Thursday, April 25, 2019

Supreme Court Roundup: Tired of losing at Rick's? Let's get some new croupiers!

By Scott V. Sandford
Spy Justice Correspondent

This week in occupied Washington, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in the challenge to President U Bum's desire to subvert the 2020 Census, and our democratic system, by adding a citizenship question that is expected to depress the actual count by over 6,000,000.  It was clear from the record and the lower court's decision that adding the question was based solely on Republican desire to suppress the number of undocumented persons and Hispanics responding to the Census, the better to exclude those people from redistricting and government resource allocations.

So of course based on a straightforward application of the Equal Protection Clause, the Census Clause, and the Administrative Procedure Act, the corrupt endeavor was nipped in the bud, right?

Not so much:

[Commerce] Secretary Wilbur Ross wants to modify the 2020 census form in a way that will depress responses from immigrant communities — effectively shifting congressional representation away from Latinos and towards white voters who are more likely to favor Republicans. In doing so, Ross broke numerous laws, ignored the Census Bureau’s own experts, and openly lied about his motives.
And yet, at Tuesday’s oral argument, the Supreme Court appeared likely to vote along party lines to endorse Ross’ lawbreaking.

After you have recovered from your swoon, ask yourself exactly why you were surprised that a partisan, packed, illegitimate Supreme Court abandoned all adherence to principle except the principle that Republicans Win.   This is after all the Supreme Court that handed the 2000 election to the popular vote loser on grounds so preposterous that its opinion warned it could not be relied on in future cases.

As a result, said loser George W. Bush got to appoint two new Justices.  Already there was a sexual harasser appointed by his father and waved through by the incompetent Joe Biden.  Whatever happened to that guy?

Then, after refusing to allow real President Obama to fill a vacancy, the Republicans rammed through Pres U Bum's first nominee.  Most recently one member of the Republican majority that awarded the 2000 election to the Republicans resigned, allowing the Republicans to install a rapist in his place.

So, to sum up, you've got a Supreme Court that includes two sex offenders, one Republican occupying a seat stolen from real President Obama, and two others nominated by the guy who was awarded the 2000 election by the previous Republican majority.  And you remain in doubt as to how this Court will decide a case involving political advantage for the Republican Party, no matter how corrupt the challenged decision is?

Let's look at some recent other lawless decisions by a Republican dominated Supreme Court, shall we?

  • The Republican Court gutted the Voting Rights Act on the ludicrous rationale that since the Act had been in force, there were few incidents of race-based denial of voting rights.
  • The Republican Court allowed plutocrats and corporations the right to spend unlimited sums to nobble elections.
  • The Republican Court refused to allow a comprehensive national system of regulation of health insurance on the grounds that it was not a regulation of interstate commerce.
  • The Republican Court refused to allow in the same case the Congress to set the bounds and requirements for a dramatic overhaul of Medicaid funding on the grounds that it was too mean to states.
  • The Republican Court allowed a transparently unconstitutional religion-based Muslim ban to take effect because the Executive was able to supply a pretext for its decision that did not specifically identify religion as a criteria.

What do these decisions have in common?  They were pushed through by a narrow Republican majority.  Their supposed rationales are to put it charitably unconvincing.  The results benefited the Republicans and their plutocratic funders.

There's a lot of moaning about how the Republicans have cemented a reactionary pro-GOP majority on the Court for a generation.  But it ain't necessarily so.

Let's rev up the ol' Waybac machine to another time when a Republican Supreme Court misused its power to repeal the New Deal. The year was 1937.  The Court had struck down one New Deal law after another.  Next up were the Social Security Act and the National Labor Relations Act.  President Franklin D. Roosevelt had had enough.

