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Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson Will Join Supreme Court Today (VIDEO)

Newly-minted Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson will join the court — the first Black woman to do so — today when the new court term begins. And to say it plainly: I’m ecstatic about it.

Not because I anticipate Jackson leading her Republican colleagues out of their anti-American haze. I wouldn’t dare rest the error of their ways on Jackson’s shoulders, but I am hopeful that her voice will provide much-needed support to that of associate justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Together with retired peer Stephen Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan were left to defend Americans’ right to abortion by themselves on the court, and their Republican peers outvoted them 6-3 on June 24. Following that decision, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas immediately claimed that other cherished federal protections should be on the chopping block next as “demonstrably erroneous decisions.”

Now, rights to protect same-sex couples, affirmative action, voting and free speech are all planned for this term. Holding on to hope is no small feat, though a necessary one, I am reminded by Jackson’s investiture ceremony on Friday.

During the ceremony in which new justices take constitutional and judicial oaths, Jackson promised to “administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich,” according to The New York Times.

Although the investiture proceedings were “purely ceremonial” and Jackson was sworn in on on June 30, Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. said Jackson's arrival will cause the other justices to “kind of up our game a little bit.”

“It’s almost like the new in-law at Thanksgiving dinner,” he said.

Roberts added that because there will be a “new person” joining them “each of us will be a little more careful in explaining why we think what we think.”

Kagan said in remarks captured on C-SPAN that the press often refers back to former Justice Byron White's quote that whenever there is a new justice “it's a different court.” She said once doubted that but now realizes it in a sense is “deeply true.”

“It wasn’t the addition of the new justice,” she said. “It was actually the fact that the old justice was no longer there.”

Jackson is filling a seat vacated when Breyer retired.

Kagan said Breyer, who served for more than 27 years, would be difficult to replace. “He believed in the power of relationships, and he believed in the power of reason,” Kagan said.

I believe in the power of a Black mother driven by a sense of duty and dedication. In the words of President Joe Biden, who attended Jackson's investiture ceremony: “Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson has already brought uncompromising integrity, a strong moral compass, and courage to the Supreme Court.”



Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

New Poll: Majority Says Trump Should Be Barred From Presidency

Based on "what we know about the ongoing investigations into Donald Trump," a substantial number of voters believe former President Donald Trump should not “be allowed to serve as president again in the future.”

According to the results of a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll, only 35 percent of voters believe the former president should be allowed to serve in the capacity of president again. More than 50 percent say he should not.

The poll, which consisted of responses from 1,566 participants, was conducted from September 23 to 27.

It came shortly after reports circulated about New York state Attorney General Letitia James' lawsuit as part of her office's investigation into the Trump Organization.

This evaluation suggests voters see enough evidence to disqualify Trump from entering the presidential race in 2024. But despite the results, the report explains why the full scope of the poll is not unfavorable for the former president.

"The new Yahoo News/YouGov poll wasn’t all bad news for the former president," Yahoo News reports. "Three weeks ago, President Biden held a 6-point lead over Trump (48 percent to 42 percent) in a hypothetical head-to-head 2024 rematch — the Democrat’s largest advantage in months. In the latest survey, Biden’s margin has shrunk to two percentage points (47 percent to 45 percent)."

Although Trump is still seen as a strong influence within the Republican Party, the poll results indicate his impact may be waning.

"While Trump remains as competitive as ever in a general-election context — where partisanship matters most — the new poll also suggests his standing among Republican voters may be softening somewhat."

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

The Willful Blindness Of America's Conservative Intellectuals

The headline of a Wall Street Journal editorial caught my eye: "Arizona's School Choice Election." Writing as if nothing had changed in American politics since 2011, the editorial board assailed Katie Hobbs, the Democratic candidate for governor, as a tool of the teachers unions for her opposition to school choice. The Journal advised that parents would be well-advised to vote Republican.

