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 27, 2023 | Author: bostonboomer | Filed under: Donald Trump, ethics, SCOTUS | Tags: Background Checks, defamation, E. Jean Carroll, Jack Teixeira, January 6 grand jury, John Roberts, mass shootings, Mike Pence, Pentagon documents, rape, security clearances, Senate Judiciary Committee, Supreme Court ethics |
Tove Jansson, Still life with fruit and flowers on the background of an open door, 1945
Once again the news is coming fast and furious today, but the top story has to be the latest about Jack Teixeira, the 21-year-old air national guardsman who leaked classified documents on Discord.
The story is getting worse with each passing day. This kid not only had access to secret government documents, but also he stockpiled weapons in his parents’ home and fantasized about being a mass murderer.
NPR: The suspected leaker of Pentagon documents is due back in federal court.
The air national guardsman accused of leaking U.S. government secrets is due back in federal court in Worcester, Mass., at 1 p.m. on Thursday. Federal prosecutors are urging that the defendant, Jack Teixeira, 21, a member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, remain in jail pending trial.
In a new court filing, federal prosecutors say Teixeira faces significant prison time, if convicted, and poses a serious flight risk. They say he took steps to obstruct the investigation into the leak of U.S. intelligence documents, many of which were about Ukraine’s war against Russia.
According to court papers, investigators found a tablet, a laptop and a gaming console — all of them smashed — in a dumpster at Teixeira’s house after his arrest. Teixeira also allegedly told an associate online to delete all messages with him and that if anyone came asking questions about him, not to tell them anything. Prosecutors also say Teixeira began in February 2022 to access classified national defense information that had no bearing on his job. Not all of those materials have publicly surfaced yet.
NBC News: Intel leaks suspect is a flight risk and could have access to more classified docs, prosecutors say.
Prosecutors will urge a judge Thursday to keep Jack Teixeira, 21, behind bars, arguing he poses “a serious flight risk,” and that a “foreign adversary” could try to help him escape the United States and give him safe haven.
“The information to which the Defendant had access — and did access — far exceeds what has been publicly disclosed on the Internet to date,” the document said. The leaks “have the capacity to cause additional exceptionally grave damage to the U.S. national security if disclosed.”
The 18-page memo said Teixeira had a history of making violent and racist remarks — including posting on social media about wanting to carry out a mass shooting — keeping “an arsenal of weapons”and tactical gear at his house, and trying to thwart federal investigators by apparently destroying evidence.
The filing comes ahead of a detention hearing Thursday in Massachusetts federal court. Teixeira, who has not entered a plea, has been in jail since his arrest earlier this month in a case that represents one of the most significant intelligence leaks in years. The saga has fueled global uproar and doubts over America’s ability to guard its secrets….
“The damage the Defendant has already caused to the U.S. national security is immense. The damage the Defendant is still capable of causing is extraordinary,” prosecutors wrote. “If the Defendant were released, it would be all too easy for him to further disseminate classified information and would create the unacceptable risk that he would flee the United States and take refuge with a foreign adversary to avoid the reach of U.S. law.”
Spring still life, by Susan Novak
On Teixeira’s fascination with mass shootings:
Teixeira also used his government computer to search for information on previous mass shootings, including “Uvalde” and “Mandalay Bay shooting,” the filing said. Media reports have suggested these searches may have been related to Teixeira’s belief in conspiracy theories that the government had prior knowledge of these shootings, it added. But prosecutors said that coupled with his social media posts and weapons cache these searches were “troubling.”
Teixeira lives in his mother and stepfather’s house in North Dighton, Massachusetts, and in his bedroom keeps a gun locker stocked with handguns, bolt-action rifles, shotguns, and an AK-style high-capacity weapon, prosecutors said.
His “arsenal of weapons” also included a bazooka, and a “silencer-style accessory,” according to investigators, who found a tactical helmet with a GoPro camera and mount in the dumpster outside, according to the filing.
BBC News: Jack Teixeira: Suspected leaker made threats and researched shootings, US says.
Jack Teixeira wrote on social media that he wanted to kill a “ton of people” as a way of “culling the weak minded”, according to a court filing.
The 18-page document also claimed the 21-year-old asked what type of rifle would be easy to operate from an SUV.
According to the prosecutors, he posted repeatedly about “troubling” violent acts including a potential mass shooting. He allegedly described building an “assassination van” and driving around shooting people in a “crowded urban or suburban environment”.
He also allegedly searched for multiple recent mass shootings on his government computer, including Uvalde and the Las Vegas shooting.
The filing also said a search of Mr Teixeira’s home had uncovered “a virtual arsenal of weapons, including bolt-action rifles, rifles, AR and AK-style weapons, and a bazooka” that were kept “just feet from his bed”.
It added that he was suspended from high school when a classmate overheard him making threats and discussing Molotov cocktails as well as other weapons.
How the hell did this kid get a top secret security clearance from the Pentagon? Here’s a clue:
In other news, E. Jean Carroll testified in her civil case against Donald Trump yesterday, and it was powerful. Trump didn’t have the guts to show up in court, and that probably didn’t make a good impression on the jury.
Mitchell Epner at The Daily Beast: Jury Has Likely Decided Trump’s Fate in Rape Case Already.
On the first day of trial testimony Wednesday, E. Jean Carroll took the witness stand and provided unvarnished testimony that she was raped by Donald Trump in the 1990s. She testified: “I’m here because Donald Trump raped me, and when I wrote about it, he said it did not happen.”
By André Deymonaz
She testified that she and Trump went together to the lingerie department on the sixth floor of Bergdorf Goodman, flirting. When they got there, Trump followed her into the dressing room and pushed her against the wall, knocking her head and disorienting her. He also pulled down her tights, stuck his fingers inside of her vagina—causing her great pain—and stuck his penis inside of her vagina, for a period of time, while she struggled against him.
This testimony is the key to the case. If the jury believes it, they will find Trump liable for the rape of E. Jean Carroll, and likely award her significant damages. If the jury does not believe it, they will return a verdict in favor of the former president.
Based upon more than 25 years of experience as a trial attorney, including service as an Assistant United States Attorney prosecuting sex crimes, I believe that it is highly likely that the jurors have already made up their minds about whether Carroll is telling the truth—before she has completed her direct testimony and long before Donald Trump’s attorneys have the opportunity to cross-examine her.
On Trump absenting himself:
This case won’t be a “he said, she said” case—because Trump is unlikely to testify.
In fact, Trump has not attended the trial at all so far. During opening statements, his attorney, Joe Tacopina, appeared to indicate that the trend would continue, saying that Trump’s testimony would only occur in deposition excerpts. Trump’s witness list consists of only two people, Donald Trump and Dr. Edgar Nace, a psychiatric expert witness.
Trump also is not presenting any exhibits, other than excerpts from depositions. If he does not testify, the only way he will get facts into evidence will be through cross-examination of Ms. Carroll’s witnesses.
Ms. Carroll, on the other hand, will present a number of corroborating witnesses:
- Lisa Birnbaum: The bestselling author will testify that Carroll told her immediately after the incident what Trump had done to her. She will also testify that she told Carroll that she had been “raped.”
