Living Large In Carson City: The Crazies Are In Control Of the Asylum Edition

Any serious shift towards more sustainable

societies has to include gender equality.   Helen Clark

The Trump clown car just took a hard right to the edge of the proverbial cliff and shows no signs of slowing down . . . again. As if the administration, and Republicans in general, didn’t have enough on their plates what with the Muller investigation, subverting the rule of law, subpoena scoff laws, a basic misunderstanding of how tariffs work, or even Donald, Jr.’s lying to Congress woes, now they are after women and LGBTQ people . . . again. Some days it appears conservatives are really just B actors auditioning for stand up comedy roles in a not funny and sad parody of a panned episode of The Office. Their efforts, as sincere as they might be, are hard to understand, and at times, just downright loopy.

Example 1: Let’s continue to take away a woman’s right to choose . . .  again.

If Americans haven’t been paying attention, and let’s face it, many Americans tuned out the demise of Western Civilization the day Trump took office, those pesky fly over, southern, evangelical wackos are at it again. The tune is as old as the Women’s Movement, “Abortion bad, ugh! Man say no.” Of course, this is just another verse of the old favorite, “98 Feminists on the Wall” sung to the tune of “98 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” but meaner and less enlightened. From Alabama to Ohio, Neanderthal state legislators are trying to undo 45 years of Roe vs Wade. Correction: not undo it, but rather, smash the hell out of it.

Early abortion bans, known as ‘heartbeat bills,’ are being proposed in at least ten states. So far, those in MissouriMississippiTennesseeGeorgia, and Kentucky have advanced the farthest in state legislatures.

The bills would outlaw abortion after a fetal heartbeat is present, which can be found within six weeks of the beginning of a pregnancy.

Despite the wave of new proposed legislation, every ‘heartbeat’ bill passed to date has been overturned in state or federal court.

In other states, those bills were never signed into law. NBCNews

It’s actually understandable that this would be happening now. If Donald Trump is anything, he understands tapping into the angst and anger of his solidly loyal base. It’s hard to imagine the Orange One caring about anything other than his own ego, but by backing his people on an issue like this one, no matter how unpopular they may be,  he knows he can depend upon them come 2020. But Americans might say, the article states that all of the passed bills have been overturned or never signed into law. True, but that isn’t what this is about in the end. This is one of those situations where evangelical Christians are throwing everything they can up against the wall and hoping something sticks.

This term turns my stomach, but they really are “playing the long game” here. Their goal and end destination in mind is the United States Supreme Court. The high court that Trump has appointed two sycophant cronies to in the persons of Neil Gosurch, and wait for it, “I like Beer” Brett Kavanaugh.  Gorsuch showed a flair for choosing the worst quote possible for his Columbia University yearbook when he quoted Henry Kissinger who once said, ” “The illegal we do immediately, the unconstitutional takes a little longer.” Kavanaugh isn’t worth quoting in this post, simply because, he may not have ever had an original thought in his head as demonstrated in his confirmation hearing.

Evangelical legislators understand the dynamic of the Supreme Court today and hope against hope that one of their “heartbeat bills” makes it on the docket in months or years to come. There again, however, there seems to be a bit of hope, in that, the court has ruled on Roe vs Wade many times and seems reluctant to go against precedent. Still, hope springs eternal in the tiny minds of these seriously misguided legislative hacks.

Example 2: Hell, they’re queer. They don’t deserve no stinkin’ rights.

This one is just downright batshit crazy. The players include run-of-the-mill wacko evangelicals, wacko evangelical United States Congressmen and women, and the American LGBTQ community. The bill was presented to Congress stating,

Introduced in House (03/13/2019) This bill prohibits discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity in areas including public accommodations and facilities, education, federal funding, employment, housing, credit, and the jury system.

As Ronald Reagan once said, “America is a shining city upon a hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere”, one would think that ensuring a portion of American society has equal rights would not be an issue. Think again. On one chilling note, when the bill made it to debate, some of the amendments proposed were down right laughable. One is more than a little, well, confusing,

The distinction for the most condescending and superficial amendment goes to Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.), who proposed an amendment to change the Equality Act to to the “Forfeiting Women’s Rights Act” . . .

A total of 34 amendments were submitted Friday to the House Rules Committee, which will evaluate the measures during a committee session and determine which are eligible for a vote on the floor . . .