He proposed to add up to six new Justices to the Court.  It was regarded by conventional wisdom as one of his greatest political blunders and went down to stinging defeat in Congress.  But a funny thing happened about six weeks after he proposed it:

The court, however, would spring some surprises of its own. On March 29, by 5 to 4, in West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish, it validated a minimum wage law from the state of Washington, a statute essentially no different from the New York state act it had struck down only months before. As a result, a hotel in Wenatchee, Washington, would be required to pay back wages to Elsie Parrish, a chambermaid. Two weeks later, in several 5 to 4 rulings, the court sustained the National Labor Relations Act. A tribunal that in 1936 had held that coal mining, although conducted in many states, did not constitute interstate commerce, now gave so broad a reading to the Constitution that it accepted intervention by the federal government in the labor practices of a single Virginia clothing factory. On May 24, the court that in 1935 had declared that Congress, in enacting a pension law, had exceeded its powers, found the Social Security statute constitutional.

Coincidence, Professor Leuchtenberg?

This set of decisions came about because one justice, Owen Roberts, switched his vote. Ever since, historians have argued about why he did so. We know that he changed his mind on the validity of minimum wage laws for women before Roosevelt delivered his court-packing message, so FDR’s proposal could not have been the proximate cause. Since there is no archival evidence to account for his abrupt change on the minimum wage cases, scholars have been reduced to speculation. Perhaps, during a visit to Roberts’ country retreat in Pennsylvania, Chief Justice Hughes had warned his younger colleague that the court was placing itself in jeopardy. Perhaps Roberts was impressed by the dimensions of FDR’s landslide, which indicated that the president, not the court’s majority, spoke for the nation. Perhaps he was affected by the biting criticism from within the legal community. It is even harder to account for why Roberts, in his subsequent votes in the Wagner Act and Social Security cases, supported such a vast extension of federal power—but the pressure exerted by the court-packing bill may very likely have been influential.
Roberts’ switch had two consequences for Roosevelt, only one of them good. The president could rejoice that his program might now be safe, as indeed it was. Never again would the court strike down a New Deal law.

Let's just repeat that one more time:   Never again would the court strike down a New Deal law.

Which brings us to another Justice Roberts, our old classmate and fellow stoner.  He's been slinging around his conception of the Court as a neutral arbiter of legal disputes for as long as his Court has been anything but:
Roberts had refused to comment on Trump's earlier attacks on judges, including the chief justice himself. But on Wednesday, after a query by The Associated Press, he spoke up for the independence of the federal judiciary and rejected the notion that judges are loyal to the presidents who appoint them.
"We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges. What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them," Roberts said.
On the day before Thanksgiving, he concluded, "The independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for."
We gotta admit: John Roberts '76  (third from left, no, with
teacup, or maybe with cap – we were pretty wasted)
was a lot more fun in college
We would be if we had one, John.   But the point is not the truth value of his observation (which is zero).  It's that he desperately wants to maintain the facade of an impartial and independent Court.  If it cracks, then why not add new justices in 2021 if Democrats control the White  House and the Congress?  As long as he can maintain a plausible fiction of a neutral judiciary, he can fight off any Democratic effort to establish one by balancing the votes of sex offenders and those sitting in seats stolen from Obama with new justices interested in the rule of law.   Like Merrick Garland.

It follows then if you want Justice Roberts, like old Justice Roberts, to once in a while vote like a judge and not like a Republican, you have to keep threatening him with the consequences to his Court of his failure to do so: four new Justices.

Of course if you don't care if the Supreme Court continues to issue decisions as ill-founded as Bush v. Gore, by all means continue to bloviate about how unpacking the Court would “backfire” on Democrats.  That's the best way to ensure a rigged Census, gerrymandered districts and 5-4 votes to insulate the Grifter-in-Chief from further exposure of his exhaustive array of high crimes and misdemeanors.

The fair minded of you may object to tarring the Chief Justice with the taint of Bush v. Gore.  He wasn't even on the Court in 2000.  Where was he, you may ask.

During the 2000 presidential election, though, [Roberts] was enlisted to help George W. Bush by assisting in the case Bush v. Gore. Shortly thereafter, Bush nominated Roberts to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. 
Anyone else wondering if this game is really as honest as the day is long?

