Category Archives: elections

A Grammar Lesson

There are scores of serious, issue-oriented problems I have with today’s Republican Party. I would love an opportunity to engage their leaders in serious debate. But the first problem I face is that it is not clear who those leaders are. And the loudest people who run for election under the Republican banner seem to have little or no interest in debating anything.

This is evident from the moment most of the Republicans open their mouths and complaint about the “Democrat party” or a “Democrat position.” It is not the “Democrat Party” it is the “Democratic Party” and their purposeful error of grammar reeks of the playground name calling I remember so well from my childhood. There is nothing cute about being called childhood names. Gravy, groovy, garbage, I heard them all.

While that sort of nonsense ended after grade school, my reaction then is the same reaction I have now when I hear Republicans smirk their little semantic game. Summoning my best Soupy Sales or Three Stooges, I dream of pushing their collective faces into a whipped cream pie.

Luckily for me there are smarter and cooler heads who prevail. One is Representative Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), who you may recall led the prosecution for the House in Donald Trump’s first impeachment trial. He did so with great grace and skill. And he did it just days after tragically losing his son.

On March 1, 2023, Raskin gave his House GOP colleagues a grammar lesson on the difference between Democrat and Democratic. He was responding to Representative Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), who had accused him of trying to censor conservatives by introducing a bill to combat disinformation. Boebert repeatedly used the term “Democrat Party” instead of “Democratic Party”, which is considered disrespectful and inaccurate by many Democrats².

Raskin explained that Democrat is a noun, while Democratic is an adjective. He said that using Democrat as an adjective is grammatically incorrect and politically offensive. He also pointed out that his bill was not about censorship, but about accountability and transparency for online platforms that spread false or misleading information.

Check out the video:

Raskin’s grammar lesson was not only a clever way of correcting Boebert’s mistake, but also a subtle reminder of his party’s values and principles. By emphasizing the word Democratic, he implied that his party stands for democracy, while Boebert’s party does not. He also showed his respect for language and truth, while Boebert showed her disregard for both.

Raskin’s grammar lesson was a rhetorical device that served multiple purposes: it educated his colleagues, and the public who saw the video played on almost every major newscast the next day, on proper grammar usage; it defended his bill against Boebert’s attacks; and it highlighted the contrast between his party and hers. It was an example of how language can be used as a tool for persuasion and argumentation in politics.

The Republican response was predictable. Many made fun of the scarf on Raskin’s head. A typical insensitive unserious dig at a man suffering the side effects of chemotherapy to treat cancer.

“Chemo causes hair loss, tenderness to the scalp, and many times sores,” one Twitter user wrote. “A head scarf protects the regulation of body temperature that is effected by chemo, and protects the scalp. Please be kind to chemo patients, they are fighting for their life.” In fact, this is Raskin’s second battle with cancer, after he overcame colon cancer in 2011.

I was pleased to learn there are some Twitter users who have more class than members of the Republican party.

#####

The Fox Lies Channel

Here’s a shocker. The people on the Fox News Channel lie. They knowingly lie. They lie all the time. Anyone with the common sense to distinguish between fact and fiction has known this for a long time. But the facts were never so clear as they are in a recent court filing by Dominion Voting Systems.

Here are the basic facts:

  • Dominion Voting Systems is suing Fox News for $1.6 billion for spreading false claims that Dominion rigged the 2020 presidential election.
  • A new court filing shows that Fox anchors and executives privately ridiculed former President Trump’s lies about the election even while promoting them on air.
  • The filing also reveals that Fox ignored warnings from its own staff, experts, and lawyers that the claims were baseless and harmful.
  • The filing includes internal emails, text messages, and transcripts that show how Fox hosts and guests knowingly spread misinformation to boost ratings and appease Trump.

Dominion Voting Systems is a company that sells electronic voting hardware and software. Dominion claims that Fox’s false accusations caused irreparable harm to its reputation, business, and employees, and endangered the lives of its workers and election officials.

Fox News has denied the allegations and moved to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that it was exercising its First Amendment rights to report on matters of public concern.

Fox has also claimed its evening anchors, the ones with the biggest audience in all of cable television and the most vocal when it comes to spreading outright lies about the political opponents they tend to demonize (my opinion here), are not news reporters but opinion writers. Fox has even gone too far as to take in court the position that no one could view the words of, for example, Tucker Carlson, as factual.

