As in the song "Lawyers In Love" we have a land, a nation with too many in high places willing to do anything for money neglecting people, honor and principle but a change is coming. No more falling for the lie of living only individualistic and independent lives leaving us divided and conquerable by powerful special interests but a people, a nation collaborating for the greater common good in various groups all across the nation. A land of people working together to help one another with a vision moreover as Jesus would have us be. Love, Mercy, Forgiveness, Kindness....something about another Land. The change is coming

Saturday, June 23, 2018

John Roberts Sides With Supreme Court’s Liberals to Save Your Digital Privacy

The conservative justice bucked right-wingers and said police must get a warrant before searching cellphone location data.

In a surprising decision, Chief Justice John Roberts joined the Supreme Court’s four liberals in holding that the government must obtain a warrant in order to search your cellphone location data.  The decision is a huge win for privacy rights in the digital era, and signals a new phase in the Supreme Court’s protection of civil liberties in the 21st century.

It also makes one wonder if Chief Justice Roberts might become the Justice Kennedy of the next twenty years: voting conservatively on most issues but siding with liberals on others.

The facts of the case, Carpenter v. U.S., are simple: Police obtained the cellphone location data of a suspect in a robbery case and used it to convict him.  The question was whether getting that data constitutes a “search” under the Fourth Amendment, which would require a warrant before conducting it.

As of today, the answer is yes.

The relevant precedent was so close, the answer was practically a judicial coin flip.  On the one hand, the Court has ruled in the past that information you share with a third party (in this case, your cellular provider) is no longer private, and so no warrant is needed.  That would indicate no warrant is needed here.

On the other hand, we live in a new world in which cellphones are “almost a feature of human anatomy,” in the words of one prior case, and the location sensing is necessary for them to work.  Should the government really be able to track the location of anyone in the country, all the time, without even obtaining a warrant?

Nate Freed Wessler, a lawyer at the ACLU, argued the case before the Court.  In an interview with The Daily Beast shortly before the decision came down, he told me that the case is important for two reasons.

“Most immediately, this case addresses the protections we have in our voluminous quantities of location info held by our cellphone companies. Those records can show where we go over the course of every day for years on end, reveling extra details about activities relationships and patterns of life.”

“More broadly,” Wessler continued, “this is the Supreme Court’s first opportunity in four decades to address the fundamental question of how the Fourth Amendment protects highly sensitive personal records held by the companies that we have relationships with.”

That question is of interest not only to privacy nerds but is now squarely in the mainstream, particularly in the wake of the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal.  That issue isn’t affected by Carpenter, because it was about two private companies doing business, rather than the government.  But it highlights the ways in which, to live in 21st century world, we all share more and more information without even knowing it.

“We can’t go about our lives without leaving these highly revealing crumbs behind us,” Wessler said.  “It’s much more than location data: it’s the content of emails, information about homes collected by smart devices (for example, smart thermostat that knows which rooms you’re in), even the state of our bodies—heartrate data from a smartwatch which we share with Apple, for example.”

The decision in Carpenter “allows us to live our modern lives with an assurance that police will have to go to a judge to get a warrant before dipping into this really sensitive information.”

There were good reasons to doubt that the Court would rule this way, however.

First, today’s decision is a clear break from the court’s precedents on information shared with third parties, set forth in the Smith and Miller cases.  But, wrote the Chief Justice, “when Smith was decided in 1979, few could have imagined a society in which a phone goes wherever its owner goes, conveying to the wireless carrier not just dialed digits, but a detailed and comprehensive record of the person’s movements.”

Indeed, Chief Justice Roberts continued:

The Government’s position fails to contend with the seismic shifts in digital technology that made possible the tracking of not only Carpenter’s location but also everyone else’s, not for a short period but for years and years. Sprint Corporation [the cell carrier in this case] and its competitors are not your typical witnesses. Unlike the nosy neighbor who keeps an eye on comings and goings, they are ever alert, and their memory is nearly infallible. There is a world of difference between the limited types of personal information addressed in Smith and Miller and the exhaustive chronicle of location information casually collected by wireless carriers today.

 Second, the court’s conservative wing—apparently not including Chief Justice Roberts—has grown increasingly skeptical of the way privacy rights are understood today.   As I noted back in November, when Carpenter was argued, the court’s conservative wing is increasingly enamored of “originalism,” a faux-historical doctrine that decides cases based on what the Founders supposedly intended back in 1791.

That doctrine is actually highly selective—the Founders would have banned nearly all corporations, for example—but it has become dogma in the far-right circles of the Federalist Society, the source for Donald Trump’s far-right judicial nominees, including Justice Gorsuch, because it would eliminate 20th and 21st century applications of constitutional principles to newly articulated issues such as abortion, LGBT equality, and racial discrimination.

Needless to say, the Founders didn’t say much about cellphone location data.  Indeed, the text of the Fourth Amendment only protects “[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.”  Is cellphone location data a “paper” or “effect?” Maybe, but that hardly seems like “originalism” anymore.

For these reasons, Justices Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch each (separately) dissented from the majority opinion.  (Justice Kennedy also dissented, but on different grounds: that the location data is imprecise enough that it is not really private.)  With abundant citations to 18th century texts, each of them held that because the location records are the property of the cellphone company, not the individual user, people like Carpenter have no privacy rights in what they contain.  You have privacy rights in your property, period.

Interestingly, Justice Gorsuch speculated that it might be possible to articulate a property interest in records like cellphone location data, even if it’s not exactly your property.  Unfortunately, since no one but Justice Gorsuch thinks this way, that theory was not put forward in this case.

Chief Justice Roberts, however, was the real surprise. Unlike the three most conservative justices, he declined to adopt a restrictive, “originalist” theory of Fourth Amendment Rights.  But unlike Justice Kennedy, he eviscerated the doctrine that if you share information with others, you no longer have a privacy interest in it. That doctrine may have made sense in 1979, but it doesn’t make sense today.

