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Roe v. Wade Is at the Mercy of Two Unreliable 'Pro-Choice' Republican Senators

June 27, 2018 in Blogs

By Joan McCarter, Daily Kos

They can actually do something real for the basic preservation of our constitutional democracy. We've got to make them do it.


Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska have held on to the mantle of being “pro-choice” Republicans for their entire careers, and they've actually been able to hoodwink groups like Planned Parenthood into believing them and working with them. In fact, just last fall Planned Parenthood gave Collins an award.

Since then, both Collins and Murkowski have voted for every one of popular vote loser Donald Trump's viciously anti-abortion judicial nominees (except for the one vote Murkowski missed).

So what about the next one? Collins basically says it's a real shame about Roe v. Wade, but she thinks it would be a mistake to make a fuss about these things. No, really. She says that it was just too bad that Republicans blockaded President Obama's nominee and it was a “mistake” but that boy, Democrats sure shouldn't make that mistake, too. Also, too, “First of all I view Roe v. Wade as being settled law. It’s clearly precedent. I always look for judges who respect precedent.”

Like that's going to happen with a Trump nominee. Like it's made one iota of difference in all her previous votes. Like she's not lying through her teeth right there. But hey, that's just the way the women's reproductive rights cookie crumbles, huh?

For her part, Murkowski has apparently been in hiding all day, because thus far we haven't heard a peep from her.

Mitch McConnell can't afford to lose two Republicans with Arizona Sen. John McCain on his way out. Collins and Murkowski can actually do something real for women's health, for LGBTQ rights, for the basic preservation of our constitutional democracy. We've got to make them do it. We did it before, when they voted to kill Trumpcare. We can do it again.

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MSNBC's Chris Matthews Warns Democrats Must Stop Trump's Next Justice in Wild Rant: 'I Don’t Think the Party Leadership Can Survive This!’

June 27, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

“How can you explain that you couldn't stop it when you had 49 senators and they just have 50?”


MSNBC's Chris Matthews became impassioned and combative with Steve Kornacki Wednesday as the pair sparred over Senate Democrats' ability to block President Donald Trump's forthcoming Supreme Court nominee.

Kornacki noted that Democrats have little leverage to block any potential successor to Justice Anthony Kennedy, who announced his retirement Wednesday.

“If you are Democrats sitting there with 49 votes in the Senate and you need to bring over at least one, probably a couple of Republicans to have a chance of knocking this off, what is the best argument or the best tactic that Democrats would have to pick off those Republicans?” Kornacki asked.

“How about survival of the Democratic leadership?” Matthews shot back. “I don't think the leadership could survive this! How can you explain that you couldn't stop it when you had 49 senators and they just have 50? Just a few years ago — look at the way the Republicans played the rules. First of all, they said it took 60 senators to approve a Supreme Court justice back two years ago. Also, that's 60 years. Then they got rid of that with the nuclear option. Then they said we are not going to elect anybody in the year before a presidential election. They denied confirmation hearings or meetings with garland, the Democratic nominee of President Obama.”

All of this, Matthews said, means the Democratic voters will be furious if Trump nominates another justice. However, while he seemed certain that fury would be directed toward Democrats and party leadership, Kornacki insisted that the party lacks any procedural methods to stop a confirmation.

“Chris, I think what I'm trying to get to the bottom of with you is this: If every Democrat adopts the posture you are talking about, fights this and stand together they have got 49 votes,” Kornacki said. “They lose!”

If the voters recognize Kornacki's point, it's possible that they'll take their anger out on Trump and the Republicans at the voting booth. But Matthews may also be right — it may inspire voters to demand new leadership within the Democratic party as well.

“You don't understand. They will be blamed,” Matthews said.

Watch the clip below:

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FBI Found That Trump's Campaign Manager Was Deeply Indebted to a Russian Oligarch

June 27, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

The extensive ties between Trump's campaign and Russia continue to be revealed.


In new court documents released Wednesday, an FBI agent reported that President Donald Trump's campaign manager Paul Manafort was deeply indebted to a Russian oligarch during the presidential election, according to Reuters.

The report says that Manafort, who is facing multiple charges from special counsel Robert Mueller's team related to money laundering and acting as an undisclosed foreign agent, owed the billionaire Oleg Deripaska $10 million. Deripaska, who reportedly has close ties to authoritarian Russian President Vladimir Putin, has since been sanctioned by the U.S. government.

