Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Last Call For Trump's Race To The Bottom

With an impending second Supreme Court pick, the Trump regime is making it very clear what direction they expect the Roberts Court to take over the next year or two: the end of abortion, the end of LGBTQ equality and same-sex marriage, the end of voting rights and civil rights, and the end of affirmative action.

The Trump administration will encourage the nation’s school superintendents and college presidents to adopt race-blind admissions standards, abandoning an Obama administration policy that called on universities to consider race as a factor in diversifying their campuses, officials said
The reversal would restore the policy set during President George W. Bush’s administration, when officials told schools that it “strongly encourages the use of race-neutral methods” for admitting students to college or assigning them to elementary and secondary schools. 
Last November, Attorney General Jeff Sessions asked the Justice Department to re-evaluate past policies that he believed pushed the department to act beyond what the law, the Constitution and the Supreme Court had required, Devin M. O’Malley, a Justice Department spokesman, said. As part of that process, the Justice Department rescinded seven policy guidances from the Education Department’s civil rights division on Tuesday. 
“The executive branch cannot circumvent Congress or the courts by creating guidance that goes beyond the law and — in some instances — stays on the books for decades,” Mr. O’Malley said. 
The Supreme Court has steadily narrowed the ways that schools can consider race when trying to diversify their student bodies. But it has not banned the practice. 
Now, affirmative action is at a crossroads. The Trump administration is moving against any use of race as a measurement of diversity in education. And the retirement of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy at the end of this month will leave the court without its swing vote on affirmative action and allow President Trump to nominate a justice opposed to a policy that for decades has tried to integrate elite educational institutions
A highly anticipated case is pitting Harvard against Asian-American students who say one of the nation’s most prestigious institutions has systematically excluded some Asian-American applicants to maintain slots for students of other races. That case is clearly aimed at the Supreme Court. 
“The whole issue of using race in education is being looked at with a new eye in light of the fact that it’s not just white students being discriminated against, but Asians and others as well,” said Roger Clegg, president and general counsel of the conservative Center for Equal Opportunity. “As the demographics of the country change, it becomes more and more problematic.” 
The Obama administration believed that students benefit from being surrounded by diverse classmates, so in 2011, the administration offered schools a potential road map to establishing affirmative action policies that could withstand legal scrutiny. The guidance was controversial at the time that it was issued, for its far-reaching interpretation of the law. Justice officials said that pages of hypothetical scenarios offered in the guidance were particularly problematic, as they clearly bent the law to specific policy preferences.

That policy is now dust, and by the time 2021 rolls around, affirmative action in college admissions will be gone as well, along with a number of other things.  It's going to be a dark time in American history, a time where in the last throes of white dominance of American culture that everything can and will be done to delay, if not reverse the inevitable demographic shift ahead.

And I say inevitable but that's not actually true if Trump starts deporting millions of undocumented immigrants and even legal immigrants, and then robbing the political, social, economic, and voting power of those of us who remain.  There's plenty that Trump can do to shift America back into white supremacy mode as the default.

The Harvard admissions case is particularly important, because "proving" that affirmative action "harms" one minority group (Asian-Americans) to help African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans has long been the holy grail of the "Let's not see race" brigade.  If that gets to Roberts, Alito, Thomas, Gorsuch, and a fifth Trump pick, the ballgame is done.

A lot of stuff is going to fall apart on those lines actually, and the goal is to make sure that the coming rightward shift is so vast and generational that it will never be undone in our lifetimes.

We'll see what happens, but it's just a reminder that given the choice, there were tens of millions who sides with giving Donald Trump Supreme Court picks...and tens of millions more who didn't think it was important enough to bother voting over.

By the way, destroying America's public education system and turning it into something only the 1% will be able to afford in the future is absolutely the goal of the GOP right now, and they're hard at work dismantling education as a right.

A Michigan judge ruled last week that children do not have a fundamental right to learn how to read and write. 
The ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by Public Counsel, the nation’s largest public interest law firm, on behalf of Detroit students that sought to hold state authorities, including Gov. Rick Snyder (R), accountable for what plaintiffs alleged were systemic failures depriving children of their right to literacy, according to the Detroit Free Press
"I'm shocked," said Ivy Bailey, president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, the newspaper reported. "The message that it sends is that education is not important. And it sends the message that we don't care if you're literate or not." 
The suit also sought fixes to crumbling schools that, among other measures, Detroit Public Schools Community District officials reportedly said would amount to more than $500 million.