Republicans proposed 28 of those amendments, many of which are anti-trans in nature or seek to broaden the religious exemption in the bill to allow anti-LGBT discrimination. The Washington Blade

Some of the amendments were meant as clarification like exempting abortion from the mix, securing parental rights, and others that tried to water down the impact of the bill, but some were downright frightening,

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), who has a long anti-LGBT record in Congress, proposed an amendment that would restore the application of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, making anti-LGBT discrimination possible under that law. Fourteen of Gohmert’s Republican colleagues co-sponsored the amendment. The Washington Blade

This is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s safe to say there is an overarching anti-LGBTQ tenor to the Republican amendments to the point of paranoia. Granted, this is a flash point issue, one that evokes strong opinions on both sides. Yet, in the 21st century, to read the hateful thoughts of  some of our elected officials who have sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States demonstrating their true beliefs on this topic does, and should give, every American pause. Just for the record, the Trump/Pence White House came out in opposition to the bill.

Example 3: Trump and Bob Barr are beyond redemption

A Raw Story headline says it best, Shocker: Trump and Barr refuse to defend ban on female genital mutilation. Yes, you read correctly, female genital mutilation, or FGM. One might ask why is this an issue in America? For the last 20 years, it hasn’t been because of a ban on the procedure. The ban, however, was recently struck down because of a loophole found in a court case discussed in the article. Now, normal thinking Americans who love their daughters and mothers would naturally assume that the ban would be looked at, the loophole closed, reinstated, and everything would be peachy. You would be wrong. Not in Trump and his lapdog Attorney General, Bob Barr’s, world.

The DOJ could have appealed the ruling, but Francisco told Feinstein there’s no legal basis to defend the 20-year-old ban, and therefore it’ll allow the law to disappear. It’s up to Congress, the Trump administration wrote, to amend the law or to pass a new one. If that sounds familiar, it’s because we’ve seen this tactic before. This is also how Trump dealt with DACA as well as his current strategy for repealing the Affordable Care Act. Kill it then use it as leverage. It wouldn’t shock me if we discovered Trump planned to use the FGM issue as a negotiation ploy, just like the ACA and DACA. We haven’t heard any rumors to that effect, but the precedent exists. The Raw Story

Negotiation ploy? Let’s be clear. Trump and Barr are willing to allow young girls to be physically restrained by their families, or worse, by complete strangers, to be held down, their most private parts removed in the most horrific manner, or as the article states, “. . . using everything from “knives, scissors, scalpels, pieces of glass or razor blades”, and this is not an issue our president finds worthy of supporting a ban on?

Before I began writing this post, I thought America was in crazy times. Now, it’s Mad Max and the Thunder Dome reality. Don’t be alarmed by the sound of a revving engine. It’s Trump’s clown car picking up speed.

 

Living Large In Carson City: Well, That Was A Surprise Edition

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This has been one of the hardest Mondays in a long stretch of hard Mondays dating back to the beginning of 2017 when Trump took office. My disappointment is rooted on many levels. What we know now is that Robert Mueller is both an honorable man, and obviously, a naive one. On the one hand, he knew any information he and his band of loyal attorneys dug up on Trump was going to be subject to two memos authored by the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC); one in 1973 during Nixon’s Watergate woes and one in 2000 after the Clinton impeachment. The two memos argue that a sitting president cannot be indicted. Oddly enough, two other memos came to the opposite opinion. Yet, he did the work and came up with a report that will likely not see the light of day outside of the Trump administration and his cronies.

The fact that the memos clash is understandable according to Andrew Crespo who is an Assistant Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. Writing in the Law Fare Blog, Crespo states the opposing memos that allow for the president to be indicted come from the Office of Special Counsel and the Office of Independent Counsel. He points out that the latter two offices have different missions, cultures, and goals than the OLC. He notes that the real crux of the issue for Mueller is which of the two sets of memos would he be bound to follow by Attorney General Barr and the Trump White House?

For present purposes, however, the most important practical question is whether the current special counsel, Robert Mueller, is free to exercise his own independent judgment on the immunity issue, or whether he is instead bound to follow OLC’s take. If it’s the latter, then those two OLC memos would together constitute the single greatest shield protecting President Trump from prosecution: No matter how strong the evidence against him may become, if OLC’s memos are binding then the President simply cannot be indicted until after he leaves office—by which point, it bears noting, the statute of limitations for any relevant conduct may well have expired. www.lawfareblog.com

Mueller knew all along the OLC’s interpretation was the one that Trump and company would insist on following. This means no matter how damning any information he and his team unearthed Trump was going to claim executive privilege and stand behind the rules set down by the OLC’s memos. It is becoming more obvious that Mueller, knowing his hands were tied by the OLC guidelines, saw no reason in pushing for an indictment, but rather, tailored his findings to be passed along to Congress which is the only body able to ferret out the Trump administration’s wrong doings under the current set of circumstances. These issues relate to obstruction. Other matters were also passed along to other federal courts like the Southern District of New York and Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn) which will take up a myriad of infractions dealing with Trump, his children, and various organizations associated with Trump’s so called empire.

