Saturday, March 16, 2019

Last Call For The Road To Gilead, Con't

On Thursday Kentucky lawmakers passed a "heartbeat bill" banning any abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, and the ACLU was ready for them on Friday before Gov. Matt Bevin could sign the bill.

A federal judge in Louisville has issued a temporary order barring the state from enforcing a new abortion law, less than 24 hours after it was passed by the Kentucky General Assembly.

U.S. District Judge David Hale issued the order at 7:40 p.m. Friday, blocking the state from enforcing Senate Bill 9, the "fetal heartbeat" bill which bans abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, usually around the sixth week of pregnancy.

Hale's order comes the same day the America Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit challenging the new law, arguing the law would effectively ban abortion in Kentucky because most women don't realize they are pregnant until at least six weeks into a pregnancy.

Hale's order, citing the the "strong likelihood of success" of the ACLU's claim that the law is unconstitutional, ordered that enactment of the law be delayed for 14 days until he is able to hold a hearing on the matter.

"The Supreme Court has stated in no uncertain terms that regardless of whether exceptions are made for particular circumstances, a state may not prohibit any woman from making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy before viability." Hale's order said, citing a previous ruling on the matter.

Hale's order said that if the law is enforced before a hearing, patients "would be immediately and irreparably harmed absent a temporary restraining order from this court."

It noted the law has an emergency clause that allows it to take effect as soon as it is signed into law by Gov. Matt Bevin. Bevin, an anti-abortion Republican, has pledged to sign it.

The lawsuit was filed Friday by the ACLU on behalf of EMW Women's Surgical Center in Louisville, the state's only abortion clinic.

SB 9 was enacted late Thursday as one of four bills meant to restrict or ban abortion in Kentucky by the Republican-controlled General Assembly.

Even as House members voted final passage of the law Thursday, some members warned it is unconstitutional including Rep. Chris Harris, a Pikeville Democrat.

"I consider myself pro-life," Harris said. "But the constitutionality of this legislation has already been decided."

Harris noted the state already is "embroiled" in three other lawsuits defending other abortion laws passed by the legislature. Federal judges have struck down two and a decision on a third is pending.

"We have a responsibility to the people not to waste their money and this is a waste of money," Harris said of SB 9

You'd think lawmakers would get that, but they all want to be the "heroes" who go down in the history books of American theocracy, with their names attached to the chains around the necks of women.  That's the glory they want.

The best part is they couldn't care less about the babies born, because this same Bevin administration and GOP-controlled General Assembly has done everything it could to remove Medicaid, school funding, environmental protections, and just about everything else from kids born and living in this state.

They just want to loot the treasury before the place burns down.

Finally, the wort part is how many Kentucky Democrats voted for the House and Senate bills, ten of the 39 House Democrats voted for it (and another ten voted absent) including Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Rocky Adkins, and four of the nine Senate Democrats voted for it, meaning barely half of Kentucky Democrats had to courage to vote against an obviously unconstitutional anti-choice bill.

But that's Bevinstan for you.

This Week In Trump Cards

America's slow but steady shift towards authoritarian pariah status continued this week as the Trump regime took more steps down a dark path.  First, Donald Trump's sprawling interview with hate site Breitbart featured open threats against Democrats and those investigating him.

President Donald Trump appeared to insinuate in a recent interview that his supporters -- the police, military and "Bikers for Trump," he claims -- could turn violent against Democrats.
"You know, the left plays a tougher game, it's very funny. I actually think that the people on the right are tougher, but they don't play it tougher. OK?" Trump said in an interview with Breitbart News published Wednesday. "I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump -- I have the tough people, but they don't play it tough -- until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad." 
He added that "the left plays it cuter and tougher. Like with all the nonsense that they do in Congress." 
Several Democrats interpreted the comments as a threat. 
"I interpret that kind of comment as a danger to peaceful transition of power in our democracy," Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut told CNN's "New Day" on Friday. 
In a CNN op-ed, former White House press secretary for President Bill Clinton Joe Lockhart called Trump's remark a "thuggish threat of violence against his critics" and a continuation of Trump's "all-out assault on the basis of our democracy." 
Asked about Trump's comment, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told CNN's Chris Cuomo Thursday night that the President "didn't threaten any kind of violence." 
"You're just reading into it like you usually do. You have to read the entire interview," she said. "He was talking about how peaceful and gentle many people are who are otherwise tough."

In the same interview, Trump blames then House Speaker Paul Ryan for not allowing House Republicans to subpoena Hillary Clinton and other Obama administration officials. 

Trump told Breitbart News in an exclusive lengthy Oval Office interview that Ryan blocked issuance of subpoenas to people he thinks should have been investigated on the political left, and now that the Republicans no longer have the majority in the House, people Trump says Ryan protected may have gotten away with whatever they did that warranted investigation.

