Fox News evalutates the opinions of all American students on SCOTUS pick by interviewing five of them

THE ISSUE

Fox News might as well be renamed TrumpTV.

THE MEDIA

Clip by Fox News in YouTube on July 8, 2018

“Every person I spoke to all assumed Trump was going to pick a man.”

THE COMMENT

This clip is Fox News at its best.  Well, I really should say ‘worst’ but since they get such good ratings I suppose you could spin it as a positive.

In what is quite possibly the most unscientific vox pop ever put on the airwaves, a young guy goes on the streets of New York (probably not far from Fox News studio) and clearly gets the answers he wants from random people, with the ‘Students hate the SCOTUS pick that Trump hasn’t made yet’ narrative more than likely determined before he ever set foot on the sidewalk.

The premise of the narrative, of course, is highly disingenuous.  It is widely known that the shortlist for Trump’s Supreme Court choice was taken from a longer list drawn up by the ultra conservative Federalist Society (think Iona Institute and you’re in the ballpark) so no matter which judge Trump goes for, anyone of a progressive or ‘liberal’ mindset would be inclined to oppose the nomination.  For example, there isn’t a single judge on that list which would fail the ‘I will help abolish Roe vs Wade’ litmus test.

But why ruin a good narrative with the facts?  The already-brainwashed Fox News viewership don’t need much of a push to support the stereotype they have already been fed of ‘students’.  Once the answers from the vox-pop are selectively chosen and they spend more time in the studio mansplaining the responses than actually airing them (assuming the overall sample was actually bigger than the one they put on air that is), it only takes a clip of less than three minutes to get the ‘job’ done.

As I always say about entities like Fox News, it’s not its existence that is downright scary, it’s the fact that so many people actually believe content that is so blatantly skewed towards the Republican agenda.  And it has only gotten more blatant under this president.  JLP

#IANWAE

Have the Republicans stolen another Supreme Court seat?

THE ISSUE

The resignation during the past week of SCOTUS justice Anthony Kennedy allows President Trump to appoint a young, healthy, cons replacement who could guarantee pro-corporate and anti-sivil rights rulings for decades to come.

THE MEDIA

Article by Adam Liptak and Maggie Haberman in New York Times on June 28, 2018

Inside the White House’s Quiet Campaign to Create a Supreme Court Opening

As he made his way out of the chamber, Mr. Trump paused to chat with the justice.

“Say hello to your boy,” Mr. Trump said. “Special guy.”

Mr. Trump was apparently referring to Justice Kennedy’s son, Justin.

THE COMMENT

A popular refrain whenever a new revelation emerges about ConManDon is : “What would he be saying if Obama did the same thing?”  This could be the most important one of all.

To my question in the title, ‘another’ refers to the fact that when Justice Scalia passed away in February 2016, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to hold a vote on confirming Obama’s pick as successor on the grounds that it was ‘too close to the election and the American people should decide’.  While this decision certainly did not break any laws, norms or protocols, it certainly established a new one.

Yet despite the fact that Kennedy has resigned much closer to a big election, namely the Midterms, it seems that Senator McConnell is suddenly much less concerned about whether or not the American people should weigh in.  Trump plans to have Kennedy’s successor nominated by the end of the week.

As you can see by the NYT article, there is much evidence that the Trump administration has gone to great lengths to prepare for Kennedy’s resignation, like rewarding all the justice’s clerks with appointments to district courts, and indeed two of his most favoured clerks are front runners to succeed him.

But of all the revelations in the article, the one that takes the biscuit is the fact that Kennedy’s son runs a division of the only bank that would loan money to Trump for property deals after he was turned down by other financial institutions due to his many failed business practices.

Oh and did I mention that Deutsche Bank is considered to be one of the ‘go-to’ banks for Russian oligarchs for money-laundering?

But of course it’s the ‘Failing New York Times’ after all, so I must be all ‘Fake News’.  To be fair though, the article itself doesn’t suggest that any seat has been ‘stolen’, those words are mine.  I still stand by them though.  JLP

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Opening statements at US House Judiciary Committee Hearing clearly lay out Trump v ‘Sane People’ nature of political discourse

THE ISSUE

Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee are insisting that the FBI and Department of Justice hand over documents relating to the Mueller  probe into Russian meddling in US elections, knowing full well it can’t be done because it would mean essentially handing over evidence to Trump who is himself being investigated.  Yet despite knowing this, they still they choose to make it look as though they are hiding something so it can be used as a pretext for the President to end the investigation.

