You might have guessed that Step One would be the recriminations, but it turns out to be Step Two. Step One is dealing with the claims of fraud. The most immediate issue: Trump has not conceded the election, despite the obvious lopsided results. Fox News and fever-swamp right-wing sites have come out with what they claim is clear evidence of fraud. CNN and the rest of Big Media purports to debunk these claims, and independent observers can see that while there are one or two possibly suspicious episodes, they are not nearly enough to have swung the election. No matter. Trump and his diehards spend weeks claiming that an investigation needs to be opened, and the drama occupies the country up to and even after the inauguration of Joe Biden.
. . . .
The Kurt Schlichters and Dan Bonginos of the world continue to mold themselves as the Only True Trump Fans, and their vitriol towards NeverTrumpers, which previously seemed to have no room to intensify, becomes alarmingly over-the-top. References to NeverTrumpers being literal traitors who ought to be lined up against the wall and shot become shockingly commonplace.
On Monday President Trump’s campaign lawyer and former U.S. Attorney Joe diGenova said that fired Trump cybersecurity chief Chris Krebs should be executed for saying that the election was the “most secure in United States history.”
DiGenova, appearing on the Howie Carr show, which simulcasts on Newsmax, took aim at Krebs as an aside during a wheels-off segment full of false claims about how the United States election had been rigged.
“Anybody who thinks that this election went well, like that idiot Krebs who used to be the head of cybersecurity [for Trump]. That guy is a class A moron. He should be drawn and quartered. Taken out at dawn and shot,” diGenova said.
During the Clinton impeachment, I would watch diGenova and Victoria Toensing on Hannity and Colmes and thought he was great. Like so many right-wingers, he was either kooky all along or Trump turned him into a kook, and I’m not totally sure which.
Chris Krebs should be re-hired by the Biden administration.
Joe diGenova should be flushed down the toilet of history.
Georgia’s top election official announced that an investigation into voting irregularities is ongoing:
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has repeatedly said there has been no evidence of systemic election irregularities or fraud, but he said during a news conference at the state Capitol that his office is investigating any credible claims of illegal voting and violations of state election law.
More than 250 cases have been opened and need to be fully investigated, but there has been nothing so far that jumps out as being likely to change the outcome of the election, Gabriel Sterling, a top official in Raffensperger’s office, said during the news conference.
The secretary of state singled out groups that he said are working to register ineligible people to vote ahead of a high-profile runoff election for Georgia’s two U.S. Senate seats. His office’s 23 investigators also continue to look into allegations of problems with absentee ballots, as well as claims of people who voted twice, people who cast a ballot in a dead person’s name and non-residents who voted in Georgia, he said.
But Raffensperger also punched back — as he has repeatedly in the weeks since the Nov. 3 general election — at allegations circulating online that the state’s election was marred by widespread fraud. President Donald Trump, who narrowly lost to Democrat Joe Biden in Georgia, is among those criticizing the state’s handling of the election.
“There are those who are exploiting the emotions of many Trump supporters with fantastic claims, half-truths, misinformation and, frankly, they’re misleading the president as well, apparently,” Raffensperger said.
I think Raffensperger is being charitable to Trump here. Trump is obviously exploiting the situation as much as he can for his own gain. If that includes manipulating his followers and keeping them agitated over an allegedly unjust election outcome, he will keep playing that card. In turn, he gets the outcomes he hopes for: He remains dominant in the GOP, he persuades followers to contribute to his defense fund/PAC, and he reinforces that the swamp needs cleaning out as evidenced by the rigged election. In other words, the President exploiting the situation itself, and the emotions of Trump supporters continue to benefit him.
Raffensperger endorsed Trump in 2016, and in turn, the President endorsed him in 2018. But President Trump strained that support by attacking Raffensperger on Thanksgiving day as “an enemy of the people” because he certified the 2020 election in Georgia for President-elect Joe Biden.
Before the President’s Thanksgiving Day criticism, Raffensberger had already faced public criticism from the President, and took it in stride:
The night before, Trump had tweeted about him, accusing him of hiding tens of thousands of illegal votes and asking, “Why is he afraid of Stacey Abrams?”