There you have it: the failure of the intellectual leaders of conservatism in one editorial. The once magisterial voice of the conservative worldview looked at the race for governor in Arizona and airily overlooked reality. School choice? Are they out of their minds?

Disturbing, extremist, and otherwise unfit candidates dot the national landscape in 2022 like monkeypox, from Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania to J.D. Vance in Ohio to Don Bolduc in New Hampshire, but Arizona surely takes the highest honors for the sheer concentration of ranting incompetents who threaten the democratic process.

Kari Lake, the Republican candidate for governor, whom the Journal is endorsing, may be in favor of school choice, but that's a little beside the point when you consider the larger picture. Lake has declared that the 2020 election was "corrupt and stolen." Regarding the current president of the United States, she has expressed pity, urging that "Deep down, I think we all know this illegitimate fool in the White House — I feel sorry for him — didn't win. I hope Americans are smart enough to know that." She has no patience for temporizers. "It is not enough to say you are for 'Election Integrity' if you are not for DECERTIFYING the 2020 election if wrongdoing, fraud or different results are revealed," she tweeted last year.

There is no fiction she has not willingly endorsed. She told a group of young women that they shouldn't take precautions about COVID because "The truth is that hydroxychloroquine works and other inexpensive treatments work." A week before the voting, she announced, "We're already detecting some stealing going on." And despite her victory, she carried a sledgehammer onstage on primary night and pantomimed smashing electronic voting machines.

That's the GOP nominee for governor of Arizona. What does the Wall Street Journal do with these awkward realities? The editorial board interprets them as problems only insofar as they make it harder for her to win.

"GOP gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake hasn't helped herself or her party by insisting that the 2020 election was stolen. Her election fraud claims put off many Republicans and independents and are a loser in the general election. A winning and unifying issue for Republicans this November is school choice."

The important thing is for the election-denying cult member to win, so let's find something that can distract disaffected Republicans and independents.

Despite all of the foregoing, it's just possible that Lake is the most mainstream of the major Republican candidates in Arizona this year. The GOP nominee for Senate is Blake Masters, an election denier who spices up the usual fare with "great replacement" talk. "The Democrats dream of mass amnesty, because they want to import a new electorate," he says. He attributes America's problems with gun violence to "Black people, frankly." When asked for a "subversive" thinker he admires, he responded with "How about, like, Theodore Kaczynski?" Yes, Wall Street Journal editorial board, how about that?

But wait, we're not finished with Arizona's contributions to national insanity. The Republican candidate for secretary of state in Arizona is not just an election-denying extremist enemy of democracy, but a card-carrying member of the Oath Keepers, the fine gentlemen who are currently being tried in federal court for seditious conspiracy. Mark Finchem has appeared on QAnon-linked radio talk shows and spoke at a rally in January with Trump, Mike Lindell, and the whole clown car of kooks. His website features a banner inviting readers to "Sign the petition to decertify and set aside AZ electors." Soon he may be the secretary of state of Arizona.

Some are able to see what is at stake here. When Liz Cheney was asked whether she might campaign for Democrat Katie Hobbs, she said yes. "In this election, you have to vote for the person who actually believes in democracy."

Again, I tend to agree with the Journal's editorial board on many policy matters. But they are pretending, or perhaps deluding themselves, that the Republican Party remains, underneath it all, the party of Paul Ryan and Larry Hogan and Chris Sununu, and that the country will be better off if Republicans win elections, full stop.

As Liz Cheney sees and is willing to say, not this Republican Party. This GOP is the party of Mastriano and Vance and, yes, Kari Lake. This is a party that cannot be trusted with power; that openly proclaims its eagerness to overturn elections. Next to that, everything else, including school choice and regulation and taxes, pales to insignificance. The Wall Street Journal editorial board has continuing influence with reasonable center-right voters. They owe them better.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Biden Lifts US Semiconductors Over Republicans (And China's Lobbyists)

Should Washington push an "industrial policy"? That is, should the U.S. government get involved in promoting certain domestic industries?