- Carol Martin: The first African-American anchor on local news in New York City (for over two decade) will likewise testify that Carroll told her immediately of the rape by Trump. Martin will testify that she told Carroll not to pursue the case, because he had “200 lawyers” and would destroy her.
- Jessica Leeds: Another of Trump’s alleged victims, she will testify that she was sexually assaulted by Donald Trump when she sat next to him on a flight in the 1970s, when he attempted to place his fingers inside of her vagina.
- Natasha Stoynoff: Then a reporter for People magazine, she will testify that Donald Trump sexually assaulted her when she was at Mar-A-Lago in the early 2000s, working on a story.
Carroll is also set to present the infamous Access Hollywood video, in which Donald Trump bragged that he could grab women “by the pussy” without consent, because he was “a star.”
Perhaps even more importantly, Carroll already addressed most of the points that Trump’s attorneys wanted to make on cross-examination.
Read more at the link.
Still life with a ginger jar and eggplant, by Paul Cezanne
In addition to all this, Trump posted about the case on Truth Social yesterday, and the judge was not happy. He suggested that Trump could get himself in further trouble by trying to influence the jury.
The Guardian: Judge rebukes Trump for ‘entirely inappropriate’ post before E Jean Carroll testimony.
Before Carroll took the stand…the judge in the case, Lewis A Kaplan, rebuked Trump for an “entirely inappropriate” statement on his social media platform, Truth Social, shortly before proceedings began.
Kaplan warned the former president’s lawyers that such statements about the case could bring more legal problems upon himself.
Trump, who has not attended so far, called the case “a made-up scam”. He also called Carroll’s lawyer “a political operative” and alluded to a DNA issue Kaplan has ruled cannot be part of the case.
“This is a fraudulent and false story – Witch Hunt!” Trump wrote….
The judge told Trump’s lawyers: “What seems to be the case is that your client is basically endeavoring, certainly, to speak to his quote-unquote public, but, more troubling, the jury in this case about stuff that has no business being spoken about.”
He also called Trump’s post “a public statement that, on the face of it, seems entirely inappropriate”.
The Trump attorney Joe Tacopina noted that jurors are told not to follow any news or online commentary about the case. But he said he would ask Trump “to refrain from any further posts about this case”.
“I hope you’re more successful,” Kaplan said, adding that Trump “may or may not be tampering with a new source of potential liability”.
This morning Carroll testified that she has been receiving threats, following Trump’s postings.
Another big story broke late yesterday. Trump has lost high fight to keep Mike Pence from testifying to the January 6 grand jury.
CNN: Trump loses appeal to block Pence from testifying about direct communications.
Former President Donald Trump has lost an emergency attempt to block former Vice President Mike Pence from testifying about their direct conversations, in the latest boost to a federal criminal investigation examining Trump’s and others’ actions after the 2020 election.
The former president has repeatedly tried and failed to close off some answers from witnesses close to him in the special counsel’s investigation. This latest order from the DC Circuit Court of Appeals likely will usher in Pence’s grand jury testimony quickly – an unprecedented development in modern presidential history.
The decision, from Judges Patricia Millett, Robert Wilkins and Greg Katsas on the DC Circuit, came in a sealed case on Wednesday night that CNN previously identified as Trump’s executive privilege challenge to Pence. No dissents were noted on the public docket.
Trump has tried to block Pence from testifying about their direct communications, even after the former vice president wrote about some of those exchanges and a lower-court judge had ruled against him.
Trump asked the DC Circuit for emergency intervention weeks ago. The court refused to put on hold Pence’s subpoena and to override the lower-court ruling, flatly denying Trump’s requests.
Trump could try to appeal again and even press the issue at the Supreme Court. Yet he gave up pushing several past executive privilege challenges to special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation after similar rulings from this court of appeals.
Breakfast still life, 1924, by Ilya Mashkov
One more important story–on the latest developments in the Supreme Court ethics scandal.
Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern at Slate: King Roberts: The chief justice’s latest trick to ward off oversight is the ploy of a royal, not a judge.
Last Thursday, Sen. Dick Durbin invited Chief Justice John Roberts to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee about, well, to put it directly—the Supreme Court’s diaphanous ethics regime. On Tuesday evening, in his letter to Durbin in which he declined the invitation, Roberts finally named the problem: “Testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee by the Chief Justice of the United States is exceedingly rare, as one might expect in light of separation of powers concerns and the importance of preserving judicial independence,” he wrote. In other words, the justices can enforce checks and balances on the other branches, but the other branches can enforce no checks or balances upon the justices. Which is precisely the problem the Senate Judiciary Committee is attempting to solve.
In an accompanying “Statement on Ethics Principles and Practices,” presumably released for the public, the chief justice laid out the web of laws and practices and guidelines used voluntarily by each justice to determine their individual ethics obligations. Perhaps he was attempting to clarify things, but instead the document illuminates the problem. These obligations and commitments are advisory, unenforceable, and subjective. In response to the widespread concern that no person should be a judge in their own cause, the court has confirmed that it shall continue to be the sole judge of that. (Meanwhile, it will enforce this principle against other courts—which is great, but also … come on!)
Put aside for a moment Politico’s new report that Justice Neil Gorsuch failed to disclose that he’d sold his valuable Colorado property to a prominent lawyer with multiple cases before the court only nine days after he was confirmed, or Bloomberg’s new revelations that Harlan Crow, Justice Clarence Thomas’ GOP-megadonor billionaire friend, also had business before the court, yet his lavish gifts to Thomas were not disclosed because the justice said Crow had no business before the court. Note also that Gorsuch’s failure to disclose has been defended on the grounds that the justice was not friends with the purchaser of his land, whereas Thomas’ failure to disclose Crow’s gifts has been defended on the grounds that the justice was close friends with him. Which “friend” rule wins? Who can possibly know.
The justices themselves are wholly responsible for this high-octane ethics quagmire, which now drags into its fourth week. Any sane institution that relies wholly on public approval, when faced with multiple irrefutable reports of distortions and deception, would respond with a plan to do better. It speaks volumes that the Imperial Court’s response is a promise to simply continue to do the same. Why? Because it thinks the other branches won’t do anything about it. As Ian Millhiser noted in Vox this week, the Constitution makes it extraordinarily difficult to remove a justice, or diminish the court’s power. The reason it is set up this way, believe it or not, is because the framers thought the judiciary would rise above the partisan fray. In practice, however, the Supreme Court has proven remarkably easy for one political party to capture. Its members are selected through a flagrantly political process. It is formed by political imperatives. And yet the court pretends—and demands we all pretend—that it’s magically purified of politics as soon as its justices are seated.
Read the rest at Slate.
That’s all I have for you today. Have a great Thursday, everyone!
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Posted: January 21, 2023 | Author: bostonboomer | Filed under: cat art, Cats, caturday | Tags: Brett Kavanaugh, Covid-19, Davos, debt limit, Doug Letter, Janet Yellen, January 6, John Roberts, leaked draft, medicare, Roe v. Wade, Social Security, Supreme Court |
Goddess, Hunter, Consort, Thief, by Peter Paul Rubens, 16th Century
The Supreme Court is in the news and not in a good way. You know about John Roberts’ failed “investigation” into the leak of the draft decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, but did you know about the secret documentary on Brett Kavanaugh? Here’s the latest:
Charlie Savage at The New York Times: Supreme Court’s Inquiry Into Leak Included Interviews With Justices.