Where I think Mueller was naive was thinking that Barr would agree and pass along the report to the House Judiciary committee. Barr, so far, hasn’t seen it that way as demonstrated in his letter to Congress which was long on political wink and nods but lacked zero substance. The Barr letter is both wacky and interesting in what it does and doesn’t highlight in the report. While collusion is off the chopping block, obstruction of justice by the president and his team is not. A Daily Kos article, Lawfare: What to Make of Bill Barr’s Letter, has an interesting breakdown of the letter by Lawfare which states in part,

It also makes clear that the Mueller report creates an extensive record on the obstruction question. And that may well be the point. After all, what is the point of a prosecutor’s amassing a factual record and then refusing, as Mueller apparently has refused, to evaluate it in a traditional prosecutorial framework? The answer the letter suggests but does not state is that the Mueller report has teed up the question of presidential obstruction for evaluation by a different actor—to wit, by Congress—on a decidedly noncriminal basis. Mueller, being barred from indicting the president, has done the investigation, has apparently declined even to evaluate the matter as a prosecutor, and has laid out all of the facts and the arguments for and against treating the president’s behavior as criminal. Lawfare/DailyKos

Okay, where we are today, Tuesday March 26, is pretty much screwed as to knowing anything of substance concerning the findings of Mueller and crew. Barr appears to be whitewashing the report, and Trump, of course, is calling it a complete vindication of no collusion, and by extension, no obstruction of justice. We can only blame the Senate for confirming Barr in the first place. In a 2018 memo to Congress, Barr expresses doubt about the legality of Mueller’s probe in no uncertain terms. This was long before Barr was tapped as Trump’s replacement for Jeff Sessions (I refuse to dignify Matt Whitaker as an acting anything other than an asshole).  Some have suggested that the memo played a part in Trump’s choice of Barr. One could even make the case Barr was “auditioning” for the AG position through the memo.  In paragraphs one and two, Barr lays out his case rather succinctly, if somewhat arrogantly. He wrote,

It appears Mueller’s team is investigating a possible case of “obstruction”by the President predicated substantially on his expression of hope that the Comey could eventually “let… go” of its investigation of Flynn and his action in firing Comey. In pursuit of this obstruction theory, it appears that Mueller’s team is demanding that the President submit to interrogation about these incidents, using the threat of subpoenas to coerce his submission.

Mueller should not be permitted to demand that the President submit to interrogation about alleged obstruction. Apart from whether Mueller a strong enough factual basis for doing so, Mueller’s obstruction theory is fatally misconceived. As I understand it, his theory is premised on a novel and legally insupportable reading of the law. Moreover, in my view,if credited by the Department, it would have grave consequences far beyond the immediate confines of this case and would do lasting damage to the Presidency and to the administration of law within the Executive branch.  Barr Memo

It goes on and on for some 19 pages. If this were not a clarion bell ringing out for Mueller to ignore at his peril, I don’t know what is.

Since we don’t know at this point how this situation will play out, the only course of action is to look at the consequences of what the Barr letter to Congress on Mueller’s findings has created. Trump, predictably, is singing his own praises telling America that he has been wronged but now vindicated. Hypocrisy and irony are totally lost on this man. He said,

“. . . lot of people out there that have done some very evil things, I would say treasonous things against our country” will “certainly be looked at.”

“I’ve been looking at them a long time,” Trump added, telling reporters “you know who they are…They’ve done so many evil things.”

Trump said he loves this country “as much as I can love anything: my family, my country, my god.”

“We can never let this happen to another president again,” he said, boasting “very few people I know could have handled it.”  Deadline

Sigh. Others like Mitch McConnell stuck their fingers in the pie. Mitch blocked a resolution calling for the Mueller findings to be made public. This isn’t surprising since he has long ago lost understanding of what our democratic ideals mean. Mike Pence crawled out from under his rock to claim Trump is completed exonerated and innocent. Of course, this will be hard to prove unless America knows what is actually in the report. In a nutshell the entire Mueller fiasco has turned into a nightmare of hellish proportions.

Talk of impeachment now seems like ancient history. There is even speculation that the Democrats’ plan to follow up on investigations already underway may be in jeopardy. Trump scored a huge win with the Mueller report and Barr’s summation of it to Congress. There seems to be only two possible paths to salvage anything of worth from the past two years of Mueller’s probe. One, by some whim of fate, Congress gets the report (unredacted) and can decide for the American people what should be the consequences that Trump must face. Or the ballot box. On the former, don’t count on it. On the latter . . . well, the alternative to not kicking Trump out of office is simply too much to contemplate at this time.