Darn straight it should. And that goes double when it comes to semiconductors. Computer chips are the little brains that run appliances, airplanes, mobile phones and cars. You can't have a modern economy without them.

We saw what happens when key manufacturing activities go offshore. During the COVID-induced supply chain crisis, Western manufacturers couldn't get their hands on the chips they needed to meet demand for their products. Some had to close or slowed production.

American automakers were especially handcuffed. General Motors, for one, blamed the chip shortage for a 15% drop in its U.S. deliveries of new vehicles in the second quarter from a year earlier.

And so it's hard to overstate how bringing chip-making to this country is good for this country. It would not only create many thousands of American jobs; it would ensure that other U.S. manufacturers don't have to beg Asians for semiconductors.

Toward that end we should hail the Chips and Science Act, championed by the Biden administration. It was astounding that 187 Republican House members voted against the bill, though gratifying that 24 did.

The GOP leadership had joined Chinese lobbyists in opposing it. Never mind that chip independence had the full-throated support of several former Trump officials, notably former National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. To partisan robots, the national interest rarely overrides the joys of political warfare.

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo rightly called the $52 billion in new semiconductor money "rocket fuel for our global competitiveness."

Asia dominates the production of semiconductors. Taiwan makes 65% of the world's semiconductors and accounts for nearly 90% of the advanced chips. And if China attacked and took over Taiwan, an adversary would have a stranglehold on America's — and the world's — manufacturing.

Meanwhile, the Chinese government has been pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into its own semiconductor industry. So, by the way, have the Europeans.

This is part of a bigger picture in which the U.S. has been reversing decades of "off-shoring" factory jobs to lower wage countries. Almost 350,000 jobs will be "reshored" this year — on top of about 265,000 added in 2021. The chips act and the Inflation Reduction Act are fueling many of the moves with tax breaks and other economic incentives.

"Globalization is in retreat," economists at Barclays told their clients.

Supply chains have become an economic battlefield of the 21st century. In a jarring example, Europe faces an energy crisis for having become dependent on Russia for gas and oil.

Raimondo, a former venture capitalist, has been wonderfully aggressive on this front. When Taiwan's GlobalWafers abandoned a plan to spend $5 billion on a plant in Germany, she called the CEO and nabbed the factory for Texas. Here come 1,500 jobs.

Citing the chips bill, U.S. semiconductor companies say they plan billions in new investment, and their jobs pay very well.

President Joe Biden preened at the recent groundbreaking for a new $20 billion plant Intel is building near Columbus, Ohio. Beside him stood two good Ohio Republicans, Gov. Mike DeWine and Sen. Rob Portman.

The Chinese government has been pouring money into other hot tech fields, such as artificial intelligence and robotics. These are areas in which the United States used to have a safe lead.

"We need America to dominate in certain areas of technology," Raimondo said. "Critical minerals, electric vehicle batteries, semiconductors, artificial intelligence." This obviously goes beyond jobs. It's about national security.

Well, is America going to compete or not? Washington just put its chips on chips. That would seem a smart wager.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Threats Against Texas Sheriff Who Launched Probe Of DeSantis Trafficking Stunt

Far-right Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has been drawing a great deal of criticism from Democrats — as well as some Never Trump conservatives — for sending two planes of migrants, many of them from Venezuela, to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. DeSantis critics have been saying that it wasn’t hard to figure out why he chose Martha’s Vineyard for his political stunt: Massachusetts, home of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, is a deep blue state — and DeSantis, during an election year, wanted to show off his ability to “own the liberals.”

On Monday, September 19 in Bexar County, Texas — where the flight of migrants originated before going to Florida and later, Martha’s Vineyard — Sheriff Javier Salazar announced that he would be opening a criminal investigation of DeSantis. And since then, according to Vice’s Paul Blest, Salazar’s office has been inundated with “threats.”

