Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Last Call For A Monumental Mistake

Southern Republicans defending the Confederacy are back in the news this week, because America has to keep up the fiction that the Civil War wasn't about enslaving others or people might start asking questions like "Are black people human beings with rights and stuff"?  First, Alabama GOP Gov. Kay Ivey reminds the world that Alabama is still quite happy to redo Pickett's Charge anytime you'd like, thank you.

Alabama doesn't need "folks in Washington" or "out-of-state liberals" instructing the state on what it should do with Confederate monuments, Gov. Kay Ivey said Tuesday. 
Ivey, during a campaign appearance in Foley, defended a new campaign ad released earlier in the day that touted the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act of 2017, which she signed into law less than 11 months ago. 
"I believe the people agreed with that decision and support in protecting our historical monuments," Ivey said after speaking at a Baldwin County Young Republicans function. Her appearance also occurred one day before the Reckon by GOP governor's debate at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Lyric Fine Arts Theatre in Birmingham. Ivey said she does not plan to attend. 
"We can't and shouldn't even try to charge or erase or tear down our history. We must learn from our history," Ivey said.

The law requires local governments to obtain state permission before altering or renaming historically significant buildings and monuments that date back to 40 years or longer. The law also creates a 11-member commission which is charged with determining whether historic buildings or monuments can be moved or renamed. 
Ivey, in her campaign ad, criticized Alabama outsiders for pushing an agenda on the state.

The lesson we have to learn, according to Gov. Ivey, is that black folk in Alabama have to be constantly reminded that racist traitors to the country who fought the Union in order to preserve slavery get their own monuments that will last forever.

Next door in Tennessee, Memphis found out the hard way that those who question the status quo by removing these monuments will be punished by Confederate Republican Party.

The Republican-dominated House in Tennessee voted Tuesday to punish the city of Memphis for removing Confederate monuments by taking $250,000 away from the city that would have been used for a bicentennial celebration next year. 
The retaliation came in the form of passage of a last-minute amendment attached to the House appropriations bill that triggered heated debate on the House floor and stinging rebukes from lawmakers from Memphis. 
Rep. Antonio Parkinson began to call the amendment vile and racist before being cut off by boos from fellow lawmakers. 
“You can boo all you want but let’s call it for what it is,” the Memphis representative said. 
Last year the city of Memphis, which is majority black, was able to find a legal loophole to get rid of two Confederate statues and a bust by selling city parks to a nonprofit, which swiftly removed the monuments. Taken away under cover of darkness were statues of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Nathan Bedford Forrest. Forrest was a general in the confederacy, a slave owner and a leader in the Ku Klux Klan. A bust of a Confederate soldier was also removed. 
Parkinson, who is African-American, said he was sick of how fellow lawmakers revered Forrest “as if he was God, as if he was an idol.” 
“You remove money from a city because we removed your God from our grounds,” Parkinson said.

Well, Tennessee Republicans didn't take kindly to that truth at all.

The amendment that stripped the money away from Memphis was sponsored by Matthew Hill, a Republican from Jonesborough. 
Another Republican lawmaker said removing the monuments was erasing history, he said “that’s what ISIS does” and it was a bad action that deserved punishment. 
Today is a demonstration that bad actions have bad consequences, and my only regret about this is it’s not in the tune of millions of dollars,” Rep. Andy Holt, of Dresden, said of the punishment.

If the law allowed them to shoot us, we'd be dead.  Hell, the law basically does allow them to shoot us, and we die because of it.

Gorsuch A Mess

Yesterday the US Supreme Court handed down a 5-4 decision in Dimaya v. Sessions, a case involving Trump's deportation orders of immigrants that commit certain crimes.  The headline is that the court's newest Justice, Neil Gorsuch, sided with Justice Kagan and the court's liberals as the deciding vote.

In a 5-to-4 decision Tuesday, the court overturned the deportation of a 25-year legal U.S. resident from the Philippines who was convicted of two burglaries.

James Dimaya came to the U.S. at age 13 as a legal permanent resident. More than two decades later — after he was convicted of two home burglaries in California and sentenced to a total of four years in prison — the government sought his deportation under a "violent crime" immigration law, though neither of Dimaya's crimes involved violence. The statute defines a violent crime as one involving force or the "substantial risk" of force.

The Supreme Court, however, said that language is so vague that it invites arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement.

Writing for the court majority, Justice Elena Kagan said the ruling is compelled by the court's decision in a similar case, Johnson v. United States — a decision written by the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia in 2015, a year before his death.

Pointing to that decision and others like it, Kagan quoted Scalia from a dissent on the subject of following these precedents: "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results."

"We abandoned that lunatic practice" the last time the court ruled on this issue, Kagan said, adding that there is "no reason to start it again."

Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch, Scalia's successor, cast the fifth and decisive vote, along with four liberal justices. In a lengthy concurring opinion, he said the "Constitution looks unkindly on any law so vague that reasonable people cannot understand its terms and judges do not know where to begin in applying it."

But as Think Progress's Ian Millhiser points out, Gorsuch isn't "pulling a Scalia" here and siding with the liberals out of a libertarian impulse, he's actually pulling a Clarence Thomas with intent to cripple government regulatory power.

Dimaya is not the first time Gorsuch has used an immigration case to make a broader statement against government regulation. As a federal appellate judge, Gorsuch wrote two opinions in Gutierrez-Brizuela v. Lynch, a case involving an immigrant who was unfairly jerked around by conflicting decisions by various government decision makers. In his first opinion, written on behalf of a three-judge panel, Gorsuch wrote a relatively narrow decision siding with the immigrant.