In some ways, though, the Court’s opinion is more conservative than the conservative dissents.  There are many kinds of conservatives after all: law-and-order conservatives supported the government in this case, but libertarian conservatives opposed it.  And the Court’s opinion is a civil libertarian rallying cry.

It is also judicially conservative, which has been a hallmark of the Roberts court.

“Our decision today is a narrow one,” the Court’s opinion concluded, noting that several emerging digital privacy issues remain unresolved.  But such judicial conservatism is warranted in a field as rapidly changing as this one. Concluding his case with the perfect (and not well-known) quotation, Chief Justice Roberts wrote “as Justice Frankfurter noted when considering new innovations in airplanes and radios, the Court must tread carefully in such cases, to ensure that we do not ‘embarrass the future.’”


My take:
That four Supreme Court justices sided against requiring a warrant to search your cell phone location data signals a clear and present danger to our freedom and liberty within our own highest court. Trump's pick Gorsuch sided with NOT REQUIRING A WARRANT to follow you like Big Brother and so now you see why it was so important for Clinton to be elected if for no other reason and there are more reasons having little to do with her own ties to Wall Street. There are other decisions on privacy rights, the Patriotic Act, NSA surveillance, corrupt campaign financing, voting rights, worker rights in a world of record corporate profits and stagnant worker wages, the environment we could go on.
In the face of all that let's give KUDOS to Justice Roberts. I wonder if everyone realizes what we just narrowly avoided here. Think about it for a moment, the government at will tracking you everywhere you go. But even now you can hear the conservative evangelicals crying "if you have nothing to fear you shouldn't fear being watched" - the clarion call of those lacking wisdom and foresight believing evidently a friendly government will always be in charge and that from those that shrewdly scheme how to demonize government in real time and rail about a coming anti-christ. Go figure..yea think about that.
And think about this; would it have passed quietly under the cover of immigration outrages and police brutality had the decision gone the other way?    

The Real Hoax About Trump's Border Crisis



It’s all a hoax. A great big hoax.

 Not the family separations, the babies alone in cages, the drugged immigrant children, the stolen toddlers too traumatized to speak, the wailing children whom Ann Coulter slanders as “child actors.”

Sadly, those cruelties are all too real.

 The hoax is the premise that President Trump’s administration has invented to rationalize such crimes against humanity: his narrative that America has been “ infest[ed]” with hordes of crime-committing, culture-diluting, job-stealing, tax-shirking, benefits-draining “aliens.”

 No part of that description is remotely true. Yet the Trump administration seems to have successfully shifted the national dialogue away from “Do we have a border immigration problem?” to “What’s the right way to fix our border immigration problem?”

 Truly, it’s bizarre. Unauthorized border crossings have been falling over time. In fact, apprehensions of unauthorized immigrants along the Southwest border last fiscal year declined to about 300,000, the lowest level since 1971, according to data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection. They’ve risen in recent months, though year-to-date they’re still below historical levels.

 Let’s say you believe, though, that even those numbers are too high, because of the calamities these immigrants have been inflicting upon America’s public safety, culture and economy.

 Trump, after all, suggests that even one border-crosser is too many, since most come bringing crime, drugs and general bloodthirst.

In fact, immigrants in general, and undocumented immigrants in particular, commit crimes at far lower rates than native-born Americans. That includes violent crime, according to research from the Cato Institute. Another recent study, published in the journal Criminology, found that states with larger shares of undocumented immigrants tended to have lower crime rates. The finding jibes with lots of earlier research , too.

 Which makes sense: Most immigrants want to stay off law enforcement’s radar. One wrong move, after all, could get them deported — in some cases, to their death.

 So let’s consider the other claims that Trump makes about our supposed alien infestation, such as foreigners’ alleged assault on our culture and values.

 The gothic horrors of a “taco truck on every corner” notwithstanding, recent waves of immigrants have actually proved themselves reasonably adept at assimilating into American culture. Particularly those given the opportunity to escape the shadows.

 “Immigrants are now more assimilated, on average, than at any point since the 1980s,” according to a 2013 study by Jacob L. Vigdor for the Manhattan Institute, using metrics such as English-language ability and intermarriage rates.

But maybe you say immigrants’ real damage is economic, as those not-at-all-bigoted “economic nationalists” claim. Immigrants are stealing our jobs, our benefits and shortchanging Uncle Sam!

 This is a curious claim to make in a labor market with 3.8 percent unemployment. Nonetheless, let’s consider what the research says about the longer-term relationship between immigration levels and job market health.

 There’s reason to believe that new immigrants may depress wages for earlier waves of immigrants who have similar skill sets. However, recent studies suggest that immigration (both authorized and unauthorized) actually boosts labor force participation rates, productivity and wages and reduces unemployment rates for native-born American workers, whose skills these immigrants tend to complement.

But don’t these people drain the public coffers?

Immigrants, including undocumented immigrants, pay taxes — taxes that fund government benefits that in many cases they are not legally eligible to collect.

A report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found that the net fiscal impact of first-generation immigrants, compared to otherwise similar natives, is positive at the federal level and negative at the state and local levels. That’s due mostly to the costs of educating their children. When their children grow up, though, they are “among the strongest economic and fiscal contributors in the U.S. population, contributing more in taxes than either their parents or the rest of the native-born population.” In other words, by the second generation, immigrants are net-positive for government budgets at all levels.

What about the most destitute immigrants who come here, though? Surely they’re sucking the government dry!

 Nope.

 An internal government report commissioned by Trump found that refugees brought in $63 billion more in tax revenue over the past decade than they cost the government. Finding those results inconvenient, the administration suppressed them, though they were ultimately leaked to the New York Times last year.

It’s hard to comprehend how Trump has so successfully hijacked the national conversation around immigration. With virtually no facts on his side, he has managed to fabricate a multipart border emergency, and convince a majority of his own party that this imagined emergency necessitates state-sanctioned child abuse. Sadly, Trump’s manufactured crisis has now led to very real tragedy.