STOP PRESS: As this story was being sent to the typesetters, some guy claiming to be a Senator from Rhode Island compiled a comprehensive review of the Roberts Court pro-Republican decisions.  If you don't believe us, take it from Sheldon.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Crisis in American Education: Reading Comprehension Touches a New Bottom

By Horace Mann
Education Correspondent and
Scott V. Sandford
Justice Correspondent

The failures of American schools have been a national scandal for generations.  They don't prepare our children for the complexities of the modern world.  Not only are the kids not taught how to code, they are not even taught how to read.

And from the evidence on display in Washington this weekend, the lack of basic reading comprehension skills has afflicted generations of Americans, including those “boomers” who received their schooling before the current era of political correctness or whatever anti-public school reactionaries are blaming these days for the failure of our education system.

To cite one flagrant example, a supposedly well-educated man was assigned to write a book report on a riveting non-fiction thriller published last week.  Asked to summarize the work's key findings, here's what he came up with:

First, a bit of advice for Sen. Wilfred M “Profiles in Courage” Romney (R - UT/MA/NH/CA).  Don't use Twitter to write your book reports.

Let's go to the text he was purporting to summarize and see how well Wilfred did on his homework assignment.

We'll take the obstruction bit first.  Was it the case that Robert Mueller found insufficient evidence to charge President U Bum with obstruction of justice?  Here's what the book actually said:

So Mueller did not conclude that he lacked evidence to indict the Grifter-in-Chief.  He said other legal obstacles prevented him from doing so.  If only his report explained what those obstacles were.

Ah, but it did.  And Wilfred if you want to pass the course you really should read at least page 1 of the volume you are reporting on, where this appears:

So if Wilfred had read and understood page 1, he would have realized that it was exactly wrong to claim that Mueller did not charge President U Bum with obstruction of justice because he lacked evidence.  He sought no indictment against U Bum because he could not charge him under binding Justice Department policies.  His Report said correctly that accusing the Tangerine-Faced Grifter of a crime without so indicting him is fundamentally unfair, because anyone charged with a crime can defend herself in court, while a person smeared by a law enforcement official can't.  Ask Hillary Clinton about James Comey's views re her email server.

How did Wilfred do on the Russian conspiracy charge?  A little better, because in fact Mueller concluded that on the narrow question of whether President U Bum made an agreement with Russia to interfere in our elections and then there occurred an overt act in furtherance of that agreement (which is the definition of conspiracy), Mueller lacked sufficient evidence to bring such a charge:

As for the June 9, 2016 meeting there were only three persons who could have provided testimony as to whether President U Bum was in on that conspiracy: U Bum, Li'l Grifter, and Vladimir Putin.  None was willing to testify.  Further, those with more curiosity than Wilfred might want to consider whether evidence of the willingness of U Bum campaign officials and appointees, like Flynn and Manafort, (and maybe U Bum himself) to receive Hillary's stolen emails and collude with Russian officials and their cutouts constitutes an egregious subversion of the American democratic system warranting impeachment even if it did not establish beyond a reasonable doubt a violation of campaign-finance law.

Speaking of which, since Li'l Grifter invoked his Fifth Amendment rights, imagine what he might say if immunized by the Judiciary Committee in response to questions about communications with his father before and after the June 9 meeting and in the unsuccessful coverup thereafter.

Also Wilfred seemed to have missed the basic fact that Mueller's report summed up the evidence solely with respect to conspiracy to further Russian election interference.  He never reached the broader question of whether U Bum has been bribed or blackmailed into “conspiring with a foreign adversary” by for example crediting Putin's preposterous denials of such interference, weakening support for the Ukraine, currently under Russian attack and occupation, or refusing to impose meaningful sanctions on Russia.  All of which would be grist for the impeachment mill.

So we have bad news and good news for Wilfred.  We're hard pressed to give his book report a higher grade than C-, given the lack of effort he put in in trying to comprehend its contents and summarizing them carefully.

