July 18, 2018

#PaperBallots2018

July 17, 2018

Top Voting Machine Vendor Admits It Installed Remote-Access Software on Systems Sold to States

 

Remote-access software and modems on election equipment ‘is the worst decision for security short of leaving ballot boxes on a Moscow street corner.’

 

“The company’s machines were used statewide in a number of states, and at least 60 percent of ballots cast in the US in 2006 were tabulated on ES&S election-management systems. It’s not clear why ES&S would have only installed the software on the systems of “a small number of customers” and not all customers, unless other customers objected or had state laws preventing this.

Election-management systems are not the voting terminals that voters use to cast their ballots, but are just as critical: they sit in county election offices and contain software that in some counties is used to program all the voting machines used in the county; the systems also tabulate final results aggregated from voting machines.”

Full article by Kim Zetter:

https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/mb4ezy/top-voting-machine-vendor-admits-it-installed-remote-access-software-on-systems-sold-to-states?utm_campaign=sharebutton

Boston Globe, Feb. 19th, 2018

WASHINGTON — Hoping to counter waves of Russian Twitter bots, fake social media accounts, and hacking attacks aimed at undermining American democracy, state election officials around the country are seizing on an old-school strategy: paper ballots.

In Virginia, election officials have gone back to a paper ballot system, as a way to prevent any foreign interference. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolfe this month ordered county officials to ensure new election equipment produces a paper record. Georgia lawmakers are considering legislation to replace a touch-screen voting system with paper.

Top election officials around the country are growing increasingly alarmed about this fall’s midterm elections, with a drumbeat of dire warning signs that Russia is determined to influence them. And many are concerned that President Trump has not focused on the potential for more attacks on America’s election system like the one Russia launched in 2016.

With little leadership from the White House or Congress, they are acting locally, trying to outwit potential hackers by upgrading equipment and enhancing the cybersecurity of systems that contain sensitive voter registration rolls. Secretaries of state and other elections officials around the country in recent months also began applying for security clearances so that federal officials can start briefing them on classified information — and potential threats to election integrity.

Election officials are also turning away from fully electronic systems they fear can be hacked. They see paper as reassuring for voters: Physical ballots can be counted again if anything untoward happens to computerized tabulating systems.

About 30 states allow some form of electronic voting, most for overseas absentee voters. A handful prohibit full electronic voting, including Massachusetts, according to data compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“I’ve always been in favor of paper ballots, even when it was fashionable to use electronic systems,” said Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin. “You take the card, you mark your choices, you take it to the box. You ensure it’s counted. All the cards are retained. If there’s a question you can go in and count the cards.”

Over the past several weeks, the nation’s top intelligence officials have said that Russians are already at work trying to disrupt the midterm elections, building on their efforts in 2016. In some cases, they are attempting to spread misinformation using social media platforms, while in others they are targeting the American election infrastructure.

“Our democracy is under attack,” Jeh Johnson, the former head of the Department of Homeland Security, said in an interview. “I believe that the cyber threat to our nation is going to get worse before it gets better. Those on offense, which include nation states, are increasingly tenacious. And those of us on defense struggle to keep up.

“I believe we have yet to learn the full extent of the Russian influence campaign in 2016,” he added. “And they’ve been given little disincentive to do anything different in 2018.”

The risks came into sharp relief on Friday with a detailed indictment of 13 Russian nationals and three Russian organizations that allegedly worked to help Trump win the 2016 presidential election. They posed as Americans, stole identities, and sowed political discord by planning rallies, paying for political advertisements, and engaging in social media activity.

The indictment alleges that the conspiracy began in 2014 and had a monthly budget of $1.25 million, with the aim of conducting “information warfare against the United States.”

Jeanette Manfra, chief cybersecurity official for the Department of Homeland Security, has also stated that Russian hackers targeted 21 states’ election systems before the 2016 presidential election, breaching a small number of them. She noted that there was no evidence any votes were changed.

While states have been trying to upgrade election infrastructure to prevent such problems as hacking, there is an ongoing debate over how to counter misinformation campaigns.

“We have to be careful about injecting the security apparatus of our government into regulating speech,” Johnson said. “Other governments do that. In this country we have to be careful about calling that a national security matter. Governments like ours do not regulate speech, particularly political speech.”

Instead, he said, it may be up to such service providers as Facebook and Twitter to do more to regulate access to their networks.

Galvin, the Massachusetts secretary of state, says the misinformation is a problem for all election officials — but it’s also something a bit out of their control.

“Are people questioning? Yes. Is the questioning a concern of people like me? Yes. Because it makes it much more difficult for people like me to say, ‘Come out and vote, your vote will count,’” he said.

State officials say the last several months have involved a flurry of activity to prepare for threats.

“At the state level we’re doing everything we can. All the states, red states or blue states, are diligent and focused about trying to protect their systems,” said Vermont Secretary of State James Condos, a Democrat who is the incoming president of the National Association of Secretaries of State. “But it goes back to the top. If the president is not willing to help us, then we’ve got to fend for ourselves.”

The concern, largely, is of the unknown: that foreign hackers are quicker to discover the holes in American cybersecurity than US officials are at plugging them.

“As I say to others, we’re only as good as today is,” Condos said. “The bad actors are constantly evolving, they’re constantly changing. They’re looking for different ways to get in. We’re trying to stay ahead of them, or at least even with them.”

