GONZO’S WORLD: “Eggshell” Attorney General Is A Parody Of The First Amendment!

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2017/09/jeff_sessions_wants_a_first_amendment_that_celebrates_robust_criticism_of.html

Dahlia Lithwick writes at Slate:

“Having seen the Sessions DOJ prosecute someone for laughing at Jeff Sessions, it’s hardly surprising that he wants a First Amendment that celebrates the robust criticism of everyone but himself. Watching Sessions’ DOJ going after private Facebook information for anti-Trump activists, it’s hardly surprising that these much-vaunted free speech protections flow in the direction of Trump officials and away from Trump dissenters. It is, nevertheless, somewhat more surprising to see that the burgeoning theory that conservatives deserve free speech protections, and liberals deserve none, is becoming yet another normalized part of this abnormal administration. After all, if you cannot even see anyone from the opposing side, you certainly have no reason to hear their voices. And what was most striking about Sessions’ rousing performance at Georgetown is that he didn’t seem to even notice or concede that an opposing side exists. This has very real practical effects for his DOJ and for our rule of law.

Read, for example, the work of my friend Garrett Epps on the stunning DOJ brief filed in the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission “religious baker” case to be heard at the Supreme Court this fall. The Justice Department evinces no solicitude at all for the injuries of anyone but the Christian baker at issue, the one who seeks not to be compelled to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. Sessions’ Department of Justice, for instance, argues that Colorado hadn’t yet acknowledged the rights of marriage equality at the time of the cake incident, so the fact that such equality is now a constitutional right should not even be considered. It’s a hard case, as Epps notes. But it’s vastly easier if you simply pretend away the interests of the other side. For this DOJ, there is nobody else on the radar. Nobody else exists.

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When talking about the First Amendment and the brutal and challenging clash of diverse opinions, a big part of that is the obligation to listen to ideas that might be uncomfortable or even painful to hear. But that relationship presupposes that we can see or acknowledge that there are speakers on the other side. More and more, it feels as though the Trump administration’s aperture has narrowed to the point where someone can espouse First Amendment values while viewing genuine opponents as wholly other, foreign, and not even worth giving the chance to respond. This is the framing for the NFL protests (Trump has free speech rights, the players do not) and the framing for Sessions’ speech about student speech.

There’s little doubt that Jeff Sessions meant it when he importuned the students before him to stand up for free speech and to spend their law school careers refining their own views in opposition to conflicting ideas. But it’s far from clear that he realized how absurd it was to say those things at an event that excluded faculty and students with different viewpoints. Admonishing law students to spend their time testing their pre-existing views against alternate ideas while engaging in almost daily acts of punishing and suppressing speech and expression of alternate ideas is insane. I’m not sure that the sparking, hotly contested debates between people who hate marriage equality and the people who really, really hate marriage equality is the sort of dispute Justices Jackson and Brandeis were thinking about.

And what is terrifying is the possibility that Sessions truly believes that people with different viewpoints don’t even exist anymore in any tangible application. These dissenters are all just enemies of the state. They are no more real to him than ghosts. More and more, Sessions is constructing a Justice Department in which the other side is just noise to him, not speech. And if you cannot even see protesters and political dissidents, it’s hardly a surprise that you cannot hear them either.”

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Read Lithwick’s complete article at the link.

I have to admit that it’s great to be retired, outside the repressively paranoid atmosphere of the DOJ (and that was before the reign of Gonzo began), and able to exercise my right to free speech again.

Sessions is enthusiastic about defending the right to promote hate speech, religious zealotry, and homophobia, all things in which he and his alt-right cronies fervently believe. But, when it comes to defending the rights of Blacks, Hispanics, immigrants, and the rest of us to protest, or in the case of Blacks and Hispanics to even exercise their voting rights, not so much.

Gonzo’s career has been built on disingenuously promoting bias, racial inequality, xenophobia, homophobia, intolerance, and white privilege in the name of a Constitution that it’s hard to believe he’s ever read much less understands or follows. Other than Trump, Bannon, or Miller, I can’t imagine anyone less qualified than Gonzo to pontificate about the First Amendment, or indeed any portion of the U.S. Constitution other than, perhaps, the Second Amendment which apparently is the only part of the Constitution they have ever heard about down in Ol’ Bammy.

