Edition III - 2024

Election Insights: Weird Year

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Nikki Haley is getting 12-20 percent of the vote in Repulican primaries despite her having dropped out of the race months ago. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. is actively campaigning, and moving in on 15 percent in the aggregate polls, which could earn him a spot in the upcoming Biden-Trump campaigns. 

Young Black men are not enamored with Joe Biden, and while most won't be voting for Trump, it isn't at all certain that they will remain in the fold of the Democrat party. RFK, Jr. holds some sway in their community, and way-longshot candidate Cornell West is out there speaking his truth, which may also be theirs.

The biggest player in the 2024 election cycle may be voter apathy. Biden and Trump rank as two of the least popular candidates in recent history, and there is a real chance voters will simply stay home. 

Then, of course, there remains the somewhat real possibility that Trump could be found guilty of a felony in the New York hush money trial, and that may impact polls that have stayed unchanged for months. Trump would appear to be holding a slight lead, but polling an unengaged public may not yield a significant finding, particularly at this stage of the election cycle.

Then there is also the age of the main candidates, and their mental celerity. Biden is clearly old and shuffling, the way your grandfather was in has final years. He sometimes seems to have only just enough energy left in him to speak. Worse yet for the Democrat party is that people don't generally like the line to the Oval Office set up for Vice-President Kamala Harris. Her favorability ratings are worse than Biden or Trumps.

Trump, on the other hand, has become noticeably error prone in his speeches, leading armchair psychiatrists and mental health professionals to conjecture on the possibility that The Don might be showing signs of dementia.

What a year, and what a choice!  

The Crack in the System 

Up with this I will not put!

That has been the opinion of many Americans over the past few years, as the U.S. Supreme Court, consisting of six Republican appointees and three Democrat appointees, has made decision-after-decision contrary to the wishes of the American public.

In June of 2022, the court overturned abortion rights, making a decision impacting reproductive rights and access to abortion services. The same month the court expanded gun rights, allowing for broader interpretations of the Second Amendment. The future of affirmative action in education and employment is presently in the court's sights, as are LGBTQ Rights. The court is expected to make significant decisions around Election Laws, considering cases related to voting rights and election regulations, with impacts expected on our democratic processes.

At this moment in American history, when our democratic system is strained to breaking, we have one third of the voting public remaining convinced that Joe Biden was only elected President due to election fraud. There are three Trump appointees on the court, and two of them have now been associated with "the big lie" that Biden stole the election.

In the cases of both Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, there are spouses who have publicly  supported the January 6th, 2001 rioters who stormed the capital building in Washington D.C. Alito blames his wife for the upside-down flag controversy; she was arguing with a neighbor over the January 6th riot.

Clarence Thomas' wife Jenny was an openly vocal Trump supporter and proponent of the big lie.  

The politicking of justices and their spouses do not sit well with the public, but then the lifetime appointees, who have no ethics rules to govern their actions, and aren't interested in developing any, though the other two governmental bodies have such. As a consequence, Clarence Thomas and Alito have been using their positions to enjoy the generosities of well-healed, heavily-agendad sponsors.

Here is an overview of the scandalous lot:

Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. Appointed by President George W. Bush - Confirmed by Senate vote of 78-22 and took the bench on Semptember 29,2005.

Notable decisions: Chief Justice Roberts has participated in significant cases related to healthcare, civil rights, and campaign finance. 

Progressive or Regressive: The RCJ sees Roberts as somewhat in the middle, upholding the Affordable Care Act (National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, 2012) but supporting campaign finance deregulation (Citizens United v. FEC, 2010). Roberts voted against the overturning of Roe v Wade, emploring his cohorts to leave the law in place. He has human instincts that might almost lead you to believe that he is a progressive, though he really isn't.

Associate Justice Clarence Thomas Appointed by President George H. W. Bush - Confirmed bySenate vote of 52-48 and took the bench on August 3, 1994.

Notable decisions: Justice Thomas is known for his originalist interpretation of the Constitution. 