Election experts say the aim of Russia or other foreign forces during the midterm elections is probably not to help one candidate win or to help Republicans maintain control of the House or Senate. Instead, they say, the effort seems driven more toward simply sowing doubt among Americans about the validity of our voting system.

“It is high risk and questionable reward to actually try and change an outcome of an election in the US,” said David Becker, founder and executive director the Center for Election Innovation and Research. “What you can do is a low-risk, high-reward proposition — which is what the Kremlin has been doing — which is be open about your intent to mess with our elections, be discovered, and then let the American people sow their own doubt about their system.

“This is really about whether the voters have trust in our method of choosing our leaders, which is essential for our democracy,’’ he said. “Russia has been absolutely essential in diminishing that trust.”

President Trump has downplayed Russian meddling in the 2016 elections. Congress last year overwhelmingly passed a sanctions package to punish Russia for meddling, but the Trump administration announced last month that it would not implement those sanctions.

“It is a dereliction of duty that the president has not taken steps to punish Russia for its 2016 actions,” said Liz Kennedy, senior director of Democracy and Government Reform at the left-leaning Center for American Progress and the co-author of a recent report examining election security in all 50 states. “Clearly not imposing the sanctions that Congress ordered . . . is exactly the wrong signal to send to Russia.’’

While election experts have been generally pleased with the amount of work that state election officials have been doing to improve their systems, there is still a wide degree of concern that states are not getting enough help from Washington.

“I really see this as our current Sputnik moment,” Kennedy said. “If they have these tools they’ve developed, we need to outsmart them and develop better tools. . . . Time is short. It needs to be a real priority.”

Matt Viser can be reached at matt.viser@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mviser.

“…feminine, cooperative and supportive.”

The shift to a more sustainable political policy will involve:

. . . a shift of emphasis away from means towards ends; away from economic growth towards human development; away from quantitative towards qualitative values and goals; away from the impersonal and organisational towards the personal and interpersonal; and away from the earning and spending of money towards the meeting of real human needs and aspirations. A culture that has been masculine, aggressive and domineering in its outlook will give place to one which is more feminine, cooperative and supportive. A culture that has exalted the uniformly European will give place to one which values the multi-cultural richness and diversity of human experience. An anthropocentric worldview that has licensed the human species to exploit the rest of nature as if from above and outside it, will give place to an ecological worldview. We shall recognize that survival and self-realisation alike require us to act as what we really are—integral parts of an ecosystem much larger, more complex, and more powerful than ourselves. 

James Robertson, Beyond the Dependency Culture: People, Power and Responsibility, as cited by Richard Rohr and The Center for Action and Contemplation.

We cannot expect to draw a pattern of this right seeing from he objective world of confusion or our inner thoughts of doubt and fear. We are to look and think independently of the confusion in the moment.  I am seeing through confusion to peace, through doubt to certainty, through fear to faith. As I do this everything I look upon shall become transformed and reborn. -Ernest Holmes

Terrible things are hard enough to experience the first time. Beyond their second and third and fourth experience as trauma, ,their impact can easily makes u become terrible if we do not keep our want to love alive. Perhaps the most difficult challenge of being wounded is not turning our deepest loving nature over to the lie and way of the wound. The human heart–no matter how often it is cut–can reassert its impulse to love. -Mark Nepo

Also from Mark:

I see that we’re such fragile, resilient creatures, here for just a long unplanned moment, tumbling and waking in this beautiful, harsh tender existence.

Dialogue is a matter of understanding, of peeling away the mind to stand under (our thoughts) in Oneness.

Tyranny & Treason

July 16, 2018

Richard Rohr:

We believe our elected officials are called to public service, not public tyranny, so we must protect the limits, checks, and balances of democracy and encourage humility and civility on the part of elected officials. 

We reject any moves toward autocratic political leadership and authoritarian rule. . . . Disrespect for the rule of law, not recognizing the equal importance of our three branches of government, and replacing civility with dehumanizing hostility toward opponents are of great concern to us. Neglecting the ethic of public service and accountability, in favor of personal recognition and gain often characterized by offensive arrogance, are not just political issues for us. They raise deeper concerns about political idolatry, accompanied by false and unconstitutional notions of authority.

___

DT, next to Putin, refused to say whether he believed US intelligence or Russia on 2016 elections.’ [NYTimes]

Treason: The offense of assisting its enemies, or, adhering to, or giving aid & comfort to its enemies by one who owes it allegiance.

Congress, your move.

___

The Atlantic:

The Crisis Facing America, by David Frum

The country can no longer afford to wait to ascertain why President Trump has subordinated himself to Putin—it must deal with the fact that he has. […] At the 1787 convention in Philadelphia, the authors of the Constitution worried a great deal about foreign potentates corrupting the American presidency.

America is a very legalistic society, in which public discussion often deteriorates into lawyers arguing whether any statutes have been violated. But confronting the country in the wake of Helsinki is this question: Can it afford to wait to ascertain why Trump has subordinated himself to Putin after the president has so abjectly demonstrated that he has subordinated himself? Robert Mueller is leading a legal process. The United States faces a national-security emergency.

https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/07/trump-putin/565310/

1975

July 13, 2018

“If this government ever became a tyranny there would be no place to hide and no way to fight back because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government—no matter how privately it was done is within the reach of the government. We must see to it […] that we never cross over that abyss. That’s the abyss from which there is no return.”

