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Under Color of Law: November

By November 29, 2023News

Read Shan’s take on various political and cultural happenings (and Tweets!) below.

Trump’s Gag “Suggestions”

The gag orders imposed on former President Trump by Judge Engoron (New York Attorney General civil suit) and Judge Tanya S. Chutkan (Jan 6 DOJ criminal case), are being treated more as suggestions than orders.

In New York, despite Engoron’s anger at Trump and his lawyers attacking his law clerk, the fines issued against Trump have been insignificant – $5,000 and $10,000 — and Chutkan’s initially stayed her own order to give the parties time to brief the matter before lifting the stay after reading Trump’s arguments. She could have saved herself the trouble since D.C. Circuit court of appeals then imposed a stay while it considered Trump’s appeal.

Here’s the problem: Both judges are overly conscious of Trump’s purported First Amendment rights as a “leading Presidential contender” as the First Amendment doesn’t depend on voter polls. Giving him this much leeway underestimates the dangers caused by Trump’s remarks – physical dangers to witnesses, prosecutors and judges and danger to the integrity of the court cases.

Judges Need to Make It Clear to Trump That Their Gag Orders Aren’t Optional
The former president has inspired violence and believes the law doesn’t apply to him. Meager fines and repeated warnings will not make him comply.

Read the Article

“Master of the House”

Anyone who has seen the Les Miserables should appreciate the similarities between the role of the Republican’s newly elected Speaker of the House – Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana’s 4th Congressional District – and the shameless innkeeper Thenadier – Master of the House.

Johnson, a staunch conservative Christian known for his views against abortion and same-sex marriage – like Matt Gaetz, Johnson also claims to have “adopted” a child of color – although there are no family photos in which the child (now 40 years old) appears – used his close ties with Trump and support of the MAGA extreme group who kicked out Kevin McCarthy faces the government shutdown in the coming month.

Update is that Johnson appears to have put together essentially the same bill and passed it with Democratic support just like McCarthy did to avoid a government shutdown. No matter McCarthy was so mad he sucker-shot Rep. Tim Burchett (R.Tenn) by hitting him from behind with an elbow to the kidneys while Burchett was being interviewed by an NPR reporter. Burchett was one of the Republicans who had caused his downfall (McCarthy claims the elbow was accidental because the hallway was crowded).

 

“Master of the House, keeper of the zoo….” – a song from Les Misreables

MAGA: Marjorie Taylor Greene Knows an Insurrection When She Sees One

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R. Ga) believes she recognized an insurrection happening in real time when some 500 people were arrested during a sit-in at the United States Congress in Washington, DC, where they protested against “Israel’s ongoing oppression of Palestinians”, according to Jewish Voice for Peace, the group that organized the demonstration. Jewish Voices for Peace anti war protestors sat and chanted notably without breaking into office buildings, desecrating and stealing property, or threatening to hang the Vice-President.

The protesters, many wearing shirts emblazoned with the words “Not in our name”, were surrounded by police on Wednesday as they sat on the floor of the lobby of the congressional building, unfurling a large banner that said “ceasefire” as the death toll from Israel’s bombardment of the besieged Gaza Strip rose. Greene posted a video on Twitter (now “X”) showing the gathering outside the Capitol and Capitol Police not being attacked with bear spray or beaten with flag poles.

Read more: for a great parody account on Marjorie Taylor Greene do follow @MtGrepp on the social media platform formerly known as Twitter!

[View Tweet]

Universities Have to Choose Between Protecting Students & Appeasing Wealthy Donors

Hedge-fund billionaire Bill Ackman is calling on Harvard to release the names of students whose views about Palestine/Israel Ackman doesn’t like so that he can make sure they don’t get hired. 

He thinks that as a rich powerful man he is entitled to being able to black-list and dox these students in the same way that “doxing trucks” hired by right-wing media groups sought to bring hate and harassment on liberal students by promoting their names and calling them “Harvard’s Leading Antisemites.” Ackman and his ilk have the same right to opinions and expressions as do students but speech shouldn’t be controlled by the rich and powerful – especially not on college campuses.

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Ron DeSantis: Anti-Education Crusader

Florida’s Governor, Ron DeSantis continues his war on education by seeking to ban funding for schools with supposed “direct ties” to the Chinese Communist Party. DeSantis’ claims – thus far without any publicly presented evidence – sound like he’s channeling General Ripper from the classic movie “Dr. Strangelove” who famously ranted: “I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion, and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.”

But it’s Santis’ actions – like other forms of doxing – that pose the real danger to education by endangering the safety the staff and students at these schools as well as by denying opportunity to its students.

[screenshot of Tweet]​

Google vs DOJ Lawsuit

Despite observations in 2022 that Attorney General Merrick Garland was undermining the Biden administration’s interest in re-vitalizing anti-trust enforcement by interfering with staffing and pushing for deputies that opposed rigorous scrutiny (translation: big company attorneys who came from and would return to the very industries they would be overseeing), the Google lawsuit got off the ground. Among the reveals was confirmation of just how much Google pays to prioritize its search engine over others which also theoretically stifles any development of new search engines.

That number turned out to be 26.3 billion dollars in 2021 alone with 18 billion going to Apple who in one unguarded moment Alphabet CEO (Google’s parent company) Sudnar Pichai supposedly noted that re: Google and Apple: “Our vision is that we work as if we are one company.” Under cross examination, Pichai naturally testified: “I don’t recall myself saying that line.” (Kudos to Pichai’s lawyers who came with a new way saying “I don’t recall” adding a layer of obfuscation by potentially distinguishing between Pichai not remembering the incident versus not remembering himself remembering it – I’ll leave aside the AI implication of this answer!)
Does this case matter? Yes. As Sara Morrison of Vox puts it: “What’s at stake? Oh, nothing much – just the future of the internet. Or maybe the future of antitrust law in the U.S. Maybe both.”

But the Google case had its seeds planted in 1995 when DOJ sued Microsoft on a similar theory for the dominance of its search engine – Explorer (remember Explorer?) – that case distracted and froze Microsoft long enough to create a space for companies like Google to emerge. DOJ ultimately gave up its efforts to breakup Microsoft and settled. We will see if history repeats itself.

Please do let me and the team know what topics you would like to hear more from me about – look forward to hearing your voices!

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