THE MEDIA

Clip by PBS News in YouTube on June 28, 2018

“…have we conducted any oversight at all on election security; on the family separation crisis; on the Administration’s failure to protect Dreamers; on the Justice Department’s radical decision not to defend the Affordable Care Act; on the Supreme Court’s recent decisions to undermine voting rights and workers’ rights; on the President’s ongoing conflicts of interest and violations of the Emoluments Clause; or on the myriad other pressing issues within our Committee’s jurisdiction?

No, as with so many issues, this Committee has stayed silent.”

“But on Hillary Clinton’s emails? Sound the alarms.

THE COMMENT

All the headlines from this committee hearing came from the aggressive grilling of Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Direct Christopher Wray by Republican congressmen Trey Gowdy and Jim Jordan, and it’s true, the exchanges were far more compelling viewing than anything going on in the World Cup at the same time (and I normally like soccer).

For me the most illuminating exchange came in the opening remarks.  Sure, it wouldn’t make the ‘news cycle’ because that is what all the shouting from Gowdy and Jordan was for, but it was in the opening statements by the ranking members of the two main US parties [House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte and Congressman Jerrold Nadler] that the real differences between the two parties’ attitudes towards the Mueller investigation can be seen.

Just as a reminder, I’m not a 100% loyal Democrat supporter and I certainly wouldn’t automatically agree with everything said by their so-called leadership, but the contrast between the two statements lays bare the sheer mental gymnastics, assuming there are any mental faculties being used at all, required to accept the Republican party line.

Both statements are in the YouTube clip but I have also cpoy/pasted them below.  JLP

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GOODLATTE STATEMENT:

The Church Committee was established on a bipartisan basis and chaired by Democratic Senator Frank Church in 1975 to review CIA, FBI, and NSA surveillance abuses, including the improper surveillance of an American icon, Martin Luther King, Jr., and other prominent individuals. The Committee also conducted a review of the insidious monitoring of political activities of citizens exercising their First Amendment rights. The Church Committee’s findings resulted in passage three years later of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. FISA attempts to balance the need for secrecy in conducting surveillance against foreign agents with the protection of Americans’ time-honored civil liberties.

This history shows we have already found ourselves, once before, in a situation where the FBI and other intelligence agencies violated their oaths to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States. In monitoring citizens’ political activity, the agencies exercised their responsibilities in a manner unworthy of U.S. officials. The abuses of that bygone era, and really of any era, often happen because of power – power to influence political currents, power to collect sensitive information, and power to wield surveillance tools in improper ways to achieve improper purposes. That power can and has been abused in the past, by individuals at the highest and lowest levels of our government.

Fortunately, the power of our intelligence agencies is overwhelmingly used to protect us from those wishing to do our country harm. That is the conundrum. We need our intelligence agencies to have the necessary tools and techniques to safeguard our nation, and we have to be constantly vigilant to ensure these tools are not manipulated by unscrupulous actors.

The recent Inspector General’s report revealed bias in the top echelons of the FBI during a hotly-contested presidential election. It revealed that FBI agents, lawyers, and analysts held profound biases against then-candidate Donald Trump and in favor of his opponent, Hillary Clinton. While those on the other side of the aisle continue to exclaim that these biases are only personal political predilections that had no effect on the operation of one of the biggest investigations in our nation’s history, I wonder whether these same Members would say the same if text messages had turned up to the tune of “Hillary is a disaster,” or “We’ll stop” her, or cursing her with all manner of expletives, or smugly stating that particular parts of the country “smell of Hillary supporters.”

These types of comments were originating from people who were the fact-finders in the investigation. These profoundly inappropriate comments were coming from the individuals who were making decisions on whether to provide immunity to people who had already lied to investigators, and whether subjects of an investigation could sit in on interviews with other subjects of the same investigation. These were individuals who were plainly in positions of great power with the opportunity to place greater, lesser, or even no emphasis on certain facts or interpretations of law. These actions led to complete legal exoneration of everyone involved in sending Top Secret emails over personal servers and unsecured emails- and setting up a server for the explicit purpose of doing this. These actions even led to exposing at least one classified email to a foreign party that risked serious damage to our national security. Amazingly, considering their overwhelming biases, these people were also the very same people who were assigned to investigate the man that they hated: then-candidate Donald Trump.

My reference to the Church Committee is apropos because it not only reviewed abuses by individuals, including the FBI Director himself, but focused in on surveillance abuses. Here, we now face the same allegations, yet in manner that goes to the heart of our democracy. It is right out of a novel with salacious, unverified dossiers, reports of informants that appear more like spies for the U.S. government, and application of the aforementioned surveillance powers to collect on a U.S. person once associated with President Trump’s political campaign. But it’s not a novel; it is real life and we are here today to understand a little bit more about why we now must review how our intelligence and law enforcement agencies engaged in activity that appears not only wrong, but potentially illegal.