The Supreme Court’s internal investigation into who leaked a draft of the opinion last year overturning the landmark decision that had established a constitutional right to abortion included talking to all nine justices, the marshal of the court said on Friday.
But the justices — unlike dozens of law clerks and permanent employees of the court — were not made to sign sworn affidavits attesting that they had not been involved in the leak of the draft opinion overruling Roe v. Wade and that they knew nothing about it.
The clarification by the marshal, Gail A. Curley, who oversaw the inquiry, followed widespread speculation over its scope and limitations. In a 20-page report on Thursday, Ms. Curley disclosed that the investigation had not turned up the source of the leak while leaving ambiguous whether it had extended to interviewing the justices themselves.
“During the course of the investigation, I spoke with each of the justices, several on multiple occasions,” Ms. Curley said on Friday. “The justices actively cooperated in this iterative process, asking questions and answering mine.”
She added: “I followed up on all credible leads, none of which implicated the justices or their spouses. On this basis, I did not believe that it was necessary to ask the justices to sign sworn affidavits.”
Ms. Curley did not indicate whether she searched the justices’ court-issued electronic devices and asked them to turn over personal devices and cellphone records, as she did with other personnel. She also did not address whether she had interviewed any of the justices’ spouses, another question that arose after her report was made public.
It wasn’t much of an investigation if even Gini Thomas was not questioned, and the most likely suspects–the right wing justices– weren’t required to sign affidavits. But no one really expected Roberts to do a serious investigation when he won’t even deal with the justices’ political activities and conflicts of interest. What a weakling he is.
On to the Kavanagh documentary.
The Guardian: ‘I hope this triggers outrage’: surprise Brett Kavanaugh documentary premieres at Sundance.
A secretly made documentary expanding on allegations of sexual assault against supreme court justice Brett Kavanaugh has premiered at this year’s Sundance film festival.
Four year old girl with cat, by Jacob Gerritsz Cuyp, 1647
Justice, a last-minute addition to the schedule, aims to shine a light not only on the women who have accused Kavanaugh, a Donald Trump nominee, but also the failed FBI investigation into the allegations.
“I do hope this triggers outrage,” said producer Amy Herdy in a Q&A after the premiere in Park City, Utah. “I do hope that this triggers action, I do hope that this triggers additional investigation with real subpoena powers.”
The film provides a timeline of the allegations, initially that Kavanaugh was accused by Christine Blasey Ford of sexual assault when she was 15 and he 17. She alleged that he held her down on a bed and groped her, and tried to rip her clothes off before she got away. Kavanaugh was also accused of sexual misconduct by Deborah Ramirez, who alleged that he exposed himself and thrust his penis at her face without her consent at a college party.
About the film:
The first scene features Ford, half off-camera, interviewed by the film’s director Doug Liman, whose credits include Mr and Mrs Smith and The Bourne Identity. Justice features a number of interviews with journalists, lawyers, psychologists and those who knew Ford and Ramirez.
“This was the kind of movie where people are terrified,” Liman said. “The people that chose to participate in the movie are heroes.”
In the film, Ramirez, who previously told her story to Ronan Farrow in the New Yorker, also shares her story on-camera. Ramirez is referred to as someone “they worked hard for people not to know”, her story never given the space it deserved until long after Kavanaugh was confirmed to the court in October 2018….
The film then details how the circles around Ramirez and Kavanaugh responded, showing text messages of a discussion when Ramirez’s allegations were about to go public, of a mutual friend being asked by Kavanaugh to go on record to defend him. Another friend refers to it as “a cover-up”.
The New Yorker included a statement from a group of students at the time in support of Kavanaugh. A year later, the film shows that two of them emailed the New Yorker to remove their names from the statement.
Ramirez’s lawyers claim they contacted Republican senator Jeff Flake, who was involved in Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings, to explain what happened to her. The next day Flake called to delay the confirmation and insist on a week-long FBI investigation.
But the film details how the FBI failed to call on the many witnesses recommended by Ramirez’s lawyers. Footage is shown of the film-makers meeting with a confidential source who plays tape of Kavanaugh’s classmate Max Stier, now a prominent figure in Washington running a non-profit, who allegedly witnessed Kavanaugh involved in a similar act of alleged drunken exposure with a female student at a dorm party at Yale. The woman has chosen to remain anonymous and this is the first time this recording has been heard.
Read more details at the link. You can also check out this piece at The Hollywood Reporter: How Doug Liman Directed a Brett Kavanaugh FBI Investigation Doc in Secret.
Some January 6 investigation news:
Politico: The House’s legal lieutenant in its Trump wars speaks out — about Jan. 6 and more.
While Congress’ biggest Donald Trump antagonists are household names to political junkies — think Liz Cheney, Adam Schiff, Jamie Raskin — there’s a lesser-known Trump adversary who may have been more effective than the others: Doug Letter.
Portrait of Cleopea Krieg von Bellikon, 1499-1671, by Hans Asper
The former House general counsel was involved in every political brawl between House Democrats and Trump that has defined Washington politics for the past four years. Letter helped guide the work of the Jan. 6 select committee, played a critical role in both Trump impeachments and strategized the certification of Joe Biden’s win — before violent rioters upended those plans on Jan. 6, 2021….
In a wide-ranging interview with POLITICO, the House’s former top attorney described his tenure battling a former president who tested the limits of executive power at every turn, resisting efforts at accountability in ways that previous chief executives had not. But he has faith that his work helped to stem future presidential attempts to push constitutional boundaries, lending more power to lawmakers.
“I just feel like the Biden administration and future administrations are not going to act like the Trump administration,” Letter said. “They’re not going to show such ignorance of our system and think that the executive branch can ignore the legislative branch. That’s not the way it works.”
Doug Letter on January 6:
Letter was returning to the House floor from some basement vending machines when he ran into Speaker Nancy Pelosi being whisked from the Capitol under heavy guard. Don’t go back up there, one official told him. An angry mob had breached the building.
But Letter, in a panic, said he had to retrieve several giant binders that were full of sensitive strategy and scripts for the day’s proceedings. He opted to forgo evacuating with Pelosi and instead raced back to the chamber.
“I was the last person in before they locked the doors,” Letter recalled.
The attack on the Capitol led to the Jan. 6 select committee, where the House’s then-top attorney charted a legal strategy that Letter now describes as one of the hallmarks of his tenure.
Through his work on that panel, Letter secured at least two streams of information that became a core element of the committee’s voluminous findings: Trump’s confidential White House records and the Chapman University emails of attorney John Eastman, an architect of the then-president’s bid to subvert the 2020 election.
Letter also won court fights to obtain telephone records from Arizona GOP chair Kelli Ward, who took part in Trump world’s plan to send false electors to Congress. And he helped direct the House’s strategy to hold certain Trump advisers in contempt of Congress, which resulted in prosecutions of Trump advisers Peter Navarro and Steve Bannon.
“We had a whole enormous number of people that, as we now know, were putting together this massive, not just a conspiracy, but a whole bunch of conspiracies, to attack our democracy,” Letter said.
Read the rest at Politico.
