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Steve Shiffrin
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Many are criticizing the Democrats for their aggressive barrage of subpoenas and upcoming contempt citations. Saturday, Peggy Noonan joined those who find the tactics of the Democrats to be disturbing. Her argument is that Trump supporters will not be moved. “It will not move any needle.” Moreover, she argues that “to take all of Congress’s time attacking the President, or impeaching him, will be experienced as [a]n insult by half the country …. It will keep good keep things, such as an infrastructure bill from happening. Some of this rings true. Trump supporters seem to cast blind eyes on all sorts of corruption. In addition, it is unlikely that Trump will support an infrastructure bill, so long as Congress insists on exercising its constitutional duty of oversight. To my mind, however, oversight is not only a constitutional duty, but also a moral duty. We know the Trump administration is corrupt,... Continue reading
Posted May 12, 2019 at
Much of the discussion of the Mueller Report, including commentary by Rachel Madow could lead one to the conclusion that what Mueller did on the counterintelligence front is a mystery. The report certainly contains much information relevant to a counterintelligence investigation insofar as it is relevant to decisions to prosecute or not. Beyond that, the Report is quite clear about where to look for the information it developed on the counterintelligence front. On page 13 of volume 1, the Report states: "From its inception, the Office recognized that its investigation could identify foreign intelligence and counterintelligence information relevant to the FBI’s broader national security mission. FBI personnel who assisted the Office established procedures to identify and convey such information to the FBI. The FBI’s Counterintelligence Division met with the Office regularly for that purpose for most of the Office’s tenure. For more than the past year, the FBI also embedded... Continue reading
Posted May 10, 2019 at
Recently, prominent leaders have worried that Trump will not respect the 2020 election results if he loses. Under these circumstances, if Trump claims that he is nonetheless the President, he will in a timely fashion be ousted from the Presidency. The Secret Service and the Military will forcibly escort him from the White House. And, in the absence of a deal, the FBI will arrest him for his well-known crimes. Continue reading
Posted May 6, 2019 at
No collusion. If true, so what? The Trump campaign was happy to receive the help of the Russians. From its perspective, for a foreign power to influence the outcome of an American election was entirely welcome. Perhaps the Russians have something on Trump, but, if we have learned anything about him, we would know that in any event he would throw democracy under the bus if it would help him secure power. Trump’s conduct does not meet the legal definition of treason – so much the worse for the legal definition. Leaving Russia to the side, his fellow Republicans have joined him in their privileging of power over democracy. In state after state, Republican leaders have done their best to suppress the votes of people of color. So too, in order to stay in power, Republicans have transferred massive amounts of money to the wealthy instead of focusing on the... Continue reading
Posted Apr 28, 2019 at
The Barr Report states that the Mueller Report did not find that the Trump campaign committed the crime of conspiracy in its contact with the Russians. Clearly, however, there was no “witch hunt.” Many members of the Administration lied about their contacts with the Russians, and it does not appear that the Trump campaign is anything but cheerful about the help it has received from the Russians despite the undermining of our democracy. Nor does the Barr Report speak to the crucial counter intelligence question whether the President has been compromised by the Russians. In addition, even if Trump’s actions do not meet the technical requirements for obstruction of justice (Barr’s conclusion is entitled to no weight – he surely should have recused himself on that point), in plain sight, Trump did all he could to interfere with the investigation. This falls far short of “exoneration.” Indeed, in a likely... Continue reading
Posted Mar 26, 2019 at
I do not think the government should generally own and operate the means of production, and the private capitalist economy has lifted millions out of poverty. But an unregulated private economy leaves many who are poor or unable to make a decent living, ruins the environment, and plays havoc with worker safety. In addition, there is a place for government operation of activities outside the private sector. I do not favor abolishing public schools or universities, public prisons, the post office, Medicare, or Medicaid. Perhaps the Republicans favor abolishing these socialist public institutions. Someone should ask them. Moreover, they have long favored their own form of socialism. To borrow a phrase from John Kenneth Galbraith, they have favored “socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor.” Continue reading
