Later On

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Archive for December 2018

I was living in California during this: Jerry Brown’s Greatest Legacy Is Proving California Is Governable

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A really excellent retrospective of an unusual and highly productive life. Todd Purdum writes in the Atlantic:

When Jerry Brown first took the oath as governor of California on January 6, 1975, he succeeded Ronald Reagan, who was still six years away from the White House. Gerald Ford was president, Paul VI was pope, the Watergate conspirators John Mitchell, H. R. Haldeman, and John Ehrlichman had just been convicted, the Khmer Rouge was beginning its bloody rise to power in Cambodia, the Dow Jones Industrial Average stood at around 600 points, and Bradley Cooper had been born the day before.

It is no exaggeration to say that Brown’s tenure as governor of the Golden State—two disparate tours, separated by nearly 30 years, four terms and16 years in all—bookends virtually the entire modern history of California. He is both the youngest and oldest man in modern times to preside over his state, and five years ago he surpassed Earl Warren’s tenure as the longest-serving California governor. He leaves office next month, at 80, at the top of his game, California’s once-depleted coffers bursting with surplus, his flaky youthful reputation as “Governor Moonbeam” long since supplanted by his stature as perhaps the most successful politician in contemporary America.

A onetime seminarian who has never lost his quirky asceticism—in his first term, he slept on a mattress in a small apartment in Sacramento and rode around in a modest blue Plymouth instead of a limousine—he is fond of quoting poets and obscure philosophers and has lived by the Jesuit maxim “Age quod agis”“Do what you are doing.” He famously dated Linda Ronstadt, but could be clueless about pop culture; in the summer of 1980, when billboards and T-shirts all over America were demanding, “Who shot J. R.?”—the smiling, so-bad-he’s-good villain of TV’s Dallas—Brown asked his press secretary, “Who’s J. R.?”

He was a dedicated environmentalist, promoting wind and geothermal energy before those technologies were in vogue, and a visionary when that quality was mocked in politics; indeed, the Chicago columnist Mike Royko, who tagged Brown with his lunar nickname (the governor had suggested California might launch its own communications satellite), could never have imagined that Brown would announce just this fall that the state was contracting for the launch of “our own damn satellite” to monitor global climate change. He was a socially liberal Democrat who embraced diversity when gay marriage was no more than a dream, but he was also wary of partisan orthodoxy and famously tight with a buck.

When he took office for the second time eight years ago, the state had a $27 billion deficit; now it has a dedicated rainy-day fund more than half that size, and a like amount in another one-time discretionary surplus for the coming budget year. In the past eight years, the state has added roughly 3 million jobs, refuting the canard that its tough environmental and labor regulations are impediments to growth. When he signed his last budget last summer, Brown was joined by legislative leaders—the oldest of whom was only 12 when he was first elected.

“There are so many things that are going on all the time, even as we speak, that it’s hard to pick out ‘This is the one,’ or ‘That is the one,’” he told me in a telephone conversation the other day when asked to name his proudest legacy, nevertheless ticking off more than a few of those listed in the previous paragraphs. “I think it’s just a privilege to be in California, and to have been the governor these many years. It’s an unusual experience and very exciting, and, I think most people would agree, fairly productive and innovative. So I don’t know. I’m not one to sit around watching the movie of my own life as a source of pleasure. I can tell you, I thoroughly enjoy what I’m doing.”

Raphael Sonenshein, the executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at California State University in Los Angeles (named for Brown’s father, who served two terms as governor from 1959 to 1967), said that the younger Brown’s greatest legacy was “proving that California was governable at a time when California’s image was under assault as the next Greece.”

“That’s a big deal in many ways,” Sonenshein adds. “Because it also plays into the partisan politics of the country, since the state was being held up as the poster child of what was wrong with progressive government. And it’s pretty hard to be a punching bag when you’ve got two reserve funds that are pretty gigantic, and a state that’s doing pretty darn well. It might not be the legacy he started out with 40 years ago, or that he necessarily wanted to have, but it’s a pretty big deal.” . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, and it’s worth reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 December 2018 at 12:32 pm

Some good news: 6 Young Men, Given Adult Sentences for “Minor” Infractions, Are Freed in Illinois

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Duaa Eldeib reports in ProPublica:

Six young men who had been sentenced to lengthy adult prison terms for committing what were described as minor infractions at a southern Illinois youth correctional facility went free Friday after outgoing Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, in an unannounced move, commuted their sentences.

The young men, whose cases were documented in a ProPublica Illinois investigation last year, had only learned they would be released the day before. By Friday afternoon, all had walked out of the prisons where they were being held.

“It feels good to be out,” Kaleb Martin said in a phone call, after leaving the Pinckneyville Correctional Center in southern Illinois, where he was met by his sister. Martin had been sentenced to six years in adult prison for biting a guard he claimed put him in a chokehold that blocked his breathing.