Joseph Goodhue Chandler, American folk art
As you know, I went to a meeting in my over-60 apartment building awhile back. Most of the people there weren’t wearing masks. I came down with something a few days later, and it dragged on for weeks. I thought others here in the building were being careful too, but I was wrong. We haven’t talked much about Covid-19 on the blog lately, but yesterday I read this article that really angered me, and I want to share it with you.
Slate: Billionaires at Davos Don’t Think COVID Is a Cold.
In photos of 2023’s World Economic Forum—or Davos as it is commonly called, after the Swiss resort town where it annually occurs—you might not notice the HEPA filters. They’re in the background, unobtrusive and unremarked upon, quietly cleansing the air of viruses and bacteria. You wouldn’t know—not unless you asked—that every attendee was PCR tested before entering the forum, or that in the case of a positive test, access was automatically, electronically, revoked. The folks on stage aren’t sporting masks (mostly), so unless you looked at the official Davos Health & Safety protocol, you wouldn’t be aware that their on-site drivers are required to wear them. You also might be surprised to learn that if, at any point, you start to feel ill at Davos, you can go collect a free rapid test, or even call their dedicated COVID hotline.
It’s hard to square this information with the public narrative about COVID, isn’t it? President Joe Biden has called the pandemic “over.” The New York Timesrecently claimed that “the risk of Covid is similar to that of the flu” in an article about “hold outs” that are annoyingly refusing to accept continual reinfection as their “new normal.” Yet, this week the richest people in the world are taking common sense, easy—but strict—precautions to ensure they don’t catch COVID-19 at Davos.
In addition to high-quality ventilation, masks, hotlines and PCR testing, some have noted the signature blue glow of Far-UVC lighting, demonstrated to kill pathogens in the air, although this is unconfirmed. We can be certain, however, that the testing, high-quality ventilation, and filtration protocol is effective at preventing the kind of super-spreader events most of us are now accustomed to attending.
t seems unlikely to me that a New York Times reporter will follow the super-rich around like David Attenborough on safari, the way one of their employees did when they profiled middle-class maskers last month. I doubt they will write “family members and friends can get a little exasperated by the hyper-concern” about the assembled prime ministers, presidents, and CEOs in Switzerland. After all, these are important people. The kind of people who merit high-quality ventilation. The kind of people who deserve accurate tests.
Why is the media so hellbent on portraying simple, scientifically proven measures like masking—in environments absent of high-quality ventilation, full of people who do not have easy and consistent access to tests—as ridiculous and unnecessary as hundreds of people continue to die daily here in the U.S.?
Why is the public accepting a “new normal” where we are expected to get infected over and over and over again, at work events with zero precautions, on airplanes with no masks, and at social dinners trying to approximate our 2019 normal?
Very good questions. I guess the rich are entitled to protection, but the rest of us can just get sick and die for all they care. I hope you’ll go read the whole article at Slate.
Finally, a couple of articles about the upcoming fight over the debt limit:
CNN: Yellen warns of ‘global financial crisis’ if US debt limit agreement isn’t reached.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Friday warned of the widespread global effects that could be felt if the federal government exhausts extraordinary measures and fails to raise the debt ceiling, telling CNN’s Christiane Amanpour about the ways everyday Americans could face stark consequences.
Yellen’s warning comes after the United States on Thursday hit its $31.4 trillion debt limit set by Congress, forcing the Treasury Department to start taking extraordinary measures to keep the government paying its bills.
Still Life with Fighting Cats, by Frans Snyders (1579-1657), Flemish painter
While those newly deployed extraordinary measures are largely behind-the-scenes accounting maneuvers, Yellen told Amanpour that “the actual date at which we would no longer be able to use these measures is quite uncertain, but it could conceivably come as early as early June.”
Speaking exclusively to CNN from Senegal, Yellen said that after the measures are exhausted, the US could experience at a minimum downgrading of its debt as a result of Congress failing to raise the debt ceiling. The effects of the federal government failing to make payments, she argued, could be as broad as a “global financial crisis.”
“If that happened, our borrowing costs would increase and every American would see that their borrowing costs would increase as well,” Yellen said. “On top of that, a failure to make payments that are due, whether it’s the bondholders or to Social Security recipients or to our military, would undoubtedly cause a recession in the US economy and could cause a global financial crisis.”
“It would certainly undermine the role of the dollar as a reserve currency that is used in transactions all over the world. And Americans – many people would lose their jobs and certainly their borrowing costs would rise,” she continued.
Read more at CNN.
The Washington Post: Biden aides want to force GOP to abandon debt limit threats.
Shortly after last year’s midterm elections, a senior congressional Democrat called White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain and asked how the administration planned to prevent the new Republican House majority from using the debt ceiling — and the threat of a default that could wreck the economy — to force spending cuts.
Klain said the White House’s plan was straightforward, according to the lawmaker: Refuse to entertain any concessions, and launch a barrage of attacks highlighting the GOP position that would force Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to fold.
“This debate is simple: We want to do the responsible thing, and they want to take the entire American economy hostage to cut Social Security and Medicare,” said the member of Congress, speaking on the condition of anonymity to reflect private conversations. Klain told the lawmaker that the fight could result in substantial political benefits for the Democratic Party. “The point he was making was clear: You can’t negotiate with people who take hostages.”
Felis Syriacus Ulisse Aldrovani (1522-1605), by Vintage Lavoie
But the question remains what the administration will do if Republicans won’t raise the debt limit without negotiations.
House Republicans have increasingly signaled that they will force a showdown with the administration over the nation’s debt ceiling, which sets a statutory limit on how much the federal government can borrow….
Many GOP lawmakers have said that they will not approve a debt ceiling increase without cuts to spending programs that the Biden administration has vowed to protect, creating an impasse with no clear resolution.
…[A]dministration officials [have] conclude[d], at least for now, that the only viable path is to press Republicans to abandon their demands to extract policy concessions over the debt limit — a position they have publicly reaffirmed in recent weeks. The Biden administration is focused on pressing the GOP to unveil a debt limit plan that includes spending cuts, with the hope that such a proposal will prove so divisive among Republicans that they are forced to abandon brinkmanship. This strategy stems in part from the belief among White House officials that it would be enormously risky either to negotiate policy with the GOP on the debt limit or try to solve it via executive order — and they appear willing to put that premise to the test.
How about having Biden and surrogates travel around the country educating voters about the consequences of either letting Republican crash the economy or letting them destroy Social Security and Medicare? Just a thought.
What are your thoughts about all this? What other stories do you recommend?
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Posted: November 1, 2022 | Author: bostonboomer | Filed under: 2022 Elections, Afternoon Reads, Congress, Donald Trump, Elon Musk, SCOTUS | Tags: Affirmative Action, Chris Sununu, election deniers, Jair Bolsonaro, John Roberts, Kari Lake, Nancy Pelosi, Paul Pelosi, Republicans, Twitter |
Henri Manguin, Dream Landscape
Is it me or is the news today even more dispiriting than usual?
Paul Pelosi was brutally attacked in his home last week and is still in the ICU in at San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, and around the country Republicans are minimizing and even joking about the horrific attack by a MAGA/Qanon crazy.
The New York Times: Republicans Continue to Spread Baseless Claims About Pelosi Attack.
Donald Trump Jr., the former president’s son, continues to post jokes about it.
