Archive for senate judiciary committee

How Pres. Obama could be forced to put tea party judge on federal bench

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justice tea party judge

If the notion of a tea party judge being nominated to a seat on the federal bench makes you sick to your stomach, raise your hand.

raise hand pick me smaller

The thought of yet another ultra-conservative judge-- a right wing extremist tea party judge at that-- making decisions that affect all of us, is disturbing. What's even more disturbing is that Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), can do something about it... and he may choose not to. Which means, President Obama may be forced to put such a tea party judge on the bench in Pennsylvania, in this case David J. Porter, Rick Santorum’s former lawyer.

I repeat: Rick Santorum's former lawyer. Worried yet?

I sure am. Think Progress has the story:

The reason why a Democratic president would even consider nominating Porter to a seat on the federal bench is a Senate tradition known as the “blue slip.” A relic of a patronage system largely dismantled during the Carter and Reagan Administrations, the blue slip tradition allows home-state senators to effectively veto any judicial nominee to a federal judgeship in their state. [...]

As Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has the unilateral ability to eliminate the blue slip today if he chose to, though he has thus far refused to do so. Indeed, one of Leahy’s Republican predecessors, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), largely did just that when he was Judiciary Chair and George W. Bush was president.

Follow the link for more. It's up to you, Sen. Leahy. You alone have the power to do the right thing.

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Calling Western Union

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telegraph office

In days long before mine, there was something called the telegraph office. It's where you went to send a very important message. Often times, it was the announcement of a special event -- a birth, a promotion and in the most dire of circumstances, a death. These messages were sent over the wire in Morse Code - a series of dits and dahs, or dots and dashes. They then were translated to words and glued to a yellow paper, put in an envelope to ensure privacy, and delivered right to your house. It was an event when one came.

old time telephone

Then, over time, the telephone became the common source of relaying such news and along with it's availability the Western Union telegraph office went into hiding. They changed their primary business of using the wire to notify people to sending money. Yes, money was "wired" to a telegraph office and the person came in and upon proper proof of identification, you picked up cash. Now, with cell phone proliferation, and the internet, money's as easy to transfer as the click of a few buttons on any of your internet connected devices and presto. Money goes where you need it to go. So the telegraph offices have become even more endangered if not outright extinct. Think about it. When's the last time (if ever) you saw an actual telegram?

telegram death notice

Now, over the years the word telegraph is still with us, even it the telegraph isn't. And it's commonly used, too. But for a new use. It means to signal. Stop. To allude to Stop. To hint at or tease Stop. It's saying something without using the actual words. Stop.

Okay, I just put the "stop" in there to see if you really knew your telegraph or thought you did. The use of a "." was not available in a telegram because in the language of Morse Code, a period meant the letter "e". So to break up sentences, you inserted the word, "stop." Stop.

I'm almost to my point. Telegraph now means to convey an idea without saying the exact words. In poker a player refers to an unintentional tip of a bluff with a  what's referred to by the poker sharks as a "Tel." One "l". Why? because it doesn't mean to tell you something, it's short for telegraphing. In other words, saying what you are thinking without verbalizing.

Now comes my point. In a Talking Points Memo today, a headline read GOP Telegraphs Mass Filibuster. In this article they go on to say

Senate Republicans are standing firm by their threat to block every one of President Obama’s nominees to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, insisting on eliminating all three vacant seats on the country’s second most powerful court.

Now that's not telegraphing in today's vernacular. That's basically old English usage. They are announcing and broadcasting their intentions. There's no allusion about it. It's straight forward obstructionism. But they don't want to call it that, so here's how the GOP intends to telegraph their plans.

Republicans appear to be united behind Sen. Chuck Grassley’s (R-IA) legislation to reduce the number of active judges on the D.C. Circuit court from 11 to eight. He proposes eliminating one seat, transferring one to the Second Circuit and transferring another to the 11th Circuit. (During the Bush administration, Grassley led a successful effort to reduce the size of the D.C. Circuit court from 12 to 11.)

“It’s way overstaffed,” Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), another Judiciary Committee member, told TPM on Thursday. “It does not need these judges, and we don’t have the money.”

How amazing this ruse considering two things -- a record backlog of cases pending because of a shortage of judges to hear the cases -- and how little money would be saved in salaries. Assuming the federal officials who have brought these cases were right even half of the time, the fees, fines and penalties paid by those found guilty would more than cover the expenses. Oh, and did you forget that court costs are assessed if someone's found guilty? The government doesn't pay them. I guess Grassley and Sessions and their cronies don't even know that much. Maybe we need to stop telegraphing things to them and come right out and say it. You're not being honest here. You're simply obstructing justice under the cloak of fiscal responsibility. Pathetic.

Senate Judiciary committee

So what's left?