Salazar, at a press conference, told reporters he believes the migrants were “lured” to Martha’s Vineyard under “false pretenses” in violation of both county and federal law. In a brochure that Popular Information posted on September 19, migrants were promised “eight months cash assistance” as well as “food,” “housing” and “job placements.”

On September 20, the day after Salazar’s announcement, a spokesperson for his office told Vice, “There have been numerous threats, an influx of calls to our dispatch and administrative offices, along with hateful e-mails received…. Additionally, as in any instance when our office receives threats, precautionary measures will be made for safety of all personnel.”

One of the Massachusetts Democrats who has been calling DeSantis out is State Rep. Dylan Fernandes, who described DeSantis’ actions as “f****** depraved.” On September 18, Fernandes — whose district includes the Martha’s Vineyard area — tweeted, “We are requesting that the Department of Justice open an investigation to hold DeSantis & others accountable for these inhumane acts. Not only is it morally criminal, there are legal implications around fraud, kidnapping, deprivation of liberty, and human trafficking.”

DeSantis has been an incredibly polarizing figure in Florida and U.S. politics. Although Democrats as well as some moderate Republicans hold him in very low regard, DeSantis is wildly popular with the MAGA base — and polls indicate that he appears to be headed for reelection in Florida’s 2022 gubernatorial race. Polls have shown DeSantis with single-digit leads over the Democratic nominee, Rep. Charlie Crist, a former Republican and ex-governor of Florida.

Blest notes, “DeSantis, who is up for reelection this year, has become one of the most popular figures in the Republican Party due to his relentless hostility towards his perceived political enemies and the media, and has been rumored as a potential candidate in 2024. DeSantis’ campaign and PAC have raised a combined $178 million this year, a gubernatorial fundraising record, according to OpenSecrets.”

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Fox Executives And Anchor Tried To Subvert 2020 Election Night Reporting

Top Fox News executives interfered with the election projections of the network’s vaunted “decision desk” due to blowback from then-President Donald Trump, according to a new book. The reports — and the actions Fox took with regard to its decision desk following the 2020 election — demolish the network’s argument that its “news side” is a credible journalistic operation walled off from the “opinion side’s” Republican Party propaganda machine.

In The Divider: Trump in the White House, 2017-2021, Peter Baker and Susan Glasser report that while Fox’s decision desk had been comfortable with its election night call that Joe Biden had won Arizona, “Fox executives were freaking out” that week as the network came “under tremendous pressure from Trump and his allies.” Fox’s call made it more difficult for Trump to subvert the election after declaring victory on election night, and he responded by successfully encouraging Fox viewers to switch to its competitors.

Jay Wallace, Fox’s president and executive editor, took a direct action overriding the decision desk in hopes of avoiding further criticism from Trump supporters on the Friday after election day, according to Baker and Glasser.

Wallace “overruled the Decision Desk team including Bill Sammon, Arnon Miskin, and Chris Stirewalt, refusing to let them call Nevada for Biden even after other networks did, a level of interference that had been unheard of in past elections,” they write. “The reason had little to do with Nevada. Because of the Arizona projection, calling Nevada would give Biden enough electoral votes for victory. Wallace did not want Fox to be the first to call the election and declare Biden president-elect.”

Wallace’s act followed two other proposals from senior Fox employees to interfere with the decision desk for Trump’s benefit, according to the book.

First, “at 8:30 the morning after the election, Suzanne Scott, the chief executive officer, even suggested that Fox should not call any more states until they were officially certified,” they reported. As Baker and Glasser noted, “official state certifications typically took days or even weeks and no network had ever waited until then before telling their viewers who had won.”

“A couple other top executives backed up Scott,” while Sammon, the Washington managing editor who directed the decision desk, advised against the move, according to the book. (That Sammon, who slanted Fox’s reporting to the right and bragged about falsely portraying Barack Obama as a socialist during the 2008 election, was the voice of reason here shows how far the network had gone.)

But two days later, they report that Fox chief political anchor Bret Baier sent Wallace an email arguing that Fox should reverse its Arizona call and instead project that Trump had won the state — even though he trailed at the time by more than 10,000 votes.