Trump said that House Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) and his predecessor and fellow conservative Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) wanted to be tougher with the left, but that Ryan would not let them.

Paul Ryan wouldn’t give the right to have any subpoenas,” Trump told Breitbart News. “Okay? Now in all fairness, Meadows and Jordan and all these guys, they wanted to go tougher, but they weren’t allowed to by leadership.”

Finally, State Department head Mike Pompeo says the US is ready to make good on National Security Adviser John Bolton's Mustache's threat to bar US entry to and expel from the country any International Criminal Court personnel if The Hague investigates any US or Israeli military action in Afghanistan as war crimes.

The United States will revoke or deny visas to International Criminal Court personnel who attempt to investigate or prosecute alleged abuses committed by U.S. forces in Afghanistan or elsewhere and may do the same with those who try to take action against Israel, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday.

Pompeo, making good on a threat delivered last September by national security adviser John Bolton, said the U.S. had already moved against some employees of The Hague-based court, but declined to say how many or what cases they may have been investigating.

“We are determined to protect the American and allied military and civilian personnel from living in fear of unjust prosecution for actions taken to defend our great nation,” Pompeo said.

He said any wrongdoing committed by American personnel would be dealt with in U.S. military and criminal courts.

The visa restrictions would apply to any court employee who takes or has taken action “to request or further such an investigation,” Pompeo said.

“These visa restrictions may also be used to deter ICC efforts to pursue allied personnel, including Israelis, without allies’ consent,” he said.

The ICC prosecutor has a pending request to look into possible war crimes in Afghanistan that may involve Americans. The Palestinians have also asked the court to bring cases against Israel.

Speaking directly to ICC employees, Pompeo said: “If you are responsible for the proposed ICC investigation of U.S. personnel in connection with the situation in Afghanistan, you should not assume that you still have or will get a visa or will be permitted to enter the United States.”

That comment suggested that action may have already been taken against the ICC prosecutor who asked last year to formally open an investigation into allegations of war crimes committed by Afghan national security forces, Taliban and Haqqani network militants, as well as U.S. forces and intelligence officials in Afghanistan since May 2003.

The US never joined the ICC, but Afghanistan did, meaning if the ICC does investigate US war crimes there, things are going to get very ugly and fast.

Finally, Trump outright said Friday that there should be no Mueller report at all, because the investigation should be scrapped as "illegal".

President Donald Trump on Friday insisted there should be no report from special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe, denouncing the investigation as "illegal."

"So, if there was knowingly & acknowledged to be 'zero' crime when the Special Counsel was appointed, and if the appointment was made based on the Fake Dossier (paid for by Crooked Hillary) and now disgraced Andrew McCabe (he & all stated no crime), then the Special Counsel...should never have been appointed and there should be no Mueller Report," the president tweeted Friday.

Trump has repeatedly called Mueller's probe into whether Russia colluded with the president's 2016 campaign a "witch hunt." Despite his criticisms, the president has maintained that he has cooperated fully with the investigation, which also includes whether Trump tried to obstruct justice.

A small thread now lies between insistence and an Oval Office order, and the Mueller report goes away.

And so does America as a free country.

A Light Of Hope In Gunmerica

Connecticut's Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a lawsuit filed by Sandy Hook families suing AR-15 Bushmaster manufacturer Remington can go forward after all, reversing a lower court decision.

The ruling comes as yet another twist in the lawsuit’s circuitous path through the court system, one that continued far longer than many, including legal experts and the families, had initially expected.

The ruling had been delayed after Remington, the manufacturer and one of the nation’s oldest gun makers, filed for bankruptcy last year as its sales declined and debts mounted.

The lawsuit, brought by family members of nine people who were killed and a teacher who was shot and survived, was originally filed in 2014, then moved to federal court, where a judge ordered that it be returned to the state level.

The families were given a glimmer of hope when a State Superior Court judge, Barbara N. Bellis, permitted the case to approach a trial before she ultimately dismissed it. She found that the claims fell “squarely within the broad immunity” provided by federal law.

In 2005, Congress passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which restricts lawsuits against gun sellers and makers by granting industrywide immunity from blame when one of their products is used in a crime. Lawmakers behind the measure cited a need to foil what they described as predatory and politically driven litigation.

The law does allow exceptions for sale and marketing practices that violate state or federal laws and instances of so-called negligent entrustment, in which a gun is carelessly given or sold to a person posing a high risk of misusing it.

In the lawsuit, the families pushed to broaden the scope to include the manufacturer, Remington, which was named along with a wholesaler and a local retailer in the suit.

The lawsuit said that the companies were wrong to entrust an untrained civilian public with a weapon designed for maximizing fatalities on the battlefield.