Progressive or Regressive: The RCJ sees Thomas as right-wing grifter, an accepter of gifts from wealthy business people who like having Clarence and his "big lie" wife on the bench. We don't. Thomas is one of the five who voted to overturn Roe v Wade.

Associate Justice Stephen Breyer Appointed by: President Bill Clinton - Confirmed by: Senate vote of 87-9 and took the bench on August 3, 1994

Notable decisions: Justice Breyer has been involved in cases related to free speech, privacy, and criminal justice. 

Progressive or Regressive: The RCJ likes Breyer and views him as progressive for his vote to preserve Roe v Wade, and his support of free speech (United States v. Stevens, 2010) and environmental law (Massachusetts v. EPA, 2007). RCJ thinks of Breyer as a progressive.

Associate Justice Samuel AlitoAppointed by President George W. Bush, Confirmed by Senate vote of 58-42 and took the bench on January 31, 2006.

Notable decisions: Justice Alito has been involved in cases related to religious freedom, gun rights, and executive power. 

Progressive or Regressive: Only Clarence Thomas scores lower on the RCJ appreciation scale. Besides siding against Roe v Wade, Alito has been a champion of religious freedom (Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, 2014) and limiting labor rights (Janus v. AFSCME, 2018). He's an abrasive protagonist, odd for a Supreme Court Justice, a guy who doesn't really believe in our system of government.

Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor - Appointed by President Barack Obama. Confirmed by Senate vote of 68-31 and took the bench on August 8, 2009.

Notable decisions: Justice Sotomayor has focused on issues related to civil liberties, labor rights, and criminal law. 

Progressive or Regressive: Sotomayor is a warrior for justice, having focused on civil rights, affirmative action (Fisher v. University of Texas, 2016), and criminal justice (Utah v. Strieff, 2016). She voted to keep Roe v Wade, and the RCJ is a supporter of Sotomayor.

Associate Justice Elena Kagan - Appointed by President Barack Obama. Confirmed by Senate vote of 63-37 and took the bench on August 7, 2010. 

Notable decisions: Justice Kagan has participated in cases related to free speech, voting rights, and administrative law. 

Progressive or Regressive: Kagan is an Obama liberal who has focused on free speech (United States v. Alvarez, 2012) and religious freedom (Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, 2014). The RCJ is fine with Kagan as a progressive.

Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch - Appointed by President Donald Trump. Confirmed by Senate vote of 54-45 and took the bench on April 10, 2017. 

Notable decisions: Justice Gorsuch has been involved in cases related to religious liberty, immigration, and employment law. 

Progressive or Regressive: Gorsuch has weighed in on issues like LGBTQ+ rights (Bostock v. Clayton County, 2020) -- writing for the 6-3 majority, held that discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is inherently also discrimination “because of sex,” as prohibited by Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act; a ruling that significantly impacted LGBTQ+ civil rights, leading to changes in federal policies and legal challenges against state laws that discriminate against transgender individuals. In McGirt v. Oklahoma, the Supreme Court addressed whether a large portion of eastern Oklahoma remained Native American land. Justice Gorsuch authored the majority opinion, ruling 5-4 in favor of tribal sovereignty. The decision held that the Creek Nation’s reservation boundaries were never disestablished by Congress, thus affirming tribal jurisdiction over criminal cases involving Native Americans within the reservation boundaries. This decision has significant implications for tribal sovereignty and criminal jurisdiction in Oklahoma. That all sounds rather progressive, but he voted against Roe v Wade. The RCJ views him as a guy who makes decisions that seem progressive when they comport with his anti-government intervention in personal affairs.

Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh - Appointed by President Donald Trump. Confirmed by Senate vote of 50-48 and took the bench on October 6, 2018.  

Notable decisions:: Justice Kavanaugh has participated in cases related to abortion rights, executive authority, and environmental law. 

Progressive or Regressive: Kavanaugh voted against Roe v Wade and has participated in cases related to abortion (June Medical Services v. Russo, 2020) and executive power (Trump v. Mazars USA, 2020). He's wrong about everything, a true regressive.

Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett - Appointed by President Donald Trump. Confirmed by: Senate vote of 52-48 and took the bench on October 27, 2020. Appointed by: 

Notable decisions: Justice Barrett’s tenure is relatively short, but she has already been involved in cases related to healthcare and religious freedom.

Progressive or Regressive: Barrett voted against Roe v Wade and lied to the Senate confirmation committee about how her political views would influence her rulings. She has been focused on religious liberty (Tandon v. Newsom, 2021) and the Affordable Care Act (California v. Texas, 2021). Her basic conservatism makes her a regressive, to the RCJ, but she may ocassionally represent a reasoned voice.

Haley Lives Down to Her Promise

People familiar with Nikki Haley said two months ago, when she finally dropped out of the Republican party primary exercise after mounting a vigorous and personal campaign against Trump, that she would eventually endorse him. Haley hasn't done a full-throated endorsement of her rival, but she told a conference recently that she would be voting for him.

The ugly truth about Haley is that she is just a politician, one who three months ago was talking like she might be the avatar of a reborn, or new kind of Republican party, quite different from that of Trump. Trump, said Haley, had lost Republicans the last three election cycles, which is true.  

Haley has correctly tagged Trump as a political loser, but she has tagged herself as a self-interested survivor, a person without actual ethical fibre, but rather just a well-rehearsed con. 

Trump Can't Win - What Cable News Can't Say

Listening to the cable news networks - particularly the hysteria from the left-leaning networks - you might get the impression that the sky is about to fall, that Trump is going to retake the White House, and democracy and the rule of law will be sent packing.

None of that is going to happen. Trump lost the 2020 election by seven million votes, and he has not done anyting to build on his base. To the contrary, a certain percentage are worn out by Trump's chaos and they are not likely to go to the polls to support him. Trump's legal problems do nothing to add to his base of support; again, regardless of what the networks say. Their ratings are awful and the view a close and controversial election as their ticket to survival. They aren't reporting the truth about Trump's dwindling support.    

Voters are presently engaged not in presidential politics, but in bread-and-butter issues. In California, folks are paying $6 per gallon of gas, and everything seems to be expensive. It is voter memory of better times, which they see as pre-Biden that is moving numbers at the moment, to the extent that polling numbers are moving at all. Come November, voters will feel motivated to vote against Donald Trump.

American Justice in Shambles

Part of the problem is baked right into the system.

The U.S. Justice system - speaking of the courts - is set up to deflect responsibility for legal decisions away from the proprieters of the system by putting the responsibility for the verity of the justice system on citizen jurors.

There are guardrails built into the system, as well, tracks in the form of jury instructions (from the judge, delivered just before the jurors go into deliberation) that all lead to the verdict intended by the system all along.

Jurors are instructed to reach a unanimous verdict, else you get a hung jury, which almost never happens. On average - it varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction - you get hung juries in only 6.2 percent of cases (Court Statistics Project, https://www.courtstatistics.org › assets › pdf_file). Individuals feel a great deal of pressure to vote with the majority, unanimously, because to do otherwise probably means someone will have to do the whole trail process over again. The judge typically declares a mistrial and sets a new trial date.

Jurors are instructed to reach a unanimous verdict, else you get a hung jury, which almost never happens. On average - it varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction - you get hung juries in only 6.2 percent of cases (Court Statistics Project, https://www.courtstatistics.org › assets › pdf_file). Individuals feel a great deal of pressure to vote with the majority, unanimously, because to do otherwise probably means someone will have to do the whole trail process over again. The judge typically declares a mistrial and sets a new trial date.

In state and federal criminal courts, a unanimous decision is required to convict on a non-petty offense.

One of the most bizarre aspects of the American justice system is that it requires average citizens, required to do jury duty, to make determinations about the law when most jurors are completely without training for this responsibility. Lawyers are tricky and they work juries based on their understanding of who the jurors are. They have a pretty good idea, because they ahve all been put through a voir dire process, examined and profiled. In fact, they have been specially selected by prosecution and defense lawyers based on their imagined proclivities, though the judge will get each to commit to the notion that they can fairly and with justice consider evidence presented by story-tellers who have them completely overmatched.