Catherine Rampell

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Unarmed Teen Shot Three Times And Killed While Running From Pennsylvania Police


An unarmed 17-year-old boy was shot three times and killed by police in Pennsylvania while running away from officers.

Antwon Rose was shot by a cop in East Pittsburgh Tuesday night as he tried to get away from a traffic stop during which the driver was arrested.

“They're not even saying stop,” Rose's aunt Mica Tinsley told the Post-Gazette after watching a video of the shooting. “They just started shooting, and he fell. He didn't make it far.”

Police pulled the car over because it matched the description of one that had fled the scene of an earlier shooting where a 22-year-old man was wounded, the Allegheny County Police Department said in a statement.

“They're not even saying stop,” Rose's aunt Mica Tinsley told the Post-Gazette after watching a video of the shooting. “They just started shooting, and he fell. He didn't make it far.”

Police pulled the car over because it matched the description of one that had fled the scene of an earlier shooting where a 22-year-old man was wounded, the Allegheny County Police Department said in a statement.


CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN and DAVID BOROFF

My take:
They're cutting them down left and right. The cops don't need a reason just an opportunity. They thought the kid was this, they thought the kid was that but you don't shoot to kill someone unless you KNOW it's the person you're willing to take a life from. When the people with the gun value a person's existence less they're more willing to take their life and and this racism shows day after day, week after week and again in Pittsburgh. This loose cannon Judge, Jury and Executioner on the street has got to stop.

Acquittal after acquittal after acquittal the police learn nothing and they won't until they know for certain there is a very serious consequence to their willingness to take a life when they only thought.
How long does this have to go on until it stops?

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Supreme Court Just Guaranteed That Millions of Americans Will Vote in Districts That Have Been Ruled Unconstitutional

In two decisions, the court punted on major partisan gerrymandering cases.


The Supreme Court on Monday opted not to rule on one of the most politically fraught issues it faced, instead sending two major gerrymandering cases back to lower courts on procedural grounds.
The cases, out of Wisconsin and Maryland, had the potential to reshape political maps across the country by sanctioning or restricting states’ ability to draw districts for one party’s political advantage. Now, any ruling on the constitutionality of extreme political gerrymanders will have to wait, and the contested maps will remain in place for the time being.
Gerrymandering Explained
One case concerned Wisconsin’s heavily gerrymandered state legislative districts, drawn in 2011 to give Republicans a majority for the entire decade. In 2012, Democratic legislative candidates won more than 51 percent of the vote statewide, but Republicans won 60 of 99 seats in the state assembly. Democratic voters sued, arguing that the map violated their rights by preventing them from electing the representatives of their choice.
But Chief Justice John Roberts remanded the case to the district court over the question of the plaintiffs’ standing—whether they had a right to bring the case at all. The plaintiffs, he wrote, will now have the opportunity to buttress their argument that they were in fact hurt by the statewide map, a necessary precondition for them to sue. The court ruled that the voters challenging the map had failed to prove an individual injury to themselves and instead focused on a broad injury to Democrats. 
The chief justice wrote for a unanimous court, except for Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch, who declined to join only one section of the ruling.
In the Maryland case, the court unanimously decided to stick to the technical details of the case: whether Maryland’s current map can stay in place while it is being challenged on First Amendment grounds. A federal district court had allowed the current map to remain in place as it deliberated, and the Supreme Court upheld that decision. But the Supreme Court opted not to address the tougher question concerning the constitutionality of gerrymandering for political gain, instead sending the matter back to the district court in Maryland to rule on it.
The case, argued in March, featured a different novel argument against partisan gerrymandering. Unlike in Wisconsin, it was Democrats who had rejiggered district lines to turn a solidly Republican congressional district into a reliably Democratic one. In 2011, Democrats shifted district lines so that Maryland’s 6th District—previously rural and Republican-leaning—now included heavily Democratic suburbs of Washington, DC.
Republicans in the district sued, arguing that the new map violated their First Amendment protection against retaliation on the basis of their political beliefs. The argument was tailored to appeal to Justice Anthony Kennedy, considered the swing vote on this issue. In 2004, Kennedy hinted that he might be willing to limit partisan gerrymandering under the First Amendment. But on Monday, neither Kennedy nor the other justices appeared ready to tackle the big constitutional questions at the heart of the gerrymandering issue.
The justices struggled over the past year with the question of political gerrymandering in these two cases. The cases appeared to offer the justices an opportunity to strike down gerrymandering without favoring one political party, since the Wisconsin maps were drawn by Republicans and the Maryland ones by Democrats. During a hearing in the Maryland case this spring, a majority of the justices appeared to agree that extreme gerrymandering that entrenches a party in power is a problem in modern politics. But there was no consensus on how to fix the problem or whether there was a constitutional principle at stake that justified the court’s intervention in map drawing, which has traditionally been left to the states.
The Supreme Court has long protected racial minorities from discrimination in gerrymandering, but it has never before restricted gerrymandering on the basis of partisan affiliation or past voting behavior. In the absence of court intervention, extreme political gerrymandering has become an increasingly pervasive facet of American politics in the last decade. Armed with ever-advancing technology that allows map drawers to assess the political leanings of districts down to the city-block level, legislatures across the country drew maps for Congress and statehouses that protected the majorities of those in power. Now that the court has declined to step in, continued advances in data analytics threaten to make partisan gerrymandering even more extreme in 2021, when the next round of redistricting takes place following the 2020 census.
Though the problem isn’t limited to one party, Republicans—who controlled more statehouses during the last redistricting period in 2011—enacted the most extreme gerrymanders in the country’s history. In purple states such as Ohio, North Carolina, and Michigan, Republicans managed to lock Democrats out of power and sent majority-Republican delegations to Congress for what is likely to be the entire decade. Because the court declined to resolve this issue, extreme gerrymanders will remain in place for at least one more election cycle, if not for the next decade.
- Pema Levy

