Category Archives: Donald Trump

Hate in America

Last night, we in Philly heard that hundreds of headstones were turned over Saturday night at a Jewish cemetery, a week after similar vandalism in St. Louis. Many people are saddened, appalled and surprised. They should be sad and appalled, but not surprised. This is Trump’s America.

I have been working with Indivisible locally, and I am heartened by the number of people completely new to politics who are suddenly aware, and ready to take action to both resist the Trump agenda, and help elect people who will serve America, and not what is actually the Bannon administration.

I keep hearing two themes through my work with Indivisible. First, people are concerned about what they can do to stop hate. And by “hate” I mean not just the vandalism, but the verbal abuse people see foisted upon innocent people, just for the colour of their skin,  The ICE roundups are another form of hate: people question what they can do to help those who will be caught up in the dragnets. Hate also in the form of the administration’s moves against sick people (“repeal Obamacare” and dismantle Medicaid), Hate in the form of transgender bathroom rights. I’m a doctor, and I’m telling you, the only thing that matters is that you wash your hands. (If you’re a long-term reader, you remember back to SARS and fingers, nails, fingers, fingers, fingers.) And let’s not forget the hate of literacy in terms of claiming the media is the “enemy of the people”.  The hate is creeping down from the Cheeto Team, and up from the GOP state legislatures. Continue Reading...

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Judge Gorsuch — What should we do?

On Tuesday, the maniac-in-chief nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch to fill the vacancy left by the death of Antonin Scalia.  This nomination creates a significant question for Senate Democrats on how to proceed.

On the merits, at least based on current public knowledge which may change, Judge Gorsuch is a typical member of the Republican conservative establishment:  The son of Reagan’s EPA chief, educated at top schools, a mix of government and private practice before being appointed to the bench by George W.   While it is tough to tell for sure by a decisions on a lower court — where judge’s are bound by Supreme Court precedent and are trying to read between the lines to avoid reversal — Judge Gorsuch seems very similar to Justice Scalia.  It is not really possible to tell if he is on the Alito (more conservative) or Roberts (more moderate) side of Scalia.  In any case, with the exception of some criminal cases, Justice Scalia was rarely the fifth vote in a progressive decision.  As such, barring someone on the loony side, it is unlikely that any Trump nominee is going to substantially alter the balance on the Supreme Court from what it was before Trump died.  (Of course, it would have been preferable to have a Democratic president replacing Justice Scalia, but that is not now a possibility.)  And Trump is likely to nominate a candidate in his/her upper 40s or lower 50s like Judge Gorsuch, so the next opportunity for Democrats to replace any of the four conservative judges will be at least a decade or more in the future barring any unexpected deaths.  Given this reality, the question is how hard to fight this nomination.

The battle over judicial nominations — like everything else — has become more a matter of political trench warfare with each cycle.  In the 1960s, the nomination of Thurgood Marshall was contentious, but — at that time — the ideological lines between the two parties were blurrier and the opposition was regional (Southern senators of both parties) rather than partisan.  However, with the exception of the nomination of Abe Fortas in 1968, all nominees received a vote on the merits (except for those who withdrew before any floor vote) until 2016.   At the time of his retirement in 1991, Justice Marshall was one of two members of the court who received double digit “no” votes on confirmation (with 11 no votes).  However, the last four nominees all received more than twenty “no” votes and only Chief Justice Roberts received less than thirty “no” votes. Continue Reading...

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Immigration Kerflufle

We knew the policy was coming.  We should have guessed that Trump would botch it — both in terms of the actual policy and in terms of how it was implemented.  Now, we have a fustercluck of a “temporary” Arab ban policy.  There are potential legal issues involved which I will discuss below.  As a major cautionary note, I don’t do immigration law.  Despite what the U.S. Supreme Court may think, those of us who deal in ordinary criminal law don’t really get the nuances of immigration law nor all of the technical terms involved.

Before turning to the potential legal challenges, what has happened over the past five days is exactly why there are usual procedures for issuing executive orders.  While Trump would probably have still tended toward the outrageous in this policy, some of the problems might have been avoided if things had been handled better.  Instead, we have a policy statement masquerading as a policy.

Normally before an executive order is released, the White House staff has consulted with the effected agencies — here, State, Homeland Security, I.C.E., U.S.C.I.S., and T.S.A. — to get their input and make sure that everyone is on the same page at the time of implementation.  Additionally, the Office of Legal Counsel typically has gone through the order to make sure that it is legally defensible — not necessarily a winning defense, but at least no glaring fatal flaws for which there is not even a colorable defense — and clearly sets forth the policy. Continue Reading...

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But Don’t Call Them Czars

Eight years ago, when President Obama took office, Faux News and others spent a good chunk of their time complaining about President Obama’s use of “czars.”  By czar, they meant members of the White House staff who did not have to face Senate confirmation who were assigned responsibility for certain policy areas.  Now that Republicans are back in the White House, they are about to learn the same lesson that the George W. Bush and the Obama Administrations knew — that the White House staff serves an important role in a functioning government.  But, you can be pretty sure that these positions will not be referred to as czars by Fox News.

