Happy Holidays, everyone. Back on January 2.
U.S. Congressional Election Results, 2018
Make America Great Again.
Stop Trump’s Congressional Enablers.
Vote November 6!
Make America Honest Again!
No More Fake News Conspiracy Theories.
STOP Incitement Industry.
Make American Citizenship a Birthright!
Born in the USA
Keep America Great Now and in the Future.
Make America Family-friendly Again!
Where are the cameras now? Decline in news coverage.
Migrant children still separated from families!
Make America Safe Again!
Spies are Listening and Learning (Russia and China, etc.?)
Trump Uses iPhone?
Make America Honest Again!
Are good , decent people of America’s heartland being threatened by immigrants, foreigners and other outsiders?
NO, this is Trumpist propaganda!
Make America Trusted Again!
“They will know you by your friends.”
Russia, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, etc?
Make America One Again!
E Pluribus Unum
CAPE COAST, Ghana — With the unrelenting Ghanaian sun serving as her spotlight, Melania Trump has stepped out of her husband’s shadow, apparently showing the world what some 5,200 miles of breathing room away from her home city can do.
On Wednesday morning, on the second day of a four-nation African tour, the first lady looked more comfortable striding into a meeting with local leaders on the coast of Ghana than she has perhaps ever looked in Washington.
Given the bedlam of late in the American capital, that may be understandable. But as she makes her first big solo trip abroad, Mrs. Trump seems ready to show another side of herself: the happy one.
Mrs. Trump has offered simple acts of grace on behalf of an administration with a fraught diplomatic history with Africa. She has spent much of her time just expressing appreciation to her hosts.
“Thank you very much for having me,” she told the Ghanaian first lady, Rebecca Akufo-Addo, when the two met.
“Thank you for having me,” she said to a small cluster of Ghanaians before entering a palace hall.
“Thank you for your warm welcome,” she signed in the guest book of a stone fort through which thousands of enslaved people once passe
From the moment she touched down here on Tuesday, Mrs. Trump has done her best to soften the image of an administration known for its sharp elbows, and of a president who outraged many Africans with his disparaging remarks.
How well it will work remains to be seen.
Marie-Franz Fordjoe, a journalist, said it might take more than a visit from Mrs. Trump to heal the bruised feelings. The visit, she said, is “insignificant, as we are very much aware of President Trump’s isolationist foreign policy and his overt aversion to people of color.”
There, as the waves of the Gulf of Guinea crashed against the shore, the first lady wandered the passageways, poking her head into hatches that offered a view into the depths of ancient dungeons where slaves were kept in hellish conditions until they were sent abroad. (When Mr. Obama visited, he said the castle “reminds us of the capacity of human beings to commit great evil.”)
Mrs. Trump spent a few minutes in a dungeon that once housed male slaves before they were dragged across the threshold of the “door of no return” and to waiting ships. She paused at the archway — and then stepped through.
Mrs. Trump generally avoids journalists, but at the castle on Wednesdaykk, she fielded their questions. Her tone was sober.
“I will never forget the incredible experience and the stories that I heard,” she said. “The dungeons that I saw — it’s really something that people should see and experience what happened so many years ago. It’s really a tragedy.”
Mrs. Trump’s visit has so far lacked much fanfare.
In Cape Coast, a group of men at the palace strung up a large welcome sign in the courtyard in which it appeared that her first name had initially been misspelled. In Accra, the Ghanaian capital, the usual buzz associated with a visiting high-profile personality seemed to be missing.
Nana Amba Eyiaba, queen mother of Cape Coast, said Ghanaians had anticipated Mrs. Trump’s visit with a mixture of excitement and anxiety.
Katie Rogers, NYTimes, Oct. 6, 1018
WASHINGTON — Google executives, after months of mostly avoiding the harsh spotlight put on their internet peers, are being grilled in Washington this week by lawmakers questioning if the Silicon Valley giant is living up to its promise to be a neutral arbiter of online information.
On Friday, Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief executive, will meet with Representative Kevin McCarthy, of California, the Republican House majority leader and a vocal critic of Google, and more than two dozen Republicans to discuss complaints the company is trying to silence conservative voices.
