15 June 2018


Media columnists and analysts (and some of my email friends) have been quick to compare the Kim-Trump meeting in Singapore to the Hitler-Chamberlain meeting in Munich in 1938. 

Herewith a two-minute history of the events leading up to WWII: 

Hitler had rearmed in violation of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles and none of WWI victors challenged that egregious violation. 

In September, 1938, Hitler invaded and swallowed up a piece of Czechoslovakia called the Sudetenland. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain made three separate trips to Germany to meet with Der Fuhrer, the last one on September 15, in Munich. The dictator insisted his invasion was just an effort to reunite with the Fatherland some 3 million Germans who had been placed inside the Czech border by the line-drawing involved in making the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. He pledged he had no interest in further acquisition beyond restoring those Germans to Germany.

Britain's Ambassador to Berlin urged Chamberlain to say nice things in the press about Hitler in order to avoid an immediate war. He wanted to give Hitler "a chance to be a good boy." Chamberlain's military leadership advised that Britain's military establishment was in shambles.

At Munich, Chamberlain agreed Britain would do nothing about the Nazi seizure of the Sudetenland. Chamberlain flew back to England and announced to his citizenry; 
"This means peace in our time.....Go home and have a nice quiet sleep."  He assured his people this was really so because he  said, "Here is a paper which bears Hitler's name and mine." 

Six months later, Hitler swallowed up the rest of Czechoslovakia. 

Again, Chamberlain did nothing. 

Six months later, Hitler invaded Poland and England declared war.

Six years later, the count of people killed in WW II was estimated to be 60 million.

Chamberlain's failure to act regarding Hitler's serial invasions of Czechoslovakia bought England a year's time. But even that likely would have been insufficient to avoid defeat had not the Axis powers miscalculated and dragged the United States into the war: the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor and Hitler's unfathomable declaration of war against the United States in December, 1941, decisively reversed the views of an isolationist U.S. Congress.

Now these comparisons:  

1.Kim and his forbears, like Hitler, broke several covenants about arming his nation.
2. Kim, like Hitler, was (and is) a ruthless dictator who enslaves his own people.
3. Kim, like Hitler, was allowed to reach a point where he armed himself with weaponry that became a serious threat to world peace.

4. Trump, like Chamberlain, met the dictator and came home with a piece of paper bearing his Kim's signature and Trump's.
5. Trump, after the meeting, made statements that were remarkably similar to those made by Chamberlain.  Whereas the latter told his citizens he had accomplished "peace in our time" and they could now "go home and have a nice quiet sleep," Trump told us "There is no longer any nuclear threat from North Korea. Sleep well tonight."
6. Trump, like Chamberlain, won no promise or assurance of immediate action; Neither Kim nor Hitler made immediate concessions to disarm, or reduce armaments or military forces.
7. Trump, like Chamberlain, appears to be stalling for time. Chamberlain wanted time to arm Britain; Trump wants time to get to 2018, and then 2020, with a claim of "peace in our time."


8. Trump, unlike Chamberlain, made military concessions to appease his adversary (cessation of military exercises with South Korea);  Chamberlain made no concessions regarding England's military readiness.
9. Trump, unlike Chamberlain, made obsequious statements about the dictator;  Chamberlain, despite advice to the contrary, did not praise Adolf Hitler as being "very honorable," "very open," and "very worthy." Chamberlain did not tell the world he thought Adolph Hitler was a leader who "wants to do the right thing."
10. Trump, unlike Chamberlain, threatens to upset existing economic sanctions. Chamberlain did not do so because there were no extant international sanctions against Hitler in 1939. But there are extensive sanctions against North Korea and there are now signs that, as a result of the meeting, China and Russia will now increase their evasions of those sanctions.
11. I give Trump a mulligan for saluting the North Korean General.

Question: So is the comparison of Chamberlain to Trump unfair to Chamberlain?  

Answer:  Too close to call.

09 June 2018


So much stuff to write about: Trump's demand Russia be restored to the G-8, the Mueller inquiry, the Trump trade war, the NK summit, the Iran deal, seizing journalists records, Clinton's disgusting book tour, craven Congressional leadership, Rudy Giuliani's public mental deterioration, and more. How do we focus on stuff more important than other stuff?

This president and his swamp creatures certainly do sell newspapers!

But this morning my attention was grabbed by a single opinion piece in the NYTimes. It's is beyond my capabilities to summarize. I urge you to read it because it is of overarching importance.


A bientot.

07 June 2018


I can not help but weigh in on the current contretemps over Bill Clinton's response to an NBC interviewer's questions about his sexual liason with Monica Lewinsky. 

I voted for Bill Clinton twice, but later recognized I had been deceived into giving him a second term. The man has made me cringe ever since the Lewinsky scandal. It didn't need a "Me-Too" movement to persuade me he was a pig.  

Sure, Lewinsky was over 21. She was in her first job out of college, a White House intern, afflicted with an obsessive crush on the most powerful man in the world. His use of his power over that foolish young woman was inexcusable. 