Then, in separate opinion joined by no other judge, Gorsuch launched into a rant against the Supreme Court’s decision in Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council

Chevron is one of the most important Supreme Court decisions of the last half-century. It provides that, when a federal agency pushes out a new regulation, and the statute which allegedly permits such a regulation is ambiguous, courts will typically defer to the agency’s reading of the statute unless that reading is outlandish.

Though Chevron was uncontroversial for several decades, it became one of the conservative Federalist Society’s most hated decisions during the Obama years — no doubt because Chevron required a judiciary controlled by Republicans to defer to environmental and labor regulators in a Democratic administration. Gorsuch’s critique of Chevron largely mirrors that of the Federalist Society — that Chevron places too much power in the executive branch and not enough in the legislature and judiciary.

The practical effect of a Supreme Court decision overruling Chevron would be to transfer power from whoever controls the presidency to a Republican-controlled judiciary.

Some of Gorsuch’s other writings, moreover, suggest that he may take an extraordinarily narrow view of Congress’ power to delegate regulatory authority to federal agencies. Gorsuch may even agree with Justice Thomas’ view that “generally applicable rules of private conduct” can only be created by an act of Congress.

Among other things, if Thomas’ view were ever to become law, much of America’s environmental law, which requires the EPA to continually update environmental standards as technology improves, would simply cease to exist.

In other words, Gorsuch is all but signaling to the world that he's to the right of Scalia, something I think that's going to be made abundantly clear as we head closer to decisions in the biggest SCOTUS cases this term in June.

The Bonfire Of The Manatee, Con't

I know I've gotten excited about the prospect of America's orange nightmare being over sooner rather than later, but frankly it's time for some sober reality on Trump:  he's probably not going anywhere, and he's likely to end up being re-elected if my lifetime is any indication. 

Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have all but given the go-ahead for Trump to fire Mueller as Ryan insists that Trump won't do it, and McConnell is now vowing to never allow legislation to protect Mueller to even get a vote, as Trump would just veto it.

There will be no Senate vote on protecting special counsel Robert Mueller, no vote on clawing back billions from a new spending law and probably no vote on a war authorization, the Senate majority leader said on Tuesday.

Even as the Senate Judiciary Committee is set to advance a bill that would shield the special counsel from removal by President Donald Trump's administration, McConnell says it won't ever see the Senate floor.

The Senate majority leader said on Tuesday that the bill is "not necessary" and that Trump would never sign it. And though McConnell doesn't want Trump to fire Mueller, he is making sure that the only viable legislation to offer a backstop for Mueller won't see the Senate floor.

"I'm the one who decides what we take to the floor. That's my responsibility as the majority leader and we'll not be having this on the floor of the Senate," McConnell told Fox News's Neil Cavuto on Tuesday afternoon.

Even in the increasingly unlikely possibility that the Mueller probe is allowed to finish and the results made public, as I've said multiple times, in the end the only way Donald Trump leaves office is his resignation, impeachment and removal, or the voters kick him out in 2020.  Slate's Jim Newell reminds us that the first two options are extremely unlikely, and that as voters we've already failed miserably once already at the third.

No one knows whether Trump firing Mueller or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, or revelations from the Russia probe or the investigation of Michael Cohen, will hasten a previously unscheduled closure to Trump’s presidency. Davidson doesn’t argue that by “end stages” he means impeachment, or resignation in the face of certain impeachment, because that would require him to commit to something he’s not sure of. 
But if we’re now in the “end stages,” at Month 16 of Trump’s 48-month term, then impeachment and conviction, or some manner of forced resignation, would seem to be the only source of this impending demise. For any of those things to happen, the continuation of Trump’s presidency would have to become an irreparable political liability for rank-and-file Republicans—meaning, his approval ratings among Republicans would have to fall underwater. In the most recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, Trump’s approval rating among Republicans is 81 percent. Would a full telling of all of the Trump Organization’s misdeeds and associations over the years, or images of Don Jr. and/or Jared Kushner in handcuffs, be enough to flip the narrative among Republican voters? 
The more generous interpretation of “end stages,” or the “beginning of the end,” is a situation in which the remainder of Trump’s four years is so loaded with baggage, legal and otherwise, that nothing gets done and voters choose not to re-elect him. Maybe? 
Davidson rejects the assessment that “any new information about [Trump’s] corrupt past has no political salience” or that “[t]hose who hate Trump already think he’s a crook; those who love him don’t care.” It is a reasonable point: Just because something hasn’t done the trick doesn’t mean that it will never happen. But there’s no reason to predict that it will happen that way
It seems almost equally likely that more dirt about Trump’s business comes out, more confidants go to jail, the economy stays fine, Trump continues yelling at NFL players for kneeling prior to football games, and he wins a second term. Expansive proof of decades of criminality could be the thing that flips Trump supporters. Or Trump supporters would continue to support him, because they like him, which is why they’re Trump supporters, and they know how much a second Trump term would trigger the libs.

Frankly, a scenario where people vote Trump just to piss off the "social justice warriors" is eminently feasible, because we know it's already happened.  In the end, the only surefire way to get rid of the guy is to vote in 2018 and 2020 and set up a Democratic party bloc that has the power to right the ship of state.

As I said last week:

I don't know where all this will end up. As with Iraq and the Great Recession, the coda will take years, if not decades, to perform on the world stage. I don't know what will come after, whether it's a Pence presidency, a neutered Trump under a Democratic Congress, or an America plunged into something much worse, but the Trump era as it is now is on its way out.

I still believe it.  But that third act and the prologue to this story could take a very long time for us to get through, and probably will.  I believe the Trump era s it is now is on its way out, but there's a solid chance that what follows it will be a much worse version of the Trump era.

I do know this:  If we blow 2018 and 2020 again at the polling booth, then this country is done, and millions of us will be done along with it.


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