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60 posts
  • Opinion
  • Rule of Law
  • The Swamp
Justice Brett M. Kavanuagh will not be investigated on complaints that he violated judicial ethics.
Justice Brett M. Kavanuagh will not be investigated on complaints that he violated judicial ethics. (Saul Loeb / Associated Press)

There will be no investigation by the federal judiciary of allegations that Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh violated judicial ethics in testifying at his Senate confirmation hearings.

As a matter of rough justice, that might be a defensible outcome: Those complaints seemed like an outgrowth of the political opposition to Kavanaugh’s confirmation, rather than the typical allegations of judicial misconduct filed under the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act. For better or worse, the Senate decided that Kavanaugh was sufficiently credible to deserve confirmation.

Nevertheless, the reason why the complaints were dismissed by the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals — to which they were referred by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. — highlights a troubling loophole in judicial accountability: Not only Kavanaugh but his colleagues on the court are exempt from an ethics code that applies to other federal judges.

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  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • Rule of Law
  • Border Wars
Elvira Choc grieves as she attends a memorial service for her 7-year-old granddaughter, Jakelin Caal, in San Antonio Secortez, Guatemala.
Elvira Choc grieves as she attends a memorial service for her 7-year-old granddaughter, Jakelin Caal, in San Antonio Secortez, Guatemala. (Oliver de Ros / Associated Press)

The body of Jakelin Caal, the 7-year-old Guatemalan girl who died in U.S. immigration custody this month, arrived in her family’s impoverished farming village on Christmas Eve just hours, as it turns out, before Felipe Gomez Alonzo, an 8-year-old Guatemalan boy, died while being detained by federal border agents in New Mexico. The two deaths have drawn significant attention to the medical care available to migrants taken into custody by the U.S. government.

Wednesday afternoon Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen announced that she had ordered medical screenings of all detained migrant children, which raises the question of whether such screenings had been done routinely before. One would hope that people being sent to detention, children or adults, would be screened as a matter of health policy — both for the new arrivals and for the people they would be joining in the detention centers.

Advocates have argued for months that the administration’s detention policies increased the health risks to migrants, particularly children. But the government’s desire to incarcerate migrants to deter others from trying to enter the country apparently outweighed any sense of humanitarian responsibility.

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  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • We're All Doomed
Chinese and U.S. flags hang on a fence at an international school in Beijing on Dec. 5.
Chinese and U.S. flags hang on a fence at an international school in Beijing on Dec. 5. (Fred Dufour / AFP/Getty Images)

The stock market rallied Wednesday morning, but the big losses in previous days have rattled observers who consider Wall Street something of a leading indicator of the U.S. economy — a sign that at least some financial industry professionals see something in the data about future business prospects that they don’t like. 

Of course, it’s risky to try to read the minds of investors or to draw quick conclusions about the swings of a volatile market. Plus, there’s this observation from the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday: “Behind the broad, swift market slide of 2018 is an underlying new reality: Roughly 85% of all trading is on autopilot — controlled by machines, models or passive investing formulas, creating an unprecedented trading herd that moves in unison and is blazingly fast.”

Nevertheless, there are headwinds building up to impede the progress of U.S. businesses in the coming years, and investors need to factor them into their thinking. One of these hurdles is significant, yet completely artificial: The trade war President Trump is fighting with much of the industrialized world.

  • Opinion
  • Rule of Law
  • The Swamp
  • Border Wars

You know what would be nice? If the government shutdown included President Trump’s Twitter account, because the blusterer-in-chief is in fine form here on Christmas Eve. By around lunchtime on the East Coast, the president had tweeted on a number of topics, including his silly wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, offering a bizarre take on its funding:

“Shutdown money?” And, oh yeah, it’s the Democrats’ fault the president shut down the government because he can’t get his way, proving once again that he was temperamentally ill-suited for a job that requires flexibility, diplomacy and vision.

Remember, Trump took full blame for the shutdown during a televised meeting at the White House he arranged in hopes of bullying Democratic congressional leaders into partially funding the wall. So much for the art of the deal

  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • We're All Doomed
A picture of President Trump is displayed on a computer on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange as investors dumped shares Monday.
A picture of President Trump is displayed on a computer on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange as investors dumped shares Monday. (Seth Wenig / Associated Press)

For the new year, I resolve not to be baited into responding to President Trump’s idiotic tweets.

But that’s next week’s resolution. In the meantime:

I will readily concede that the president knows much more about powerful golfers who can’t putt than I do. But seemingly everything he says about the Federal Reserve and monetary policy is brain-dead.

