Los Angeles Times

The Plot Twist (Squeaky Gates)

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Special Counsel Robert Mueller (AP Photo)

This is hard to overlook. Los Angeles Times reports:

A former top aide to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign will plead guilty to fraud-related charges within days—and has made clear to prosecutors that he would testify against Paul J. Manafort Jr., the lawyer-lobbyist who once managed the campaign.

Rick Gates departs U.S. District Court on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018, in Washington, D.C. (Alex Brandon/Associated Press)The change of heart by Trump’s former deputy campaign manager, Richard W. Gates III, who had pleaded not guilty after being indicted in October on charges similar to Manafort’s, was described in interviews by people familiar with the case.

“Rick Gates is going to change his plea to guilty,” said a person with direct knowledge of the new developments, adding that the revised plea will be presented in federal court in Washington “within the next few days.”

Caroline Orr, meanwhile, rightly recalls that “Gates was still making regular trips to the White House through at least June 2017”, noting the Daily Beast, circa June last:   (more…)

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Some 2020 Democratic Presidential Speculation, Just Because

The sun rises near the White House on Nov. 8, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

It would be easy enough to overplay the drama in an early look toward the 2020 election by Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin of the New York Times:

In a largely leaderless party, two distinct groups are emerging, defined mostly by age and national stature. On one side are three potential candidates approaching celebrity status who would all be over 70 years old on Election Day: Mr. Biden, and Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Competing against the Democrats’ senior cohort is a large and relatively shapeless set of younger candidates who span the ideological spectrum: governors, senators, mayors, wealthy executives and even members of the House. They are animated by the president’s turbulent debut and the recent history, from Barack Obama’s victory in 2008 to Mr. Trump’s last year, of upstart candidates’ catching fire.

In the Senate alone, as much as a quarter of the Democrats’ 48-member caucus are thought to be giving at least a measure of consideration to the 2020 race, among them Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten E. Gillibrand of New York, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Kamala Harris of California. All are closer to 40 than 80.

For now, however, it is the party’s septuagenarian trio that is casting the longest shadow over 2020, and all three have taken steps to extend or expand their leadership status in the party.

In between, for good measure, is discussion of an amorphous non-faction we might consider as the collected other, including Rep. Seth Moulton (MA-06), Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. Before booking the orchestra for a dramatic score, we should remember this is merely April, 2017; Democrats need to to read the midterm map, first. That is to say, it seems a bit early to see who lands where in relation to what. And, admittedly, it is hard to account for the proverbial known unknowns in the time of Trump; the unknown unknowns seem extraordinary at this time, too.α

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Not Quite #WhatTheyVotedFor

#Justice | #WhatTheyVotedFor

washington-v-trump-bw

Let us start with Maura Dolan of the Los Angeles Times:

A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals declined early Sunday to immediately block an order from a federal judge in Washington that halted the travel ban.

Instead, the panel established a rapid schedule for written arguments.

A brief from the two states that challenged the ban was filed early Monday. The administration’s response was due at 3 p.m. Pacific time. A panel ruling could come anytime after that―most likely within a week, experts said.

The three judges who happen to be sitting on the 9th Circuit’s motions panel this month and who will rule on the case are William Canby Jr., a President Carter appointee; Richard Clifton, appointed by President George W. Bush; and Michelle T. Friedland, appointed by President Obama.

Clifton is considered moderately conservative and the two Democrats are viewed as moderately liberal. The 9th Circuit is broadly viewed as the most liberal federal appeals court.

If Trump loses, he could immediately go to the U.S. Supreme Court. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who handles matters from the 9th Circuit, would probably ask the other justices to weigh in.

Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the UC Irvine School of Law, suggested Sunday that the 9th Circuit was likely to rule against the Trump administration.

“Virtually every judge to consider the executive order has said that there is a substantial likelihood that it is unconstitutional,” Chemerinsky said in an email. “Both Republican and Democratic appointees have come to this conclusion. Having read some of the briefs in these cases, I think any court is likely to come to this conclusion.”

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The Ryan Budget (Murmur Mix)

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. meets with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, 16 December 2015. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

“When the next Democratic speaker wants to spend $350 billion over ten years to make public colleges tuition-free for undergraduates, the system will turn in knots to make it seem like we’re broke and can’t afford it. But when Speaker Ryan wants $350 billion to help multinational corporations lower their tax burdens, the system will clear the runway as quickly as possible for these vital and necessary investments.”