How The 2018 Election Can End The Nightmare Fiasco Of Trump

It is slowly dawning on Republicans and the right-wing media echo chamber that President Donald Trump's assault on democratic norms and the rule of law, his betrayal of his own populist campaign themes (with tax cuts for the rich and Medicaid spending cuts, for example), his misogynist and xenophobic rhetoric, his mean-spirited vendetta against hardworking immigrants and his dangerous, erratic behavior on the world stage have ignited a backlash that could deliver in 2018 House and Senate majorities to Democrats, who barely had a political pulse a year ago. Trump's inability to distinguish his grandiose fantasies from reality will also give the midterms an urgency rarely seen in a non-presidential election.
Call them the "Stop the Madness!" elections. Voters will be asked whether they want to reverse a huge tax giveaway to the rich and stop rubber-stamping corrupt, extreme and incompetent executive branch and judicial appointments. Democrats will run on populist measures (e.g. an infrastructure bill) as well as the promise to end the scapegoating of immigrants and exercise real oversight over an executive branch rife with self-dealing, self-enrichment and nepotism. In other words, Democrats will ask voters: Do they want to bring the Trumpian nightmare to an end?
It's now entirely conceivable that Democrats could pick up 24 House seats and pick up a net two to three Senate seats (with possible pickup wins in Tennessee, Nevada and Arizona). Election of a Congress of the opposite party would, for most presidents, be daunting. For Trump, it would be politically fatal.
Let's put impeachment off to the side for the moment. (Don't worry. We'll come back to it.) Consider the measures that a Democratic-led House and Senate (using reconciliation, of course, where possible) could undertake:
- Reverse the tax cuts for the top 1 percent, using that revenue for infrastructure or premium support for Obamacare.
- End confirmation of judges rated "unqualified" by the American Bar Association.
- Pass legislation requiring presidents to release their tax returns.
- Pass legislation barring members of the president's immediate family from serving in government and/or receiving security clearances.
- Put a permanent fix to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program on the president's desk.
- Require all senior executive branch employees, including the president, to divest of all income-bearing properties and foreign holdings.
- Discontinue the phony voter integrity commission and pursue efforts to increase access to voting.
Republicans might be able to stop some of these, but protecting Trump's secret finances and defending tax goodies for the super-rich would be politically deadly for the GOP. In short, the extreme and unpopular Trump agenda would come to a screeching halt. The president would be faced with an unwelcome degree of financial scrutiny and with legislative demands for transparency. Some legislation might be blocked by veto, but Trump would be under constant political and personal siege.
Then there is impeachment. Unless special counsel Robert Mueller effectively exonerates Trump not only on collusion with Russia but also obstruction of justice and personal financial wrongdoing, a Democrat-led House won't blink an eye before commencing impeachment hearings. Together with that will come proposed impeachment articles stemming from his abuse of the pardon power (e.g. Joe Arpaio), attacks on the First Amendment and violations of the Constitution's emoluments clause. And certainly, Trump will face an inquiry into the complaints of women who have accused him of sexual harassment and assault. In essence, not just his agenda but also his presidency itself could well come to an end.
Let's not forget the 25th Amendment. Congress could take up legislation mandating an annual presidential checkup and setting up a body, set forth in the 25th Amendment, that is empowered in lieu of the Cabinet to remove the president, at least temporarily, if he is unable to perform the duties of the job. That legislation could prompt hearings with ex-White House employees and Cabinet officials as well as lawmakers sharing insights on the president's mental state.
Even if a fraction of all of this occurs, Trump's political effectiveness comes to an end and he will face increasing demands to step down. A bevy of GOP primary challengers will come out of the woodwork. A credible independent center-right candidate could emerge. What once seemed like a pipe dream of Democrats now looks like a possible escape hatch for the country, a do-over on 2016 and an effort to return to normalcy. Remember, none of this would make Hillary Clinton president (that really would be a do-over). It puts Vice President Mike Pence, a conservative Republican and right-wing favorite, as the chief executive and commander in chief (provided that he is not ensnared in the special counsel's investigation).
This is the possible (not likely, but possible) result when a party submerges its constitutional responsibilities and moral decency for the sake of partisan loyalty and the blind pursuit of power. Nevertheless, all of this will remain a fantasy unless Democrats maintain their energy and focus, continue to welcome disaffected moderates and Republicans to the party and present the hope of more mature, normal leadership. A year ago, Democrats looked washed-up; now they're contemplating a historic wave election.
Of course, no one can predict with any degree of confidence whether Trump in 2018 will rebound or leave voluntarily; face indictment or fire the special counsel; coast on the tailwind of a strong economy or face a sudden downturn; or suffer a complete emotional breakdown instead of finding some emotional stability. He could be overwhelmed by an international crisis or demonstrate heretofore untapped good judgment. That said, there is hope that in 2018 we'll be much closer to the end of the Trump nightmare than anyone thought possible just a year ago.
- Jennifer Rubin

There’s No Good Reason for Scott Pruitt to Still Have a Job

The EPA chief is an embarrassment. And Donald Trump should recognize that it’s in his long-term interest to fire him.

