard,'” San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers told KTRK.
WTF?! I’m at a complete loss for words. There’s more insanity at the link.
Yesterday we got more shocking news about our out-of-control Supreme Court.
Sammy Alito gave a pathetic, whiny interview to James Taranto and David Rivkin of The Wall Street Journal: Justice Samuel Alito: ‘This Made Us Targets of Assassination.’
Justice Samuel Alito was supposed to speak to law students at George Mason University in Arlington, Va., but when they showed up, he wasn’t there….
It wasn’t a lingering fear of Covid-19. In a mid-April interview in his chambers, Justice Alito fills us in on the May 12, 2022, event: “Our police conferred with the George Mason Police and the Arlington Police and they said, ‘It’s not a good idea. He shouldn’t come here. . . . The security problems will be severe.’ So I ended up giving the speech by Zoom,” he says. “Still, there were so many protesters and they were so loud that you could hear them.”
By now a noisy mob of law students may sound like any other school day, but last May also was a tumultuous time for the court. The preceding week, someone had leaked a draft of Justice Alito’s opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a landmark abortion case that wouldn’t be decided until late June….
He now says that the leak “created an atmosphere of suspicion and distrust. We worked through it, and last year we got our work done. This year, I think, we’re trying to get back to normal operations as much as we can. . . . But it was damaging.”
It was damaging for millions of American women and for doctors too, but Sammy is oblivious to that. Alito also believes he knows who the leaker is.
“I personally have a pretty good idea who is responsible, but that’s different from the level of proof that is needed to name somebody,” he says. He’s certain about the motive: “It was a part of an effort to prevent the Dobbs draft . . . from becoming the decision of the court. And that’s how it was used for those six weeks by people on the outside—as part of the campaign to try to intimidate the court.”
That campaign included unlawful assemblies outside justices’ homes, and that wasn’t the worst of it. “Those of us who were thought to be in the majority, thought to have approved my draft opinion, were really targets of assassination,” Justice Alito says. “It was rational for people to believe that they might be able to stop the decision in Dobbs by killing one of us.” On June 8, an armed man was arrested outside the home of Justice Brett Kavanaugh; the suspect was later charged with attempted assassination and has pleaded not guilty.
This man is delusional. No one suggested preventing the decision by murdering one of the justices. People peacefully demonstrated outside their homes. One crazy guy showed up outside Kavanaugh’s house and then turned himself into to police without doing anything.
He adds that “I don’t feel physically unsafe, because we now have a lot of protection.” He is “driven around in basically a tank, and I’m not really supposed to go anyplace by myself without the tank and my members of the police force.” Deputy U.S. marshals guard the justices’ homes 24/7. (The U.S. Marshals Service, a bureau of the Justice Department, is distinct from the marshal of the court, who reports to the justices and oversees the Supreme Court Police.)
He’s a lot safer than women who are refused care after miscarriages until they are at death’s door, but Sammy couldn’t care less about them. He is also ignorant of the history of protests against Supreme Court justices.
Anyway, read the interview at the the WSJ if you can stomach it.
Yesterday, Insider’s Mattathias Schwartz broke a story about John Roberts ethical problems: Jane Roberts, who is married to Chief Justice John Roberts, made $10.3 million in commissions from elite law firms, whistleblower documents show.
Two years after John Roberts’ confirmation as the Supreme Court’s chief justice in 2005, his wife, Jane Sullivan Roberts, made a pivot. After a long and distinguished career as a lawyer, she refashioned herself as a legal recruiter, a matchmaker who pairs job-hunting lawyers up with corporations and firms.
Roberts told a friend that the change was motivated by a desire to avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest, given that her husband was now the highest-ranking judge in the country. “There are many paths to the good life,” she said. “There are so many things to do if you’re open to change and opportunity.”
And life was indeed good for the Robertses, at least for the years 2007 to 2014. During that eight-year stretch, according to internal records from her employer, Jane Roberts generated a whopping $10.3 million in commissions, paid out by corporations and law firms for placing high-dollar lawyers with them.
That eye-popping figure comes from records in a whistleblower complaint filed by a disgruntled former colleague of Roberts, who says that as the spouse of the most powerful judge in the United States, the income she earns from law firms who practice before the Court should be subject to public scrutiny.
“When I found out that the spouse of the chief justice was soliciting business from law firms, I knew immediately that it was wrong,” the whistleblower, Kendal B. Price, who worked alongside Jane Roberts at the legal recruiting firm Major, Lindsey & Africa, told Insider in an interview. “During the time I was there, I was discouraged from ever raising the issue. And I realized that even the law firms who were Jane’s clients had nowhere to go. They were being asked by the spouse of the chief justice for business worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, and there was no one to complain to. Most of these firms were likely appearing or seeking to appear before the Supreme Court. It’s natural that they’d do anything they felt was necessary to be competitive.”
Roberts’ apparent $10.3 million in compensation puts her toward the top of the payscale for legal headhunters. Price’s disclosures, which were filed under federal whistleblower-protection laws and are now in the hands of the House and Senate Judiciary committees, add to the mounting questions about how Supreme Court justices and their families financially benefit from their special status, an area that Senate Democrats are vowing to investigate after a series of disclosure lapses by the justices themselves.
No wonder Roberts is resisting any serious ethics rules for his powerful court. Unfortunately he’s not alone. Even the liberal justices don’t want ethics rules. The three branches of government are supposed to be equal, but the Supremes are behaving as if their branch is more equal than the other two.