Dinesh D’Souza, the creator of a discredited film about the 2020 election called “2000 Mules,” accused the San Francisco Police Department on Monday of covering up the facts.
Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia, wrote that the “same mainstream media democrat activists” who questioned former President Donald J. Trump’s ties to Russia were now silencing the new owner of Twitter, Elon Musk.
The reason: Mr. Musk deleted a post linking to a newspaper that once claimed Hillary Rodham Clinton was dead when she ran for president in 2016.
In the days since Paul Pelosi, the 82-year-old husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, was attacked by an intruder asking, “Where is Nancy?”, a litany of Republicans and conservatives have spread baseless conspiracy theories about the assault and its motives.
Although the police have not yet detailed all the circumstances of the crime, these theories have already seeped into the Republican mainstream. While many Republican officials have denounced the violence, others have at the very least tolerated, and in some cases cheered, a violent assault on the spouse of a political rival.
The disinformation “isn’t just political,” said Angelo Carusone, the president and chief executive of Media Matters for America, a progressive nonprofit. “It’s much bigger than that; it’s deeper. They’re really rethinking and reshaping a lot of our norms.”
The attack on Mr. Pelosi in the couple’s home in San Francisco early on Friday morning has raised fears about the rise of political violence against elected officials — increasingly, it seems, inspired by a toxic brew of extremism, hate and paranoia that is easily found online.
The assailant, identified by the police as David DePape, 42, posted a series of notes in the days before the attack suggesting that he had fallen under the sway of right-wing conspiracy theories and antisemitism online. Some of the flurry of posts by others questioning the circumstances of the attack appeared intended to deflect attention from Mr. DePape’s views.
Vincent Van Gogh, The Courtyard of the Hospital in Arles, 1889
Super MAGA Trump follower Kari Lake, who is likely to be the next governor of Arizona, got a big laugh from the audience when she joked about the attack on Pelosi. NBC News: Arizona GOP nominee Kari Lake mocks attack on Paul Pelosi at campaign event.
The Republican nominee for governor of Arizona, Kari Lake, made light of the attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband in remarks at a campaign event Monday, drawing laughter from the audience.
Asked about school security, Lake suggested the protection afforded to federal lawmakers should be available to students, as well.
“Nancy Pelosi, well, she’s got protection when she’s in D.C. — apparently her house doesn’t have a lot of protection,” Lake said at a campaign event in Scottsdale, Arizona, sparking laughter from many in attendance….
Lake wasn’t asked about the remark in an interview with Tucker Carlson on Fox News but said: “We can’t talk about all these issues, because the media has told us they’re prohibited. You can’t talk about vaccines, you can’t talk about elections, you can’t talk about Paul Pelosi, and now you can’t talk about Nancy Pelosi.
“I’m talking about all of those things,” she added.
Paul Pelosi was still in intensive care, surrounded by family members, a source with knowledge of the situation said Monday.
Even New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, supposedly moderate Republican has now gone MAGA. William Saletan at The Bulwark: Even the Sane Republicans Are Embracing Election Deniers.
Chris Sununu, the governor of New Hampshire, is one of the saner people in today’s Republican party. He concedes that the 2020 election was free and fair. He acknowledges climate change. He has criticized Republican leaders for ostracizing Rep. Liz Cheney and other principled dissidents while protecting the party’s worst extremists.
That’s why Sununu’s decision in the final weeks of the 2022 campaign to embrace election deniers is a particularly bad sign. Like other Republican officials, he has decided that sabotage of public faith in democracy doesn’t matter, as long as the saboteurs are Republicans. And he’s defending their reckless behavior with pernicious excuses.
On Sep. 13, election deniers won the Republican primaries for two of New Hampshire’s three federal offices. Don Bolduc, who has insisted that “Trump won the election” in 2020, captured the GOP nomination to face off against incumbent Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan. And Karoline Leavitt, who has said Trump “absolutely” won, got the nomination for one of the state’s two congressional seats.
Sununu could have said that he considered these nominees unfit for office. At a minimum, he could have kept his distance. Instead, he has endorsed Leavitt and praised Bolduc.
Last Tuesday, in a gubernatorial debate, Sununu was asked why he supported candidates who claimed “without evidence that elections were stolen.” He didn’t dispute that characterization of their views. Instead, he said endorsement decisions should be based on more than just “one issue,” as though election denial were no different from energy subsidies or water management.
Two days after Sununu’s comment, Bolduc—who had indicated after the primaries that he would tone down his allegations of fraud—again insinuated that elections were being stolen. In a Senate debate, he said the people of New Hampshire “don’t like the fact that they can’t trust the mail-in ballot system,” that there were “proven irregularities with voting machines,” and that “same-day voter-registration causes fraud.” He added: “We need to make sure that school buses loaded with people at the polls don’t come in and vote.”
Caspar_David_Friedrich, Woman at a Window, 1822
In Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro lost his bid for reelection, and has decided to go the Trump route and refuse to concede. The Daily Beast: Bolsonaro Plays Trump Card: Won’t Concede as Fans Block Roads.
SÃO PAULO—The biggest and busiest city in South America was forced into a stunning standstill Monday night after supporters of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro blocked roads across the city to protest the results of a fair and free election.
Hundreds of Bolsonaro supporters, embittered by the victory of former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva on Sunday, blocked the highway to the main airport in São Paulo, setting up barricades, chanting phrases like “Lula the robber!,” and starting fires in the middle of the road.
Hundreds of roadblocks in every state in the country threaten to plunge Brazil into chaos.
The populist rightwinger has yet to concede the election since the unprecedentedly close result was announced Sunday, with leftist former president Lula winning by just 1.8 percentage points. With fears mounting that Bolsonaro could take a leaf from the playbook of his close ally, Donald Trump, and refuse to accept the result, truckers loyal to the incumbent have taken matters into their own hands.
Roadblocks and protests demanding a military coup to stop Lula being certified as president have erupted in all but two Brazilian states, according to reports. Brazil’s federal highway police said over 300 protests had partially or completely shut down roads around the country, while authorities in the capital Brasilia closed traffic access to the central government esplanade amid fears that Bolsonaro’s supporters were planning to stage a demonstration in front of the Supreme Court, which they perceive as having given Lula favorable treatment.
Videos shared on social media show blockages along the 1,000 mile-long BR-163 highway which links companies in the Amazon basin with ports in the north of the country. One clip shows a fire burning as vehicles block the road, with a remix of a Brazilian song using the lyrics “Bolsonaro 22” playing in the background.
Read more at the Daily Beast link.
As Dakinikat wrote yesterday, the right-wing Supreme Court is going to end Affirmative Action in universities. Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern at Slate: The Supreme Court Has No Reason to End Affirmative Action. They’re Doing It Anyway.
Oral arguments in a pair of much-anticipated cases about the future of affirmative action sprawled over almost six hours on Monday, yet the outcome was obvious within the first 30 minutes: The Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority appears poised to overturn almost 50 years of precedent and outlaw race-conscious admissions at institutions of higher education. One case—arising from the University of North Carolina’s affirmative action program—was argued over two and a half hours. The second, a challenge to Harvard’s program, took up the better part of the afternoon. These arguments suggested that six justices will deem affirmative action to be unconstitutional chiefly because the effort to promote diversity in education has reached its sell-by date.
