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The Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday on whether dementia has left a condemned man ineligible for execution.
The Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday on whether dementia has left a condemned man ineligible for execution. (J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

It might be hard to recognize, but there are other things going on in Washington these days besides the two-ring circus of President Trump and Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. For instance: That very court heard oral arguments Tuesday in a death penalty case centering on whether a state can execute someone whose medical condition has left him addled and stripped of memory of the crime for which he is to be executed.

The courts have previously held that it is cruel and unusual punishment to execute someone who doesn’t have a “rational understanding” of what’s happening – generally, the insane and the psychotic. In the case of Vernon Madison, 68, that line gets blurry. When reminded, Madison knows the state of Alabama wants to execute him for the 1985 killing of a police officer. But the knowledge quickly dissipates into fog. A series of strokes have left him brain-damaged and suffering from vascular dementia — the injuries show up on MRIs — with a documented decline in IQ; he’s now incapable of remembering the crime for which he is to be killed. And 33 years of solitary confinement hasn’t helped.

The dementia has left Madison befuddled to the point that he soils himself because he can’t find the toilet next to the bed in his 5-by-8-foot cell. He wants someone to tell his mother that he has suffered strokes; she’s been dead for years. He can’t remember the alphabet past the letter G. He also plans to move to Florida.

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Christine Blasey Ford speaks with attorney Michael R. Bromwich at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Sept. 27.
Christine Blasey Ford speaks with attorney Michael R. Bromwich at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Sept. 27. (Michael Reynolds / Associated Press)

The FBI’s report on its reopened background check of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is expected to be turned over imminently to the White House and the Senate. 

That report will lack credibility with many Americans — and some senators — if it doesn’t include interviews with the nominee and with Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused the appeals court judge of trying to force himself on her when they were teenagers, a claim he categorically denies.

The bureau reportedly has interviewed people who belonged to Kavanaugh’s high school social circle, including his friend Mark Judge, who, according to Ford, was in the room when she says Kavanaugh assaulted her. Agents also have interviewed Deborah Ramirez, who has claimed that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a party when they were students at Yale.

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  • Opinion
  • The Golden State
Voter registration efforts on National Voter Registration Day in Erie, Pa.
Voter registration efforts on National Voter Registration Day in Erie, Pa. (Christopher Millette / Erie Times-News / Associated Press)

The latest state voter registration numbers are out, and though the numbers bode well for democracy, they aren’t looking good for California’s Republican Party.

There are now more Californians signed up to vote than ever — 19,086,589 of them, to be exact, which is 75.81% of those eligible to vote. But the number affiliated with the Republican Party dropped by about 93,000, to a mere 24.5%, just in the last few months.

This is the latest bad news for the state’s GOP, which has been losing ground in the Golden State for many years. Its minority status is reflected in the Democrat-dominated Legislature and the state’s constitutional offices. In May, the California GOP hit the mortifying milestone of losing its second-place status to those registered with no party preference.

  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • Rule of Law
  • The Swamp
Artist Robin Bell beamed a protest at Trump International Hotel in Washington, the focus of just one of many Trump conflicts of interest.
Artist Robin Bell beamed a protest at Trump International Hotel in Washington, the focus of just one of many Trump conflicts of interest. (Liz Gorman / Robin Bell)

Meanwhile, back to one of the Trump administration’s original scandals: A watchdog group has updated its list of President Trump’s wide-ranging conflicts of interest, offering a depressingly thorough accounting of how he, his family and some top appointees have routinely tripped over the ethics line.

The conflicts are rooted in the nature of the Trump Organization’s businesses, which includes licensing the Trump name for development projects around the world and operating Trump-named golf courses and resorts. Every time the president visits one of his properties for business or recreation — 147 days and counting — he uses the White House to enhance his private business. You can’t buy advertising like that.

Trump announced early on that he had stepped back from decision-making at the family business and turned operations over to two of his sons, Donald Jr. and Eric. But that doesn’t redress the conflicts because Trump still derives income from the businesses, and he knows what they are because his name is plastered all over them.

  • Trump
  • Opinion
The Trump administration is no longer granting visas to unmarried same-sex partners of U.N. diplomats and foreign workers.
The Trump administration is no longer granting visas to unmarried same-sex partners of U.N. diplomats and foreign workers. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press)

It’s shocking sometimes at how needlessly cruel this administration has been. This week, a new policy went into effect denying visas to same-sex partners of U.N. diplomats and employees unless they are married, a dangerous act for people hailing from any of the 72 countries where homosexuality is illegal — or from any of the eight countries where it is a capital offense.