If Republicans stand by their threat and filibuster, it’ll leave Democrats with a tough choice: either back off and concede defeat, or threaten to roll back the filibuster on a partisan basis via the nuclear option and confirm the judges by themselves.

But the Democrats are afraid of what will happen when the Republicans retake the Senate. Well facing down justice or a threat of the Republicans even retaking the senate, I'll go with justice.

What's even more amazing in the telegraphing of the Republican's intentions is on one hand you have Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) telling TPM.

"...I will consider each of the judges on the basis of his or her merits.”

And then you have this telegraph from the Republicans on the committee.

...the Judiciary Committee on a party line vote of 10-8. Every Republican voted against her, although they didn't criticize her or take issue with her qualifications.

We all know there's nothing progressive about the GOP, even the term contemporary makes them shudder. So perhaps I'm wrong and they really are telegraphing news in the "traditional" sense. They're giving an official notice. This telegram reads: Decision reached. Stop. Halt all progress. Stop. No new judges. Stop. Our party is dead. Stop.

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We're Watching You

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We're watching you

Here's the good news...Voting rights, now that it's been kicked back to Congress, is going to get some attention.

Here's the bad news. It's not scheduled to be taken up by the Senate Judiciary committee until next month.

Vermont Senator Pat Leahy announced right after the SCOTUS ruling that this would be discussed at meetings next month as well as a "new formula" for calculating which areas need to be covered as well as the scope for the entire bill. Why is this not the first point of business on their agenda? What is more pressing? As each day draws on, the urgency take on added weight. Already five states are taking up bills to limit access to the polls. This is within 72 hours of the ruling. If states can move that fast, what's keeping the Senators? And what's going on with Boehner? Why hasn't he made a public statement about the House moving ahead on some sort of proposal?

There's an awful lot of questions raised here. I know I'm not alone in wanting to hear some answers. C'mon, Rachel, Rev. Al, Lawrence, Chris M and the extremely intelligent Chris H? Bring on the heat. Start grilling. We're hungry and the sting of this onerous ruling is also the sound of opportunity. Maybe we can put more bite in the new bill. A vote against taking this up is a vote against voter's rights. See how popular a candidate becomes when he/she is on record for taking those rights away. The Supreme Court didn't say the bill was unconstitutional, they said the formula was too dated to be effectively used as the basis for section five.

So let's get those number crunchers to work. And pronto!

Make the best of a bad situation, and maybe even pick up some popular support along the way. Those most affected are going to find a way to vote --  just like they did in 2008 and 2012. And when they do, you'll want them on your side. So draw up a bill, publicly force a vote, and do it now. Climate control bills are urgent. Voting rights is an emergency.

Lots has been written about the government's unwarranted spying on us through the NSA. Well, this time the tables have been turned. This time we're watching you! We don't need no stinkin' warrants to do it, either. Consider yourself warned! The echoing sounds of Dump the Chump who's taken a dump on us is already being heard.

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VIDEO: Lindsey Graham called out by Milwaukee police chief during Senate hearing on assault weapons ban

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lindsey graham gun hearing

Milwaukee police chief Edward Flynn wouldn't let Lindsey Graham get away with pestering him repeatedly with NRA talking points at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing about Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) proposed assault weapons ban.

Lindsey Graham:

...We absolutely do nothing to enforce the laws on the books…

Flynn:

Just for the record, from my point of view, the point of a background check…

Graham:

How many cases have you made? How many cases have you made?

Flynn:

It doesn’t matter, it’s a paper thing. I want to stop 76,000 people from getting guns illegally. That’s what a background check does. If you think we’re going to do paperwork prosecutions, you’re wrong. 

Feinstein found it necessary to scold Graham who then briefly brown-nosed the chief. But he continued to badger Flynn, who had no problem interrupting L'il Linds with his own points.

Graham:

How many cases have you made for somebody violating the background checks?

Flynn:

"We don’t make those cases. We have priorities. We make gun cases. We make 2,000 gun cases a year, senator, that’s our priority. We’re not in a paper chase. We’re trying to prevent the wrong people from buying guns. That’s why we do background checks. If you think I’m going to do a paper chase, then you think I’m going to misuse my resources."

"We don't chase paper. We chase armed criminals."

Think Progress has more, including:

Graham said that limited resources for police departments is a reason to bolster gun ownership, arguing that citizens would have to take the law in their own hands and protect themselves. “What this police chief is facing, is what every police chief is facing, less money so you may have to defend yourself,” he explained.

Hmm, who does that remind you of? Ah, got it, this guy: Sheriff’s pro-gun radio ads to be paid by taxpayers. “This has nothing to do with public safety and everything to do with self-promotion.”

sheriff guns protect yourself

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VIDEO- Parent of Newtown victim: "The liberty... to own a military-style assault weapon & high-capacity magazine... is second to the right of my son to his life.”