All of which brings me to this body’s Constitutional oversight mandate and responsibilities. Our responsibility to the American people is to conduct robust oversight of agencies within this Committee’s jurisdiction, to ensure that taxpayer-funded agencies operate lawfully. Our oversight, though, is only as good as the information we are provided. This Committee’s oversight has been hampered by both the FBI and DOJ’s lack of consistent and vigorous production of the documents we need to hold the agencies accountable. While this production has significantly improved recently, it has felt like pulling teeth much of the time to obtain and review relevant documents. Moreover, we just recently learned that some documents the Inspector General received to conduct his investigation of the 2016 election have been interpreted by the Department of Justice to fall outside the first subpoena I ever issued as Chairman of this Committee. Shockingly, emails and communications of DOJ officials have not been produced at all. Therefore, we have not received any emails between prosecutors working the Clinton case.

Said differently, we are not receiving and have not received potentially enlightening communications between prosecutors themselves, between prosecutors and DOJ management including former Attorney General Lynch, or even communications between DOJ officials and those with the Obama White House. This is unacceptable, particularly when we had long before issuing the subpoena requested all documents provided to the Inspector General other than certain ones pertaining to grand jury material.

The Department of Justice and the FBI are not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution. The President and Congress are. Our Constitutional oversight necessitates that institutions like the FBI and DOJ yield to Congress’ constitutional mandate. This is non-negotiable because we must assure the American people that the agencies under our jurisdiction operate fairly, treating all equally under the law.

This hearing emphasizes the importance of transparency in helping to regain both the perception and reality of impartiality of our law enforcement system. Damage to the FBI and DOJ’s reputations is not something any of us desire. But now that both agencies have been on the front pages for so long, we must all work to ensure that those stories are able to focus once again on the great men and women performing admirable and often heroic jobs to protect our country.

We expect to hear today how the FBI and DOJ will hold people accountable and prevent this from happening again. Thank you and I look forward to hearing from both Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and Director Wray.

NADLER STATEMENT : 

“Mr. Chairman, the events that have led up to this hearing are totally unacceptable.

“On Monday of this week, you notified us of this hearing without the seven-day notice required by the rules.

“On Tuesday, you started our Committee markup more than an hour late, without notice to the Minority. Then you allowed Mr. Jordan to offer an amendment to a resolution of inquiry that was patently non-germane—and then you stood out of view of the cameras, in the hallway just off the hearing room, while the Majority voted to overturn the ruling of their own Chair that the amendment was not germane.

“On Wednesday, you dropped all Committee business to interview Peter Strzok, who had already volunteered to come in for an interview before you threatened him with a subpoena.

“Today, we meet so that the Majority can criticize the Deputy Attorney General to his face, largely about documents that you know he cannot produce. We will take a break so that we can go to the floor and vote on a so-called “resolution of insistence” based on the Jordan amendment from earlier this week—a measure that is without precedent, without the force of law, and clearly a pretext for a move against Mr. Rosenstein that the Majority already has planned.

“And what is the great emergency that justifies this last-minute hearing? Why has the Majority abandoned the rules and traditions that govern civility in the House? The tired story of Hillary Clinton’s emails, of course, plus a few conspiracy theories about the Special Counsel.

“When President Trump and his Administration were actively separating families at the border—ripping children out of the arms of their parents, and causing untold suffering to thousands of families—that did not merit an emergency hearing.

“And now that thousands of children are still separated from their parents, with no clear plan from this Administration for reuniting these families, where is the emergency hearing on that issue?

“We know that Russia, after successfully interfering with the 2016 elections, is actively working to disrupt the upcoming elections as well. The former National Security Advisor testified that our intelligence agencies have received no instructions from the White House to protect the integrity of our election system. Have we scheduled an emergency hearing on that issue?

“For that matter, have we conducted any oversight at all on election security; on the family separation crisis; on the Administration’s failure to protect Dreamers; on the Justice Department’s radical decision not to defend the Affordable Care Act; on the Supreme Court’s recent decisions to undermine voting rights and workers’ rights; on the President’s ongoing conflicts of interest and violations of the Emoluments Clause; or on the myriad other pressing issues within our Committee’s jurisdiction? No, as with so many issues, this Committee has stayed silent.

“But on Hillary Clinton’s emails? Sound the alarms.

