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412 posts
  • Rule of Law
Lawyer Aaron Schlossberg, center, takes a cellphone video of reporters taking his video as he leaves his home in Manhattan on Thursday.
Lawyer Aaron Schlossberg, center, takes a cellphone video of reporters taking his video as he leaves his home in Manhattan on Thursday. (Anthony DelMundo/New York Daily News/TNS)

At the risk of sounding like I’m defending the indefensible, there’s something unnerving about the backlash against Aaron Schlossberg.

Here’s the incident that catapulted Schlossberg into the public eye:

There’s something clearly wrong with this guy. And now, thanks to YouTube and my fellow carrion birds in the media, the story of the guy who threatened to call immigration agents on food-service workers who spoke Spanish is all over the internet.

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Law enforcement officers respond to a high school near Houston after a shooting on campus Friday in Santa Fe, Texas.
Law enforcement officers respond to a high school near Houston after a shooting on campus Friday in Santa Fe, Texas. (KTRK-TV ABC13 via Associated Press)

The school day was just getting started in Santa Fe, Texas, when the gunshots began. Little is known at this point about what happened next. At least eight are dead, maybe as many as 10, with others wounded and being treated at hospitals, including students and adults. One suspect, a student, is reportedly in custody, another detained. There was early talk of a shotgun and, later, suspected explosive devices found at the school and a home, but as we all know from experience these details are fluid and will change. That’s the disconnect between the desire to know, and the pace of an investigation.

“We all know from experience” — that’s the crucial phrase.

So we watch the live coverage on TV, scan the web for updates, cling to dramatic details and fight the nausea. We share shock on social media, post those little sad faces with a tear in the eye, and if a child is near give a hug of reassurance. But there really is nothing to be reassured about.

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  • The Swamp
Harvest machines roll through a sugar cane field in Clewiston, Fla., in 2004.
Harvest machines roll through a sugar cane field in Clewiston, Fla., in 2004. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

If House Republicans really were believers in the free market, they’d kill the U.S. sugar program. 

Democrats are the ones who aren’t so faithful to bedrock capitalist principles, so they can be excused for supporting a program in which the government essentially controls how much farmers produce and, in effect, taxes consumers for the benefit of a politically connected special interest. Well, maybe they can’t be excused for that, but at least their position would be understandable.

Yet the House is now considering an $867-billion farm bill that, among other lamentable provisions, would continue a sugar program that has both of those features.

  • The Swamp
Polarization has made it exceedingly difficult for Congress to do its job. And that's a failure for the nation.
Polarization has made it exceedingly difficult for Congress to do its job. And that's a failure for the nation. (Michael Reynolds / EPA/Shutterstock)

A small group of House Republicans representing districts with a more liberal view of immigration policies than that of the House leadership and the president are trying to force a vote on four competing bills to resolve the plight of people who have been living in the U.S. illegally after arriving as children. Each of the bills addresses the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in some capacity, some less onerously than others; under the so-called “queen of the hill” rule all would come to the floor and the top vote-getter would win.

But to get the measures to the floor, proponents need support from 219 House members — all 193 Democrats and at least 26 Republicans (or more if some of the Democrats balk).

  • Trump
  • The Witch Hunt
Robert S. Mueller III is accused by President Trump of conducting "the greatest witch hunt in American History."
Robert S. Mueller III is accused by President Trump of conducting "the greatest witch hunt in American History." (Saul Loeb / AFP-Getty Images)

President Trump sent Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III an Unhappy Anniversary card this morning on Twitter (of course):

The argument that Mueller’s investigation is the greatest witch hunt in history seems unfair to the Puritans in Massachusetts who actually killed people during the Salem Witch Hunt. As Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famously observed in a 1st Amendment case, “Men feared witches and burnt women.” (Actually, the Salem “witches” were hanged.)  

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  • Trump
  • Immigration
  • The Golden State
President Trump meets at the White House with California leaders and public officials who oppose the state's "sanctuary" policies.
President Trump meets at the White House with California leaders and public officials who oppose the state's "sanctuary" policies. (Olivier Douliery / EPA-Shutterstock)

So who exactly was President Trump referring to Wednesday when he referred to some immigrants as “animals?” Let’s go to the transcript.