Raffensperger hadn’t seen the tweet yet. “Did he at least spell my name right?” he laughed. “It’s ‘Raffensperger’ with a ‘p,’ not a ‘b.’ ”
Unfortunately, it was right after “Republican U.S. senators, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue — looking at Jan. 5 runoffs and not wanting to face the wrath of Trump — called for Raffensperger’s resignation for election “failures” that they did not detail” that the death threats to Raffensperger and his wife began. Only to be followed by a startling and despicable silence by Republican officials:
Raffensperger — his wife of 44 years, Tricia, by his side — discussed how he has approached his crucial role overseeing the election, his message for Trump, and what it’s been like to have nearly the entire GOP, goaded by the president, abandon him.
And he and his wife both described the faith and family that keep them going in the middle of accusations and lawsuits against him — and death threats against them both.
“We’re straightforward people, simple people,” Raffensperger said about himself and his wife, who met in their 11th-grade homeroom in Pennsylvania. “I love Tricia and she loves me. We love our kids. We love our grandkids. We’re quiet people in an unquiet role.”
“The very first one that we got was really a warning,” Tricia Raffensperger said. “Now it’s every sexual connotation. It’s horrific. Who am I for you to do that to? I’m just a regular person just like they are, and their wives and their daughters and their mothers. Would you say that to your mother?”
The latest round were sent from a dummy account meant to look like Raffensperger directly threatening his wife.
“It’s vulgar,” he said. “It’s disgusting.”
Even as he has had to have around-the-clock security and news of the attacks against him have been publicized, the response from the Republicans who aren’t attacking him has been silence.
Multiple requests for comment to Republican lawmakers who have supported him in the past were declined or not returned. “I’ll take a pass,” said one.
This is utterly disgusting. I don’t care what side of the aisle an individual is on. If they are doing the job before them that they have been elected to do, and do it with unbiased professionalism, that should be respected. And in this case, accepted. Criticism, even if unfounded and delusional, is one thing. But death threats should be loudly condemned by every elected official in the state. At the very least. Shame on the Republican lawmakers. And for the President of the United States to be leading the way by publicly attacking Raffesnperger because he arrogantly can’t believe that he didn’t win in Georgia is beyond the pale. He is, with obvious intention, goading his loyal base to pile on Raffensperger as well. Despicable behavior by the President, and despicable behavior by Americans. The President’s sycophants who are choosing to look the other way and pretend they don’t see what is happening is what we have come to expect of Trump-supporting lawmakers at large. All they care about is themselves. And frankly, if getting re-elected requires remaining in Trump’s good graces, they’ll kiss that damn ring any day of the week. They don’t deserve our respect and they don’t deserve our votes. Shame on them. Shame on the GOP. And shame on President Trump for being such an ugly bastard toward a man doing the job he was elected to do. And doing it honorably.
Raffensperger had this message for Trump:
“When you lose an election, you should leave quietly. It’s the will of the people that has been expressed,” Raffensperger said.
But perhaps it’s Tricia Raffensperger’s message that reassures us most that they will survive all of this. Because, despite the attacks from the most powerful man in the nation, the Raffenspergers have already experienced far, far worse:
…2018 also brought tragedy for the family, when the Raffenspergers’ oldest son died after years of struggling with addiction.
“I’ve been through the very worst thing that can possibly happen to anyone,” Tricia Raffensperger said. “When you lose a child, it doesn’t matter how that happened, how old they were, it’s indescribable.
“And they can throw all they want, they can call me all the names they want, they can do whatever they want. But they can never hurt me like that.”
And what happened, if you watched the election, I was called by the biggest people, saying congratulations. Political people. “Congratulations, sir, you just won the election.” It was 10 o’clock and you looked at the numbers, and I’m sure you felt that way. This election was over. And then they did dumps. They called them dumps. Big massive dumps in Michigan, and Pennsylvania, and all over.