Though countless details have emerged about connections between the Trump campaign and Russia since the election, this one should stand out.

As MSNBC's Chris Hayes put it: “Nothing to see here, just the indicted campaign manager of the president (who worked for free) owing a Russian oligarch $10 million dollars while Russia was sabotaging the election.”

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Source: ALTERNET

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Here's Why Trump Doesn't Need to Replace Justice Kennedy at All — The Supreme Court Could Be Better with 8 Justices

June 27, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

As liberals despair at the prospect of losing a seat to another conservative justice, it's time to consider other options.


With Justice Anthony Kennedy retiring from the Supreme Court to be replaced by a President Donald Trump nominee, the United States risks entering an era in which even a Democratic White House and Congress would struggle to implement a progressive legislative agenda.

This dynamic could deeply fracture the country, entrenching right-wing dominance in the judiciary with the power to effectively nullify the policy preferences of a majority of the country. Partisanship would only increase, and the likelihood of conflict, both outside and inside the government, would rise.

But there's a solution to this problem, and it's even easier to implement with Justice Anthony Kennedy stepping down.

If Trump were to decide not to nominate someone to take his place, and Congress agreed to limit the Supreme Court to eight justices, we might be able to actually reduce partisan tensions in the United States.

Eric Segall, a legal professor at Georgia State University, has been a strong defender of this concept. Contrary to popular opinion, he argues that having an even number of justices would be beneficial for the country:

With four conservatives and four liberals divided along party lines, the justices will have to try harder to reach consensus and will likely decide far more cases, to use Justice Sotomayor’s word, “narrowly.” Those are both beneficial, not negative, side effects of an evenly-divided Supreme Court. The court sets an excellent example for the rest of government and the American people when the justices work hard to reach results both sides can live with (or at least can vote for), especially in our most controversial and important cases.

When the justices do end up splitting on a 4-4 decision, the lower court's ruling will simply hold, which is far from a crisis.

And this move would not be unprecedented. The number of justices fluctuated in the country's early years, but for several decades the court has an even number — just six. It wasn't until 1869 that the Congress landed on the nine-justice court we have …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Former U.S. Assistant Attorney Explains Why Trump's 'Frivolous' Attack on Mueller Would Get Him Laughed Out of Court

June 27, 2018 in Blogs

By Chris Sosa, AlterNet

Conservatives are trying to make a legal case that doesn't exist.


A recent Wall Street Journal op-ed makes crystal clear the hypocritical and ridiculous plan by President Donald Trump's allies to end the investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller. The argument is that his investigation is “fruit of the poisonous tree.”

Randall Eliason, former assistant United States attorney for the District of Columbia, explains that this “frivolous” argument would get Trump laughed out of court.

The fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine is “a rule that excludes evidence resulting from an investigator’s unlawful act, such as an unconstitutional search or arrest.” The “doctrine doesn't apply” to evidence that would have been discovered without said action.

Conservatives claim text messages between an assistant FBI director and his lover prove bias in the investigation from the start — a poisoned tree.

Eliason writes in the Washington Post:

[T]he inspector general found no unlawful investigative acts here; you can’t have tainted fruit if there’s no poisonous tree in the first place. And the authors of the Journal op-ed are arguing not to keep out particular items of evidence but to torpedo an entire investigation, despite nearly two years of intervening events and independent actions by other investigators. That’s not discarding particular pieces of fruit. That’s uprooting the entire orchard.

While conservatives' argument may excite an underinformed echo chamber, the “notion that a single agent could bend the entire Justice Department investigative leviathan to his will — particularly in such a significant case — is ludicrous.”

With the midterms rapidly approaching, Trump's allies are running out of viable options to stymie Mueller's investigation and prevent a damning conclusion that could spark a blue wave.

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Source: ALTERNET

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More Private School Choice Means More Student Safety

June 27, 2018 in Economics

By Corey A. DeAngelis

Corey A. DeAngelis

The Federal Commission on School Safety, created shortly after
the tragic
Parkland, Fla., school shooting
,
met on Tuesday in Lexington, Ky.
, to discuss how to make
schools safer. Many people,
including President Trump
, have called for heightened security
measures such as arming teachers, mandating clear
backpacks
, and stationing more officers in public schools. But
none of these approaches address the root of the school safety
problem.

