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New evidence shows contact between Trump official and Republican redistricting expert over census citizenship question, contradicting earlier DOJ claims

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Tara Bahrampour reports in the Washington Post:

Newly released documents show that contrary to statements by the Trump administration, a member of the president’s transition team communicated directly about adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census with a Republican redistricting strategist who determined the question would help Republicans and non-Hispanic whites.

The documents, released Tuesday by the House Oversight and Reform Committee, show text messages about the question between transition team member Mark Neuman and the strategist, Thomas Hofeller, in the summer of 2017, at a time when other evidence shows administration members were actively discussing how the question might be added to the survey.

A Justice Department spokesman in May flatly denied allegations of contact between Hofeller and the administration. The spokesman also had said an unpublished study by Hofeller from 2015 showing the question would benefit Republicans and whites had “played no role” in the administration’s push to add the question.

But July 2, two weeks after a request from the Oversight Committee, Neuman produced documents confirming he had communicated with Hofeller and his business partner, Dalton “Dale” Oldham, on how to craft the question, according to a memo released by the committee Tuesday.

The memo cites an email sent Aug. 30, 2017, from Neuman, who was an adviser to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on the citizenship question, “asking Mr. Hofeller to review language for a letter Mr. Neuman was drafting to request the addition of a citizenship question.”

The letter, addressed from the Justice Department to the director of the Census Bureau, argued that data from a citizenship question was needed to ensure “compliance with requirements of the Voting Rights Act and its application in legislative redistricting,” the memo said, adding that the language Mr. Neuman sent to Mr. Hofeller was part of that draft letter.

In the email, Neuman appeared to critique one argument against adding the question: that the Census Bureau had other ways to obtain information the government wanted on citizenship.

“We understand that the Bureau personnel may believe that ACS [American Community Survey] data on citizenship was sufficient for redistricting purposes. We wanted the Bureau to be aware that two recent Court cases have underscored that ACS data is not viable and/or sufficient for purposes of redistricting,” he wrote to Hofeller, according to the memo.

A citizenship question currently appears on the ACS, which goes to a small sample of American households each year. The decennial census, which goes to all households, has not asked a citizenship-related question since 1950.

Referring to Hofeller’s partner, Mr. Neuman wrote: “Please make certain that this language is correct. Dale doesn’t return my calls,” the memo said, adding that Hofeller replied the same day, saying, “Dale just read it, and says it is fine as written.”

Neuman later sent a draft letter that included the language approved by Hofeller and Oldham to the Justice Department, according to the memo.

The Justice Department did not respond to inquiries about the newly released documents. A Commerce Department spokesperson called the committee actions “a PR stunt primarily intended to malign senior officials in the Trump Administration,” adding that the department has cooperated “in good faith“ with the committee.

The timing and impetus of the department’s involvement became a flash point during litigation over the question. The Justice Department wrote a letter in December 2017 requesting that the Commerce Department, which oversees the Census Bureau, add it, but documents released during the lawsuits revealed Ross had actively solicited the request from the Justice Department.

The government had said it needed the citizenship question on the decennial form to better enforce the Voting Rights Act. But census experts, civil rights organizations and the bureau’s internal analysis said the question probably would depress response rates among immigrants and minorities, resulting in underrepresentation of those groups.

Data from the decennial census is used to allocate hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding each year, and for redistricting and congressional reapportionment.

The administration backed off trying to add the question in July, after a Supreme Court ruling found its rationale for adding it to be “contrived.” But members of Congress, led by recently deceased congressman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), continued to push for information related to the government’s 19-month quest to add it.

The administration did not respond to congressional subpoenas over the matter, and in July the House voted to hold Ross and Attorney General William P. Barr in criminal contempt for failing to provide documents connected to it.

The question of Hofeller’s involvement came to light in May, as the question was being litigated, when new evidence discovered on his hard drives after his death suggested the administration had worked with him to craft the question. . .

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We’ve come to this: the Department of Justice now lies to Congress and the public. The US is doomed.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 November 2019 at 8:23 pm

Here’s How Corporate America Took Over America

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Kevin Drump posts at Mother Jones:

Have American businesses become more concentrated over the past 30 years? Anecdotally, it seems like the answer is yes. The Big 8 accounting firms are now the Big 4. There are only four cell phone companies, soon to be three. Four airlines control 80 percent of the American market. The car industry consolidated into the Big Three decades ago. Four companies control two-thirds of the cloud computing market.

But in spite of this anecdotal feeling, it’s an undecided question among economists about whether American businesses are really a lot more concentrated than they used to be. Anyone can pick a few examples of industries that have consolidated, but what happens when you look rigorously at the business community overall?

We’re not going to solve this question today, though in general I’ve been more persuaded by the researchers who say that consolidation has, in fact, happened, and the result has been increasingly monopolistic behavior among US corporations.