“Google has a lot of questions to answer about reports of bias in its search results, violations of user privacy, anticompetitive behavior, and business dealings with repressive regimes like China,” Mr. McCarthy said in a statement.
The Friday meeting will cap a week of tech-related sessions in Washington in which Google — in the cross hairs of Silicon Valley’s conservative critics since late summer — has played a starring role.
At a gathering of the heads of the Justice Department and a dozen state attorneys general on Tuesday, Google was mentioned more than any other company when it came to concerns about antitrust enforcement and privacy practices, according to a person with knowledge of the meeting who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
At a Senate hearing discussing online privacy on Wednesday, Google’s chief privacy officer, Keith Enright, received the toughest and broadest array of questions from lawmakers who wanted to know about the company’s consideration of introducing search services in China. Google says it is not close to starting such a service.
In a letter to the Senate committee holding the hearing, a former employee, Jack Poulson, said Google’s building a search engine that would be acceptable to the government of China was a “catastrophic failure of the internal privacy review process.” He said this was part of a “broad pattern of unaccountable decision making.”
Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, also questioned Mr. Enright about claims of bias against conservatives in search results. “I can tell you that millions of Texans believe Google is actively censoring the speech of conservatives,” Mr. Cruz said.
On Thursday, Harmeet Dhillon, a lawyer and Republican Party official, is set to testify in the House about anti-conservative bias in tech. Ms. Dhillon represents several former employees in a lawsuit filed last year against Google that claims the company discriminated against them based on their political beliefs.
Google’s week in Washington comes three weeks after executives from Twitter and Facebook testified in a Senate hearing dedicated to Russian disinformation on social media. Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s chief executive, also spoke at a House hearing about claims of anti-conservative bias at Twitter.
Google executives did not attend the Senate hearing, though they were invited. The company offered to send Kent Walker, a senior vice president for global affairs who is also the company’s top lawyer. But urged on by Facebook officials, according to two people familiar with the matter, senators insisted on a more powerful executive. Google refused.
It was the “worst business decision of 2018,” said Scott Galloway, a founder of the business research firm Gartner L2 and a professor of marketing at New York University Stern School of Business. “It feels like the tide has turned substantially,” Mr. Galloway said. “They’ve sort of poked the bear.”
A Google spokeswoman said officials from the company had testified before Congress 22 times since 2008. “We’re happy to continue explaining our products and practices,” Becca Rutkoff, the Google spokeswoman, said in a statement.
For longtime Google critics and even some of its Silicon Valley peers, it is surprising that Google has avoided the spotlight for so long.
It has 90 percent of the global search market — a share so high that it has for years had to sidestep concerns that it is a dominant monopoly that needs to be regulated. Competitors have long claimed that Google is using its search dominance to advantage its own services and should be controlled by antitrust laws.
The Google-owned YouTube video service is also dominant, and has for several years faced questions about videos that show terrorist violence and disinformation, similar to issues that Facebook and Twitter have had to address in congressional hearings.
And Google has faced several claims of bias. A video of a staff meeting held shortly after Donald J. Trump was elected president, leaked two weeks ago, showed several senior Google executives, including Mr. Pichai, expressing their alarm.
Emails leaked last week showed lower-level Google employees discussing whether they could alter search results to counter President Trump’s travel ban on people from predominantly Muslim countries. Google is adamant that no one in a position to make such a change seriously considered it.
Employees are bracing for more embarrassing leaks. The company has long encouraged workers to speak their minds on internal message boards. That includes politics.
The conservative pressure on Google started to escalate in late summer. On Aug. 28, Mr. Trump, in a series of tweets, attacked Google for what he claimed was an effort to suppress conservative media that was favorable to his administration.
The next day, the president posted a video that seemed to show that Google did not promote his State of the Union address on its home page as it had in the past for President Obama. He used the hashtag #StopTheBias. The video was incorrect. Google said that it didn’t promote Mr. Obama’s inaugural address, a joint statement to Congress but not technically a State of the Union address, in 2009 either.
