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Trump Nominates Eugene Scalia, Anti-Labor Lawyer, As Labor Secretary

Continuing with his “fox guarding the henhouse” Cabinet secretary philosophy, Trump has nominated attorney Eugene Scalia, a son of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, to head the Department of Labor.

In his tweet announcing the nomination, Trump referred to Scalia as “a lawyer with great experience working with labor and everyone else.” That couldn’t be farther from the truth.

The only real experience the younger Scalia has “working with labor” is undermining workers in favor of corporations. As the New York Timenoted, “Scalia has a long record of representing Walmart and other companies that pushed back against unions and tougher labor laws.” Walmart brought Scalia aboard when they were accused of firing corporate whistleblowers.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) noted the nomination of Scalia highlights the utter falsehood of Trump’s ostensibly pro-worker stance. With Scalia, “Trump has again chosen someone who has proven to put corporate interests over those of worker rights. Workers and union members who believed candidate Trump when he campaigned as pro-worker should feel betrayed,” Schumer said.

Scalia worked in the Department of Labor in the George W. Bush administration, but for the last several years he has been an attorney in the private sector at Gibson Dunn. On his profile page at the firm, he details several of his significant litigation wins, and they’re all distinctly anti-labor. For example, he beat the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in a case where the EEOC argued that telecommuting was a reasonable accommodation for a disability. He also bragged about “vacat[ing] the largest [Americans with Disabilities Act] class ever certified.”

As much as Scalia is an enemy of labor, he is a friend to big banks. Mother Jones profiled Scalia in 2014, when he was at the height of his crusade against the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act. Dodd-Frank was passed in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. It increased regulatory oversight for big banks and other parts of the financial sector, and established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

Of course, Republicans hated Dodd-Frank, and Scalia has been their go-to lawyer to undermine the law. Mother Jones described him as a “one-man scourge to the reformers who won a hard-fought battle” to pass the legislation.

Scalia replaces the embattled Alex Acosta, who is stepping down over his role in giving convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein a sweetheart deal. Conservative Republicans were happy to see Acosta go. That isn’t because they felt his actions regarding Epstein were repulsive but because they found Acosta insufficiently enthusiastic about gutting labor protections.

They’ll certainly have no such complaint about Scalia.

Published with permission of The American Independent.

How Neil Gorsuch Snowed One Side Of The Senate Aisle

WASHINGTON — Judge Neil Gorsuch, the Supreme Court nominee speaking before the Senate Judiciary Committee, had all the answers — or so it seemed — at the theater.

Yet President Trump’s man for the Supreme Court deftly dodged Democratic efforts to engage on women’s constitutional privacy rights, dark money in politics, surveillance, corporations and torture. Substance was not his strong suit.

Not so long ago, as a Bush White House Justice official, Gorsuch wrote a presidential signing statement on detainee treatment that raised eyebrows. “I was a lawyer for a client,” Gorsuch shrugged it off.

As a sitting federal judge, his refrain was something like this: Judges don’t give a “whit” about politics, so I can’t prejudge this or that. We just apply the law. We’re all human beings, but a judge has to put that aside.

Here’s what the Gorsuch brought to his role. A perfect head of silver hair, suggesting wisdom at age 49, just like Alexander Hamilton. His Harvard and Oxford credentials worn lightly with easy manners. He knew his lines by heart under the lights and cameras in the Hart building hearing room.

“I’d like to convey to you, from the bottom of my heart … that I’m a fair judge. …I can promise you absolutely nothing less,” Gorsuch said. “Anyone, any law is going to get a fair and square deal with me.”

You could hear the corn popping in Iowa Republican Senator Charles Grassley’s plain-spoken voice as he presided over his party’s love fest

But wait, there’s more.

Back home in “the West,” the Colorado native said, “I love my life,” lest there be doubt. He’d be doing us a favor to leave the great outdoors.

Lord knows the embattled, unpopular President Trump desperately needs his first win in office. The talk in the halls is that Gorsuch may hand him a victory in early April, when the full Senate votes on his confirmation. As of now, Gorsuch needs 60 votes from a closely divided Senate: 52-48.