And in the process, the asshole sacrificed the last two years of his presidency for a blow job in the Oval Office. And now he poisons the 2018 political atmosphere. The man refuses to get off the stage.

"Me-too" has nothing to do with my revulsion of the conduct of that slug. Even then, I did not understand the bland response of Lewinsky's father. I said, at the time, I could not understand why he wasn't talking about how much he would like to get a shotgun and shoot that slick son-of-a-bitch.
Clinton's defensive allegation in the NBC interview that Kennedy and Johnson were also unfaithful to their wives is beyond disgusting. Even now he misses the point. Or would have us miss it. It's all about power, the boss screwing the intern who has a crush on the boss. He used the furniture of the Oval Office as a casting couch. He is an Arkansas politico's version of Harvey Weinstein. Ugh.

In the NBC interview he whined about the punishment he has already suffered: his need to borrow money for his defense. What an outrage. He has since cashed in on his presidency. Why didn't the interviewer ask him how much he and his wife are worth now? Speeches at 100k plus? Now pimping a "beach read" novel that he "co-authored?" Give me a break.

Yes, the Starr inquisition and the Republican impeachment were shameful political maneuvers. But Clinton gave em the opening and they took it. Disgraceful conduct on both sides, and the country was the loser. Shame on all of them.

And I gotta add, I am stunned by the ineptitude of the Clinton defense effort. We cannot tell whether it was sloppy lawyering, or a know-it-all client who rejected professional advice, (I have been witness to both) but some combination of those factors led to a video recording, a riveting dramatic permanent record of finger-pointing perjury in living color. And all of this in response to questions he knew were going to be asked. Brilliant.

Gotta give him credit. His pronouncements, "It depends on what "is" is," and "I did not have sexual relations with that woman," are historic. 

Indeed, ten years later, I was involved in a trial in Oregon, and an adverse witness, caught in a prior testimonial contradiction, was asked by my partner if the witness's current testimony was "truthful." She responded, "I am not sure what you mean by "truthful." The mild mannered Judge exploded: "Truthful means truthful! Telling the truth! This is not a Clinton deposition!

Otherwise, put me down as "Undecided."

02 June 2018



During the 2016 campaign, some never-Trumpers focused on the damage a Trump presidency would do to a woman's right to make her own reproductive health decisions.  But not enough of us paid enough attention to that, and we are now beginning to see the results.

A recent NY Times article described the harsh anti-abortion laws in several South American countries. Women in Chile and El Salvador cannot legally obtain abortions under any circumstances, including risk of death to the mother. The women's response?  They smuggle in safe and inexpensive "Morning After" pills that are readily available from other countries where they are legal. The government's repressive reaction? Police investigate any physician who offers medical assistance to a woman who has suffered a miscarriage, on suspicion it was chemically induced! A convicted physician risks years in prison, and the same is true for the woman. One woman escaped a 40 year prison sentence by fleeing to Denmark.

The legislative leaders of Arkansas obviously think imprisoning physicians is a good plan.  Desperately seeking ways to frustrate the effect of Supreme Court rulings that bar states from imposing an "undue burden” on a woman's Constitutional right to choose, Arkansas has enacted a patchwork of laws to interfere with that freedom.  In addition to the 48-hour rule (requiring two visits to an abortion provider that may be hundreds of miles away), the legislature recently made it a crime for a physician to assist a woman in a medically induced abortion (i.e., pills, not surgery) unless the physician had a contract with another physician who had admitting privileges in a local hospital.

Indisputably, there are zero health benefits to that requirement.  Medical abortions are extremely safe, are widely employed, and only one quarter of one percent result in a hospitalization, which is initiated by a visit to an emergency room. Further statistics are equally startling. In a society where 55% of pregnancies are unintended, medical abortion is fifteen times safer than childbirth.

So what is this all about? Simple. There are only three facilities that provide legal abortions in Arkansas. Two of the three provide only medical abortions, the third, in Little Rock, provides both medical and surgical abortions.  Bottom line: the statute effectively shuts down two of the clinics and dramatically reduces the ability to obtain an abortion, especially for a poor woman.

Well, even if the legislatively-required contracts were medically unnecessary and offered no benefit to the patient, why didn't the Planned Parenthood facilities simply make the required contracts with physicians who had admitting privileges in local hospitals?

Because of the 322 members of the Arkansas chapter of the
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, not one physician who had admitting privileges at a local hospital agreed to sign such a contract. Not one. Why? Because the doctors faced "the risk of being ostracized by their communities and because they faced harassment and violence toward themselves, their families, and their private practice."

That was the ruling of the federal District Court Judge who struck down the statute.

(Sound familiar? See my December, 2017 blog recalling the Oregon case involving the activists who went a bit beyond ostracizing and harassing: they threatened to murder physicians who performed abortions.)

Well, all's well that ends well? Not so fast. The Eighth Circuit appellate court reversed, 3-0, and reimposed the criminal statute. How could that be? In abortion litigation, it is frequently more about abortion politics than abortion law. The appellate court found fault with the decision below because the District judge failed to make "a concrete finding estimating the number of women who would postpone or pass up" the medical abortion.