Shortly after, other Republicans were calling for regulations and greater scrutiny. Senator Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah, called for antitrust regulators to reopen an investigation into Google.
Some Google officials wonder if competitors are organizing a campaign to prompt regulatory scrutiny.
At the Senate hearing Google did not attend, lawmakers mentioned a report that had come out a day before from the Campaign for Accountability, a nonprofit watchdog group that often publishes research critical of Google. The group posed as Russian trolls to buy what it called politically divisive ads on Google’s systems, which failed to stop them.
Google called the report “a stunt” by its rivals and blamed the software maker Oracle for its release. Ken Glueck, a senior vice president at Oracle, said it had made a one-time financial contribution in 2016 to the Campaign for Accountability but denied that the company had any involvement in the report.
Google has many business opponents in Washington, including telecommunication giants like AT&T and Comcast. Oracle and News Corp. have put significant resources into funding third-party coalitions and public relations firms to place ads and to lobby lawmakers on Google’s dominance in search and on allegations it uses its power to unfairly harm publishers and other tech rivals.
But few companies have been as tenacious as Yelp, a midsize internet outfit with far fewer resources. It has waged a seven-year battle to get regulatory agencies around the world to investigate Google. Until recently, its calls have been largely ignored in the United States. The company claims Google prioritized its own reviews over others, making it much harder for competing reviews sites like Yelp to be discovered.
Early in September, a White House official received an email with an attachment from Luther Lowe, the senior vice president for policy for Yelp.
“Check out the attachment,” Mr. Lowe wrote in an email. “Tell me what you think.”
The attachment was a document called, “Executive Draft Order to Protect American Competition and Small Businesses From Bias in Online Platforms.” It was a draft presidential order instructing antitrust officials to recommend ways to protect competition and clamp down on content bias on internet search and social media sites.
Mr. Lowe said in an email that he did not know the origins of the document and that it had been forwarded to him.
Daisuke Wakabayashi and Cecelia Kang, NYTIMES 9/17/18
The Trump administration argues that imposing work requirements for Medicaid is an incentive that can help lift people out of poverty. But a test program in Arkansas shows how hard it is merely to inform people about new incentives, let alone get them to act.
In the first month that it was possible for people to lose coverage for failing to comply, more than 4,300 people were kicked out of the program for the rest of the year. Thousands more are on track to lose health benefits in the coming months. You lose coverage if you fail to report three times, and the program, in effect for three months, is slowly phasing in more people.
Arkansas is the first state to test a work requirement, a policy that the administration has encouraged, and that several other states are hoping to copy. The demonstration project is testing whether a work requirement can help encourage more low-income people to work, volunteer or go to school and improve their financial prospects.
The early results suggest that the incentives may not work the way officials had hoped. Arkansas officials, trying to minimize coverage losses, effectively exempted two-thirds of the eligible people from having to report work hours.
Of the remaining third — about 20,000 people — 16,000 didn’t report qualifying activities to the state. Only 1,200 people, about 2 percent of those eligible for the requirement, told the state they had done enough of the required activities in August, according to state figures.
Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which approved the project, offered an enthusiastic assessment of the results so far. “I’m excited by the partnerships that Arkansas has fostered to connect Medicaid beneficiaries to work and educational opportunities,” she wrote on Twitter. (Her office declined to offer any further statements on the Arkansas experience.)
Advocates for the poor, and the state officials in charge of the program, said the low compliance numbers suggested that many eligible people probably didn’t know the program existed. State officials said they worked hard to get the word out — mailing letters, sending emails, placing phone calls, briefing medical providers, putting posts on social media sites and distributing fliers where Medicaid patients might find them.
“I was literally taking fliers to the urgent care clinic when I was taking my kids to get tested for strep,” said Amy Webb, the chief communications and community engagement officer for the Arkansas Department of Human Services. “If there’s something we are not doing to reach people, if someone will tell us how to do that, we will do it.”
But it seems that not everyone opened or read their mail. Ray Hanley, the president of the Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care, which ran a call center for the state, told my colleague Robert Pear that many people never answered their phones. The state said the open rate on emails was between 20 and 30 percent.
