Connect with us

Ticker Views

How well are America’s governing institutions holding up? | ticker VIEWS

Published

on

This week, two branches of the government of the United States, as established by the Constitution of the United States, face clear and present dangers – actions of contempt – that threaten the rule of law in the United States

Contempt challenges for congress and the supreme court

The House of Representatives will begin the process of punishing, by seeking criminal prosecution, a man named Stephen Bannon, a former aide to President Donald Trump who continued to serve as an unofficial advisor in the last years of Trump’s term.

Bannon was with Trump and in conversations with Trump in the days leading up to the deadly insurrection on January 6, whose purpose was to stop the certification by Congress of the 2020 presidential election and the peaceful transfer of power to Joe Biden, who won the election.

BRUCE WOLPE ON Former Trump Aide Steve Bannon is under fire for not cooperating with the investigation in the January 6 capitol riots

The House of Representatives has established a Select Committee to investigate all aspects of the insurrection:  what happened, who was responsible, what plans were in place to protect the Capitol, what was the chain of command and steps taken to send forces to put down the violence and clear the Capitol.

The Select Committee also wants to know what the President did that day, who he talked with and what was said, what decisions were made, what his intentions were. Both the Vice President and the Speaker of the House – the next officials in the line of succession to the President – were targets of the mob.

Bannon’s testimony is crucial to understanding the events of that day and what Trump did that day

Bannon is refusing to testify, citing orders from Trump that he not cooperate, with Trump citing “executive privilege”: the ability of a president to shield officials and documents from investigation.

But the United States has but one president at a time. The only president who can assert executive privilege is the one in the Oval Office. And President Biden has waived any assertion of executive privilege for the purposes of the Select Committee’s work.

Bannon is happy to talk to the media, and to authors of books about Trump, and is free to give them his account of what he knows of what Trump was doing to overturn the election. But he will not comply with a subpoena from the House Select Committee to give evidence.

The Select Committee will find Bannon in contempt for refusing to testify. The House will vote a resolution seeking action by the Justice Department to enforce the Committee’s subpoena to Bannon through a criminal prosecution for his contempt. 

Why is this important?

Under the Constitution, the Congress is a co-equal branch of government, equal in stature to the Executive. Congress’ constitutional responsibility is to ensure that the Executive Branch conducts its business in conformity with the laws Congress has passed.

If Congress cannot oversee activities by Executive Branch officials and those who engage with it, Congress cannot fulfil its duties, meaning that there is no check and balance on what the president does.

With only a handful of exceptions, Republicans will vote against this contempt proceeding. Which means they are voting to permanently weaken the Congress with respect to the President.

Which means that, should Republicans take control of the House, there will be a precedent for their oversight work to be stonewalled. Which means that presidential abuses of power can easily be beyond the reach of the rule of law under the Constitution.

United States Supreme Court Building

The Supreme Court will receive an urgent appeal from the Department of Justice, asking to overturn a lower court decision that removed an injunction on the new abortion law of Texas. That law bans abortions after 6 weeks and enables any citizen to sue – and get a $10,000 bounty if successful – anyone who provides an abortion or assists in an abortion (including anyone who drives a woman to a health clinic for an abortion that is illegal under the Texas law).

The Texas statute on its face is plainly, inescapably unconstitutional under landmark Supreme Court decisions in 1973 and 1992 that established abortion as a woman’s right to so choose under the Constitution. As the New York Times explains,

Supreme Court precedents prohibit states from banning abortion before fetal viability, the point at which fetuses can sustain life outside the womb, or about 22 to 24 weeks into a pregnancy. That makes the Texas law unconstitutional under the controlling precedents.

The unconstitutionality of the Texas law could not be plainer. 

In addition, it is a tenet of jurisprudence that judges be guided by the doctrine of stare decisis. A legal policy unit at Cornell Law School describes the doctrine:

Stare decisis is Latin for “to stand by things decided.”  In short, it is the doctrine of precedent.

Courts cite to stare decisis when an issue has been previously brought to the court and a ruling already issued. According to the Supreme Court, stare decisis “promotes the evenhanded, predictable, and consistent development of legal principles, fosters reliance on judicial decisions, and contributes to the actual and perceived integrity of the judicial process.” In practice, the Supreme Court will usually defer to its previous decisions even if the soundness of the decision is in doubt.

Trump appointed three justices to the Court during his term, giving the Court a solid conservative majority

All were selected with the belief that they could – and likely would – vote to overturn Roe v Wade, the bedrock abortion rights decision. In the hyper-intensive atmosphere involving the confirmations of now-Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Comey Barrett, they all pledged respect for stare decisis.

We are about to fund out, as the Supreme Court considers the Texas case, and also in December a Mississippi case outlawing abortion after 15 weeks, if this Supreme Court will overturn abortion rights. 

And we will therefore find out whether this Supreme Court also has contempt for the rule of law.

These challenges test how well America’s governing institutions are holding up under the immense strains of the Trump presidency. And how strong governance truly is in the US right now.