Scott Pruitt is a wart on the Trump administration—an embarrassment so comically corrupt that it’s become impossible to keep track of all the investigations into his unscrupulousness.
Scott Pruitt is also teetering. And if the president had any long-term strategic vision, he would recognize that a reckoning is coming for his Environmental Protection Agency chief—an inglorious final fall from grace—and that Pruitt’s exodus will ultimately be good for his administration.
Everyone else sees this. Pruitt’s traditional allies are fleeing. In recent days, Sen. Joni Ernst said Pruitt is “about as swampy as you get here in Washington, D.C. And if the president wants to drain the swamp, he needs to take a look at his own Cabinet.” Fox News Research has calculated Pruitt’s lavish spending, and dubbed his EPA the “(E)xpensive (P)ruitt (A)gency.” Meanwhile, the Washington Examiner’s Byron York and Tim Carney are calling him out.
Really, nobody is defending Pruitt anymore; even his last loyalists—a posse of (mostly) young Oklahoma women (whose salaries he tried to boost) are now being pushed out. (Isn’t it interesting that his team never consisted of more Oklahoma heavy-hitters? Why didn’t they follow him to Washington, too? I think we now know.)
One conservative insider tells me she’s not surprised by how this has turned out, that Pruitt was always known for cutting corners, that he was a show horse often taking credit for the efforts of others, like the clean-power litigation that West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey did the painstaking work of actually securing.
(I should note that my wife is not the source, though she has previously consulted for some of Pruitt’s political action committees, as well as Morrissey’s campaign for U.S. Senate.)
Eventually, it was bound to catch up to him. You can defy gravity for only so long. But when you cut corners, eventually you get your comeuppance.
Rarely has that comeuppance been delivered in such a painful, humiliating, and prolonged manner. It suggests that Pruitt is not the cunning figure he thinks himself to be.
When playing office politics, there are three constituencies to keep happy. The first, and most obvious, is your boss. And Pruitt deserves an Oscar nod for his obsequiesness. He loves lavishing praise on Donald Trump, almost as much as he loves undoing environmental regulations. But keeping the boss happy will keep you employed only for a time. If you ignore the other two areas (peers and employees), you will eventually be shivved.
And Pruitt is now being shivved. He has not made friends with his colleagues. Instead, he’s alienated them. Examples include a Pruitt aide shopping negative stories about Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, as well as Pruitt allegedly starting a rumor that he could be the next attorney general—while Jeff Sessions was still in the post.
It’s also important to keep the people who work for you happy, because unhappy people either leave (if you’re lucky) or leak. Or—when the stress gets to them—they snap.
Imagine if you are an employee at the Environmental Protection Agency, and your job is calling people to procure a used hotel mattress. Maybe you’re a young girl from Oklahoma with dreams of making America great again. And you come to Washington, D.C., and are effectively a servant whose job involves finding housing for your boss, or checking out pricey pens. How long could you do it? Clearly, these people are tired of defending the indefensible.
Trump must surely understand that his team is only as strong as its weakest link and that Pruitt is a rusty, decaying link. He’s stood by him till now. But the case for firing is getting almost too overwhelming to ignore. There are substantive reasons and superficial ones.
First, the substantive argument: We all know that Pruitt should go based on his ethical lapses, but if Trump wants his anti-regulatory agenda to endure, axing Pruitt is vital. Agency-authored regulatory changes are always subject to dramatic changes to begin with. When they’re put in by Pruitt, they are particularly flimsy. Pruitt’s fingerprints allow the next administration to point to his accomplishments as the products of corruption and cronyism.
There’s also the question of whether he’s accomplished that much at all. For a while, we have seen stories about how the “perception that he’s repealed Obama’s environmental legacy” is largely bogus. You might think this is liberal spin or “wishcasting.” But now, I’m starting to hear some conservatives quietly admit this, too.
Perhaps this won’t matter to President Trump. But the more superficial argument for why he should get rid of Pruitt probably will. It’s clear to everyone else that Trump’s EPA director wants to be president, thinks he’s smarter than the president, and is playing the president.
Trump doesn’t tolerate spotlight-stealers. And Pruitt has flown too close to the sun. Ultimately, there’s only room for one prima donna in this town. Likewise, Trump should also be aesthetically offended by Pruitt’s tacky attempts to enrich himself. Pruitt’s corruption is even more petty than Trump’s. (Used mattresses? Chick-fil-A? Basketball tickets? Sad!)
So much of this could have been avoided if Pruitt simply bided his time. He could have cashed in down the road like the swamp creatures that his boss once lamented. But his narcissism couldn’t wait. He is simultaneously someone with expensive tastes and incredible frugality. This combination rarely turns out well. And it won’t this time either.
Powerful conservatives in Washington are ready to cut Pruitt loose. Tired of circling the wagons, they are throwing him under one.
Expect more leaks to trickle out. Expect more embarrassing  revelations. Expect more criticism from the right.
They are “going to the mattresses” so to speak.
-Matt Lewis

My take:
"Likewise, Trump should also be aesthetically offended by Pruitt’s tacky attempts to enrich himself. Pruitt’s corruption is even more petty than Trump’s." 
 "He is simultaneously someone with expensive tastes and incredible frugality."
This is the stupid mental state of Oklahoma conservative politicians of which Pruitt hails. They believe they are so privileged, so entitled, so better than others that they believe they deserve to get away with things in this manner. They love to be tight with others but lavish with themselves.  

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Trump Administration Takes New Aim At Obamacare’s Pre-Existing Protections



The Trump administration last Thursday officially threw its support behind a new, seemingly far-fetched legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act, arguing that the law’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions are unconstitutional.

The lawsuit, now before a federal district judge in Texas, comes from officials in 20 conservative states. And its prospects for success look slim. The Supreme Court has already rejected two legal challenges to the law, the second on a 6-3 decision that came with a strongly worded ruling from Chief Justice John Roberts.

State attorneys general will step in to defend the law from this new challenge. And they will not have difficulty making their case.

The lawsuit’s key argument is that Congress intended for the pre-existing condition protections to work in tandem with the law’s individual mandate, the provision that people have insurance or pay a penalty. Now that Congress has decided to zero out the penalty, as Republicans did last year as part of the 2017 tax cut, the pre-existing conditions have to go, too.

That would mean insurers would no longer be subject to “guaranteed issue” (a requirement that they sell policies to anybody, regardless of medical status) or “community rating” (a prohibition on charging higher premiums to people with pre-existing conditions).

The problem, many scholars have noted, is that Congress has taken action since it passed the Affordable Care Act. Specifically, it left pre-existing protections in place even as it reduced the individual mandate penalty to zero. Regardless of whether that was a smart policy move, it is clearly what Congress intended ― and Congress gets to make those kinds of decisions.

