Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Make Them Blow It Up

If the Republican Party and their leader Donald Trump wants to take over the country entirely, as it appears they've wanted to do for the better part of a decade of utter failure to participate in governing, let them have it. And let the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch be the point at which they do so. And let them, and by them I include all of us, suffer the consequences of ending the American Experiment.

Judge Gorsuch is an  eminently qualified judge and has the credentials and temperament to be a Justice of the Supreme Court. No argument there. But so does Merrick Garland. The argument that a qualified nominee doesn't even deserve the courtesy of a hearing, simply because the presidential primary season is upon us is about the shallowest and arbitrary standards that could be applied to such an important appointment. There is no official start to the primaries and as a practical matter the race for president never ends anymore. Donald Trump has already filed his papers for 2020. Does that mean the race is already officially on? If so, then by the McConnell rule, no hearings should be given to any SCOTUS nominee. The people should be left to decide in 2020.

Well, isn't THAT absurd? Welcome to American politics in 2017.

It's true that the Democrats started all this foolishness with Supreme Court nominees going back to 1987 when they rejected Judge Robert Bork on ideological grounds even though by any measure he was a thoroughly qualified nominee. And then the dems did it again on a cabinet appointment by defeating the nomination of  John Tower as Secretary of Defense because of allegations of drunkenness; an allegation which would have disqualified as much as 75% of all politicians at any given moment.

Since then these nomination fights have been escalated in a tit for tat manner for a payback that seems to have no end. It has escalated on both sides, finally culminating with the humiliation of Judge Merrick Garland following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. The problem now is that there is no standard by which to determine when or even whether to consider important appointees and under what circumstances should that appointee be approved.

My opinion has always been that unless a nominee simply isn't qualified for the position (Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education for example, Harriet Miers for Supreme Court) or has egregious character flaws (white supremacist G. Harrold Carswell for SCOTUS by Nixon in 1970), they should be confirmed. Elections have consequences and the Senate has a duty to see that all positions that the President must fill are indeed filled in as expeditious a manner as possible.

But that is no longer the case. Although both sides have plenty of blame for getting us here, it's the GOP that took it to the limit with their shabby treatment of Judge Garland. Accordingly, the Democrats in the Senate must stage a final stand via filibuster thereby refusing to allow a final hearing on Judge Gorsuch.

Gorsuch may very well be the least offensive choice that Trump could have made from the list of judges he put out during the campaign. But it's not relevant. The seat in question was formerly occupied by Antonin Scalia, a Justice who's extreme and questionable jurisprudence has been white-washed because he was such a delightful guy to be around. Whomever Trump would nominate next - since he's a spiteful shit he'd surely follow up with the most odious choice he can find - would really only be replacing like with like. It's just a matter of the nominee's personal conviviality.

The only option the Republicans would have would be to invoke the so-called "nuclear option". Currently, 60 votes are required in the Senate to cut off debate on Supreme Court nominees. It used to be the case with all nominees until several years ago when the Republicans in the minority had so bottled up the process of filling the federal bench, that Harry Reid was left with little option but to change the rule for all except the Supreme Court. The Republicans effectively shut down the process for the Supreme Court while in the majority last year, and now the Democrats should force them to decide if they really want full responsibility for everything that happens in American government or if it's finally time for a return to the usual give and take which has been the hallmark of our politics for over two centuries.

It's a risky move of course, but no more risky than those taken by the GOP for the better part of a decade with great success. Should any Justice from Kennedy and left (Ginsburg and Breyer most significantly) die or retire before the Dems have a chance to retake the Senate in 2018 or the White House in 2020, the court will either dwindle in numbers (if the nuclear option is not invoked) or be heavily populated with the most outrageous possible nominees.

Of course, if McConnell DOES invoke the nuclear option, should the Dems retake the Senate and the White House by 2020, AND the Justices on the left hold on, a liberal era of jurisprudence will rise and fly for generations to come. I say take that chance because the alternative is darkness no matter what.
Read More...