Lawyers pointed out advertising — with messages of combat dominance and hyper-masculinity — that resonated with disturbed young men who could be induced to use the weapon to commit violence.

“Remington may never have known Adam Lanza, but they had been courting him for years,” Joshua D. Koskoff, one of the lawyers representing the families, told the panel of judges during oral arguments in the case in 2017. The weapon used by Mr. Lanza had been legally purchased by his mother, Nancy Lanza, whom he also killed.

Lawyers representing the gun companies argued that the claims raised in the lawsuit were specifically the kind that law inoculated them against. They said that agreeing with the families’ arguments would require amending the law or ignoring how it had been applied in the past.

James B. Vogts, a lawyer for Remington, said during oral arguments that the shooting “was a tragedy that cannot be forgotten.”

“But no matter how tragic,” he added, “no matter how much we wish those children and their teachers were not lost and those damages not suffered, the law needs to be applied dispassionately.”

It's a long shot, but it has the gun lobby running scared.  They know the discovery process on this alone may sink Remington, the NRA, and possibly the entire industry.  I expect swift federal action on this by Republicans, either to add closing the negligent entrustment loophole to must-pass legislation, tying this up until the Supreme Court's five conservatives can end it, or most likely both. Unfortunately, I don't see this case ever reaching the trial phase because the damage would be catastrophic to the gun lobby, and they damn well know it.

We'll see how this shakes out.

Black Lives Still Matter, Con't

There's no longer any doubt now after a massive new Stanford University multi-year study of nearly 100 million traffic stops that black drivers are much more likely to be pulled over by police and searched for no reason whatsoever, while white drivers are far more likely to have illegal items in their vehicles.

Using information obtained through public record requests, the Stanford Open Policing Project examined almost 100 million traffic stops conducted from 2011 to 2017 across 21 state patrol agencies, including California, Illinois, New York and Texas, and 29 municipal police departments, including New Orleans, Philadelphia, San Francisco and St. Paul, Minnesota.

The results show that police stopped and searched black and Latino drivers on the basis of less evidence than used in stopping white drivers, who are searched less often but are more likely to be found with illegal items. The study does not set out to conclude whether officers knowingly engaged in racial discrimination, but uses a more nuanced analysis of traffic stop data to infer that race is a factor when people are pulled over — and that it's occuring across the country.

"Because of this analysis, we're able to get to that anecdotal story to say this is really happening," said Sharad Goel, an assistant professor in management science and engineering at Stanford and a co-author of the study.

Police pull over about 20 million drivers across the United States each year, according to researchers. And while the extreme cases grab the spotlight, such as the fatal police shootings after traffic stops of Walter Scott in South Carolina, Samuel DuBose in Cincinnati and Philando Castile in suburban Minneapolis — all black men — most end without anyone getting hurt. Still, for drivers of color who are stopped by police, the suspicion that racial bias played a role can linger.

"There's no longer the idea of Officer Friendly, who might help you understand why they pulled you over. Now, it's about using racial profiling to control people and place fear in them," said David Lowery, founder of the Living & Driving While Black Foundation in Chicago, an advocacy group calling for an end to racial profiling.

"Then, you've got money tied up into this," he added. "Who can write the most tickets? Who can put the most people in jail and into the court system? It’s no longer about a simple traffic stop for safety."

The Stanford study sliced the data in three distinct ways to search for evidence of racial bias:
  • Police stops: A "veil of darkness" test was done to analyze whether black drivers are being pulled over at a higher rate during the day than at night, when officers would have a harder time distinguishing race from a distance. After adjusting for the variation in sunset times across the year, researchers found a 5 to 10 percent drop in the share of stopped drivers after sunset who are black, suggesting black drivers are being racially profiled during the day. 
  • Police searches: Researchers reviewed the rate at which drivers were searched and the likelihood that those searches turned up illegal drugs and guns. There was evidence that the bar for searching black and Latino drivers is lower than that for white drivers, even though white drivers were more likely to have contraband. Across states, contraband was found in 36 percent of searches of white drivers, compared to 32 percent for black drivers and 26 percent for Latinos
  • Impact of marijuana legalization: After the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington state, there has been a reduction in searches of both white and minority drivers. But the search rate remains twice as high for minorities, a trend also noted in a 2017 Stanford study.

Stanford's research is based on numbers provided by state and city agencies, but not all police departments track that data or are willing to release it. While the majority of states responded to the Stanford group's public records requests and offered at least some traffic stop data, four states said they didn't have information on drivers' race and 15 failed to say whether they collect any data at all.

Ohio provided data for this study as well as Cincinnati and Columbus police departments.  There's no doubt that this is happening right now, as we speak, where I live and work.  Race is the major basis of policing in America today.

It must end.
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