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right to life my ass pro life

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

David Wheeler:

"The liberty of any person to own a military-style assault weapon and a high-capacity magazine and keep them in their home is second to the right of my son to his life.”

"Let's honor the founding documents and get our priorities straight."

If you missed this testimony "that the Senate Judiciary Committee should have heard" on last night's The Last Word, please take a look now. It was heart-wrenching, intelligent assessment and plea that everyone should watch, hear, respect, and remember.

newtown gun victim ben wheeler

It came from David Wheeler, the father of one of the Newtown massacre victims, little Ben Wheeler, at a public hearing held by the Connecticut legislature’s Bipartisan Task Force on Violence and Public Safety. He was not at the Senate Judiciary hearing, something that Lawrence O'Donnell rightly noted. He should have been.

Ben would have been proud.

All these Second Amendment/gun zealots who claim to also support "the right to life" need to watch the video below.

Benjamin Wheeler, 6

Also on last night's show, Lawrence O’Donnell eviscerated gun hugger Gayle Trotter.

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PhotOH! Gabby Giffords used these handwritten notes for her testimony in Senate gun violence hearings

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gabby giffords senate hearings gun violence

Earlier today, Paddy posted Gabby Giffords statement at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on preventing gun violence. If you watched that without tearing up, then watch it again, this time with a box of tissues nearby.

And if that fails to choke you up, check out her handwritten notes for her testimony. They were posted at the Facebook page for Gabby Giffords' PAC, the Americans for Responsible Solutions:

 gabby giffords notes senate hearing gun violence

Those are the words of a real hero.

"Speaking is difficult but I need to say something."

cry

"We must do something. It will be hard." Understatement.

"Be courageous." Gabby Giffords speaks from experience.

"Thank you!" No, thank you.

H/t: BuzzFeed

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Random observations of the increasingly frustrating Senate gun violence hearing

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newtown children smaller gun

Some random observations as I watch the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on preventing gun violence:

Aren't conservatives all about de-regulation? Isn't that one of their favorite talking points? Regulation is a bad word, a very, very bad word, and federal oversight is akin to a Kenyan, Marxist, commie, fascist dictatorship. Self-regulation is the way to go, don'tcha know, because individual liberty and freedom are paramount, and common sense laws overseeing things like, say, gun sales, are taking away our freedom to kill, dammit!

So as I'm watching the Senate hearing, imagine my surprise when I heard Chuck Grassley say the following.

Via Talk Radio News Service:

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said during a Senate hearing on gun violence today that violent video games must be examined as part of a broad plan to curb gun violence.

The top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee declared that “there are too many video games that celebrate the mass killing of innocent people—games that despite attempts at industry self-regulation find their way into the hands of children.”

So self-regulation doesn't work? Did I hear that correctly? Grassley wasn't the only one: Senator Catches NRA Head In Epic Flip Flop.

Watching this hearing, listening to people like Wayne LaPierre, Gayle Trotter, who thinks “guns are the great equalizer for women," and others who in their arguments ignore the instruments of death and blame everything else, was an exercise in frustration. For example, as Senator Al Franken noted, some seemed to "stigmatize mental illness." They also stigmatize sensible gun safety measures.

These zealots actually blamed President Obama (we saw that coming) for gun violence because, they claimed, the Department of Justice has "done nothing" and the number of prosecutions of bad guys (criminals) with guns has dropped.

Gee, could that be because Congress has been determined to block the president's nominees (ATF head, judges, U.S. Attorneys), a practice which has severely impeded our legal system?

And watching these same gun worshipers defend the personal use of high capacity magazines and weapons intended for military use is equally jaw-dropping. Protecting precious life has taken a back seat to ideology and profit, and for that, those whose priorities are upside down should be deeply ashamed.

One Republican, it might have been Grassley, also made the point that the horrific massacre of twenty children Newtown shouldn't be used as an excuse to introduce new legislation. What he failed to acknowledge is that Newtown was the final straw, one in a string of mass murders. That willful misrepresentation of such an obvious catalyst is inexcusable. As Christopher Coons said, shootings like these occur year after year. Duh.

Mark Kelly, Gabby Giffords' husband, noted how chaotic these death scenes are, yet gun "enthusiasts" insist that firearm carriers would magically keep their composure and turn into sharp shooting marksmen who would defend bystanders by killing bad guys on the spot. Apparently, they didn't watch this video proof that carrying a gun won’t protect you in a crisis.

At one point one witness, Baltimore County Police Chief James Johnson, the chairman of the National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence, referred to LaPierre's attitudes as "creepy." I couldn't agree more.

If you missed it, Gabby Giffords Statement At Senate Gun VIolence Hearing.

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