Coronavirus Forces Supreme Court to Postpone Arguments, Including Fight Over Trump’s Financial Records

The Supreme Court announced it would postpone arguments for late March and early April because of the coronavirus pandemic. No new dates for the postponed arguments have been set at this time. Among the high-profile cases to be postponed was the March 31 argument on President Donald Trump’s refusal to release his financial records, including his tax returns.

Some functions will continue; the justices will hold a regularly scheduled conference on March 20, for example, and other orders will be released by next week.

“The Building will continue to be open for official business, and filing deadlines are not extended under Rule 30.1,” the Court said in a press release. “The Court is expanding remote working capabilities to reduce the number of employees in the Building, consistent with public health guidance. The Building will remain closed to the public until further notice.”

The postponements are a pragmatic decision in light of the public health crisis that has claimed 71 lives across the United States to date. Six of the nine justices are age 65 or older and are at high risk of developing severe cases of the coronavirus, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines.

The Court noted in its press release that its “postponement of argument sessions in light of public health concerns is not unprecedented.”

“The Court postponed scheduled arguments for October 1918 in response to the Spanish flu epidemic.  The Court also shortened its argument calendars in August 1793 and August 1798 in response to yellow fever outbreaks,” according to the release.

As Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” Plan Hits A Legal Snag, His Administration Turns to SCOTUS

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco is preventing President Donald Trump’s administration from enforcing its Migrant Protection Protocols, otherwise known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy, for asylum-seekers to stay in the country. Restrictions remain in place until March 11 for review by the Supreme Court. The ruling only applies to Arizona and California, the states under the court’s authority, and not New Mexico and Texas.

The ruling affirms the court’s ruling last week that the policy violates both United States and international law. The policy, which went into effect in January 2019, requires asylum-seekers to remain in Mexico while they wait for their immigration hearings. The Trump administration considers the policy a great success, saying it has curbed the “uncontrolled flows” of migrants at the southern border, but advocacy groups have found that thousands of migrants required to wait have been kidnapped, raped, or tortured.

The appeals court’s decision will take effect on March 12 if the Supreme Court opts not to hear the case. Attorneys with the Justice Department argue that stopping the program would create “massive and irreparable national security and public safety concerns” because U.S. Customs and Border Protection lacks enough detention space to house thousands of new migrants who, they contend, would create a “rush on the southern border.”

Lawyers challenging the policy say the Supreme Court should deny the government’s request for a stay because the 9th Circuit’s original decision did not require the government to allow asylum-seekers affected by the policy to immediately re-enter the United States. They point out in court filings that the decision requires the government pursue an “orderly unwinding” of the policy.

The Supreme Court has sided with the Trump administration on immigration issues before. In January, the court allowed the government to temporarily continue enforcing a policy barring migrants from applying for asylum unless they’d already been denied asylum in another country while in transit to the United States.

John Roberts Rebukes Schumer For Bogus “Threatening Statements” Against Gorsuch, Kavanaugh

Chief Justice John Roberts has rebuked Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) for “threatening statements” against two conservative justices.

“Justices know that criticism comes with the territory, but threatening statements of this sort from the highest levels of government are not only inappropriate, they are dangerous,” Roberts said, adding that the justices “will continue to do their job, without fear or favor, from whatever quarter.”

Roberts’s comments came after Schumer, standing outside the Supreme Court, said Associate Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh would “pay the price” if they fail to uphold abortion rights as the judiciary takes up June Medical Services v. Russo, which considers the constitutionality of a law requiring doctors to possess admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 minutes of their abortion clinics.

“I want to tell you, Gorsuch. I want to tell you, Kavanaugh. You have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price,” Schumer said to a crowd of abortion-rights advocates. “You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.”

Schumer was soon criticized by Congressional conservatives, including Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Steve Scalise (R-La.).

🚨 UNHINGED → Schumer threatened conservative justices Kavanaugh & Gorsuch on the steps of the Supreme Court:

"You have released the whirlwind & you will pay the price. You won't know what hit you."

Enough. This rhetoric has dangerous consequences. Where's the media outrage? pic.twitter.com/SiGNHxG0iX read more

Opinion: Does America Really Value Equality? What Women and Transgender People Might Say

The Supreme Court ruled in the Citizens United case that corporations merited certain rights of personhood. The decision in this case became crystallized in the notorious phrase, “Corporations are people.”