David T. S. Jonas

Anyone giving even a modicum of attention to the manner in which Congress actually works can understand why the Ryan Budget seems like a fine accomplishment, but it is also, to the one, a “kind of backroom deal that offers real concessions to Democrats and blows up the deficit wasn’t the change insurgent Republicans were looking for when they ousted John Boehner”, Ezra Klein explained; more directly, he continues that in the larger context the lesson is, “No one cares about the deficit―or, at the very least, everyone cares about other priorities more than they care about the deficit.” "If John Boehner made the spending deal Paul Ryan just did, conservatives would’ve called for his head." (Jim Newell, Slate, 16 December 2015) To the other, we might also beg leave to wonder at what Matt Fuller and Jennifer Bendery described as the “massive spending bill that nobody especially likes”. Jim Newell summarizes, “If John Boehner made the spending deal Paul Ryan just did, conservatives would’ve called for his head”.

And there is merit in the idea that nobody is wholly satisfied, but it also says something important that compromise means lowered expectations. Something about competition and partnership goes here.

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Image notes: Top ― House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. meets with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, 16 December 2015. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) Left ― Via Jim Newell of Slate: “If John Boehner made the spending deal Paul Ryan just did, conservatives would’ve called for his head.”

French, Lauren. “Ryan: Budget package a true compromise”. Politico. 15 December 2015.

Fuller, Matt and Jennifer Bendery. “Congress Ready To Pass Massive Spending Bill That Nobody Especially Likes”. The Huffington Post. 16 December 2015.

Jonas, David T. S. “Maybe Rush Limbaugh has a point: Paul Ryan just blew up the deficit, and Democrats are letting him”. Salon. 19 December 2015.

Klein, Ezra. “The big new budget deal, explained”. Vox. 18 December 2015.

Newell, Jim. “The Paul Ryan Compromise”. Slate. 16 December 2015.

The Times Editorial Board. “Ryan shows compromises can be reached in the House without brinkmanship”. 17 December 2015.

The Huffington Disgrace

"Serena Williams' Sheer Dress Is A Grand Slam". Headline for Huffington Post article by Jamie Feldman, 16 December 2015.

MEMORANDUM

To: Jamie Feldman, Huffington Post

re: ¿Thank you for your contribution?

It is hard to know where to begin, so let me please start with a question: Are you joking?

No, really, are you pitching for a Christmas card from MRAs?

All hail Serena Williams, Sports Illustrated’s first female “Sportsperson of the Year” since 1983 and the sexiest woman alive―if her latest red carpet look is any indication, that is.

(Feldman)

No, really. Please tell me this is a joke.

Why are you taking part in gendertyping? Why are you reinforcing stereotypes about women’s apperances?

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The Countdown: One Week

The Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C.

We should not let it pass unmentioned that there is one week left before oral arguments in Obergefell, when marriage equality has its day before the Supreme Court. Amy Howe of SCOTUSblog offers the press some advice on covering the case, but it’s pretty much worth a read for anyone who wants to know what’s about to happen.

About the briefs. There are a lot of them. Some amount of triage is essential to get ready for the oral argument. All of the briefs are housed here on the blog (organized for each case — Ohio, Tennessee, Michigan, and Kentucky) and on the Supreme Court’s own website.

In each of the four cases, the parties’ briefs are generally the most important. There are briefs on the merits by the plaintiffs challenging the state laws; they are known as the “petitioners” because they “petitioned” the Court to review the lower court’s decision upholding the state laws. On the other side, each set of state officials defending the laws – known as the “respondents” – filed briefs in their respective cases. The petitioners also get to file reply briefs, which are due at the Court on the afternoon of April 17.

In addition to the parties’ briefs, there are also over a hundred amicus, or “friend of the court,” briefs filed by everyone from the Cleveland Choral Arts Association and Facebook – both of which filed briefs in support of the challengers – to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and an advocacy group founded by Mike Huckabee, which support the states that seek to uphold bans on same-sex marriage. The United States also filed an amicus brief supporting the challengers.

With the possible exception of the Justices’ law clerks, no one will read all of these amicus briefs – and you don’t really need to either. Each amicus brief is required to contain a “summary of argument,” which lays out the issues that the brief will cover and generally gives you enough information to decide whether you want to keep reading or instead move on to the next one. The only exception is the brief of the United States, which always receives considerable attention from the Court (and which will participate in the oral argument on the marriage question).

And that’s just part of what you need to know before the show gets started. It is worth noting that the Court is allowing a longer session for oral arguments, two and a half hours split into two parts. The first will see the Court spend ninety minutes on the basic marriage question, with Mary Bonauto arguing on behalf of the same-sex couples, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli representing the United States, and John Bursch of Michigan explaining the case for the states. Of the three, only Bonauto will have rebuttal time.

The second part will have to do with the recognition question, and in this case it really would seem rather quite clear. Nonetheless, Douglas Hallward-Driemeier will stand for the challengers; Joseph Whalen of Tennessee will represent the states.

