Tag Archives: scotus

SYNDICATED COLUMN: The Brett Kavanaugh Sex Scandals Teach Us That Extremism, Even Supporting Torture, Are A-OK

Image result for kavanaugh torture

What is wrong with us? Specifically: what is wrong with liberal Democrats?

Liberal Democrats are out to get Brett Kavanaugh. They are right to be; he is dangerous. Confirming Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court would lock in a right-wing majority for a generation. Abortion rights would be imperiled, true, but his rulings would also impact us in countless ways no one can predict: privacy, technology, balance of powers, corporate influence.

What’s weird is how the “Resistance” is going after the nominee: they’re #MeToo-ing him.

They’re only #MeToo-ing him.

One woman says he tried to rape her when she was 15 and he was 17. Another says that he pulled out his penis and shoved it in her face at a college party. U-S-A! Best country ever!

At this writing a third accuser waits in the wings.

If true these are—obviously, undeniably, absolutely—nasty acts. They prompt serious questions about whether Kavanaugh has the judgment—pun intended—required of the highest court. The fact that these charges date back decades, even to his childhood, does not change that. If he were up for a less important job, one could perhaps chalk them up to youthful douchebaggery. But he’s not applying for deputy undersecretary of agriculture.

What I don’t understand is: how did Kavanaugh’s candidacy get this far? How did his bid last long enough to get to the point where it was imperiled by #MeToo-related personal misbehavior? Why didn’t it founder first on the rockier shoals of his insane ideology?

As a judge the nominee was quoted saying that the NSA’s mass surveillance of every American’s emails, phone calls and texts is “entirely consistent” with the Constitution. As a lawyer once told me, that is not and cannot be true. “In my view, that critical national security need outweighs the impact on privacy occasioned by this [NSA] program,” Kavanaugh wrote. It is impossible to overstate the importance of this issue. The NSA programs exposed by Edward Snowden transformed the United States from the supposed “land of the free” to an authoritarian Orwellian dystopia. Surely Senate Democrats might have found something to object to there.

As George W. Bush’s White House lawyer Kavanaugh worked on Alberto Gonzalez’s notorious “torture memos,” the flimsy legalistic covers Bush used to justify waterboarding and murdering innocent Muslim kidnap victims at Guantánamo concentration camp and CIA dungeons around the world. We don’t know what he told other lawyers when the memos were written but even if he opposed them he had a legal and ethical obligation to resign, contact the World Court and speak publicly about these brazen war crimes. He did not.

Not only did Kavanaugh enable Bush’s merry band of torture goons, he played what Senator Chuck Schumer described as “a critical role” in Bush’s novel use of “signing statements.” The vaunted John McCain-sponsored bill banning torture was a classic example. Bush signed it. Then he signed a signing statement that amounted to crossing his fingers behind his back: the federal government would not enforce the law. McCain’s bill became law but torture continues.

Most disturbing of all—this is a high bar given the above—Kavanaugh is a fervent devotee to the weird counterconstitutional “doctrine of the unitary executive” promoted by such fellow neocons as Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz. “In its most extreme form, unitary executive theory can mean that neither Congress nor the federal courts can tell the President what to do or how to do it, particularly regarding national security matters,” explained Watergate alum John Dean.

You can see why Donald Trump is into this guy.

Supporting torture. Undermining Congress and the rule of law. Contempt for habeas corpus. Giving the president the powers of a king. Any of these are more than enough reason to oppose Kavanaugh but Democrats ignored or barely mentioned them during judiciary committee hearings. There were no rants, no floor speeches. Liberal protesters did not gather to condemn Kavanaugh on torture. Liberal groups did not air ads about it.

Give the Democrats benefit of the doubt: maybe they determined, perhaps via focus groups and tracking polls, that the sexual allegations would have longer legs, would make more headway, than Kavanaugh’s judicial extremism. Marketing money is limited. Better to focus on what works.

Trouble is, we’re not just filling a court vacancy. We’re sending messages to the world. The message Democrats are trying to send, the one that powerful men will remember if Kavanaugh’s confirmation fails, is that women can no longer be disrespected. That’s fantastic. It’s long overdue. It needs to be repeated.

But it isn’t enough.

The Democrats’ decision to ignore Kavanaugh’s stances on important policies tacitly conveys that they either endorse torture themselves or don’t much care about it, that they either tolerate the imperial presidency or don’t care about it, that they sign off on un-American views about government or are willing to look the other way.