It’s harder to measure how many people opened paper mail, but the state noted in its recent report that it knows that thousands of people in the program either move away from their recorded address or fail to answer other mail from the state. Housing instability and moves are more common among low-income Americans.
Jessica Greene, a professor of health policy at Baruch College in New York, visited three Arkansas counties last month and interviewed 18 Medicaid beneficiaries. Twelve of them were unaware of the work requirement, according to an article she published on the website of the journal Health Affairs.
That may not be entirely surprising. “I ignore mailings and calls from my health insurer — I get them all the time,” said Eliot Fishman, a senior director of health policy at Families USA, a consumer advocacy group.
Mr. Fishman oversaw Medicaid demonstration projects in the Obama administration. He said he learned that it was challenging to use health insurance as a vehicle to shape behavior, because most people don’t read the fine print of their health benefits.
Under Mr. Fishman’s watch, Indiana tested a program to get beneficiaries to take more responsibility for their health. Medicaid patients who made small monthly payments in special accounts, got a checkup or did other activities could earn more generous benefits. Ms. Verma, then a consultant, helped the state devise that program. In an evaluation, it turned out that only a minority of eligible people understood that the accounts existed.
Joan Alker, the executive director of the Georgetown Center for Children and Families, who opposes work requirements for Medicaid, said the state could have done more to get the word out — if it had been willing to spend more.
The Obama administration spent millions on advertising and in-person help when it rolled out Obamacare’s coverage expansion in 2014. Even then, it took several years before the uninsured rate among poor Americans stopped dropping. “You cannot have an incentive strategy that is allegedly designed to change people’s behavior if people are not aware of it,” she said.
The challenge goes beyond getting the message out. The state requires those eligible for the work requirement to report their work hours every month, and only online. Arkansas has one of the lowest rates of internet penetration in the country; estimates from the Urban Institute suggest that more than a quarter of eligible families are not online.
Advocates for the poor describe the state’s website as confusing to navigate, especially for people with limited computer skills and overall literacy. (Click on the site yourself and see if you can figure out how to report work hours.) The state has tried workarounds — like offering computer terminals in county offices, and training volunteers to help people log their hours.
But evidence from a range of social programs — including Medicaid — has repeatedly demonstrated that administrative hurdles can cause eligible people to lose benefits.
As the program is expanded to more people, awareness and compliance may spread over time. But the early results could mean the end of the program before we know for sure. A lawsuit challenging the work requirement will be reviewed soon by a federal judge who already knocked down a similar work rule in Kentucky. In that case, the judge, James Boasberg, said Kentucky had been insufficiently concerned about the people who might lose coverage because of the requirement. In Kentucky, those losses were theoretical. In Arkansas, they’re already real.
Margot Sanger-Katz is a domestic correspondent and writes about health care for The Upshot. She was previously a reporter at National Journal and The Concord Monitor and an editor at Legal Affairs and the Yale Alumni Magazine. @sangerkatz • Facebook
ELKHART, Ind. — The tables were filled at the Chubby Trout restaurant and the local craft beer flowed. The Flippin’ Cow was packed too, with diners overlooking Simonton Lake. Small manufacturing companies were advertising for workers, offering health insurance and retirement accounts.
But Elkhart, with about 55,000 residents and a 2.3 percent unemployment rate, is also a bit nervous. This city near the Michigan border has long been used as a political prop — first by President Barack Obama, then by President Trump — to express concern for the downtrodden and to make a claim on newfound property.
Now, Elkhart may be sending a message that no politician wants to hear.
The city calls itself the “RV Capital of the World” — more than 80 percent of the vehicles sold in the United States are made in Elkhart and the surrounding area, according to the RV Industry Association — and Mr. Trump’s tariffs on imported steel and aluminum are increasing costs, diminishing demand and causing concern that a 10-year boom cycle could be waning.