This year’s events insistently raise the question of which Americans enjoy the basic rights of personhood in America.

How are we doing when it comes to achieving our nation’s putative hallmark ideal of equality?

A reading of U.S. history we often hear tells the story of a nation that has thus far imperfectly realized its founding premise that “all men are created equal” but that has nonetheless been on an ongoing quest to achieve a fully egalitarian culture for all people, even and perhaps especially those that the initial formulation did not include in its reference to “all men.”

The cherished founding principle that “all men are created equal” animating the American experiment has obviously been vexed by realities of our national life and history, which stand undeniably in stark contradiction to that principle.  The racism informing the practices of slavery and genocide present in U.S. history since the nation’s inception highlight the unrealized status of this value of equality.

But “we” the people still believe in it, right? We’re still just trying to figure it out, right?

It’s just that it is so hard to figure out, right?

While we could ask many constituencies, particularly people of color, how they are faring when it comes to equal rights, let’s take a quick look at women and transgender people might assess the national terrain in this regard.

In last November’s election, Democrats in Virginia flipped the state Senate and House of Delegates to gain full control of the state government for the first time since 1993. These election results have inspired hope that the state government will now become the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which passed the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives in 1972 and was quickly ratified by 22 states. Any constitutional amendment requires ratification by 38 states. The crawl toward reaching this number has been a slow one, with Nevada becoming the 36th state to ratify in 2017, followed shortly thereafter by Illinois.  Last February, efforts in Virginia fell short by one vote in the House of Delegates. The votes now seem to be there.

But let’s also step back and get a little perspective.  Here we are in 2019 still asking whether or not women—some half of our population—should enjoy equal rights or continue to be relegated to the status of second-class citizen.

Isn’t it strange, for a nation pretending to value equality, that we still ask this question, deferring equal rights to women?

Here’s the statement in the ERA this nation trembles to validate:

“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex.” read more

Let’s Connect the Dots of Democracy’s Demise Before It’s Too Late

Remember in 2016 when an armed Oregon militia group, led by Ammon and Ryan Bundy, occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Princeton, Oregon? They viewed the federally managed land as an encroachment on their land use rights as ranchers and as an example of the federal government’s overreach in asserting its authority against the people.

When the militia solicited public support for their occupation, they were barraged with packages of dildos through the mail—to their great dismay. They responded in videos, yelling “STOP SENDING US DILDOS!”  They looked like the idiots they were.

The tactic of sending dildos, as I’ve elaborated elsewhere, was a brilliant and joyous act of resistance to the armed takeover of public lands, building on a long tradition of using humor as a form of non-violent resistance to armed force.

As the nation watches—or perhaps ignores—the current impeachment hearings, the outcome of which will reveal much about whether the nation’s political leadership will endorse or undo an autocratic regime that has sought to undermine U.S. democracy, we have to connect the dots of several recent events which, assessed together, highlight the very ever-increasing threat to our democracy and the individual and collective rights our system bestows on us.

Dildos simply will not be enough this time. As much as laughter and humor can fuel resistance, we require an alertness and a “woke”-ness  to the destruction of democracy happening before our eyes well beyond, though no doubt encouraged and ignited by, Trump’s complete disregard for the Constitution, basic laws, civil rights, and the norms and procedures of democracy.

Here are just a few recent examples—dots to connect—that make clear the disregard for and destruction of democracy in our country that, more than a threat or worry for the future, is an actuality.

*Let’s return to Oregon where last June Republican state senators fled the statehouse and went into hiding to prevent a vote on a climate change bill to establish a carbon cap to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  Despite the Democrats enjoying a majority, without some Republicans present the quorum necessary to even allow a vote was lacking.  While this behavior disregards the truism that elections have consequences, to be fair this tactic has been used in the past by Democrats and Republicans alike as attempts to spur conversation and compromise to give the minority party a voice.  In 2011, Democratic lawmakers in Wisconsin absconded to Illinois to avoid a vote on a bill designed to eviscerate collective bargaining rights for public employees. These lawmakers eventually returned and had to endure Governor Scott Walker’s bull-dozing of workers’ democratic rights.  Earlier this year, the same Oregon Senators pulled the same stunt in order to garner a compromise on another piece of legislation.