Bruce Wolpe is a Ticker News US political contributor. He’s a Senior Fellow at the US Studies Centre and has worked with Democrats in Congress during President Barack Obama's first term, and on the staff of Prime Minister Julia Gillard. He has also served as the former PM's chief of staff.

Ticker Views

December time crunch – variants, deadlines and wild cards

Published

on

Let’s look ahead to the end of the year in Washington.  There are enormous issues, tests, and challenges across the board.  There is no certainty of the outcomes

Bruce WOLPE ON TICKER NEWS

The variants

The eruption of Omicron is a rude shock to a world struggling to recover from the pandemic.  For President Biden, while the quantum of this new health threat itself is not yet clear, the political danger is clearly visible. 

More people have died from Covid in the United States this year than in 2020.  Americans are still dying at a rate of around 1000 per day. 

The vaccination crusade has stalled at about 70 per cent of the population fully vaxxed.  Even before Omicron, the difference between the US at 70 per cent and the most populous states in Australia at 90 per cent+ is the very visible difference in overall public health. 

BIDEN CALLING FOR CALM

America’s vaccine deficit has been fuelled by the rancid politics spawned in the Trump days.  Biden’s appeal on taking office was that he would bring Covid under control.  It is under control for the vaccinated but not for those naked to the virus.  

Biden’s message of reassurance to the American people that the US can face this new threat, and manage it successfully without lockdowns, is designed to counter the uncertainty, fear, and choppiness across an economy infected with inflation and clots in the supply chains. 

The new variant – and all the uncertainties it presents – poses further tests for any rebound in Biden’s approval in the short term 

And that means that for the moment he has less political capital in shaping public opinion to get his legislative agenda done this year.

The deadlines

Funding for the Federal government runs out on December 3.  Unless Congress approves money for government operations (“supply” in the Australian context) the government will shut down next Saturday. 

While President Trump and Senate Republicans in the Obama presidency saw some virtue in playing the government shutdown card, there are no winners from such an exercise.  

The logical outcome is to punt and extend government funding until next March. This is what should happen, will likely happen- but simple logic is in short supply in Washington these days.

The debt limit of the United States expires any time after December 15.  This is the ceiling authorised by law for the United States to pay its debts – to its citizens and to creditors worldwide. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks to the press after a lunch meeting with Senate Democrats at the Capitol on November 16.

The United States has never defaulted on its debt, but there have been many moments when this issue has been taken to the brink. Debt limit fights have in recent years been the played with the hardest of hardball tactics. 

Republicans have made clear there will not be any votes from their side on the debt limit; Biden and the Democrats have to own it all.  Tensions on this issue between the Republican and Democratic leaders in the Senate this year have run extremely high. 

It may be that the only alternative to passing the debt limit is to include it in the Biden mega-package on social programs and climate, now pending in the Senate.

The Biden package offers universal prekindergarten, generous subsidies for childcare, expanded financial aid for college, hundreds of billions of dollars in housing support, home and community care for older Americans, a new hearing benefit for Medicare and price controls for prescription drugs.

On climate there is more than half a trillion dollars to migrate the U.S. economy away from fossil fuels

In the words of one of President Nixon’s aides, this is “the whole enchilada” – Biden’s defining social and climate legacy.

But the only way this legislation passes the Senate is if every Democrat – all 50 – vote for it.  And those votes are not yet assured.  At least two Democrats – Manchin of West Virginia and Sinema of Arizona – are yet to pledge they will vote for this bill. 

If Democrats remain divided, the legislation will fail with immense damage to both their president, their party and themselves.

Wild Cards

Israel’s war in Gaza suddenly exploded in May. Biden’s expert management of the Gaza crisis may be tested again.  There are other ticking foreign policy bombs. 

There are heavy indications that Russia’s Putin wants to move on Ukraine, possibly occupying the country and overthrowing its president.  And in Iran, the European powers and the United States are at a make-or-break point as to whether negotiations to halt Iran’s nuclear program will continue or end.  

By Christmas, either issue could lead to a real fear that there will be military confrontation for the United States – perhaps imminently with Russia, perhaps in 2022 with Iran.

All of this – the course of the pandemic, the ability of the US government to function and pay its debts, the strength of the Biden presidency, and the state of peace in the world – is at stake this coming month.

Everyone still says this Christmas will be better than last Christmas.  Let’s hope so.

Continue Reading

Ticker Views

Is ending violence against women, up to women? | ticker VIEWS

Published

on

TALKING PARENTS

Violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread, persistent, and devastating human rights violations in our world today

Millions of girls and women around the world fear for safety and wellbeing each day, both online and offline. Violence against women doesn’t discriminate based on age, background, or level of education.

Globally, an estimated 736 million women or almost one in three, have been subject to intimate partner violence, non-partner sexual violence or both at least once in their life.

Most devastatingly, women are most unsafe in their own homes.

End violence against women

The United Nations is marking 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, from November 25, with “Orange the world: End violence against women now.”

The days will be dedicated to raising awareness and putting a stop to this crippling issue.

