Thursday, February 25, 2016

245. It’s clear: Obama should appoint SCOTUS justice

I had not yet heard of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s passing when I turned on the Republican Party debate last weekend.

The first question was whether or not President Barack Obama should name the next Supreme Court justice. Candidates, one after another, said that he should not — that the next president should choose. Granted, what else could they say? However, most genuinely seemed to have convinced themselves that the next president should make that call.

And it wasn’t just the presidential candidates. Mitch McConnell said that it should be the American people who choose who the next justice is, referring of course to the next presidential election.

Certainly Supreme Court appointments are important, as they rule on this country’s most divisive issues. The Supreme Court interprets the law on federal questions, but not without a political perspective. It’s clear which justices are conservative and which are liberal.

They are, unfortunately, lifetime appointments. This causes some problems as presidents often choose young judges so that they can influence the social and political direction of the country long after their terms end. The other problem is that this can put the pressure on justices to serve well past retirement. In the present case, Scalia would not have retired while Obama was in office because of the fear of a liberal appointment.

While brilliant in his understanding of the law, Scalia’s conservativism and original intent was of some angst for liberals. Some of his opinions and perspectives were not only outdated but blatantly offensive. I not will provide detail so soon after his death, but simple research will easily provide numerous examples. One may want to start with Lawrence v. Texas. Comedian Patton Oswald said, “Scalia was born in 1936… and never left.”

In response to Mitch McConnell’s shortsighted statement, Senator Elizabeth Warren stated that the American people did decide who would name the next Supreme Court justice when they elected Obama by more than five million votes.

She’s absolutely correct and it’s ridiculous that the Republicans are going to try to run out the clock with almost a full year left in his presidency. The next president doesn’t get sworn in until next January — are they seriously considering that the Supreme Court wait until at least a year from now before someone else is selected? Obama has just less than 25 percent of his term remaining. While the Constitution details no timetable for lame duck presidents, it surely would not have been a year. I might consider the argument if the amount of time left were a few days, but even then, that suggests a cut-off date and the Constitution does not provide one. Scalia would be appalled at the Republicans’ rationale.

It is often said that fairness could be realized by considering what might happen were the situation the other way around. Does anyone think that Republicans would not have supported a Republican president naming the next justice were the situation reversed? Of course not. How about Democrats? Maybe they would fight it as Republicans intend to, but I would remain consistent. I would just as quickly call them defiant bullies trying to make up their own rules.

Because justices receive lifetime appointments and considering the political implications I mentioned above, there have not been many Supreme Court justices nominated in the final year of their presidency. But consider the last time it happened.

In 1987, Anthony M. Kennedy was confirmed by a Democratic Senate 97-0. He was nominated by Ronald Raegan on Nov. 30.

Ouch, so much for precedent.

American did overwhelming elect Obama and he should nominate the next Supreme Court justice. And Republicans need to act responsibly and perform the constitutional duty of approving a qualified individual.

I would say that they are acting like spoiled children, but if you have seen the debates, you already know that

Thursday, February 18, 2016

244. Not just how, but why Clinton is losing ground

Bernie Sanders lost the primary caucus by the closest of margins. But if you watched the post-election speeches, there were different atmospheres in the two camps.

Clinton gave her typical cadence-ridden speech and her supporters laughed, clapped, and smiled. She carefully hinted at victory even before the evidence supported that claim, but more notably she looked relieved. Since Sanders is expected to win in New Hampshire, a loss would have been devastating when less than a year ago she had a very comfortable lead.

Conversely, in the Sanders camp… wow!

Bernie Sanders walked to the podium to the loud chant of “Feel the Bern, feel the Bern!” The excitement, even in a narrow loss, was unbelievable. Sanders could barely get a word in. His commitment to lead a revolution threw the crowd into a frenzy.

While I certainly would vote for Clinton in the general election, as she is probably the most experienced candidate in history, and far better than anything the Republicans can nominate, I have longed for socio-economic reform. I was a big supporter of Sanders even before he announced his candidacy. His message has consistently been spread across decades of service. He is a passionate fighter for the middle and lower classes.

The middle class been dwindling for decades. The standard of living has decreased even as people work longer and harder. Most rely on large amounts of credit. Student loans hang over graduates for years. Our health care system often means one critical illness creates years of debt or even bankruptcy. The minimum wage is not only unsustainable for anyone to survive on, it keeps other wages down.

On the other side, partisan decisions like Citizens United and campaign Super PACs have ensured that our democracy will be at the mercy of the wealthy. The inequality of wealth is shameful for any country, let alone any one that claims to be a Christian nation. The game — that of hindering socio-economic mobility — has been purposely rigged. A health care system out of control not only pours profits into corporate hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and insurance companies, it also keeps wages down as companies keep paying more of the employee share for medical benefits.

Yet nearly every single candidate over the last couple decades, and probably longer, whether Republican or Democrat, claims to be a fighter for the middle class. How can that be? How can they fail so miserably term after term in improving the lives of the middle class?

The answer is not just partisan politics. They fail because their political careers are directly related to the power of wealthy corporations. And the wealthy are not interested in improving the lives of the middle class. As long as we have just enough to get by and enough credit to buy their products, they are winning.

I believe Clinton has good intentions and is moderately progressive, but she is part of the political machine that is destroying our democracy. She is content to move the country forward slowly. She is unwilling to give up her Super PACs. She once commented she was broke after husband Bill’s presidency, which is ridiculous considering their ability to make millions for simply giving a speech to wealthy corporations. And even though Sanders moved on from her emails, it does bring forth a question about, at best, a terrible lapse in judgement or, at worst, arrogance and secrecy. On many of the issues, she has an authenticity problem.

Sanders wants a revolution. He doesn’t care about his ego or popularity. He isn’t bought by corporate interest nor is he willing to accept meaningless compromises that only appear to help the lower and middle classes. He is willing to take on powerful industries and the one percent, which are negatively affecting both our economics and democracy.

When Sanders announced his presidency, I immediately proclaimed support. Many people on Facebook and other social media laughed at my backing. Sanders is a “socialist,” has no chance of winning, and too old, they said. From the beginning, I knew his campaign was a longshot but relished that his message on one of the country’s most important issues, that of wealth inequality, would finally be heard. In that respect, he has already won and his popularity is moving Clinton left. And, more so, his young supporters have heard his message and may offer help move the country forward as they get older.

Trump supporters say they like that he tells it like it is and is using his own money to finance his campaign. The trouble is Trump’s message. Sanders speaks the truth with principle and message. His passion is the American people and the most important issues affecting their lives — such as income equality, national health care, and the democratic policy.