The shenanigans last June, though, reached a new level of defiance of democracy—and did not receive much national press coverage.

When Governor Kate Brown indicated she was contemplating deploying state troopers to round up the derelict senators, Senator Brian Boquist threatened to shoot and potentially kill any troopers who sought to apprehend him, telling the superintendent of the state police, “Send bachelors and come heavily armed. I’m not going to be a political prisoner in the state of Oregon. It’s just that simple.”

And the police received what they believed to be credible threats from militias around the state that the state capitol would be stormed in defense of these senators.

Let’s think about this situation and Boquist’s language. He said he wouldn’t “be a political prisoner in the state of Oregon.” And yet he’s the one not following governmental rules and breaking the law! This kind of dangerous and Orwellian language play echoes that in which we see Trump engage. As I’ve written about in the pages of PoliticusUsa, Trump refers to the process of impeachment, clearly detailed by our founders in the Constitution as a necessary mechanism to preserve our democracy against autocratic abuses of power, as a coup; that is, he presents democratic behavior as mob-like violations of democratic order and his own thuggish illegalities as normative.

In Oregon, democracy has been rejected by the likes of Boquist, who simply want their way and will engage in armed violence to get it—or at least threaten to.

*And remember last September 11 in North Carolina when House Republicans held a surprise vote to override the Governor’s veto of a two-year budget.  Democrats, who were attending a 9/11 memorial service, were told there would be no votes that day until the afternoon, and no votes were on the legislative docket. Republicans secretly convened early in the morning to vote on the override. House Speaker Tim Moore told CBS,

“It’s a great day for North Carolina.” read more

Opinion: “Judicial Modesty” Is The New Legal Fig Leaf For Denying Civil Rights To LGBTQ Americans

While we don’t yet know how the Supreme Court will decide the major civil rights question before it regarding whether or not gay and transgender people are protected under federal legislation that outlaws employment discrimination “on the basis of sex,” the nature of the debates and the questions raised from the bench last week when attorneys for both sides presented arguments do not reflect well on this nation’s supposed commitment to civil rights.

At a minimum, it’s fair to say it’s no slam dunk that the Supreme Court will arrive at ruling that endows LGBTQ Americans with the basic civil rights that American ideals, especially those ideals people, particularly African Americans, took to the streets for in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, pose as fundamental liberties for all.

At worst, the court may very well be poised to ratify—and likely further unleash through its endorsement—rampant and hostile discrimination against people simply for how they choose to love and define their sexual and gender identity.  While this case centers on employment discrimination, thus entailing grave consequences for LGBTQ people’s abilities to earn a living, a ruling that denied their civil rights would surely have ramifications well beyond the workplace and economy, serious as those elements are.  Just as Trump’s virulent and loudly expressed racism has resulted in exponential increases in white nationalist and other racist violence against people of color and Jewish people, it seems to fair to expect that if the highest court in our land endorses discrimination against LGBTQ people, that a similar uptick in violence against them will likely occur.

What was most underlined in the back and forth between the justices and the attorneys is that extension of civil rights to all Americans is still in question.

Let’s underline that: Civil Rights have not been embraced by the United States for all members of society.

And that the Supreme Court is pondering and scratching its collective head about whether civil rights should be extended to all members of society is absolutely troubling.

The justices are actually wondering if it is just to have a group of second-class citizens.

We need to continue to point out this fact. And we should explore and make clear the warped reasoning coming from these supposedly prized intellects and dazzling legal minds, as I’ve done elsewhere.

For the court, the crux of the matter seemed to be whether the word “sex” in the 1964 Civil Rights Act could be construed as incorporating sexual orientation and gender identity—did it just refer to distinctions between “male” and “female,” or does it include distinctions between “gay” and “straight”?

Justice Samuel Alito at one point responded to attorney Pamela Karlan, representing two of the plaintiffs,

“You’re trying to change the meaning of what Congress understood sex to mean in 1964.” read more

GOP Seeks to Destroy First Amendment and Democracy Itself

Trump - McConnell

As Don Draper, the central character of AMC’s hit show Mad Men, likes to say, “If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.”

For the GOP across the nation these days, though, the prevailing attitude is more to the effect of, “If you don’t like what’s being said, repress the conversation.”