PWS

09-29-17

NYT: Meet The White Nativist, Anti-Democracy Politician Kris Kobach — If You’re Non-White, He’s Out To Restrict Or Eliminate Your Right To Shape America’s Future — “implementing policies that protect the interests and aims of a shrinking white majority.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/13/magazine/the-man-behind-trumps-voter-fraud-obsession.html?action=click&contentCollection=Opinion&module=Trending&version=Full®ion=Marginalia&pgtype=article

Read Ari Berman’s shocking profile of a minor politician who wields outsized influence within the GOP and is out to put a “White’s Only” sign on the American Dream. For Kobach, the “Jim Crow Era” was the glory day of the “rule of law” in the U.S. When Kobach talks about the “rule of law” it’s code for using the legal system to cement the rule of a disproportionately white GOP minority over the rest of us, and particularly Americans of color. Will the “sleeping majority” wake up before we’re all disenfranchised by this racist in a suit hiding behind his Yale law degree and ability to spin legal gobbledygook? Kobach isn’t just “the ACLU’s worst nightmare,” as he smugly touts himself. He’s American Democracy’s worst nightmare!

Here’s a sample of what Kobach has in store for the rest of us:

“Kobach’s plans represent a radical reordering of American priorities. They would help preserve Republican majorities. But they could also reduce the size and influence of the country’s nonwhite population. For years, Republicans have used racially coded appeals to white voters as a means to win elections. Kobach has inverted the priorities, using elections, and advocating voting restrictions that make it easier for Republicans to win them, as the vehicle for implementing policies that protect the interests and aims of a shrinking white majority. This has made him one of the leading intellectual architects of a new nativist movement that is rapidly gaining influence not just in the United States but across the globe.”

Read Berman’s lengthy article, and think about what YOU can do to put the kibosh on the plans of this self-proclaimed “fanatic” and his dream of turning America into a “White GOP Folks Only Club.” Even Republicans who might remember enough to know that the GOP in the far, far distant past was the “Party of Lincoln” might want to rethink their party’s support of and association with this dangerous extremist. Act before it’s too late and Kobach steals YOUR American Dream and turns it into a nightmare!

PWS

06-13-17

 

 

 

 

POLITICS: TRUMP BUDGET: Help The Rich, Stone The Poor!

The NY Times reports:
“WASHINGTON — President Trump plans to unveil on Tuesday a $4.1 trillion budget for 2018 that would cut deeply into programs for the poor, from health care and food stamps to student loans and disability payments, laying out an austere vision for reordering the nation’s priorities.

The document, grandly titled “A New Foundation for American Greatness,” encapsulates much of the “America first” message that powered Mr. Trump’s campaign. It calls for an increase in military spending of 10 percent and spending more than $2.6 billion for border security — including $1.6 billion to begin work on a wall on the border with Mexico — as well as huge tax reductions and an improbable promise of 3 percent economic growth.

The wildly optimistic projections balance Mr. Trump’s budget, at least on paper, even though the proposal makes no changes to Social Security’s retirement program or Medicare, the two largest drivers of the nation’s debt.

To compensate, the package contains deep cuts in entitlement programs that would hit hardest many of the economically strained voters who propelled the president into office. Over the next decade, it calls for slashing more than $800 billion from Medicaid, the federal health program for the poor, while slicing $192 billion from nutritional assistance and $272 billion over all from welfare programs. And domestic programs outside of military and homeland security whose budgets are determined annually by Congress would also take a hit, their funding falling by $57 billion, or 10.6 percent.

The plan would cut by more than $72 billion the disability benefits upon which millions of Americans rely. It would eliminate loan programs that subsidize college education for the poor and those who take jobs in government or nonprofit organizations.

Mr. Trump’s advisers portrayed the steep reductions as necessary to balance the nation’s budget while sparing taxpayers from shouldering the burden of programs that do not work well.

“This is, I think, the first time in a long time that an administration has written a budget through the eyes of the people who are actually paying the taxes,” said Mick Mulvaney, Mr. Trump’s budget director.
Document: Read Trump’s 2018 Budget
“We’re not going to measure our success by how much money we spend, but by how many people we actually help,” Mr. Mulvaney said as he outlined the proposal at the White House on Monday before its formal presentation on Tuesday to Congress.

Among its innovations: Mr. Trump proposes saving $40 billion over a decade by barring undocumented immigrants from collecting the child and dependent care tax credit. He has also requested $19 billion over 10 years for a new program, spearheaded by his daughter and senior adviser Ivanka Trump, to provide six weeks of paid leave to new parents. The budget also includes a broad prohibition against money for entities that provide abortions, including Planned Parenthood, blocking them from receiving any federal health funding.”

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PWS

05-23-17

How The Trump Administration Deliberately Uses The Term “Criminal” To Dehumanize Migrants!

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/01/opinion/who-is-a-criminal.html?em_pos=small&emc=edit_ty_20170501&nl=opinion-today&nl_art=6&nlid=79213886&ref=headline&te=1&_r=0

From Jason Stanley’s op-ed in the NY Times:

“In the United States, Donald Trump rode to victory with a call to expel “criminal aliens.” In his announcement of his run for office, he spoke of Mexican immigrants as “rapists.” Since he has taken office, he has harshly targeted immigrants in the United States; at his rally on Saturday in Harrisburg, Pa., he compared immigrants — as he did last year — to poisonous snakes, to great applause. It is worth noting that this tactic of dehumanization — referring to humans as animals — has historically been used to foment hatred and violence against chosen groups. In the lead up to the Rwandan genocide, for instance, Tutsis were regularly described as snakes.

