Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Don't say I didn't warn you

Donald Trump is promising to sign an executive order to end birthright citizenship:

President Trump is vowing to sign an executive order that would seek to end the right to U.S. citizenship for children born in the United States to noncitizens, a move most legal experts say runs afoul of the Constitution.
I predicted this back in July:

Ominous development #3: The Washington Post published an op-ed by a former Trump administration official arguing that birthright citizenship is a "historical and Constitutional absurdity" and should be abolished. To defend this position he has to argue, of course, that the Fourteenth Amendment doesn't actually mean what it plainly says, what the people who wrote it said it says, and what everyone has agreed for 150 years that it says. But we've known for a long time that those who travel in Trump's circle have no qualms about rewriting history.
I think there's a quietly hatched plot somewhere deep inside the vast right wing conspiracy to eviscerate the fourteenth amendment and expand the government's power to strip people of their citizenship beyond all historical precedent. It is, of course, all based on lies, but that is just a standard part of the right's play book. They have used this strategy very effectively to move the needle on gun rights and abortion, so there's no reason to believe it won't succeed on citizenship.
Emphasis added this time around.  I don't see any evidence that anyone on the left quite appreciates how serious this is.

Friday, October 26, 2018

FBI literally covers up links between bomber and right-wing politics

The suspected mail bomber, Cesar Sayoc, drive a van festooned with right-wing propaganda.  Today the FBI literally covered it up.  With a tarp!    Fortunately, the internet never forgets.

A vote for a Republican is a vote for permanent institutionalized corruption

There was a time not so long ago when American politicians still put country above party and chose to work together to remove a corrupt president from office.  Those days are behind us.  Today, Republicans can't even summon the backbone to insist on a real investigation of credible charges of sexual assault before rubber-stamping the nomination of a president who has celebrated sexual assault to the Supreme Court.

The list of Donald Trump's egregious behaviors is so long, so blatant, and so well known that I feel as if I'm trying your patience by re-iterating it.  He associates with criminals—not metaphorical criminals but actual criminals.  Convicted felons.  He is openly and brazenly corrupt.  He shamelessly breaks the law, not in service of some greater good, but simply to be cruel, to assert his power, to separate innocent children from their parents.

If there was any doubt in your mind that there might be a line that Donald Trump could cross that would bring the Republicans' civil and patriotic instincts back from the grave, those should be laid to rest this week by Newt Gingrich, who said—almost in so many words—that putting a potential sex offender on the Supreme Court was worth it because Brett Kavanaugh would, if push comes to shove, shield Donald Trump from legal scrutiny.

Think about it: we know that some of the president's closest associates committed felonies.  What we don't know (yet) is how many more of the president's current associates (or members of his family) have committed felonies.  The reason we don't know is because the president has been doing everything he possibly can to block investigations into his business activities (to say nothing of his collusion with the Russians to win the election, which is a whole 'nuther can o' worms!)

It's pretty clear that if the Democrats don't take the House in the mid-terms (it's pretty much a foregone conclusion that they won't take the Senate) that we will never know.  On November 7, if the Republicans still control both houses of Congress, Donald Trump will shut down the Mueller investigation, and that will be that.  There will be wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth and possibly marches in the streets, but it will all be to no effect.  If Republicans are not willing to stand up to Trump now, they certainly won't be willing to do it after winning on November 6.

Even if the Dems take the House that will be no guarantee that Truth will prevail.  Newt Gingrich may well be correct that the fix is in.  Kavanaugh may well cast the deciding vote quashing the Democrats' (or, more accurately, the People's representatives) subpoena of Trump's tax returns.  But at least then the corruption will be laid bare for all to see, as it was in 2000 when the Supreme Court installed George W. Bush in the White House on party lines.  If the Democrats take the House, then American Democracy may stand a fighting chance.  If they don't, Donald Trump will have two years before the next election to cement his power with no effective oversight from either of the other two branches of government.  Two years to spread lies, to foment violence, to gerrymander, to purge voters, to rescind citizenships (even from people who were born in the U.S.), perhaps even to start imprisoning political opponents as he has often and prominently promised to do.

I don't see how we recover from that.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Where is the body?

The Washington Post reports:
The Saudi government acknowledged early Saturday that journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed while visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, saying he died during a fist fight. ... The announcement marks the first time that Saudi officials have acknowledged that Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate. Ever since he disappeared on Oct. 2 while visiting the mission, Saudi officials have repeatedly said that he left the consulate alive and that they had no information about his whereabouts or fate. He had gone to the consulate to obtain a document he needed for an upcoming wedding.
So by the Saudi's own admission now, they initially promulgated a completely indefensible lie about Khashoggi's fate.  He was dead, and they knew he was dead, and yet for days they insisted he left the consulate alive.

So there are two obvious questions someone needs to ask the Saudis: why should we believe you now?  And where is the body?

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Yet another ominous development

federal judge has dismissed Stormy Daniels' defamation lawsuit against Donald Trump and ordered her to pay his legal fees:
The Court agrees with Mr. Trump's argument because the tweet in question constitutes 'rhetorical hyperbole' normally associated with politics and public discourse in the United States. The First Amendment protects this type of rhetorical statement.  [Emphasis added.]
This ruling has not gotten a lot of attention from the press except to report it as another current event.  It is very tempting to shrug this off as a trivial matter, but I think that would be a very serious mistake. This ruling is wrong, and it has major implications for the rule of law.

The problem with this ruling is that not everything that a politician says is automatically "associated with politics and public discourse."  Stormy Daniels is not a politician, and her lawsuit against Trump has nothing to do with politics (except insofar as it stems from an attempt — almost certainly an illegal one — by Trump to silence her in advance of the 2016 election).  By ruling in Trump's favor the court has essentially said that anything a politician says is (or at least is presumed to be) "associated with politics and public discourse" and thus protected by the first amendment even if the target of the speech is a private citizen.

The implications of this are ominous.  It gives carte-blanche to politicians to defame private citizens at will.  Think about the effect this will have on people's willingness to go public with information about a politician's misconduct, even criminal misconduct.  Anyone who comes forward now will open themselves up to arbitrary slander for which they will have no recourse.  It dangerously tips the balance of power between politicians and private citizens in favor of the former.  That is a major step on the path to tyranny.

It is also worth noting that the judge who rendered this ruling, James Otero, was appointed by George W. Bush.  (What a surprise.)

I am dismayed that this isn't getting more attention.  But I guess that's the world we live in now.