The new policy, which went into effect Monday, also requires same-sex partners of diplomats and U.N. employees already in the United States to get married by the end of the year or face expulsion.

Former Obama U.N. ambassador Samantha Power got it right when she tweeted that the policy is “needlessly cruel and bigoted.”

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  • Opinion
  • The Golden State
Demonstrators take part in a Day Without a Woman march in Oakland last year.
Demonstrators take part in a Day Without a Woman march in Oakland last year. (Ray Chavez / Bay Area News Group)

Hear that tinkling? That’s the sound of the glass ceilings in corporate boardrooms shattering up and down the Golden State. 

With just hours remaining before the legislative deadline on Sunday night, Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 826 by state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), making California the first state in the nation to require publicly traded corporations to have women on their boards of directors.

Not many, mind you, but at least one by the end of next year. About one-fourth of the large corporations headquartered in California don’t have a single female board member. By 2021, corporate boards with five directors must add at least one more woman, and larger boards must add two more or face fines and public shaming on the Secretary of State’s website.

Moments after Gov. Jerry Brown’s office announced that he had signed a bill to restore net neutrality protections in California that the federal government abandoned, the U.S. Department of Justice sued to block the measure from going into effect. California lawmakers saw the measure (Senate Bill 822) as an important step to protect internet users in the state; the Justice Department saw it as yet another effort by the loony left state to dictate policy for the entire country.

  • Opinion
  • The Golden State
Patrons at the Airliner in Lincoln Heights.
Patrons at the Airliner in Lincoln Heights. (Los Angeles Times)

What a party pooper! Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that would have allowed Los Angeles, San Francisco and seven other cities to temporarily extend alcohol service at bars and restaurants from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m.

Senate Bill 905 was San Francisco Sen. Scott Wiener’s second attempt to loosen an 80-year-old law that requires businesses licensed for on-site liquor sales to stop serving alcohol at 2 a.m. This is earlier than other states, such as New York, Illinois and Nevada, where bars are allowed to keep pouring until 4 a.m. and later.

Wiener and others argued that a 2 a.m. last call no longer makes sense for cities with thriving music and nightlife scenes that compete for investment and tourism with the likes of New York City, Las Vegas and other late-night hot spots. It also doesn’t consider the increasing availability of taxis and ride-hailing apps, such as Lyft and Uber, that give revelers more ways to get home without driving. 

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  • Opinion
  • Election 2018
Rep. Duncan D. Hunter (R-Alpine) in San Diego in June of 2017.
Rep. Duncan D. Hunter (R-Alpine) in San Diego in June of 2017. (John Gibbins / TNS)

Voters in inland San Diego county didn’t need another reason to question Rep. Duncan Hunter’s fitness for office. The Republican from Alpine and his wife were indicted in August on charges of misusing a quarter million dollars in campaign donations for personal expenses. A poll since then shows that a lot of voters in his district think he’s guilty

Nevertheless, Hunter gave voters another reason to reject his reelection bid on Nov. 6 with the release of a despicable campaign ad insinuating that his Democratic opponent, Ammar Campa-Najjar, is a Muslim terrorist “working to infiltrate Congress” in a “well-orchestrated plan.”

The evidence? That Campa-Najjar, who is American born and ethnically Palestinian and Mexican, changed his name from Ammar Yasser Najjar to Ammar Campa-Najjar (Campa is his Mexican mother’s maiden name) after the June primary. The ad suggests he did it to hide his familial connections. Campa-Najjar’s grandfather was one of the masterminds of the 1972 “Munich massacre,” a terrorist attack by the Palestinian Black September group on Israeli Olympic athletes.

  • Opinion
  • Rule of Law
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.)
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) (Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA-Rex)

This party may never end.

Soon-to-be-former Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), a frequent and acerbic critic of President Trump’s, tapped the brakes Friday on the Senate GOP’s rush to confirm Trump’s latest Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, in a way that won’t make anybody happy, but at least should make everyone less ticked off.

Flake said he wouldn’t support holding a final vote on Kavanaugh unless the FBI investigated the allegations that have been leveled to date against the appellate judge. The investigation should be conducted right away, Flake said, and last no more than a week.