(Excerpted from The NY Times)
WHITEHOUSE REVEALS KAVANAUGH’S PRO-CORPORATE, RIGHT-WING RECORD IN SCOTUS HEARING OPENER
Judge Kavanaugh advances right-wing and corporate interests 91 percent of the time Kavanaugh sided with conservative “friends of the court” 91 percent of the time
Washington, DC – At today’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) pinpointed Kavanaugh’s troubling bias in favor of right-wing and corporate interests throughout his career in Republican politics and on the federal bench, and compared Kavanaugh’s partiality to the same bias that has taken root in Chief Justice John Roberts’s Supreme Court.
Senator Whitehouse’s as-prepared remarks are below.
Whitehouse also released analysis, incorporated into his opening remarks, of recent Supreme Court jurisprudence and Kavanaugh’s judicial record. Summaries and links to the full analysis are provided below.
A review of the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence during the Roberts Era reveals that in the most controversial and salient civil cases – those decided by bare 5-4 or 5-3 majorities – when the right wing of the Court has voted en bloc to form the majority, they do so to advance far-right and corporate interests a striking 92 percent of the time. In those cases, the “Roberts Five” – Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Samuel Alito, Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Anthony Kennedy, and Justice Antonin Scalia (replaced last year by Justice Neil Gorsuch) – have reliably voted in lockstep to help Republicans win elections, to protect corporations from liability, to abridge civil rights, and to advance the far right social agenda.
A review of Brett Kavanaugh’s jurisprudence on the D.C. Circuit reveals that in the most controversial and salient civil cases – those decided by bare 2-1 majorities – when Kavanaugh is in the majority with another Republican-appointed judge, he votes to advance far-right and corporate interests a striking 91 percent of the time.
An examination of the Roberts Court’s 5-4 decisions reveals that, when the Roberts Five (Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Alito, Justice Kennedy, Justice Scalia/Gorsuch, and Justice Thomas) forms the Court’s majority, they agree with conservative amici curiae (“friends of the court”) 92 percent of the time. Further, in these cases, the Roberts Five has endorsed the positions advanced by the high-profile conservative groups the Chamber of Commerce, the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, and the Washington Legal Foundation 100 percent of the time. In its 5-4 decisions, the Roberts Five have opened up the doors for dark money to flood the political system, rolled back important voting rights and environmental protections, and made it easier for employers to discriminate against their employees.
An examination of District of Columbia Court of Appeals Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s written opinions reveals that he sided with conservative amici curiae (“friends of the court”) 91 percent of the time. In these cases, Kavanaugh wrote opinions limiting collective bargaining rights, letting polluters pollute, blurring the line between the separation of church and state, protecting corporations from liability, and expanding the scope of the Second Amendment.
Before beginning his remarks, Whitehouse joined colleagues in calling out the Trump administration’s dubious assertion of privilege over 100,000 pages of documents related to Kavanaugh, and the eleventh-hour dump of an additional 42,000 pages of documents from Kavanaugh’s work in the Bush administration – documents Democrats had no hope of reviewing fully before Kavanaugh’s hearing began.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse’s Complete Statemeny
Kavanaugh Confirmation Hearing Opening Statement
September 4, 2018 – AS-PREPARED FOR DELIVERY
When is a pattern evidence of bias?
In court, pattern is evidence of bias all the time; evidence on which juries and trial judges rely, to show discriminatory intent, to show a common scheme, to show bias.
When does a pattern prove bias?
That’s no idle question. It’s relevant to the pattern of the Roberts Court when its Republican majority goes off on its partisan excursions through the civil law; when all five Republican appointees — the Roberts Five, I’ll call them — go raiding off together, and no Democratic appointee joins them.
Does this happen often? Yes, indeed.
The Roberts Five has gone on 80 of these partisan excursions since Roberts became chief.
There is a feature to these eighty cases. They almost all implicate interests important to the big funders and influencers of the Republican Party. When the Republican Justices go off on these partisan excursions, there’s a big Republican corporate or partisan interest involved 92 percent of the time.
A tiny handful of these cases don’t implicate an interest of the big Republican influencers — so flukishly few we can set them aside. That leaves 73 cases that all implicate a major Republican Party interest. Seventy-three is a lot of cases at the Supreme Court.