One of those researchers is French transplant Thomas Philippon, who is introduced to us today in the New York Times by David Leonhardt. Philippon’s research has convinced him that we have indeed gone through an era of considerable consolidation, and it’s mainly due to weak enforcement of antitrust laws. In Europe, which has much stronger antitrust enforcement than we do, Philippon reports that the top firms have increased their market share far less than American firms. As a result, prices charged to consumers have also increased far less than in America. Here is Philippon’s conclusion about how this has affected American workers:

The consolidation of corporate America has become severe enough to have macroeconomic effects. Profits have surged, and wages have stagnated. Investment in new factories and products has also stagnated, because many companies don’t need to innovate to keep profits high. Philippon estimates that the new era of oligopoly costs the typical American household more than $5,000 a year.

I find that $5,000 number quite easy to believe. In fact, it seems a little low to me. But how did it happen? Even with weak antitrust enforcement (thanks Robert Bork!), how do companies get away with raising prices and cutting pay? They still have some competition, after all. The answer to that, I think, is the long Republican war against unions:

The destruction of the American working class is a two-part story. First, it was necessary to get rid of unions. As long as they were around, they’d demand a fair share of profits for workers no matter what the competition landscape looked like. That war lasted from about 1947 to 1981. When Ronald Reagan broke the air-traffic controllers union it was the final straw. Unions had already been decimated both by Republican laws and by Republican-led-efforts to train companies in how to resist unionization. Democrats never had the will to fight back hard enough, and after Reagan they never had the power. Republicans won their war against unions decisively.

It was only then, with unions effectively out of the way, that corporations could start consolidating and taking an ever bigger share of profits for top executives and shareholders, leaving workers with stagnating wages and grinding working conditions. No union, for example, would accept the practice of “clopening,” where an employee is required to close up a store at night and then turn right around and open in the morning. Nor would they accept the ever-more-common practice of expecting workers to be on call at all times, never knowing for sure what their work schedule will be. As much as low pay, these are the kinds of things that make work such a burden for the working class these days.

So this is the story. Spend three or four decades wiping out the power of labor unions, and then you can spend the next three or four decades turning the United States into a plutocracy with no one to effectively fight you about it.

And you have to give Republicans credit: Not only did they cobble together this plan and execute it brilliantly, they’ve managed even . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

12 November 2019 at 11:06 am

“I Will Never Let Boeing Forget Her”

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Alec MacGillis reports in ProPublica:

Samya Stumo liked to ride pigs. This was on her family’s farm, in Sheffield, Massachusetts. Caring for the pigs was one of her chores, so she would hop on an old, dilapidated Army jeep and drive a water tank to the sty, where she would fill the troughs and take a ride. She was 9 years old.

Samya had always been precocious. She started playing cello when she was 3, the year before her younger brother, Nels, became ill with cancer. When her mother, Nadia Milleron, returned from the hospital one day, Samya told her that she had learned to read.

Nels died, at the age of 2, shortly after Nadia had another son. The loss played a role in Samya’s eventual choice of studies: public health. So did the strain of activism in her family. Her mother’s uncle is Ralph Nader, the transportation-safety crusader turned progressive advocate and third-party presidential candidate. Her father, Michael Stumo, who grew up on a farm in Iowa, made frequent trips to Washington to lobby for small manufacturers and family farmers.

For Samya and her two surviving brothers, the family ethic was clear: seek justice for the disadvantaged, even if it means challenging authority. Samya could carry this to comic extremes. On a camping trip, she mounted a tree stump and inveighed against the family’s patriarchal dynamics, while everyone else, suppressing laughter, hurried to set up before dark.

In 2015, Samya graduated from the University of Massachusetts and won a scholarship to pursue a master’s degree in global public health at the University of Copenhagen. Afterward, when she was 24, she got a job with ThinkWell, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., which works to expand health coverage in developing nations. ThinkWell sent her to East Africa to open offices there. The night before she left, earlier this year, she had dinner with Ralph Nader and his sister Claire.

During a stopover in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, Samya texted her family to say that she would arrive in Nairobi in a few hours. Then she boarded Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302. She sat in Row 16, beside a Somali-American trucker from Minnesota. There were 149 passengers, from 35 countries, and eight crew members.

The plane, a Boeing 737 MAX 8, took off at 8:38 a.m. on March 10. A minute and a half later, it began to pitch downward. A sensor on the nose had malfunctioned, triggering an automated control system. The cockpit filled with a confusing array of audio and visual warnings. The pilots tried to counter the downward movement, but the automated system overrode them. Six minutes after takeoff, the plane dived into the earth at 575 miles per hour, carving out a crater 32 feet deep and 131 feet long, and killing everyone on board.

That day, Stumo, Milleron and their younger son, Torleif, flew to Addis Ababa. The crater had been cordoned off, but Milleron and Tor rushed past the barrier. “It was mostly dirt,” Stumo said later. “Where’s the plane? Where’s the pieces? This plane had just buried itself right straight into the ground vertically and just disintegrated.”

This was the second crash of a 737 MAX in five months, after a Lion Air jet plunged into the Java Sea in late October 2018. Investigators quickly focused on the automated system that had pushed down both jets, a feature new to this model of the 737. But a counternarrative gained force, too: that the crashes were, above all, the fault of insufficiently trained foreign pilots. “Procedures were not completely followed,” Boeing’s CEO, Dennis Mui­lenburg, said at a contentious news conference in April.