The problems here are multiple. First, opinion columns make arguments based on a foundation of fact. They may take liberties in interpretation. They may be selective when it comes to which facts are included and which are ignored. But they still have a responsibility to the truth and can face the consequences if they do not.

Fox also has cultivated an image that it is a purveyor of news when it has been obvious from day one that it has taken it as its mission to promote right wing thought to such an extent that its coverage at all times of the day is informed by that institutional goal. The “Fox News” logo appears on the screen during what Fox calls its “opinion” parts just as it does during its “news” parts. The original Fox slogans, “Fair and Balanced” and “We Report, You Decide” clearly assert that Fox presents reality others do not.

This is (my opinion again) a bit of chicanery that makes a mockery of journalism. It also makes (yep, my opinion) Fox owner Rupert Murdoch and his lackies public enemy number one.

Still Dominion faces an uphill battle in its defamation lawsuit. The bar is set extremely high, especially when matters of public interest are debated. The framers of the Constitution wrote the First Amendment with a specific intent to protect the kind of political speech that would get a commentator’s head chopped off if it were directed against, for example, the king in a European monarchy.

Dominion must prove Fox willfully made assertions it knew to be false, that it did so with malice, and that as a result, damage was done.

Take the time. Read the material firsthand. You decide.

You can find the full court document here:

Fox lost its motion to dismiss the lawsuit. The trial is scheduled to begin on April 4, 2023.

Cartoon by Kevin KAL Kallaugher for Counterpoint

#####

The GOP Clown Show

It is said that insanity is repeating the same action over and over expecting to get a different outcome. At least we have a name to put on the Republican clown show on full exhibit in the House of Representatives.

With the entire world watching Republicans, who hold a narrow majority in the House, have failed to muster a majority in the vote for Speaker, the powerful leadership position vacated by Democrat Nancy Pelosi following her party’s loss in the last election.

Read more

Our House is a Mess

For the first time in one hundred years, the House of Representatives could not elect a Speaker on the first ballot.

As the 118th Congress convenes, the first order of House business is the election of a new speaker — and current Republican leader Kevin McCarthy of California is being stymied by a group of GOP hardliners demanding concessions.

To win the gavel, McCarthy needs a majority of the members-elect who are present and voting. But because the GOP holds only a five-seat advantage, a small number of defections is so far stopping McCarthy from gaining the office he’s long sought. In fact, on the first two ballots McCarthy lost his caucus by nineteen votes. That grew to twenty votes on the third ballot. The Democrats were united through it all, supporting minority leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York with their 212 votes.

The House can conduct no other business until a speaker is chosen. For the first time in a century, the vote is requiring multiple rounds.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. The Republicans are too divided to govern, The Democrats are too stupid to get elected.

Updates as appropriate.

#####

How Could You?

If you are voting for Democrats, you can leave now. This isn’t for you.

If you are voting for Republicans, or not voting at all. Stick around. I have a question for you.

What the hell are you thinking?

Do you hear the words, “Democracy is on the line” and chuckle? Don’t. It is.

There are more than three hundred people running for election who believe the Big Lie that Donnie Trump won in 2020. He didn’t. Sixty judges and scores of election officials, many of them Republican, said he didn’t. There is hard physical evidence that HE knows he didn’t. NO evidence of improper voting that changed the outcome of the election was discovered anywhere.

Read more

Dobbs 3. What’s Next?

When Justice Samuel Alito wrote the majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, stripping American women of the Constitutional right to make their own healthcare decisions and making the personal religious dogma of the majority the law of the land, he tried to reassure the shocked nation that other rights would not be endangered by future decisions, writing, “to ensure that our decision is not misunderstood or mischaracterized, we emphasize that our decision concerns the constitutional right to abortion and no other right. Nothing in this opinion should be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion.”

Justice Brett Kavanaugh went so far as to put down his beer and write a separate concurring opinion specifically naming cases people arguing that Roe v Wade be upheld see at risk:

First is the question of how this decision will affect other precedents involving issues such as contraception and marriage—in particular, the decisions in Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U. S. 479 (1965); Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U. S. 438 (1972); Loving v. Virginia, 388 U. S. 1 (1967); and Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U. S. 644 (2015). I emphasize what the Court today states: Overruling Roe does not mean the overruling of those precedents and does not threaten or cast doubt on those precedents.