ABC News: All 9 Supreme Court justices push back on oversight: ‘Raises more questions,’ Senate chair says.
There’s no conservative-liberal divide on the U.S. Supreme Court when it comes to calls for a new, enforceable ethics code.
All nine justices, in a rare step, on Tuesday released a joint statement reaffirming their voluntary adherence to a general code of conduct but rebutting proposals for independent oversight, mandatory compliance with ethics rules and greater transparency in cases of recusal.
The implication, though not expressly stated, is that the court unanimously rejects legislation proposed by Democrats seeking to impose on the justices the same ethics obligations applied to all other federal judges.
“The justices … consult a wide variety of authorities to address specific ethical issues,” the members of the high court said in a document titled “Statement on Ethics Principles and Practices.”
It appears to be the first time an entire court has publicly explained its approach to ethics issues and attested to specific parts of federal law governing their conduct.
The justices’ statement, appended to a letter from Chief Justice John Roberts to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., appears squarely aimed at answering critics’ concerns and demands from some for outside oversight.
“Without a formal code of conduct, without a way to receive ethics complaints and without a way to investigate them, the Supreme Court has set itself apart from all other federal institutions,” said Gabe Roth, executive director of Fix the Court, a left-leaning judicial watchdog group that has been lobbying Congress to mandate a high court code.
Durbin said Thursday in a statement that the justices’ explanation of their approach to ethics “raises more questions than it resolves.”
“Make no mistake,” he said, “Supreme Court ethics reform must happen whether the Court participates in the process or not.”
I hope Durbin is prepared to keep pushing this.
Two stories on Trump’s crimes:
The New York Times: Prosecutors in Jan. 6 Case Step up Inquiry Into Trump Fund-Raising.
As they investigate former President Donald J. Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, federal prosecutors have also been drilling down on whether Mr. Trump and a range of political aides knew that he had lost the race but still raised money off claims that they were fighting widespread fraud in the vote results, according to three people familiar with the matter.
Led by the special counsel Jack Smith, prosecutors are trying to determine whether Mr. Trump and his aides violated federal wire fraud statutes as they raised as much as $250 million through a political action committee by saying they needed the money to fight to reverse election fraud even though they had been told repeatedly that there was no evidence to back up those fraud claims.
The prosecutors are looking at the inner workings of the committee, Save America PAC, and at the Trump campaign’s efforts to prove its baseless case that Mr. Trump had been cheated out of victory.
In the past several months, prosecutors have issued multiple batches of subpoenas in a wide-ranging effort to understand Save America, which was set up shortly after the election as Mr. Trump’s main fund-raising entity. An initial round of subpoenas, which started going out before Mr. Trump declared his candidacy in the 2024 race and Mr. Smith was appointed by Attorney General Merrick B. Garland in November, focused on various Republican officials and vendors that had received payments from Save America.
But more recently, investigators have homed in on the activities of a joint fund-raising committee made up of staff members from the 2020 Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee, among others. Some of the subpoenas have sought documents from around Election Day 2020 up the present.
Prosecutors have been heavily focused on details of the campaign’s finances, spending and fund-raising, such as who was approving email solicitations that were blasted out to lists of possible small donors and what they knew about the truth of the fraud claims, according to the people familiar with their work. All three areas overlap, and could inform prosecutors’ thinking about whether to proceed with charges in an investigation in which witnesses are still being interviewed.
Read the rest at the NYT.
Dennis Aftergut at Justia: Trump’s Nonsensical Letter to Congress Attacking the DOJ’s Mar-a-Lago Case Shows He Has No Defense.
On Wednesday, former President Donald Trump’s lawyers sent a desperate, 10-page letter to Rep. Mike Turner, chair of the House Intelligence Committee. The punch line comes in its conclusion: “DOJ should be ordered to stand down” in Special Counsel Jack Smith’s case against Trump for obstructing justice in his 18 months of stonewalling the return of classified documents improperly held at Mar-a-Lago.
Of course, Congress has no such power. Ironically, the letter achieved something completely unintended. It effectively confirmed that Trump has no viable defense against the likely Justice Department charges for Trump’s obstruction.
The letter also revealed for the first time that the classified documents recovered in the August 7, court-approved search of Trump’s country club home may include briefings of foreign leaders.
It’s hard to know what Trump was trying to achieve beyond “spin.” No crimes to see here, the letter lamely contends.
His lawyers assert that Trump didn’t knowingly possess or retain top-secret documents at Mar-a-Lago. His aides were just sloppy, the letter says, in the rushed process of leaving the White House, and Trump didn’t even know the classified documents were there. Even Vice Presidents Mike Pence and Joe Biden inadvertently took classified documents after their time in office.
If these contentions are a preview of Trump’s defenses to an indictment from Smith’s grand jury, Jack Smith can rest easy. The arguments are so abysmally weak that they leave any knowledgeable observer with a simple inference: Trump and his lawyers know an indictment is coming soon and there’s nothing they can do about it but offer smoke and mirrors.
Like asking Congressman Turner to investigate the need for legislation to address the lack of controls on classified documents that elected officials unintentionally take when leaving public service. Here’s the problem for the former president and his letter: Jack Smith has mountains of evidence that contradict Trump’s claim that his improper possession and retention of those classified documents was inadvertent.
Read more at the link.
I haven’t been following the war in Ukraine very closely, but this NYT headline caught my attention: U.S. Wires Ukraine With Radiation Sensors to Detect Nuclear Blasts.
