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Vote. There Really Is No Choice.

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In a free society, perhaps most sacred is the right to vote.

An opportunity for your voice to be heard. This is not the time to be cynical, and take it from one of the biggest there is.

I’m under no illusions, of course.

By and large, the presidency is simply a figurehead position of our oligarchical corporatocracy.

In this our military industrial complex, the oligarchs have pitted us against one another in a two-party system as a distraction, while corporations and banks get richer and more powerful.

In the final debate, Mitt Romney forgot the plot, and started parroting his agreement with President Obama on most of his foreign policy initiatives. From illegal unmanned drones in undeclared war zones to Afghanistan withdrawals, he was supposed to offer us “a choice” while our defense industry sold weapons to undermine every policy principle expressed by the candidates.

Such that a discussion about energy policy failed to discuss what the implications of deregulation might look like. Not a whisper about climate change or devastating oil spills. With debate moderators that shouldn’t be allowed to moderate a high school debate, let alone Presidential one. It took the devastation of the unprecedented storm — Sandy (which should more aptly have been called Hurricane Infahoe or Hurricane Chevron) — to wake up Americans. Although New Orleans hadn’t forgotten.

Look at the evidence. We have our identical polar opposite mirror hatreds. Democrat and Republican. Nuanced to extreme representations of how we identify ourselves are embodied by our politicians and media figureheads. Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner, John McCain and Joe Lieberman, Dianne Feinstein and Kay Bailey Hutchinson, Alan Grayson and Alan West, Rachel and Greta, Schulz and Hannity, Lawrence and Bill, the excommunicated Keith and Glenn, and the funnymen, John Stewart and Dennis Miller (was the latter actually funny). It would be nice if the right had a Bill Maher to balance things off, but they don’t.

The vicious storm, still wreaking havoc on hundreds of thousands of lives, to momentarily remind us what role government does serve (as opposed to making women pay for unnecessary vaginal ultrasounds) and what bipartisanship looks like, no matter the ideological differences or shapes and sizes of the politicians representing us.

But what we’ve learned in the last twelve years is that our elections do count, and that it does make a difference who’s in office.

From George W. Bush’s ban on stem cell research, to President Obama’s repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, along with the appointments of John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, sitting on the Supreme Court.

In 2000, we saw the chilling Rehnquist/Scaila/Thomas selections hit paydirt for Republicans with the installation of a President. Culminating nine years later in a re-positioning of the court that brought us Citizen’s United, the single most significant decision relating to the funding of our political system, opening the floodgates of anonymous corporate donations. In his dissent, Justice Stevens declared:

“At bottom, the Court’s opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt. It is a strange time to repudiate that common sense. While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics.”

Despite Samuel Alito’s unprecedented and rude muttering aloud “not true” to the President during his Statement of the Union address in 2010 when the issue was raised in an unequivocal condemnation of the Court’s decision.

And despite his criticism, President Obama has hardly proved inept in navigating the post Citizens United campaign funding waters. While corporations like BP and Chevron laughed all the way to Board Room…and then banks.

The ugly, poisonous fruits of that decision is where we find ourselves today.

During the Republican primaries, along with Karl Rove’s American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, we got to learn more about people like the egomaniacal Koch brothers, the ostentatious, multibillionaire political bankrollers like Sheldon Addleson and Foster Friess, (showing that they could sure as hell influence an election, if not buy one).

Desperate surrogates like Donald Trump, pissing all over the remaining shreds of dignity in our political discourse made a mockery of the process by which we elect what is supposed to represent the most powerful position in the world. Even if illusory.

According to Melissa Harris Perry on her show on MSNBC, a whopping $9.8 billion will be spent this year on 13,000 statewide Congressional and municipal races.

On Saturday, Harris Perry interviewed Scot Ross of One Wisconsin Now, who has been investigating the influence of money on Wisconsin’s politics, and who revealed that the little known Bradley Foundation, “since the Supreme Court declared George Bush the Victor of the 2000 election, they`ve spent in the neighborhood of $1 billion in propaganda to push forward a right-wing agenda.”

The Bradley Foundation, headed by Terry Considine and far larger than the Koch brothers, funds some of the better known “think tanks,” such as the American Enterprise Institute, Hoover Institute and Manhattan Institute. And has given money to and owns a stomach-churning, staggering array of right wing ideologues and politicos.

Among the valuable contributions they’ve brought to the election process — along with the junk science they fund in order to debunk climate change, and their push to privatize anything that is capable of yielding a profit — is a highly orchestrated, systematic voter suppression strategy.