It has been more than a decade since a commercial airline crash in the United States resulted in fatalities, but airplane disasters are an unwelcome reminder of the inherent risk of flying. Some 2.7 million people fly on U.S. airlines every day; we’d rather not think about the brazenness of launching ourselves thousands of miles in a fragile tube, 30,000 feet above the earth. The appeal of blaming foreign pilots is easy to see. For the past eight months, however, the Stumo family has dedicated itself to demonstrating a scarier reality: that Boeing, the pride of American manufacturing, prioritized financial gain over safety, with the federal government as a collaborator.

Since the crash, the family members have made more than a dozen trips to Washington — a routine they expect to continue: They recently found an apartment in town. They have met separately with two dozen members of Congress, and with the heads of the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board, and testified before a House committee. They were the first American family to sue Boeing, accusing the company of gross negligence and recklessness. They have sought out whistle-blowers and filed Freedom of Information requests. They got a meeting for themselves and 11 other victims’ families with Elaine Chao, the secretary of transportation. Afterward, they held a large vigil outside the department’s headquarters. When the vigil broke up, I talked with Gregory Travis, a software engineer and pilot who has written extensively about the crashes. “Every past crash that I can think of was an accident, in that there was something that wasn’t really reasonably foreseeable,” Travis told me. “This was entirely different, and I don’t think anyone understands that. This was a collision of deregulation and Wall Street, and the tragic thing is that it was tragic. It was inevitable.”


I met the Stumos in 1996, in Winsted, a former mill town of 8,000 people in northwest Connecticut. After emigrating from Lebanon in the 1920s, Milleron’s grandfather opened a restaurant there. Her grandmother, Ralph Nader’s mother, lived in the town until her death, in 2006, at 99. Nader still visits from Washington, and his family funds two activists to monitor local affairs and bend them in a progressive direction.

Milleron and Stumo met in law school, at the University of Iowa, and afterward settled in Winsted, moving into a house on Hillside Avenue and starting a family. First Adnaan, then Samya, then Nels. They began attending an Orthodox Christian church in a nearby town. Nadia worked part time, as a court-appointed lawyer. Michael commuted 25 miles to a Hartford law firm, and joined the Winsted school board.

I came to Winsted for my first job, at the Winsted Journal, a weekly paper. At the first school board meeting I covered, Michael arrived late from Hartford. He was wearing a suit that hung loosely on his lanky 6-foot-1-inch frame. He carried a briefcase. He was only 29, but he looked every bit the engaged citizen and responsible father.

Michael and I met a few times at a gloomy bar on Main Street, where he offered a wry perspective on Winsted politics and the plight of small-town America. He invited me over for breakfast. I remember warm sunlight, pancakes, small kids and being impressed by Nadia, a tall woman with long, dark hair and an intently appraising gaze.

I was soon gone from Winsted, to a daily paper near Hartford. In 1999, after the birth of Tor and the death of Nels, the Stumo family bought a ramshackle 18th-century house on a farm, over the Massachusetts line. It had been owned by sheep farmers who published a magazine called The Shepherd; old issues were strewn about the house, and manure was piled 4 feet high in the barn. Michael worked for months cleaning the house and clearing out the barn with a tractor.

A year later, . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

11 November 2019 at 10:40 am

What John Rawls Missed

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Jedediah Briton-Purdy, who teaches at Columbia Law School, writes in the New Republic:

John Rawls, who died in 2002, was the most influential American philosopher of the twentieth century. His great work, A Theory of Justice, appeared in 1971 and defined the field of political philosophy for generations. It set out standards for a just society in the form of two principles. First, a just society would protect the strongest set of civil liberties and personal rights compatible with everyone else having the same rights. Second, it would tolerate economic inequalities only if they improved the situation of the poorest and most marginalized (for example, by paying doctors well to encourage people to enter a socially necessary profession).

Taken seriously, Rawls’s principles would require a radical transformation: no hedge funds unless allowing them to operate will benefit the homeless? No Silicon Valley IPOs unless they make life better for farmworkers in the Central Valley? A just society would be very different from anything the United States has ever been. Rawls argued that justice would be compatible with either democratic socialism or a “property-owning democracy” of roughly equal smallholders. One thing was clear: America could not remain as it was, on pain of injustice.

It did not remain as it was, but Rawls’s vision did not triumph either. A Theory of Justice was published in 1971, just before economic inequality began its long ascent from its lowest level in history to today’s Second Gilded Age. Richard Nixon’s “Southern strategy” was reorganizing American politics around resistance to equal rights. Within a decade, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher would lead the English-speaking world sharply away from anything resembling Rawls’s egalitarianism. Yet his philosophical stature only increased. Even his critics—the libertarian Robert Nozick, the feminist Susan Moller Okin, the communitarian Michael Sandel—ended up confirming the central and inescapable place of his thought. By the end of his life, philosophical thinking about equality, war, political authority, dissent and obedience, and global order took place on a terrain that Rawls towered over—in the shadow of justice.