“The Trump campaign was really pissed,” he wrote in an email to Jay Wallace, the president and executive editor at Fox. “This situation is getting uncomfortable. Really uncomfortable. I keep having to defend this on air.” He accused the Decision Desk of “holding on for pride” and added: “It’s hurting us. The sooner we pull it—even if it gives us major egg [on our faces]—and we put it back in his column the better we are in my opinion.

Fox executives sell ads by touting the purported firewall between the network’s right-wing “opinion side” and its respectable “news side.” But here we have the network’s top “news side” anchor imploring the head of “news side” programming to make the “news side” decision desk fraudulently award a state to Trump because his campaign was demanding it. That says more about Fox’s role as GOP propaganda than any “opinion side” monologue. (In a statement, Baier denied writing that the Trump campaign “was really pissed,” claiming that the quote was “from an external email that I referenced,” but complained only of the “context” of the remainder of the quotes.)

Wallace didn’t follow through on Baier’s proposal, but according to Baker and Glasser he blocked the decision desk’s Nevada call the following day. The day after that, Fox saw the writing on the wall and followed CNN, ABC, CBS, and The Associated Press in declaring that Biden had won the election.

But that wasn’t the end of it. The network’s brass subsequently established an incentive structure that would dissuade similar “news side” threats to Fox’s bottom line.

Baker and Glasser report that Sammon and Stirewalt were then “summarily fired,” with the announcement delayed until January and described as a “retirement” and part of a “restructuring,” respectively.

Over the months that followed, “opinion side” hosts Greg Gutfeld and Jesse Watters, who had both questioned the network’s Arizona call, were given their own weeknight shows. They each took over time slots that had previously been occupied by “news side” programs. Other prominent election deniers were also promoted and given increased prominence at the network.

Everyone who works at Fox now knows that if they help Republicans try to steal an election, they’ll be richly rewarded. If they try to interfere with that effort by accurately stating that the Democrats won, the network’s top executives may overrule them and they will find themselves looking for a new job.

Fox’s decision desk is now just another piece of the right’s election subversion machine — one its executives can deploy at will — and its projections should be treated as such. Any future Fox election calls that diverge from other networks to the benefit of the GOP should be treated with extreme skepticism.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Trump’s Secret Document Grab Reflects The Culture Of Official Washington

Thanks to Donald Trump, secrecy is big news these days. However, as political pundits and legal experts race to expose the layers of document-related misdeeds previously buried at his Mar-a-Lago estate, one overlooked reality looms large: despite all the coverage of the thousands of documents Trump took with him when he left the White House, there’s been next to no acknowledgment that such a refusal to share information has been part and parcel of the Washington scene for far longer than the current moment.

The hiding of information by the former president, repeatedly described as “unprecedented” behavior, is actually part of a continuum of withholding that’s been growing at a striking pace for decades. By the time Donald Trump entered the Oval Office, the stage had long been set for removing information from the public record in an alarmingly broad fashion, a pattern that he would take to new levels.

The “Secrecy President”

As recent history’s exhibit number one, this country’s global war on terror, launched soon after the 9/11 attacks, was largely defined and enabled by the withholding of information — including secret memos, hidden authorizations, and the use of covert methods. During President George W. Bush’s first term in office, government lawyers and officials regularly withheld information about their actions and documents related to them from public view, both at home and abroad.

Those officials, for instance, legalized the brutal interrogations of war-on-terror prisoners, while conveniently replacing the word “torture” with the phrase “enhanced interrogation techniques” and so surreptitiously evading a longstanding legal ban on the practice. The CIA then secretly utilized those medieval techniques at “black sites” around the world where its agents held suspected terrorists. It later destroyed the tapes made of those interrogations, erasing the evidence of what its agents had done. On the home front, in a similarly secretive fashion, unknown to members of Congress as well as the general public, President Bush authorized the National Security Agency to set up an elaborate and far-reaching program of warrantless surveillance on Americans and others inside the United States.