Konrad Vilhelm Mägi, Landscape of Vilsandi, 1913-14
What was perhaps most remarkable in these largely predictable arguments was how much time the conservative justices devoted to pure policy arguments. These justices dislike affirmative action for a whole lot of deep emotional reasons that, it turns out, have nothing to do with the Constitution. They barely even considered the meaning 14th Amendment until Justice Elena Kagan finally brought it to their attention two and a half hours into the UNC arguments. Kagan, along with Justices Ketanji Brown Jackson and Sonia Sotomayor, were vastly more interested in the history of the Constitution’s equal protection clause than their ostensibly originalist colleagues. If and when the supermajority does eradicate race-conscious admissions, everyone will be able to weigh the strength of their arguments. But no one should pretend the decision was remotely rooted in actual law.
The history of affirmative action at the Supreme Court is not particularly complicated. In 1978’s Bakkedecision, a majority found that universities could consider race to build a diverse student body, identifying educational benefits that flow from diversity. At the same time, a majority prohibited quotas and other rigid metrics that reduced applicants to their race, requiring universities to undertake a holistic review of each applicant. The Supreme Court affirmed this principle in 2003’s Grutter v. Bollinger and again 2016’s Fisher v. Texas.
Although these cases involve both public and private institutions, the Supreme Court has consistently held that federal law simply applies the equal protection clause to private universities that receive federal funds. So, in theory, the justices should’ve been debating the meaning of the Constitution. Instead, the conservative justices continually reverted to free-floating policy discussions about how affirmative action makes them feel. (Hint: they feel bad.)
John Roberts has also put a hold on releasing Trump’s taxes to Congress. The Washington Post: Chief Justice Roberts temporarily delays release of Trump tax records.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. on Tuesday temporarily halted the release of former president Donald Trump’s tax records to a congressional committee, and called for more briefing in the case.
Without the Supreme Court’s intervention, the records could have been handed over to the House Ways and Means Committee as early as Thursday.
Last week, the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit declined to review earlier rulings finding that lawmakers are entitled to the documents in the long-running legal battle. The court also said it would not put the release of the papers on hold while Trump’s lawyers sought Supreme Court review.
Roberts, the justice designated to hear emergency orders from that court, put the release on hold and called for a response from the committee by noon on Nov. 10. A committee spokeswoman said in a statement, “The Ways and Means Committee maintains the law is on our side, and will file a timely response as requested. Chairman [Richard E.] Neal (D-Ma.) looks forward to the Supreme Court’s expeditious consideration.” [….]
The Supreme Court generally has not been receptive to Trump’s assertions that he should be allowed to keep records private and that he was immune to investigation while in office. The justices in 2020 upheld Congress’s right to subpoena that information with some limitations, and last year declined to block the release of Trump’s financial records for a New York state investigation.
I hope this really is just temporary.
A Forest Stream, by Peder Mork Monsted
Finally, it looks as if Elon Musk is about as competent to take over Twitter as Trump was to be POTUS. Rebecca Kern at Politico: Musk’s Twitter: ‘This is exactly what many of us were worried about.’
A day after Elon Musk seemed to confirm critics’ worst fears about his ownership of Twitter by tweeting out right-wing misinformation from his personal account, political leaders and operatives wrestled with a loaded question: Would the most important social-media platform in the political world survive his ownership?
And if it did, should they stay on it?
“This is exactly what many of us were worried about,” said Mark Jablonowski, the managing partner of Democratic digital advertising firm DSPolitical.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), who chairs the House Energy and Commerce panel on consumer protection, said she was worried about Twitter becoming “a platform that is a sewer of hateful and harmful content” and planned to leave if Musk allowed it to become more of a Wild West.
The immediate anxiety comes from a false story about the brutal attack on Paul Pelosi, husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, that Musk personally tweeted over the weekend. Musk has now deleted the tweet, but the story continues to ricochet around the conservative political world.
In the larger sense, political players are worried that Musk’s promises to bring Twitter’s policies closer in line with his own ideas about politics and society, as well as his firing of its top accountability executives, will permanently change a platform they’ve come to rely on, and trust to police misinformation and hate speech.
Musk has left no doubt who’s in charge of the company since he took Twitter private Thursday night. He renamed himself “Chief Twit” on his official bio, and told the Securities and Exchange Commission that he dissolved the board and named himself sole director.
Musk doesn’t understand that what makes Twitter so popular is the well known journalists, experts, and popular personalities who post content on the platform. Now he wants to charge these people for being verified with blue checks. The Hollywood Reporter: Elon Musk Defends Controversial $20 Blue Checkmark Twitter Plan to Stephen King.
Elon Musk has responded to Stephen King’s horrified reaction at his reported plan to charge for a blue checkmark — and in the process, confirmed that the surprising and controversial idea is in the works.
On Monday, King went viral with his reaction to a report that Musk wanted to charge verified users a whopping $20 per month to keep their blue checkmarks. “$20 a month to keep my blue check?” King tweeted to his 6.9 million followers. “Fuck that, they should pay me. If that gets instituted, I’m gone like Enron.” When a reader told King he could afford the fee, he replied, “It ain’t the money, it’s the principle of the thing.”
Trees, by Henri Manguin
Five Thirty Eight political guru Nate Silver similarly wrote to his 3.5 million followers: “I’m probably the perfect target for this, use a ton, can afford $20/mo, not particularly anti-Elon, but my reaction is that I’ve generated a ton of valuable free content for Twitter over the years and they can go fuck themselves.”
Early Tuesday, Musk responded to the uproar, replying to King: “We need to pay the bills somehow! Twitter cannot entirely rely on advertisers. How about $8?” Musk then added: “I will explain the rational in longer form before this is implemented. It is the only way to defeat bots & trolls.”
But critics have pointed out that verified accounts are not simply a free perk for a certain level of user, but rather a utility that makes the wild-west social media platform/hellscape more credible. Blue checks help everyday readers — as well as journalists — determine whether a comment being made by a public figure is actually from that person instead of their fans or impersonators. It is, in other words, a way of preventing fake news. TechCrunch dubbed Musk’s idea a potential “misinformation nightmare.”
“Musk and his buddies view this plan as a way to get people to actually give Twitter money,” TechCrunch noted. “But by monetizing a symbol that currently has value, they will ultimately remove all of that existing value.”
I’ll end there. Please share your thoughts on these and other current happenings. I hope you all have a great Tuesday!!
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Posted: January 1, 2022 | Author: bostonboomer | Filed under: Afternoon Reads | Tags: Bernard Kerik, Betty White, caturday, conflicts of interest, coronavirus pandemic, Covid-19, Golden Girls, Happy New Year 2022, January 6 insurrection, Joe Biden, John Roberts, Major General Paul Eaton, Mary Tyler Moore Show, notable deaths 2021, SCOTUS, Ukraine, Unite the Right rally, Vladimir Putin |
Well, 2021 is in the rearview mirror and 2022 lies ahead. Will this year be better than the last two? We can only hope. Every year, we look back at the notable people who have left us, and there were many of those last year. To cap a terrible year, the last living member of the Mary Tyler Moore Show and Golden Girls–Betty White–died yesterday.