Huh? The statute effectively closed down two of the three abortion clinics in the state, and required the sole remaining clinic to perform only surgical abortions!  Wasn't that "concrete" enough?  Nope, not for those three judges.

Planned Parenthood did not ask the three-judge panel to reconsider, or ask for an en banc hearing. Instead, it went directly to the Supreme Court and asked them to review and overturn the Circuit Court decision. Slam dunk, right?

Earlier this week, the Supremes denied cert. I.e., they rejected Planned Parenthood's application to appeal the Eighth Circuit ruling. In accordance with its regular practice, the Court issued no explanation for its decision.

The Arkansas law remains in effect. The women are deprived of their liberty rights, and any physician treating a woman who has a miscarriage is at risk.

I am not a Supreme Court expert. There are technical rules that may be involved in the Court's decision not to take up the case at this time, especially given the non-finality of the judgment below. 

Planned Parenthood will now go back to the District Court and try to get the necessary finding. And if they are successful, the case doubtless will go back up to the Eighth Circuit for some more abortion-politics-decision-making, and maybe then back up to the Supremes -- sometime in 2019 or 2020.

But I have an itch. The Arkansas statute is, on its face, a totally bogus and insincere effort to help women.  It is patently designed to accomplish a single purpose: to outlaw as many abortions as it can and still escape the Roe v. Wade ruling.

 It takes only four Justices to grant cert. I think it highly likely the four liberal Justices (and at least some of the conservatives as well?) see the Arkansas statute for what it is, and consider it a manifest violation of Roe and its progeny.  Why didn't the liberals vote to take it up?

Was it a fear on the part of the liberals that if they did grant cert., no matter how "illegal" the Arkansas statute is, they might be on the losing end of a 5-4 decision on the merits, and a number of states would rush to enact similar, and maybe even worse, statutes? 

Is Roe v. Wade in trouble?

A bad sign.

And with three years left in this term of the Trump presidency, that's a long time to hold one's breath.

22 May 2018


What does the Trump administration's immigration policies have to do with sports betting?  No, I am not talking about Dominican baseball players, I am talking about the Department of Justice's war on so-called "sanctuary cities", i.e., those states, cities, and towns that refuse to cooperate with federal authorities seeking the arrest and deportation of undocumented aliens within their borders.

The President urges that a local government's refusal to turn over to federal agents the names and locations of undocumented persons, either in or out of jail, is "obstruction of justice." And so the federal government has sued the State of California to strike down its "sanctuary law," and require state officials to cooperate with immigration authorities.

There are more than 200 red and blue sanctuary cities and towns -- more than a dozen in New Jersey and New York -- (and there seven entire sanctuary states) but the Department of Justice has sued only California. Attorney General Sessions did not say whether the decision to single out California had anything to do with the fact that the state permitted more than three million illegal aliens to vote in the 2016 election, all of whom voted for Hillary Clinton.  But for that, the President would have won the popular vote as well as the electoral college vote. That must be true; the President of the United States said so.

The most important element of the California statute being challenged in the federal lawsuit is the section that bars all state law enforcement personnel from cooperating with federal immigration police, except with respect to those aliens who have committed serious crimes.

That, argues the feds, is a violation of the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, which basically says that if there is a conflict between a state law and a federal law, the latter triumphs. The California statute, says the DOJ, interferes with the federal immigration enforcement program, which has pre-empted the field.

But while that litigation is pending in the District Court in California, a conservative majority of the Supreme Court has just published a decision in another case that will, I suggest, dramatically affect the outcome of the California case. 

In Murphy v. NCAA, the Court upheld a New Jersey challenge to a federal anti-sports-betting statute. The rationale of that opinion seriously hobbles the DOJ's lawsuit against California.

By a vote of 7-2, the Court struck down the federal statute that barred all but a few grandfathered states from authorizing sports betting. The Court rejected the government's supremacy and pre-emption arguments, and held the federal statute was unconstitutional because Congress has no power tell the states what to do!  In an opinion written by Mr. Justice Alito, and joined by all the conservative members of the Court, plus two from the liberal wing, the Court held that the Constitution "confers upon Congress the right and the power to regulate individuals, not states" and Congress "may not command the states' officers ... to enforce a federal regulatory program. ...  Congress ...  may not conscript state governments as its agents."

Basically, the majority said the Tenth Amendment sends a clear "anti-commandeering " message to the national government: "The legislative powers of Congress are not unlimited ... .  All other legislative power is reserved to the states, as the Tenth Amendment confirms. Conspicuously absent from the list of powers given to Congress is the power to issue direct orders to the governments of the states."

In effect, the Court is telling Congress and the Executive branch, "If you guys want to pass a law, then you alone own it. You must pay for it and enforce it yourselves. You have no right to pass on the costs and responsibility to the states.  You cannot command the states to wash your dirty dishes. The Constitutional notion of dual sovereignty prevents that."

Bottom line, the feds cannot command New Jersey to ban sports betting, and I suggest that means the feds cannot command California or its officers to cooperate with ICE.

New Jersey wins the Daily Double. You can bet on it.

A bientot.