Friday, February 24, 2017

Eminent Domain and the Art of the Deal

Donald Trump talked about building a wall throughout the entirety of his campaign as well as the rocky first month of his presidency.  He was going to build a big wall - a great wall.  It was going to be long with a big door to let immigrant in legally.  This rhetoric sounds nice when vying for the votes of the electorate but there is the nitty-gritty reality of such an endeavor - property rights.

As Bloomberg had reported, much of the land on the southern border is privately owned and while there have been laws passed to construct a wall, the results have been mired in lengthy court battles or exorbitant costs associated with acquiring such land.  That is why the so-called border wall currently has so many walls - it has only been able to be constructed on federally-owned property.

While the government has purchased land in the past for the purpose of constructing a wall, here lies the dilemma - Trump's campaign rhetoric and electoral victory may have inadvertently increased the fair market value of those properties.  As stated in the Wall Street Journal, prices for border land in the past had ballooned from hundreds of thousands of dollars to multi-million dollar amounts, and that was before Trump started trumpeting his desire to build a wall deep in the heart of Texas.

If anybody should have realized the supply and demand nature of property, self-proclaimed real estate guru Trump should have been that person.  Instead he threw the "location, location, location" mantra out the window for some cheap votes instead and now it will end up costing him the American tax-payer (that is if he decides to steal private property).

He should have learned a lesson from a real titan of industry - Walt Disney.  When Disney wanted to build a theme park/resort in Florida he kept it on the down-low, bullied local government, and ripped off local landowners to buy property on the cheap.  Maybe Trump should pick up a book for once instead of watching Fox News or firing off a tweetstorm early in the morning.

Not In My Backyard: The Republican Modus Operandi

Ever notice Republicans are against a lot of stuff?

Gay marriage?  No.

Employment equality? No.

Maternity leave? No.

Transgender rights? No.

I mention these because it seems Republicans are constantly attacking one thing or another as an affront to our democracy... that is until it affects something in their backyard.

Case in point:

Megyn Kelly used to attack maternity leave until she was faced with a preexisting condition known as pregnancy.  She then became a proponent for it.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney tried to ignore the issue of gay marriage, especially when it came to getting elected, but once out of office Cheney came out in support of marriage equality.  Did I mention that he has an openly gay daughter?

And now the latest surprised conservative - Caitlyn Jenner.  Jenner famously supported Trump and thought he was doing a great job, that is until he rolled back transgender rights with the stroke of a pen.  This left Jenner upset because the newly minted transgender spokesperson thought that there was a promise from the new Republican administration.

“From one Republican to another, this is a disaster,” she said. “And you can still fix it. You made a promise to protect the LGBTQ community. Call me.”

Here is the problem.  Jenner is by no means the face or voice of the LGBTQ community and has consistently been tone deaf in regards to civil rights matters.  She has proudly wore her GOP badge claiming that the two - being conservative and being transgender - were complimentary.  The problem is that Republicans have consistently come out against marriage equality - or any equality for that matter - going as far as to make it part of their party platform and to obstruct judicial nominees so that they would have the opportunity to stack the courts with anti-LGBTQ judges.

Will Jenner learn her lesson?

No.  Just look at her comment above.  She believes a promise was broken and urges fellow Republicans to "call [her]" so that they can straighten things out.  The problem is that is exactly what Republicans want to do - straighten things out.

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Case For 18 U.S.C. § 1001(a)

Upon revelations of the fact that Donald Trump's former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn lied to the FBI (and the vice president if you believe that the executive branch was not aware of his negotiations with the Russian government prior to the inauguration), it has been rumored that the FBI will choose not to pursue charges for the felony act Flynn committed, and that newly-minted Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a Trump ally, will not prosecute the matter as well.

This is very alarming.  For years the Republicans have attacked former First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State for numerous alleged incidents of lying, with the president running his campaign calling for special prosecutors to go after his candidate, leading rallies with the call to "lock her up," Republicans have decided to balk when faced with real issues of national security when involving their own party.

This is why now more than ever we must work to apply pressure to the current administration in any way possible.  While the Republicans played a dangerous game of obstruction these last eight years, Democrats are not engaging in the same or similar behavior demanding standards be met.  Trump and the Republicans did not win the popular vote, which means that they are in the minority and must govern with respect of the majority.

There is also something else we must not forget - 18 U.S.C. § 1001(a).

Commonly referred to as "making false statements," this federal statute "generally prohibits knowingly and willfully making false or fraudulent statements, or concealing information, in "any matter within the jurisdiction" of the federal government of the United States, even by mere denial," of which the statute of limitations is 5 years.

Why is this important?

