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

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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.

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“These are the guys?” Putin’s Dad’s army

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Vladimir Putin’s army is in a bit of a pickle. They’ve been drafting retirees, and telling conscripts to use tampons for bullet wounds.

This isn’t exactly the most impressive fighting force we’ve ever seen. In fact, they look more like dad’s army than anything else.

It’s clear that Putin is desperate to beef up his forces, but it seems like he’s just throwing bodies at the problem instead of actually preparing them for battle.

Pictures from Sevastopol in Crimea show groups of men — many well into their 50s and 60s gripping weapons and wearing uniforms.

Several appear in questionable fighting shape.

This could be a big problem for Russia if they actually get into a serious conflict. We hope for their sake that they never have to find out.

Thousands of Russian men are fleeing the country to avoid conscription. This just goes to show how unpopular Putin’s policies are, even among his own people.

The Kremlin is now trying to catch thousands of Russian men as they try and leave the country. But it’s not going to be easy.

Many of these men are willing to risk everything to avoid being drafted into Putin’s army.

It’s estimated that up to 100,000 Russian soldiers have died in Ukraine since the conflict began.

This is a huge loss of life for Russia, and it’s all thanks to Putin’s reckless policies.

Many of these soldiers were just boys, barely out of their teens. They had their whole lives ahead of them, but they’ll never get to experience it now.

It’s tragic, and it’s all thanks to Putin. He needs to be stopped.

At the same time, a video shared on social media shows a Russian officer telling new recruits what to expect.

“I say right away if you are near the fire, you are f***ed,” she says, before reeling off a list of items they will need to acquire themselves before entering the war zone.

“Take sleeping bags with you, you will sleep where you have to.”

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IRAN PROTESTS | Are countries using religion as an excuse to violate basic human rights?

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Iran protests are engulfing the country as thousands take to the streets in a revolution against oppression

IRAN PROTESTS – The story of Iran is one of a country that has been through a lot in recent history.

An uprising of both men and women has engulfed Iran, following the death of Mahsa Amini. Women are cutting their hair and burning their hijabs, demanding some form of change to the strict rules that impact their ultimate freedom.

From the Iranian Revolution in 1979 to the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, the nation’s residents have witnessed their fair share of turmoil.

Many insist that religion, like Islam, is being used as a reason to violate basic human rights in Iran.

“It’s a totalitarian regime… Islam is being used to deny freedom of speech, freedom of education, freedom of movement.”

Mariam Memarsadeghi
Cyrus Forum and Senior Fellow at Macdonald-Laurier Institute

There is a feeling of discontent among the Iranian people. The economy is struggling, and many young Iranians feel they have no future.

They are fed up with the corruption of the government and the lack of opportunity.

Mahsa Amini’s brutal death

On top of this is the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian woman.

Amini was arrested by the so-called morality police for “improperly” wearing her mandatory hijab.

Reports suggest she was beaten so severely that she went into a coma.

Mahsa Amini protests in Iran

Three days later, she died, and many suspect it was a direct result of this police brutality.

Amini’s death has fuelled further anger and extreme protest, with widespread condemnation from Iranians, denouncing her death and the regime that caused it.

“There were 10-11 blows to her head… She was beaten while still in the van…When her body was delivered to the family they saw bruises to her neck and head.”

Mariam Memarsadeghi
Cyrus Forum and Senior Fellow at Macdonald-Laurier Institute

The incident has brought attention to the plight of many Iranians who feel they are living under an oppressive regime.

While it is difficult to predict what will happen next in Iran, many hope the death of Amani will not be in vain.

Many pray the protests will lead to real action and a country where women are treated as equals. They want a country where there is opportunity for all.

Women in Iran and around the world are now lifting the veil on Iran’s corruption and human rights violations.

In 2022, many are angry that men are controlling what women do with their bodies and what they wear.

However, the Founder and Director of Cyrus Forum and Senior Fellow at Macdonald-Laurier Institute Mariam Memarsadeghi explained its women who are enforcing the strict rules too.

“It’s actually women also who are policing other women to wear hijab… It’s a very Handmaids Tale situation.”

Mariam Memarsadeghi
Cyrus Forum and Senior Fellow at Macdonald-Laurier Institute

Will this drive change?

In Iran, many young Iranians are showing the world they don’t want this system any more, that they want democracy.

They’re cutting their hair and burning their hijabs, they’re putting their own safety on the line to take a stand against the regime that has silenced them for so long.

This generation is very different, but it doesn’t guarantee that this uprising will fuel any real change.

However, Memarsadeghi said “there is no way back from here.”

“It’s very dangerous, there is a tremendous amount of respect for the men and women on the streets because each and every single one of them risks being beaten, killed, tortured, maybe even executed.”

Mariam Memarsadeghi
Cyrus Forum and Senior Fellow at Macdonald-Laurier Institute

How can organisations and world leaders help?

Iran is in the midst of a political upheaval and the world is watching.

Scenes of protest and violence are being shared far and wide on social media. The world has a front-row seat to the unfolding crisis.

However, the Iranian Government has responded by imposing a sweeping internet ban, cutting off the protesters from the outside world.

This only adds to the urgency of the situation, as Iran’s people are now risking their lives to speak out against their oppression.

World leaders and democracy advocacy groups are already discussing ways to help the people of Iran and hold their violations to account.

“The solidarity and attention from celebrities, athletes and world leaders has been extremely helpful… The future of freedom is what these men and women in Iran are doing.”

Mariam Memarsadeghi
Cyrus Forum and Senior Fellow at Macdonald-Laurier Institute

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How close to a full scale nuclear war are we really?

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Since President Vladimir Putin’s latest warning that he is ready to use nuclear weapons to defend Russia, the question of whether or not the former KGB spy is bluffing has become much more urgent.

There are several reasons why Putin’s nuclear warnings have the West worried. First, Russia has been increasingly aggressive in its actions in recent years, from annexing Crimea to intervening in Syria. This has led to a feeling that Putin is becoming more and more reckless and unpredictable.

Second, Russia has been beefing up its nuclear arsenal, with reports indicating that it now has more nuclear warheads than any other country in the world. This increase in firepower makes Putin’s threats all the more credible.

Last but not least, there is the fact that Putin is a former KGB agent. This means that he is no stranger to playing games of brinkmanship and bluffing. In the past, he has used nuclear threats as a way to get what he wants. For example, in 2008, he threatened to aim nuclear missiles at European cities unless the United States agreed to drop plans for a missile defense system in Eastern Europe.

The West is worried

Given all of this, it’s no wonder that Putin’s latest nuclear threats have the West worried. Only Putin knows if he is actually bluffing, but given his track record, it’s certainly a possibility.

If a nuclear weapon were used in Ukraine, it would cause a massive humanitarian crisis. Tens of thousands of people would be killed or wounded, and millions more would be displaced. The economic and social damage would be enormous, and Europe would be plunged into chaos.

In addition, the use of nuclear weapons would also have devastating consequences for the rest of the world. The nuclear non-proliferation regime would be dealt a serious blow, and there would be a renewed risk of nuclear war.

The world would become a much more dangerous place.

Nuclear impact

A nuclear explosion in Ukraine would have a regional impact, but it could also have global consequences. The use of nuclear weapons would violate the nuclear non-proliferation regime, and this could lead to other countries acquiring nuclear weapons. In addition, the risk of nuclear war would increase, and this would have a negative impact on the entire world.

The UN has condemned Russia’s threats of nuclear war, and it has called on all parties to refrain from any actions that could lead to the use of nuclear weapons. The UN Secretary-General has said that there can be no military solution to the crisis in Ukraine, and he has urged all sides to return to the negotiating table.

Russia has several allies in its war against Ukraine. These include Belarus, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan. Russia also has the support of China and Iran.

The war in Ukraine has had a significant impact on energy prices.

Due to the conflict, there has been a disruption in the supply of natural gas and oil from Ukraine. This has led to an increase in prices for these commodities.

The West can only threaten Putin further, as they’ve done all year, since President Biden warned that Russia was about to invade Ukraine.

Every step of the way, Putin has done exactly what the West has feared.

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