Posted Mar 9, 2019 at
The media is running with the theme that the Democratic Party is split between the left and the center. Thomas Friedman had a particularly odious column in the New York Times less than a week ago. He begins with the fact that for a brief period Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez proposed in a FAQ from her office (before quickly withdrawing it) that the federal government should guarantee a job for those unwilling to work. He then proceeds over a chasm of evidence to suggest that a strong segment of the Democratic Party actually supports this policy, a policy that Ocasio-Cortez herself specifically repudiated, and in any event is oxymoronic. Having paraded the view that the “left” is crazy, he then argues that the Democrats are split between the party of capitalist growth (grow the pie while reforming the harshness of capitalism) and the party of redistribution (divide the pie). No doubt there... Continue reading
Posted Feb 25, 2019 at
So, the media is at pains to tell us that Amy Klobuchar is ambitious and gets angry and mean with her staff. I do not remember a story about how any of the Republican candidates in 2016 treated members of their staff. Are we to be treated with similar stories about every other Presidential candidate for office? And why stop with Presidential candidates. What about Mike, Mitch, Kevin, Nancy, Chuck, Adam and many others? I read that Kamala Harris has been ruthless in dealing with some people outside her staff. I’m sure she must be the only one. Kirstin Gillibrand, we are told, is calculating and ambitious. Some say the media is sexist in its reporting. But I'm sure the truth is that no other current candidates and none of the Republican candidates in 2016 possessed these traits. Continue reading
Posted Feb 24, 2019 at
When some Democrats supported a Green New Deal, right wingers attacked the set of proposals as crazy and a fantasy, while David Brooks announced that the “Democratic Party is ending.” Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi had already made it clear that she is does not endorse many of the proposals parading under the Green New Deal banner. David Brooks is simply wrong. No one is going to get rich betting that the Democratic Party as we know it is ending, or that the Green New Deal will become law. The central truth of the Green New Deal is that any serious attempt to combat the problems associated with climate change would require a concerted national effort and that the particulars of that effort would be debatable within the Democratic Party, not to mention politically difficult to enact in a time when money infiltrates politics. Meanwhile, Pelosi is obviously correct in recognizing that... Continue reading
Posted Feb 18, 2019 at
In Friday’s New York Times. Paul Krugman argued that Starbucks billionaire Howard Schultz was not qualified to be President. This, he suggested, should not be surprising. Running a company does not suggest that the executive understands public policy, let alone that the policy he would recommend is well considered. Krugman argues that Schultz’ understanding of the importance of the national debt is seriously flawed. Moreover, Schultz proposes to deal with the debt in typical billionaire fashion – cutting social security rather than requiring the rich to pay their fair share. Schultz maintains that Medicare for all is not American and the country could not afford it. But, as Krugman observes, Medicare already covers a third of Americans and universal care has not bankrupted Canada or other countries of the west. On the same editorial page, David Brooks praises Medicare for all advocate Kamala Harris. According to Brooks, she is the... Continue reading
Posted Feb 4, 2019 at
When Trump starts throwing invented nicknames around in the next campaign, the best moniker for him that I have heard is "Don the Con." Continue reading
Posted Jan 26, 2019 at
For a wonderful discussion of Mary Oliver's poetry and its relationship to Judaism by Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin, see Continue reading
Posted Jan 20, 2019 at
University of Hawaii Law Professor Mari Matsuda remarked on twitter, “As a non-Christian I have always loved carols and the spirit of Christmas, of the posada, remembering a poor family turned away from shelter, the hope that we can become better...” Most Christian preachers see Christmas as the day that God became man, that Christ’s life (rejecting worldly power and celebrating the poor) is the life of God, and that God is in us all as well. At least for Christians and, for some others, one would hope this, at least in part, would be a day of spiritual deliberation, reflection, introspection and insight. I regret that some Christians indiscriminately wish everyone a merry Christmas. Christian imperialism has no place in our society. Even to Christians, the wish of a merry Christmas can but need not have overtones of materialism. Wishing a blessed or holy Christmas rings of evangelicalism and... Continue reading