He and the other five young men had been imprisoned for assaulting guards or other employees at the Illinois Youth Center at Harrisburg, though internal Department of Juvenile Justice records described some of the incidents as “minor.” Juvenile justice advocates and some state officials criticized Harrisburg officials for pressing charges, saying the incidents, which included biting, striking or spitting on workers, typically would have been handled through internal discipline.

“On the one hand, today is a real victory for justice. I am thrilled that these young men are getting out early,” said Jennifer Vollen-Katz, executive director of the prison watchdog group John Howard Association. “On the other hand, the fact that it came to this is really unfortunate. The system failure that led to these young men being in adult state custody is enormous.”

The commutations were not publicly announced by the governor’s office. A spokeswoman for Rauner, who has made criminal justice reform a key initiative, declined a request for comment.

After Martin’s sister, Brittany, picked him up, he met his 2-year-old niece and 5-year-old nephew for the first time, and the family drove to her home in Peoria. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, not all of it good.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 December 2018 at 12:20 pm

Interesting analysis of possible Democrat directions

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Greg Sargent writes in the Washington Post:

The near-total lack of GOP congressional oversight on the Trump administration hasn’t merely let President Trump’s corruption and authoritarianism run rampant. It has also allowed Trump’s bottomless dishonesty, bad faith and megalomaniacal delusions to fester unchecked when it comes to major governing decisions — and one glaring example is the government shutdown over his wall.

Democrats have a big opportunity to begin changing this. When they take over the House, they can use the oversight process not just to investigate Trumpian corruption and abuses, but also to try to restore facts, empiricism and good-faith information-gathering to a place in governing processes and debates.

The latest reports indicate that Trump won’t back off his demand for his wall, ensuring that the shutdown fight will drag into next year. Even if a short-term deal is reached to keep the government open, Trump will continue demanding wall money, meaning that will remain a sticking point. So restoring facts and empiricism to the debate over immigration will be particularly pressing.

First and foremost, Democrats must use their majority to restore a reality-based conversation around the topic of how secure the southern border really is. Over the weekend, two senior members of Trump’s orbit — his outgoing chief of staff and his border chief — gave interviews that help illuminate the direction in which Democrats can take this effort.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, White House chief of staff John Kelly refused to answer directly when asked whether there is a border security crisis, only saying: “We have an immigration problem.” This directly undercuts Trump’s nonstop lie that the border is overrun by invading hordes, justifying the wall.

Kelly also asserted that the administration had abandoned the push for a “solid concrete wall” after asking Customs and Border Protection officials “what they needed and where they needed it.” Trump just rage-tweeted that he hasn’t abandoned his concrete wall at all, though he hedged a bit, but what really matters here is that Kelly flatly asserted that border officials have said they don’t need it, again undercutting Trump’s demand.

Democrats have an opening. They should formally request that the Congressional Research Service do a comprehensive report on the current state of border security. This is exactly what the CRS is for. As CRS has explained, it provides lawmakers with detailed empirical information at all stages of the process, including helping them “better understand the existing situation” so they can “assess whether there is a problem requiring a legislative remedy.”

CRS would likely conclude that we’ve already dramatically beefed up border security, and that this has worked, with illegal border crossings now at historically relative lows. A 2016 CRS report hinted at such conclusions, but we need an updated and more comprehensive version.

“This would be quite valuable, because it would come with the imprimatur of the U.S. government,” Josh Chafetz, a law professor at Cornell who wrote a good book on how Congress can use its powers in hidden ways, told me. “Part of the goal here is to give journalists something they can report,” Chafetz noted, and CRS reports are an underappreciated resource for the public as well, given that they are particularly “reader friendly.”

Public theater for the benefit of the public

Democrats can also hold hearings at which Homeland Security officials are directly asked to testify to the state of border security. As it happens, a 2017 Homeland Security report foundthat the border is more secure than it has ever been, which also undercuts Trump’s wall rage-fantasies. Democrats could bring in the authors of that report and ask them to reiterate and explain this conclusion and justify “why we need to spend X dollars on a wall,” Chafetz noted, which “itself would make good television.”

Democrats can also press border officials directly on whether they want Trump’s wall, now that Kelly has suggested that they do not. On ABC’s “This Week,” Customs and Border Protection commissioner Kevin McAleenan was pressed on Trump’s wall, and he proceeded carefully, noting that in some places more barriers would help, while also stressing that technology and manpower are more suited to handling the particular security problems officials face. More intensive congressional questioning of officials on the utility of the wall as Trump envisions it would be illuminating.

McAleenan also said something else on ABC that hints at how Democrats should proceed. He repeatedly stressed that increased economic development aid to the Northern Triangle countries, something the State Department is advocating, would help mitigate the migrant crisis, since many asylum seekers are motivated by desperate poverty at home.