Of course, another aspect of the American justice system is that jurors aren't the same everywhere, nor are judges and lawyers. In the Trump Hush Money trial, as the media calls it, there is a jury of Manhattanites, including two lawyers, that is unlike a jury, judge, and legal team you might get in rural Alabama.

There is some art involved in the decisions to bring cases into the system. Lawyers come up with novel legal arguments to reposition legal arguments. This has been at work in D.A.'s Alvin Bragg brought Trump Hush Money trial, where the statue of limitations has run out on the lesser part of the crime, but Bragg has come up with a theory that makes Trump's a criminal act, for which there is no statute of limitations.

It's all politics. You can't take politics out of a system, in which district attorneys and judges are elected officials, and in which around half of all judges are political appointees. Most go through a confirmation process, but nominated professionals lie for the purpose of gaining their positions. They use evasive language to hide the biased decision-makers they truly are.

Eli Honig, the former federal prosecutor who is now a legal analyst on CNN, has written a book titled "Untouchable: How Powerful People Get Away With It." In it, he details how the wealthy control narratives and exploit unfairness, built right into the system, that protects the "elite" class, defined in terms of fortune, influence, and fame. The wealthy operate under a diffeent set of laws than do average Americans.

"Beyond the tricks that the powerful employ to their advantage, Honig also identifies institutional biases within the justice system that discourage prosecution of the rich, famous and powerful. For example, the Justice Manual, which guides federal prosecutors across the country, essentially requires an extra layer of review by the Justice Department in cases involving prominent people. And the courts for decades have applied stinting statutory interpretations in corruption cases against public officials, an approach that, frankly, bears little resemblance to the more expansive readings of the laws that govern when the defendants are ordinary citizens." - Washington Post

In the proceedings against Donald Trump - 94 counts of illegal activity - the courts have been controlled by Trump symathizers who have slow-walked court proceedings in hopes the charges will be dropped altogether if Trump retakes the Oval Office.

The U.S. Supreme Court, consisting of justices appointed for life, operate without governance, or without any enforced rules of conduct. That's why Justices Thomas and Alito can argue their way past the bribe money they routinely take, or just ignore the protests, and why they can circumvent recusal regarding cases before the court, though they have open bias. There are simply no rules at work for that special class of people.

Is it any wonder our legal system is viewed as a charade, a joke played on the American people? Or any wonder they Justice Department has become a little-respected branch of government?

The California Blend

Out in the heartland - in Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma - people are paying just a little more than $3 per gallon of Regular grade gas. In California, people are paying $6 and more per gallon, depending upon the grade.

How could this be happening? California is the seventh largest crude oil producing state, and has the third most refineries.

California also has a lot of people - about 1 in 10 Americans - and it is a state built around the automobile, which for the most part has been comprised of internal combustion engines. They, without regulation, produce a lot of smog.

People either forget or simply never new about the environmental conditions that once existed in the L.A. basin and in many urban centers, especially those at the edge of moutain ranges (like Denver). In the 1960s and 1970s, these cities were so heavily polluted with smog that they were practically unliveable. You would descend down into L.A., on your passenger flight, and not be able to see the vast expanse of houses below until you got through the layer of smog that hovered there above. It made you cough, made your eyes water, and California did something about it, enacting the most stringent automobile environmental controls in the nation.

Anyone who remembers how those environments once were would have to say the controls and regulations worked.

Controls and regulations, while life-saving in some cases, tend to be expensive. California cars have long been required to have anti-smog catalytic converters, and Californians also must buy a special blend of gas, particularly in the hot months. Eleven refineries in the state produce this special, non-polluting gas.

Californians pay a special price for choosing to live in a state where so many people drive so many cars. Of course, California has been at the lead in the development of electric cars, but then we've been there before, decades ago, before the big oil producers killed the electric car movement.


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