“If Congress had wanted to repeal the guaranteed issue and community rating provisions of the law, it would’ve done so ― but it didn’t,” Nicholas Bagley, a law professor at the University of Michigan, told HuffPost.

“The fact that Congress separately repealed the tax makes the argument here not just extravagant but preposterous,” said Michael Dorf, a constitutional law expert at Cornell University.

Even some lawyers who supported previous lawsuits against the Affordable Care Act, such as Ilya Solmin from George Mason University Law School, think this latest lawsuit is weaker.

“There is a big difference between a court choosing to sever a part of a law, and Congress doing so itself,” Solmin wrote at the Volokh Conspiracy blog. “And in this case, Congress has already effectively neutered the individual mandate, while leaving the rest of the ACA in place.”

All of that suggests there’s a good chance the lawsuit never even gets to the high court.

But the administration’s decision could be significant for two other reasons.

One is that it deviates from the usual Justice Department tradition under which its lawyers defend even laws that the sitting president and his party oppose. It’s part of the president’s duties, under Article II of the Constitution, that “he shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”

On Thursday, three career attorneys from the Department of Justice asked to remove themselves from the case. That is highly unusual, leaving legal observers like Bagley to speculate that the lawyers may have felt they could not in good conscience sign onto the brief.

The Trump administration’s move is not without precedent. In 2011, President Barack Obama’s Justice Department declined to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in court. Critics at the time warned that failing to defend an existing law might set a bad precedent, and some of Obama’s own advisers opposed the decision.

The other significance of Thursday’s action is not legal. It’s political.

The Trump administration’s contempt for Obamacare is no secret. And although the president and his supporters have sometimes said they believe in protections for people with pre-existing conditions, they have repeatedly taken action ― like trying to pass repeal legislation or rolling back the Affordable Care Act’s regulations on what plans must cover ― that seek to undermine or obliterate those protections entirely.

Those GOP efforts sparked a tremendous backlash. But the effort to get a repeal bill through Congress ended in the fall. It’s possible that those memories have faded from public consciousness a bit, and that may even help explain Trump’s gradually, if modestly, improving approval numbers in the polls.

The decision to jump into this health care case, on the side of the plaintiffs out to gut protections for people with pre-existing conditions, could put the issue back in the public eye. That could work well for Democrats, who have made clear they believe health care is a winning political issue for them again.

“After years of Republicans trying to repeal the protections stopping insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, now Trump says the protections are unconstitutional. Republicans always had to defend those votes in this election, but now they have to defend his decree too,” said Jesse Ferguson, a Democratic strategist who works with health care advocacy groups.

Spokespersons for the Democrats’ House and Senate campaign committees made clear that Republicans will have to defend this decision and that the GOP “will face serious blowback in the midterms.”

The move could be particularly important in two key Senate races. The original brief in the lawsuit included, as co-counsel, a pair of state attorneys general: Josh Hawley of Missouri and Patrick Morrisey of West Virginia.

Hawley is challenging Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, while Morrisey is challenging Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin. Missouri and West Virginia are relatively conservative states, difficult for Democrats to hold, and McCaskill, in particular, is thought to be vulnerable.

But polls have shown protections for pre-existing conditions to be exceedingly popular, even among Republican voters. A chance to show voters that Hawley and Morrisey would get rid of those protections could help keep those two seats in Democratic hands.

-Jonathan Cohn

My take: I want you to read this again.

"The Trump administration on Thursday officially threw its support behind a new, seemingly far-fetched legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act, arguing that the law’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions are unconstitutional."

You do understand, you do get this, correct? The Trump Administration, Trump Administration. This president will undercut protections for people that will cause loss of life for many in those situations because those serious illnesses will not be followed up on. 

All done of course under the cover of the Trump/Kim summit. 

This is the kind of president the religious right NOW fawn over and follow in a bee-hive, cult like state. Check it out, see how Republican politicians are scared pitless to differ with Trump on anything because Trump supporters or anyone close to that are now required to fully support Trump summa fidelitatis
I mean you got to check this out, it's almost like in the eighties when that weird paranoid fear of dissent existed among the right-wing back then during Reagan. 
They get in this mental state to some degree by certain politically ideological churches throughout the nation(more than you think) that push it and then mixed with the bee-hive mentality of those in service to money, primarily republicans, it coagulates together into this "you don't say anything negative about great leader" brainlock. WhamO, you got a cult. Very strange, most peculiar mama.

Friday, June 15, 2018

The Trump/Republican DACA 'Compromise' Bill Is The Worst Immigration Legislation In A Century