I don’t buy a word of it.

To believe other rights are not in danger you would have to be as naïve as Senators Susan Collins and Joe Manchin. I think, and certainly hope, my readers are smarter than that.

For once in his life it may be Justice Clarence Thomas who is unabashedly telling the truth. Thomas could keep a mental health professional fully employed just by dealing with his neurosis, but his repressive self-loathing is on display for anyone who has taken an elementary psychology course. Of legal interest is the fact that he is a walking talking conflict of interest. But the most egregious of his conflicts involve his wife, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas.

Ginni represents many companies and others with business before Congress and the courts. But her husband refuses to recuse himself when sitting on cases involving them. Recently we have read emails released by the House Select Committee to investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol revealing that Ginni Thomas worked with Trump lawyer John Eastman, who had written a detailed plan to attempt to persuade then-Vice President Mike Pence to throw out the 2020 election results on Jan. 6. Ginni urged Arizona lawmakers to replace their electors, pledged to Joe Biden by popular vote, with electors supporting Donald Trump. Ginni won’t appear before the January 6th Committee. And Clarence won’t recuse himself from cases regarding the more than eight hundred, at this writing, people charged with crimes in connection with the scheme to overturn the 2020 election.

But on the question of overturning fundamental rights, Thomas tells us in a concurring opinion to Dobbs exactly what he has planned:

in future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell. Because any substantive due process decision is “demonstrably erroneous,” Ramos v. Louisiana, 590 U. S., (2020) (THOMAS, J., concurring in judgment) (slip op., at 7), we have a duty to “correct the error” established in those precedents, Gamble v. United States, 587 U. S., (2019) (THOMAS, J., concurring) (slip op., at 9).

What Thomas is correctly pointing out is that the majority, in striking the right to abortion after fifty years, questions the Roe majority’s use of a legal doctrine known as “Substantive Due Process,” which I discuss at some length in my last column. If the use of substantive due process was “egregiously wrong” in Roe, how could it not be egregiously wrong in other cases, which relied on the same doctrine?

If the Court can differentiate in future cases, as Alito and Kavanaugh suggest in Dobbs, involving other rights, from Roe, it just demonstrates how Dobbs is not based on Constitution or law but is based on the personal views of the new religious majority. The Dobbs majority is capricious and fanatical. They have hated Roe for fifty years. Now they finally have the votes to overturn it. So they did. It is a power trip, pure and simple.

And what are the cases Thomas suggests will be up for review in the years ahead? Griswold v. Connecticut, the right to use contraception, Lawrence v Texas, gay rights, and Obergefell v. Hodges, same-sex marriage.

There is another case, also relying on substantive due process, that Thomas suspiciously omits from his target list. It is Loving v. Virginia, a 1967 ruling that declared it unconstitutional to ban interracial marriage. That decision was written by then Chief Justice Earl Warren himself. How could Thomas miss that? Could it be because Clarence Thomas is black? And his wife Ginni is white?

We have replaced the Congress, the President, and the Constitution itself and are now subject to the whims of a power-hungry majority on the Supreme Court. They need no rhyme or reason for their decisions. They impose their will on the nation simply because they can.

And if you still have any doubt about the rise of the religious majority, read the 6-3 decision which came down the next business day after Dobbs. Justice Neil Gorsuch, occupying the seat rightfully belonging to Merrick Garland, raised Catholic but now attending an Episcopalian church, writing in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, sent the doctrine of separation of church and state, dear to the Framers, to the shredder.

The case asked if Joseph Kennedy, a high school football coach, had a First Amendment right to pray with students at the 50-yard line after games. According to some teammates, this practice coerced players into joining, and practicing Christianity at school, for fear of incurring the coach’s disfavor. Nonetheless, Gorsuch’s opinion for the court found that Kennedy’s school violated his rights when it asked him to pray in private.