That shadow provides the title of Katrina Forrester’s extraordinary study of Rawls’s thought and its legacy. Over the last 50 years, she argues, Rawls’s centrality has shaped the very idea of what philosophy is. Working in his aftermath, political philosophers have tended to emphasize ideals of consensus-seeking deliberation, legalistic formulations of political problems, and the dilemmas of individual choice in terrible situations such as war. Certain other questions have been quietly kept out: notably, the central place of conflict and collective action in politics, the tendency of capitalist democracy to fall into plutocracy, and the deep role of racism and colonialism in shaping American society and world order.

Yet as Forrester’s book demonstrates, Rawls’s approach to philosophizing about politics was never the only one, however much his influence has made it seem so. Instead, his theory of justice emerged from his distinctive experience of the exceptional decades after World War II. By tracing those historical circumstances—the political and economic assumptions of the postwar years, as well as the ways philosophy was done then—Forrester shows how Rawls’s thinking, with its strengths and blind spots, came to seem natural. Her aim is to open space for problems that Rawls neglected. What would it mean to pursue a just society while grappling with how deeply unjust and divided ours is, with how it got and stays that way?


Although Rawls’s principles of justice were in many ways radical, they were not novel. He is often thought of as the philosopher of 1960s Great Society reformism, because his principles seemed to elaborate on the goals of the civil rights movement and the war on poverty. What was new was Rawls’s mode of argument. He asked a question fundamental in political philosophy: Can any society be justified to all its members, in light of the inequalities it contains, the burdens it imposes (who empties the bedpans and gets up at midnight to make sure the subways keep running?), and the violence it deals out through police, prisons, and wars? If it cannot be just, then some of us are living in a kind of prison, and others are the wardens. If, however, justification is possible, then we might be able to create a world in which we actually approach one another as free and equal persons.

To imagine such a world, we have to shake off the habits of this one and picture ourselves as able to reset all our institutions and social relations, keeping only those that are just—that is, are justifiable to everyone who has to live within them. Rawls proposed a technique for doing this, a thought experiment that he called the “original position.” It invites us to imagine a situation in which people are to choose the world in which they will live. The key is that they choose behind a “veil of ignorance,” that is, they do not know where they would fall in the distribution of privilege and vulnerability in the societies they imagine. Would you choose to live in the United States today if you didn’t know whether you would be Elon Musk or an undocumented immigrant?

Rawls argued that, faced with this uncertainty, people would choose the world that provided the best position for the least advantaged, worst-off class of people. If you don’t know where you will fall, you will want the worst possibility to be as acceptable as possible. Economics-minded critics argued that this was too risk-averse, that one might gamble for the Silicon Valley jackpot at the risk of picking lettuce instead. But this criticism misconstrued the project: Rawls’s argument was a way of setting out exactly what it meant to justify a social world even to the people picking lettuce. If the question is, “Can this world be justified to me as a free and equal person?” Rawls was not prepared to accept, “Yes, because you might have been Elon Musk!” as an answer.

Conservative critics such as the Straussian Allan Bloom (later famous for his polemic The Closing of the American Mind) accused Rawls of cherry-picking principles to suit the liberal prejudices of the moment. In Rawls’s hands, the original position gave philosophy’s imprimatur to the democratic welfare state as well as to the civil disobedience of the civil rights movement and resistance to the Vietnam War. Friendlier readers interpreted Rawls in light of the conflicts of the early 1970s too. Philosopher Marshall Cohen’s New York Times review of A Theory of Justice welcomed a defense of American liberalism “at a time when these principles are persistently being obscured and betrayed”—presumably in Vietnam and at home by the Nixon administration.


Both of these responses, Forrester argues, miss key features of Rawls’s project. Her story begins in the decade after World War II, when Rawls undertook the work that became A Theory of Justice. A watershed event for Rawls was the 1953 publication of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations, which along with Wittgenstein’s other late work helped to inspire a broader philosophical turn to “ordinary language.” When Rawls visited Oxford in the academic year of 1952 to ’53, this approach was richly elaborated there. It was the new philosophical frontier of the age, full of untried possibility.

Ordinary-language philosophers turned away from highly technical questions about the fundamental nature of language (What makes a sentence true? Does every word in a true statement refer to some definite object in the world?). Instead they asked how language works from the point of view of a clear-minded speaker and listener. Everyone lives inside a language, they reasoned, knows how to use its grammar, and recognizes misuse and confusion. We have to get over the philosophical impulse to seize sentences and sweat them, inquisition-style, until they confirm their truth or confess their falsehood. Philosophy is less about achieving a new kind of knowledge, more about making clear what we already know. Philosophers began to think about language and social practices such as law the way we think about games. There is no such thing as hitting a triple outside of baseball: Try as you might, you cannot do it alone, or in a group of people who have never heard of baseball and want you, please, to take your stick off the soccer pitch. But once you are playing baseball, it is clear whether or not a triple has been hit. Even close cases, such as a photo-finish race to beat a throw from an outfielder, just confirm that we know what a triple is.