A reasonable reading of political tea leaves has to conclude that Democrats are now a pro-torture party. In 2009 Obama refused to prosecute Bush-era CIA torturers. In 2013 Obama appointed John Brennan, also a torturer, to CIA director. In 2018 Senate Democrats like Dianne Feinstein voted to give the top CIA job to Gina Haspel, a monster who personally conducted waterboarding sessions.

Those messages to the world are toxic and dangerous. Our national moral high ground has been further eroded because Democrats took the easy path to non-confirmation.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Hillary Doesn’t Care That Much About Abortion Rights

Hillary Clinton’s recent attack on fellow presidential hopeful Marco Rubio (R-FL) over abortion (“offensive,” “outrageous” and “troubling,” she said) reminded me of something I’ve been wanting to wonder aloud for some time:

Why doesn’t the Democratic Party call for a federal law legalizing abortion?

Thanks to the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, abortion is legal. Given the 5-4 balance of the Supreme Court barely in favor of that 1973 decision, however, federal abortion rights could vanish following the next vacancy on the high bench, especially if it happens under a Republican president. (Abortion would remain legal in liberal states.)

Four decades of legal limbo is enough.

If Hillary, Bernie Sanders and Congressional Democrats really believe in a woman’s right to control her own body — for the record, I think they do — they should jointly endorse a bill legalizing abortion throughout the land.

It is true, of course, that full-throated support for reproductive freedom carries political risks.

With only 50% in support of abortion rights and 35% against, Democrats would risk losing some of the conservatives we used to call Reagan Democrats, or just swing voters, especially Catholics. Incredibly, you’re more likely to poke someone who likes gay marriage than abortion when you shake a stick.

Of even greater concern to Democratic strategists is losing leverage over their progressive wing. Following decades of marginalization and watching their political views overlooked in favor of Clintonite “Third Way” centrists, the left is disgruntled, voting and giving donations in smaller numbers. One thing that still motivates these liberals to turn out for Democrats is the prospect of a Republican-controlled Supreme Court, followed by the overturning of Roe v. Wade — a threat many social-issue liberal Democrats find appalling.

If Congress legalizes abortion, this motivation goes away — and leaves a party that went along with the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq, passed welfare reform, and enthusiastically pushed through a spate of free trade agreements viewed by economic populists as corporate giveaways that kill American jobs.

This is almost certainly why Hillary Clinton talks a good game on abortion — and that’s where it ends. She just doesn’t care enough to take a chance.

Despite the downsides, Clinton, Sanders and the party ought to press for a federal bill. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama played to the polls, the latter endorsing gay marriage, saying his views had “evolved” only after surveys told him it was safe. Voters are starving for leadership, for politicians who point the way forward, telling us where we should go before we form a national consensus.

Certainly, such a move would solidify support for the party among women by signaling that it is willing to take risks. The bill could go down to defeat. But legislative defeat could become a moral victory, as in Ellen Pao’s unsuccessful sex discrimination lawsuit.

It would also put Congressional Republicans on the spot, forcing them to go on the record as voting against abortion rights — which most American women support. This tactic, forcing opponents to vote “nay” so you can beat them up with attack ads later, is rarely used by Democrats. I don’t understand why. Is the SCOTUS threat really so powerful that it justifies the real possibility that tens of millions of women and girls in conservative Southern states will lose abortion as an option? Aren’t strategists worried that, at some point, liberal women in particular will get wise, and ask the same question I’m posing here: why don’t Dems even try for a federal abortion-rights bill?

If nothing else, it would be nice to see an end to the 42-year-old ritual of protests outside the Supreme Court in Washington, attended by pro-choice and pro-life factions yelling insults at each other.

It’s time for American political culture to get real and grow up about abortion. It’s silly and weird and unproductive for a major nation to remain so paralyzed so long over such a major issue. Women deserve to be able rely upon more than a flimsy court decision.

There ought to be a law — and Democrats should lead the charge.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for ANewDomain.net, is the author of the book “Snowden,” the biography of the NSA whistleblower, to be published August 25th. Want to support independent journalism? You can subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2015 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

Smothered by Kittens?

The US Supreme Court rules 5-4 against death-row inmates who didn’t want to be executed with a toxin that causes excrutiating pain. The reason given by one justice: they failed to offer a better method of killing them. Which prompts the question: since when are prisoners responsible for figuring out the best way to execute them?

