Saturday, February 9, 2019

Last Call For A Supreme Disregard Of Precedent

Late Thursday night, Chief Justice John Roberts joined the four liberal justices on the Supreme Court to block a lower court order that would have effectively closed Louisiana's remaining abortion clinics in what was clearly another "I don't want the Roberts Court to be remembered for that" decision (see saving Obamacare a few years ago).

That wasn't the problem, of course.  The problem was Justice Kavanaugh's first major case opinion as a Surpeme Court Justice, a shocking dissent that makes it very clear he was put on the court to end Roe v Wade and reduce America's women to birthing units.

The Supreme Court gave reproductive justice advocates an unexpected win on Thursday night when it voted 5 to 4 to stay a court of appeals’ decision that could have closed abortion clinics in Louisiana. The chief justice joined the four more liberal justices in voting to prevent the Louisiana law from going into effect. That small achievement underscores how much progressives stand to lose with the new court and how low our standards for victory have become.

At issue in June Medical Services v. Gee is a Louisiana law that requires abortion providers to obtain admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of where the providers perform abortions. Just two and a half years ago, the Supreme Court held that very same requirement unconstitutional when Texas enacted it.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit maintained that the burdens imposed by Louisiana’s admitting privileges requirement are less severe than the burdens imposed by the same requirement in Texas. The Texas law would have shuttered some 20 clinics, whereas Louisiana’s law would shutter only one or two of the state’s three clinics. Similarly, the 5th Circuit acknowledged that it did not have any evidence that the Louisiana admitting-privileges requirement would help the health or safety of any women, even though it created a burden on providers and their patients. That is the standard the Supreme Court set in the Texas case for when a law is unconstitutional, but the court of appeals said that it could imagine how it might be plausible to think the requirement might benefit some women.

It is easy to see how this kind of analysis will make safe, accessible abortions a thing of the past in many parts of the United States. If a law does not amount to an unconstitutional burden unless it does something as dramatic as close 20 clinics in a geographic area as large as Texas, almost every law would be constitutional. And if a law does not amount to an unconstitutional burden if courts can invent a justification for it, then laws would be upheld even when there is no evidence that they would help any woman, ever.

That is how Roe v. Wade will die. Not with a bang, but with a million little distinctions that judges will draw to limit the impact of any cases that invalidate restrictions on abortion. By voting to allow the Louisiana law to go into effect, four justices gave the okay to states and lower courts to limit Roe by whatever means necessary.

How long Chief Justice Roberts will stand as the only bulwark between women's reproductive rights and a future where half the states in the country have banned safe abortion procedures, I can't tell you.

And that's the problem.

Meat The Press, Con't

The Trump regime's cover-up of the murder of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi is now in violation of US law as the regime is refusing to comply with the Magnitsky Act.

President Trump refused to provide Congress a report on Friday determining who killed the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, defying a demand by lawmakers intent on establishing whether the crown prince of Saudi Arabia was behind the grisly assassination.

Mr. Trump effectively bypassed a deadline set by law as his administration argued that Congress could not impose its will on the president. Critics charged that he was seeking to cover up Saudi complicity in the death of Mr. Khashoggi, an American resident and a columnist for The Washington Post.

“Consistent with the previous administration’s position and the constitutional separation of powers, the president maintains his discretion to decline to act on congressional committee requests when appropriate,” the Trump administration said in a statement. The statement said the administration had taken action against the killers and would consult with Congress.

But Democrats said Mr. Trump was violating a law known as the Magnitsky Act. It required him to respond 120 days after a request submitted in the fall by committee leaders — including Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee and then the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — a period that expired Friday.

“The law is clear,” said Juan Pachón, a spokesman for Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the ranking Democrat on the committee. “It requires a determination and report in response to the letter we sent with Corker. The president has no discretion here. He’s either complying with the law or breaking it.”

The Trump administration imposed sanctions in November against 17 Saudis accused of being involved in the killing, but has refused to blame Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a key ally and the country’s de facto ruler, despite a C.I.A. conclusion that the crown prince ordered it.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sent letters to the committee leaders describing actions taken against individuals without offering the determination of who was responsible as demanded by the lawmakers.

“I anticipate a more detailed briefing from the administration on this issue and look forward to working with them and the members of my committee in our ongoing effort to address the killing of Jamal Khashoggi,” said Senator Jim Risch, Republican of Idaho, who succeeded Mr. Corker as chairman.

Don't hold your breath.

Mitch McConnell of course won't allow the Senate to lift a finger on this. We'll only get Trump regime compliance when they've mutually decided along with the Saudis whose head will roll in place of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Sultan, and not a day before that. 

Of course, it's taken more than four months to decide on "the person or persons responsible for this rogue operation" so far, because evidence keeps popping up that MbS did it, mainly because MbS is the person who ordered Khashoggi's death by bone saw.

Besides, the Saudis almost certainly had US help, and on top of all that, Jared Kushner has deep financial ties to the Crown Prince, and Riyadh is making it very clear that if MbS goes down, the Saudis will take Kushner and Trump down with them.

So, this awful status quo will continue.  Republicans certainly won't allow anything to happen to Trump or Kushner for refusing, and the Saudi ggovernment absolutely won't let anything happen to MbS, so really there's no point in a Magnitsky Act, is there?

