Tag: death

Senate Republicans evade their constitutional duty

Earlier today, U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia died. Even though I strongly disagreed with the vast majority of Scalia’s opinions, I offer my condolences to Justice Scalia’s family.

However, Republicans who hold the majority in the U.S. Senate, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and presidential candidates Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), couldn’t wait for Scalia to be cremated before showing that they are more than willing to evade their constitutional duty, with McConnell flatly saying that the Senate should wait until a new president is in the White House before confirming a new Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

This stands in sharp contrast with President Barack Obama, who intends to fulfill his constitutional duty by appointing a new associate justice to this country’s highest bench, even if Republicans obstruct his nomination.

By fulfilling one’s constitutional duty, I’m referring to, in this specific instance, Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution:

He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

(emphasis mine; in Article II of the Constitution, “he” refers to the president, regardless of the president’s gender)

The President has the power and constitutional duty to nominate an individual to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court, however, the Senate has the power and constitutional duty to either affirm or reject the president’s appointment. It’s clear to me that one party to the process to appoint Supreme Court justices intends to do his constitutional duty (the President), whereas the other party does not (the Republicans who control the U.S. Senate).

The Senate is not required to approve of the president’s pick for the Supreme Court vacancy. The Senate can, if they wish to, establish a process to determine whether or not to approve or reject the president’s pick, and can opt to vote the president’s pick down, either in committee or in the full Senate. However, for the Senate to not establish any kind of process for accepting or rejecting the president’s pick amounts to completely evading the constitutional duty of the Senate.

From an electoral standpoint, it would be absolutely foolish for Republicans to obstruct the president’s pick to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court. If the Republicans go through with their threat to obstruct the president’s pick until, at the earliest, a new president is sworn into office, that would, in effect, put control of both the White House and the Supreme Court on the line in the 2016 presidential and senatorial elections. That is the poker equivalent of going all in with a likely losing hand. This strategy could very easily backfire on Republicans, and they would not like the nominees that either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders (I’m a Bernie supporter) would pick. Hillary would likely nominate Obama to the Supreme Court, and Bernie would probably appoint someone who is ideologically similar to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the most progressive of the current Supreme Court justices, if not even more progressive than Ginsburg. If Democrats were to retain control of the White House and regain control of the Senate, stalling on filling the Scalia vacancy on the Supreme Court could end up resulting in a more progressive justice than someone that Obama will pick being seated on our nation’s highest bench (I’m guessing that Obama will pick someone to his ideological right for Supreme Court). Furthermore, U.S. Senate races where Republicans are thought to be safe or favored, such as Indiana, Iowa, and Missouri, would become more competitive for Democrats, and U.S. Senate races that are either competitive or where Democrats are favored, such as Illinois and Wisconsin, would become even more favorable for Democrats.

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ENDORSEMENT: JoAnne Kloppenburg for Wisconsin Supreme Court

Early next year, there will be an election to determine who will be elected to the seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court that was held by Justice Patrick Crooks prior to his death earlier this month. I whole-heartedly endorse JoAnne Kloppenburg, a Wisconsin Court of Appeals judge, for the seat.

Since this seat is vacant, but up for election early next year, Republican Governor Scott Walker will appoint someone to the seat, and that individual will serve the remainder of Crooks’s term. Next year’s election is for a full ten-year term, and I am endorsing Kloppenburg for the election to a full ten-year term. I would encourage Walker to appoint Former Wisconsin State Representative Kelda Roys to the Wisconsin Supreme Court seat, but Walker isn’t going to appoint her or anyone else who is not a full-blown right-wing ideologue.

Prior to becoming an appellate court judge, Kloppenburg served as a Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General under both Democratic (Peg Lautenschlager) and Republican (J.B. Van Hollen) state attorneys general, and she now serves as a state appellate court judge in Wisconsin Court of Appeals District IV, which covers 24 counties (map here) in the south-central, southwestern, and central parts of Wisconsin. If elected to Wisconsin’s highest bench, she’ll be an impartial interpreter of Wisconsin’s constitution and laws, not a judicial activist of any kind.