The good news for Wilfred?  He had the highest grade in the Republican class.

Consider little Marco Rubio's effort:

Marco, if you want to pass Reading Comprehension, you have to read Volume II, not just Volume I.  D.

And how about Robbie Portman, supposedly the smart one of the group?

What did we tell you Robbie about relying on trots and other secondary sources?  Automatic flunk.

With illiteracy so widespread among the Republican citizenry, perhaps the only way to communicate the full gravity of the threat to the Republic would be to provide a television version that could also be live streamed on the Internet.  That way, basic information could be conveyed to those unable to take it in on the printed page.

You could even attract a wider audience by calling the video version “impeachment hearings.”

Friday, April 12, 2019

David Brooks Creates, Then Solves the "Immigration Crisis"


By A.J. Liebling
Meta-Content Generator

The World's Greatest Authority, Prof. David Brooks, took it upon himself to solve another vexing national issue to his satisfaction in 750 words.  This time, it was immigration.

Predictably, hilarity ensued.
 If you guessed that the problem was . . . Both Sides, you win an Italian sub lunch with the ol' Perfesser at a suburban DC location of his choosing, unless you are a working-class wretch in which case he will graciously treat you to Taco Bell.

According to Complete National Disgrace Brooks, the miserable treatment of Central American refugees and the incompetent management of their asylum claims is, wait for it, “paradigmatic of our politics right now. Both parties are content to adopt abstract ideological postures. Neither is interested in creating a functioning system that balances trade-offs and actually works.”

Actually that's not quite what CND said.  He, like so many lazy journalists in their flack jacket costumes, refers to what's happening as a “crisis.”

What crisis?

The reality is that Central American migrants are fleeing the charnel houses of their homelands desperate for refuge.  Under U.S. law, these persons have an absolute right to claim asylum and enter the United States.  If they are dangerous and not accompanied by children, they can be detained or released on bond.  If like most mothers and children of our acquaintance they aren't, they can be given a court date and released into the United States.

It's only a crisis when the corrupt Tangerine-Faced Bigot and his schondeh von der goyim henchmen concoct one half-assed scheme after another to undermine the law, like not letting asylum applicants make their claims in an organized fashion at ports of entry.  Then one of two things happens: either families are immured in misery in Mexico, or they sneak across the border to be detained by the Border Patrol, which has demonstrably failed to provide adequate facilities to handle harmless women and children.  Presto, a crisis!

So there's clearly a problem at the Southern Border created by the bigotry and ineptitude of the U Bum Regime. And this is the Democrats' fault because why?  Because they have been pushing for comprehensive immigration reform for years, which would include aid to the Central American failed states who are unable or unwilling to protect their citizens?

No it's because some Democrats have suggested that the cruel dysfunctional internal immigration police be disbanded and their responsibilities transferred back to the agencies that handled them prior to 2002.  The ol' Perfesser slyly slags off this proposal as a “gesture to the open border crowd” without actually accusing any Democrat of supporting open borders.  Because none does.

Also CND Brooks has a fact that he believes clinches his case: “The murder rate in El Salvador has fallen in half since 2015.”  We'll get to his murder rates in a minute but let's pause to collect some other obscure facts that the ol' Perfesser couldn't be bothered with, probably because they were so hard to dig up:
Unlike in much of the world, where most murdered women are killed by their husbands, partners or family members, half in Honduras are killed by drug cartels and gangs. And the ways they are being killed — shot in the vagina, cut to bits with their parts distributed among various public places, strangled in front of their children, skinned alive — have women running for the border.
Where could this recondite tidbit be found?  You guessed it: the same newspaper that publishes the ol' Perfesser's disquisitions, two days earlier. 