The United States is wiring Ukraine with sensors that can detect bursts of radiation from a nuclear weapon or a dirty bomb and can confirm the identity of the attacker.
In part, the goal is to make sure that if Russia detonates a radioactive weapon on Ukrainian soil, its atomic signature and Moscow’s culpability could be verified.
Ever since Russia invaded Ukraine 14 months ago, experts have worried about whether President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia would use nuclear arms in combat for the first time since the American bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The preparations, mentioned last month in a House hearing and detailed Wednesday by the National Nuclear Security Administration, a federal agency that is part of the Energy Department, seem to constitute the hardest evidence to date that Washington is taking concrete steps to prepare for the worst possible outcomes of the invasion of Ukraine, Europe’s second largest nation.
The Nuclear Emergency Support Team, or NEST, a shadowy unit of atomic experts run by the security agency, is working with Ukraine to deploy the radiation sensors, train personnel, monitor data and warn of deadly radiation.
In a statement sent to The New York Times in response to a reporter’s question, the agency said the network of atomic sensors was being deployed “throughout the region” and would have the ability “to characterize the size, location and effects of any nuclear explosion.” Additionally, it said the deployed sensors would deny Russia “any opportunity to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine without attribution.”
Read more details at the NYT.
I’m going to end there. What else is happening? What stories have captured your interest today?
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Posted: April 11, 2023 | Author: bostonboomer | Filed under: abortion rights, just because, SCOTUS | Tags: abortion, Dobbs decision, DOJ, Janet Protasiewicz, Kansas, Matthew Kacsmaryk, mifepristone, Roe v. Wade, Wisconsin |
I’m going to focus on the abortion battle today. I think it is completely inappropriate for abortion to even be a public issue in the first place, but of course regulating women’s bodies and lives has been a goal for powerful men since ancient times.
I was around before abortion became legal in this country–in fact I was around before birth control was legal for unmarried women. For me it feels like what is happening now is an incredible betrayal. Although women have never been treated in our culture as fully equal with men, the Roe v. Wade decision made it possible for women to make great strides in education and work. Now, nearly fifty years later, the progress toward equality has been halted. Women of child-bearing age are being treated like broodmares once again.
The good news is that the majority of U.S. voters are not on the same page with right wing Republicans and the justices they have managed to put on the federal judiciary and the Supreme Court. We saw this in Kansas when voters rejected a referendum to make abortion illegal in the state. We saw in the mid-term elections when voters clearly saw abortion as one of the top issues. We saw it during the latest midterm elections, when abortion was shown to be a significant issue for voters. We saw it recently in Wisconsin, where voters election Janet Protasiewicz, a pro-choice Democrat, to the State Supreme Court, giving liberals a majority.
Steven Shepard at Politico: Abortion was a 50/50 issue. Now, it’s Republican quicksand.
Conservatives are finding out the hard way that abortion isn’t a 50-50 issue anymore.
Janet Protasiewicz’s 11-point blowout victory this week for a state Supreme Court seat in Wisconsin was just the latest example of voters who support abortion rights outnumbering — and outvoting — their opponents. There was little polling in Tuesday’s race, but in a 2022 midterm exit poll of the state, a combined 63 percent of Wisconsin voters said abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while only 34 percent thought it should be illegal in all or most cases.
Moreover, for the 31 percent of 2022 voters who said abortion was their most important issue — second only to inflation at 34 percent — they overwhelmingly backed Democratic Gov. Tony Evers (83 percent) and Democratic Senate candidate Mandela Barnes (81 percent), who lost narrowly to GOP Sen. Ron Johnson.
Going back to the 1990s, Gallup polling showed Americans divided roughly evenly between those who called themselves “pro-life” and “pro-choice.” Exit polls from the 1990s and 2000s showed voters who said abortion or “moral values” were most important to their vote supported Republican candidates in greater numbers.
But those surveys were conducted when a right to an abortion was law of the land. The Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision last year ending that constitutional right has exposed Americans’ broad opposition to the strict abortion bans adopted or proposed in GOP-controlled states. And it’s revealed that public surveys on the matter probably need more nuanced questions now.
There’s a long history of abortion polling. In the 2000 presidential election, the Los Angeles Times national exit poll found more George W. Bush voters rated abortion as one of their two most important issues than Al Gore voters, and voters were divided 50-50 on whether abortion should remain legal or be made illegal (though with exceptions).
That poll offered three options when measuring voter sentiment on abortion: keep it legal, make it illegal with exceptions or make it illegal with no exceptions.
Now, a four-point question probably best measures where Americans sit on the issue: legal in all cases, legal in most, illegal in all and illegal in most. The 2022 national exit poll used this device, finding that 29 percent of voters believed abortion should be “legal in all cases,” while another 30 percent thought it should be “legal in most cases.” That left 26 percent who thought it should be “illegal in most cases” and only 10 percent who said it should be “illegal in all cases.”
That leaves roughly six-in-10 voters supporting legal abortion in most cases — with the median voter supporting some restrictions — and just over a third who want it to be entirely or mostly illegal.
NY Magazine cover, by Barbara Kruger
The recent decision by reactionary Trump judge Matthew Kacsmaryk in Texas is getting very bad reviews. Kacsmaryk claimed to have the power to tell scientists at the FDA that mifepristone, an abortion pill that has been approved and shown to be safe for more than 20 years, should be banned nationwide. Some recent reactions:
Ruth Marcus at The Washington Post: The worst federal judge in America now has a name.