Photo

The author’s grandmother, right, at age 10.

While President Barack Obama set deportation priorities by making a distinction between undocumented immigrants with serious criminal convictions and everyone else, Trump’s executive orders vastly expand the criminal category — so much so that it essentially criminalizes anyone in the country who is without status and makes the roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States a top priority for deportation. Between January and March of this year, Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested 21,362 immigrants, a 32.6 percent increase from the same period last year. Of those arrested, 5,441 of them had no history of violating a law.

The administration’s hard line on the standard for criminalization has gone so far as to alarm several members of the Supreme Court, as demonstrated during an argument before the Court last week (Maslenjak v. United States), in which a Justice Department lawyer argued that, as The Times reported, “the government may revoke the citizenship of Americans who made even trivial misstatements in their naturalization proceedings,” including not disclosing a criminal offense of any kind, even if there was no arrest. To test the severity of that position, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., confessed to a crime — driving 60 miles an hour in a 55-mile-an-hour zone many years ago without being caught. He then asked if a person who had not disclosed such an incident in his citizenship application could have his citizenship revoked. The lawyer answered, yes. There was “indignation and incredulity” expressed by the members of the Court. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy told the lawyer, “Your argument is demeaning the priceless value of citizenship.” Roberts put it simply. If the administration has its way, he said, “the government will have the opportunity to denaturalize anyone they want.”

EXILE FROM ONE’S HOME is historically considered one of the worst punishments the state could employ; it was, after all, one of the traditional Greek and Roman punishments for murder, their alternative to the death penalty. In the opening pages of her book, my grandmother speaks to its harshness, as well as to the complex relationship between expulsion and death:

“With millions of others, I was singled out to live two lives. One day, which seemed to be like any ordinary day, I was told: ‘“Stop just where you are. This life of yours is finished. Fulfilled or not — it stops right now. You are not going to die — go and begin another.’ ”

She continues:

“My roots were stuck deeply in their native German soil. Perhaps a part broke and remained there, for how am I to explain that my heart at times seems to be drawn by a force thousands of miles away?” The pain of being torn from her roots, she wrote, stayed with her throughout her life “as the stump of an amputated leg causes a man to say, ‘My foot hurts’; and yet he knows there is no foot to hurt.”

The president and his administration regularly stoke fear of immigrants by connecting them to criminality. Again and again, we are presented with the specter of “criminal aliens” — and not just in remarks but also in official documents, like the announcement of a new office in the Department of Homeland Security devoted to helping “victims of crimes committed by criminal aliens.”

The word “criminal” has a literal meaning, of course, but it also has a resonant meaning — people who by their nature are insensitive to society’s norms, drawn to violate the law by self-interest or malice. We do not generally use the term to describe those who may have inadvertently broken a law or who may have been compelled to violate a law in a desperate circumstance. Someone who runs to catch a bus is not necessarily a runner; someone who commits a crime is not necessarily a criminal.

Politicians who describe people as “criminals” are imputing to them permanent character traits that are frightening to most people, while simultaneously positioning themselves as our protectors. Such language undermines the democratic process of reasonable decision-making, replacing it with fear. Discussion that uses terms like “criminal” to encompass both those who commit multiple homicides for pleasure and those who commit traffic violations distorts attitudes and debates.

Deliberately obscuring the crucial distinction between someone who violates a law and someone whose character leads them to repeatedly commit serious crimes is an effective strategy for masking gross injustice. Our current administration is vigorously employing that strategy, and history suggests that it is rarely constrained to just one group. If we look away when the state brands someone a criminal, who among us then remains safe?

Professor Jill Family: “Disrupting Immigration Sovereignty”

http://yalejreg.com/nc/disrupting-immigration-sovereignty-by-jill-e-family/

From Yale Law’s “Notice & Comment:”

“This plenary power narrative stifles our ability to think rationally about immigration law policy and to build consensus. The narrative should not be that of a zero-sum game. The choice is not between absolute, unchecked authority and no government power over immigration. There is middle ground. The plenary power doctrine has been weakened over the last 128 years, and many immigrants are subject to constitutional protection today. In terms of facts, immigration is not inherently a threat. Immigration has done wonderful things for our country and immigrants have contributed in a variety of important ways.

We need a new immigration narrative that more accurately reflects law and fact. This narrative acknowledges that there is space for both government interests and individual rights in immigration law. To make progress, we need to disrupt the mindset that does not allow immigration and security to comfortably occupy the same space. It is possible to be secure and to welcome immigrants while promoting individual rights. This new narrative promotes the idea that the sovereignty of the United States incorporates our exceptional dedication to individual rights. It recognizes that allowing for powers not supervised by the Constitution is its own threat to our sovereignty.