Whether he can pick up eight votes among the vexed, scrappy Democratic minority, though, is not a done deal. Senators Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., landed a few punches as the leading antagonists.

Durbin brought up one of Gorsuch’s dissents in the case of a trucker stuck with frozen brakes in subzero weather in Chicago. It was “so cold, but not as cold as your dissent, Judge Gorsuch,” Durbin declared.

Gorsuch looked pained.

Whitehouse noted that millions of “dark” dollars had been raised to buttress Gorsuch’s nomination, without names attached. “They obviously think you will be worth their money,” Whitehouse said bluntly.

Gorsuch’s rulings raised concern that he will be sympathetic to the Chief Justice John Roberts “corporate court,” senators said.

Among all the players, a ghost hovered in the room: Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama’s final pick for the high court last March. Republicans blocked the highly respected Garland, the first Supreme Court nominee who never had a hearing, from his day in the Judiciary Committee’s court.

Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein pointedly raised “the very unusual circumstance.” Everyone at the hearing knew a sore was seething under the surface.

Gorsuch rated Garland as an “outstanding judge.” He even called him to tell him he’d been nominated. That’s the kind of winner he is.

The four-day drama was watched closely because Gorsuch will effectively step into the shoes of ferocious conservative Antonin Scalia, who died last winter.

Gorsuch likes to say he was skiing when he heard of Scalia’s death. The older man, a mentor, and he were fly-fishing buddies.

And the story goes that he wept as he skied down the mountain slope. “I am not embarrassed to admit that I couldn’t see the rest of the way down the mountain for the tears,” he said.

Well. I have a better takeaway. Gorsuch also wept because a Democratic president would presumably fill the seat meant for him.

Has Washington made me cynical?

Here’s where I’m almost sure he lied under oath: “I never dreamt I’d be sitting here, I can tell you that.”

So spoke Gorsuch, with a straight face.

Why It’s Time To Revive The Equal Rights Amendment

We lie to young girls.

We tell them that they can be anything they want to be, that nothing will hold them back from their aspirations but their ability to dream big.

Lean in, women are told in mid-career. Keep your head down, be diligent, and network. You’ll reach your highest goals.

But women in their 60s and older suspect the truth. Women still are not regarded as full equals in America.

They know because they remember. One of the reasons women still struggle for equal pay for equal work and equitable treatment by the law and courts is directly traceable to something that didn’t happen 35 years ago.

In 1982, the Equal Rights Amendment fell short of being ratified. It needed three more of the 15 holdout states to reach 38. Mention this to younger women and they look puzzled. Women aren’t protected as equals under the U.S. Constitution? No, we are not. We skipped a crucial step.

The lack of Constitutional grounding allows for gaps and loopholes. What about the 14th Amendment, goes a common reaction, with its equal protection clause?

Here is what now-deceased U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia had to say on that: “The Constitution does not protect women from sexual discrimination. No one ever thought that’s what it meant. No one ever voted for that.”

This huge lapse in constitutional protection is pertinent every day of the year. But let’s play the calendar game and use the upcoming March 8 annual International Women’s Day to grab some attention.

What would life be like for women (and men, because everyone would benefit) if the Equal Rights Amendment had been ratified?

If you do one thing this International Women’s Day, do this: Download a copy of the 2016 documentary Equal Means Equal, directed by Kamala Lopez. Buy a copy of the book by the same title. The author is Jessica Neuwirth, former director of the New York office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Both works shake complacency to dust.

Well-sourced, both walk through a range of problems that are exacerbated by the lack of an amendment: disparities in pay, sex discrimination cases, sexual assault, unequal access to health care, and poverty.

For middle-class women who are college-educated and comfortably situated in their careers and home lives, this might not seem all that relevant. It is relevant, however, albeit perhaps less piercingly than it is to their African-American and Latino sisters and to those who are less economically stable. Wherever gender disparities exist, women of color suffer at greater levels.

We’re almost numb to hearing that women earn less than men. But the problem clearly hasn’t been addressed. Women earn less than men, on average, in virtually every occupation, including nursing, where women far outnumber men.

Another outrage: The U.S. is the only developed country without mandated paid maternity leave. The impact on personal and family income is dramatic.