Congratulations are in order for Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk. The competition is fierce and will remain so, but for now he holds the title: worst federal judge in America.
Not simply for the poor quality of his judicial reasoning, although more, much more, on this in a bit. What really distinguishes Kacsmaryk is the loaded content of his rhetoric — not the language of a sober-minded, impartial jurist but of a zealot, committed more to promoting a cause than applying the law.
Kacsmaryk is the Texas-based judge handpicked by antiabortion advocates — he is the sole jurist who sits in the Amarillo division of the Northern District of Texas — to hear their challenge to the legality of abortion medication.
And so he did, ruling exactly as expected. In an opinion released Friday, Kacsmaryk invalidated the Food and Drug Administration’s 23-year-old approval of the abortion drug mifepristone and, for good measure, found that abortion medications cannot be sent by mail or other delivery service under the terms of an 1873 anti-vice law.
Even in states where abortion remains legal. Even though study after study has shown the drug to be safe and effective — far safer, for instance, than over-the-counter Tylenol. Even though — or perhaps precisely because — more than half of abortions in the United States today are performed with abortion medication.
My fury here is not because I fear that Kacsmaryk’s ruling will stand. I don’t think it will, not even with this Supreme Court. Indeed, another federal district judge — just hours after Kacsmaryk’s Good Friday ruling — issued a competing order, instructing the FDA to maintain the existing rules making mifepristone available. Even Kacsmaryk put his ruling on hold for a week; the Justice Department has already filed a notice of appeal; and the dispute is hurtling its way to the Supreme Court. (Nice work getting yourselves out of the business of deciding abortion cases, your honors.)
No, my beef is with ideologues in robes. That Kacsmaryk fits the description is no surprise. Before being nominated to the federal bench by President Donald Trump in 2017, Kacsmaryk served as deputy general counsel at the conservative First Liberty Institute. He argued against same-sex marriage, civil rights protections for gay and transgender individuals, the contraceptive mandate and, of course, Roe v. Wade.
At his confirmation hearings, Kacsmaryk testified that federal judges are bound “to read the law as it is written and not read into it any policy preference that they might have had before they were judges.”
Well that was a blatant lie. Read the whole article at the WaPo.
Adam Liptak at The New York Times: Abortion Pill Ruling May Face Headwinds at the Supreme Court.
The conservative legal movement has long had two key goals: to limit access to abortion and to restrict the authority of administrative agencies.
The decision last week by a federal judge in Texas invalidating the Food and Drug Administration’s approval 23 years ago of the abortion drug mifepristone checked both of those boxes. The ruling, if it stands, would not only thwart access to the pills, used in more than half of pregnancy terminations, but also undermine the F.D.A.’s authority to approve and regulate other drugs.
At first blush, all of that might seem to make the decision’s chances of surviving review by a Supreme Court dominated by conservative justices quite promising.
But legal scholars said on Monday that the poor quality, breathtaking sweep and unknown collateral consequences of the Texas decision might cause at least some of the Supreme Court’s conservative justices to wait for a case that would allow them to take more measured steps.
“If you’re a justice looking for a case in which to undermine the administrative state, this is not a particularly elegant one,” said Mary Ziegler, a law professor and historian at the University of California, Davis. “Everything about this case makes it an imperfect vehicle, except for the fact that it’s about abortion and the administrative state. This is boundary testing.”
Jonathan H. Adler, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University, said the new case, should it reach the Supreme Court, might meet a reception similar to that of the latest challenge to the Affordable Care Act. In 2021, by a vote of 7 to 2, the court said that the 18 Republican-led states and two individuals who brought the case had not suffered the sort of direct injury that gave them standing to sue.
Despite the conservative majority’s misgivings about the health care law, Professor Adler said, “when push came to shove and they were presented with a fundamentally deficient legal theory, only two justices were willing to give that legal theory the time of day.”
History may repeat itself in the Texas case, he said. “I view some of the administrative law aspects of this case to be similar,” he said, noting that there were significant threshold issues involving the plaintiffs’ standing to sue, whether they had exhausted other avenues for relief and whether they had taken too long to bring an action.
Read more at the NYT link.
Drug companies are not happy with Kacsmaryk’s opinion. The New York Times: Drug Company Leaders Condemn Ruling Invalidating F.D.A.’s Approval of Abortion Pill.
The pharmaceutical industry plunged into a legal showdown over the abortion pill mifepristone on Monday, issuing a scorching condemnation of a ruling by a federal judge that invalidated the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the drug and calling for the decision to be reversed.
The statement was signed by more than 400 leaders of some of the drug and biotech industry’s most prominent investment firms and companies, none of which make mifepristone, the first pill in the two-drug medication abortion regimen. It shows that the reach of this case stretches far beyond abortion. Unlike Roe v. Wade and other past landmark abortion lawsuits, this one could challenge the foundation of the regulatory system for all medicines in the United States.
“If courts can overturn drug approvals without regard for science or evidence, or for the complexity required to fully vet the safety and efficacy of new drugs, any medicine is at risk for the same outcome as mifepristone,” said the statement.
What the DOJ is doing:
Also on Monday, the Justice Department filed a motion asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to stay the ruling by Judge Matthew J. Kacsmaryk of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas until the department’s appeal of the case could be heard. Judge Kacsmaryk, a Trump appointee who has written critically of Roe v. Wade, had issued only a seven-day stay of his ruling to allow the government a chance to appeal.
