Breaking Down the SCOTUS Debate

One of the worst exchanges in last night’s debate was about the Supreme Court. I was literally yelling at my television. I was going to break it down but Ann Althouse does it way more thoroughly than I ever could. You should read the whole thing but here’s one quote, when Clinton said her justices would be “on the side” of the American people.

I was already loudly arguing with her. The side? The Supreme Court isn’t supposed to take sides. She’s blatantly saying she wants a Court that doesn’t act like a court but gets on one side. Her Court is a Court that ought to have to recuse itself constantly.

This is absolutely right. John Roberts famously said that his job was to call balls and strikes, not favor either team. Clinton said the Court should “stand up” to the wealthy. But that’s wrong too. It should stand up to the wealthy if they’re violating the Constitution. Standing up to the wealthy or the powerful or the corrupt or whatever is what we have legislatures and executives for. All the Court is supposed to do is decide if their method of “standing up” to whomever is Constitutional or not. As the Bible says, judges should favor neither the wealthy nor the poor, but enforce the law.

Later she got into the Heller decision. She acknowledge that the Second Amendment protects an individual right but said that Heller was decided wrongly because it protects toddlers from being accidentally shot. That is, to put it mildly, total and complete bullshit. Cooke:

This is flatly incorrect. Heller, as anyone who has read it knows, revolved around the question of whether the government in Washington, D.C., could legally ban handguns entirely. It had nothing to do with “toddlers.” “Toddlers,” as Sean Davis correctly points out, are not mentioned in the majority opinion, and they are not mentioned in the dissent. Other than in an extremely indirect sense, “toddlers” had nothing to do with the legal question being considered.

Heller involved the Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975, which forbade handguns and other arms. There were multiple plaintiffs but the namesake was a 66-year-old cop who wanted to keep a gun at home for self defense but was not allowed to. This, once again, exposes Clinton’s “I support the Second Amendment” claim as bullshit. If she is against Heller, she is in favor of gun bans Period.

Trump’s performance wasn’t quite as bad but wasn’t good either. He touted his list of 20 potential SCOTUS nominees (although I doubt he could name a single one of the cuff). He defended the Second Amendment in vague terms. But … and this is where his suckitude as candidate comes forth … he utterly failed to call Clinton out on her crap. He didn’t know Heller well enough to point out that she was lying. He didn’t know Citizens United well enough to point out that she wanted the Court to ban a film that was critical of her. They later tangled on abortion. I’m not pro-Life but, frankly, neither is Trump. And it showed as he was all over the place, failing to point out, for example, that Roe v. Wade allows abortion to be outlawed in the third trimester.

I highlight the exchange on SCOTUS because it is a perfect distillation of the debate and really, the entire campaign. Clinton is vulnerable everywhere. She’s a poor candidate, she often says things that are wrong, contradicts herself and leaves openings a mile wide for her opponent. This is why a junior Senator from Illinois was able to beat her. This is why a crackpot Senator from Vermont almost beat her. But … this is key … you have to actually know stuff to go after her. She sounds authoritative and knowledgeable. Exposing her as neither means getting the weeds a bit.

But Trump can’t be bothered to do his homework. He just wings it. And so on a subject that Clinton should know well but where she spewed a bunch of garbage and lied her ass off, he fought her to a draw at best.

I will continue to say this: just about any normal Republican would have crushed her in all three debates and would be crushing her now in the polls.

Debate Three


The winner of this debate was clearly Chris Wallace who kept the candidates on task and pressed them on several key issues (most notably pressing Hillary on her proposed Syrian no-fly zone that could spark a war with Russia). Trump was OK at first but then got more incoherent as the night went on. Clinton was terrible at addressing questions about Wikileaks, had an awful answer on the Supreme Court and kept trying to awkwardly pivot to her talking points.

Trump probably edges this one out but I don’t think it will make a difference at this point. The good news is that this is the last debate of this endless election season. And so … maybe we’re the real winners.

Fascist Prosecutors Should be Fired

Recently, California passed a law ramping up the penalties for prosecutors who intentionally withhold or falsify evidence. While I think the burden of proof for falsifying evidence should be high, I support heavy punishments for those who do. I’m somewhat inclined to the biblical point of view: if you falsify evidence, you should be punished as the person you tried to frame would have been.