Walker will most likely appoint Rebecca Bradley, a Wisconsin Court of Appeals judge from the Milwaukee area, to the vacant seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Bradley was running for the seat prior to Crooks’s death and is still running for the seat. Bradley has earned a reputation as a far-right judicial activist. Bradley was once the president of the Milwaukee chapter of the Federalist Society, an organization of far-right judicial activists who believe in using the courts to implement a far-right political agenda that would cost America millions of jobs and undermine the civil liberties of the American people. Furthermore, Bradley is a member of the Republican National Lawyers Association (RNLA), an organization that, among other things, supports voter suppression schemes designed to keep people from exercising their right to vote.

The third candidate in next year’s Wisconsin Supreme Court race is Joe Donald, a Milwaukee County circuit court judge, who, if elected to Wisconsin’s highest bench, would become the first elected black justice, and second black justice overall, on Wisconsin’s highest bench. While Donald has endorsements from some progressives, most notably Marquette University law professor Ed Fallone, he’s accepted campaign cash from Peter Barca, the Wisconsin State Assembly Democratic Leader who supported Scott Walker’s corporate welfare giveaway to the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks. Judges should be as independent as possible from state legislators and other elected officials, not accepting campaign cash from them.

If you’re a Wisconsinite who wants an actual justice who will interpret Wisconsin’s constitution and laws in a non-partisan manner, then vote for JoAnne Kloppenburg next spring! The non-partisan primary, provided that at least three candidates make the ballot (three candidates are currently campaigning for the seat), will be held in February of 2016, and the general election will be held in April of 2016.

Why I’m calling for both of Wisconsin’s U.S. Senators to resign from office immediately

I am officially calling for U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D) and Ron Johnson (R), both of Wisconsin, to resign from office immediately. In both cases, it involves their role in a scandal involving opiate pain pills being overprescribed at a Veterans Affairs medical facility in Tomah, Wisconsin, which I will refer to in subsequent paragraphs of this blog post as the Tomah VA.

Marquette Baylor, a former staffer for Baldwin who was fired as part of an apparent political damage control operation by Baldwin and her chief of staff, Bill Murat, recently filed an ethics complaint against Baldwin with the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Ethics, a six-member committee with an equal number of Democrats and Republicans. Baylor is claiming that Baldwin made “false statements and misrepresentations” as part of a political cover-up in a desperate attempt to protect Baldwin’s own political career and Murat’s career. It appears to me that Baylor was fired after the corporate media exposed Baldwin sitting on information about drugs being overprescribed at the Tomah VA, and that Baylor was fired because Baldwin and Murat were looking for a scapegoat.

While the far-right corporate media in Wisconsin has almost entirely fixated on Baldwin’s role in the Tomah VA scandal in an obvious example of right-wing bias, Wisconsin’s other U.S. Senator, Ron Johnson, has also been implicated in the Tomah VA scandal. About a month and a half ago, Daniel Bice of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that Johnson’s aides sat on information about drugs being overprescribed at the Tomah VA. While Johnson and his staffers have tried to make U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) their scapegoat, Bice’s report made it clear to me that Johnson’s staffers sat on information about drugs being overprescribed at the Tomah VA.

Calling for the resignation of elected officials is something I take very seriously. The fact that Senators Baldwin and Johnson failed veterans and sat on information about dangerous practices in the health system that serves those who served our nation in uniform for far too long is more than enough for me to call for them to resign from office immediately and without delay. Senators Baldwin and Johnson are a disgrace to their home state of Wisconsin and to America.

43 Madison and Dane County, Wisconsin elected officials call for the end of “shameful racial disparities” in letter to the community

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This blog post includes a letter signed by local elected officials in the City of Madison, the Madison Metropolitan School District, and Dane County in Wisconsin, republished in its entirety with the permission of Dane County Board First Vice-Chair Carousel Bayrd.

A total of 43 members of the Dane County (WI) Board of Supervisors, the Madison (WI) Metropolitan School District Board, and the Madison (WI) Common Council signed a letter calling for the end of “shameful racial disparities” in Madison and Dane County in Wisconsin after 19-year-old Tony Robinson, who was biracial, was shot and killed by Matt Kenny, a white Madison Police Department officer.