The legal philosopher H.L.A. Hart argued that law, too, is a game in this way. There is no “natural law” that tells you whether you “really” must obey a law you dislike, as both dissenters and defenders of existing law had long hoped to show. But once you are involved in legal argument, you tacitly accept that certain things count as law. If you start to insist that Leviticus trumps the San Francisco municipal code, then you have become the person waving a baseball bat on the soccer pitch, hoping to get to third base in a game where third base does not exist. Forrester argues that Rawls wanted to elucidate society itself as a “game” of this sort. Social morality, which is the topic of justice, had its own tacit rules, and drawing those out could help to make clear what people already knew when not distracted by self-interest or prejudice. Like the rule book for a well-established sport, the original position and the principles that Rawls drew from it did not dictate some new morality. They helped to spell out the terms of a social practice.

If Rawls’s approach to justice emerged from the philosophical currents of the 1950s, it also formed in response to political concerns. Born in Baltimore in 1921, Rawls saw the rise of the administrative state through the 1930s and ’40s, as New Deal programs led to the establishment of an alphabet soup of government agencies to implement them: the SEC, the FHA, the PWA, the NLRB, and many more. Although Rawls was not an anti-New Deal reactionary, he shared the worries of some liberals and centrists that the expanded American state would end up interfering with personal autonomy through perennial supervision of the economy. He preferred to think that if the state established the right set of operating principles and guardrails, people would be able to get along on their own, with no more than modest political intrusion or contest.

It was bold, if not implausible, to posit a neutral and abiding set of principles in American society, which was torn by bloody labor conflict in the ’30s and ’40s, and sent its pacifists and revolutionaries to prison or worse. But Rawls wasn’t alone in doing so: The decades in which he developed his theory formed the high-water mark of the “consensus” schools of American political science and history. It became conventional to say that Americans had mostly agreed on the essential principles of liberty, equality, and democracy—and, less abstractly, private property, regulated markets, and courts of law. Conflict was the exception. Radical dissenters were outliers. The idea of consensus was essential to Rawls’s project: If Americans deeply agreed on justice, then the hidden logic of that agreement, drawn out through the original position, could both guide and limit the state.

A Theory of Justice was both radical and conservative. Yes, it proposed a sweeping reconstruction of “the basic structure” of American life—Rawls’s term for the key institutions of public life, such as government and the economy. At the same time, it described the principles of reconstruction as ones that Americans already held. This strategy of squaring the circle might seem odd: How can a country be committed to principles it routinely and pervasively defies and ignores? Yet it’s also peculiarly American. The American political myth (meaning not a simple fiction but a kind of shared master-story) is “constitutional redemption,” the idea that moral truths are woven deep into the country’s character, imperfectly expressed in the Constitution and existing institutions, but awaiting realization in “a more perfect union.” This was how Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln talked about freedom and equality in the 1860s, and how Martin Luther King and Lyndon Baines Johnson talked about the same values in the mid-1960s. Constitutional redemption was the defining ideal of Cold War liberal patriotism. Its strategies became, by subtle philosophical transformation, the strategy of A Theory of Justice: to say that Americans already are what they have never yet been—and that this ideal is also incipiently universal, if other peoples can make their way to it.


Forrester is a subtle intellectual historian as well as a political theorist, and she does not imply that one book, even a work as field-defining as A Theory of Justice, can in fact define a field. In the Shadow of Justice also tells the story of a network of Rawls’s contemporaries and the generation-plus that followed him. These thinkers continued a search for the impersonal perspective on politics that Rawls had put at the heart of the field. Ironically, however, the consensus Rawls had counted on was already gone by the polarized late 1960s, which saw violent backlash against the civil rights movement, vicious clashes over the Vietnam War, and acts of domestic terrorism from both the militant left and the racist right. There was little more reason in 1971 to think that Americans shared an abiding consensus than there is in 2019. In the face of polarization, the thinkers in political philosophy’s mainstream persisted in presenting themselves as above mere political conflict, claiming a neutral ground that no longer existed.

In Forrester’s telling, the philosophers in Rawls’s milieu aimed to engage with the radical challenges of the 1960s and 1970s, but tended to formulations that blunted the sharpest criticisms of American life. Confronted with civil disobedience against the Vietnam War and racial subordination, Rawls and his cohort developed the canonical modern image of civil disobedience: as an appeal to the country’s higher principles, a fragment of lawbreaking in support of a larger fidelity to law. Those dissenters who disobeyed because they considered the U.S. government illegitimate, at least in some respects, were written out of the story.

When black activists and scholars proposed reparations for slavery and Jim Crow, the philosophers responded that justice asks whether people are being treated as equals today, not the “historical” question of how inequalities arose. Rawls similarly hurried past segregation in his work; he reasoned that it was so manifestly unjust that there was nothing a philosopher should say about it except that it should be abolished completely. But maybe a philosopher who was trying to distill the country’s most basic values should have lingered over just how deeply the legacies of Jim Crow and slavery shaped that country. What did the vicious and often successful resistance to the civil rights movement reveal about the American grammar of justice?