“Despite an Inspector General’s report that, in more than 500 exhaustive pages, demonstrates conclusively that the outcome of the Clinton investigation was not affected by any improper bias, political or otherwise, we are wasting precious Committee time to chase Hillary Clinton.

“The Republicans seems desperate to prove that there was some sort of pro-Clinton and anti-Trump conspiracy within the FBI when, in fact, the overwhelming evidence shows exactly the opposite. Virtually every action criticized in the Inspector General’s report—Director Comey’s July announcement, his disparate treatment of the Clinton and Trump investigations, and his October decision to announce the discovery of additional emails—ultimately harmed the candidacy of Secretary Clinton, and inured to the benefit of Donald Trump.

“But I guess we shouldn’t let facts stand in the way of a good manufactured emergency.

“According to the Republican memo for today’s hearing, today is also an opportunity for Members to consider “the Justice Department’s compliance with the committee’s March 22 subpoena,” a subpoena that was not issued in compliance with House Rules and, therefore, cannot be enforced.

“Even if it were a properly issued subpoena, the fight over document production seems to have boiled down to certain documents that the Republicans know the Department of Justice cannot turn over—much of it evidence related to an ongoing criminal investigation, the scoping documents outlining specific lines of inquiry in an ongoing criminal investigation, and the identities of confidential human sources still working undercover in the field.

“And that, of course, is the whole point. As part of their coordinated and determined effort to undermine the Special Counsel’s investigation, Republicans are requesting documents they know they cannot have.

“If they somehow find themselves in possession of sensitive documents that go to the core of the Special Counsel’s investigation, and if past practice holds, those documents will end up in the possession of the subject of the investigation—namely, President Trump.

“And if the Majority is rightly denied, they will do their best to undermine the credibility of the Department of Justice, the credibility of the Deputy Attorney General—and, by extension, the credibility of the Special Counsel.

“They will likely try to hold Mr. Rosenstein in contempt. Some have even threatened him with impeachment. They may argue that he must be removed his oversight role over the Special Counsel’s investigation.

“This is an investigation, I might remind my Republican colleagues, that has already yielded five guilty pleas, and that has led to the indictment of 20 people so far. The President and some of his closest advisors are under investigation for having participated in a criminal conspiracy with a foreign power against the United States.

“That is an emergency.

“The President practically confessed to Lester Holt on television that he obstructed the investigation into that conspiracy when he said that he fired former FBI Director Comey because of “this Russia stuff, with Trump and Russia.”

“That is an emergency.

“But is that the subject of today’s emergency hearing? No. Or of any emergency hearing? No it is not.

“I know that this has been a hard week for the Majority. I know that it must be tempting to change the subject and rally the base with cries of “lock her up!”

“But we do not have the luxury of hiding or voting present at this critical juncture in our democracy.

“We cannot hide from our responsibilities. We cannot hide from our obligation to conduct oversight of a corrupt Administration. We cannot hide from our constitutional duty to protect our elections from foreign interference, or to stand up for the rules, and for our democratic institutions, and for the rule of law.

“I ask my colleagues to consider this question as we proceed: when the Special Counsel’s work is complete, when the enormity of what he finds has been laid bare, how will the American people judge your actions today?

“I yield back the balance of my time.”

 

Amid doom and gloom amongst liberals, Rachel Maddow declares the fight for Kennedy’s SCOTUS seat as ‘winnable’ for Democrats

THE ISSUE

Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement from the US Supreme Court yesterday

THE MEDIA

Clip by The Rachel Maddow Show in YouTube on June 27, 2018

“No vote on a successor to Kennedy until after the November elections, same rules should apply now as applied when the Scalia seat came up…”

THE COMMENT

First things first…yes, we’re back!!!  Things on the rugby site got a little crazy and busy so sadly we had to leave this one idle again, but we’re not giving up on it just yet.

We return on the day after the most important event of the Donald Trump presidency.  Yes, it is that serious.

Justice Kennedy’s decision to retire now gives Trump the opportunity to replace him with a hard-line conservative which will leave a majority five of them on the court.  That’s not to say Kennedy was liberal by a long shot, but at least his vote did go our way on occasion.

And it would seem that with a majority in the Senate, albeit the narrowest one of 51-49, there is nothing that can stop Trump and his ‘revamped’ Republican party to get the job done.

But as you can see from the video, Rachel Maddow isn’t so sure.  She puts a lot of pressure on Republican senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski to prove their ‘pro-choice’ credentials by blocking any Trump nominee until after the midterm elections, but as always the MSNBC anchor definitely makes a compelling argument.

Again to be clear, this is an issue that supersedes the Wall, North Korea, Iran deal, Paris accord, Charlottesville, even child separation at the border and the Mueller investigation ,in terms of importance.