Is there a pattern to those 73 cases? Oh, yes there is.
Every time a big Republican corporate or partisan interest is involved, the big Republican interest wins. Every. Time.
Let me repeat: In seventy-three partisan decisions where there’s a big Republican interest at stake, the big Republican interest wins. Every. Damned. Time.
Hence the mad scramble of big Republican interest groups to protect a “Roberts Five” that will reliably give them wins — really big wins, sometimes.
When the Roberts Five saddles up, these so-called conservatives are anything but judicially conservative.
They readily overturn precedent, toss out statutes passed by wide bipartisan margins, and decide on broad constitutional issues they need not reach. Modesty, originalism, stare decisis, all these supposedly conservative judicial principles, all have the hoof prints of the Roberts Five all across their backs, wherever those principles got in the way of wins for the Big Republican interests.
The litany of Roberts Five decisions explains why big Republican interests want Kavanaugh on the Court so badly that Republicans trampled so much Senate precedent to shove him through; so let’s review the litany.
What do big Republican interests want? Well, first, they want to win elections.
What has the Roberts Five delivered?
Help Republicans gerrymander elections: Vieth v. Jubelirer, 5-4, license to gerrymander.
Help Republicans keep minority voters away from the polls: Shelby County, 5-4 and Bartlett v. Strickland, 5-4. And Abbott v. Perez, 5-4, despite the trial judge finding the Texas legislature actually intended to suppress minority voters.
And the big one: help corporate front-group money flood elections — if you’re a big special interest you love unlimited power to buy elections and threaten and bully Congress. McCutcheon, 5-4 counting the concurrence; Bullock, 5-4; and the infamous, grotesque 5-4 Citizens United decision (which belongs beside Lochner on the Court’s roll of shame).
What else do the big influencers want?
To get out of courtrooms. Big influencers hate courtrooms, because their lobbying and electioneering and threatening doesn’t work. In a courtroom, big influencers used to getting their way have to suffer the indignity of equal treatment.
So the Roberts Five protects corporations from group “class action” lawsuits: Walmart v. Dukes, 5-4; Comcast, 5-4; and this past term, Epic Systems, 5-4.
The Roberts Five helps corporations steer customers and workers away from courtrooms and into mandatory arbitration: Concepcion, Italian Colors, and Rent-a-Center, all Roberts Five. Epic Systems does double duty here: now workers can’t even arbitrate their claims as a group.
Hindering access to the courthouse for plaintiffs generally: Iqbal, 5-4.
Protecting corporations from being taken to court by employees harmed through pay discrimination, Ledbetter, 5-4; age discrimination, Gross, 5-4; harassment, Vance 5-4; and retaliation, Nassar, 5-4. Even insulating corporations from liability for international human rights violations: Jesner, 5-4.
Corporations aren’t in the Constitution; juries are. Indeed, courtroom juries are the one element of American government designed to protect people against encroachments by private wealth and power. So of course the Roberts Five rule for wealthy, powerful corporations over jury rights every time — with nary a mention of the Seventh Amendment.
What’s another one? Oh, yes. A classic: helping big business bust unions. Harris v. Quinn, 5-4; and Janus v. AFSCME this year, 5-4, overturning a 40-year precedent.
Lots of big Republican influencers are polluters. They like to pollute for free.
So of course the Roberts Five delivers decisions that let corporate polluters pollute. To pick a few: Rapanos, weakening wetland protections, 5-4; National Association of Home Builders, weakening protections for endangered species, 5-4; Michigan v. EPA, helping air polluters, 5-4; and, in the face of emerging climate havoc, there’s the procedurally aberrant 5-4 partisan decision to stop the EPA Clean Power Plan.
Then come Roberts Five bonus decisions advancing a far-right social agenda: Gonzalez v. Carhart, upholding restrictive abortion laws; Hobby Lobby, granting corporations religious rights over the health care rights of employees; NIFLA, letting states deny women truthful information about their reproductive choices—all 5-4, all the Republicans.
Add Heller and McDonald, which reanimated for the gun industry a theory a former Chief Justice once called a “fraud”; both decisions 5-4.
This year, Trump v. Hawaii, 5-4, rubber stamping President Trump’s discriminatory Muslim travel ban.
And in case Wall Street was feeling left out, helping insulate investment bankers from fraud claims: Janus Capital Group, Inc., 5-4.
No wonder the American people feel the game is rigged.
Here’s how the rigged game works: big business and partisan groups fund the Federalist Society, which picked Gorsuch and now Kavanaugh. As White House Counsel admitted, they “insourced” the Federalist Society for this selection. Exactly how the nominees were picked, and who was in the room where it happened, and who had a vote or a veto, and what was said or promised, is all a deep dark secret.
Then big business and partisan groups fund the Judicial Crisis Network, which runs dark-money political campaigns to influence Senators in confirmation votes, as they’ve done for Gorsuch and now Kavanaugh. Who pays millions of dollars for that, and what their expectations are, is a deep dark secret.
These groups also fund Republican election campaigns with dark money. The identity of the big donors? A deep dark secret.
Once the nominee is on, the same business front groups, with ties to the Koch Brothers and other funders of the Republican political machine, file “friend of the court,” or amicus briefs, to signal their wishes to the Roberts Five. Who is really behind those “friends” is another deep dark secret.
It has gotten so weird that Republican justices now even send hints back to big business interests about how they’d like to help them next, and then big business lawyers rush out to lose cases, just to get them up before the friendly Court, pronto. That’s what happened in Friedrichs and Janus.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the biggest corporate lobby of them all. It’s the mouthpiece for Big Coal, Big Oil, Big Tobacco, Big Pharma, Big Guns, you name it—and this year, with Justice Gorsuch riding with the Roberts Five, the Chamber won nine of the 10 cases it weighed in on.
The Roberts Five since 2006 has given the Chamber more than three-quarters of their total votes. This year in civil cases they voted for the Chamber’s position nearly 90 percent of the time.
People are noticing. Veteran court-watchers like Jeffrey Toobin, Linda Greenhouse and Norm Orenstein describe the court as a delivery service for Republican interests:
Toobin has written that on the Supreme Court, “Roberts has served the interests . . . of the contemporary Republican Party.”
Greenhouse has said, “the Republican-appointed majority is committed to harnessing the Supreme Court to an ideological agenda.”
Orenstein described, “the new reality of today’s Supreme Court: It is polarized along partisan lines in a way that parallels other political institutions and the rest of society, in a fashion we have never seen.”
And the American public knows it, too. The American public thinks the Supreme Court treats corporations more favorably than individuals, compared to vice versa, by a 7-to-1 margin.
Now, let’s look at where Judge Kavanaugh fits in. A Republican political operative his whole career, who’s never tried a case. He made his political bones helping the salacious prosecution of President Clinton, and leaking prosecution information to the press.
As an operative in the second Bush White House, he cultivated relationships with political insiders like nomination guru Leonard Leo, the Federalist Society architect of Kavanaugh’s court nominations. On the D.C. Circuit, Kavanaugh gave more than 50 speeches to the Federalist Society. That’s some auditioning.
On the DC Circuit, Kavanaugh showed his readiness to join the Roberts Five with big political wins for Republican and corporate interests: unleashing special interest money into elections; protecting corporations from liability; helping polluters pollute; striking down commonsense gun regulations; keeping injured plaintiffs out of court; and perhaps most important for the current occupant of the Oval Office, expounding a nearly limitless vision of presidential immunity from the law.
His alignment with right-wing groups who came before him as “friends of the court”? 91 percent.
When big business trade associations weighed in? 76 percent. This is what corporate capture of the courts looks like.
There are big expectations for you. The shadowy dark-money front group, the Judicial Crisis Network, is spending tens of millions in dark money to push for your confirmation. They clearly have big expectations about how you’ll rule on dark money.
The NRA has poured millions into your confirmation, promising their members that you’ll “break the tie.” They clearly have big expectations on how you’ll vote on guns.