While Trump ran o a campaign of "locking up" his opponent for fictitious crimes, Democrats can respond with the same call, and this time be backed up by real events.  While Flynn is the first casualty of the Trump administration, it has only been a couple of weeks and more will eventually arise from this "shit sandwich" over the next 4 years.

What is ironic is that Attorney General Sessions made a video on his first day in office announcing his priorities in which he stated there was "no place for partisanship or bias" and called for the "maintaining and strengthening the rule of law" and "preserving and advancing" American ideals and "fair administration of justice... regardless of their station or position in life," yet in less than a week in office he has decided to do just the opposite. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Pence Lied About Deportation Raids, Among Other Things...

Remember that time when Good Old Uncle Pence attempted to quell the concern the American public had over Donald Trump and insist Trump only spoke in hyperbole and that he had no intentions of doing the things that Trump said he would do?

If you do not, then let's take a look at a comment Pence made during the vice presidential candidate debate with Tim Kaine regarding deportation raids.

Tim Kaine said the following in regards to immigration, border security, and deportations:
Donald Trump proposes to deport 16 million people, 11 million who are here without documents. And both Donald Trump and Mike Pence want to get rid of birthright citizenship. So if you're born here, but your parents don't have documents, they want to eliminate that. That's another 4.5 million people. These guys -- and Donald Trump have said it -- deportation force. They want to go house to house, school to school, business to business, and kick out 16 million people.
What did Pence say?

"That's nonsense. That's nonsense."

"Senator, we have a deportation force. It's called Immigrations and Customs Enforcement," he said, later ellaborating that Trump was referring to criminals.

"He's talking about criminal aliens."

Earlier Pence tried to delegitimize reports of Trump's statements by casting a cloud on whether or not Trump made such statements in the first place - enlightening when looking back at the glut of "fake news" that proliferated during the campaign.

Pence tried to minimize Trump's statements by debating that "if Donald Trump had said all of the things that you've said he said in the way you said he said them" he still wouldn't be as bad as his opponent, Hillary Clinton, insulting his supporters at a campaign rally.

So why are we looking back at the debates months later?

Especially in light of Pence being embroiled in the Mike Flynn resignation scandal, in which honest Uncle Mike claimed ignorance and that he was lied to by the now-former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn for negotiating with Russian diplomats prior to the inauguration... and that the Trump administration had known for weeks that Flynn lied to the public about his conversations with the Russians, this throwback to the debates shows that Pence isn't the choir boy that he claims to be.

While he did a fine job polishing the turd called Trump that night against Kaine, news this week showed just how much of a politician (and liar) Pence truly was.

All across the nation the Trump administration had been engaging in immigration and deportation raids.  While the administration claimed they were targeting criminals, that is not who they netted in their raids, and considering they didn't prioritize the criminals, as did the previous administration, it would appaer that vice-presidential candidate Pence seems to be at odds with Vice President Pence.  

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The 10th Amendment Hypocrisy of Greg Abbott

Donald Trump's first couple weeks of his presidency have been filled with controversy and legal defeats, as he has issued edict after edict while congressional Republicans battled over his nominations.  While everyone had fought over his proclamations, local and state governments have decided to act, some for and some against the president's actions.  One glaring hypocrisy comes from the heart of Texas - Governor Greg Abbott.

A couple of years ago when President Obama was in office, Abbott was all for states' rights and fighting Federal overreach, even going as far as to propose a new Constitutional Convention over the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, among other things.
“Departures from the Constitution are not the aberration. Now they have become the norm,” said Abbott, speaking at an event by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank in Austin. “The irony is the threat to our republic doesn’t come just from foreign enemies, it comes in part from our very own leader.” 
His proposed amendments — which include allowing a two-thirds vote of the states to repeal any federal law and preventing Congress from regulating activity that takes place all within the borders of one state, such as marriage and gun ownership — would “put teeth in the 10th Amendment” and guarantee states’ rights, he said.
Now that Republicans are in charge of Congress and the executive branch, and are poised to take control of the Supreme Court after refusing to perform their constitutional duty of advising and consenting President Obama's nominee, Abbott is singing a different tune.  Abbott is now threatening to jail his political opponents who do not respect the federal government and their demands of local municipalities.

"Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is vowing to pursue legislation to 'remove from office' any official who... defy federal law." wrote Fox News' Andrew O'Reilly.

While this story is still developing, it is troubling to see that conservative governors and officials are now feeling emboldened to publicly state their desire to take out political opposition and install friendlier and compliant administrators.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Republicans Admit Using Office To Silence Political Opponents

It is no surprise that politicians use their positions for political gain.  Usually their actions are shrouded in vagueness so as not to give the appearance of partisan behavior but over the years one party in particular - the Republican party - has used their positions of power to engage in blatant political attacks.