While prosecutorial misconduct (and “papering” judges who call it out) is a problem, there is another problem with prosecutors that need to be addressed and that is the ongoing use of the office to carry out political agendas or to punish people the prosecutor doesn’t like. I’ve spoken before about the state Attorneys General who are attempting to prosecute organizations and companies that “deny” global warming. But the most recent example involves Backpage:

For the past five years, pompous politicians have repeatedly attempted to bully and threaten Backpage into removing its designated escort ad section in the same way they terrorized Craigslist into doing it, and like all bullies they’ve grown increasingly crimson-faced and apoplectic as the Backpage has not only ignored their toothless threats, but beaten them at every turn in court. The reason this has happened is that career politicians are narcissistic sociopaths who can’t grasp when they’re in the wrong and are no more capable of rethinking their tactics than a tribe of rather slow-witted gibbons might be; because Craigslist backed down after a bit of posturing and saber-rattling, naturally the politicians assumed the same schoolyard tactics would work on Backpage.

The AGs alledge that Backpage is being used to traffic sex slaves, a claim for which there is no evidence. In fact, Backpage works with authorities, providing them information on ads they think involved underage or exploited girls. This cooperation reached the predictable result when the AGs of Texas and California issued arrest warrants for Backpages CEO on “pimping” charges. As Elizabeth Nolan Brown details, the evidence backing up these charges is … wanting.

Their “evidence”? It’s… insane. I don’t know how else to describe it other than that. Throughout the complaint, Fichtner uses instances of Backpage cooperating with law-enforcement and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in identifying and finding potential victims as evidence that Backpage profits off of exploitation. Backpage is literally rejecting—and turning over to the government—ads that may promote sex trafficking, and the government says, see! proof that sex traffickers love Backpage! Shut it down! It’s like a building owner reporting predatory activity out front and the cops arresting him and tearing up the street corner instead of tracking down the predator.

It also gives lie to the idea that this crusade against Backpage is about stopping the sexual exploitation of children and not eradicating online ads for sexual-services entirely. First, officials went after the “adult services” section on Craigslist. Then they took down sex-ad forum, the gay prostitution site, and escort review forum The Review Board. Next up: Backpage. It’s simply the latest target in the U.S. government’s quixotic and cruel aim to make sex-work as hidden (and dangerous) as possible.

But there’s more to this than just the government’s effort to stop consenting adults from exchanging sex for money. No, this is fascism. And Kamala Harris is a fascist and belongs nowhere near the Senate seat she is likely to win and that she pulled this stunt to get closer to.

Hyperbolic? What Harris (and Texas AG Paxton) are doing is trying to hold a website responsible for the contents of user posts. This is in violation of Section 230 of the CDA, which immunizes websites from being prosecuted for things readers post.

It’s hard to overstate just how insidious an attack on Section 230 is. Section 230 is one of the most important laws defending our free speech. It’s the reason that Jim could not be sued for anything that Alex or I post here (which I’m sure is a tremendous relief to Jim). It’s the reason Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc. exist. Without Section 230, any post, any comment, any picture, any article could result in a flurry of lawsuits, mostly designed to silence critics of the wealthy and powerful. Only organization with deep pockets — like the lapdog media — would be able to use the internet.

So yes, I think the fascist iron-tipped boot fits in this case. Kamala Harris and Ken Paxton are using garbage evidence and a moral panic to attack one of the pillars of free speech. Don’t be fooled by their panic-mongering talk of sex slaves. If they gave a damn about that, they’d legalize sex work for consenting adults and find themselves with a hundred times the resources they already have to go after real sexual slavery and abuse. This is about seizing money, this about controlling the behavior of adults, this is about smashing free speech, this is about vaulting one of them into the Senate and one, presumably, into a future governorship or senate seat.

(And while we’re on the subject of fascist prosecutors who should be fired, let’s go after the one who tried to imprison Amy Goodman for reporting on a pipeline protest. The protest is dumb; arresting a journalist for covering it is vile.)