The statistics of violence against women are chilling, and the Covid-19 pandemic has sent the statistics skyrocketing. A new UN women report shows that the pandemic has eroded women’s feelings of safety, with significant negative impacts on mental and emotional well-being.

Violence against women shows itself in many forms, including physically, emotionally, and financially. It is vital to educate people that violence doesn’t always show itself in a physical bruise or scar.

Coercive control is a strategic form of ongoing oppression and terrorism used to instil fear. The abuser will use tactics, such as limiting access to money or monitoring all communication, as a controlling effort. This is a gradual process and possibly the most dangerous of all because there is often no obvious proof.

Until now, coercive control also referred to as ‘intimate terrorism’, is only punishable by Australian law if the victim has previously filed for a Domestic Violence Order.  There are also difficulties that persist in the ability for law enforcement to obtain evidence and for coercive control to be proven in court.

However, in the United Kingdom it coercive control is illegal, so there are constant pushes for the same laws to be imposed worldwide.

Violence against women is a pandemic of its own, that demands urgent attention. It is possible to end this catastrophe, but it needs to start at the root causes, social attitudes, and Government recognition.

“Intimate violence is prevalent… Impacting the lives of 1 in 3 women globally.”

Alethia Jimenez, UN Women Programme & policy advisor on ending violence against women

 

Putting a stop to violence against women

Often when it comes to stopping and avoiding violence against women, the responsibility is put on the women themselves. The attitude is that women shouldn’t walk alone late at night, or must carry their keys in their hands when walking to the car.

It’s on women to not dress provocatively or invoke any form of abuse on themselves. But, this attitude is the problem.

It isn’t the woman’s responsibility to walk in fear and avoid violence. The issue is embedded deep into today’s society and that’s where attention must be focused.

The process of addressing this issue needs to start with the perpetrator. We must look at addressing and educating the perpetrator’s behaviour more pro-actively and systemically before it eventuates into violence.

The attitude towards violence against women is far too normalised in society, and that must change before the problem can ever truly be eradicated. Let’s speak up, for the millions that can’t, because this abuse is not a way of life.

“The issue is that the violence is perpetrated. Why are men and boys perpetrating violence?”

“The issue is that we accept this abuse as a normal part of a woman’s life… So how do we change our attitudes towards this issue?” 

Alethia Jimenez, UN Women Programme & policy advisor on ending violence against women

*If you or anyone you know is experiencing violence or abuse in any way please contact your local helpline. 

Continue Reading

Climate

Floods, mudslides & deaths in British Columbia | ticker VIEWS

Published

on

CTV NEW VANCOUVER

Emergency crews continue their search for victims after flash floods and mudslides engulf areas in Western Canada

British Columbia has declared its third state of emergency in a year, after a month’s worth of rain fell in two days, engulfing towns and cities, blocking major highways, and leaving much of the area underwater.

More extreme weather events

Canada is experiencing the brunt of extreme weather events. Record rainfall, also known as an “atmospheric river”, has paralyzed parts of the province, leading to food and fuel shortages.

The rainfall blocked essential roads, washed-out essential railways, and cut off Vancouver from the rest of the country. The region has implemented temporary restrictions on fuel and travel to help the recovery process and alleviate supply chain issues.

https://twitter.com/boatwrangler2/status/1461201211571400704?s=20

World’s first electric ship

The world’s first self-steering and zero-emission container ship is officially up and sailing. The ship is owned by Yara, the world’s leading fertilizer company and a provider of environmental solutions. The company addresses global challenges and creates positive change in key areas. The Yara Birkeland ship will address the emissions challenges in the transport sector.

The ship is sailing around Norway and leading the way for other countries to adopt similar models.

“We are proud to be able to showcase the world’s first fully electric and self-propelled container ship.

It will cut 1,000 tonnes of CO2 and replace 40,000 trips by diesel-powered trucks a year.”

Svein Tore Holsether, CEO of Yara

 

The boat propels itself using GPS, radars, cameras, and sensors to navigate. The advancement in technology enables the ship to avoid sea traffic and dock on its own. The 80-meter-long and 15-meter-wide vessel can transport up to 120 containers, per trip, which is equivalent to about 40,000 trucks trips.

Ocean’s under threat

The world’s oceans are under threat, with scientists calling for tracking oxygen loss that causes dead zones. Ocean health is gaining increased recognition, and rightly so. The ocean plays a critical part in climate regulation.

The ocean covers 70 percent of the planet and absorbs a considerable amount of CO2 and heat. It is essential that we look after our oceans and everything inside it. The life inside the ocean produces half the oxygen we breathe.

Our sealife is under threat because of pollution, climate change and overfishing.

“We’re seeing increasing areas of the ocean that has a lack of oxygen- which is critical to life.”

Scott Hamilton, energy expert & Ticker Climate co-host

 

“Twiggy Forrest, the mining billionaire is involved in a recent study with how countries line up with overfishing… Australia got a D.”

Scott Hamilton, energy expert & Ticker Climate co-host

You can watch this week’s full episode here: 

Continue Reading

Trending on Ticker

Copyright © 2021 The Ticker Company PTY LTD