For instance, conservatives have upped their attacks on voting rights, especially after the wave of electoral wins following the rise of the Tea Party and the GOP take over of numerous state governments, as well as branches of the federal government.  Conservative Phyllis Shlafley said the following regarding voting regulations in a 2013 World Net Daily post:
“The reduction in the number of days allowed for early voting is particularly important because early voting plays a major role in Obama’s ground game. The Democrats carried most states that allow many days of early voting, and Obama’s national field director admitted, shortly before last year’s election, that ‘early voting is giving us a solid lead in the battleground states that will decide this election.’ 
“The Obama technocrats have developed an efficient system of identifying prospective Obama voters and then nagging them (some might say harassing them) until they actually vote. It may take several days to accomplish this, so early voting is an essential component of the Democrats’ get-out-the-vote campaign.”
Her claim is that because people vote early and sometimes vote for Democrats, and because Democrats realized that people vote early so they developed a get-out-the-vote strategy, Republicans suffered at the polls so their solution was to not engage in their own mobilization of voters but instead work to delegitimize early Democratic voters by claiming that those votes are "illegal" and stealing votes from "honest Americans," a.k.a. Republicans.

Schlafly went on to add:
"Encouraging people to close their minds and cast an irrevocable ballot before all the presidential debates are held is as harmful to a fair outcome as it would be to allow jurors to vote guilty or not guilty before they hear all the evidence in a trial. Hillary Clinton called the North Carolina law’s provisions “the greatest hits of voter suppression,” but the real “hits” are the way illegal votes cancel out the votes of honest Americans.   
Nevermind that the fact that voter fraud is virtually nonexistent and there is zero evidence of illegal votes being cast in mass to benefit one party or another.  The purpose of these attacks is political - plain and simple.

Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai flat-out stated the reasoning behind his state's voter regulations.

"Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done," Turzai said at a Republican State Committee meeting.

Another blatant political attack is using their power in government to attack their political enemies.  There is no clearer example than looking at the years-long battle against former First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  Republicans attacked her for everything from Benghazi to her email server - both things that Republicans were also responsible for doing themselves but showed zero interest in investigating unless the subject's name was "Hillary Clinton."

No better example for this is the interest Republicans have in investigating the many conflicts of President Trump and his administration.  For instance, Trump uses unsecured phones and his senior staff have private emails on private servers, but Republicans are silent on the issue.

The latest example of blatant partisanship on behalf of Republicans?

Now that Hillary Clinton is no longer the political bogeywoman Republicans need to go after their next target.  Many progressives have rallied around another strong female Senator - Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts.

This week the senate voted on the nomination of Trump's attorney general pick, Senator Jeff Sessions.  30 years ago Jeff Sessions was up for a federal judgeship but that fell through when numerous accounts of Sessions' racism came to light.  Even the widow of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King, penned a response to his nomination back in 1986.  The letter popped up last month when it was discovered that the Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee at the time, Senator Strom Thurmond, failed to enter it into Congressional Record.

Elizabeth Warren attempted to read that letter on the senate floor and Republicans silenced her, invoking a rare (and vague) senate rule, Rule XIX, which states that Senators may not "directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator.”

Nevermind the fact that the hearings were in regards to Jeff Sessions the Attorney General nominee and not Jeff Sessions the Senator, Republicans used this old rule to stop Warren from reading King's letter and then barred her from speaking for the remainder of Sessions' confirmation hearing.

Senator Lindsey Graham went on conservative radio host Mike Gallagher's show to elaborate on the motives behind silencing Warren.

 “The bottom line is it was long overdue with her, I mean she is clearly running for the nomination in 2020,” Graham said.

Graham admits that they silenced Warren not for the content of her speech but because they perceive her as a electoral threat in four years, noticing that her star has only grown brighter in the last few years and so it was time to stop her in her tracks.

These partisan attacks are not going to go away and will undoubtedly get worse over the Trump presidency (things really started to get heated up during the Obama administration) and now that Republicans control all branches of government (assuming they continue with the Gorsuch nomination that they have simply for playing dangerous partisan games with the Merrick Garland nomination), than we can expect more blatant political wrangling and hypocrisy.  Let's just hope Democrats and their supporters unify (like the GOP has) and persist.        

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Trump Lies In DeVos Confirmation Tweet

The fight for Secretary of Education has ended.  After the Senate ended in a tie vote, with two Republicans from Maine and Alaska - Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski - voting with Democrats, Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote to approve the grossly incompetent Betsy DeVos.  Trump obviously flew to his favored form of communication to express his support - Twitter. 

Notice something about Trump's tweet?  

He references "our kids" in support for DeVos but the thing is both Trump's and DeVos' children were not educated in the public system.