You can view the full letter and list of signatories below:

To the residents of our community:

The death of Tony Robinson is a horrible tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Tony Robinson’s family and friends. We are sorry that we have lost the life of an African American teenager in our community.

Black lives matter. Our history, both nationally and locally, with respect to our African American community is unacceptable. Many of the incidents, shootings, and deaths that we see reported on the news find their root cause in the intolerable disparity present in our community. That disparity and its attendant injustice may have arisen from our history, but we allow it to continue.

This past weekend in Selma, President Barack Obama said “[Our national creed is] the idea held by generations of citizens who believed that America is a constant work in progress; who believed that loving this country requires more than singing its praises or avoiding uncomfortable truths. It requires the occasional disruption, the willingness to speak out for what is right, to shake up the status quo. That’s America.” We thank those community leaders and citizens who enacted those words before they were spoken. It is time we all joined them.

We must do better. We are here to ask each of our constituents to accept along with us the challenge of ending the shameful racial disparities in our community. Every one of us must be a part of the solution. Black lives have to matter to each and every one of us. We must be the City and County where a Black youth, a Latino youth, an Asian youth, a Native American youth, a White youth, where any young man or woman feels that this is a community they belong to, a community full of opportunities. A community where their dreams can happen, not end.

Jointly signed by the following City of Madison Alders, Dane County Supervisors, and Madison Municipal School District Board Members:

Sup. Carousel Bayrd
Ald. Shiva Bidar‐Sielaff
Sup. Jerome Bollig
Ald. Maurice Cheeks
Ald. Joe Clausius
Ald. Mark Clear
Ald. Lauren Cnare
Sup. Sharon Corrigan
Ald. Lucas Dailey
Sup. Patrick Downing
Sup. Jenni Dye
Ald. Denise DeMarb
Sup. Chuck Erickson
Sup. George Gillis
Sup. John Hendrick
Board Member Ed Hughes
Sup. Tim Kiefer
Ald. Steve King
Sup. Mary Kolar
Sup. Dorothy Krause
Board Member Dean Loumos
Sup. Patrick Miles
Ald. Larry Palm
Sup. Leland Pan
Sup. Jeff Pertl
Ald. Matt Phair
Ald. Scott Resnick
Sup. Kyle Richmond
Sup. Michele Ritt
Ald. Marsha Rummel
Sup. Paul Rusk
Sup. Andrew Schauer
Ald. Chris Schmidt
Sup. Robin Schmidt
Board Member Arlene Silveira
Ald. John Strasser
Ald. Lisa Subeck
Ald. Mike Verveer
Sup. Heidi Wegleitner
Ald. Anita Weier
Sup. Abigail Wuest
Ald. Ledell Zellers
Sup. Nick Zweifel

Please note that Lisa Subeck is both a member of the Madison Common Council and a member of the Wisconsin State Assembly; Subeck signed the letter in her capacity as a common council member.

I admire the fact that those elected officials in the Madison/Dane County area of Wisconsin who signed the letter recognize that, despite being one of the most progressive places in the entire country, racial disparities are a systematic problem in Madison and Dane County. If there’s one place in the entire country that can become a model for a more racially equal society, it would be the Madison/Dane County area of Wisconsin, but it will take a large community effort to achieve a more racially equal society there. In fact, it will take a large effort by every person in this country to achieve a more racially equal society all across America.

How the vacant office of Illinois Comptroller will be filled

Judy Baar Topinka, the Republican Comptroller of Illinois, died early this morning after suffering a stroke. She was 70 years of age at the time of death.

I’m not an attorney, but here’s the part of the Illinois Constitution that deals with filling vacancies in the state comptroller’s office (Article V, Section 7):

If the Attorney General, Secretary of State, Comptroller or Treasurer fails to qualify or if his office becomes vacant, the Governor shall fill the office by appointment. The appointee shall hold office until the elected officer qualifies or until a successor is elected and qualified as may be provided by law and shall not be subject to removal by the Governor. If the Lieutenant Governor fails to qualify or if his office becomes vacant, it shall remain vacant until the end of the term.