Former Idaho Governor & Senator Frank Church

The Blood of Emmett Till

July 12, 2018

“I think that it’s a cynical political charade and utter hypocrisy for the Justice Department of Jeff Beauregard Sessions and Donald Trump to feign caring about a black child murdered in 1955 when they’re holding children of color in cages, when they can’t find a moral distinction between the Nazis and those who demonstrate against them, when Jeff Sessions has spent his whole career supporting restrictions on voting rights. And I think it is rich with irony.”

-Timothy Tyson, The Blood of Emmet Till

The Justice Department is reopening its investigation into the 1955 murder of Emmett Till. Till was 14 when he was brutally murdered in Mississippi. Outrage over photographs of his body helped propel the civil rights movement.

NPR report with author Timothy Tyson:

https://www.npr.org/2018/07/12/628546616/justice-department-reopens-investigation-into-1955-lynching-of-emmett-till

“Mamie Bradley, Emmett’s mother, got his body back to Chicago and had an open-casket funeral. Somewhere between a hundred thousand and 250,000 people viewed the body in the course of several days. She then harnessed the power of black Chicago – the NAACP, The Chicago Defender, the Johnson Publishing Company, which was Jet and Ebony and half a dozen other magazines – all of these institutions with national reach. She inspires a movement that elevated Martin Luther King to world historical status, passed the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights – that national infrastructure was built by the Till case.”

“You tell these stories over and over until they seem true.”

-Carolyn Bryant Donham, the white woman who accused Till of harassing her.

Till was buying candy in August 1955 when he whistled at a white woman, Carolyn Bryant, according to a cousin who witnessed the encounter. Bryant also claimed he grabbed her and made obscene comments, but author Timothy Tyson says she has since retracted that claim, saying, “That part’s not true.” […] Two white men were originally prosecuted on murder charges, but in a closely watched case, an all-white jury found them not guilty. The men later confessed to a journalist that they did, in fact, kill Till, because he refused to stay in his “place” as a black man in the South. They did not express regret.

-NPR

Social justice is clearly God’s concern.

July 11, 2018

Dorothy Day (1897-1980) was not afraid to say it strongly: “We need to change the system. We need to overthrow, not the government, but this rotten, decadent, putrid industrial capitalist system which breeds such suffering. “As long as we unquestioningly buy into the egoic system, where the roots of our narcissism often lie hidden, we’re going to have problems. If we think we can say our private prayers and still genuflect before the self-perpetuating, unjust systems of this world, our conversion will not go very deep or aid in the unfolding of history. There is no one more radical than a real person of prayer because they are not beholden to any ideology or economic system; their identity and motivation is found only in God, not in the pay-offs of mammon.”

“Both church and state are threatened by true mystics. Such enlightened people can’t be bought off or manipulated, because their rewards are always elsewhere.”  [Richard Rohr]

However, those politicians and priests who are concerned with their own privilege usually prefer an unaware and superficial populace. The people in the pews are so used to this arrangement that they usually resent any forays into their public morality. “Keep it private and personal, Father,” they say. We can no longer waste time this way in the name of a God “before whom the very nations count as nothingness and emptiness” (Isaiah 40:17).

‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!

-Forward Day by Day

Psalms 5, 6, 10, 11 

Numbers 35: 1-3, 9-15, 30-34 

Romans 8:30-39

Matthew 23:13-26

[More from Richard Rohr] Those politicians and priests who are concerned with their own privilege usually prefer an unaware and superficial populace. The people in the pews are so used to this arrangement that they usually resent any forays into their public morality. “Keep it private and personal, Father,” they say. We can no longer waste time this way in the name of a God “before whom the very nations count as nothingness and emptiness” (Isaiah 40:17). We can’t worship it any longer as we were once trained to do.

A new moon message for this time.

Face challenges with compassion and kindness and remember that not everyone has the tools that you do to see the bigger picture. It is easy to get swept up into the negative and to react to the injustices and imbalances and reactions of others. Don’t take the bait. Bring love and gratitude into your interactions and actions whenever you can and give others the benefit of the doubt even if you don’t believe they deserve it. On a positive note, this is an incredible time to launch something new, pushing the edge of what you think you can accomplish. Take a risk, make a bid for power, step up and show up with more confidence and maturity. The new moon is a time to set intentions and make commitments to how you will stay your ground and be an example for others. And it is OK to ask for help. Support is everywhere. You just have to accept and receive it.

The New moon with a partial solar eclipse (the first of three) is Thurs., July 12th, at 8:47 pm MST.

 

The power of organized people.

July 10, 2018

Richard Rohr

Center For Action & Contemplation

People have good reasons to be angry and afraid today. Poverty, racism, climate change, and so many other injustices are causing real suffering for much of the world. Unfortunately, dualistic and oppositional energies cannot bring the change we so desperately need; we cannot fight angry power with more angry power. Only the contemplative mind has the ability to hold the reality of what is and the possibility of what could be. Unless our hearts are transformed, our fears will continue to manipulate our politics, reinforcing a polarized and divided society.

Quaker activist and teacher Parker Palmer has a hopeful, but not Pollyannaish, view. He writes:

Human beings have a well-demonstrated capacity to hold the tension of differences in ways that lead to creative outcomes and advances. It is not an impossible dream to believe we can apply that capacity to politics. In fact, our capacity for creative tension-holding is what made the American experiment possible in the first place. . . . America’s founders—despite the bigotry that limited their conception of who “We the People” were—had the genius to establish [a] form of government in which differences, conflict, and tension were understood not as the enemies of a good social order but as the engines of a better social order.