Consider that the launching of an era of enhanced secrecy techniques. No wonder Bush earned the moniker of the “secrecy president.” Only weeks after the 9/11 attacks, for instance, he put in place strict guidelines about who could brief Congress on classified matters, while instituting new, lower standards for transparency. He even issued a signing statement rebuking Congress for requiring reports “in written form” on “significant anticipated intelligence activities or significant intelligence failure.” To emphasize his sense of righteousness in defying calls for information, he insisted on the “president’s constitutional authority to… withhold information” in cases of foreign relations and national security. In a parallel fashion, his administration put new regulations in place limiting the release of information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

President Obama also withheld information when it came to war-on-terror efforts. Notably, his administration shrouded in secrecy the use of armed drones to target and kill suspected terrorists (and civilians) in Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen. Official reports omitted reliable data about who was killed, where the killings had taken place, or the number of civilian casualties. As the American Civil Liberties Union concluded, administration reporting on civilian harm fell “far short of the standards for transparency and accountability needed to ensure that the government’s targeted killing program is lawful under domestic and international law.”

And well beyond the war-on-terror context, the claim to secrecy has become a government default mechanism. Tellingly, the number of classified documents soared to unimaginable heights in those years. As the National Archives reports, in 2012, documents with classified markings — including “top secret,” “secret,” and “confidential” — reached a staggering 95 million. And while the overall numbers had declined by 2017, the extent of government classification then and now remains alarming.

Erasing the Record Before It’s Created

President Trump’s document theft should be understood, then, as just another piece of the secrecy matrix.

Despite his claim — outrageous, but perhaps no more than so many other claims he made — to being the “most transparent” president ever, he turned out to be a stickler for withholding information on numerous fronts. Taking the war-on-terror behavioral patterns of his predecessors to heart, he expanded the information vacuum well beyond the sphere of war and national security to the purely political and personal realms. As a start, he refused to testify in the Mueller investigation into the 2016 presidential election. On a more personal note, he also filed suit to keep his tax records secret from Congress.

In fact, during his time in office, Trump virtually transformed the very exercise of withholding information. In place of secrecy in the form of classification, he developed a strategy of preventing documents and records from even being created in the first place.

Three months into his presidency, Trump announced that the White House would cease to disclose its visitor logs, citing the supposed risk to both national security and presidential privacy. In addition to hiding the names of those with whom he met, specific high-level meetings took place in an unrecorded fashion so that even the members of his cabinet, no less the public, would never know about them.

As former National Security Advisor John Bolton and others have attested, when it came to meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump even prohibited note-taking. In at least five such meetings over the course of his first two years in office, he consistently excluded White House officials and members of the State Department. On at least one occasion, he even confiscated notes his interpreter took to ensure that there would be no record.

Congress, too, was forbidden access to information under Trump. Lawyers in the Department of Justice (DOJ) drafted memos hardening policies against complying with congressional requests for information in what former DOJ lawyer Annie Owens has described as “a policy that approached outright refusal” to share information. In addition, the Trump administration was lax or even dismissive when it came to compliance with the production of required reports on national security matters. Note as well the reversal of policies aimed at transparency, as in the decision to reverse an Obama era policy of making public the number of nuclear weapons the U.S. possessed.

But don’t just blame Donald Trump. Among the most recent examples of erasing evidence, it’s become clear that the Secret Service deleted the text messages of its agents around the president from the day before and the day of the January 6th insurrection. So, too, the phone records of several top Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials were wiped clean when they left office in accordance with directives established early in the Trump presidency. Similarly, the phone records of top Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security officials were scrapped. In other words, recent reports on the way Trump regularly shredded documents, flushed them down the White House toilet, and generally withheld presidential papers — even classified documents, as revealed during the Mar-a-Lago search — were of a piece with a larger disdain on the part of both the president and a number of his top officials for sharing information.