A similar ahistorical impulse governed when Rawls and others turned to the problem of international justice. Colonialism and empire largely receded from sight, as did postcolonial political efforts to develop redistributive regimes such as the short-lived New International Economic Order. In The Law of Peoples, Rawls imagined an original position for representatives of nation-states, interested in fair rules of international order. But he didn’t propose redress for newly independent countries, which would be starting out poorer than the colonial powers that had dominated them for years. There is a fine line between distilling problems to issues of principle and losing track of the settings altogether.

A part of what happened in these decades was that the technique of Rawls’s arguments came loose from the setting in which it had originally made sense. The discipline became increasingly remote from moral and political experience. What, asked some next-generation Rawlsians, would be the result of an original position for the whole world? The question moves far away from Rawls’s own effort to draw out the principles to which his audience was already committed. Where was the consensus, what were the institutions, for a philosophy of global justice? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 November 2019 at 7:24 am

Trump rails against impeachment: ‘They shouldn’t be having public hearings’

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And yet Republicans demanded transparency and in fact stormed a hearing room (in which Republicans were represented) to demand transparency. Odd. Brett Samuels reports for The Hill:

President Trump on Friday said there should be no public hearings in the impeachment inquiry as he railed against the process unfolding in the House.

“They shouldn’t be having public hearings. This is a hoax,” Trump said as he left the White House for events in Georgia.

The comments mark a sharp break from Trump’s allies, who have spent recent weeks complaining about the lack of transparency in the ongoing impeachment inquiry. The first public hearings in the process are set to take place next week.

House Democrats are investigating allegations that Trump abused his office by urging foreign governments to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, his domestic political rival, as well as Biden’s son.

The committees leading the impeachment inquiry this week released transcripts of their closed-door hearings with several current and former officials.

Each of the testimonies indicated that there was widespread concern about the role of Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, in the administration’s Ukraine policy and described a campaign by Giuliani to oust a U.S. ambassador.

A few witnesses testified that a White House meeting with the Ukrainian president was contingent on his publicly announcing investigations that Trump wanted.

Trump on Friday blasted the impeachment proceedings in his most extensive public comments since the first transcripts were released on Monday. He attacked Democratic lawmakers leading the impeachment process and suggested an attorney for the whistleblower who raised concerns about his call with the Ukrainian president should be sued “and maybe for treason.”

Trump downplayed the potentially damaging effects of the transcripts that have been released thus far, claiming he was unfamiliar with many of the witnesses and that none of them had first-hand information.

“I’m not concerned about anything,” Trump said. “The testimony has all been fine. I mean for the most part, I’ve never even heard of these people. There are some very fine people. You have some Never Trumpers. It seems that nobody has any first-hand knowledge.”

The president asserted that the only thing that counts is the partial transcript from his July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. While Trump has insisted that document shows the call was “perfect,” it depicts the president urging his Ukrainian counterpart to “look into” the Bidens after Zelensky brought up the need for military assistance.

Trump added  . . .

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Emphasis added.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 November 2019 at 1:59 pm

Hillary Clinton’s Zombie Impeachment Memo That Could Help Fell Trump

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Darren Samuelsohn reports in Politico:

document Hillary Clinton helped write nearly a half century ago has returned from the dead to threaten the man she couldn’t vanquish in 2016.

The bizarre, only-in-D.C. twist centers on a congressional report penned by a bipartisan team of young attorneys that included Hillary before she was a Clinton and written in the throes of Watergate. Then, unlike now, not a single lawmaker had been alive the last time Congress impeached a president. They had little understanding of how to try and remove Richard Nixon from the White House. So they tapped Clinton and a team of ambitious staffers to dive into the history of impeachment, stretching back to the 14th century in England: How has impeachment been used? What were the justifications? Can we apply it to Nixon?

The resulting document became a centerpiece of the congressional push to drive the Republican president from office. But then Nixon resigned. The memo was buried.

That was just the report’s first life.

In an ironic twist, the document was resurrected in the late 1990s. Republicans gleefully used it to bolster their unsuccessful bid to oust Clinton’s now-husband, President Bill Clinton. Then it faded from public conscience — again.

Until now, that is. The 45-year-old report has become a handbook House Democratic lawmakers and aides say they are using to help determine whether they have the goods to mount a full-scale impeachment effort against President Donald Trump, the same man who three years ago upended Hillary Clinton’s bid for a return trip to the White House.

Essentially, Clinton, albeit indirectly, might get one last shot at accomplishing what she couldn’t in 2016 — defeating Trump.

“I can only say that the impeachment Gods have a great sense of humor,” Alan Baron, an expert on the topic who has staffed four congressional impeachments against federal judges, said of the recurring role Hillary Clinton keeps playing in this story.

It started in early 1974.

The walls were closing in on a beleaguered President Nixon. His aides were going down one by one. He had tried — and failed — to halt the investigations into his behavior by cleaning house during the infamous “Saturday Night Massacre.”

On Capitol Hill, Hillary Rodham, a 26-year-old law school graduate, was hired by the House Judiciary Committee to work on a bipartisan staff effort to help determine whether to impeach Nixon. She joined a team of aspiring lawyers that also included Bill Weld, who would go on to his own illustrious career as a top Justice Department prosecutor, Massachusetts governor and most recently as a long-shot 2020 GOP primary challenger against Trump.