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  • Opinion
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Journalists got a look at San Quentin's death chamber in 2010, where executions will occur if the state ever resumes them.
Journalists got a look at San Quentin's death chamber in 2010, where executions will occur if the state ever resumes them. (Los Angeles Times)

I write often about the inequities of the American capital punishment system, including the arbitrary nature of the decision to pursue the death penalty, the whims or malevolence of the prosecuting side and juries, and the fundamental inhumanity of the execution itself.

A few days ago, I wrote about the nature of those who wind up being executed. This year 11 of 25 executions were of people who had displayed “significant evidence of mental illness,” nine of the condemned showed “evidence of brain injury, developmental brain damage, or an IQ in the intellectually disabled range,” and at least 11 were abused as children.

What did they have in common? They also tend to wind up with bad lawyers, a function of their relative poverty. Where a wealthy individual charged with murder can afford to hire higher-caliber lawyers, the poor tend to get assigned counsel that the government pays for who historically have included a high percentage of the incompetent.

  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • The Swamp
President Trump and Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis attend a reception in October.
President Trump and Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis attend a reception in October. (Washington Post photo by Jabin Botsford)

Who’s the real Mad Dog in the Trump administration?

While the rest of us were doing something holiday-ish — celebrating the fourth Sunday of Advent, perhaps, or watching the Rams give C.J. Anderson his career back, or bingeing on the Hallmark Channel — President Trump was terminating the employment of his Defense secretary, James N. “Mad Dog” Mattis, two months early in a belated fit of pique.

The president reportedly was irritated by the resignation letter Mattis submitted Thursday, which some in the punditocracy characterized as a “stinging rebuke” because it lays out a case for multinationalism. Or rather, he was irritated by the way the media, analysts and other politicians reacted to it, because (according to the New York Times) he had accepted the letter without reading it.

The president's fixation on illegal immigration obscures the nature of the problem - and the fixes.
The president's fixation on illegal immigration obscures the nature of the problem - and the fixes. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press)

When President Trump decreed that all asylum seekers must present themselves at a port of entry to have their application considered, he broke clear language in U.S. law that says people may present themselves anywhere along the border and request asylum.

Trump predictably got sued, and predictably tried to enforce that rule while the court cases proceed. And just as predictably, the courts told him no. And predictably again, rather than go through the regular appeals process, the president ran straight to the Supreme Court, which shot him down Friday without comment —  though by a narrowly divided 5-4 vote.

Meanwhile, President Shutdown is on the verge of furloughing a large portion of the federal government because Democrats in the Senate (wisely) refuse to vote for an omnibus spending bill that would include $5 billion to extend the wall and fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border.

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  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • The Witch Hunt
Special Counel Robert S. Mueller III is still on the job despite fears of a 'massacre.'
Special Counel Robert S. Mueller III is still on the job despite fears of a 'massacre.' (Associated Press)

Since virtually the day he was appointed  (May 17, 2017), special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has been investigating on what many fear is borrowed time.  The concern that President Trump would enact his own version of Richard Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre by firing Mueller is constantly fed by Trump’s unhinged tweets about a “witch hunt.”

And don’t forget that, according to the New York Times, Trump actually asked then-White House Counsel Don McGahn to dismiss Mueller soon after Mueller was named to investigate possible collusion between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia.

But Mueller is still here, and he has notched an impressive series of indictments and guilty pleas. But the Mueller Massacre Watch is on alert today because of two new developments.

  • Trump
  • Opinion
Outside the White House on Thursday, Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) says President Trump won't sign the Senate's short-term funding bill.
Outside the White House on Thursday, Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) says President Trump won't sign the Senate's short-term funding bill. (Olivier Douliery / Abaca Press/TNS)

Having proudly claimed responsibility for any government shutdown that should occur this month, President Trump now seems determined to force one. That’s some Christmas gift to more than 300,000 federal workers who may be temporarily furloughed (or forced to work without a timely paycheck, if their jobs are deemed “essential”).

According to House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), Trump informed top House Republicans on Thursday that he would not sign the short-term funding bill that the Senate passed Wednesday. That’s because the measure does not include the $5 billion Trump has sought for building a higher, more extensive wall along the southern border.

Funny, but the White House announced Tuesday that Trump did not want to shut down the government and would instead find other ways to fund the wall. Evidently, the blowback from far-right members of Congress and the pundit class persuaded Trump to make his stand on the end-of-year spending measure after all.