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Kavanaugh’s ‘Judge as Umpire’ Metaphor Sounds Neutral — But It’s Deeply Conservative

September 8, 2018 in Blogs

By The Conversation

Kavanaugh thinks judges 'must be an umpire – a neutral and impartial arbiter.' So does Chief Justice Roberts.

Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh invoked baseball to explain his judicial philosophy at his confirmation hearing.

“A good judge,” he said in his opening statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 4, “must be an umpire – a neutral and impartial arbiter who favors no litigant or policy.”

This is not the first time a Supreme Court nominee has employed the judge-as-umpire analogy. Chief Justice John Roberts told senators at his 2005 confirmation hearing, “Umpires don’t make the rules; they apply them. The role of an umpire and a judge is critical. … But it is a limited role.”

The reference to America’s national pastime may sound politically neutral, but it is not.

As a scholar of judicial decision-making, I recognize that this analogy reflects the conservatism of Kavanaugh’s and Roberts’ judicial philosophies.

Originalism – getting the call right?

Conservative jurists and legal scholars believe that judges must interpret the Constitution according to its framers’ original understanding, just as umpires must call a strike on any pitch in the strike zone. There is only one answer, grounded in observable facts.

This judicial philosophy – called “originalism” – says that if judges spend enough time studying the facts of a case and American history, they will find the one correct response to a constitutional dispute.

In a 2016 speech titled “The Judge as Umpire: Ten Principles,” Kavanaugh extolled the virtues of rule-following and consistency in law and sports.

Aspiring umpires in training schools spend dozens of classroom hours poring over the baseball rule book. To apply their knowledge, they do drills on the field, practicing their footwork and learning how to react to different situations.

They strive for military precision so that strikes and outs are called correctly every time, just as the baseball commissioner intended when writing down the rules.

Originalists similarly believe that judges must interpret the Constitution precisely as the Founding Fathers did. To ignore the framers’ intention, they say, would effectively be rewriting the rules in …read more


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Here's What We Don't Get From Yet Another Book 'Exposing' Donald Trump

September 8, 2018 in Blogs

By The Conversation

Do we really need to hear more about Donald Trump’s behavior?

If anyone is surprised by the portrait of president Donald Trump in investigative journalist Bob Woodward’s new book, Fear: Trump in the White House, they’ve been living under a log. The way Trump treats women, immigrants, children, and the press is clearly beyond the pale, but it’s also well-established. So it pays to ask what yet another long tale of Trump’s transgressions can do for society – and for journalism.

Do we really need to hear more about Donald Trump’s behavior? What is there that we don’t already know? And what has anyone, including the media, done with this knowledge anyway?

The much-anticipated release of this tell-all by Woodward, who together with Carl Bernstein broke the Watergate story, has predictably sent the press and everyone across the US political spectrum into tremors of excitement. This latest work of political insiderdom has provided the mainstream media with “scoops” – that is, offered up a clutch of juicy quotes to journalists who’ve read select excerpts from the nearly 450-page book.

The Huffington Post’s list of outré comments allegedly made by the president, deftly titled “The Wildest Things About Trump From Bob Woodward’s New Book”, includes illuminating snippets such as Trump’s alleged mocking of attorney general Jeff Sessions’ accent: “This guy is mentally retarded. He’s this dumb Southerner … He couldn’t even be a one-person country lawyer down in Alabama.”

Other accounts excerpted by HuffPo touch on more serious topics. Following Trump’s statement that “both sides” were responsible for the violence at an August 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Woodward reports that “advisers urged him to make another speech condemning white supremacists and neo-Nazis”. According to Woodward, after Trump made the speech “he almost immediately told aides, ‘That was the biggest fucking mistake I’ve made’ and the ‘worst speech I’ve ever given’”.

These sorts of remarks are clearly unedifying to say the least. But the matter of whether or not people love or hate them – and, more importantly, the ideas behind them – is not changed or …read more


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Don’t Hang Your Hopes on the 'Resistance' Behind the NYT Op-Ed — America is Being Murdered Right in Front of Our Eyes

September 8, 2018 in Blogs

By Lucian K. Truscott IV, Salon

The op-ed is only further proof.

You want to know what being anonymous does? It protects you, and nobody else.  You want proof? Have a look at the cowardly, lame-ass, anonymous op-ed by a “senior official in the Trump administration” in The New York Times.  A pathetic cri de coeur penned by a con artist working for a con man inside the bunker of the White House didn’t protect immigrant children from being taken from their mothers and thrown into cages during the so-called “zero tolerance” policy on the border. Anonymous hasn’t protected the nearly500 immigrant childrenwho are still being held apart from their families by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Anonymous didn’t do anything to protect the 2,975 Americans who lost their lives in Puerto Rico as a result of Hurricane Maria last year. That storm blasted through the island ripping apart homes, destroying the electrical grid, and killing thousands. And all they got from an out of control, ignorant, arrogant president was a few rolls of paper towels.