As “We the People” retreat from the public square and resort to private gripe sessions with those who think like us, we create a vacuum at the center of America’s public life. Politics abhors a vacuum as much as nature does, so nondemocratic powers rush in to fill the void—especially the power called “big money.” . . .

When the Supreme Court gave big money even more power [in the 2010 Citizens United decision], it made many Americans feel even more strongly that their small voices do not count. . . . Wrongly held, our knowledge of the power wielded by big money can accelerate our retreat from politics, discouraging us from being the participants that democracy demands and reducing us to mere spectators of a political game being played exclusively by “them.” 

Palmer quotes Bill Moyers: “The antidote, the only antidote, to the power of organized money in Washington is the power of organized people.” 

Spiritualization

“I realized that the spiritualization of our nation’s corporations is the most important development that can possibly happen for the spiritual growth of the world as a whole. Governments apparently are unable to help. Churches have not fully succeeded; however, the multinational corporations that control the lives of countless millions have the power and financial wherewithal to bring on an incredible transformation of consciousness if–if it comes down from the top.”

Walter Starke, ‘It’s All God’.

Keep going.

From a friend.

Today seems like the right time to do a thread I’ve been thinking about for a while on how to handle the seemingly never-ending deluge of depressing and disturbing news. My tips are based on my time as a CIA military analyst in which I dealt daily with disturbing content.

There are several risks to being overloaded with disturbing/negative content.
Complacency – becoming so used to the deluge that it all starts to seem normal.
Paralysis – that is, being so overwhelmed, you can’t figure out what to do/how to move forward.
 
Crisis perspective – you get trapped in the Breaking News cycle where everything seems like a potentially world-ending crisis to you.
Depression/PTSD – you don’t have to be on the frontline of a war have either/both. Disturbing content is absolutely a trigger.
 
There are also serious physical consequences to living a negative content overloaded life. I had a colleague who didn’t know he had stage 4 brain cancer because the symptoms were the same as our very stressful careers–exhaustion, random fevers, stress, and dizziness.
 
So, what do you do? First, I strongly urge you not to ignore the news/current events. Ignorance is one reason we have this society. It won’t make the problems go away & contributes nothing to their solving. Now that that’s established, here’s how to make it easier to handle:
 
1. TAKE ACTION. Volunteer for a food pantry, canvass for a political candidate, donate to a NGO, visit a sick friend. Seriously. Service of some kind in your community lets you be part of SOLUTIONS. You will see RESULTS when otherwise you’d feel helpless.
 
2. Conversely, for those who may take tip #1 to the extreme–know that you alone can’t save the world. Accept your limits. You aren’t a 7/11. You can’t always be open. At the end of every day when I reached my limit, I silently told myself, “I’ve done what I can today.”
 
(Note: Repeating that to myself did not stop me from feeling like I could have done more most days. But it was important to tell myself anyway because I am human. We are human. It’s good we *feel* things.)
 
3. RESEARCH BEFORE PANICKING. Easier said than done, but everything will seem like crisis/earth-ending if you don’t know what has/hasn’t happened before. If it has happened before, it’s can be hugely comforting to know how it was resolved and/or what might happen next.
 
 
4. GET UP & MOVE. Put the phone away, turn off the TV, log out of Twitter. Go for a walk, sit outside, get some coffee, call a friend. CIA is full of ppl walking the building with a colleague/friend. There’s a reason. Our brains & bodies need breaks from stressful content.
 
 
5. SET RULES. Because of my work at CIA, I had a rule–I only read fiction at home. I had enough reality at work. In the civilian world, I set blocks of time each day where I turn everything off–no news or social media. Let yourself recharge so you can keep fighting later.
 
6. AVOID DARK HOLES. (I’m sure there’s a joke to be made about that.) It’s easy to get sucked into the swirl of bad news. You watch a gruesome YouTube video and the next one is all queued up to play right after it. Focus on one issue at a time. Deal w/ it before moving on.
7. YOU NEED FUN. When there is suffering, war, despair, etc. around you, it’s easy to feel guilty when you have fun, feel happy, have a good meal with friends. You NEED these things. You will be better able to do good in the world if you let yourself have these things.
 
8. TALK TO SOMEONE. Often, we curl inward socially when overwhelmed w/ negative content. It’s a means of protection. One of the great things at CIA was that everyone else knew what you were going through. Whether it’s therapy or talking to your person, talking helps.
 
None of this is easy. I got burned out a lot in my career & many days recently, I’ve felt overloaded by the barrage. I’m sure you have too. But you and I can’t check out. We can’t give up & we need to stay engaged, but we can’t do that if we get overloaded. Keep going.

Astounding.

It is astounding every summer people need to be reminded not to leave children in hot cars. Then I remember DT is president.

This story isn’t uncommon — around 37 children under the age of 14 die from being left in a hot car each year, with 13 already occurring in 2018, according to NoHeatStroke.org.

#NationalSugarCookieDay

July 9, 2018

The writer’s version :)

The spiritual is political.

July 8, 2018

Connecting Inner and Outer Worlds

Richard Rohr
Center for Action

Go down to the palace of the king and declare, “Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the orphan, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.” —Jeremiah 22:1, 3

The primary role of religion and spirituality is to reconnect, the very meaning of the Latin word religio. The Greek word polis—which led to the word politics—simply means city or public forum, where people come together. Why have religion and politics become so antagonistic when they have similar goals?

The Hebrew prophets and Jesus clearly modeled engagement with both faith and the public forum. However, unlike its Jewish forbears, in its first two thousand years Christianity has kept its morality mostly private, personal, and heaven-bound with very few direct implications for our collective economic, social, or political life. Politics and religion remained in two different realms, unless religion was uniting with empires. Christianity looked to Rome and Constantinople for imperial protection; little did we realize the price we would eventually pay for such a compromise with Gospel values.

“Separation of church and state” is important to safeguard freedom of religion and ensure that governments are not dominated by a single religion’s interests. But that does not mean people of faith should not participate in politics. Today many believe that “inner work” is the purview of spirituality and that we should leave the “outer world” to politicians, scientists, businesses, and workers. Most of the negative feedback I receive is “Don’t get political!”

Yet how can I read the Bible and stay out of politics? Again and again (approximately 2,000 times!) Scripture calls for justice for the poor. The Gospel is rather “socialist” in its emphasis on sharing resources and caring for those in need.

Like it or not, politics (civic engagement) is one of our primary means of addressing poverty and other justice issues. I am not talking about partisan politics here, but simply connecting the inner world with the outer world. As a result of our dualistic thinking, the word “partisan” has come to be synonymous with the word “political.” And so many church-goers do not want to hear the Gospel preached—as it might sound political!

To be a faith leader is to connect the inner and outer worlds. In the United States’ not-so-distant-past, Christians were at the forefront of political and justice movements to abolish slavery, support women’s suffrage, protect civil rights, and establish and maintain Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Today I am encouraged to see many of my Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist brothers and sisters actively engaged with the political realm, speaking truth to power, and holding our political leaders accountable. Being political is a basic civic, human, and spiritual duty!

Established in 1982.

‘An elite network of white dudes changing the world.’  -Samantha Bee 

Ian Millhiser, a legal policy analyst at the progressive Center for American Progress: noted. The movement simply continues to build up new talent in the off-years.

“What the Federalist Society does really well, is it identifies that really really right-wing kid at Harvard Law School who is legitimately talented and who will do horrible things to the law but will do it very competently because they’re a very talented lawyer,” added Millhiser. “And they identify those people, and from the beginning of their career, give them opportunities, help them find those clerkships, help them network.”

The Federalist Society is one of the most powerful and unique organizations in the conservative orbit, describing itself as “a group of conservatives and libertarians interested in the current state of the legal order.”

Throughout its history, the group, founded in 1982 at Yale Law School, has prided itself on not explicitly taking policy positions on issues but rather creating the conditions in which conservative legal ideas can be debated and thrive. This year, the conference takes place in an environment that is perhaps more amenable to these ideas than at any time in recent years.

[The Federalist SocietyBy Amanda Terkel, HuffPost, 2011]

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/11/18/federalist-society-post-bush_n_785049.html

The Federalist Society will soon have a 5–4 stranglehold on the Supreme Court.

[Slate, Lawrence Baum & Neal Devins]

In appointing a Federalist justice, DT will be sealing a deal between Republican presidents and the conservative legal movement. In effect, that deal began in 1985. Under the leadership of Attorney General Edwin Meese, the Department of Justice in Ronald Reagan’s second term sought aggressively to advance conservative goals in the judiciary. By hiring staffers on the basis of ideological commitment, Meese sought to groom young conservative lawyers who would later become federal court judges. The Federalist Society—established as a law student group in 1982—was an important component of this strategy; it enabled Meese and others in the administration to identify promising candidates for significant government posts. Meese hired the society’s founders as special assistants and tapped Stephen Markman, who headed the Washington chapter of the Federalist Society, to become the assistant attorney general in charge of judicial selection.

[…]

Unlike DT’s finalists, Kennedy was not associated with the Federalist Society or the conservative legal movement. His voting record bears this out. Kennedy took moderate to liberal positions on some highly visible issues. He voted to reaffirm Roe v. Wade in 1992 and ruled against Texas’ stringent abortion regulations in 2016.

[…]

With the appointment of a new justice, the Republican majority on the court will be composed of justices who have risen through the ranks of the conservative legal movement and who are committed to the ideals of that movement. It will truly be the Federalist Society’s court.

NOTE:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is a Federalist Society member.

 

‘A man unprincipled…’

A commonwealth.

by the Rev. Charles Hoffacker
“David was 30 years old when he began to reign, and he reigned for forty years. … David occupied the stronghold, and named it the City of David. David built the city all around from the Millo inward. And David became greater and greater, for the Lord of hosts was with him.”

There is something strong and imperial and complete about these words from today’s Old Testament reading from Second Samuel. They constitute a summary about the reign of King David. They claim a divine sanction for David’s success. But they leave out much more than they contain. The story of David, which stretches through many chapters of scripture, is far more human and horrible and glorious than this scrap of royal chronicle.

At the Palmer Art Museum in University Park, Pennsylvania, there is an oil painting from 17th century Italy that depicts David with the head of Goliath.

The artist, Forabosco, shows us David, not as a king, but as a shepherd, a teenager, the youngest of all the sons of Jesse. He has killed the giant warrior Goliath with a slingshot, cut off his head, and now carries that monstrously huge head on one shoulder, holding it in place with both hands as though it were a watermelon.

Here David embodies the unconscious grace of youth. In contrast, the head of Goliath, eyes closed, shows the tinctures of death, with a great red bruise on the forehead marking the spot hit by David’s fatal stone.

What is most notable about this painting, however, is the expression on young David’s face. He does not display the exuberant triumph of, for example, a football player who has just won a championship game. No, young David appears lost in thought; apparently he is aware that this remarkable success has brought to an end his simple existence. The life that awaits him – many more heroics, 40 years as king – will be heavy with complexities.

This young David did what Saul’s entire army did not. He killed the monstrous enemy champion, Goliath of Gath. He did not rely on the finest armor and weapons, but killed the giant with a stone from a slingshot. The Philistine looked powerful, but proved to be weak. David the shepherd boy looked weak, but proved to be powerful. And scripture all but shouts at us that God is at work in the powerful weakness of young David.

David gained power of a more conventional kind. His record as king turns out to be decidedly mixed. Sometimes he discerned and did what is right; at other times he abused his power and committed heinous crimes. Perhaps the worst episode involves committing adultery with Bathsheba and then setting up the murder of Uriah, one of his loyal soldiers. If God was with David, as today’s reading claims, then at times God must have been present with him in judgment.

The saga of David is one of the great stories in biblical literature. He is a character who haunts western culture. But let’s go a step further. David, shepherd boy and king, also haunts western politics. As we celebrate our national independence, we would do well to remember that over the last two centuries and more, our country has had its Goliath moments and its Uriah moments.

Sometimes our weakness has been revealed as strength. And sometimes our strength has been revealed as weakness. If we ask God to bless our nation, then we must remember that this blessing comes as both mercy and judgment. The living God is nobody’s national mascot, but demands that we do justice, and love mercy, and walk before him in humility.

Our country has had its Uriah moments when out of the arrogance and blindness of power, we have betrayed trust and squandered opportunity and offended God who has sent his prophets to speak truth against lies.

Our country has had its Goliath moments when, out of weakness that refuses to be afraid, we have toppled giants and beheaded them so that, however momentarily, God’s reign has been tangible.

And because our country is no monolith, but a combination of persons and factions, often the Goliath moment and the Uriah moment have been the same moment. We the people have shown simultaneously both the worst that is in us, and the best. Together we behave as David did.

And so there is reason if our national countenance, like Forabosco’s portrait of David, looks perplexed even at a moment of victory, for our national life is full of perplexities. We killed one Goliath at the time of the Revolution, when thousands of young Davids encamped at places like Valley Forge, and it has been, perhaps inevitably, a mottled saga ever since.

Let’s not focus on the Uriah moments except as background for when one more Goliath or another has been slain. But for a sad and scholarly accounting of many Uriah moments in our national life, turn to Howard Zinn’s extraordinary work, “A People’s History of the United States.” Its accounting of sorrows is relentless.

Let’s consider, instead, three moments out of countless others that have been Goliath moments in our national story, occasions when, out of weakness, Americans have found strength to slay some threatening giant.

Sometimes Goliath is despair and David hurls a stone of hope to kill him. The year was 1850, the place, Faniel Hall in Boston. The great Frederick Douglass was speaking. In the course of his address, he grew more and more agitated, more and more despairing, finally saying that he saw no possibility of justice for people of African descent outside of violence and bloodshed.

[Frederick Douglas]

Douglass sat down, and the audience fell into a tense hush. Sitting in the very first row was Sojourner Truth, a woman who knew the evils of slavery from personal experience, having been sold four times. She rose, and her deep and commanding voice spoke a sentence heard throughout the auditorium. “Frederick, is God dead?”

[Sojourner Truth]

Sometimes Goliath is weariness in well doing and David hurls a stone of solidarity to kill him. An unfinished chapter in American history concerns the labor movement and its struggles against oppressive conditions. A most unlikely David arose in the person of a poor Irish widow named Mother Jones. Some spoke her name with contempt, but she was a mother to the great masses who labored in the dark coal mines or worked 65 hours every week in the mills.

In the 1890s, she served as an agitator for the United Mine Workers where her fiery speeches would move men and women to tears and compel them to action. In Colorado, she approached a machine gun poised to open fire on a line of demonstrators; she placed her hand on the barrel, turned it to the ground, and then walked on by.

She once told a congressional committee, “My address is wherever there is a fight against oppression.”

Sometimes Goliath is a fear of strangers and David hurls a stone of acceptance, a stone of welcome, to kill him. It was a great day when these words of invitation composed by Emma Lazarus were first displayed on the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor for all the world to see:

Word of welcome to the weak and rejected. An invitation for them to grow strong in a commonwealth whose only nobility is to be a nobility of character.

Whether our families came here on slave ships or jumbo jets, this invitation is meant for us and our children, and we are to offer it as well to others. Each new arrival is not a threat, but comes bearing gifts meant to build up our common life.

Our nation has had Uriah moments, reasons for honest repentance. We have had Goliath moments as well, causes for celebration. Our country is designed not to be an empire, and not to be a church, but to be a commonwealth, an experiment in democracy.

God is with us, as God is with all nations and peoples of the earth. The choice remains ours, however, whether we will offer God Uriah moments to judge, or Goliath moments to bless. Goliath moments: when strength arises out of weakness, despair gives way to hope, weariness is replaced by solidarity, and fear dissolves in the face of acceptance and welcome. There are Goliath moments still to come in our nation’s future.

“Frederick, is God dead?”

“My address is wherever there is a fight against oppression.”

“Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

Wade wins.

July 6, 2018

Suffragettes, June 14th, 1913. Women’s Right to Vote, The 19th Amendment, passed by Congress on June 4, 1919, and was ratified on August 18, 1920.

Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), is a landmark decisionissued in 1973 by the US Supreme Court on the issue of the constitutionality of laws that criminalized or restricted access to abortions. The Court ruled 7–2 that a right to privacyunder the Due Process Clause of th3 14th Amendment extended to a woman’s decision to have an abortion, but that this right must be balanced against the state’s interests in regulating abortions: protecting women’s health and protecting the potentiality of human life.

Justice Kennedy resigns.

Roe v. Wade may not go away all at once. The law could get pieced out and depleted to the point that abortion will not survive on legal precedence but slowly overturned with a conservative leaning Supreme Court, and states determining abortion legality.

This is not about right-to-life at this juncture in our social and political environment, but a woman’s rights issue.

If the Supreme Court and/or states deem abortion illegal, than by equal measure women of all economic and diverse backgrounds should immediately have free access to birth control. Also, women who have children whether single or not, should have policies in place to afford them healthcare and social services for themselves and their child, including paid family leave. Seemingly, women are being denied at both ends of the civil and human rights spectrum.

Further, there’s the equal pay for equal work issue. Women make approximately 90 cents on the dollar for every dollar a man earns, and if a woman has a child, the earnings decrease drastically, even more for women of color.

BIONEERS

Ever since women won the right to vote in 1920, women leaders and their allies have sought to pass an Equal Rights Amendment to drive total equality and justice for women into the U.S. Constitution. It did pass in 1972, but fell three states short of ratification. Today’s next wave of the women’s movement might finally make the ERA a reality. Why is Constitutional protection so crucial? Join leading advocates Joan Blades (MomsRising co-founder), attorney Kimberle Crenshaw and Jessica Neuwirth (ERA Coalition President) to learn the true story of what’s at stake and how life would be different and better for women and men.

As Americans, our focus now should be on equal rights for women, across the board, with an amendment that should have been passed decades ago. Now perhaps with so many women running for office, and winning, the change will finally come. Maybe it took this recent reality-TV election and dictorian-style governing to bend the arc of simple justice. As a young female politician shared after winning the local primary election in her New York district, “I believe in a modern, moral, and wealthy society no person in America should be too poor to live.’

The Guardian

Jessica Valentine:

If the Supreme Court overturns the decision, nearly half the states in the country will outlaw abortion-maybe more. Women will die from illegal abortions-as they did before-and most of those women will be the poorest, youngest, and most vulnerable among us.”

And, well, it serves the prison industry, too. “Women will be impirsoned for trying to end their pregnancies. Doctors and nurses will be, too. The tangible and troublng effects will be immediate.”

Suicide? In some countries the death by suicide is the highest among young pregnant women, ages 10-19.

And, this is why voting matters: 0.0006% of 137 million votes cast was the difference between a conservative-leaning Supreme Court and a liberal-leaning Supreme Court for decades to come.

[Axios]

A shift of fewer than 80,000 votes in three states (Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin) – or 0.06% of 137 million cast-would not just have made Hillary Clinton president. Perhaps even more important for the long run, a young liberal Supreme Court might have ruled on American for a generation. That’s Axios’ reporting. I add that the court would not necessarily have been liberal, but moderate. A court that would consider precedent and law first, politics second.

e.g. Merrick Garland

The same Senate leadership now promoting a quick and decisive Supreme Court appointment is the same leadership who through political maneuvering blocked President Obama’s nominee for almost an entire year, for reasons let’s just say, were ‘lame.’ 

My personal argument for delaying an appointment to the Supreme Court is not based on ideology (the Senate holds a GOP majority), but for criminality. If DT is indeed found guiltily of collusion or persuasion by a foreign government in our 2016 presidential election, then he should be impeached, or at the very least, never lead a political party, or the possibility of being re-elected.

[More from Axios]

The Washington Post’s Philip Bump did the math about Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin back during the transition: “DT won those states by 0.2, or 0.7 and 0.8 percentage points, respectively-and by 10,704, 46,765 and 22,177 votes. Those three wins gave him 46 electoral votes; if Clinton had done one point better in each state, she’d have won the electoral vote, too. But for 79,646 votes cast in those three states, she’d be the next president of the United States.

CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Tobin:

Abortion will be illegal in a significant part of the United States in 18 months…Roe v. Wade is doomed.’ 

And the Dailey News? A little more blunt:

“We ARe F*#%D.”

And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) smiles.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), to ABC’s Martha Raddatz on “This Week,” about her conversation with DT: “I told him that I was looking for a nominee that would demonstrate a respect for precedence. … I mentioned judicial temperament, integrity, intellect, experience, qualifications, fidelity to the rule of law and the constitution. But most important of all, a respect for precedence.”

In a former political context this statement would be formidable. In our current climate? It is weak and laughable. It means nothing. Any statement from his regarding his methods and madness toward Roe v. Wade should be dismissed and not believed.

Something to consider, getting back the voting issue. I ran into a former student recently. She was wearing a white t-shirt with a black, thick, equal sign emblazoned on the front. So, our conversation drifted toward politics and the social climate in our country. She shared that her young friends are political BUT DID NOT VOTE because they believe their vote doesn’t count. Can’t imagine how they thought that <sarcasm>.

Pew Research Center

For the fifth time in U.S. history, and the second time this century, a presidential candidate has won the White House while losing the popular vote.