For a look at what we’ve heard before, and perhaps a hint of what’s in store, Zack Ford of ThinkProgress offers up a serving of strangeness. And despite the absurdity of a certain amicus brief, which, it should be noted, was obsolete before it was submitted―the democratic process has already brought same-sex marriage to multiple states―the crown still goes to Paul D. Clement, arguing on behalf of House Republicans in Hollingsworth, that gay marriage was wrong because “Unintended children produced by opposite-sex relationships and raised out-of-wedlock would pose a burden on society”, and further reasoned that same-sex couples “don’t present a threat of irresponsible procreation”.

What a show.

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Howe, Amy. “A reporter’s guide to covering the same-sex marriage cases at the Supreme Court”. SCOTUSblog. 20 April 2015.

Ford, Zack. “Ten Novel, Absurd, And Irrelevant Arguments Made In Supreme Court Briefs Against Marriage Equality”. ThinkProgress. 17 April 2015.

Savage, David G. “Gay marriage opponents take unusual tack with Supreme Court”. Los Angeles Times. 26 January 2015.

What It Sounds Like When Bigots Cry

Lebanon dispenses wisdom and confidence.  (Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor, episode 4, 'The Ark Adrift on the Lake ...')

Matt Baume makes the obvious point―

Four states will have to defend their marriage bans before the U.S. Supreme Court this month, and all four are still scrambling to figure out exactly how they’re going to pull that off. They filed a series of briefs with the court last week that are full of weird claims and arguments that just don’t make sense. Kentucky says that its marriage ban doesn’t discriminate, since gay couples are still free to marry someone of the opposite sex. This is exactly the same argument that was used to justify bans on interracial marriage, and it’s essentially saying: “You’re free to do whatever you want, as long as you actually do something else.”

Michigan’s brief is even crazier. They say that gaining marriage equality through a court order, rather than a popular vote, would be demeaning to gay couples. So, thanks, Michigan, for your concern. Tennessee is sticking with the argument that if gay couples can get married, then straight couples will stop raising children in stable families, somehow. And Ohio says that overturning the marriage ban would cause the people who voted for it to feel isolated. Sure.

―but given that he chose Gov. Steve Beshear for the article photo, it’s probably worth reiterating that the Kentucky Democrat isn’t exactly dedicated to the argument.

And, in truth, the title of Baume’s article―“The Four Worst Anti-Gay Marriage Arguments Ever”―really is a matter of opinion. That is to say, I’m not going to knock his summary, but I’m not sure what comes out of Michigan, Ohio, or Tennessee overcomes the absurdity standard set by Paul D. Clement in Hollingsworth, when he argued, on behalf of House Republicans that heterosexual irresponsibility was a reason to ban gay marriage.

Sigh. Yes, he really said that.

And, you know, sure, what Leigh Gross Latherow came up with for Kentucky―after the Attorney General refused to argue the case―is just one of those supremely stupid arguments. We might suggest nostalgia, one last go for the homophobic trolls.

Nor did Baume exactly miss it. Rather, his focus is on the cases coming before the Supreme Court―which reminds of the problem with the word “ever”―and we already know the arguments against marriage equality are so weak that even Justice Thomas has acknowledged the inevitable outcome. What we hear from Tennessee and Michigan is straightforward stupidity. Ohio isn’t even trying. And Kentucky? Well, Ms. Latherow as achieved a new standard in stupidity.

We might have hoped that the Sutton and Cook opinion in the Sixth Circuit would be the “swan song for traditionalist heterosupremacism”, but apparently that wasn’t good enough for Ms. Latherow, who certainly wouldn’t intentionally throw the case. And the vicious excuse for an argument popular among internet trolls six or seven years ago is apparently what she found at the bottom of the barrel.

Scrape away, Ms. Latherow; you’ve certainly achieved your place in history.

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Image note: Lebanon dispenses some manner of wisdom and confidence. (Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor, episode 4, ‘The Ark Adrift on the Lake …’)

Baume, Matt. “The Four Worst Anti-Gay Marriage Arguments Ever”. The Huffington Post. 7 April 2015.

Savage, David G. “Gay marriage opponents take unusual tack with Supreme Court”. Los Angeles Times. 26 January 2013.

Nostalgia: The Mingling Scents of Bluegrass and Excrement

Ah, Kentucky. To the one, it is true that I believed nobody could top the stupidity of Paul Clement, arguing for House Republicans in Hollingsworth that irresponsible procreation by heterosexuals was a good reason to ban gay marriage.

To the other, there is Kentucky.