The GOP will fight to the death for the Second Amendment, allowing anybody to buy and possess deadly weapons. This uncritical advocacy has, of course, resulted in a string of mass shootings in the United States, costing many American lives.

When it comes to the First Amendment, however, the GOP doesn’t find the Constitution quite so precious or worth upholding.

The West Virginia State Senate last May 30 passed legislation outlawing public school teacher strikes and authorizing the firing of public workers, beyond just teachers, who strike. The legislation heads to the Republican-led State House on June 17 for consideration.

This legislation reads as a retaliation aimed at teachers for their historic statewide strike last year shutting down public schools for nine days. Teachers were protesting a decade-long pay freeze which the state offered to “ameliorate” with a small pay increase accompanied by pension reductions and substantial increases in health care premiums.

The West Virginia teachers’ actions set off a series of teachers’ strikes in Arizona, Kentucky, Colorado, and Oklahoma.

While West Virginia teachers spearheaded a widespread fervor of democracy in action, now the West Virginia GOP is spearheading a counter-fervor of anti-democratic repression.

Remember when thousands of indigenous and environmental activists gathered in North Dakota in late 2016 to protest the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline? The protest enjoyed a temporary success when then-President Barack Obama’s administration withheld a permit needed for construction of the pipeline to continue. The victory was short-lived, as Trump swept into office and reversed the decision.

These protests triggered a GOP counter-attack aimed at repressing protests in the future and disarming democracy, and gutting the First Amendment.
Oklahoma, a state dependent on the fossil-fuel industry, pre-emptively passed a law in 2017 making it a felony to enter pipeline property to “impede or inhibit operations of the facility.” If the activist succeeded in impeding operations, the penalty could be ten years in jail in addition to a $10,000 fine.

Similar laws denying protesting “critical infrastructure” passed in South Dakota and North Dakota, and legislations mirroring Oklahoma’s have been enacted in Iowa and Louisiana, while also being introduced in Indiana and Illinois, for a total of fifteen states thus far experiencing this legislative onslaught on the democratic rights of protest.

American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an industry-backed organization, adopted Oklahoma’s bill as model legislation and has been a force in spreading this legislation to other states. The bills have typically inspired and lobby-efforts from such industry heavy-weights as Energy Transfer, Enbridge, and TransCanda, the company behind the Keystone XL pipeline.

This legislation has a chilling effect on activist efforts to engage in the kinds of protest and democratic action that we saw at Standing Rock around the Keystone XL pipeline project.

Critics of this legislative wave argue these bills radically undermine the First Amendment.

We need to see this attack on the First Amendment as part of a larger GOP assault on free speech rights.

Take last year’s Supreme Court ruling in the Janus case.

In her dissent to the Janus decision, which declared that public sector unions’ right to collect fair share dues from non-union members violated those workers’ First Amendment rights, Justice Elena Kagan lambasted the ruling for “turning the First Amendment into a sword.” She criticized it for exploiting the First Amendment to curtail rather than foster freedom and democracy, asserting that the First Amendment “was meant not to undermine but to protect democratic governance—including over the role of public-sector unions.”

Justice Samuel Alito’s majority opinion confirms the ruling turns the First Amendment on its head, restricting rather than enabling employees’ collective speech in the workplace. Arguing in the name of First Amendment rights, Alito prepares the grounds for annihilating free speech, especially workers’ voice in the workplace.

Let’s start with one of Alito’s most obnoxious rhetorical moves. Alito characterizes as “most surprising” what he calls the Union respondent’s “originalist defense” of Abood, the case that set the precedent for allowing public sector unions to collect agency fees. The union, Alito summarizes, argued that “Abood was correctly decided because the First Amendment was not originally understood to provide any protection for the free speech rights of public employees.” Alito then distorts the union’s position with wry and condescending arrogance, writing that “we doubt that the Union—or its members—actually want us to hold that that public employees have ‘no [free speech] rights.’” Of course, unions aren’t arguing to deprive workers of free speech; rather they are pointing out the reality that workers do have only very restricted free speech rights in the workplace as individuals, which makes the role of unions—and their financial ability to fulfill that role—in providing a collective voice for workers and creating some degree of workplace democracy all the more crucial. Alito’s argument, in elevating individual free speech rights over that of the collective, ignoring the reality of unequal workplace power dynamics, actually undermines both the speech rights of the individual and the collective.