Very interesting times ahead to say the least.  JLP

#IANWAE

New Iowa abortion legislation shows how Irish political climate might look even if #RepealThe8th campaign is successful

THE ISSUE

Ireland is set to hold a referendum on May 25 to repeal the Eighth Amendment which was added to the Constitution in 1983, and if the Yes vote prevails, provisions can be made via legislation for safe and legal abortions in the jurisdiction.

THE MEDIA

Article by Saeed Ahmed and Isabella Gomez in CNN.com on May 3, 2018

Iowa lawmakers pass the nation’s most restrictive abortion ban — as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected

“By passing an intentionally unconstitutional bill, Iowa Republicans have declared that they do not care about the foundational values of our state, or Iowa’s future,” Planned Parenthood Voters of Iowa said.

THE COMMENT

With just a matter of weeks left until the referendum, the focus for all campaigners right now is on winning the vote, which of course is perfectly understandable.

But with ‘Yes’ consistently leading the polls, should they be reflected in the actual vote itself, I wonder if we need to be mindful of what the political climate could be like afterwards?

Removing the Eighth Amendment will allow for legislation to be debated and passed in the Dáil, but that can of course be changed by future governments, and whatever percentage of the electorate votes ‘No’ will become an instant constituency for right-leaning parties to court in election campaigns down the line.

Take the examples in many ‘Republican’ or ‘Red’ states in the USA.  The Roe vs Wade decision of 1973 allowed for safe and legal access to abortion across the country but since that time, state governments have passed a series of laws restricting access to such services that were so severe, particularly to women from lower economic classes, that they might as well have had our 8th amendment in place, and as you can see by the article linked above, Iowa is the latest state to take it further.

My hope is that should Yes win the day, it’s supporters will remain politically active to ensure proper legislation remains on the statute books indefinitely. JLP

www.checktheregister.ie

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‘Inequality in America: A National Town Hall’ is required viewing all over the world

Apologies once more for the gap in posts – financial realities mean we have had to prioritise our monetised site in recent weeks as it has been a busy time for content over there.

However, even if we managed to post every day since we kicked off FPP in August 2016 we wouldn’t have been able to express our core beliefs more than this one and a half hour long video of the recent town hall hosted by Bernie Sanders.  Please check it out if you haven’t already.  It’s a shame it was only covered online.

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Rachel Maddow makes a good case for being the most smug about the epic fail that is the Nunes meh-mo

THE ISSUE

In a desperate attempt to help his overlord president thwart the Robert Mueller investigation, Congressman Devin Nunes cherry-picked classified intelligence information and spun it into the form of a memo which, after whipping up a frenzy of curiosity for weeks, he sent to Trump who authorised it for public release on Friday.   The reaction everywhere other than Fox News has been underwhelming to say the least.

THE MEDIA

YouTube clip by The Rachel Maddow Show on Friday, February 2, 2018

This is what all the hype was about? I hyped that I’d got Donald Trump’s tax returns …for one hour before I actually released…what actually were Donald Trump’s tax returns and for a year now people were telling me that was unconscionable hype”

THE COMMENT

Over in Utrumpia, where this memo is being paraded around like it’s The Ten Commandments, it doesn’t matter what the actual words on the page are.  

The type of person this sideshow was aimed at is never going to actually read the memo.  This White House is counting on that, and it always does, which brings us to the underlying problem in all of this – how do you tell people they’re being manipulated when the people manipulating them have them convinced that YOU’RE their enemy?

Being a smug member of the so-called liberal elite is something Rachel Maddow does better than most – it doesn’t bother me personally but I know her presentation style is way too ‘smart’ for Utrumpia natives.  That said, she did take a lot of flak for the way she hyped the tax returns she received and I was one of the few who stuck up for her at the time.   She is definitely justified in bringing it up.

She then goes on to spell out not only how little is in the meh-mo that actually helps Trump, but also how some of it works against him.  Pity Utrumpians won’t be watching, however.

Best quote I have seen about all of this so far has come from Senator John McCain…

“The latest attacks on the FBI and Department of Justice serve no American interests – no party’s, no president’s, only Putin’s. The American people deserve to know all of the facts surrounding Russia’s ongoing efforts to subvert our democracy, which is why Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation must proceed unimpeded. Our nation’s elected officials, including the president, must stop looking at this investigation through the warped lens of politics and manufacturing partisan sideshows. If we continue to undermine our own rule of law, we are doing Putin’s job for him.”

We’ll see what Robert Mueller has to say about it all.  JLP

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