Erasing the record in one fashion or another became the Trump administration’s default setting, variations on a theme hammered out by his predecessors and taken to new levels on his watch.

A Perpetual Right to Secrecy?

Admittedly, before Trump arrived on the scene, there were some efforts to reverse this pattern, but in the long run they proved anemic. Barack Obama arrived at the White House in January 2009 acknowledging the harm caused by excessive government secrecy. Emphasizing transparency’s importance for accountability, informed public debate, and establishing trust in government, the new president issued an executive order on his first full day in office emphasizing the importance of “transparency and open government” and pledging to create “an unprecedented level of openness in government.”

Nearly a year later, he followed up with another executive order setting out a series of reforms aimed at widening the parameters for information-sharing. That order tightened guidelines around classification and broadened the possibilities for declassifying information. “Our democratic principles require that the American people be informed of the activities of their government,” it read. Six years later, Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper produced a report on the “principles of Intelligence transparency for the intelligence community” and a “transparency implementation plan” that again aimed at clarifying the limits, as well as the purposes, of secrecy.

And Obama’s efforts did indeed make some headway. As Steven Aftergood, former director of the Federation of American Scientists, concluded, “The Obama administration broke down longstanding barriers to public access and opened up previously inaccessible records of enormous importance and value.” Among other things, Aftergood reported, Obama “declassified the current size of the U.S. nuclear arms arsenal for the first time ever,” as well as thousands of the president’s daily briefs, and established a National Declassification Center.

Still, in the end, the progress proved disappointing. As Washington Post columnist Margaret Sullivan put it, the Obama administration’s record on transparency was among “the most secretive” in our history. She also castigated the president’s team for “setting new records for stonewalling or rejecting Freedom of Information Requests.” As an Associated Press analysis of federal data verified, the Obama administration did indeed set records in some years when it came to not granting those FOIA requests.

Executive distaste for sharing information is certainly nothing new and has often been linked, as during the war on terror, to misrepresentations, misdeeds, and outright deceit. After all, half a century ago, the administration of President Richard Nixon (of Watergate fame) defended the right to withhold information from the public as an effective way of covering up the American role in Vietnam. Those withheld materials, eventually released by the New York Times, showed that, over the course of four administrations, the national security state had misled the public about what the U.S. was doing in Vietnam, including hiding the secret bombing of neighboring Cambodia and Laos.

Still, let’s recognize what Donald Trump has, in fact, done. Though no longer president, he’s now taken the withholding of government information well beyond the borders of the government itself and deep into his private realm. In doing so, he’s set a dangerous precedent, one that brought the FBI to his doorstep (after months of attempts to access the documents in less intrusive ways). The challenge now is to address not just Trump’s clumsy efforts to unilaterally privatize a government practice, but the systemic overreach officials have relied on for decades to withhold staggering amounts of information from the public.

The Biden administration is alert to this issue. Notably, President Biden reversed several of Trump’s classification decisions, including his policy of not reporting the number of American nuclear weapons. More systematically, the National Security Council recently launched an effort aimed at revising the nation’s unwieldy classification system, while Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines has stated her intention to review the excessive classification of government documents.

In a 2022 letter to Congress, Haines pointed to the downside of a government that refuses to share information. “It is my view,” she wrote, “that deficiencies in the current classification system undermine our national security, as well as critical democratic objectives, by impeding our ability to share information in a timely manner, be that sharing with our intelligence partners, our oversight bodies, or, when appropriate, with the general public.”

True to her word, in the three months following that statement of allegiance to transparency, Haines has released a steady flow of material on controversial topics, including unclassified reports on everything from the origins of Covid to climate change to an assessment of the “Saudi government’s role in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.”

Still, despite such efforts, the powers that be are arguably being hoisted on their own petard. After all, Donald Trump followed in the wake of his predecessors in sanctioning expansive secrecy, then made it a be-all and end-all of his presidency, and now claims that it’s part of his rights as a former president and private citizen. As the head of a political movement, now out of office, he’s done the once unthinkable by claiming that the veil of secrecy, the right to decide what should be known and who should know it, is his in perpetuity.