This ought to be mobilizing information. A resolution to support the Equal Rights Amendment passed out of the Nevada Senate Wednesday. And other states have pending proposals as well. The Republican Party can be counted on as opposition. Getting it to articulate why is key.

You have to wonder if our sexist president would indeed be the commander in chief if the Equal Rights Amendment had been ratified.

History will likely judge President Donald Trump’s electorate harshly for its attitudes about women in 2016. While there were many reasons people chose Trump over Hillary Clinton, strenuous mental gymnastics were required to dismiss his glaring misogyny on the campaign trail.

If women were considered full equals, if they had the Constitution firmly behind them, the nation would not have seen fit to elect a man with heinously backward views of women.

Our president is a grim reminder of how far women have yet to go to be treated as equals in America, and perhaps the best advertisement there is for a new Equal Rights Amendment.

IMAGE: Kansas City in the 1970s. The Republican National Convention took place in Kemper Arena in August 1976. The convention drew Equal Rights Amendments backers.

Democrats Question Independence Of Trump Supreme Court Nominee

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democratic U.S. senators on Monday sharpened a potential line of attack against Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court by questioning whether he would be sufficiently independent as a justice in light of President Donald Trump’s vigorous use of unilateral presidential power including his travel ban.

Their comments came after Trump criticized James Robart, the U.S. district court judge who put on hold the Republican president’s Jan. 27 order temporarily barring entry into the United States of people from seven Muslim-majority nations and halting the U.S. refugee program. Trump called Robart a “so-called judge” who made a “ridiculous” decision.

Democrats have expressed worry that Gorsuch, nominated by Trump last week, could act as a rubber stamp for the Republican president’s policies on a nine-seat Supreme Court poised to revert to a conservative majority.

“It’s a serious concern with a president who attacks the judiciary and seems to not respect the rule of law and the Constitution that you have a really independent justice,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, set to meet with Gorsuch on Tuesday, told Reuters.

Gorsuch, continuing a series of private meetings with senators ahead of his Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings, met on Monday with Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the panel’s top Democrat, at her Senate office.

Afterward, she said Gorsuch is “clearly very smart, caring, and he’s well thought of in Colorado,” where he serves as a federal appeals court judge. But Feinstein said she will make up her mind after the hearing about whether or not to support his confirmation.

“What we would like to see is an independent judge, and the hearing will determine that,” Feinstein told Reuters.

Gorsuch must be confirmed by the Senate to the lifetime post on the high court.

“It’s incumbent upon Judge Gorsuch to make it clear to the American people that he does not believe in ‘so-called judges,’ that he thinks it’s imperative that the judiciary has to be respected as an independent one-third of our government,” said Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who unsuccessfully sought the Democratic presidential nomination last year.

“I would look forward to hearing him speak out on that issue,” Sanders added.

Conservative lawyers and Republican senators who are favorable toward Gorsuch cite his record of supporting limited federal powers and his skepticism about courts deferring too much to executive branch interpretations of the law when issuing regulations as signs he would be willing to stand up to Trump.

“I have zero concerns about his independence being compromised,” said Senator John Cornyn of Texas, a Republican who sits on the Judiciary Committee.

Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker, another Republican, said Gorsuch “has a trail of decisions and publications a mile long that suggest how talented he is, that are instructive as to how he would rule on any number of issues.”

With four liberals and four conservatives now on the court, Gorsuch’s confirmation would restore the conservative majority that had existed for decades until the death last year of Justice Antonin Scalia.

Gorsuch’s supporters point in particular to a recent case in which Gorsuch criticized a landmark high court ruling known as Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council. That 1984 ruling directed judges nationwide to defer to federal agencies’ interpretation of laws that may be ambiguous.

Gorsuch in a concurring opinion called that doctrine the “elephant in the room” that concentrates federal power “in a way that seems more than a little difficult to square with the Constitution.”

If Gorsuch is confirmed to serve on a court that would have five conservatives and four liberals, Democrats have expressed concern about setbacks for their positions on divisive issues such as abortion, gun control, environmental regulation, and transgender rights.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Additional reporting by David Morgan and Richard Cowan; Editing by Will Dunham)

IMAGE: U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch arrives for a meeting with Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., February 2, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas