Thursday, June 27, 2024

Something to Know - 27 June

The air is full of news organizations speculating about this evening's so-called debate.  It's almost like the pre-game hype before the NFL Super Bowl.  Watch if you like, or binge on your favorite TV drama, or just read a good book, and catch up later on the talking heads version of what went on.   

Heather Cox Richardson from Letters from an American 

12:21 AM (8 hours ago)
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Today President Joe Biden pardoned more than 2000 former military personnel who had been convicted of engaging in consensual sex under a gay sex ban in the military that has since been repealed. People covered under the pardon can apply to have their military discharges corrected and to recover the pay and benefits the convictions cost them. "[M]aintaining the finest fighting force in the world…means making sure that every member of our military feels safe and respected," Biden said in a statement. 

Biden said he was "righting an historic wrong." "This is about dignity, decency, and ensuring the culture of our Armed Forces reflect the values that make us an exceptional nation," he said.

On this date in 2015, the Supreme Court handed down the Obergefell v. Hodges decision, which said that states must license and recognize same-sex marriage because of the Fourteenth Amendment's requirement that citizens must have the equal protection of the laws and cannot be deprived of rights without due process of the laws.  

In the New York Times today, Kate Zernike explained how the public conversations about abortion have shifted in the two years since the Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that recognized the constitutional right to abortion. The state bans that went into place have illustrated that abortion is indeed healthcare, as people suffering miscarriages have been unable to obtain the imperative medical care they need. 

Zernike quoted pollster Tresa Undem, who estimated that before the 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization decision overturned Roe, less than 15% of Americans thought that abortion was relevant to them personally. Now, though, Undem said, "it's about pregnancy, and everybody knows someone who had a baby or wants to have a baby or might get pregnant. It's profoundly personal to a majority of the public."

In the three weeks since Biden announced restrictions on asylum applications for undocumented immigrants, the number of people trying to cross the border has dropped more than 40% to its lowest level since he took office. This information will likely come up in tomorrow's scheduled debate between the president and presumptive Republican nominee Trump, who has made it clear he intends to accuse the president of promoting immigration policies that bring criminals into the United States.

Former representative Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), a military veteran who joined the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol and who has fiercely criticized Trump, today endorsed Biden for president. 

In a video, Kinzinger said: "[W]hile I certainly don't agree with President Biden on everything, and I never thought I'd be endorsing a Democrat for president, I know that he will always protect the very thing that makes America the best country in the world: our democracy. Donald Trump poses a direct threat to every fundamental American value. He doesn't care about our country. He doesn't care about you. He only cares about himself. And he'll hurt anyone or anything in pursuit of power." 

On CNN tonight, Georgia governor Brian Kemp told Kaitlan Collins he did not vote for Trump in his state's Republican primary, although he said he would "support the ticket" in November so that Georgia would remain in Republican hands. It was an interesting statement, since he could easily have deflected the question or simply said he voted for Trump if he cared about avoiding Trump's wrath. But he appeared not to care, suggesting that Trump's power even with prominent Republicans is slipping. 

Two Republican voters from Pennsylvania told MSNBC tonight that they are voting for Biden. When asked whether they think there is "a silent Biden voter out there," one said, "I do. I know there is…. We don't want to talk about it, but we're all going to vote for Joe Biden." 

By a 6–3 vote, the Supreme Court today blessed the practice of taking "gratuities" as a gift for past behavior by an official, distinguishing them from "bribes," which require proof that there was an illegal deal in place. The case involved a former mayor from Indiana who helped a local truck dealership win $1.1 million in city contracts and then asked for and received $13,000 from the dealership's owners. The mayor was found guilty of violating a federal anti-corruption law that prohibits state and local officials from taking gifts worth more than $5,000 from someone the official had helped to land lucrative government business.

For the majority, Justice Brett Kavanaugh suggested that the law prohibited officials from accepting "gift cards, lunches, plaques, books, framed photos or the like" in thanks for an official's help, although David G. Savage of the Los Angeles Times noted that the law came into play only when the gift was worth more than $5,000. 

Savage pointed out that as the federal law in question covers about 20 million state and local officials, the decision could have wide impact. This decision that officials can accept "gifts" so long as they are not "bribes" might have something to do with the fact that Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito have accepted significant gifts from donors—Thomas's count is upward of $4 million—and it doesn't relieve the sense that this Supreme Court, with its three right-wing Trump-appointed justices, is untrustworthy.

Writing for justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, and herself, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson said, "Officials who use their public positions for private gain threaten the integrity of our most important institutions." 

Yesterday, House Republicans released draft legislation to fund the Justice Department and the Commerce Departments for fiscal year 2025, which starts October 1. They propose to slash nearly a billion dollars from the Department of Justice in retaliation for its bringing cases against Trump, and both to cut funding for the FBI and to block the construction of its new headquarters. Attorney General Merrick Garland called the cuts "unacceptable" and said that the "effort to defund the Justice Department and its essential law enforcement functions will make our fight against violent crime all the more difficult."

In a secret vote yesterday  by a House panel that fell along party lines, House Republicans also agreed to say that the last Congress's construction of the January 6th committee was invalid and illegal. This enabled them to back a last-ditch effort by Trump ally Steve Bannon to stay out of jail. After Bannon refused to respond to the committee's subpoena for documents and testimony about the January 6 attack, a jury found him guilty of being in contempt of Congress. 

Today, Representative Barry Loudermilk (R-GA) filed a brief with the Supreme Court saying that Bannon was right to ignore the subpoena because the committee was illegally organized. Politico's Kyle Cheney pointed out that the lawyer for the brief is not a House lawyer but rather comes from America First Legal, a public interest organization put together by Trump loyalist Stephen Miller to challenge the legal efforts to rein in Trump's orders when in office. 

Finally, Milwaukee journalist Dan Shafer reported in The Recombobulation Area today that event bookings expected for the week of the Republican National Convention, which is set to begin on July 15, four days after Judge Juan Merchan sentences Trump for his 34 criminal convictions, have not materialized. Estimates were that the convention would bring $200 million in economic impact to Milwaukee, but that now appears to be optimistic. "[This is] certainly nothing like we were told or promised," chef Gregory León told Shafer. With locals staying home to avoid the downtown area during the convention, "[i]f the [reservation] book stays the way it is, we're not going to make enough money to cover costs."


The Recombobulation Area
The Recombobulation Area is a thirteen-time Milwaukee Press Club award-winning weekly opinion column and online publication founded by longtime Milwaukee journalist Dan Shafer. Learn more about it here…
17 hours ago · 19 likes · 8 comments · Dan Shafer








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