Ever since President Trump set in motion the gradual termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which gave work permits to young immigrants brought here illegally when they were children, Congress has been stalled on solving the situation of these 700,000 so-called Dreamers.
After much Republican intraparty wrangling, Speaker Paul D. Ryan just agreed to bring two bills to the floor of the House of Representatives.
He released one of those bills Thursday. The other has been kicking around Washington for a while: the Securing America’s Future Act. The White House supported an earlier version of it, stating that it “would accomplish the President’s core priorities for the American people.” The problem is that even if the SAF Act doesn’t pass, its draconian cuts to immigration will be the Republican starting point for all future negotiations.
The primary outrage is this: SAF won’t give Dreamers green cards. Instead it grants renewable residency permits — with no pathway to citizenship — to some DACA recipients. Worse, the restrictions are so onerous that few Dreamers could ever spend a year as a stay-at-home mother, risk starting a small business or even become a priest. That’s because this bill would make it a crime for anyone holding a SAF permit to have an income below 125% of poverty level.
The House sponsors of the SAF Act claim it will cut only about a quarter of all green cards, but they are significantly understating its effect.
It’s misleading to even call the SAF Act an immigration bill. As a matter of rhetoric, it an anti-immigration piece of legislation.
SAF cuts the number of legal immigrants by about 40% initially, and that number could reach 50% over 10 years. It cancels the diversity green card lottery, eliminates all family-sponsored immigration categories except for the most immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, and cuts to the bone the number of asylum seekers who will be admitted.
The SAF Act also purports to increase the number of highly skilled immigrants allowed into the U.S., and allocates 55,000 additional green cards toward that. But of adults who immigrated on a family or diversity visa in 2015, 47% had a college degree. The impact of any cuts to those programs will far outweigh the added employment visas.
This bill also poses major trouble for the families of legal immigrants. Under SAF, legal immigrants who already have a green card would be mostly unable to bring their foreign-born spouses or children to the U.S. Additionally, immigrants who have waited for decades for a type of green card that would be eliminated by the SAF bill would suddenly have their applications canceled and their fees confiscated. So much for respecting immigrants who played by the rules.
Republicans have for years claimed that they oppose only illegal immigration, and President Trump, as a candidate said he wanted immigrants “to come in, but they’ve got to come in like you: legally.” The SAF’s sponsors are clearly not on the same page. 
It’s misleading to even call the SAF Act an immigration bill. As a matter of rhetoric, it’s an anti-immigration piece of legislation. If a Democratic politician sponsored a bill to cut legal gun ownership by 40%, Republicans would rightly call it an anti-gun bill. The same rules ought to apply here.
In addition, even though the number of illegal border crossings is at a 46-year low, the bill would spend about $124 billion over the next five years on border security. That’s about seven times what it cost to fund the Border Patrol for the five years from 2012 to 2017.
Congress hasn’t considered an immigration bill this bad since the 1920s, when it passed the Emergency Quota Act in 1921 and the National Origins Act in 1924. Those laws ended most immigration from Europe, slashing it by about 75%. The Great Depression followed soon after, leading to further tightening of immigration laws.
Those shameful bills ended the United States’ traditional role as a refuge for the oppressed peoples of the world just as communism, fascism and Nazism began to rise in Europe. And their effect endured. It wasn’t until this century that the number of new green cards issued annually consistently matched the decade before World War I — about 1 million a year.
Even if that sorry history doesn’t repeat itself, the SAF Act is still the worst immigration bill introduced in almost a century. Republican hardliners say it’s a compromise — helping out Dreamers in return for more border security. It’s not. It’s a strategy for deporting Dreamers over a longer period of time while cutting legal immigration in half, canceling the applications of those who have patiently waited for a green card, and wasting $124 billion.

- ALEX NOWRASTEH

My take: Once again Trump And The Republicans do not see things the same way as the American people. It's one more issue among the vast majority of issues where the citizens of  this country and Republicans clearly do not see eye to eye and most recently on the extremely crucial issues of net neutrality and healthcare pre-existing conditions.
When are we going to get this garbage straightened out people? 

Trump Cohort Manafort Jailed For Witness Tampering And Fear He May Commit More Crimes


A federal judge ordered Paul Manafort to jail Friday over charges he tampered with witnesses while out on bail — a major blow for President Trump’s former campaign chairman as he awaits trial on federal conspiracy and money-laundering charges next month.

“You have abused the trust placed in you six months ago,” U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson told Manafort. “The government motion will be granted, and the defendant will be detained.”

The judge said sending Manafort to a cell was “an extraordinarily difficult decision” but said his conduct — allegedly contacting witnesses in the case in an effort to get them to lie to investigators — left her little choice.

“This is not middle school. I can’t take away his cellphone,” she said. “If I tell him not to call 56 witnesses, will he call the 57th?” She said she should not have to draft a court order spelling out the entire criminal code for him to avoid violations.

“This hearing is not about politics. It is not about the conduct of the office of special counsel. It is about the defendant’s conduct,” Jackson said. “I’m concerned you seem to treat these proceedings as another marketing exercise.”

Manafort was led out of the courtroom by security officers. He turned and gave a last look and wave to his wife, seated in the well of the court. She nodded back to him.

His attorney Richard Westling had urged the judge not to send him to jail, saying that it was not required by law and that doing so “will create more challenges for the defense, which already faces trial in two courts.”

The order to incarcerate Manafort capped a months-long fight over the terms of his bail. He had been confined to his home on electronic monitoring and other restrictions since he was first indicted Oct. 27 during special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Manafort had been asking to post a $10 million bond and end the seven months of home detention.

It was not immediately clear where Manafort would be jailed.

The order marked the latest fall for the political power broker and confidant of Republican presidents dating to Ronald Reagan.

Prosecutors alleged that by committing a new crime while on release, Manafort violated the terms of his home confinement in Alexandria, Va., and they asked the judge to revoke or revise it.

Manafort, 69, has pleaded not guilty to all charges in what prosecutors say was a broader conspiracy to launder more than $30 million over a decade of undisclosed lobbying for a pro-Russian former politician and party in Ukraine.

The case against him includes failing to register in the United States as a lobbyist for a foreign government. On June 8, he and a Russian business associate were charged with obstruction of justice after prosecutors say they tried to persuade two potential witnesses to tell investigators the Ukraine lobbying effort did not include activity in the United States.

Manafort’s attorneys have denied the tampering allegations and accused prosecutors of conjuring charges to pressure him to flip his plea and turn against Trump and his associates.

Manafort was arraigned Friday on the obstruction counts and is set for trial in Washington in September over the allegations of secret lobbying. He also faces a federal trial in Virginia in July for related tax- and bank-fraud charges brought as prosecutors reviewed his financial dealings.

Most of the criminal counts relate to activity that preceded Manafort’s time as Trump’s campaign manager from March to August of 2016, when he resigned amid news reports that he had received secret cash payments for his Ukraine consulting.

Prosecutors had previously complained to the judge about Manafort’s behavior as he awaited trial. In December, they accused him of violating a court’s gag order by helping ghostwrite an op-ed piece defending his work in Ukraine for an English-language newspaper in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital.

Jackson, the judge, declined to punish Manafort then but warned she would probably consider similar actions in the future as a violation.

In asking for Manafort to be jailed, prosecutor Greg Andres said in court that there was a danger Manafort would continue to commit crimes.