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Lying About Danger From Refugees

"Extreme vetting" is utter horseshit. It's merely a method of executing a Muslim ban by degrees when none is warranted or useful. This is especially true as it applies to refugees from Syria seeking to escape from the kinds of people we are supposedly protecting ourselves from. The refugees want the same thing we do. Safety and freedom. The US used to be the shining light of such things. But the Trumpisti are determined to violate everything good about the United States as understood across the world for centuries.
To those who disagree, your fears are unfounded. Your "belief" has no basis in measurable reality. And this reality CAN and HAS been measured. Call it what you want, but the process of vetting which has been in place for over 30 years is pretty damn extreme. Much moreso than anything in Europe. Follow the explanation and links in this article which is from June 2016.
Educate yourself on what it is you're actually ranting about when it means that genuinely endangered people will be consigned to death because you wouldn't extend your hand as an American when they reached out to you for help.

Wrong: Donald Trump says there's 'no system to vet' refugees

Read More...

Friday, January 20, 2017

As Darkness Descends, Get Ready For The Dawn

As you'd expect, I watched and commented on the inauguration today with my colleagues from Progressive Blend Radio for our new show Trumpled Underfoot. Trump's speech was a reworked version of his stump program made all the more dark by his false dystopian view of a United States suffering from the ravages of a "carnage" that few would see if they weren't hearing it from their fearful leader. In short, it was a grotesquerie that will eventually receive recognition as among the worst and most negative speeches ever given by anyone to ascend to the highest office in the land.
Here's my takeaway from the day.
My friend, the writer and activist, William Rivers Pitt of truthout.org, was once press secretary for Dennis Kucinich wen he ran for president in 2004. Pitt quoted Kucinich talking to a crowd while campaigning in Iowa, "You are the one you've been waiting for. You've been here all along." He continued to say for himself, "I pity the dawn, for it shall find me pissed. Onward."
I've always thought I was involved and doing what I could to help nudge things in the right direction. I'm now certain that I've been kidding myself all this time.
I am upping my game and contributing more time and action than simply what I do in front of this cybermachine.
I suspect this may be true for a lot of you who are reading this. And if nothing else comes out of what we're about to experience, the notion that we will ALL be upping our game together, no longer waiting for ourselves, to instead BE what we've been waiting for, that dawn better make way. Because we WILL win the day.
Read More...

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Congress, ALL of Congress Better Sack Up Fast

It's 2:25PM EST, January 12, 2017. 8 days before the official start of the Trump administration. I'm watching C-SPAN3 for what was supposed to be a hearing featuring Gen. James "Mad Dog" Mattis (ret). The purpose is a pre-hearing in the House in advance of Senate confirmation hearings for his nomination to be Secretary of Defense. The United States military must be managed by a civilian. Civilian management of the military is a bedrock principle of the US and is a substantial reason the US has never seriously worried of military takeovers. Often though, retired military officers have been appointed to the office and for most of the past century a law has been in place that required any former members of the military be retired for a number of years before being eligible for the position. Currently, the retirement period is 7 years. General Mattis has been retired for less than 7 years. Accordingly, Congress has decided to consider a narrowly written law which would carve out a niche for General Mattis to serve now.

Since this is an unprecedented situation, Congress decided they wanted to have a hearing with the General to discuss his civilian experience and how he distinguishes the difference between civilian life and military service. Most importantly House committee wanted to hear General Mattis discuss his understanding and appreciation for why the Constitution mandates civilian management of the military.

For his part, General Mattis, who has testified before Congress in numerous capacities throughout his years of public service, was prepared and looking ahead to testifying. It seems though at the last moment, the Trump transition team and probably Trump himself, had the General stand down and not appear for the hearing. At this writing, there is no explanation for the sudden change.

What we are witnessing is a power play by the Trump admin's to be executive branch. Trump is declaring clearly that he will not be questioned or vetted at all much less in passing by anyone even by right. He is engaging in imperial behavior before taking the oath.

The Congressional committee is in near unanimity in their anger over Trump's meddling. What needs to happen and fast, is that Congress, ALL of it, House and Senate, Republican and Democratic, needs to recognize the threat posed to their constitutional authority by Trump and his handlers. Now, regardless of individual merits, they should reject the bill to waive the 7 year requirement for General James Mattis unless and until he is allowed to testify as requested.

The Congress must follow by rejecting each and every matter in which Trump interferes with their authority and make it clear that Congress is, as always, first among co-equal branches. It's unfortunate that this is where events are going already, and it's of grave concern that Congress has been so absent from engaging its responsibilities for so many years. My confidence that the people sitting in Congress now even KNOW what it means to do their jobs in a serious way is in severe question but if ever they were ready assert their primacy n American government, that time is NOW.
Read More...