And as for the paradise that is El Salvador, let's ask some far left wing organization for their take:
Although the murder rate has consistently declined since 2015, El Salvador continues to have one of the highest homicide rates in the world. Crime statistics indicate the 2017 annual homicide rate — 60.07 per 100,000 inhabitants — was significantly lower than 2016’s 80.97 per 100,000.
That would be the travel advisory issued by the Department of State. 

Sixty per 100,000?  We wondered how that compared to things in the ol' Perfesser's neck of the woods.  There were 20 homicides in Montgomery County, Maryland in 2018, so let's see, 20 divided by the population of the county in 2017 (1,058,810)  gets you um 1.889 per 100,000.  So why would anyone flee a country with a murder rate 30 times higher than where Complete National Disgrace slices his sopprassata?

But don't say that the ol' Perfesser bases his Both Sides BS on just one fact.  He's got another: “only 20 percent [of asylum seekers] win the right to stay in the United States because they’d face persecution in their home countries.”

And this proves – nothing really.  The percentage for asylum seekers who are represented by counsel is just a scosh higher:

Represented immigrants were more likely to obtain the immigration relief they sought.
  • Among detained immigrants, those with representation were twice as likely as unrepresented immigrants to obtain immigration relief if they sought it (49 percent with counsel versus 23 percent without).
  • Represented immigrants who were never detained were nearly five times more likely than their unrepresented counterparts to obtain relief if they sought it (63 percent with counsel versus 13 percent without).
(Source: American Immigration Council (2016 data).)

Unlike the ol' Perfesser, we didn't go to the University of Chicago so our math may be a little rusty, but we think that 63% and 49% are higher than 20%, a figure which appears to reflect the lack of counsel available to asylum seekers seeking to thread their way through an immensely complicated field of law.

By the way, some of those asylum seekers may lose their cases on technical grounds, like the U Bum Regime argument that women shot in the vagina, cut to bits with their parts distributed among various public places, strangled in front of their children, or skinned alive don't constitute a “protected social group” for purposes of qualifying for asylum.

But that's enough facts for one column.  Let's move on to the Complete National Disgrace's policy prescriptions:
build new detention centers at the border; expand the capacities at the ports of entry; expand the number of judge teams, to speed through the backlog; create an orderly release procedure coordinated with humanitarian agencies; increase the number of counselors so refugees can navigate the system; vet children in their home countries for refugee status so they don’t have to make a fruitless trip.
A few of these ideas are unobjectionable and Democrats have been urging them forever.  But what's the point of new detention centers?  To detain whom?  To incarcerate women and children seeking asylum even thought they are no danger to anyone (and are barred by the Flores settlement)?

And wtf are “judge teams?”  Does he think that teams of immigration judges now hauling borax across the Utah desert can be taken out of harness and tied to the U Bum deportation railroad?  If he's saying he thinks we need more Immigration Judges (and that they should be supervised by article III courts like bankruptcy judges rather than corrupt Republican AG's), again it's hard to disagree with.

As for his idea to force women and children in fear of their lives in Honduras to apply at the US Embassy in Tegucigalpa, let's just hope that they won't be shot in the vagina, cut to bits with their parts distributed among various public places, strangled in front of their children, or skinned alive whilst the agonizingly slow US immigration machinery processes their cases.

But it's no surprise that the ol' Perfesser's policy ideas are as usual a dog's breakfast of bromides and crap. He doesn't care about policy; he just wants to make sure you know that Both Sides are at fault.  We'll let him clinch his argument:
Designing a practical response that wins widespread support is, in theory, not hard. But it requires starting with a certain question: What can we do to help them? Much of today’s politics starts from a different question: What posture can I adopt that will reflect well on me? What can I say to prove I’m manly or woke?
This is what happens when the politics of practical action get replaced by the politics of performative narcissism.
Performative narcissism?  If you don't know what that is, not to worry: you can see it in action every time the ol' Perfesser publishes his column. 

But those who mourn her are surely comforted by knowing that David Brooks blames Both Sides.  Source: NBC News

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Inappropriate conduct on the campaign trail

By A.J. Liebling
Meta-Content Generator with
David Bloviator on the barstool [Surely, the campaign trail? – Ed.]