After all, the future is going to need a lot of prisoners for private lockups.

Sinema Of The Mind

I had high hopes for Arizona's Kyrsten Sinema, who six years ago ran on to the scene as the first openly bisexual member of the House (along with the House's first practicing Buddhist, Hawaii's Tulsi Gabbard!) and it seemed like an exciting time for women Democrats in the Obama era.

And then her votes started coming in, and she's basically the most conservative woman Democrat in either chamber these days, with a FiveThirtyEight Trump Score of  58.5%. Among her fellow Democrats, only Joe Manchin in the Senate and Henry Cuellar and Collin Peterson in the House vote more often with Trump.

Little surprise then that she's now squarely poised to become Jeff Flake's replacement in the Senate where her first vote in the upper chamber will almost certainly be against Chuck Schumer as leader.

All over the country, Republicans are attacking vulnerable Democratic senators as pawns of Chuck Schumer, the most polarizing Democratic leader second only to Nancy Pelosi.
Kyrsten Sinema, one of the party’s most-prized recruits and a keystone of Democrats’ long-shot hopes of capturing the Senate this fall, has a ready rejoinder.

“I am not going to vote for him,” she said matter of factly when pressed on her view of the Democratic leader. 
Sinema’s stance, revealed for the first time in a recent interview with POLITICO, is more radical than any member of the Democratic caucus, even vulnerable senators facing reelection deep in Trump country. But Sinema is staking her surprisingly strong campaign for Arizona’s open Senate seat on her close relationships with Republicans, praise for moderate Democrats and a distaste for the Democratic leader. 
Her opposition to Schumer is just one example of how the three-term House member is carving out a center-left Senate campaign in the Republican state, hoping it’s enough to inoculate herself from the national party’s baggage and land Democrats their first Arizona Senate seat in 30 years. 
She is notably more deferential to Trump than most Democrats are. “He has challenges,” she responded when asked whether Trump is a good president. “Transitioning from a CEO position to a presidency is probably a difficult challenge.” 
Facing a daunting map that heavily favors Republicans, Arizona is a must-win for Democrats’ hopes of capturing the Senate. For Sinema, the race is the culmination of years of careful calculations and transformations that began even before she was elected to the House in 2012. 
Sinema worked for progressive activist Ralph Nader’s 2000 presidential campaign and once unsuccessfully ran for the Arizona state House under the Green Party banner. But she has walked a far more moderate path in Congress — sometimes to criticism from her liberal colleagues — joining the conservative Blue Dog Democrats and voting with President Donald Trump nearly 60 percent of the time
Now the self-described workout addict and part-time university professor spends weekends and congressional recesses crisscrossing Arizona, running full throttle in a race blown open by GOP Sen. Jeff Flake’s impending retirement. Recent polls have shown Sinema with a sizable lead, and privately top Republicans are alarmed that the race might be getting out of reach. 
While Sinema, 41, builds up her name recognition and a $6 million-plus war chest,Republicans are engaging in a slugfest of a primary that will go on deep into August. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) wants Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) to emerge from a three-way primary against former state Sen. Kelli Ward and ex-Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, but Democrats say McSally is being pushed too far to the right to beat Sinema. 
With no real opponent — Schumer privately backed her for the seat even before she’d announced, helping clear the field — Sinema can press her advantage. She leads McSally by an average of 8 points, according to Real Clear Politics.

That's Chuck Schumer for you, he clears the decks for Sinema to run unopposed in the primary and she turns around and knifes him in the front.  I've said this before, but dear god I miss Harry Reid.

Still, if Sinema wins, she's going to be another problematic Blue Dog for sure. That's certainly an improvement over Martha McSally, who makes Marsha Blackburn over in Tennessee look sane by comparison, but in a Blue wave scenario, both Sinema and Democrat Phil Bredesen will join the ranks of the Blue Dogs on the D side in red states.  It may be the two pickups the Dems need to control the Senate.

Like it or not, Sinema just might be a key player in 2019.