One which includes positioning millions of poll workers in precincts around the country, the effect of which may yet have huge implications on this election.

Enough people across the political spectrum are concerned enough with the Citizens United decision, that chances of changing it might actually be realistic. Yet there are still dots we must continue to connect following this election. Terry Considine might be a good place to start. We don’t know the half of it yet.

Before a moderator could pull it, markomalley, at Free Republic.com asked a simple question. Would there be something illegal with Freeping an election? Followed by a strategy to disrupt the voting process. These are the kind of people Terry Considine is relying on to fulfill his agenda. Along with Mitt Romney.

One thing is certain, aside from the endless greed, lies and manipulation that define our fractured, almost unworkable political election process. No matter how much money they flood the process with, no matter how many obstacles they throw in the way, and no matter how much they try to suppress your vote. Whether by spreading vicious lies and insidious propaganda on billboards, web sites and position papers, or paying to elect the likes of Jon Huster, Ohio’s Secretary of State — the new Katherine Harris — to brazenly defy the courts and shamelessly make the fundamental right to vote, a tricky, scary, expensive proposition.

They cannot buy your vote. That alone is reason to do whatever it takes to vote this election.

Vote. There really is no choice.

 

Clinton Fein is an internationally acclaimed author, artist, and First Amendment activist, best-known for his 1997 First Amendment Supreme Court victory against United States Attorney General Janet Reno. Fein has also gained international recognition for his Annoy.com site, and for his work as a political artist. Fein is on the Board of Directors of the First Amendment Project, “a nonprofit advocacy organization dedicated to protecting and promoting freedom of information, expression, and petition.” Fein’s political and privacy activism have been widely covered around the world. His work also led him to be nominated for a 2001 PEN/Newman’s Own First Amendment Award.

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News

Trump Witness Turns ‘Strawberry Red’ After Judge’s Scalding Scolding

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New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan, after becoming visibly angered by Trump defense witness Robert Costello, cleared the courtroom of the jury and the press before admonishing the “MAGA-friendly lawyer” Monday afternoon in the ex-president’s criminal “hush money” trial.

Calling it a “brawl,” The Daily Beast set the scene: “After Costello, a former prosecutor, was reprimanded for delivering outbursts in the court whenever he was interrupted or told not to answer a question that had been objected to and sustained, Costello began to stare down the judge.”

Before the reprimand, CNN’s Kaitlan Collins reported: “Twice now the judge has sustained an objection and Costello answered regardless. Judge Merchan addresses him directly to not answer if he’s sustained the objection. ‘Jesus,’ Costello mutters after it happens again. ‘I’m sorry,’ the judge, visibly annoyed, says to him. ‘I’m sorry?'”

And then, the admonition.

READ MORE: ‘Wack Pack’: Questions Swirl Over ‘Trump Uniforms’ and Who’s Funding ‘Weird’ Trial Surrogates

“I’d like to discuss proper decorum in the courtroom,” Judge Merchan said, according to Collins. “If you don’t like my ruling, you don’t give me side eye and you don’t roll your eyes.”

Collins added: “Then in a raised voice, Merchan asks, ‘Are you staring me down right now?!'”

“The jury was NOT in the room for this,” Collins added. “Merchan sent them out, then admonished Costello, then when he was staring him down, Merchan became furious and cleared the courtroom. So the jury witnesses none of this. (And the press missed whatever was said in the interim.)”

Here’s how it went down, according to MSNBC host and legal contributor Katie Phang.

“Judge Merchan is ANGRY,” she observed, before reporting the dialogue:

“MERCHAN: ‘I’d like to discuss proper decorum in my courtroom’
MERCHAN: ‘If you don’t like my ruling, you don’t say ‘Jeez’ ‘
MERCHAN: You don’t say ‘strike it’ because I’m the only one who can strike it.
MERCHAN: ‘You don’t give me side eye and you don’t roll your eyes’
COSTELLO: I understand.”

Phang added, “When the media were allowed back in, Costello is seated at the witness stand looking decidedly chastened. Merchan looks calm.”

The Guardian’s Hugo Lowell reports the judge didn’t calmly just clear the courtroom:

MSNBC legal contributor Lisa Rubin called it, “one of the wildest things I’ve ever seen in court.”

READ MORE: Law ‘Requires’ Alito and Thomas to Recuse Says Former Federal Prosecutor

And while CNN’s Collins noted the jury was not in the courtroom for exchange, Phang reports: “Although the dressing down of Costello took place outside of earshot of the jury, they witnessed firsthand Costello’s demeanor and petulance and heard firsthand his quips and remarks from the witness stand. Perhaps Costello just reinforced to the jury why Cohen didn’t want to keep Costello as his lawyer…Costello is pandering for an audience of one: Trump.”