White House Counsel Don McGahn said, “There is a coherent plan here where actually the judicial selection and the deregulatory effort are really the flip side of the same coin.” Big polluters clearly have big expectations for you on their deregulatory effort.
Finally, you come before us nominated by a President named in open court as directing criminal activity, and a subject of ongoing criminal investigation. You displayed expansive views on executive immunity from the law. If you are in that seat because the White House has big expectations that you will protect the President from the due process of law, that should give every Senator pause.
Tomorrow, we will hear a lot of “confirmation etiquette.” It’s a sham.
Kavanaugh knows the game. In the Bush White House, he coached judicial nominees to just tell Senators that they will adhere to statutory text, that they have no ideological agenda. Fairy tales.
At his hearing, Justice Roberts infamously said he’d just call “balls and strikes,” but the pattern – the 73-case pattern – of the Roberts Five qualifies him to have NASCAR-style corporate badges on his robes.
Alito said in his hearing what a “strong principle” stare decisis was, an important limitation on the Court. Then he told the Federalist Society stare decisis “means to leave things decided when it suits our purposes.”
Gorsuch delivered the key fifth vote in the precedent-busting, but also union-busting, Janus decision. He too had pledged in his hearing to “follow the law of judicial precedent,” assured us he was not a “philosopher king,” and promised to give equal concern to “every person, poor or rich, mighty or meek.”
How did that turn out? Great for the rich and mighty: Gorsuch is the single most corporate-friendly justice on a Court already full of them, ruling for big business interests in over 70 percent of cases, and in every single case where his vote was determinative.
The president early on assured evangelicals his Supreme Court picks would attack Roe v. Wade. Despite “confirmation etiquette” assurances about precedent, your own words make clear you don’t really believe Roe v. Wade is settled law.
We have seen this movie before. We know how it ends.
The sad fact is that there is no consequence for telling the Committee fairy tales about stare decisis, and then riding off with the Roberts Five, trampling across whatever precedent gets in the way of letting those Big Republican interests keep winning 5-4 partisan decisions.
Every. Damned. Time.
Way back during the early years of the Obama administration, government agencies were beginning to use social media as a means of “getting our message out.” I volunteered to be a part of this “outreach” then, as a staff member at the Office of Educational Technology in the U.S. Department of Education. It was all new to me, and as one of the more “senior” staff, I was eager to learn some new tricks. Now I am older and so is Twitter, and it is certainly not the novelty that it once was.
I think that it still serves as a convenient “short-hand” stream of consciousness for many, but it may have become overloaded with everyone’s desire to be heard in the name of open and free expression (“TechtoExpress”). Maggie Haberman of the NY Times put it this way this past week: “To be clear, Twitter is a useful and important platform. It’s a good aggregator for breaking news. I still check my feed to see breaking news developments, and I will continue to. And it is democratic – everyone gets to have a voice, whether they work for a local paper, a small TV station or one of the biggest newspapers in the world, or are not in the media business at all. The downside is that everyone is treated equally expert on various topics.”
“Make America Great Again.” Just get a Twitter account, and tweet away. You may even be elected president?
Trump is now the single biggest political advertiser on Facebook. So what’s your favorite addiction? Politics or social media? I think it is now safe to say after the last election, that if you like to get your “fake news” online, you were among those who were the most helpful in getting Trump elected. He may not have gotten the most individual Americans’ votes, but he certainly knew where the most counted and where to place his political ads, Facebook.
He still continues today and will probably continue to take the most advantage of Facebook’s hypnotic hold on those who believe that everything that they read or see online must be true! This is now the age of believing in your own opinions, regardless of what the facts may be. “If it’s online, it must be true.” As discussed on this blog on Monday, political consultants have said that Democrats who are running for election are spending a smaller percentage of their ad budgets on digital ads than their rivals, sometimes as little as 10 percent versus 40 percent for Republicans. That has spurred volunteer efforts in Silicon Valley, which is widely regarded as liberal, to help bring Democratic campaigns into the digital age.
The new digital political age? And if you can’t get enough followers, make them up.