From Street Walker to Call Girl

The US Supreme Court has ruled to abolish overall caps on federal campaign contributions, bringing an end to most meaningful limits on the influence of money on Congress. Yeah, there’s going to be even more corruption. But think of the bright side: Congress can ask their sponsors for even more money! If nothing else, it will stimulate the economy.

Obama’s Argument for Reelection

He didn’t do dick about foreclosures. He barely tried to stimulate the economy. His healthcare plan is shit. On human rights he’s worse than Bush, who wouldn’t have dared argue in favor of assassinating innocent U.S. citizens.

But fear not: the Dipshit-in-Chief has what Democrats think will be a potent argument to get liberals to turn out this fall: if Romney gets in, the Supreme Court will get even worse.

Which is hard to imagine. This, after all, is a Supreme Court that just legalized finger-rape by cop and strip-searching for any and all citizens arrested for any reason whatsoever. What will Romney’s right-wing SCOTUS do, approve finger-rape by a 6-3 majority instead of 5-4?

Still, no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of American voters (c.f., 2004).

Resegregation Nation: Next up, the Supreme Court Rules That Integrated Water Fountains Violate the Constitution

Resegregation Nation: Next up, the Supreme Court Rules That Integrated Water Fountains Violate the Constitution
Posted by Mikhaela Reid

All you closet Klansmen out there, you would-be Bull O’Connors and George Wallaces, listen up: it is officially time to party! Get out your balloons and confetti, and iron your best white robes, because the Bush Supreme Court has officially declared that racial integration and diversity DON’T MATTER AT ALL. The Bush court says that not only is segregation totally cool (as long as it’s the “natural” result of segregated housing areas), it’s actively RACIST to oppose segregation. Why? Because racial diversity is AGAINST the spirit of Brown vs. Board of Education.

Yes, that’s right–it’s against the spirit of the decision that made it possible for children of all colors to go to school together to encourage children of all colors to go to school together. The only way to avoid racism is to DENY it and ignore it and NOT DO ANYTHING TO STOP IT. That’s what being “colorblind” is all about!

As the NAACP’s Theodore Shaw put it on The Newshour With Jim Lehrer tonight, it doesn’t get much more Orwellian than this. This is Civil Rights Lite to the extreme. Hence the vigorous dissent:

[Souter] said the chief justice’s invocation of Brown vs. Board of Education was “a cruel irony” when the opinion in fact “rewrites the history of one of this court’s most important decisions” by ignoring the context in which it was issued and the Supreme Court’s subsequent understanding of it to permit voluntary programs of the sort that were now invalidated.

I was particularly horrified by the anti-integration argument that many parents “don’t want this” (“this”, presumably, being the horror of their children going to school with black kids). For example, here’s Roger Clegg, president of the deceptively named “Center for Equal Opportunity” (his group filed an amicus brief in the case) celebrating the anti-integration decision on the NewsHour:

I think that school boards are also going to be sensitive to the fact that most parents don’t like it when they are told that where they can send their children to school depends on what color they are.

And…

I think the question is whether anyone believes that a politically correct racial and ethnic mix, that kind of diversity, is worth the price of racial discrimination. And I think that most Americans would say that, no, it is not.

Sure, lots of Americans–bigoted and ignorant ones–protested school integration back in the day because they didn’t want it, either. That didn’t make them RIGHT. That was the whole POINT of Brown vs. Board! As the NAACP’s Shaw put it:

This [integration] is not about school districts telling people that they can’t go to school on the basis of their skin color. This is about school districts trying to continue to fulfill the promise of Brown and to avoid segregation. In no way is this comparable to the kind of regime of segregation and discrimination that existed under Jim Crow.

Exactly.

Finally, while we’re on the topic of Brown vs. Board of Education, this is particularly bad timing, because I just did a dystopian cartoon for Lambda Legal wondering “What would life be like without integrated schools?”:

Prepare to find out. And God Bless Our Colorblind America, where the playing field is level, everyone has an equal chance, and white kids can just learn about colored folks on their Tee-Vees!

Next up: The Supreme Court rules that allowing black people and white people to drink from the same water fountains is racist.

P.S. I would have called this cartoon “Separate But Equal: The Sequel”, but I already drew a cartoon with that title. Oh well.

P.P.S. Just so it’s clear–in the cartoon, the kids of color are locked up in a “Jim Crow Max Security Educational Facility” not because they’re troublemakers or deserve to be there, but because they live under racist segregation.

Cross-posted at Boiling Point Blog.