This is an instance in which both the incumbent comptroller failed to qualify for a new term after being elected to a second term and died in office before completing her first term in office. Since I’m not sure if Illinois state law allows for a special election to fill the vacancy (the Illinois Constitution appears to allow the General Assembly to provide for special elections for comptroller if it wishes to pass a law in order to do so, but doesn’t require special elections for comptroller), I’m going to provide two scenarios for filling the vacancy in the Illinois Comptroller’s office; one scenario involves a special election being called and the other scenario involves no special election being called.

SCENARIO #1: SPECIAL ELECTION

  • Either Democratic Governor Pat Quinn (if he makes the appointment before he leaves office) or Republican Governor-elect Bruce Rauner (if Quinn does not make the appointment before Rauner is sworn into office) appoints someone until a successor chosen by voters in a special statewide election for comptroller is sworn into office.
  • The special election would be held either in the spring of 2015 (possibly at the same time as the Chicago mayoral election and other local elections across the state), the fall of 2016 (possibly at the same time as the presidential and U.S. Senate elections), or on some other date as specified by any law allowing for a special election for comptroller.

SCENARIO #2: NO SPECIAL ELECTION

  • Either Democratic Governor Pat Quinn (if he makes the appointment before he leaves office) or Republican Governor-elect Bruce Rauner (if Quinn does not make the appointment before Rauner is sworn into office) appoints someone to fill the vacancy in the comptroller’s office.
  • The next general election for comptroller is scheduled for November 2018, meaning that whoever is appointed by either Quinn or Rauner would, depending on the date that the appointee takes office, serve slightly more or less than a full four-year term as comptroller.

If someone can definitively tell me what procedure is used for filling a vacancy in the Illinois Comptroller’s office, let me know by leaving a comment on this blog post.

(READER DISCRETION ADVISED) Why the no indictment decision in the Eric Garner chokehold killing by the NYPD was total hogwash

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This article includes a YouTube video that depicts the death of Eric Gardner at the hands of NYPD police officer Daniel Pantaleo. Reader discretion is advised.

A Staten Island grand jury decided not to file any charges against New York City Police Department (NYPD) officer Daniel Pantaleo, despite the fact that Pantaleo killed Eric Garner, a 43-year-old black man who sold untaxed cigarettes, by chokehold, a maneuver that is banned by the NYPD, and that Garner’s death had been ruled a homicide by a medical examiner.

Here’s the video of Pantaleo killing Garner:

Having watched the video once (I can’t stand to watch it multiple times), here’s my take on the no indictment decision (please note that I am not an attorney, and I don’t claim to be one): While Garner was resisting arrest, Pantaleo used excessive force to bring down Pantaleo. While I’m guessing that Pantaleo and the other officers on the scene were not aware that Garner had asthma, putting a chokehold on Gardner was not necessary for police officers to bring Garner to the ground and arrest him. In short, the no indictment decision was, in my opinion, total hogwash.

Officer Daniel Pantaleo used excessive force that led to the death of Eric Garner, and he should have been, at the very least, charged with manslaughter, if not murder. Sadly, a Staten Island grand jury let Pantaleo get away with killing Garner. Those who are protesting the decision in the New York City area and other parts of the country have every right to do so, as long as protesters don’t injure or kill people and don’t vandalize or damage property.

It’s 100% clear to me that there is a War on Blacks in this country.

12 years ago today, we lost Paul Wellstone in a plane crash

Twelve years ago today, progressives in Minnesota and all across America lost a hero when U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-MN) was killed in a plane crash near Eveleth, Minnesota. The crash also took the lives of Wellstone’s wife, Sheila, his daughter, Marcia, the pilot and co-pilot of the plane, the driver of Wellstone’s campaign bus, and two of his campaign staffers.

In honor of the late, great Paul Wellstone, here is a collection of YouTube videos consisting of three of Wellstone’s TV ads and his 2002 floor speech in opposition to the Iraq War that was supported by the Republican Administration of George W. Bush:

Paul Wellstone’s progressive legacy is still alive and well in Minnesota and across America.