The new narrative recognizes that both individual rights and government interests are important in immigration law. The government has an important role to play in fashioning immigration law policy for the country. Security is an important consideration. But so is protecting individual rights. Preserving the United States includes uplifting its most fundamental values, including the principle that absolute government power is not desirable. Allowing for individual rights to be considered in immigration law does not weaken sovereignty; it strengthens our sovereignty by helping to define who we are. It also sends even unsuccessful immigrants home with an experience to relay that reflects American values.”

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The Administration neither satisfactorily justified nor specifically explained the need for the “Travel Ban Executive Order.” The Obama Administration thoroughly vetted refugees. I have no doubt that they also carefully vetted visa applicants from all countries in the Middle East, North Africa, or any country in the world where terrorist movements are known to flourish. That’s probably why there were no known deaths from terrorist attacks by refugees in the U.S. for the past eight years.

There is no actual emergency to explain the type of “extraordinary measures” the Administration wants to put in place. That’s why most Federal Courts have been skeptical of the Administration’s motives.

The controversial Executive Order is also unnecessary. To date, no court has questioned the President’s authority to reduce FY 2017 refugee admissions to 50,000 (although arguably changes in the number of refugee admissions, either increases or decreases, should have been accompanied by statutory advance  “consultation” with Congress, and it certainly would be possible to question the wisdom, necessity, and humanity of such a reduction). According to some sources, those reduced refugee admission numbers will soon be exhausted, perhaps as early as March.

Consequently, unless the President takes action to raise the number again, the refugee admission program will effectively be “suspended” until the beginning of the next fiscal year, Oct. 1, 2017, without any further action on the Administration’s part.

Additionally, the Administration has never explained exactly what type of additional “vetting” they would add to that already in place. There is certainly nothing stopping Secretary of State Tillerson from improving visa screening in any way that he deems necessary, provided that the “improvements” are not just a ruse for discrimination. Additional questioning of refugees both abroad and at the border hardly requires an Executive Order. As long as the inquiry legitimately aims at discovering possible grounds of inadmissibility, it’s well within the existing authority of the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Homeland Security.

The use of questionable terms like “extreme vetting” and singling out particular Muslim majority countries for a complete ban is unnecessarily inflammatory. It antagonizes the Muslim world (without making us any safer), while sending a highly inappropriate message about the Muslim religion to the American public, thereby encouraging hate, discrimination, and separation.

While the majority of Americans appear wise enough to emphatically reject the Administration’s false message, there is a significant minority who have adopted or been convinced by the Administration’s largely “fact free” attack on refugees and the Muslim religion.

We as a nation could well be in for some difficult times over the next four years. To persevere and prosper, the vast majority of Americans will need to pull together toward common goals. The Administration could help achieve that end by ditching the unnecessary and inappropriately divisive rhetoric about refugees, Muslims, and immigrants.

PWS

02/19/17

 

 

 

E. Donald Elliott In The WSJ: Dems Would Be Wise To Take A Pass On Filibuster Of Judge Gorsuch!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/refugees-are-part-of-americas-fabric-and-its-promise/2017/02/06/c10179ba-ea59-11e6-80c2-30e57e57e05d_story.html

Elliott, an Adjunct Professor of Law at Yale Law writes:

“Moderates could do a lot worse than Judge Neil Gorsuch—and we probably will if he isn’t confirmed. Donald Trump is clearly determined to nominate a judicial conservative to the Supreme Court. Elections have consequences, as Barack Obama once chided congressional Republicans.

Judge Gorsuch’s judicial philosophy isn’t mine. He believes that the Constitution’s meaning is fixed, that whatever the words signified in the era of the Founders is what they still express today. My view, which aligns more closely with that of Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan, is that judges must respect the Constitution’s text and history but may also interpret them to fit the changing times.

But among judicial conservatives, Judge Gorsuch is as good as it possibly gets. I have known him personally for more than a decade, since he was an attorney in the Justice Department. He is a brilliant mind, but more important he is a kind, sensitive and caring human being. Judge Gorsuch tries very hard to get the law right. He is not an ideologue, not the kind to always rule in favor of businesses or against the government. Instead, he follows the law as best as he can wherever it might lead.

Judge Gorsuch has demonstrated in his rulings that he believes the judiciary has a sworn duty to protect individual liberties, even when they lack broad public support. Today Judge Gorsuch rules that Hobby Lobby cannot be forced to offer employees certain contraceptive coverage that violates its owners’ religious beliefs. (That ruling was upheld by the Supreme Court.) But tomorrow it could mean standing up for an unpopular minority group that liberals like better.”

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PWS

02/07/17