Throughout the opinion, he premises his argument on the assumption that employees already have free speech rights in the workplace, arguing it is the Union’s position that overturns precedent, not the Janus decision. He writes, “Taking away free speech protection for public employees would mean overturning decades of landmark precedent.”

As I have elaborated elsewhere, employees don’t have workplace free speech rights.

The Union to which Alito refers isn’t arguing that workers shouldn’t have free speech, but that as individual workers they don’t. This reality needs to be recognized to understand the important role unions fulfill in giving workers a voice.

From all these instances, we need urgently to see is that the First Amendment and democracy itself are under assault.

New Study of Homophobia Shows Trump Is not Just a Hater, but Stupid, too

A recent study conducted by the University of Queensland in Australia may very well provide some very valuable insights to help Americans understand and assess President Trump’s behaviors, beliefs, and policy positions.
This study, published in Intelligence magazine, identifies a correlation between homophobia and lower cognitive abilities, linking hatred and prejudice with lower intelligence.

The study relied on three fundamental and standard tests for measuring cognitive ability and functioning and also asked each participant in the study their opinion on the following statement: “Homosexual couples should have the same rights as heterosexual couples.”

Those who disagreed with this statement, openly acknowledging their homophobia, performed poorer on the standardized tests.

Now, Trump has spent a lot of time trying to convince Americans and really anyone who will listen, that he is really smart.

Earlier this year, in a tweet of course, he informed us, “[M]y two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart,” letting us know that he is “a very stable genius.” And he likes to remind us that attended an Ivy League university.

So, it’s easy for us to believe he’s smart.

Luckily we have this new study, rooted in neuroscience and neuropsychology, which gives us evidence-based research to understand that Trump isn’t smart. We might have just thought he’s a “P*&%y-grabbing genius” hater who likes to defend the white nationalist marchers in Charlottesville who feared being replaced by Jews.

We can now question his self-assessment as “a very stable genius” and confidently conclude that he’s not just a hater, he’s stupid—and he’s peddling stupidity.

If we believe in science, that is.

And this stupidity is dangerously informing his policy and Republican policy overall.

Consider the following:

*Recently, the department of Health and Human Services finalized a regulatory change that would allow health care providers to deny care, even life-saving care, if they feel doing so violates their personal beliefs.
This policy invention of the Trump-Pence administration promises to make it harder for LGBTQ people, who already experience healthcare disparities because of discrimination, to access healthcare. Already 23% of transgender people avoid seeking necessary care because of fear of discrimination. Further 56% of Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual people and 70% of transgender or non-gender-conforming people report experiencing discrimination when they do seek healthcare, through outright refusal to provide care, harsh language, or physical roughness in the administering of care.

We can see now that this policy is not the fruit of intelligence, but downright thorough stupidity.

*Trump sought to ban transgender people from serving openly in the military. The Supreme Court recently upheld this ban.

Now we can see that Trump and the five Supreme Court Justices who affirmed Trump’s policy are not just homophobic haters; they’re absolutely stupid.

Yes, even those most educated among us can be hateful and stupid, confirming Karl Marx’s precept that “The educators must be educated.”

*The Supreme Court will soon rule in a case that will determine whether the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits discrimination “on the basis of sex” (thank you, Ruth Bader Ginsburg) extends protections for transgender and LGBTQ people in the workplace and in employment practices.

The attempt to deny such protections, arguing that the meaning of the word “sex” does not include sexual orientation or transgender identities, is in line with the overall ideology and ethos the Trump administration has supported and pushed quite aggressively.

This aggression and hate, we now know thanks to this study, verifies the suspicion many of us have been harboring that this policy is not the product of intelligence or stable genius, but rather pure and unadulterated stupidity.
Trump is not just a hater; he’s “stoopid” with two O’s.

Democratic Candidates Want to Expand the Supreme Court

Democrats are sick of watching Mitch McConnell stack the federal judiciary — including the Supreme Court — with right-wing judges.

So now many of them want to retaliate, and they are starting to talk about a radical response that would allow a future Democratic president and Senate to add two new liberal justices to the highest court in the land.

Current 2020 Democratic presidential candidates Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand have all said they would not rule out expanding the Supreme Court if elected president, according to

a new article in POLITICO. read more