The New York Times: Betty White, a Television Golden Girl From the Start, Is Dead at 99.
Betty White, who created two of the most memorable characters in sitcom history, the nymphomaniacal Sue Ann Nivens on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and the sweet but dim Rose Nylund on “The Golden Girls” — and who capped her long career with a comeback that included a triumphant appearance as the host of “Saturday Night Live” at the age of 88 — died on Friday at her home in Los Angeles. She was 99.
Her death, less than three weeks before her 100th birthday, was confirmed by Jeff Witjas, her longtime friend and agent.
Ms. White won five Primetime Emmys and one competitive Daytime Emmy — as well as a lifetime achievement Daytime Emmy in 2015 and a Los Angeles regional Emmy in 1952 — in a television career that spanned seven decades and that the 2014 edition of “Guinness World Records” certified as the longest ever for a female entertainer.
But her breakthrough came relatively late in life, with her work on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” from 1973 to 1977, for which she won two of her Emmys.
As Sue Ann, the host of a household-hints show on the television station where Ms. Moore’s character worked, the bedimpled Ms. White was annoyingly positive and upbeat, but also manipulative and bawdy — the sexpot next door, who would have you believe she slept with entire Army brigades during World War II.
Once, when someone asked her how she was feeling, Sue Ann replied cheerfully: “I didn’t sleep a wink all night. I feel wonderful.”
She won another Emmy in 1986 for an entirely different kind of character: the naïve, scatterbrained Rose on “The Golden Girls,” which revolved around the lives of four older women sharing a house in Miami. Whereas Sue Ann knew everything there was to know about getting a man into bed, Rose got to the same place innocently, and by being just a wee bit off center.
Ms. White was the last surviving member of the show’s four stars. Estelle Getty died in 2008, Bea Arthur in 2009 and Rue McClanahan in 2010.
Read the rest at the NYT.
In 2021, we also lost Cloris Leachman (January 27, Gavin MacLeod (May 29), Ed Asner (August 29).
Read about more notable people who died in 2021 at The New York Times: Deaths in 2021: Headline Names Against the Backdrop of Pandemic.
In the news today, the pandemic rages on. CBS News: The world welcomes 2022 with muted celebrations as COVID-19 cases surge.
The world rang in 2022 with muted celebrations for another year, as the coronavirus pandemic — now fueled by the fast-spreading Omicron variant — continues to upset daily life across the globe. The new variant, which is now driving record case numbers in the U.S., forced many cities to tone down celebrations or cancel them altogether.
New York City’s Times Square still held an event, but it only allowed a small fraction of the typical crowd, and all attendees over the age of 5 who do not qualify for an exemption were required to be fully vaccinated and wear face masks. Cities such as Atlanta and San Francisco canceled typical celebrations.
In New Zealand, one of the first cities to kick off the new year, a light display replaced the traditional fireworks show. Australia proceeded with its seven-minute fireworks display over the Sydney Harbor Bridge and Sydney Opera House, but limited access to downtown Sydney, the Associated Press reported.
Earlier this week, Dr. Anthony Fauci urged Americans not to attend large gatherings on New Year’s Eve.
“What I would suggest people do not do, is to go to very large 50-to-60-person parties where people are blowing whistles and all that sort of thing, and celebrating, and you don’t know the vaccination status of the people in that environment,” Fauci said.
President Biden spoke to Russia’s Vladimir Putin on Thursday night. The Washington Post:
WILMINGTON, Del. — President Biden said Friday that he warned Russian President Vladimir Putin in a call that there would be “a heavy price to pay” if Russia invades Ukraine again.
Biden said he “made it clear” that any further military action by the Kremlin would result in “severe sanctions” but did not go as far as to say that Washington would respond to Russia’s continued military presence near the border with Ukraine.
“I’m not going to negotiate here in public,” Biden told reporters in Wilmington, Del., where he is spending New Year’s Eve. “But we made it clear he cannot, I’ll emphasize, cannot invade Ukraine.”
Following his call on Thursday with Putin, Biden plans to speak by phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday amid growing alarm over Russia’s military buildup near its border with Ukraine.
Biden will “reaffirm U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” according to a White House official, previewing the call to reporters on the condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the White House. Biden is also expected to review preparations with Zelensky for the upcoming diplomatic talks.
Senior U.S. and Russian officials will meet in Geneva on Jan. 9 and 10, before a meeting of the Russia-NATO Council on Jan. 12 and negotiations at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe in Vienna on Jan. 13.
Biden told reporters Friday that ahead of those conferences, Putin “laid out some of his concerns about NATO and the United States and Europe, and we laid out ours. And we said we’d begin to negotiate some of those issues. But I made it clear that they only could work if, in fact, he de-escalated, not escalated, the situation there.”
Party Cat, by Cindy Thompson
Chief Justice John Roberts issued his laughable year-end report. The New York Times: Chief Justice Roberts Reflects on Conflicts, Harassment and Judicial Independence.
Amid a drop in public confidence in the Supreme Court and calls for increasing its membership, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. devoted his annual year-end report on the federal judiciary on Friday to a plea for judicial independence.
“The judiciary’s power to manage its internal affairs insulates courts from inappropriate political influence and is crucial to preserving public trust in its work as a separate and coequal branch of government,” he wrote.
The report comes less than a month after a bipartisan commission appointed by President Biden finished its work studying changes to the federal judiciary. While that panel analyzed proposals like imposing 18-year term limits on justices and expanding, or “packing,” the court with additional justices, much of the chief justice’s report was focused on thwarting less contentious efforts by Congress to address financial conflicts and workplace misconduct in the judicial system. Both issues are the subject of proposed legislation that has drawn bipartisan support.
Gabe Roth, the executive director of Fix the Court, a nonprofit group that has called for stricter ethics rules for the Supreme Court, said the chief justice faced an uphill battle.
“Chief Justice Roberts is taking a page from his old playbook: acknowledging institutional challenges in the judiciary but telling the public that only we judges can fix them,” Mr. Roth said. “Yet the problems of overlooked financial conflicts and sexual harassment are serious and endemic, and there’s no indication they’re going away. So Congress has every right to step in and, via legislation, hold the third branch to account, which I expect to happen in 2022.”
Chief Justice Roberts addressed at some length a recent series of articles in The Wall Street Journal that found that 131 federal judges had violated a federal law by hearing 685 lawsuits between 2010 and 2018 that involved companies in which they or their families owned shares of stock.
“Let me be crystal clear: The judiciary takes this matter seriously,” the chief justice wrote. “We expect judges to adhere to the highest standards, and those judges violated an ethics rule. But I do want to put these lapses in context.”
Hahahahaha! I’ll take him seriously when he address the many conflicts of interest on the Supreme Court, beginning with Clarence Thomas and his wife.
We are approaching the anniversary of the January 6 Capitol insurrection. In the news today:
The latest Trump/Giuliani pal to release documents to the January 6 committee is Bernard Kerik. Politico: Bernard Kerik provides batch of documents to Jan. 6 select committee.
A key adviser to Donald Trump’s legal team in their post-election quest to unearth evidence of fraud has delivered a trove of documents to Jan. 6 investigators describing those efforts.