Andres summarized what he called “a sustained campaign over a five week period” by Manafort to reach the two witnesses and influence their testimony.

In addition to the texts and phone calls cited in the government’s earlier filing, Andres said one of the witnesses had provided an affidavit through his lawyer about one call from Manafort that was completed.

“We learned about it because a witness in this case brought forward information about the tampering. That’s when we started investigating,” Andres said, adding: “There is no way to monitor Mr. Manafort’s communications. At the least, he has shown he is adept” at making them.

As both sides discussed the witness-tampering allegation, Westling urged the judge to consider options short of jail that could be added to the existing terms of his release “that can prevent this from occurring in the future.” He said a no-contact order with others in the case could achieve that result and said the current release terms had not explicitly included that restriction.

 - Spencer S. Hsu, Ellen Nakashima and Devlin Barrett


Thursday, June 14, 2018

Net Neutrality Can Still Be Saved


You can be sure that Trump's FCC chairman Ajit Pai and his cronies in the phone and cable lobby will declare victory on Monday, but the expiration of the 2015 rules will be only a temporary hiccup. The fight is far from over in Congress, in the courts and across the country.

A future without net neutrality is here. Well, almost.
The Federal Communications Commission will take away the rights of internet users on Monday. Officially, the repeal of the 2015 net neutrality protections ― a repeal that FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a Trump pick, had pushed for ― will take effect.
That means that internet providers like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon will be able to block, throttle and otherwise interfere with online content without any real legal consequences.

Pai, a former Verizon lawyer, bucked the lawignored public opinion and twisted the facts to make his ill-advised case for handing control of the internet to the anti-competitive cabal of giant phone and cable companies that control broadband access in the United States. In a moment of Orwellian arrogance, Pai said he did it to “restore internet freedom.”

The reality is quite the opposite: Pai is attempting to usher in an online regime that would resemble the internet in China. In that country, a powerful alliance between the central government and national telecom companies has created a digital dystopia, where websites and online services that fall out of favor load so slowly as to render them unusable. Others appear in a flash, thanks to cozy ties to the powers that be.

"Pai is attempting to usher in an online regime that would resemble the internet in China."
The 2015 rules prevented this kind of discrimination in the U.S. They created the legal foundation for real net neutrality safeguards, giving internet users the freedom to choose what they do, where they go and whom they connect with online.

The FCC’s approval of those rules was the result of a decadelong fight on behalf of the public — and against the forces of special interests that spent hundreds of millions of dollars on lawyers, public relations firms, lobbyists and campaign contributions in their quest to take over the internet.

The millions of people who won net neutrality three years ago aren’t going away now. Since Pai’s FCC voted to strip internet users of those protections, advocates of every political stripe have been organizing to overturn that decision and restore the safeguards we expect every time we go online.

Since late 2017, Free Press, my organization, has joined with other advocacy groups and online companies in calling on Congress to pass a resolution of disapproval that would reinstate the 2015 net neutrality rules. We’ve already won a stunning victory in the Senate, which in May voted 52–47 in favor of the resolution. The measure has since moved to the House, where it’s already garnered support from more than 175 Democrats.

Republicans should support the resolution too — that is, if they care at all about their constituents’ wishes. Poll after poll after poll after poll shows large majorities of Republican voters in opposition to the FCC’s repeal. Any Republican seeking re-election in the fall can’t run from this polling data or from the people back home who demand real net neutrality.

Momentum is on the side of internet freedom. Since 2017, more than 400,000 volunteers have joined the grassroots “Team Internet” campaign to organize in their communities. As part of this effort, more than 16.5 million pro-net neutrality emails have been sent to Congress. These were supported by 1.6 million phone calls urging lawmakers to support the resolution and reverse the FCC’s decision. There have also been 1,300 local events, including rallies outside the district offices of members of Congress.
Meanwhile, more than 30 states are weighing legislation to restore the net neutrality rules for their residents. Governors in Hawaii, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont have signed executive orders prohibiting their state governments from doing business with internet providers that violate net neutrality.

The mayors of 120 cities, representing more than 26 million people, have signed a similar pledge, threatening to pull billions of dollars in contracts from phone and cable companies that break the 2015 rules.

The FCC will also have to defend its new rules in court. Free Press and our allies are challenging the agency’s reversal on the proper definition of broadband, its flawed justifications for tossing out the rules and the many procedural fouls that plagued the FCC action last year. The lawsuit has been assigned to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, with oral arguments expected to occur by the end of the year. Pai and his colleagues will have to defend their decision before judges likely to be skeptical of the FCC’s rationale for destroying open-internet protections and putting nothing else in their place. We’re also confident that the judges will rule against Pai’s rollback and the way he conducted the proceedings.

You can be sure that Pai and his cronies in the phone and cable lobby will declare victory on Monday, but the expiration of the 2015 rules will be only a temporary hiccup. The fight is far from over in Congress, in the courts and across the country.

That’s because people everywhere understand what’s at stake. Without net neutrality, large phone and cable companies will control the future of communications, deciding who gets a voice and who doesn’t. No one thinks that letting Comcast manage our clicks is a good idea. Pai’s attempts to strangle the free internet exemplify a Washington where corporations dictate policy, and the people aren’t going to take that sitting down. Not today and not ever.

- Timothy Karr

My take: Have you noticed the number of news stories not being fully covered because of Trump's summit with N. Korea. You know some already but this joke of a summit has distracted from Trump's repeal of net neutrality and his attempt to repeal our protections against medical pre-existing conditions. Trump, a Republican president is not on the same page with the American people on the vast majority of issues and the Republican House of Representatives is even worse as it ignored a vote on net neutrality that could have stopped this insanity. They didn't vote because they, the Republicans agree with Trump's repeal of net neutrality but didn't want to show it. The U.S. Senate voted to stop this repeal but you are going to tell me something this big is going to be ignored when it could have been stopped. 
What we are going to stop is the Republican party holding the congressional House Of Representatives. And that is the least of it.