Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Retirement of Judge Kennedy: Democrats should go ahead and make a big stink.

The retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy and filling the vacancy will shape critical judicial decisions for decades. Senate Democrats have a choice: whine  their votes are not a big  enough stick to influence the outcome or to make a big stink. Making a big stink has some advantages for Democrats in November 2018 even if they fail to slow down replacement confirmation.  

At stake are Roe v Wade, affirmative action, campaign finance,  same sex marriage, and voter suppression, but whether the President can be above the law is the most critical issue the new court could decide. If Kennedy had an ideological center, he was a mild libertarian on social issues. Who replaces him is likely to be a hard line  right winger  on social issues, given GOP and Trump campaign promises. The list from which the Trump administration is drawing for their nominees has already been vetted for ideological and Trump support acceptability.. Every single one on that list is pro life ,very conservative, a Trump loyalist,  and young enough to tilt the court to the right for thirty years  since they can occupy that seat for their lifetime.

To get Neil Gorsuch through a closely divided Senate, filibuster was ended by the Republican majority during his vacancy filling  and a simply majority is all that is now needed  for the Senate to confirm..For the GOP this  opportunity to push forward to fill the Kennedy vacancy is  the icing on the Gorsuch cake. It explains why the Evangelicals have supported  the most immoral, dishonest , and inept president in our history.for their opportunity to guarantee  a socially conservative Supreme Court for decades to come. Expect the GOP Senate to push through the confirmation process as quickly as possible to act while  they have the upper hand with the votes.

Will fighting a losing fight be good for the Democrats?   On the balance, yes. While  their votes are not a big stick to affect the  GOP confirmation strategy, they can still make a big stink. The stink will certainly help Democrats in  state legislature races since strike down of Rove v Wade or all of the other liberal issues including gay rights, will put more  focus on  state legislatures and state houses.  If it increases Democrat's turnout, already polling as more enthusiastic than the GOP at this stage, it could help. However, it could also raise the turnout of social conservatives and the GOP and erase the Democratic enthusiasm turnout advantage. If Roe v Wade is the single focus issue,  Democrats should be cautious and tailor the fight to local circumstances.  On the other hand, support of Roe v Wade is so popular, that position could backfire on the GOP and intensify Democratic turnout  by women even more up and down the November ballot. 70% of Americans oppose overturning Roe v Wade and that is a fact  the Democrats can use to their big advantage.

 The   potential issue most  critical  to our democracy is what happens with Court rulings on  the Mueller investigation and whether Trump can be above the law. Donald Trump contends he can pardon himself or others in advance or refuse to appear and testify when subpoenaed.and  that he cannot be accused of collusion, either.  Those are fundamental  Constitutional issues. . By Senate approval  of a replacement to Kennedy with someone whose loyalty and ideology has already been vetted, means that the president in effect has chosen a juror loyal to him. That is the Democrat's best argument for delaying confirmation until after the November 2018 election  and the outrage of the majority will have a chance to be expressed up and down the ballot.Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) will be asking the nominee to recuse himself if these issues of presidential power come before the Court.

   How Democrats could move the court to the center to offset court stacking by Trump loyalists and extreme ideologues is to do what has been done in the past: increase the seats on the Supreme Court (FDR failed in his attempt for lack of support from his own party,  but others in our history have succeeded. )   In order to do this, Democrats must capture the White House and both houses of Congress in 2020. That backlash could  possibly succeed  if the GOP pushes through extremist ideologues or the court becomes their  6-3, 7-2  Court.  The GOP  devotees should be careful what they wish. A court so out of the mainstream of popular support of issues will be open to that threat. 
Top among those issues: gay rights and choice;both very popular with the majority of voters.  What wil become top of the issue list will be if the new court rules Donald Trump is above the law in issues of self pardon, immunity from criminal prosecution, and complying with the emoluments clause of the Constitution. At the very least, the revolt against such an extremist court would spread to elected officials running for office up  and down the ballot in 2018 and 2020.