Posted Dec 25, 2018 at
Democracy may be the best form of government, but there is reason to have doubts about the average citizen. It is not just that the typical citizen is woefully ignorant about the Constitution and the workings of government. An even stronger concern is that the voters tend to favor the charismatic figure over the competent, experienced candidate. Let’s face it. Donald Trump almost won the popular vote in the last election despite being grossly unqualified in terms of experience, understanding, and character. He is still favored by 43% of the electorate. I am convinced that the strongest reason his supporters back him is that they feel he connects with them. Democrats gambled and elected Barack Obama because of his charisma and intellect despite his lack of experience. He had his flaws, but Democrats won that gamble. In her Saturday column, Peggy Noonan suggests that citizens have voted for Donald Trump... Continue reading
Posted Dec 16, 2018 at
The judge who declared the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional did not issue an injunction against its enforcement. The law is still in effect and today is the last day for signups. California, among others, will appeal. Continue reading
Posted Dec 15, 2018 at
Facebook, along with the rest of the internet, is full of angry thoughts, lies, deceptions, things to distract us and corrupt our spirits. This is what holy scripture calls 'the world,' and it has ever been this way. I for one do not think it is qualitatively different from the various demons that have assaulted human beings from time immemorial. And if there are demons here, there are also opportunities for us to practice discipline in this wilderness, the same way Jesus did in his wilderness temptations. We do it by practicing faithful attentiveness to the beauty of God's presence with us in the wilderness. On facebook it means we can post things that sustain us, give us joy, and provide meaning. We can practice the hope that comes from letting anger alone and turning to compassion. We seek to absorb God's loving attention for us so that our faces... Continue reading
Posted Nov 30, 2018 at
Judge Jon Tigar, a federal district judge, sitting in San Francisco recently ruled that the Trump administration had to resume hearing asylum claims from immigrants regardless of where they entered the United States. In response, Trump said that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, an appellate court, that handles appeals from Judge Tigar’s rulings was a lawless disgrace, and that Judge Tigar is an Obama judge. In response, Chief Justice Roberts said we do not have Obama judges, or Trump judges, Bush judges, or Clinton judges. Instead, we have “dedicated,” “independent” judges. This claim of Roberts is reminiscent of his position at his confirmation hearings that judges are like impartial umpires calling balls and strikes. In fact, judges are influenced by their background and it often makes a difference whether their politics are liberal or conservative. Judges are not just umpires and the line between law and politics is often... Continue reading
Posted Nov 21, 2018 at
I have removed a number of authors from the blog who have not posted for at least a year (by my recollection); if any of them wish to be restored, I would be happy to put their names back. At the moment, however, I do not expect them to post. If any of them wish to put up a post, but not rejoin the blog, I would be happy to make sure it gets posted. If I have kept someone who does not expect to post in the future, please let me know. Well, the authors in question are still there! I will contact typepad to inquire about the workings of the software. Continue reading
Posted Nov 16, 2018 at
John Schindler, formerly with the NSA, tweets that the Mueller data has been shared and the intelligence community has backups of Mueller's work. Laurence Tribe is arguing that the appointment of Whitaker violates the Vacancy Reform Act (assuming that Sessions was fired). Whitaker will presumably be advised that he has to recuse himself. If he refuses to do so, he runs a risk of himself being disbarred and he could ultimately be prosecuted for obstruction of justice (if he seeks to protect Trump). Meanwhile, if the Russians have been laundering money through the auspices of Trump's business interests, the New York AG will be more than willing to take civil and criminal action if Mueller cannot do so. Continue reading