Just about all proposed approaches are attempts to centrally
plan school safety from the top-down. Of course, the addition of
more police officers or security guards to schools is meant to
diminish the likelihood that dangerous people are successful in
harming students. However, this type of environment does not
improve the mental stability of children within schools. Indeed,
some critics argue that a prison-like setting could do more harm than
good
by stressing students out. And having more armed adults on
site does little to nothing to reduce the likelihood that students
engage in activities such as bullying or fighting.

But if more constraints do not solve school safety problems,
does that mean fewer security measures will result in safer
schools?

Children’s safety should
be our No. 1 priority. And the most rigorous evidence suggests that
school vouchers are indeed tickets to safer schools.

Not at all. As the Manhattan Institute’s Max Eden pointed out, the lax discipline initiatives in
New York City public schools probably unintentionally harmed school
safety because of more disruptive behavior. Since the two
discipline reforms, aimed to reduce students suspensions, were
issued in New York City in 2012, teachers reported more disorder, violence, drugs, and gang activity
in their public schools
.

Central planners unfortunately have a knowledge problem. No one knows the socially optimal
level of school suspensions or expulsions and no one knows of any
perfect top-down measures of school safety. And even if bureaucrats
could somehow calculate an optimal level of discipline or security
for one school, it would not necessarily apply to any other school.
Because all students are unique, the only way to solve this
knowledge problem is to allow all families to choose the discipline
and security policies that work best for their own children.

I’ve recently made the argument that, in theory, school vouchers are tickets to safer schools.
But what does the scientific evidence indicate?

The data show that the school choice approach works. As shown in
the table below, I only know of four rigorous studies linking
private school choice to student safety. All four of these studies
find statistically significant positive effects …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Our Welfare System Needs Serious Disruption

June 27, 2018 in Economics

By Michael D. Tanner

Michael D. Tanner

President Trump’s supporters have long argued that we
should overlook his manifest flaws because he is a
“disrupter,” and God knows there are more than a few
institutions in Washington that could use a little disruption. Of
course, as the misery and chaos on our southern border show,
disruption can have a downside. But time after time, on occasions
when disruption is desperately needed, the Trump administration has
blinked.

The latest example is the administration’s proposal,
unveiled last week, to restructure our bloated and sclerotic
welfare system. Nearly everyone across the ideological spectrum
agrees that our efforts to fight poverty could use some disruption.
Currently, the federal government administers over 100 anti-poverty
programs, more than 70 of which provide benefits, whether cash or
in-kind, to families and individuals. Opaque, duplicative, and
often lacking oversight and accountability, these programs
ill-serve both recipients and taxpayers to the tune of more than $1
trillion per year.

The Trump
administration’s government-reorganization plan won’t do the
trick.

Yet, faced with both the need and the opportunity for genuinely
radical disruption, the Trump administration brought forth a plan
that mostly amounts to a cosmetic reorganization of the federal
government. Spearheaded by Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s budget director,
the plan is surprisingly timid in light of what could have
been.

Mulvaney’s proposal would unify administration of welfare
programs that are currently scattered among at least nine cabinet
departments and six independent agencies under the purview of the
Department of Health and Human Services, which would be renamed the
Department of Health and Public Welfare. Among the most prominent
of these programs would be food stamps (SNAP) and WIC.

Community-development programs, meanwhile, would be shifted from
the Department of Housing and Urban Development to the Department
of Commerce. Rural-housing and rental-assistance programs would
move from the Department of Agriculture to HUD, the Education
Department would merge with the Labor Department to create a new
Department of Education and the Workforce, and so on and so
forth.

In fairness, the changes would constitute more than just a
bailout of Washington sign-makers. They would establish a much more
logical chain of command and accountability, marking a first step
toward standardized cross-program regulations governing everything
from eligibility to work requirements. A new Council on Public
Assistance would coordinate between agencies and have tie-breaking
authority in interagency or interdepartmental disputes. The reform
plan also would establish procedures to expedite waivers and
increase state flexibility.

The reorganization could also have a meaningful impact on
congressional appropriations by breaking up the entrenched
log-rolling that so often preserves program funding regardless of
effectiveness. For example, food stamps and other nutrition
programs have long been immune to reform because of an unholy
alliance of urban …read more

Source: OP-EDS