In unrelated news, the Twitter hashtag “#DiaperDon” trended on that sewer of a Web site after some yutz from “The Apprentice” made some claim about Trump having worn adult diapers on the show or something. That is interesting not for the typical juvenile Resist-taunts, but for Trump’s reaction. First, he drew attention to it, Streisand-effect style:
Twitter is sending out totally false “Trends” that have absolutely nothing to do with what is really trending in the world. They make it up, and only negative “stuff”. Same thing will happen to Twitter as is happening to @FoxNews daytime. Also, big Conservative discrimination!
“‘the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light;
the stars will fall from the sky,
and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’
“At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.
“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
The Day and Hour Unknown
“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.
“Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”
The text of today’s cantata is available here and contains these words for our new church year:
The Savior has come,
has taken our poor flesh and blood
and claims us as blood-brothers.
O Highest Good,
what have You not done for us?
What do You not do
still daily for Your own?
You come and allow Your light
to shine full of blessing.
Come, Jesus, come to Your church
and grant a blessed new year!
Support the honor of Your name,
uphold the sound teachings
and bless the chancel and altar!
. . . .
Come, you lovely crown of joy, do not delay,
I await you with longing.
Democrats have been quick to dismiss any Trump supporter as a racist, homophobe or redneck, but they all shared a common trait with him, an unapologetic love of America.
The Republican success down-ballot and in state legislatures shows the folly of this condescension and sends a clear message that a majority of Americans are not ready for the socialist agenda favored by the radical left. Not only were there more Trump voters in 2020, there were more Hispanic and African-American voters backing Trump. The supreme irony here is that gradually the Republicans are becoming the party of the working class.
President Trump said Thursday evening that coronavirus vaccine deliveries will begin as early as next week.
“The whole world is suffering and we are rounding the curve,” Trump said. “And the vaccines are being delivered next week or the week after.”
“Joe Biden failed with the swine flu, H1N1, totally failed with the swine flu,” Trump said. “Don’t let him take credit for the vaccines because the vaccines were me and I pushed people harder than they’ve ever been pushed before and we got that approved and through and nobody’s ever seen anything like it.”
United Airlines Holdings Inc. UAL -0.74% on Friday began operating charter flights to position doses of Pfizer Inc.’s PFE 1.92% Covid-19 vaccine for quick distribution if the shots are approved by regulators, according to people familiar with the matter.
The initial flights are one link in a global supply chain being assembled to tackle the logistical challenge of distributing Covid-19 vaccines. Pfizer has been laying the groundwork to move quickly if it gets approval from the Food and Drug Administration and other regulators world-wide.
The recount of votes cast in the Nov. 3 presidential election in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin ended Friday with President-elect Joe Biden winning the district again, this time by 132 more votes than before. President Donald Trump’s campaign had paid roughly $3 million for the re-tallying of the county’s 460,000 votes, as well as those of Dane County. The final count was 317,527 votes for Biden and 134,482 for Trump.
Donald Trump is considering launching his 2024 election campaign on the day of Joe Biden’s inauguration, it has been reported – weighing up how to keep the spotlight on him in his post-White House life.
Mr Trump, who is yet to concede defeat, and may not ever, was asked on Thanksgiving whether he would attend Mr Biden’s inauguration on 20 January.
“I don’t want to say that yet,” he replied. “I mean, I know the answer. I’ll be honest, I know the answer.”
On Saturday The Daily Beast cited three sources who confirmed he is considering a 2024 run, and two of them said that he had floated the idea of holding an event during Mr Biden’s inauguration, to cause maximum disruption.
First the coronavirus spread inside the Lyons, New Jersey, long-term Veterans Affairs facility and ravaged residents and staff. Then came what workers and veterans described as indifference and neglect from Lyons administrators as the bodies piled up and the lockdown dragged on. But to them, the worst part, the part that is ongoing nine months into the COVID-19 outbreak in America, has been watching people who need help and dignity, long after serving their country, give up.
“They were lonely, not being able to see their families. Seeing the guys die around them was terrible,” said an employee at the Lyons community living center. “You’d be leaving work on Friday, coming back Monday and finding guys missing. A lot of guys. You’d think they’d be all right. You’d see them looking weak. They’d stop eating. And they’d pass.”