I cannot conceal my bitterness at the Democrats who sat on their hands at home in November 2016 or voted for a third party because they just "didn't like either candidate". Fools. At best, this whole exercise should be a painful lesson for them. Elections have consequences.

On the 4th of July. Remembering why we celebrate it.

A version of this was published in the Sky-Hi News July 3-4, 2018

It is the 4th of July time.  Remember why we celebrate it? We are on the verge of undermining  the very essence of the reason it was declared, freedom from foreign interference and the right to control our own destiny without some foreigners telling us what to do.

 We fought the Revolutionary war, the war of 1812 to rid us of British control. We fought World War I and World War II to save us from German and Nazi control. We fought the cold war with the USSR to keep us from communism’s control,  and a hot war in Viet Nam. and Korea, too. But now, there is a very significant body of voters who do not care, welcome it because it helps their cause,  or are in denial of evidence that  Russians effectively interfered in the 2016 presidential election to help Donald Trump win.

. Only 43% of Republicans polled in January  2018  believed Russians interfered in the 2016 elections.. A plurality of all voters surveyed  by YouGov in June 2018  called the Independent Counsel Mueller investigation  into Trump campaign ties with Russia  a  ""politically motivated witch hunt." Per a Navigator research poll on May 23, 2018,  59% of Americans did not know that Mueller has already obtained five guilty pleas and 17 criminal indictments. His final report has not been issued nor has his indictment activities been completed. 

 Every director of our intelligence agencies now and previously in  office is warning us about what Russia is doing to interfere in our election process, and is continuing to do so. It is the old divide and conquers strategy, using modern techniques and technology, social media, the internet,  and disinformation to intensify ethnic and racial hatred and political divisions within a country. They hope to weaken western style democracies. Why?  Russia's reasoning: it would increase Russia's power and help them reestablish control of neighbors. Putin sees his national interests as threatened or blocked by the expansion of  NATO and economic alliances and he supports those who oppose such alliances. He views western democracies as weak and vulnerable to his manipulations.  There is plenty of evidence that Russia also interfered in recent European elections and the Brexit vote using the same techniques they employed to interfere in the US 2016 elections. 

Russian techniques and methods were detailed publicly in Mueller's indictment of thirteen Russians and organizations who conducted active measures to interfere in the 2016 campaign. In summary, here is how they did it: Russians posed as Americans to operate bogus social media accounts, buy advertisements and stage political rallies. They stole the identities of real people in the US to post online and built computer systems in the US to hide the Russian origin of their activity. Tweets, false stories, and ads were carefully targeted to those they identified as gullible and then retweeted, shared,  and resent to millions in our country by unsuspecting US citizens who thought they seemed plausible and substantiated to their own views. Their techniques were clever, cheap, and effective.  For those who would like to "consider the source" as a way to dismiss these charges and evidence, I challenge them to read the text of the indictments themselves at
It will be very illuminating.
As always, sources and reports are footnoted and listed at



Monday, June 11, 2018

A potential hammer against press freedom

So what will they use this data base for? Or will this become another Nixon enemies list. This is not an idle fear and the list can be used to protect us and it stands on the ready should some wannabe autocrat want to use it for his benefit. This calls for Congressional oversight, but that is a laugh given the GOP sucking up to Trump at every opportunity. It certainly will not be used to protect us from  Russian interference in elections since Trump sucks up to the Russians at all times. The U.S. ranks 43 of 180 countries based on press freedom, survey conducted by the non profit Reporters Without Borders.“ A media-bashing enthusiast, Trump has referred to reporters as ‘enemies of the people,’ ...has attempted to block White House access to multiple media outlets, routinely uses the term ‘fake news’in retaliation for critical reporting, and has called for revoking certain media outlets’ broadcasting licenses.”

Homeland Security is seeking a contractor to compile a list of both professional journalists and "top media influencers," which would likely include bloggers and podcasters, and monitor the "sentiment" they're putting out in public.