“If allowed to take effect, the court’s order would thwart F.D.A.’s scientific judgment and severely harm women, particularly those for whom mifepristone is a medical or practical necessity,” said the Justice Department motion, which noted that mifepristone was also used in treating miscarriages.
It added: “This harm would be felt throughout the country, given that mifepristone has lawful uses in every state. The order would undermine health care systems and the reliance interests of businesses and medical providers.”
The appeals court gave the plaintiffs, a coalition of groups and doctors who oppose abortion, until midnight Tuesday to file a response.
There’s much more analysis at the NYT link.
Hannah Getahun at Insider: A Texas judge tried to school the FDA on the abortion pill. Only problem? He used debunked research and a study based on an anonymous blog to do it.
In an unprecedented late Friday night ruling, a Texas federal judge sided with conservative, anti-abortion activists and sought to strip key abortion drug mifepristone of its FDA approval.
The 67-page document, written by right-wing Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, cited Wikipedia and is full of inaccuracies and falsehoods about the health effects of medical abortion, experts told Insider on Friday.
Kacsmaryk in the ruling cited multiple studies to back up claims that have been widely scrutinized or do not hold up to scientific consensus.
“When you’re issuing a ruling that’s going to impact people nationally, one would hope that that ruling would be evidence-based and that it would look at the body of evidence instead of cherry-picking studies that are really not in line with the scientific consensus on the topic,” M. Antonia Biggs, Ph.D. and social psychologist at ANSIRH previously told Insider.
For example, one study, with ties to anti-abortion nonprofit the Charlotte Lozier Institute, relies on the anonymous experiences of users on one particular website. The study uses 98 blog posts made over the course of 10 years. The authors note that the small sample group is one of the study’s limitations.
In comparison to the study, in 2020, 620,327 legally induced abortions were reported to CDC.
However, despite the limited scope of the study, the conservative Christian judge writes that “eighty-three percent of women report that chemical abortion ‘changed’ them — and seventy-seven percent of those women reported a negative change” — citing the study of 98 anonymous blog posts.
In another example, the judge cites an analysis that suggests a link between negative mental health outcomes and abortion written by abortion researcher Priscilla Coleman whose study has been denounced for years by abortion researchers and whose other work has previously been retracted by leading journals.
Julia Steinberg, an expert on mental health and abortion, told Reuters in 2012 that most women in the study who experienced mental health issues after having an abortion had also experienced them before the abortion. The Guttmacher Institute also debunked the study in a letter.
Clearly, Kacsmaryk is woefully unqualified to be a federal judge.
Ameya Marie Okamoto,The Notorious RBG, 2018
More on Kacsmaryk’s ideological bias from NBC News: Judge’s abortion pill decision embraces extreme language and ideology of anti-abortion movement, experts say.
In interviews, several legal and medical experts said Kacsmaryk’s decision was unprecedented and clearly ideological. His language and reasoning, they said, closely mirrored arguments and concepts put forward by the anti-abortion movement — at the expense of scientific consensus in some instances.
The experts pointed to several key examples of the extreme nature of Kacsmaryk’s 67-page ruling, including his use of politicized terminology and apparent endorsement of the contentious idea of “fetal personhood.” Here are the parts of the ruling experts found most striking….
In his ruling Friday, Kacsmaryk used various terms closely associated with the anti-abortion movement, according to the experts who were interviewed. Notably, Kacsmaryk referred to the two-pill regimen that is the most common way to terminate a pregnancy in the U.S. as “chemical abortion,” rather than “medication abortion.” The plaintiffs in the suit, a group called the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, use the same term in their filings and messaging.
“‘Chemical abortion’ is absolutely not a scientific or medical term. It is something that has been utilized and propagated by those who want to ban abortion or restrict abortion,” said Dr. Jenni Villavicencio, an OB-GYN who is the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ lead for equity transformation.
Villavicencio characterized “chemical abortion” as an “emotive” term meant to inspire fear about the risks of ending a pregnancy.
She also highlighted Kacsmaryk’s references to a fetus as an “unborn human” or an “unborn child.”
Kacsmaryk wrote that mifepristone “blocks the hormone progesterone, halts nutrition, and ultimately starves the unborn human until death.” [….]
Kacsmaryk’s references to an “unborn child” align with other parts of his decision in which he suggests that any potential “side effects” or “significant complications” caused by mifepristone should apply to both the pregnant woman and “to the unborn humans extinguished by mifepristone.”
Such wording, experts said, references the concept of “fetal personhood”: the idea promoted by the anti-abortion movement that a fetus should be recognized as a person with constitutional rights from the moment of conception. Under that theory — which many legal analysts and abortion rights advocates oppose — an abortion would be considered murder.
Finally, This piece from David R. Lurie at Aaron Rupar’s Public Notice outlines the recent history of the federal courts and the consequences of Republicans working to politicize the courts: The federal judiciary’s grave legitimacy crisis. A Texas judge’s absurd abortion pill ruling is the latest sign of how bad it’s gotten.
On Friday, a Trump-appointed judge with a long history of anti-choice activism ordered the FDA to take a medication that is safely used to perform most abortions off the market, based on the thinnest of legal rationales. The same day, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas gaslit the nation by saying he’d seen no need to disclose the hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of largess he received from a right-wing billionaire.