Who will get the first doses?
The first doses are likely to go to health-care professionals, workers in essential jobs, nursing-home residents, older Americans and people with underlying conditions that put them at high risk. Exactly which of those groups goes first would depend in part on the particular vaccine and what its data show about effectiveness among different age groups or health conditions.
Is there any debate about who should get vaccinated first?
Yes. Some health officials and experts believe health-care workers should receive the first doses, while others are advocating for the most vulnerable—older Americans—to be first in line. The vaccine panel advising the CDC is considering recommending that about 3 million elderly people in congregate settings like nursing homes be part of the first phase of immunization along with about 21 million health workers. The committee also has proposed putting essential workers such as teachers and police ahead of adults with high-risk medical conditions and people ages 65 and over who aren’t in congregate settings.
When can the general public expect to have access?
Mr. Azar said he expects there to be enough vaccine doses starting in the second quarter of 2021 so that anyone who wants a vaccine can get it. Other federal health officials have said in the spring or summer. The timeline could change if manufacturing doesn’t go as planned.
Sam Jacobs has had many conversations with his family’s lawyers lately. He’s trying to get access to more of his $30 million trust fund. At the age of 25, he has reached the age at which many heirs can break up their money for crazy shops or a stable with sports cars. He doesn’t want that, but by wealth management standards his plan is just as bad. He wants to give everything away.
“I want to build a world where someone like me, a young person who controls tens of millions of dollars, is impossible,” he said.
Jacobs has been a socialist since college and views the “extreme, plutocratic wealth” of his family as both a moral and an economic failure. He wants to use his legacy to end capitalism and use my money to undo systems that amass money for those at the top and who have played a major role in expanding economic and racial inequality.
Both as a trust child and as an anti-capitalist, Jacobs is in a rare position among leftists fighting against economic inequality. But he’s not the only one trying to figure out “what it means to be with the 99% when you’re the 1%”.
Of course, a single act of redistribution of wealth does not change a system. But these heirs see themselves as part of a larger shift and eager to fund its dynamic.
Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of the release of George Harrison’s masterpiece All Things Must Pass. The first studio three-record set released by a major artist and issued by a major record company (the three-disc, yet entirely live, soundtrack for the Woodstock film came out a few weeks earlier), the record helped solidify the bridge from the singles-driven 1960s record market to the album-driven 1970s, where albums became the default purchase by the music connoisseur.
By the time the Beatles six-year run was drawing to a close, Harrison had begun to chafe at the limits that being in the world’s most famous rock group was imposing upon him. Famously limited to two songs per album, George still managed to come up with some of the Beatles’ most memorable songs such as the libertarian favorite “Taxman,” the Indian raga-styled “Within You, Without You” from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the anthem “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” the vastly underrated “For You Blue” which features his excellent slide-guitar playing, and then, finally, his massive breakthrough on the band’s final studio-recorded album, Abbey Road, with “Something” backed with “Here Comes the Sun” reaching the top spot on the Billboard singles chart nearly one year to the day before All Things Must Pass was released.
George went into the studio in May 1970, one month after McCartney had confirmed the band’s dissolution, to begin work on his first post-Beatles record. He brought with him a number of songs he had written while still with the Beatles, including “Isn’t It a Pity” which was written in 1966, “Let It Down,” written two years later for the record that came to be known as “The White Album,” and the title track which was actually demoed by the Beatles over a year earlier. Harrison secured the services of producer Phil Spector, who had also been brought in by Beatles manager Allen Klein to try to salvage a coherent record from the Let It Be sessions. For musicians, George relied on his bandmate and friend Ringo Starr; the legendary guitarist Eric Clapton, a close friend who at the time was in a complicated love triangle with George’s wife Patti; bassist and ex-roommate Klaus Voormann of Manfred Mann, who knew George from back to the Beatles’ early days playing in Hamburg; and piano player Billy Preston, the so-called “Black Beatle,” who had played with the band in the Let It Be sessions. To these luminaries were added top-notch session musicians: Jim Gordon and Alan White on drums, Carl Radle on bass, Gary Wright and Bobby Whitlock on keyboards, Dave Mason on guitar, Bobby Keys on saxophone, and Jim Price on trumpet. Though they are not credited, Peter Frampton claims to have played guitar on some sessions and Phil Collins insists it is he playing the congas on “The Art of Dying.” The band Badfinger, recently singled to the Apple Records label (of which Harrison was part owner) provided rhythm guitars and percussion.