Over a couple of months just before the climactic end of the Watergate scandal, the team dug deep into constitutional and legal arcana scouring documents that dated to the country’s founding, as well as century-old newspaper clippings in the Library of Congress.

The resulting title of the report, “Constitutional Grounds for Presidential Impeachment,” may elicit yawns. But what they produced became a seminal 64-page road map with appendices that looks into what counts as an impeachable offense.

At the time, lawmakers needed the guidance. They had not had to think seriously about these issues for more than 100 years, when Congress rebelled against President Andrew Johnson over his handling of reconstruction after the Civil War.

The staffers’ research broke ground by making an accessible argument that a president doesn’t have to commit a straight-up crime for Congress to consider the historic step of impeachment.

“The framers did not write a fixed standard. Instead they adopted from English history a standard sufficiently general and flexible to meet future circumstances and events, the nature and character of which they could not foresee,” the House staffers, including the future first lady, wrote about the ill-defined constitutional working of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

Their exhaustive report also included a whirlwind history lesson about how America’s founders had been well-versed in impeachment when they included the language in several clauses of the Constitution — the British Parliament had used the impeachment process as a check on royalty for more than 400 years, dating to the 14th century.

And the process hadn’t just been used to remove alleged criminals from office. In the United States, 83 articles of impeachment had been voted out of the House up to that point against a dozen federal judges, one senator and Andrew Johnson, and fewer than a third actually involved specific criminal acts. Far more common, they wrote, was that the House was dealing with allegations that someone had violated their duties, oath of office or seriously undermined public confidence in their ability to perform their official functions.

“Because impeachment of a President is a grave step for the nation, it is to be predicated only upon conduct seriously incompatible with either the constitutional form and principles of our government or the proper performance of constitutional duties of the presidential office,” the House staffers concluded.

While the document Hillary Rodham and her colleagues produced got marked as a staff report, the Democrat-led House Judiciary Committee still used it to justify their historic votes against Nixon. In fact, two of the three articles of impeachment adopted by the powerful panel — dealing with the Republican president’s abuse of power and contempt of Congress — didn’t cover areas that fall neatly into the category of federal crimes. A final staff report submitted to the House just days after Nixon made history as the first president to resign from office quoted from the staff’s earlier analysis.

More than two decades later, though, Clinton may have wished she had never helped write the document.

It was 1997, eight months before the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke. President Bill Clinton was facing Republican outrage over everything from allegations of campaign finance irregularities to Whitewater, the probe into the Clinton’s Arkansas real estate investments. To legitimize their anger, some Republicans turned to a document that likely hadn’t been discussed for a generation — the 1974 impeachment report Hillary Clinton had worked on.

Georgia GOP Rep. Bob Barr resurfaced the report in a sarcasm-laced op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that opened with the line “Dear Mrs. Clinton.”

The conservative congressman went on to thank the first lady for giving lawmakers a “road map” to consider her husband’s impeachment with a report that “appears objective, fair, well researched and consistent with other materials reflecting and commenting on impeachment.”

“And it is every bit as relevant today as it was 23 years ago,” he added.

In time, both parties would cite from the Judiciary Committee’s 1974 staff report as they fought over whether the conduct associated with President Clinton’s sexual relationship with Lewinsky merited impeachment.

Calling the Watergate document “historic,” then-Virginia GOP Rep. Bob Goodlatte argued in the fall of 1998 that Clinton’s offenses, like those of Nixon, had extended beyond questions of obstruction of justice to whether the president betrayed the public trust. Then-Rep. Charles Canady, a Florida Republican chairing a House subcommittee on the Constitution, referred repeatedly to the Watergate panel’s work during the House debate and later in Bill Clinton’s Senate trial, which ultimately concluded with his acquittal.

Democrats, meanwhile, had a different read on the group’s findings.

California Rep. Zoe Lofgren, who had worked for a member of the Judiciary Committee during Watergate, shared copies of the more than 20-year-old report with colleagues from both parties and posted a link to it online — she had an offer from law school students to type it out so it could be searchable by word but internal ethics rules prevented that move. Her primary argument was that Clinton’s lies about his relationship with Lewinsky, while immoral, didn’t match the historical precedents outlined as qualifying for impeachment in the 1974 staff analysis.

“The interesting thing is they cited it for purposes it didn’t support. I wonder whether they read it or whether they had index cards prepared by their staff,” Lofgren said in a recent interview when asked about the Republicans who were using the report to justify removing Clinton from office.

Ted Kalo, a former top Democratic aide on the Judiciary panel, said there was widespread bipartisan agreement that the Watergate staff report mattered — even amid the differing interpretations.

“Great books have been written and eloquent testimony was given in the 1998 hearing on the topic, but even in 1998, the 1974 staff report was considered to be state of the art,” he said.

“It’s the most concise, easily understood document on the history of the impeachment clause and the intent of the framers, including the issue of what constitutes an impeachable offense that I’ve come across. And it faithfully and logically describes what was intended to be the appropriate scope of the House’s impeachment power,” he added.