These two apparently disparate events are fruit of the same poison tree. They each reflect a fundamental problem with the GOP’s decades’ long effort to remake the nation by packing the federal courts with extremists: A judiciary at odds with, and even contemptuous of, most of the nations’ citizens is not sustainable.
During what can now fairly be titled the federal courts’ “Trump Era,” Americans’ trust in the judicial branch has plummeted. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s overruling Roe, 58 percent of the nation now disapproves of how the Supreme Court is handling its job, and less than half the country has confidence in the institution. This is hardly a surprise; indeed, what’s surprising is how long it has taken most of the nation’s citizens to realize that the packed Supreme Court has become a partisan tool of the Republican Party, and a direct adversary to the nation’s foundational principles of democracy and civil rights.
Even before Trump and Mitch McConnell packed the Supreme Court with a right-wing supermajority, GOP-appointed justices were pursuing a brazenly anti-democratic project, which only became more audacious as each judicial attack was met with little pushback.
Even before Trump and Mitch McConnell packed the Supreme Court with a right-wing supermajority, GOP-appointed justices were pursuing a brazenly anti-democratic project, which only became more audacious as each judicial attack was met with little pushback.
In addition, the court ruled in 2019 that the US Constitution places no limits on the partisan gerrymandering of legislative districts that, in states like Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Tennessee, has so diluted the votes of many citizens as to make a farce of the democratic process. In addition, it appears several justices are interested in a dubious reading of the Constitution that would prevent governors and state courts from addressing such largely GOP-driven gerrymandering, even when it squarely violates the state constitutions state courts and elected officials are charged with enforcing.
The Roberts court also set out to open political campaigns to brazen corruption by gutting campaign finance laws, including in the 2010 Citizens United case, which voided key limits on dark money in political campaigns, as well as a 2021 decision that protected the identities of many dark money donors from even being disclosed. But these deeply partisan decisions proved only to be a preamble for what was to come.
As the two years since Trump’s failed insurrection against democracy have demonstrated, the vast majority of GOP “leaders” either support, or are unwilling to oppose, the Republican Party’s movement toward outright authoritarianism. And that same tendency is evident in the rulings of Trump Era judges.
In last year’s Dobbs decision, the Trump Era Supreme Court supermajority used a case that was initially about a 15-week abortion ban to overrule Roe entirely. As I observed after a draft of the decision was leaked, it was all but inevitable that the GOP, along with the Court, would be met with a public backlash. But that backlash is only leading to a doubling down upon extremism, including among some right-wing jurists.
It should not be surprising, however, that extremists the GOP has installed in the judiciary — chosen for their ideological fervor, not their political savvy — are determined to use their lifetime judicial appointments to impose right-wing economic, political and social policy agendas on the nation, whether the nation wants them or not.
It’s not at all surprising that the right wing courts are so focused on controlling women’s bodies. I’m feeling discouraged and overwhelmed with rage and fear over what is happening, but it does seem as if a majority of Americans are now pro-choice, and they are voting on these issues. So there’s hope. Please share your thoughts on these articles and feel free to discuss any other issue that is important to you.
Take care, Sky Dancers!
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Posted: November 19, 2022 | Author: bostonboomer | Filed under: cat art, caturday, just because | Tags: Dobbs decision, DOJ, Elon Musk, Hobby Lobby decision, Jack Smith, January 6 investigation of Trump, Mar-a-Lago documents investigation, Merrick Garland, obstruction of justice, Special Counsel, Supreme Court, Twitter |
By surrealist artist Ophelia Redpath, 1965
I wish I had kept a record of my sleep patterns and accompanying political events over the past 7 years. I know I rarely slept through the night during the first couple of years of Trump’s “presidency.” I would stay up late, sleep a couple of hours and wake up at 3AM to obsessively check twitter for news, and still get up early the next day. Now I’m going through a period of time when I can’t get to sleep until very late–around 1:00-2:00AM–and then sleeping until 10:00 or 11:00AM. I’m also getting old–I’ll be 75 soon–and it takes me awhile to get going in the morning. Anyway, I slept until 10:00 today, so I’m once again very late in posting. If only we knew what is going to happen with the Trump investigations, maybe I would be able to go back to sleeping like a normal person.
As everyone knows by now, yesterday Merrick Garland announced the appointment of a special prosecutor to decide whether to indict Trump in the Mar-a-Lago documents and January 6 insurrection cases–including whether Trump has obstructed justice.
CNN: DOJ announces special counsel for Trump-related Mar-a-Lago and January 6 criminal investigations.
Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday appointed a special counsel to oversee the criminal investigations into the retention of national defense information at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort and parts of the January 6, 2021, insurrection.
Both investigations implicate the conduct of Trump, who on Tuesday declared his candidacy in the 2024 presidential race, making him a potential rival of President Joe Biden.
“Based on recent developments, including the former president’s announcement that he is a candidate for president in the next election, and the sitting president’s stated intention to be a candidate as well, I have concluded that it is in the public interest to appoint a special counsel,” Garland said at the Justice Department on Friday.
Jack Smith, the former chief prosecutor for the special court in The Hague, where he investigated war crimes in Kosovo, will oversee the investigations….
The prosecutions of those who physically breached the US Capitol have been the most public aspect of the Justice Department’s January 6 probe, and those will remain under the purview of the US Attorney’s office in Washington, DC. But behind the scenes, prosecutors have subpoenaed scores of witnesses close to the former president for documents and testimony in the probe.