READ MORE: Another American happy warrior laid to rest: John McCain's legacy of gung-ho militarism

Anonymous didn’t protect the American people from a Republican tax bill that gave massive tax cuts to billionaires and millionaires while incredibly raising taxes on some lower-income families and people from states with high state taxes. And Anonymous isn’t protecting us from Trump and Republicans who are looking to cut Social Security and Medicare to make up for the massive hole they blew in the deficit. 

Three staff attorneys from the Civil Division of the Justice Department filed a motion to remove their names from a federal lawsuit the Trump administration has joined that is attempting to gut the Affordable Care Act, including ending coverage for pre-existing conditions. Since they aren’t “senior officials” in the Trump administration, I think we can safely assume that none of these three is the anonymous author of the craven op-ed in The New York Times, who has obviously done absolutely nothing to protect the health care of Americans from Trump.

You …read more


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As Months Pass in Chicago Shelters, Immigrant Children Contemplate Escape, Even Suicide

September 8, 2018 in Blogs

By ProPublica

Internal documents reveal despair and tedium in one of the nation's largest shelter networks for unaccompanied minors.

One 16-year-old from Guatemala said he wanted to “quitarme la vida,” or “take my life away,” as he waited to be released from a Chicago shelter for immigrant children. He was kept there for at least 584 days.

A 17-year-old from Guinea went on a hunger strike, telling staff members he refused to eat until he saw evidence they were trying to find him a home. He was released nearly nine months after he entered a shelter.

And a 10-month-old boy, forcibly separated from his father at the U.S.-Mexico border in March, was bitten repeatedly by an older child and later hospitalized after falling from a highchair. He was detained for five months.

ProPublica Illinois has obtained thousands of confidential records about the nine federally funded shelters in the Chicago area for immigrant youth operated by the nonprofit Heartland Human Care Services — some dating back years, others from as recently as last week.

The documents provide a sweeping overview of the inner workings and life inside one of the country’s largest shelter networks for unaccompanied minors, including children separated from their parents under the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy.

While the records focus on Illinois shelters, they provide a rare glimpse of a secretive detention system that holds children at more than 100 sites across the country. They include descriptions of serious incident reports filed with the federal government, caseworkers’ notes on family reunifications, employee schedules, daily rosters, internal emails and more.

The documents reveal the routines of life inside the shelters, days punctuated by tedium and fear as children wait and wait and wait to leave. They spend their days taking English lessons and learning about such peculiarities as American slang, St. Patrick’s Day, the NFL and the red carpet fashions at the Academy Awards. They complain about the food and mistreatment by staff. And they cry and write letters and hurt themselves in despair.

In what they say and write, and in what is said and written about them, one truth becomes abundantly clear: The longer …read more


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White House Insiders Panicked That the Return of Obama is Getting 'into Trump's Head'

September 8, 2018 in Blogs

By Tom Boggioni, Raw Story

Insiders claim Trump “has long complained about the fawning coverage and adulation that he believes Obama has received, even after leaving the White House.”

According to a report on the reemergence of former President Barack Obama into the public square after giving a scathing speech attacking Donald Trump, White House insiders are worried that Trump will now become obsessed with going after the former president.

Politico reports that insiders claim Trump “has long complained about the fawning coverage and adulation that he believes Obama has received, even after leaving the White House,” which has been exacerbated by the president's dismay at the fawning coverage given to the late Sen. John McCain in the past two weeks.

With the adulation lavished on Obama's speech in Illinois on Friday, where he repeatedly took shots at Trump, saying Trump’s Twitter feed is nothing more than an “electronic versions of bread and circuses,” insiders worry Obama's return could throw Trump off his game.

“Trump also sees Obama as a much more formidable political opponent than Hillary Clinton, the one he actually beat, and Trump’s allies have privately worried that the 44th president could get in his successor’s head,” Politico reports, adding, “Asked what they had to say about Obama’s attacks on Trump — coming at the end of head-exploding week in the middle of the darkest period of his presidency so far — multiple Trump White House aides and people close to him said they didn’t want to get into it, letting the president’s words speak for themselves.”

Democrats certainly hope so as the midterms loom, with candidates reportedly flooding Obama's advisers with requests for personal appearances on the campaign trail.

You can read the whole report here.

…read more