MSNBC legal analyst Kristy Greenberg noted, “Michael Cohen was respectful. Bob Costello is acting like a clown. Jurors will notice and this will hurt Trump. Any concerns that jurors may have had about Cohen have now been overshadowed by Costello’s disrespect to the judge right in front of their faces.”

Lowell also reported after that the reprimand, “Costello is so red in the face he resembles a strawberry.”

See the social media post above or at this link.

 

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OPINION

‘Wack Pack’: Questions Swirl Over ‘Trump Uniforms’ and Who’s Funding ‘Weird’ Trial Surrogates

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Trump trial watchers are raising questions over the increasingly large number of elected Republicans and big-name allies showing up at the Manhattan Criminal Courts Building to show support for the indicted ex-president, often giving angry and factually inaccurate speeches before the cameras, or standing behind the defendant in the background as he delivers his rants to reporters.

They are usually all men, and usually all dressed just as Donald Trump does: blue suit, white shirt, red tie.

Public Notice founder Aaron Rupar on Monday, observed, “they’re all in Trump costumes again. how cute.”

Questions about their “uniforms,” and more importantly, who is funding and organizing their travel, are being raised.

Media critic Jennifer Schulze, a former Chicago Sun-Times executive producer, WGN news director, and adjunct college professor of journalism, commented: “The trump uniforms angle is flying way too low beneath the mainstream news radar. The same is true for how this weird courtroom guest star show is being organized & financed.”

READ MORE: Why Alito’s ‘Stop the Steal’ Flag Story Just Fell Apart

And they are being called “uniforms.”

Filmmaker and podcaster Andy Ostroy declared, “I’m sorry, but all these #Trump capos showing up each day at the trial dressed exactly the same as The Godfather in blue suit and red tie is not only creepy AF but is a chilling foreshadowing of the fascist uniform-wearing government they’re jonesin’ to be a part of…”

Talk radio host Joan Esposito also asked who’s paying for these appearances: “Is the trump campaign paying for these surrogates to fly to & from nyc? If not, who is?”

Political commentator Bob Cesca remarked, “Trump’s fanboys are like the Wack Pack from the Stern show circa 1990.”

Monday’s star surrogates included South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, an election denier who had supported overturning the 2020 presidential election and signed onto what has been called a “false and frivolous” lawsuit attempting to overturn the results.

Also, Republican U.S. Reps. Eric Burlison, Andrew Clyde, Mary Miller, and Keith Self. And John Coale from the Trump-aligned America First Policy Institute, attorney Alan Dershowitz, Trump attorney and GOP attorney general candidate Will Scharf, convicted felon and Trump pardon recipient Bernie Kerik, Trump loyalist and former Trump administration official Kash Patel, and others.

READ MORE: Law ‘Requires’ Alito and Thomas to Recuse Says Former Federal Prosecutor

Op-ed columnist Terry Cowgill last week called them “manservants…standing at attention like automatons.”

“Scary and very very strange” was actress and activist Mia Farrow’s observation last week.

Vanity Fair’s Molly Jong-Fast, an MSNBC political analyst, last week asked, “Why did they all wear the same outfit?”

The Biden campaign was only too happy to post this video last week:

See the social media posts and videos above or at this link.

READ MORE: ‘Partisan Insurrectionist’: Calls Mount for Alito’s Ouster After ‘Stop the Steal’ Scandal

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News

Law ‘Requires’ Alito and Thomas to Recuse Says Former Federal Prosecutor

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U.S. Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas have no choice but to observe federal law and recuse themselves from cases involving the 2020 presidential election, according to an attorney who served as a federal prosecutor for 30 years, while a noted constitutional law expert is warning Justice Alito “may be responsible for delaying” the Court’s decision on Donald Trump’s claims of absolute immunity.

Their remarks come as Americans are waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court to issue its decision on Donald Trump’s claim of absolute and total immunity from prosecution.

“The Supreme Court, as led by insurrection advocates Alito & Thomas, has caught & killed Trump’s prosecution for trying to overturn the 2020 election. The impartiality of Thomas & Alito ‘might reasonably be questioned’ so the federal law REQUIRES their recusal. Period. Full stop,” wrote Glenn Kirschner, now an NBC News/MSNBC legal analyst.

Kirschner posted text from federal law, 28 U.S.C. Sec. 455, which reads: “Any justice, judge, or magistrate judge of the United States shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.”