How I’ll Vote

Reason has their annual who we’ll vote for article out in which their writers and associated libertarians reveal who they plan to vote for in this election. I’ve indicated my intension before, but I’ll put it down in one place, answering the same questions the Reason people did.

Who are you voting for? Gary Johnson. He is by far the best candidate on the issues, by far the most qualified and by far the most likable. I realize people think this is a wasted vote; I do not think so. And Pennsylvania is unlikely to be close, in any case. If some combination of Johnson, McMullin and Stein deny Crump a majority, we can deny them a mandate.

Down ballot, I will be voting for Pat Toomey for Senate and Glenn Thompson for the House. Because I think the most important part of this election is having Republicans retain control of Congress.

(I also think the Republican Party may schism after this into a conservative party and a populist one. But that’s a subject for another post.)

Which major-party candidate do you find most alarming? Trump. Clinton is an unprincipled, corrupt, amoral power-grubber whose policies, such as they are, are awful. She’s taking a provocative stance with Russia, has a long history of supporting idiotic foreign adventures, wants to raise taxes and spending out the wazoo and would appoint bad justices to the Court.

But as I said in last month’s posts, in every way that Clinton is bad, Trump is worse. He’s for bigger government, more spending, more debt. He has demonstrated a vindictiveness and a callous disregard for Constitutional restraint. And if I hadn’t been convinced of his mental unfitness, the complete meltdown of the last few weeks would have done it. The only reason to vote for him is SCOTUS justices but a) I don’t think that’s worth the risk; b) I don’t trust him to not appoint outright fascists to the Court who will rubber stamp what he wants to do.

The gripping hand is that there will (hopefully) be a Republican Congress to keep Clinton’s worst instincts in check. They have amply demonstrated that they will not keep Trump in check. They have demonstrated an ability to keep a Democrat in check, having killed efforts at card check, a public option, minimum wage hikes, cap and trade and gun control while cutting spending $700 billion below what Obama wanted.

Who did you vote for in 2012? Gary Johnson. Although in that case, it was because I saw little reason to be apocalyptically alarmed by either candidate. How bad is it that I long for the days of Romney v. Obama?

What will you miss most about the Obama years? Having a President I didn’t despise. I disagreed with Obama constantly, but I felt like he was honest about what he thought, could make his case eloquently and never lost his cool. I never bought into the whole “he hates America!” hysteria. His personal life is pretty much beyond reproach (which was something I liked about Bush as well). Think about listening to Obama speak for the last eight years, then imagine hearing Clinton or Trump speak for the next eight minutes and you’ll see what I mean. In five years, a lot of conservatives will be looking back wistfully on the Obama years, longing for the days when the President was just wrong about everything, rather than being wrong about everything and a piece of shit.

The Media in the Can

I’m shocked, SHOCKED to find out that there is gambling going on in here:

A new email obtained by POLITICO is shedding more light on the mystery of whether and how interim DNC chair Donna Brazile might have obtained the text of a proposed question from a town hall between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in advance, and possibly shared it with the Clinton campaign.

And now CNN, which co-hosted the town hall with cable network TV One, is pointing the finger at its media partner for what appears to be a breach of the traditional secrecy surrounding the questions for such events.

The email obtained by POLITICO was written by town hall co-moderator Roland Martin on the day of the town hall to CNN producers. But it shows him using word for word the language of a question that Brazile appeared to have sent to the Clinton campaign a day earlier. That email, from Brazile to the campaign, was included in yesterday’s release of hacked emails by Wikileaks of Clinton campaign chair John Podesta.

Here’s what the record shows: On March 12, Brazile, then vice chair of the DNC and a CNN and ABC contributor, allegedly wrote an email with the subject line “From time to time I get the questions in advance.”

The question was a tough one on the death penalty, which Clinton has favored but the Democratic Party (and an increasing segment of the American public) has turned against. Sanders is anti-death penalty so it was going to be a tough and somewhat unexpected question for Clinton. Having that question in advance would definitely have benefited her.