Gorsuch followed the Trump playbook in endorsing his own version of the big lie in Kennedy, writing that Coach Kennedy was simply engaged in quiet, private prayer at the 50-yard line and students voluntarily joined him. Justice Sonia Sotomayor outed Gorsuch as a liar by including photographs in her dissent, something I’ve never seen in a Supreme Court opinion. The pictures showed there were TV cameras present and elected officials and people were storming the field and knocking over the tuba players to join the prayer.

Gorsuch also lied in the manner of Trump by stating that a prior test for church and state situations, to determine if the First Amendment prohibition against establishing a religion and derived from the 1971 case Lemon v. Kurtzman, was dead, “The country didn’t know it, but we quietly overruled the Lemon test at some stage in the past 20–30 years. I’m not going to pinpoint when, but trust us—it happened.”

Trust him? I have a bridge to sell you.

Gorsuch is always certain of the power of his argument. For him, it’s damn the facts. Full speed ahead. In Kennedy, he tells students who are not religious, who felt coerced into joining the prayer circle, that they should just be more tolerant.

Any reasonable observer would look at what Kennedy did and say, this is an endorsement of Christianity. This is an employee of the school, in uniform, in the middle of his official duties, expressing thanks to a Christian God. Gorsuch gets around that problem by saying, “That test is overruled. We have a new test, which is ‘history and tradition.’ Go back and figure out what James Madison would’ve wanted in public schools today.” And the majority’s policy preferences turn out to match their own personal preferences, which becomes their imagined idea of what James Madison would’ve wanted.

Do you think it would have turned out this way if the coach were a Muslim and he brought his prayer rug to the fifty-yard line?

And the religious majority didn’t stop there. The next day they effectively declared that the separation of church and state, a principle enshrined in the Constitution, is, itself, unconstitutional. Their 6–3 decision in Carson v. Makin requires Maine to give public money to private religious schools, steamrolling decades of precedent in a race to compel state funding of religion. Carson is radical enough on its own, but the implications of the ruling are even more frightening. As Justice Stephen Breyer noted in dissent, it has the potential to dismantle secular public education in the United States.

It was Breyer’s last dissent. He retired two days later after 28 years on the Court, fighting the good fight for the rights of ordinary Americans. Ketanji Brown Jackson, the Court’s first black, female Justice, was immediately sworn in as Breyer’s successor. But that will not change the ideological balance of the Court. Breyer, 83 years old, had stepped aside so the 51-year-old Jackson could be appointed, just in case the Republicans gain control of the Senate in the mid-term elections.

Breyer’s was a sacrifice we should all appreciate.

#####

Dobbs 2. Religion Rules.

When I was in college, as it happens the same college Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito was attending, and just beginning to get interested in American government and the Constitution, conservatives were up at arms over a series of Supreme Court decisions. They faulted what they branded an “activist” court for expanding on cases before them to consider issues not raised by the facts in dispute, for finding in the Constitution rights and powers not actually written in the text, and for in effect writing laws, a power assigned to Congress with the approval of the President.

They were talking about decisions like 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education, which reversed Plessy v. Ferguson, a ruling which allowed the segregation of black and white students into separate schools. Chief Justice Earl Warren, a former Republican governor of California, appointed by President Dwight Eisenhower, who called him a “liberal-conservative,” wrote Brown, effectively ending racial segregation in public schools.

Warren strongly believed that the highest purpose of the law was toright wrongs by applying equity and fairness. His Court expanded the constitutional rights of defendants, ensured equal representation in state legislatures, outlawed state-sponsored prayer in public schools, and paved the way for the civil rights and voting rights legislation of the 1960s and the legalization of abortion in 1973. Warren was also a consummate politician, and a hallmark of his leadership is the fact that Brown, Gideon v. Wainwright (right to counsel in criminal cases), and Cooper v. Aaron (states are bound by Supreme Court decisions) were all unanimous decisions. Engel v. Vitale (banning prayer in public schools) had only one dissent.

These landmark decisions on fundamental rights worked through the Fourteen Amendment’s due process clause.

The conservatives hated each and every decision, thought Warren was a traitor to his party, and Eisenhower’s greatest mistake. Republican Richard Nixon, who is the only President to resign his office in disgrace, feuded with Warren for thirty years.