There's one story dominating the Democratic primary battle: inappropriate personal contact, mostly perpetuated at the hands of old white men, although to be fair old white women are involved as well.

You can't avoid the spectacle of inappropriate and overly-personal contact no matter whether you rely on cable news gasbags, web based coverage, broadcast, or even dead tree editions.  Wherever you turn, the coverage is dominated by too-intrusive hands-on reports that most would consider no longer appropriate in the 21st Century.

While Democratic contenders like Elizabeth Warren roll out one provocative but well-thought-out policy position after another – like putting the filibuster into the grave – coverage is entirely devoted to whether white men were too hands-on their political careers or whether they were warm, wonderful, engaging gropers.

“The old white men who still dominate campaign coverage just don't get it,” complained one staffer on the Kamala Harris campaign.  “We're trying to have a nuanced discussion on what needs to be done to overcome the effects of 400 years of systematic racism in a manner that unifies the nation, and all we hear about is whether a creepy old white guy was just a lovable old grabber.”

Other staffers point out that the problem of campaign coverage that insufficiently respects personal space is far from a new problem.  “For decades reporters have had their hands all over Hillary Clinton, from whether she really could bake chocolate-chip cookies, to whether she had Vince Foster killed to cover up their affair, all the way to whether she went home alone the night of the Benghazi attack,” said one former Clinton campaign worker.

Mark Halperin, back on the campaign trail
“Sometimes I think that it's just because old white men don't get it – you don't get to intrude into questions like why Hillary didn't divorce her husband,” the campaign staffer said.  She admitted thought that old white women were part of the problem as well, citing notorious marriage expert Maureen Dowd's two decades of getting much too close and personal with the former First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State.

Several persons close to the campaigns of the women running for the Democratic Presidential nomination including Sens. Kristen Gillebrand and Amy Klobuchar told the Spy that they are disgusted by the continuing focus on hands-on intrusive campaign coverage.  “We can't engage anyone in the media in a real discussion of our policy proposals because all they're interested is whether the men are too nice and the women too mean, ” said one highly-placed Gillebrand staffer.

“The Democrats were victimized by this coverage in the last election and it's time to speak out and say it's not OK,” she said.

Although some believe that a new and more diverse generation of political reporters will be less likely to offend by engaging in too-personal and intrusive hands-on coverage, others believe that progress in this area, as in so many others, is halting and could in fact be reversed.

They point to signs that disgusting sexual harasser and long-time empty bloviator Mark Halperin is sniffing around the media circus and claiming rehabilitation, according to Erik Wemple of The Washington Post:

Society’s ruling on Halperin’s treatment will come on a piecemeal basis. Which is to say: Who wants to put Halperin on air to discuss the candidacy of Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.)? Or the candidacy of Joe Biden? Here’s what he had to say about the former vice president to Smerconish: “He’s a wonderful man, and he’s got a great family and a great life story, and he’s been a committed public servant and I have liked him personally as someone I covered for my entire career practically, but I’m here to tell you that this latest problem, I think is getting rightfully a lot of attention, but it is far from his only problem  . . ,” said Halperin, who criticized Biden’s fundraising capabilities. . . .

In other words, Halperin specializes in something that is already inundating the airwaves. The Erik Wemple Blog can’t even count the number of hot takes we’ve heard on the Biden inappropriate-touching story that we’ve heard on the cable outlets on Friday alone. Coverage of national politics is one segment of the news industry that has money, where the pipeline is roaring with young, middle-aged and old talent — none of whom, presumably, have a past filled with horrific instances of sexual harassment.

So what are any of the highly-qualified women (or even Tulsi Gabbard) running for the Democratic Presidential nomination supposed to do?  They might think of carrying a croquet mallet to ward off the depredations of pervs like Halperin. On the other hand, ladies, remember the most important thing on the campaign trail is to be likable!