Trump gathered California lawmakers and law-enforcement officials to discuss the so-called sanctuary laws that bar state and local authorities here from enforcing federal immigration codes, which involve for the most part civil, not criminal, infractions. (This is what California’s laws actually do.) Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims railed against the laws, then complained, “There could be an MS-13 member I know about — if they don’t reach a certain threshold, I cannot tell ICE about it.” 

Never mind that MS-13 began in Los Angeles, and that not all of its members are immigrants. Trump responded:

  • Trump
  • The Witch Hunt
Michael Cohen is listed on President Trump's financial disclosure form as the recipient of a reimbursement for unspecified "expenses."
Michael Cohen is listed on President Trump's financial disclosure form as the recipient of a reimbursement for unspecified "expenses." (Seth Wenig / Associated Press)

It fell short of an admission that “I did it, and I’m glad,” but President Trump’s disclosure in a federal ethics filing that he reimbursed lawyer-cum-fixer Michael Cohen for more than $100,000 in “expenses” is a major embarrassment for the president — and maybe worse than that.

A footnote in Trump’s statement to the Office of Government Ethics doesn’t identify the purpose of the payment. But Trump lawyer and media motormouth Rudolph W. Giuliani acknowledged on May 2 in an appearance on Fox News that Trump had reimbursed Cohen for a payment to pornographic film star Stormy Daniels. Daniels, who claims she had sex with Trump 12 years ago, signed a nondisclosure agreement days before the 2016 election.

“They funneled [it] through a law firm and the president repaid it,” Giuliani told Fox’s Sean Hannity.

  • The Swamp

Why does Scott Pruitt still have a job? I know — silly question. In this administration of fools, liars and petty grifters, he’s “employee of the month” material.

Pruitt, in testimony this morning before a Senate committee, said “I don’t recall” ever asking his security detail to run light and sirens as they drove him to airports and dinners in Washington (details of which first came to light here). Pruitt, echoing a previous Environmental Protection Agency statement, told the committee, “There are policies that the agency follows, the agents follow, and to my knowledge they followed it in all instances.”

Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), who was tending the grill at that particular moment, asked Pruitt again if he had asked for the lights-and-sirens treatment.

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  • Rule of Law
  • The Swamp
Protesters fighting to save net neutrality rally outside a Verizon store on Market Street in San Francisco on Dec. 7, 2017.
Protesters fighting to save net neutrality rally outside a Verizon store on Market Street in San Francisco on Dec. 7, 2017. (Karl Mondon/TNS)

The U.S. Senate’s vote Wednesday in favor of restoring the tough net neutrality regulations adopted in 2015 will almost certainly prove to be a mere blip on the political radar screen. There’s no sign the House will even take up the resolution, and given the deregulatory zeal of that body’s Republican majority, it’s quixotic to believe it could pass if it somehow made it to the House floor.

The real point behind the Senate vote was a political one — an exercise in line-drawing. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) put it succinctly: “Which side are you on?” he asked on the Senate floor, noting the overwhelming support for net neutrality rules from internet users. “There is no constituency on the other side of this other than telecommunications companies.”

That’s the problem for the Republicans defending last year’s decision by the Federal Communications Commission’s GOP majority to wipe out the 2015 rules and take a hands-off approach to the net. In this case, their philosophical devotion to small government and less regulation is serving telecom companies that face little or no competition in their local markets.

  • Rule of Law
Debbie Ziegler, holding a photo of daughter Brittany Maynard, speaks in support of the aid-in-dying bill in Sacramento on Sept. 11, 2015.
Debbie Ziegler, holding a photo of daughter Brittany Maynard, speaks in support of the aid-in-dying bill in Sacramento on Sept. 11, 2015. (Los Angeles Times)

Let's be clear: A Riverside County judge’s ruling throwing out the state’s End of Life Option Act isn't about the rightness of the law, because it is the right law. It's about the session in which the measure passed.

That special legislative session in 2015 was about healthcare, and it's hard to imagine a topic more central to healthcare than choices regarding terminal disease. Nevertheless, Superior Court Judge Daniel Ottolia ruled Tuesday morning that the Legislature shouldn’t have acted on the physician-assisted suicide bill during the special session because, in his overly narrow view, the session was limited to finding more funding for Medi-Cal.

There's a chance for the state to appeal this within five days. It has a strong argument with which to do this. But if the state can't persuade Ottolia otherwise over the next several days, then perhaps a new law would be the quickest and strongest way to go.