Brazile and Martin are denying the question was provided in advance. But it’s looking very like they did, in fact, pass this question onto the campaign. And I’m sure, as time goes on, we will find out more and more about how the media have helped both campaigns (Cory Lewandowski was still being paid by Trump while he worked for CNN). Clinton because they wanted Clinton elected; Trump because they wanted Clinton elected and Trump was the best candidate to make that happen.

Meanwhile, Back in Reality

With the Trump campaign in full meltdown, it’s easy to miss some of the other big news going around. At any other time, these would be our headlines.

  • We are practically in a shooting war with Yemen.
  • Obama is claiming he fired a bunch of people over the VA scandal. This is a lie. Only three were actually fired. One was suspended, one firing was reversed, three retired, five resigned and two were demoted. If a political campaign fired that many people, it wouldn’t even make the news.
  • And in probably the scariest news, tensions are escalating with Russia, with the Russians moving nuclear missile submarines and recalling overseas personnel. Just as a reminder: one of our major Presidential candidates has proposed getting into a shooting war with the Russians over Syria. Over Syria. And it was not Donald Trump who said that.

This is yet another reason why I was opposed to the radioactive hamster. If the GOP had nominated Rubio, the October Surprise would be his overdue water bill and he’d be hitting Clinton hard on Russia. If the GOP had even nominated Bush, we’d be talking about some minor dumb thing he did as governor and he’d be hitting Clinton hard on the VA. Instead, we’re talking about Trump’s serial groping and total ignorance of policy. Look at all three of those stories — major challenges that will face the next President — and tell me that you trust either of these two jackanapes to handle them.

Debate Two

Good God, is this what our Republic has come to? Watching these two jackasses bray was an awful 90 minutes. The first 20 were especially awful as we got into Trump’s tape and Clinton’s past behavior. But it’s not like it got better past that as Trump gave off incoherent word salads and Clinton recited coached, coherent, focused answers that advocated terrible terrible policies. For me, it was alternating, “What the fuck did he just say?” and “OMG, she’s advocating to make things even worse!”

I would say that Trump probably won mostly on style. His actual answers were all over the place but he did hit Clinton on a few points and made one or two good points of his own. Clinton mostly held serve but her answers on her e-mail server and her leaked speeches were just awful (mainly because there is no non-awful answer).

The main impact this will have on the race? Trump stays in. The flood of GOP rats fleeing the ship will stop. He will probably stabilize in the polls. So, yeah, we’ve got another month of this crap.

Good God. I’ve said this before. And maybe it’s the Vodka talking. But this is another of those times I really really wish Lee were still with us. He could at least find the humor in this. Right now … I really can’t.

The Latest Clinton Leaks

I mentioned this in passing in the Trump post, but there have been more leaks of communications within the Clinton campaign and leaks of her Wall Street speeches. I haven’t had time to go through them yet, but here’s one of the rundowns. Long story short: she’s talking out of both sides of her mouth.

But we knew that already, didn’t we? I sometimes wonder if the purpose of the Trump campaign is to get Clinton elected. And his tape being released on the same day as these leaks doesn’t exactly make me wonder any less.

Trump Grabs the GOP By The …

Oh, good grief:

Donald Trump bragged in vulgar terms about kissing, groping and trying to have sex with women during a 2005 conversation caught on a hot microphone, saying that “when you’re a star, they let you do it,” according to a video obtained by The Washington Post.

Late Friday night, following sharp criticism by Republican leaders, Trump issued a short video statement saying, “I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize.” But he also called the revelation “a distraction from the issues we are facing today.” He said that his “foolish” words are much different than the words and actions of Bill Clinton, whom he accused of abusing women, and Hillary Clinton, whom he accused of having “bullied, attacked, shamed and intimidated his victims.”

“I’ve never said I’m a perfect person, nor pretended to be someone that I’m not. I’ve said and done things I regret, and the words released today on this more than a decade-old video are one of them. Anyone who knows me knows these words don’t reflect who I am,” Trump said.

In an apparent response to Republican critics asking him to drop out of the race, he said: “We will discuss this more in the coming days. See you at the debate on Sunday.”

You can click through for the video. It includes Trump bragging about trying to get together with a married woman (months after his third marriage), saying he can’t resist kissing hot woman and bragging that, as as celebrity, he can just “grab them by the pussy” and they don’t mind.