I'm sure Putin will be happy to hear that last part.

Blackmail As A Business Model

The National Enquirer picked a blackmail fight with Amazon CEO and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos this week, and apparently the Trump-leaning tabloid and its parent company, American Media Inc., are well known for dirty deeds done extremely expensively.

It may have shocked the world when the publisher of the National Enquirer allegedly tried to use nude pictures to coerce Jeff Bezos. But it came as no surprise to three veterans of the Enquirer’sparent company, American Media Inc. 
“The threats, the blackmail, that’s their business model,” one former National Enquirer staffer told The Daily Beast. 
That model burst out into public view on Thursday night when Bezos—the world’s richest man, the founder of Amazon, and the owner of the Washington Post—published emails from AMI chief content officer Dylan Howard that threatened the release of a “dick p*ck” if the Post didn’t relent in its investigation of AMI. 
It was a familiar moment to Paul Barresi, a private investigator who spent years working on jobs for AMI and other tabloids. “The National Enquirer had some people who would go to a celebrity and say, ‘unless you give in to a one-on-one interview that would amount to a fluff piece with us, we’re going to report XYZ,” he said. “The celebrity would then acquiesce to their demand.” 
The nice way of calling it was quid pro quo, but really it was blackmail,” Barresi said. “I know that the same methodology is practiced today,” he added. “Obviously it's practiced, because they did it” to Bezos. 
And Daniel “Danno” Hanks, who said he worked as an on-contract investigator for the Enquirer “off and on” for 40 years, used the phrase “war of blackmail” to describe the AMI empire’s ethos. 
“I’ve known this newspaper’s tactics for years, and I’d rather the truth be told,” Hanks stressed. 
“The Enquirer had a list of which attorneys worked for which celebrities, and if someone approached [the tabloid] for a story, they would approach the attorneys and say, ‘Make us a better offer,’” Hanks said. 
Hanks, who was recently released from prison for involvement in a gambling and drug organization (Hanks claims he was duped into it), added that those Hollywood or celebrity lawyers often asked Enquirer investigators to do investigative work and “trash runs” for them. 
“They would have a particular name, and we would track that person down, and once we did that information would be turned over to [the celebrity’s] lawyer,” he said. 
AMI did not respond to a request to comment for this story, but the company said in a statement on Friday that it “believes fervently that it acted lawfully in the reporting of the story of Mr. Bezos.” The company has not been prosecuted for any crimes related to the blackmail claims made by its former investigators. 
However, the supermarket tabloid company’s bag of dirty tricks also is well-chronicled and includes catch-and-kill operation: paying for an exclusive interview only to bury it, as a favor to an ally or after using the dirt to convince a celebrity to play ball with them.

There's a very good chance that David Pecker and friends are going to get a visit from the Feds over this as AMI is not in full panic mode.

The National Enquirer’s alleged attempt to blackmail Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos with intimate photos could get the tabloid’s parent company and top editors in deep legal trouble and reopen them to prosecution for paying hush money to a Playboy model who claimed she had an affair with Donald Trump. 
Federal prosecutors are looking at whether the Enquirer’s feud with Bezos violated a cooperation and non-prosecution agreement that recently spared the gossip sheet from charges in the hush-money case, two people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press on Friday. 
The clash between the world’s richest man and America’s most aggressive supermarket tabloid spilled into public view late Thursday when Bezos accused it of threatening to print photos of him and the woman with whom he was having an extramarital affair. 
He said the Enquirer made two demands: Stop investigating how the publication recently obtained private messages that Bezos and his girlfriend had exchanged. And publicly declare that the Enquirer’s coverage of Bezos was not politically motivated. 
Enquirer owner American Media Inc. said Friday that its board of directors ordered a prompt and thorough investigation and will take “whatever appropriate action is necessary.” Earlier in the day, the company said it “acted lawfully” while reporting the story and engaged in “good-faith negotiations” with Bezos.

Stay tuned.

Vaccination Nation

I swear, the anti-vax movement is as awful and as selfish as it comes, exposing kids to measles and rubella and mumps and whooping cough because you read something on Facebook that one time. Amid a major measles outbreak in Washington State this month, people are actually rallying at the capitol in order to keep on hurting their kids.

With more than 50 cases of measles in Washington state, there's been a new push to change the law. Washington is one of 17 states that allow parents to refuse vaccines for philosophical reasons.

But on Friday, hundreds rallied to preserve their right not to vaccinate their children. Lawmakers heard arguments on a proposed bill that would ban the measles vaccine exemption for philosophical reasons. Thirty-two other states have similar laws.

Measles is so contagious that an unvaccinated person has a 90 percent chance of catching the disease if they're near someone who has it. The virus can survive for up to two hours in a room where an infected person sneezed.

Measles vaccination rates here, at the epicenter of the outbreak, are now up by 500 percent.

"I think we're seeing people rush to the doctor now because it's real and it's been growing every week. And so folks actually see a real threat," said Washington Secretary of Health John Wiesman.

But opponents of the bill still think the measles vaccine is a bigger threat than the disease itself.

"I don't feel I'm putting my child at risk. There's nothing that's going to change my mind on this on that specific vaccination," said mother Monique Murray.

If you don't vaccinate your kids, I feel child services should get involved, but that's just me.
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