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear says the state’s ban on gay marriage should be upheld in part because it is not discriminatory in that both gay and straight people are barred from marrying people of the same gender.

In an argument labeled absurd by gay marriage advocates, Beshear’s lawyer says in a brief filed last week at the U.S. Supreme Court that “men and women, whether heterosexual or homosexual, cannot marry persons of the same sex” under Kentucky law, making the law non-discriminatory.

The argument mirrors that offered by the state of Virginia nearly 50 years ago when it defended laws barring interracial marriage there and in 15 other states, including Kentucky, by saying they weren’t discriminatory because whites were barred from marrying blacks just as blacks were barred from marrying whites.

The Supreme Court in 1967 rejected that argument in the historic case of Loving v. Virginia, in which Richard Loving, a white man, and Mildred Jeter, a black woman, were charged with a crime for marrying.

(Wolfson)

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The End of Mitt Madness? Please?

Ann Romney

The “sharelines” at the Los Angeles Times website are a dubious idea: Here, this is what you are supposed to share! In a way, it’s kind of like Upworthy telling you how you are supposed to feel. To the other, it is not so different from lede points, or whatever the hell they want to call those bullet summaries of stories.

Maeve Reston covered the launch of the Ann Romney Center for Neurological Diseases at a Boston hospital. The article opens with a line about Mitt Romney’s presidential potential, but that “shareline” feature makes it clear that even if one doesn’t give a damn about Ann Romney trying to get other people to fund a research center with her name on it there is still a political nugget for the non-story obsessing Beltway reporters: “‘Done. Completely,’ Ann Romney says in squashing speculation about a third White House bid by husband Mitt”.

We’ll have to see how this goes. After all, the Reporters to Draft Mitt movement seems to be arguing that they know the former Massachusetts governor will try a third time because, well, you just can’t believe a word coming out of his mouth.

This time it came from Ann Romney. One wonders if the journalists on the draft board will notice.

On another matter that has been the subject of much political babbling lately — a potential third run for president by her husband — Ann Romney was happy to wave off the possibility.

http://www.latimes.com/nation/politics/politicsnow/la-pn-ann-romney-new-center-study-neurological-diseases-20141014-story.html“Done,” she said. “Completely. Not only Mitt and I are done, but the kids are done,” she said, referring to her five sons. “Done. Done. Done.”

Asked whether there were any circumstances under which she would encourage the former Massachusetts governor to attempt another run — or if she would support him if he wanted to run — she said she hadn’t “been pushed to that point mentally,” but that they would make the decision together.

She reeled off a long list of what she called “really interesting” potential Republican contenders, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman and her husband’s 2012 choice for vice president, Rep. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin.

The desperation really bleeds through. “Done.” Okay, but are there any circumstacnes under which you might decide that he shouldn’t be done?

Really?

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The Picture: Marriage Equality Mix

Contemplation of Justice

“The rough idea would be that the Roberts court would be to the rights of gays and lesbians what the Warren court was on race issues.”

David A. Strauss

There is a lot going on. Or maybe not. Where once the idea was that courts should stay out of things and let “democracy” pick and choose who gets what human and constitutional rights in the United States, many of those advocates are looking to the Supreme Court of the United States to cram the gays back into the closet. With Justice Ginsburg suggesting last month that the Supreme Court might get involved if the lower courts make a sufficient mess of things, and the Fifteenth Judicial District Court of Louisiana holding the line in terms of state courts, one might wonder about the fervor Robert Barnes noted last week for the Washington Post:

The 10th edition of the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. begins work Monday with the prospect of a monumental ruling for gay rights that could serve as a surprising legacy of an otherwise increasingly conservative court.

Whether the justices will decide that the Constitution protects the right of same-sex couples to marry dominates expectations of the coming term; such a ruling would impart landmark status on a docket that so far lacks a blockbuster case.

And some say it would be a defining moment for a closely divided court that bears the chief justice’s name but is most heavily influenced by the justice in the middle: Anthony M. Kennedy, who has written the court’s most important decisions affording protection to gay Americans.

“If the court establishes a right to same-sex marriage . . . [it] will go down in history as one that was on the frontiers of establishing rights for gays and lesbians,” said David A. Strauss, a constitutional-law scholar at the University of Chicago.

“The rough idea would be that the Roberts court would be to the rights of gays and lesbians what the Warren court was on race issues.”

Something about blockbusters, to be certain; one would hope we have enough worked out about our society that we should not necessarily be rushing for a marquée show every year. That is to say, there is plenty wrong with society, but do we really have so many fundamental civil rights questions coming to the fore? And if so, well, what the hell is wrong with Americans that we have not yet figured out how some of these very basic concepts work?

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