Now you could possible dismiss this as a dirty man talking shit with a younger man. His tone is certainly bantering in the audio. But, as Robby Soave points out, there’s a history here:

Some people might be tempted to write off Trump’s comments to Bush as empty boasts. They would be utter fools to do so. The New York Times, in fact, has just run an interview with a woman who says she was given the Trump treatment by the reality TV star. This is not an isolated incident: there is ample evidence that Trump has physically harmed women. And he has now admitted on tape that he feels license to mistreat them.

To be absolutely clear: there is nothing ambiguous about Trump’s stated (and demonstrated) approach to women: it’s battery, at a minimum.

Trump would be a dangerous enough human being if he were just a regular celebrity with a penchant for groping women. As it so happens, he might also become the next leader of the free world—a position he is manifestly unqualified to hold.

Soave is hardly a hysteric. He has done yeoman’s work deflating the campus rape hysteria and shining the light on injustice in campus kangaroo courts. He’s gotten it right again. The words might not hit you, but when you combine the words with Trump’s past behavior, they do not bode well for someone a few points away from being the most powerful person on Earth.

(Trump and his defenders are trying to deflect this onto Clinton, who has been accused of sexual assault and rape. But Clinton being a scumbag is not a defense of Trump being one too. I’ll agree that it’s hypocritical of people who overlooked Clinton’s misdeeds and Jack Kennedy’s misdeeds and Ted Kennedy’s homicide to suddenly clutch their pearls. But adding to that hypocrisy by defending Trump does not help.)

This is precisely what people like me have been warning about for the last 15 months. Every time Trump made a gaffe or said something idiotic, we complained. It wasn’t because of a devotion to political correctness. It was because these comments — on John McCain, on Clinton, on Mexicans, on the Khan family, on everything — betrayed a man who can’t control his mouth; who lacks basic decency and empathy. We knew it could get a lot worse.

And here’s the scary thing: it’s only October 7. We’re barely into the season for October surprises. So if this is what’s coming out now, imagine what we’re going to get later. It’s going to get even worse. It’s going to get a lot worse.

Several prominent Republicans, including the Governor of Utah, have withdrawn their support and asked Trump to step down. I am very dubious that this will happen. I also doubt that the GOP would stage a coup at the stage since it would split the party (and would be very hard to pull off. So while a last-minute Pence candidacy is tempting, I don’t think it’s going to happen. No, I think they’re stuck riding this train right off the cliff.

There’s always a possibility of more coming out with Clinton (there’s always more with the Clintons). This tape overshadowed the release of Clinton’s Wall Street speeches where she called for “open borders and open markets” as well as some more damaging information from her e-mails. In fact, the timing of the release is a bit too perfect. But right now, the GOP needs to abandon Trump and throw everything they have into saving the House and the Senate. Stop throwing good money after bad and focus on the fight you can win. Because as bad as a Clinton presidency may be, a Clinton presidency with a Democratic Congress would be worse.

The Latest Nobel

Well, this is awkward:

The president of Colombia was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for pursuing a deal to end 52 years of conflict with a leftist rebel group, the longest-running war in the Americas, just five days after Colombians rejected the agreement in a shocking referendum result.

The decision to give the prize to the Colombian president, Juan Manuel Santos, may revive hopes for the agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, with whom the country has been waging the last major guerrilla struggle in Latin America.

Mr. Santos said he was told of the Nobel committee’s decision by his son Martín, who woke him before dawn on Friday. The winner dedicated the prize to his fellow Colombians, especially the victims of the long conflict, and called on the opponents of the peace deal to join him in securing an end to hostilities.

In case you weren’t paying attention, the people of Colombia narrowly rejected the peace deal, mainly because they feel it is too forgiving on FARC for their past terrorist activities and gives FARC a legitimate political presence. I do not know nearly enough about the situation to judge wether these criticisms are fair or not.

However, I can not think of a better illustration of the futility of the Noble Peace Prize than giving it out days after the recipient’s signature achievement failed. I guess next year, they’ll give it to Hillary Clinton, win or lose, just because.