Now comes the most dramatic expression so far of the conservative’s hatred. Alito’s opinion overturning Roe v. Wade takes from American women the right to an abortion, which had been guaranteed since Roe in 1973. In writing Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization Alito literally screams, “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start.” Alito’s campaign to overturn Roe began at least as far back as 1985 when he was working in the Department of Justice.

The actions of the Dobbs majority are about as “activist” as you can get. Even Chief Justice John Roberts thinks they went too far. He concurred in upholding the Mississippi law but wrote he would not have overturned Roe, something Mississippi had not asked for. The Court traditionally does not go beyond what it requested in granting relief. But this Court is not concerned with tradition and this Chief is not in control of this Court.

In his sweeping opinion Alito attacks the use by the Roe majority of the Fourteen Amendment’s “Substantive Due Process” clause. We will avoid getting into the deep weeds of Constitutional Law. There are many, many, many sources on this issue if you are interested. The Legal Information Institute of Cornell Law School says:

Substantive due process is the principle that the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments protect fundamental rights from government interference. Specifically, the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments prohibit the government from depriving any person of “life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” The Fifth Amendment applies to federal action, and the Fourteenth applies to state action.

The Constitution is one of “enumerated rights,” the Tenth Amendment reserving rights not specifically listed to the States or the People. Just as the Fifth Amendment protects the people from the federal government, the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Court has held, protects people from their state government.

Until Dobbs. Now the issue of abortion, which Alito notes is not to be found in the Constitution, is said to be a right that should be administered by each individual state. Just as a practical matter, in a nation where people and goods freely cross state lines, the idea is ridiculous. Alito branded Roe‘s reasoning “exceptionally weak.” Dobbs is weaker still. The right-wing of the Court threw the very lives of millions of Americans into the hands of state lawmakers just one day after they ruled those same lawmakers are not competent to decide the terms under which they issue concealed carry permits for guns in their own states.

Alito argues that abortion is different from other issues because a “potential life” is at stake. This is not a term to be found in the Constitution either. And if the Roe proposition that the viability of a fetus could be marked by trimesters was “weak,” the Dobbs proposition put forth by Alito and many state legislatures that life dates to the moment of conception is weaker still. The Constitution, for what it is worth, in the Fourteen Amendment, defines citizens as, “All persons born….” Not “conceived.”

The reason Alito cannot make a stronger argument for his irrational proposition is that there is none to be made. Neither law nor science can define when life begins. They couldn’t do it in 1973. They cannot do it today. If we could state with specificity when life begins, we could put forth a solution to what is a moral dilemma. Since we cannot, I opt to believe a women must be allowed to make the decision about what happens to her own body and that neither I nor the government should interfere.

Alito and those who support his position fail on at least two fronts. First, they are hypocritical because they claim to be striving to save a life. Yet they will not support universal health care to protect that life, or pre-natal care, or obstetric care, or pediatric care, or additional aid to public education, or school lunches, or any other of a lengthy list of things they could do to ensure a good life for every “person born….” They opposed supplemental aid which lifted millions of children above the poverty level during the pandemic. They can’t even ban assault rifles to keep kids from getting massacred in school. Even in a statement supporting the Dobbs decision, the Vatican makes this point.

Second, they fail because they are making what is at its core a religious argument. And their religion does not speak for every American. The belief that life begins at conception is a very Catholic belief. And Alito is very Catholic. So are Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett, and Chief John Roberts. Neil Gorsuch was raised Catholic but is now a member of an Episcopalian church. Sonia Sotomayor, who usually votes with the left-wing and dissented from Dobbs, is also Catholic.

This is not reflective of the U.S. population. And more on point, the Roman Catholic doctrine of the majority is not reflective of a majority of those who hold religious beliefs.

Opinion on abortion is far from settled. More importantly, public views on abortion by religion reflect the difficulty most people have with the question of how and when life begins. While Roman Catholic doctrine is clear, there are different views held among the major religions. And among various denominations with religions.

For several religious, theological scholarship places the health of the mother in a paramount position under some circumstances. That, simply put, means many laws banning abortion will violate the religious beliefs of millions of Americans.

With their opinion in Dobbs, The Court’s Catholic majority has established their religious views as the official dicta of the state. Try wrapping your First Amendment around that one.

And there is more to come.

#####

« Older Entries