Bernard Kerik, the former New York City Police commissioner and ally of Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, also provided a “privilege log” describing materials he declined to provide to the committee.
Teatime Cats, A Celebration! by Isabelle Brent
Among the withheld documents is one titled “DRAFT LETTER FROM POTUS TO SEIZE EVIDENCE IN THE INTEREST OF NATIONAL SECURITY FOR THE 2020 ELECTIONS.” Kerik’s attorney Timothy Parlatore provided the privilege log to the panel, which said the file originated on Dec. 17, a day before Trump huddled in the Oval Office with advisers including former Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, where they discussed the option of seizing election equipment in states whose results Trump was attempting to overturn.
Trump ultimately opted against that strategy, but his consideration of the option is one of the key questions the panel is probing as part of its broader investigation into attempts to overturn the election.
It’s unclear whether the letter is related to the same plan and if Trump knew of its existence. Kerik withheld it, describing it as privileged because of its classification as “attorney work product.”
Another document provided by Kerik to the panel included emails between Kerik and associates about paying for rooms at the Willard Hotel. Kerik had been subpoenaed by the panel on Nov. 8 as part of its investigation into the so-called war room at the Willard Hotel, where Trump allies met to strategize about preventing Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s victory. The panel had originally sent a letter accompanying the subpoena that had incorrectly suggested Kerik was in the war room on Jan. 5, leading Kerik to demand an apology.
Read more at Politico.
More on Kerik from Raw Story: Trump’s Twitter and the Freedom Caucus were key to overturning the election: Bernie Kerik documents.
The House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol has obtained new documents showing how Donald Trump’s Twitter account and the far-right House Freedom Caucus could be used to help overturn the 2020 election.
“A key adviser to Donald Trump’s legal team in their post-election quest to unearth evidence of fraud has delivered a trove of documents to Jan. 6 investigators describing those efforts,” Politico reported Friday. “Bernard Kerik, the former New York City Police commissioner and ally of Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, also provided a “privilege log” describing materials he declined to provide to the committee.”
Kerik — who was pardoned by Trump 11 months before the insurrection — is not an attorney but has claimed his work under Giuliani was covered by attorney-client privilege. Giuliani has had his law license suspended in New York and Washington, D.C.
“Another 22-page document, titled “STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS PLAN – GIULIANI PRESIDENTIAL LEGAL DEFENSE TEAM,” describes a 10-day blitz aimed at Republican House and Senate members to pressure them to vote against certifying the 2020 election results,” Politico reported. “The document says its primary channels to disseminate messaging on these efforts included ‘presidential tweets’ as well as talk radio, conservative bloggers, social media influencers, Trump campaign volunteers and other media allies. A list of ‘key team members’ supporting the effort included ‘Freedom Caucus Members’ — a reference to the group of hardline House conservatives, some of whom backed Trump’s effort to overturn the election.”
Cats Birthday Party, by Andrew Osta
More January 6 news from Raw Story: ‘Unite the Right’ set the stage for Jan. 6 — and helped launch some of the biggest players in the Capitol riot.
Days after neo-Nazi James Fields Jr. murdered antiracist activist Heather Heyer in a horrific car-ramming attack in Charlottesville, Va., the Daily Caller, a website founded by Tucker Carlson, quietly removed articles by contributor Jason Kessler.
Kessler was the primary organizer of the Unite the Right rally, which saw neo-Nazis chant, “Jews will not replace us,” as they carried torches to the Rotunda at the University of Virginia on Aug. 11, 2017 and again the following day as they marched through Charlottesville.
More than four years later, the ideas that galvanized the Unite the Right rally are no longer considered too radioactive for mainstream conservative media. Carlson himself embraced the Great Replacement theory — responsible for fueling massacres in Pittsburgh; Christchurch, New Zealand; Poway, Calif.; and El Paso, Texas — on his Fox News show in April 2021. He accused Democrats of “trying to replace the current electorate” in the United States “with new people, more obedient voters from the Third World.”
There are distinct differences in messaging between Unite the Right, in which white supremacists used Confederate symbols and neo-Nazi aesthetics to nakedly promote white nationalism, and the Jan. 6 insurrection, in which Trump supporters filtered similar aims through QAnon, paranoid anticommunism, and a perverted version of patriotism.
Amy Spitalnick, executive director of Integrity First for America — the nonprofit that won the civil lawsuit against the organizers of Unite the Right — is among those who see distinct similarities between the two events.
“The four years in between have shown us how much of this extremism has moved into the mainstream,” she said. “If you look at the tools and tactics, there are many, many parallels, from the use of social media to plan the violence to explicit discussion of the use of free speech instruments like flagpoles as weapons, to the immediate finger-pointing to ‘antifa, blaming them for the violence that far-right extremists were responsible for to even some of the ideology.
“While Charlottesville was explicitly white nationalist with holocaust imagery, and with KKK and Nazi paraphernalia like the tiki torches that are meant to evoke dark periods of our history, on January 6th when you think about ‘stopping the steal,’ it also speaks at its core to this same idea: There’s a plot to steal the country from largely white Christians,” Spitalnick continued. “That idea that Jews will not replace us is at the core of Unite the Right, but it’s also at the core of Jan. 6. We’ve seen how these ideas have been mainstreamed, from Tucker Carlson giving replacement theory a home on Fox News every night to Republican politicians talking about it.”
Read the rest at Raw Story.
Major General Paul Eaton issued a chilling warning in an interview with NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly: Retired general warns the U.S. military could lead a coup after the 2024 election. (Eaton co-authored an op-ed at The Washington Post with two other retired generals that warned the military to prepare for another insurrection in 2024). Some exerpts:
How could a coup play out in 2024?
The real question is does everybody understand who the duly elected president is? If that is not a clear-cut understanding, that can infect the rank and file or at any level in the U.S. military.
And we saw it when 124 retired generals and admirals signed a letter contesting the 2020 election. We’re concerned about that. And we’re interested in seeing mitigating measures applied to make sure that our military is better prepared for a contested election, should that happen in 2024.
How worried is he on a scale of 1 to 10?
I see it as low probability, high impact. I hesitate to put a number on it, but it’s an eventuality that we need to prepare for. In the military, we do a lot of war-gaming to ferret out what might happen. You may have heard of the Transition Integrity Project that occurred about six months before the last election. We played four scenarios. And what we did not play is a U.S. military compromised — not to the degree that the United States is compromised today, as far as 39% of the Republican Party refusing to accept President Biden as president — but a compromise nonetheless. So, we advocate that that particular scenario needs to be addressed in a future war game held well in advance of 2024….
What should the military do?
I had a conversation with somebody about my age, and we were talking about civics lessons, liberal arts education and the development of the philosophical underpinnings of the U.S. Constitution. And I believe that bears a reteach to make sure that each and every 18-year-old American truly understands the Constitution of the United States, how we got there, how we developed it and what our forefathers wanted us to understand years down the road. That’s an important bit of education that I think that we need to readdress.
I believe that we need to war-game the possibility of a problem and what we are going to do. The fact that we were caught completely unprepared — militarily, and from a policing function — on Jan. 6 is incomprehensible to me. Civilian control of the military is sacrosanct in the U.S. and that is a position that we need to reinforce.
Sorry this post is so long and so late. I hope you all have a nice, relaxing weekend.
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