This puts him at odds with Trump’s threats to cut off aid to those countries — and more deeply, is premised on a completely different narrative of the crisis than the falsehood-riddled cartoon version that Trump has adopted as part of his wall push. Getting officials on the record in more detail on these deeper differences would also be useful.

“If congressional Democrats want to establish concrete factual narratives around policy issues, the public dimension of hearings may be an important tool,” Molly Reynolds, a fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, told me. She said Democrats might use them to get officials to “make public commitments” and to “build a public record.”

Lies can go viral. But so can the truth.

In his book on Congress, Chafetz posited that such public communications constitute an important, if underappreciated, way that representatives exercise their powers and responsibilities. When members of Congress responsibly inform the public, it enhances the legislative branch’s power, reveals to voters what the executive branch has sought to mislead them upon, and ideally offers a competing view of what is actually in the national interest and what is not.

That mission may seem . ..

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 December 2018 at 11:57 am

House Democrats ready strategy to reopen government, deny Trump wall money

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Erica Werner and Seung Min Kim report in the Washington Post:

Democrats have settled on a strategy for attempting to reopen the government when they take control of the House on Thursday, aimed at ending the partial shutdown quickly — but denying President Trump the new money he wants for a border wall.

Democrats plan to pass a stopgap spending bill to fund the Homeland Security Department through Feb. 8. The bill would extend the existing $1.3 billion spending level on border fencing and other security measures, far short of the $5 billion Trump has sought to build new walls along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The GOP-controlled Senate passed that same measure earlier this month, but Trump subsequently rejected it. It’s unclear how the Senate would respond if presented with the plan again.

Under Democrats’ plan, the House would also pass a package of six other spending bills to fund an array of federal agencies that have been shuttered since Dec. 22, including the Interior, Agriculture, Commerce and Justice Departments. Hundreds of thousands of workers at those agencies and others are home on furlough, facing the possibility of missing paychecks depending on how long the shutdown lasts.

Those six spending bills would be passed through Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year, at levels already embraced on a bipartisan basis in the Senate — an approach aimed at pressuring the Senate to go along.

The bills to reopen government will be among the first votes cast by Democrats when they take control of the House and open the 116th Congress. The legislation was expected to be made public later Monday. Details were confirmed by two House Democratic aides speaking on condition of anonymity ahead of a formal announcement. . .

Continue reading.

If Mitch McConnell won’t advance a bill along the same lines, then the shutdown is clearly due not only to Trump but also to the Senate Republicans.

Right now it is Trump who has proved unable to keep the government running. If McConnell jumps in it becomes the GOP in general.

Trump may be “proud” of what he’s done, but it is so far a disaster.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 December 2018 at 9:30 am

Last shave of the year, with The Dead Sea and the German 37

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The year ends on a good note, shave-wise: The Dead Sea is an excellent shaving soap with an unusual fragrance (cannabis is included, along with lemon, rosemary, saffron, and sandalwood). This soap doesn’t do well if the brush is too wet, but I have learned to shake the brush to mere dampness before loading—and this is a new brush, BTW: a Maggard Razors synthetic that is quite nice. I would say that shaving brushes have been solved, with superb and inexpensive brushes readily available.

Three passes with RazoRock’s German 37—a big improvement on the Merkur 37, IMO, by being a three-piece design. The result was perfectly smooth, and then a splash of Hâttric finished the job.

And we’re set for the evening: Steller’s Jay Sparkling Rosé, lox, salmon caviar, ciabatta and crostini, and mascarpone cheese. Best wishes to all for a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 December 2018 at 7:53 am

Posted in Shaving

“I filed one of the 83 dismissed misconduct complaints against Brett Kavanaugh. Here’s why.”

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Charles Grassley and the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee had a big fail in confirming Brett Kavanaugh. They deliberately avoided working to find the truth.

Larry Behrendt, who has practiced law for more than 30 years in New York and California, writes in the Washington Post:

Two weeks ago, the Judicial Council of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit dismissed 83 judicial misconduct complaints filed against Brett M. Kavanaugh in connection with his nomination to the Supreme Court. The identities of the complainers have been kept secret, but nothing prevents them from coming forward. I am coming forward. I’m one of those 83 complainers.

I’m a retired attorney who is on no one’s short list to serve on the Supreme Court. But I listened on Sept. 27 while Kavanaugh peppered two hours of Senate testimony with attacks against people and groups he associated with Democrats. Kavanaugh alleged (without factual basis) that he was the victim of a vast, secret, left-wing cabal, masterminded by senators such as Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and motivated by “revenge on behalf of the Clintons.” I was shocked to hear a Supreme Court nominee carry on like a crazed conspiracy theorist.

