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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
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.
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.
Forget about your “hanging chads,” fake news and dirty tricks. Get some savvy technology tools to load onto your campaign bandwagon. And, of course, the right people to make it all work. Democrats obviously have the greater need.
“Democrats are often thought to be tech savvy, because the Obama campaigns of 2008 and 2012 were celebrated for their online touch and because much of Silicon Valley backs the party’s candidates. In fact, . . . Democrats in congressional and state-level races have been out-matched by their Republican rivals, who benefitted from the heavy tech investments during the Obama years and their enthusiastic embrace of targeted ads on platforms like Facebook and Google.
People don’t understand how not far along we are as a party (Democratic). Obama was really good at tech, but it never trickled down to a Senate race, let alone the state-level stuff. (NY Times, 7/14/18).”
Twitter used to be an apolitical forum where you could type and hashtag away just about anything that seemed important or “interesting” to you. But times have changed as we all know, and the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has turned it into his most powerful propaganda tool. But can’t Twitter do something about that? A Washington Post reporter recently (Manjoo, 7/5/18) asked that same question to Vijaya Gadde, head of the legal policy and trust office at Twitter. “She declined to answer directly, pointing instead to a January statement in which the company stated that blocking a world leader’s tweets ‘would hide important information people should be able to see and delete.’ But what if that important information conflicts with Twitter’s mission to promote a healthy public conversation? Sooner or later, Twitter’s executives and employees are going to have to make a decision about which is more important, Mr. Trump’s tweets or the company’s desire to promote a healthy public conversation. It’s hard to see how both are tenable.” Ray Myers
I am a fan of political cartoons that taunt and tease political leaders. Particularly in the case of over-bearing, pompous, and presumptuous elected officials who believe they are beyond reproach. I think you may have known one or two, but if you don’t, please take a look at the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Rob Rogers, a political cartoonist with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for 25 years, recently lost his job for not being politically correct in the eyes of the newspaper’s owners. Here is how he described his ouster by the owners: “I was trained in a tradition in which editorial cartoonists are the live wires of a publication – as one former colleague put it, the ‘constant irritants.’ Our job is to provoke readers in a way words can’t. Cartoonists are not illustrators for a publisher’s politics.”
Rogers promises that: “The paper may have taken an eraser to my cartoons. But I plan to be at the drawing table every day of this presidency.”
The most popular show on ABC (American Broadcasting Company), Rosanne, was canceled last week because the star of the show, Roseanne Barr — known for saying and writing stuff that would get most of us fired — did exactly what she was known for doing and got fired. ABC now looks like it is run by idiots because, really, who didn’t see this coming?
The network now has to explain to its licensees, which deliver shows to you and me, why they no longer will be able to get the ad revenue that otherwise would have been coming to them. I guess Rosanne will still get paid, but I really don’t know, and truthfully, don’t care. Twitter has become our most popular and most abused form of social media. Oh yes, the current White House resident is very fond of using it as well.
Maybe he too will get fired some day?
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