White Cat by Igor Galanin
“I intend to conduct the assigned investigations, and any prosecutions that may result from them, independently and in the best traditions of the Department of Justice,” Smith said in a statement Friday. “The pace of the investigations will not pause or flag under my watch. I will exercise independent judgment and will move the investigations forward expeditiously and thoroughly to whatever outcome the facts and the law dictate.” [….]
According to multiple sources, both the Mar-a-Lago investigation and the January 6 investigation around Trump are aiming to gather more information and bring witnesses into a federal grand jury in the coming weeks. Prosecutors sent out several new subpoenas related to both investigations in recent days, with quick return dates as early as next week.
Some of the witnesses being pursued in this round had not spoken to the investigators in these cases before, according to some of the sources.
Most of the TV/Twitter legal experts are saying this was a good decision by Garland. One dissenter is Neal Kaytal, who says it is a big mistake.
From Raw Story: Legal experts: Special counsel investigating Trump will move very quickly.
Former top DOJ official Andrew Weissmann believes that newly-appointed special counsel Jack Smith will move with haste in his investigations of former President Donald Trump.
Speaking with MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, after the host said Smith may become the “most important prosecutor in human history,” Weissmann discussed his history with the new special prosecutor.
“So I’ve known Jack for decades,” Weissman said.
“I was the chief of the criminal division when he started in the U.S. Attorney’s office,” he explained.
“And Jack, as you noted, has had all sorts of positions that make him really perfect for this job in the sense of his experience, he’s a career prosecutor, he’s completely apolitical — in public integrity, they prosecuted Democrats and Republicans,” Weissmann said. “They don’t care, if you committed a crime, it doesn’t matter what party you’re in or whether you’re in no party.”
He noted he learned from Robert Mueller that “you can’t slow things down to use as an excuse not to move forward.”
“For people who are worried about this slowing down, I have the exact opposite reaction.”
Marcy Wheeler suggested another reason why Garland might have taken the step of appointing a special counsel:
I think that makes sense. Of course Trump and Republicans will still claim the investigations are political, and I’m pretty sure Garland knows that. This morning at Politico Playbook, Rachel Bade summarized the political reactions so far: A new special counsel sets Washington ablaze.
Attorney General MERRICK GARLAND’s decision to name a special counsel to helm DONALD TRUMP-related probes at the Justice Department roiled the political world on Friday.
In an afternoon statement delivered before cameras at Main Justice, Garland argued the appointment of veteran DOJ hand JACK SMITH was necessary given that Trump and JOE BIDEN could be facing off for the presidency in 2024. “Such an appointment underscores the department’s commitment to both independence and accountability in particularly sensitive matters,” Garland said.
Some good it did him. On cue, Republicans called foul — and rushed forward to defend an ex-president who had appeared to be losing his grip on the GOP following the party’s disappointing election performance.
By François Batet
AT MAR-A-LAGO … After 10 days of midterm recriminations, the announcement put Trump back in his most comfortable posture: portraying himself as the victim of his corrupt enemies. During a fancy black-tie affair at his Florida resort, Trump told Fox News’ Brooke Singman that he won’t participate in the probe and blasted the DOJ for the “worst politicization” of the department ever.
— “I have been proven innocent for six years on everything — from fake impeachments to [former special counsel ROBERT] MUELLER who found no collusion, and now I have to do it more?” Trump told them. “It is not acceptable. It is so unfair. It is so political.”
ON CAPITOL HILL … Rep. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-Ga.) tweeted that Republicans should “IMPEACH MERRICK GARLAND!” and insisted her party “refuse to appropriate any funding to Merrick Garland’s Special Counsel and defund any part of the DOJ acting on behalf of the Democrat party as a taxpayer funded campaign arm for the Democrat’s 2024 presidential nominee.”
— The latter is particularly noteworthy: It sets up a new and explosive spending clash that could easily prompt a government shutdown in the next Congress. Why? MTG and likeminded Trump loyalists will press KEVIN McCARTHY (or whoever else manages to become speaker) to toe a hard line while Democrats will absolutely refuse to defund the investigations. Watch this space.
IN LAS VEGAS … Even former Vice President MIKE PENCE blasted the special counsel appointment as “very troubling” during an appearance at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual meeting, according to another good-get interview by Fox’s Brooke Singman and Paul Steinhauser.
— “No one is above the law, but I am not sure it’s against the law to take bad advice from your lawyers,” he said. Pence went on to suggest that the DOJ has been politicized by Democrats and and to knock the FBI for conducting a raid on Mar-a-Lago to fish out classified information Trump had taken to his post-presidency residence. (Note that Smith won’t only be managing the documents probe, but Jan. 6-related matters as well.).
Bade notes that Republicans were all in on the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified documents while she was running for president. You can also read a bit of background on Jack Smith at The New York Times.
One more on the Smith appointment from Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post: Merrick Garland was right to appoint a special counsel.
Advocates of swift action against Trump no doubt will be alarmed by the announcement, but there is less here than meets the eye. For starters, Smith needs no introduction to the Justice Department. He was appointed first assistant U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee in February 2015. Before that, he worked as head of the department’s Public Integrity Section and as investigation coordinator in the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court. He also worked in the U.S. attorney’s office in the Eastern District of New York.
Hold That Tiger by Jeanette Lassen
Most important, the attorney general announced that the career staff who have been working on these cases will continue in their roles. That, Garland suggested, will mean the query will “not slow down.” Smith will make a recommendation to Garland on whether to prosecute Trump. Until then, Garland will have no direct supervision over Smith.