Turns out, there’s a rule against federal judges behaving like this. Congress passed the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act in 1980, and the rules under that act state that it’s misconduct for a federal judge to make “inappropriately partisan statements.” I may be retired, but I think I know an inappropriately partisan statement when I hear one.

So a few days later, I filed a complaint against Kavanaugh under the 1980 act. It ended up before Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who punted it, among others, to the Judicial Council of the 10th Circuit in Denver. The complaints varied in quality: Some were written like formal briefs, and others were submitted on postcards. They accumulated in Denver for more than two months. Meanwhile, Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court and President Trump proclaimed that Kavanaugh had been the victim of a Democratic Party “hoax.” There’s no rule against a president making inappropriately partisan statements.

The 10th Circuit Judicial Council finally announced its dismissal of the 83 complaints on Dec. 18, explaining its decision roughly as follows: (1) The 1980 act applies to circuit judges but not Supreme Court justices, (2) Kavanaugh was a D.C. Circuit Court judge during his confirmation hearings and when I filed my complaint, but (3) he’s a Supreme Court justice now. Evidently a circuit judge nominated to the Supreme Court can be held responsible for his partisan misconduct before the Senate, so long as the Senate fails to confirm the nominee. But if the nominee wins the approval of a partisan Senate, then his inappropriate partisanship is excused. This reasoning doesn’t make sense to me. It’s like saying we can prosecute a safecracker only if the safe proved to be empty.

You may not agree with the substance of my complaint. And given the political divide in the present Senate, you may think Kavanaugh’s partisanship was unavoidable. But I should have had the chance to argue my point.

Granted, the 1980 act does not apply to the conduct of Supreme Court justices. But the act fails to say what to do when a judge engages in misconduct before becoming a Supreme Court justice. Here, the Judicial Council argued that Kavanaugh’s elevation to the Supreme Court was an “intervening event” under the 1980 act and its accompanying rules, and that “a misconduct proceeding can be concluded because of ‘intervening events.’ ” Unfortunately, the Judicial Council truncated the relevant rule, which allows for a complaint to be dismissed if “intervening events render some or all of the allegations moot or make remedial action impossible.” Kavanaugh’s elevation to the Supreme Court did not render moot the questionable behavior that helped win him that seat. Nor is remedial action impossible now that Judge Kavanaugh is Justice Kavanaugh. Brett Kavanaugh can still issue the kind of full apology he has avoided up until now, and he can recuse himself from highly partisan cases (those with Trump as a party, for example).

In order to let Kavanaugh off the hook, the Judicial Council skipped around relevant commentary stating that “as long as the subject of a complaint performs judicial duties, a complaint alleging judicial conduct must be addressed.” Here, the Judicial Council interpreted “judicial duties” to refer only to duties of judges covered under the 1980 act — leading the council to the strained conclusion that a Supreme Court justice does not perform “judicial duties.” Instead of this tortured reasoning, I’d say we’ve appended yet another exception to the adage that no one is above the law. The 1980 act assigned to the courts a responsibility to address judges who engage in misconduct, and the 10th Circuit Judicial Council read the act looking for a way out. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 December 2018 at 8:35 pm

New Jersey AG has obtained evidence of possible crimes at Trump’s golf club — and Mueller, FBI are involved in probe

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The problem is that when you’re constantly involved in scams and frauds and dishonest behavior, once law enforcement officials start to look, they discover a target-rich environment. Chris Sommerfeldt reports in the Daily News:

New Jersey prosecutors have collected evidence that supervisors at President Trump’s Garden State golf club may have committed federal immigration crimes — and the FBI as well as special counsel Robert Mueller have played part in the inquiry, the Daily News has learned.

Anibal Romero, a Newark attorney who represents several undocumented immigrants who used to work at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, said Friday he recently met with investigators from the state attorney general’s office and handed over fraudulent green cards and Social Security numbers that management at the club allegedly procured and gave his clients, Victorina Morales and Sandra Diaz.

Before he met with the state prosecutors, Romero said he reached out to Mueller’s office because, while he wanted to contact federal authorities, he was concerned about looping in the Justice Department, which was headed by Jeff Sessions at the time.

“I wasn’t sure, one, if they’d take me seriously and, two, if this could backfire on my clients,” Romero told The News, referencing the Trump administration’s aggressive immigration agenda.

Mueller’s office, which is separately investigating Trump’s campaign for possible collusion with Russians during the 2016 election, made contact and informed Romero the matter was not within their jurisdiction.

A few weeks later, an FBI agent in New Jersey called Romero.

“He said to me that he had received a referral from Robert Mueller’s office and that he already knew the specifics and that he wanted to meet with me in person,” Romero said.

Romero then met with two agents at a federal office in Branchburg, N.J., and outlined the same evidence he had already given the AG prosecutors. The agents said they would “coordinate” with the AG’s office, according to Romero. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 December 2018 at 8:02 am

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