Now it’s 2019. President Donald Trump is an unindicted criminal co-conspirator who has fended off myriad congressional probes and watched his aides go to prison over an investigation into the Trump campaign. Most Democrats — not to mention their fervent progressive base — are clamoring for impeachment. And yet again, the 1974 impeachment report is getting a rereading on Capitol Hill.

Just as the Watergate staff suggested, the . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 November 2019 at 1:54 pm

Revisiting an American Town Where Black People Weren’t Welcome After Dark

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Sort of the opposite of Fred Rogers. Logan Jaffe reports for ProPublica:

Note: This story contains graphic descriptions of violence. There are also uses of a derogatory racial term in documents and quotes cited in the story.

I GOT INTO TOWN JUST AFTER SUNSET. The lights were on at a place called the Brick House Grill, and if you were out on South Main Street on a Friday night in February, chances are, that’s where you were going. So I went in, too.

I took a seat at the bar. A man two stools over from me struck up a conversation. I told him I was a journalist from Chicago and asked him to tell me about this town. “You know how this town is called Anna?” he started. “That’s for ‘Ain’t No Niggers Allowed.’” He laughed, shook his head and took a sip of his beer.

The man was white. I am white. Everyone else in that restaurant in Anna was white.

Later that night, I realized what shook me most about our conversation: He didn’t pause before he said what he said. He didn’t look around the room to see whether anyone could hear us. He didn’t lower his voice. He just said it.

I first learned about Anna in a book called “Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism,” about the thousands of communities across the country that, for much of the 20th century, kept themselves white. The term “sundown town” applies to places that, via policy, violence or both, barred black people from town after dark; as the book explains, the phrase is derived from “the signs that many of [these places] formerly sported at their corporate limits — signs that usually said ‘Nigger, Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on You in __.’”

I picked up the book in part because its author, James W. Loewen, a sociologist who taught at the University of Vermont and at Tougaloo College in Mississippi, is from Decatur, Illinois. Much of his research on sundown towns led him back to his home state, where I now live and which I wanted to better understand.

When Loewen began his research in 1999, he thought he’d find just a handful of sundown towns and “recovering” sundown towns, as he calls them, in Illinois. Instead, he found hundreds, from neighborhoods on Chicago’s North Shore to suburbs in the center of the state to small towns in southern Illinois, such as Anna.

But the stories of how these communities became or stayed mostly white are often unknown, ignored or not fully told. Loewen said sundown towns sprang up all around the country from 1890 to 1940, a period he calls the “nadir” of race relations in America. “For the small, independent towns all around the state that are still all white or almost all white, it’s like the civil rights movement never happened,” he told me.

Anna’s historical resistance to black people is, and has long been, well known in the region. Even though it may never have been codified, I found references to the fact that black people weren’t allowed to live in Anna in newspaper articles from as early as 1903. In that particular reference, a woman from Anna who worked as a hotel maid in Indianapolis was quoted as saying, “I never saw more than 10 negroes in all my life until I was 18 … as a negro is not allowed to stop in our little village of Anna.”

Over the past two years, I visited the town several times to try to understand where Anna’s history had left the town today. I talked with people going about their lives — in the library, the Farm Fresh milk store, the Blue Boar restaurant, the city’s park, the Walmart parking lot and other pockets of Anna. I talked with public officials, historians and longtime residents. I visited a grave in the Anna cemetery that belongs to the man deemed by a local newspaper in 1916 to be “the only colored man who has ever lived in this city” and I spent some time with one of the few black families (if not the only one) living in Anna today.

Still, I’m not going to claim I know Anna’s full story — I’m an outsider. But after hearing A-N-N-A said aloud that night, I realized my race made me a sort of insider, too. Would the man who first recited A-N-N-A have done so if I weren’t white? Nearly everyone I met knew what Anna stands for — whether they heard it first as a “joke” at school or from their grandparents or just from living here long enough. Most people said they wished the A-N-N-A reputation would just go away and were quick to say Anna wasn’t “like that” anymore.

Like what? I’d ask. If Anna has changed, how?

ANNA IS A CITY OF A LITTLE MORE THAN 4,000 PEOPLE located in the middle of Union County, where soybean fields and flatlands to the north give way to the forests and sandstone canyons of southern Illinois. Here, “Illinois is no longer ‘the Prairie state,’” a correspondent for New York’s Evening Post wrote in 1858 while covering the third Lincoln-Douglas debate, which was held in Jonesboro, a small town that shares a border with Anna.

In fact, many of Anna’s earliest residents were from Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia. In the years leading up to the Civil War, “family lines in the South still existed with these people of the new Midwest,” wrote the late Anna resident George E. Parks in 1983 in “History of Union County,” and some residents remained sympathetic to their southern home states. Even today, southern Illinois has more in common culturally with Kentucky and Missouri than with its other neighbors; for years, Confederate battle flags were draped on a storefront on Anna’s Main Street without much objection. . .

Continue reading.

I grew up in a small town (pop. 2400) in southern Oklahoma that — whether through law or simple public pressure — saw to it that there were no blacks living in the town.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 November 2019 at 1:37 pm

Posted in Daily life, Government, Law

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