It's Mueller Time, Con't

Apparently former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen is getting tired of being ignored by his one-time boss who kicked him to the curb after his office was raided and is now making it very clear that he plans to talk to Robert Mueller and congressional investigators to save his own ass. WaPo's AAron Blake:

Michael Cohen once said he would “take a bullet” for President Trump. He reportedly said he would rather “jump out of a building than turn on Donald Trump.”

He now sounds ready to leap.

In an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos running Monday morning, Trump's former lawyer and fixer sent his clearest signal to date that he is prepared to flip on Trump. And while there have certainly been other signs recently, this one came from the horse's mouth.

Once I understand what charges might be filed against me, if any at all, I will defer to my new counsel, Guy Petrillo, for guidance,” Cohen said.

Pressed on his past commentary about being willing to do anything for Trump, Cohen again hinted at flipping: “To be crystal clear, my wife, my daughter and my son, and this country have my first loyalty

Cohen agreed to this interview knowing that this would be a prominent question. And it can't have been a coincidence that a trio of stories emerged a couple weeks back, all pointing toward possibly flipping on Trump. There was a Wall Street Journal story indicating that he was unhappy with Trump for not helping with his legal bills. CNN quoted an anonymous source close to him saying, “If they want information on Trump, he's willing to give it.” Then Cohen resigned as deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee by citing not just the investigation he faces, but his disagreement with the Trump administration's policy of separating families at the border. That latter justification seemed conspicuous, given Cohen has pledged complete loyalty to Trump and rarely spoken publicly about policy.

And Cohen's interview came with another big signal: the reported end of a joint agreement between Cohen and Trump's legal team to share information. Such things often presage a more antagonistic relationship or even cutting a deal to inform on someone else. Michael Flynn's lawyers stopped sharing info with Trump's lawyers, for example, shortly before he flipped.

Cohen clearly wants Trump to come to his rescue, and everyone knows he has the goods on Donald.  The bigger story is that if Cohen didn't have anything worth giving to Mueller and investigators that was worthwhile at this late date, he would have been charged and would be awaiting his inevitable demise like Paul Manafort is now.  Instead, as Blake has indicated, Cohen appears headed down the Michael Flynn path, where he pleads to a small charge like "lying to the FBI" in exchange for information.  Flynn took the deal, as did Manafort's partner, Michael Gates.  Cohen is clearly next.

On the other hand, the feds already have truckloads of evidence recovered from that raid earlier this year, including shredded documents that the FBI has pieced together, and some of those have been leaked to BuzzFeed News:

When the Department of Justice announced this month that investigators had pieced together records found in a shredder belonging to the president’s former lawyer Michael Cohen, critics, legal experts, and journalists feverishly speculated about what they might contain.

Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for adult film star Stormy Daniels and Cohen's devoted nemesis, tweeted that the shredded documents could be a “huge problem.” MSNBC host Ari Melber devoted a large part of his program in May to the shredded documents and suggested that “something is going down.” Asha Rangappa, a former FBI agent and CNN analyst, tweeted: “This is not going to end well for the defense.”

Now, BuzzFeed News has obtained documents reconstructed by the FBI. A close examination shows that the records are a combination of documents that prosecutors already had, handwritten notes about a taxi business, insurance papers, and correspondence from a woman described in court filings as a “vexatious litigant” who claims she is under government surveillance

Rebuilt from thin strips of paper, the shredded records are sometimes difficult to comprehend. One page doesn’t include full words and is a jumble of numbers, letters, and bar codes. One document appears to be part of an envelope. There are fragments of handwritten notes. There is an invitation to a reception in Miami to meet with business representatives from Qatar. Several of the records seem to be insurance forms for an apartment.

The clearest page documents a payment that has already been reported: a $62,500 wire transfer from March into a First Republic Bank account controlled by Cohen. This would fit with a series of payments reportedly from the Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy. He reportedly paid Cohen to negotiate a nondisclosure agreement with a former Playboy model with whom Broidy was romantically involved. A federal law enforcement source told BuzzFeed News that prosecutors already possessed some of the records dealing with Cohen’s financial transactions.

So where we go from here may not be up to Cohen at all, but Mueller and his team of prosecutors.  It's entirely possible that Mueller doesn't need Cohen himself at all.

We'll see.


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