In this week’s Electoral College balloting, DT won 304 electoral votes to Hillary Clinton’s 227, with five Democratic and two Republican “faithless electors” voting for other people. That result was despite the fact that Clinton received nearly 2.9 million more popular votes than Trump in November’s election, according to Pew Research Center’s tabulation of state election results. Our tally shows Clinton won 65.8 million votes (48.25%) to almost 63 million (46.15%) for Trump, with minor-party and independent candidates taking the rest.

This mismatch between the electoral and popular votes came about because DT won several large states (such as Florida, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin) by very narrow margins, gaining all their electoral votes in the process, even as Clinton claimed other large states (such as California, Illinois and New York) by much wider margins.

DT’s share of the popular vote, in fact, was the seventh-smallest winning percentage since 1828, when presidential campaigns began to resemble those of today.

Until we find a way to abolish the Electoral College, we must vote, and in large numbers to overcome voting restrictions and gerrymandering. McDonnell’s diabolic political maneuvering, although unethical, was apparently legal (Adam Liptak, NPR, 2018). It becomes increasingly apparent that the former administration and the democratic minority leadership should have played their own political game, instead of political naïveté malpractice. Stephen Dinan of the Washington Times wrote on January 1st, 2017 that,

President Obama will have one last chance to force Judge Merrick Garland onto the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday — but it’s a legal gamble and one that has so many pitfalls that even those who say he could get away with it believe it isn’t worth the fight.

Mr. Obama’s moment will come just before noon, in the five minutes that the Senate gavels the 114th Congress out of session and the time the 115th Congress begins.

In those few moments the Senate will go into what’s known as an “intersession recess,” creating one golden moment when the president could test his recess-appointment powers by sending Judge Garland to the high court.

A smattering of activists has asked him to give it a try, but Mr. Obama has given no indication that he’s thinking about it. The White House didn’t respond to a request for comment for this story.

[…] 

William G. Ross, a law professor at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, said Mr. Obama would have the power to elevate Judge Garland. But he said it would be “politically unwise and damaging to the prestige of the court.”

As a brilliant Constitutional Law scholar and professor, why didn’t Obama, knowing what this country was facing, the increasing age of the court, the political maneuverings, take this chance?

NPR Fresh Air host Terry Gross spoke with NYTimes Supreme Court of the United States correspondent Adam Liptak about the increasingly polarized and right-leaning supreme court and how the next Supreme Court Justice will effect the balance of the court for at least the next generation.

“The Politics of the First Amendment have Completely Flipped.”

https://www.npr.org/programs/fresh-air/2018/07/05/626117568?showDate=2018-07-05

“She [Supreme Court Associate Justice Elena Kagan] said that the justices overruled the previous law because they wanted to. The First Amendment was meant for better things. It was meant not to undermine, but to protect democratic governments, including the role of public-sector unions. And she added – at every stop, black-robed rulers are overriding citizens’ choices. What struck me as especially interesting about that is that she’s really criticizing judges as a group. I don’t know whether she’s criticizing just the justices or judges in general for overruling things because they want to and for overriding citizens’ choices. Black-robed rulers, that’s a strong phrase when you’re talking about your fellow justices.

LIPTAK: Yes. And it’s coming from Justice Kagan, who is not a bomb-thrower, who is actually a very strategic thinker who doesn’t lightly make these accusations. So for her to get so worked up means that something very important is happening here. One way to shorthand what she’s saying is she’s accusing her conservative colleagues of what we used to call judicial activism, of using judicial power to strike down duly-enacted laws and saying that they’ve found now a tool which gives them that opportunity in many, many settings.

GROSS: The tool being the First Amendment?

LIPTAK: That’s right.

GROSS: So officially, judicial conservatives are supposed to be translating, you know, the Constitution to the letter of the law. And they’re supposed to be opposed to judicial activism.”

[…]

I mean, I really can’t overemphasize how different Justice Kennedy’s retirement is from just about anybody else’s. It’s the end of the world as we know it. It’s a transformative moment in American life. He has been so important, so central to the work of the court and to the meaning of the Constitution. And whoever succeeds him will cause the court to be a completely different place.

[Full interview approximately 42 minutes.]

https://www.npr.org/2018/07/05/626117743/supreme-court-reporter-the-politics-of-the-first-amendment-have-completely-flipp?utm_campaign=storyshare&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_medium=social

 


Hope, Sincerity & Reassurance

Variety

How Mister Rogers, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Identical Triplets Became Box Office Stars

Rebecca Rubin

  • “This summer has been especially rewarding for documentaries. ‘Three Identical Strangers’ comes on the heels of a pair of sleeper hits, ‘RBG’ and ‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor.'”
  • “It’s a rare summer where one documentary has already crossed the $10 million mark and a second non-fiction film is close behind. It’s even possible ‘Three Identical Strangers’ could complete the trifecta.”
  • Why it matters: “In a news cycle that seems to be perpetually depressing, all signs point to escapism in explaining the box office surge. These films focus on a different kind of counterprogramming, one where hope, sincerity, and reassurance are at the forefront.

And I dreamed I was flying.

And I dreamed I was dying
And I dreamed that my soul rose unexpectedly
And looking back down at me
Smiled reassuringly
And I dreamed I was flying
And high up above my eyes could clearly see
The Statue of Liberty
Sailing away to sea
And I dreamed I was flying
We come on the ship they call the Mayflower
We come on the ship that sailed the moon
We come in the age’s most uncertain hour
and sing an American tune
But it’s all right, it’s all right
You can’t be forever blessed
Still, tomorrow’s going to be another working day
And I’m trying to get some rest
That’s all I’m trying to get some rest.

Paul Simon

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