READ MORE: ‘Partisan Insurrectionist’: Calls Mount for Alito’s Ouster After ‘Stop the Steal’ Scandal

The renewed interest in both far-right justices comes after Friday’s New York Times bombshell report that revealed a symbol of January 6 insurrectionists, the “Stop the Steal” flag, which is the U.S. Stars and Stripes flying upside down, was flown at Justice Alito’s home just days before President Joe Biden was inaugurated.

Justice Alito claimed his wife was responsible for flying the American flag in that manner, which is also used to indicate a situation of dire or extreme distress. He claimed she had done so after an altercation with a neighbor, who had a “F*** Trump” sign on their lawn that could be seen by children awaiting the school bus. But those claims seemed to fall apart after sleuths noted because of COVID schools were operating virtually, so there were no school buses running, and neighbors did not remember what allegedly was extreme neighborhood drama.

On Friday, Laurence Tribe, University Professor Emeritus at Harvard University, a constitutional law scholar and professor who has argued three dozen times before the Supreme Court, told CNN (video below) he believes Justice Alito must recuse.

“I do. I don’t think there’s any question about it. It’s in many ways, more serious than what we’ve seen with Justice Thomas. At least Justice Thomas could say that, ‘my wife Ginny has her own separate career. We don’t talk about the cases.’ You may believe that or you may not, but that’s very different from what’s going on with Justice Alito. He’s not saying, ‘My wife has her own separate career.’ He’s throwing her under the bus and blaming her for what is on his house, his flagpole. It’s his flag malfunction. It’s his upside down flag and everyone knows that the upside down the flag, which the United States Code says should be flown that way only in cases of absolute emergency as a kind of SOS, was in this case, a symbol of the claim that the election was stolen from Donald Trump.”

“It was the banner of the insurrectionists,” Tribe continued. “And I’m reminded of something that the late Justice Scalia said in the opinion he wrote in 1987, he said, ‘you cannot expect to ride with the cops if you cheer for the robbers.’ In this case, Justice Alito expects to preside over a decision about whether there wasn’t it direction and who was responsible for it. And whether Donald Trump who has been charged with involvement in trying to obstruct the operations of government and the transfer of power is immune, or if cases before the court, he’s obviously not qualified to sit in this case.”

READ MORE: ‘Mouths of Sauron’: Critics Blast ‘Mobster Tactic’ of Trump Surrogates ‘Violating’ Gag Order

Like Kirschner, Tribe pointed to 28 U.S.C. Sec. 455, saying, “28 US Code section 455 says that any federal judge or justice must – not may, but must – recuse him or herself in any case where either that justice or the justice’s spouse has any skin in the game. There’s no distance here between Mr. Alito and Mrs. Alito. It’s clear that whatever offensive sign was involved, that dispute between neighbors trivializes what’s involved here.”

On the Supreme Court’s pending decision on Trump’s immunity claims, Tribe added, Justice Alito “may be responsible for delaying it.”

“After all, the protocol within the court is the different justices dissenting and Alito is probably writing a dissent from a rejection of the extreme claim of absolute immunity. That didn’t seem to gain traction with the court. If a justice is dissenting, you wait till the dissent is done before announcing the case. So by delaying this immunity decision so long that a trial can’t occur before the election, the effect may be to give de facto immunity to the former president, who if he wins the election will pick an attorney general who will dismiss the case. So ultimate accountability is very much on the line.”

As for Justice Thomas, back in March of 2022, The New Yorker‘s Jane Mayer wrote: “Legal Scholars Are Shocked By Ginni Thomas’s ‘Stop the Steal’ Texts,” which also read: “Several experts say that Thomas’s husband, the Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, must recuse himself from any case related to the 2020 election.”

And in June of 2022, former Bush 43 chief White House ethics lawyer Richard Painter, also posting that federal law, wrote: “Justice Thomas’s participation in Dobbs means Ginni Thomas was not receiving payment from persons seeking reverse of Roe. Right?”

He was referring to the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, coincidentally written by Justice Alito, which overturned five decades of civil rights law and removed abortion as a constitutionally-protected right.

“We have no idea who’s paying Ginni Thomas,” he continued, referring to Clarence Thomas’s spouse, who also alleged worked to overturn the 2020 election. “Justice Thomas refuses to recuse from any cases because of her. This conflict of interest is unworkable.”

Watch Professor Tribe below or at this link.

READ MORE: ‘Not Weighing in on That’: Republicans Refuse to Pull Support for Trump as Trial Nears End

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