Posted Nov 7, 2018 at
Donald Trump pretends to be a nationalist. But, as David Brooks remarked a few days ago, you can’t be a nationalist when you hate half the country. In fact, Donald Trump rhetorically caters to a minority of the country while playing the big con even for them since it is obviously not in their interest to be robbed of health insurance or to watch the nation’s wealth be transferred to the already rich. A country governing for the few cannot be considered great. The Republicans have long claimed to be the patriots. Democrats have let them get away with it. In part, this is because Democrats recognize a responsibility to help those beyond our borders. That recognition, however, should not be considered inconsistent with a national vision. As Robert Bellah understood, a nation needs a narrative that stands as a regulative and aspirational ideal of what the country stands for.... Continue reading
Posted Oct 28, 2018 at
For some time the Attorneys General of New York and Massachusetts have been investigating Exxon concerning misrepresentations it has made with regard to climate change. Exxon resisted discovery pursuant to these investigations on First Amendment grounds. Last week I mentioned that I was pleased to join with Free Speech for People as co-counsel in a Second Circuit Court of Appeals brief that refuted Exxon's contentions about the First Amendment. See here. We argued that Exxon had no First Amendment right to mislead consumers and investors. Today, the New York Attorney General has finally concluded its investigation and has sued Exxon in the New York Supreme Court for New York County for defrauding its investors. The complaint is detailed and persuasive. See here. Continue reading
Posted Oct 24, 2018 at
Proud to have joined as co-counsel with Free Speech for People in opposing Exxon's attempt to defend against investigations of the Attorneys General of New York and Massachusetts by resorting to the First Amendment. Exxon has no First Amendment right to mislead consumers and investors. Continue reading
Posted Oct 16, 2018 at
In her Saturday Wall Street Journal column, Peggy Noonan praises Susan Collins’s defense of now Justice Kavanaugh as the voice of reason. She notes that Collins supported nominees of Republican and Democratic Presidents. She indicts Democrats for attempting to scuttle the nomination from the start. She does not mention the behavior of the Republicans in scuttling the nomination of Merrick Garland. Nor does she mention that Collins did not support Garland. Neither Noonan nor the “voice of reason” discuss (1) the apparent perjury of Kavanaugh; (2) his open display of partisanship; or (3) his shocking shows of temper coupled with inappropriate respect for sitting Senators. Kavanaugh would properly have been disqualified for any one of these reasons. A “voice of reason” would have squarely dealt with all of the major issues, but Collins did not do that. It was far from the “master class in thoroughness” described by Noonan. Collins... Continue reading
Posted Oct 14, 2018 at
Senate Republicans are complaining about “mob rule.” You would not guess that the Republicans control the House, the Senate, the Presidency, and the Supreme Court. You would not know that the number of Republican representatives in the House vastly exceeds what they would be entitled to if majority rule prevailed. You would not realize, as Michael Tomasky observed in the New York Times that the 54 Senators who voted for Justice Gorsuch received 54 million votes while the 45 Senators who voted against him received more than 73 million votes. You would not guess that 4 of the current Justices have been appointed by Presidents who were elected despite losing the popular vote. This is not democracy, but it is no secret that the Senate is undemocratic. Nonetheless, the Framers hoped the Senate would be a deliberative body that would act in the public interest. Instead, the Senate Republicans (together... Continue reading
Posted Oct 7, 2018 at
Last week, a friend of mine argued that Kavanaugh should be confirmed because Dr. Blasey (her professional name) had remained anonymous until quite late. In this, he spied a character flaw. I observed that the issue was not whether she had a character flaw, but whether Kavanaugh had the requisite character for a Supreme Court appointment. In addition, Blasey had every right to remain anonymous. Indeed, she revealed her name only after her name was leaked to the press. The same thing happened to Anita Hill. This points to a scandal that has not received enough attention in this matter. Leaking Blasey’s name to the press when she had requested anonymity is inexcusable as it was with Hill. Who leaked her name and why? This exploitation of Blasey for whatever reason cannot be defended and members of the press should try to find out who did it. Continue reading
Posted Sep 25, 2018 at