The horror of his claim to untethered secret authority — no wonder some of his MAGA followers refer to him as their “god-emperor” — violates the very idea that a democracy is a pact between individual citizens and elected officials. The valid response to the holding of documents at Mar-a-Lago shouldn’t just be reclaiming them for the public record or even the clear demarcation of the law as it applies to a private citizen as opposed to a president (though both are essential). What’s needed is a full-throated demand that policies of secrecy, allowed to expand exponentially in this century without accountability or transparency, are destructive of democracy and should be ended.

Copyright 2022 Karen J. Greenberg

Karen J. Greenberg, a TomDispatch regular, is the director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law and author most recently of Subtle Tools: The Dismantling of Democracy from the War on Terror to Donald Trump (Princeton University Press). Julia Tedesco conducted research for this article.

Reprinted with permission from Tom Dispatch.

Why Republicans — Not Biden — Are Mostly To Blame For Border Chaos

Let's have a conversation about immigration. An honest one.

In sending migrants to liberal states, the Republican governors of Florida, Texas and Arizona engaged in what even The Wall Street Journal slammed as "political stunts" that turn human beings into "political props."

Its purpose was to blame Democrats for the current chaos at the border. The truth is that Republicans, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, have stymied serious efforts, even conservative ones, to curb the flow of undocumented immigrants. Florida is every bit as much a "sanctuary state" as New York. DeSantis just doesn't call it that.

One can argue that President Joe Biden has made the situation worse with his talk about a kinder, more open approach to immigration. His fine expressions of humanity set off a stampede of people trying their luck at the border. The vast majority of illegal entrants come here for jobs. Many simply claim asylum knowing that the clogged immigration courts won't get them a first hearing for an average 810 days, during which time they can set roots in America.

And so how is the Republican Party at fault? Strip away its hollering about illegal immigration, and you have a party that has stopped nearly every effort to get at the root of the problem.

The only solution is to remove the job magnet, and there's already a system in place to do that. E-Verify lets employers quickly check a database to determine whether a new hire may legally work in this country. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security runs it.

A few states mandate that all employers use E-Verify. Not Florida. DeSantis and his Republican legislature passed a law requiring only companies doing business with the state and some big private employers to use E-Verify. Left out are most restaurants, tourist operations, maintenance services, construction companies — the very businesses that employ large numbers of undocumented workers.

In his campaign, former President Donald Trump made a promise to make E-Verify mandatory nationwide. Once in office, he dropped it. His "plan" for an immigration fix made no mention of E-Verify. As Trump explained to Fox News, "E-Verify is so tough that in some cases, like farmers, they're not — they're not equipped for E-Verify." In other words, it made hiring illegal labor too hard.

In 2013, the Senate passed, in a bipartisan vote, an immigration reform bill that would have required all employers to electronically verify a right to work in the U.S. As a compromise, it would have legalized the status of most undocumented immigrants already in the country.

But when the bill got to the House, then-Speaker John Boehner refused to put it up for a vote. Although it would have easily passed, the measure did not have the support of a majority of Republican members. They railed against another amnesty for "lawbreakers," ignoring that E-Verify would have made it the last amnesty. But there was also their hush-hush campaign to keep cheap labor flowing to their business supporters. The Wall Street Journal even called for a constitutional amendment saying, "There shall be open borders."

Look where we are almost 10 years later. If America needs more workers — and it appears it does — then it should admit more immigrants through the front door.

In the meantime, municipalities should stop declaring themselves "sanctuary cities." And Republicans running their mouths about stopping the tide of illegal entrants should own up to their hypocrisy and actually make the hard choices.

You want to find illegal workers? Check out the kitchens in Miami, Orlando and West Palm Beach. DeSantis has made sure that opportunity to evade our immigration laws continues to knock, papers not required. And that's the truth.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.