Did Garland need to wait until Trump’s campaign launch to make the appointment? Perhaps not, but so long as Trump was not an active candidate, there was little reason for Garland to step aside. Now that Trump is a potential opponent to Biden, Garland believes it is essential to add a layer of separation between himself and the line prosecutors.
Constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe tells me, “Looking over Jack Smith’s decades of prosecutorial experience, it’s hard to imagine anyone better prepared to hit the ground running and to sew together whatever loose ends remain as he puts together a comprehensive prosecution of the leaders of the attempted coup, with the former president at its center, as well as a powerful prosecution of the former president for his theft of top secret documents as he absconded to Mar-a-Lago.” He adds that, while he previously “publicly urged that there was no need to appoint a special counsel, my principal concern was the need to avoid delay, and it appears that this appointment will solve that problem.”
Norman Eisen, who served as co-counsel to the House impeachment managers during Trump’s first impeachment, agrees. “I have no concern that a special counsel will shy away from charging, and Jack Smith has outstanding experience,” he tells me. Eisen also thinks the move will not cause much of a delay. He observes: “Mr. Smith should move with alacrity. Here, where any other American who had removed the even one classified document would be subject to likely prosecution, and where the former president took dozens, the rule of law demands fast action.”
In other news, The New York Times has an important story about a Supreme Court leak that–like the recent leak of the draft decision overturning Roe v. Wade–involves Justice Sam Alito: Former Anti-Abortion Leader Alleges Another Supreme Court Breach.
As the Supreme Court investigates the extraordinary leak this spring of a draft opinion of the decision overturning Roe v. Wade, a former anti-abortion leader has come forward claiming that another breach occurred in a 2014 landmark case involving contraception and religious rights.
In a letter to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and in interviews with The New York Times, the Rev. Rob Schenck said he was told the outcome of the 2014 case weeks before it was announced. He used that information to prepare a public relations push, records show, and he said that at the last minute he tipped off the president of Hobby Lobby, the craft store chain owned by Christian evangelicals that was the winning party in the case.
Both court decisions were triumphs for conservatives and the religious right. Both majority opinions were written by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. But the leak of the draft opinion overturning the constitutional right to abortion was disclosed in the news media by Politico, setting off a national uproar. With Hobby Lobby, according to Mr. Schenck, the outcome was shared with only a handful of advocates….
Joan Barber, Girl stroking cat
The evidence for Mr. Schenck’s account of the breach has gaps. But in months of examining Mr. Schenck’s claims, The Times found a trail of contemporaneous emails and conversations that strongly suggested he knew the outcome and the author of the Hobby Lobby decision before it was made public.
Mr. Schenck, who used to lead an evangelical nonprofit in Washington, said he learned about the Hobby Lobby opinion because he had worked for years to exploit the court’s permeability. He gained access through faith, through favors traded with gatekeepers and through wealthy donors to his organization, abortion opponents whom he called “stealth missionaries.”
The minister’s account comes at a time of rising concerns about the court’s legitimacy. A majority of Americans are losing confidence in the institution, polls show, and its approval ratings are at a historic low. Critics charge that the court has become increasingly politicized, especially as a new conservative supermajority holds sway.
Read the rest at the New York Times.
From Georgia–NBC News reports that: In win for Democrats, Georgia judge allows early voting in Senate runoff on Saturday after Thanksgiving.
A Fulton County judge ruled Friday that the Georgia Secretary of State cannot prohibit counties from voting on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, a victory for the state Democratic Party and Sen. Raphael Warnock’s campaign.
The order comes after a brief legal battle between Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office and the Democratic Party of Georgia over the Dec. 6 Senate runoff between Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker.
Raffensperger, a Republican, had maintained that changes to Georgia voting laws meant that there could be no early voting on Nov. 26, the only Saturday when it would have been possible for Georgians to cast an early vote in the hotly contested race.
Democrats and Warnock’s campaign filed suit challenging Raffensperger’s determination, and Judge Thomas A. Cox agreed with their arguments in a ruling late Friday afternoon. “The Court finds that the absence of the Saturday vote will irreparably harm the Plaintiffs, their members, and constituents, and their preferred runoff candidate,” the judge wrote.
By Glenn Harrington
Raffensberger’s office will appeal the decision.
The dispute centers on a provision of Senate Bill 202, signed by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp in March 2021, which stipulates early in-person voting must end the Friday before the runoff. This year, that would be Friday, Dec. 2.
The law also stipulates early in-person voting not be held on any Saturday that follows a “public or legal holiday” on the preceding Thursday or Friday. Raffensperger contended that meant there would be no early in-person voting on Nov. 26, the Saturday following Thanksgiving. (It could not be held this weekend because the general election vote is not being certified until Nov. 21.)
Attorneys for the Democrats and Warnock argued the section of the law Raffensperger cited applies to primaries and general elections, but not to runoffs. Cox agreed.
Of course there is tons of news about Twitter and Musk. Here are some links to check out if you’re interested:
Yoel Roth at the New York Times: I Was the Head of Trust and Safety at Twitter. This Is What Could Become of It.
The Guardian: How Elon Musk’s Twitter reign magnified his brutal management style.
The Washington Post: Musk summons engineers to Twitter HQ as millions await platform’s collapse.
The New York Times: Elon Musk’s Twitter Teeters on the Edge After Another 1,200 Leave.
What are your thoughts on all this? What other stories are you following today?
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