There are several reasons why Presidents tend to depend on “staff” advisors rather than executive branch people subject to Senate confirmation.  The first reason has to do with the nature of Senate confirmations.

Most of our allies are parliamentary democracies.  While there is some distinction between the appointees to ministries (mostly members of parliament) and the Prime Ministers personal staff, the bottom line in most parliamentary democracies is that parliament does not individually confirm members of the government.  Depending on the country, parliament may have a single vote to approve the entire government (but, in others, the government takes power without any formal vote).  This process puts the full government in place on Day 1 of the new government. Continue Reading...

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Day 1 of Hell

Two executive orders were issued tonight. The first basically prohibits all government agencies from implementing any rules. They can send nothing to CFR. Remember, while Congress passes laws, it’s the agencies that implement them, and they do so via regs sent to CFR for public review and comment and then implementation. Full memo after the jump.

The second order basically allows Ben Carson to do anything possible to prevent the ACA from functioning. Again, full text after the jump. Welcome to North Korea — they are dismantling the Federal government, just like they said they would. And in answer to the question: why are you publishing this? I say: so that there is a record.

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Easier Said than Done

While November was disappointing, the Democrats did gain seats in the Senate.  As a result, the Republicans only hold a 52-48 majority.  If three Republican Senators vote no on any confirmation or bill, it fails.  We are already seeing signs that the next two years could get very interesting — even if the Democrats are more responsible in using the filibuster than Republicans were.

Right now, the Republicans want to repeal the Affordable Care Act.  The Republicans have never been able to exactly what they don’t like about the Affordable Care Act other than that it was passed by a Democratic President and a Democratic Congress.   For seven years, the Republicans have been asserting the need to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.  While the Republicans have been relatively unified on their desire to repeal the Affordable Care Act, they have never been able to reach a consensus on how to replace it.

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The End

This year’s elections saw a lot of unusual, unexpected, and unprecedented developments.  So nobody should be shocked at any unexpected developments when the electoral college meets on Monday.  Having said that, Democratic activists have been barking up the wrong tree by emphasizing the national popular vote.  The reason why this strategy was guaranteed to backfire is the nature of the electoral college.

The electors are not randomly chosen people.  They are local politicians and activists who are nominated by their state party.  In short, they are not the people who are likely to surrender control of the White House to the other party.  By the rules that are currently in place, the Republicans have won the White House.  So while, the Constitution, theoretically, allows these electors to vote for Hillary, practically these electors will not vote for Hillary.

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A New Foreign Policy??

For Democrats and, especially for those progressives who voted for third party candidates or stayed home, the last four weeks have been a reminder that there are significant differences between the policies of the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.  The nominees to fill many cabinet positions are people who are either clueless about their responsibilities (Ben Carson at Housing and Urban Development) or actually hostile to significant parts of the core responsibilities of their departments (EPA, Labor, Justice, Interior, Education, Health and Human Services).   The past eight years might not have been perfect for the progressive agenda and Secretary Clinton might not have been pushing as much of the progressive agenda as some would have wanted, but it is clear that the Trump Administration will be working to reverse not just the last eight years, but much of the past fifty to eighty years.

While the nominees for most positions so far seem to be the dream team of the far right, the current rumors for Secretary of State represent a nightmare for even Republicans.  Since World War II, the two parties have shared a common basic foreign policy.  For both parties, the original foreign policy was to contain communism and to promote stability by means of adding even more countries to regional defense agreements.   Within each of the two parties, there was a disagreement about how much we should emphasize promoting human rights and democracy as opposed to seeking to stabilize government willing to work with us on our overall goal of defeating the Soviet Union.

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Protecting Democracy

democracy-header1Every day, more nominees. I never thought I’d actually be rooting for Mittens so there will be at least one adult in the room.

If you’d told me that “President of these United States” was an entry-level elected position, I would have laughed.

Who could have predicted that the Weekly World News would have gotten more right over its years of publication than what is shown on most news stations. (At the very end of this post is the best story EVER about the Weekly World News.) Continue Reading...

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Transitions

The death of Fidel Castro on Friday is a reminder that the United States is not the only country going through a transition.  In some Western democracies, the transition period is very short.  For example, in countries like Canada and the United Kingdom, the main opposition party has a “shadow” cabinet.  After an election in which power changes hands, it is typically a matter of days for the new Prime Minister to officially name the members of the new government (with only minor changes from the shadow cabinet).  In the United Kingdom, this means that after a Thursday election, the new ministers take charge on the following Monday (assuming that there is not a hung parliament).

Transition periods are more complex in dictatorships (even ones that are nominally democratic).  As Russia has proven over the past decades (and China proved before then), titles are less important than who really has the power.  It  has been eight years since Fidel officially stepped down and his brother Raul took over as President of Cuba.  However, Raul is now 86 and has also stated that he will be stepping down at the end of his current term in 2018.  The question is who comes next after Raul.

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