Beatles historians say that the majority of the recordings for the backing tracks took place between May 26 and June 13. Later that month, a core group consisting of Harrison, Clapton, Mason, Whitlock, Radle, and Gordon would record the instrumental songs which comprised the “Apple Jam” third record in the set. That group, minus Harrison and Mason, would go on to form the short-lived supergroup Derek and the Dominos who bequeathed to the world Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, the album which cemented Clapton’s reputation as a Guitar God, as well as all but officially announce his love for Patti Boyd Harrison.
Meanwhile, work on All Things Must Pass continued, encountering numerous delays. Spector, an enigmatic personality who decades later would be imprisoned for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson, was drinking heavily in the studio and at one point fell down and broke his arm which more or less ended his participation in the album, placing the production fully into the artist’s hands. Spector had imparted his famous Wall of Sound technique to the recording, adding layers of overdub and festooning the songs with horns, percussion, and echo, which had initially bothered Harrison until he was assured by Clapton and Preston that the sound was terrific. Work on the album continually came to a halt throughout summer and fall as George made repeated visits to Liverpool to visit his dying mother. Though a first mix was ready by mid-August, Spector, who was by now recovering back in Los Angeles, urged Harrison to add more overdubs and more orchestration to the songs, delaying the final mix until the end of October. Harrison had not envisioned a three-record set, believing that Apple executives would trim the listing down to at most two records, and was stunned when a full three-disc collection was approved. Already well-beyond the original planned October release date, the album was manufactured and boxed in time to be released in stores on Friday, November 27, 1970.
Though All Things Must Pass would reach number one on the Billboard album chart and remain there for seven straight weeks as well as spending eight weeks atop the UK’s Melody Maker album charts, the reaction from music critics, almost uniformly positive, included some fault-finding. Rolling Stone declared it an “extravaganza of piety and sacrifice and joy, whose sheer magnitude and ambition may dub it the War and Peace of rock and roll” and described the sound as “Wagnerian,” yet Robert Christgau, the influential critic at The Village Voice, declared the album to be “featureless,” derided Spector’s production as “kitchen sink” (as in “everything but the. . .”) and reminded readers that Harrison had “never been good for more than two songs per album.” Further assessments through the years would continue to laud the album and its celebrated production, though as the years went on the album, like Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band or McCartney’s Band on the Run, started sounding perhaps a bit dated, a definite product of their time.
And so it may have been with that in mind that George, already diagnosed with the throat cancer which would kill him in a little more than a year, began to reimagine the album for a 30th anniversary release in 2000. Working with the help of his son Dhani, George sought to, as he explained it in the liner notes of the re-release, “liberate some of the songs from the big production that seemed appropriate at the time, but now seems a bit over the top with the reverb in the wall of sound.” Going back to the original master tapes, Harrison père et fils stripped out some of Spector’s Wagnerian noise, though he took pains to not completely remix any of the songs. Likely due to George’s battle with cancer, the Harrisons missed their deadline slightly and the re-imagined album appeared at last in January 2001, largely to the approval of fans of the original record.
All Things Must Pass has been one of my favorite records (George Harrison has long been my favorite Beatle) since I first heard it probably 35 or so years ago. The 30th Anniversary reissue was great, but the subsequent recent addition of previously unreleased demos has completely wowed me. It’s a cliché, yes, but I really did hear the songs in a way in which I had not contemplated them before. Let me just cover two of the new versions. The first one, “Let It Down,” was a song whose lyrics I had always admired, yet one which I felt had been cluttered on the original album by the heavy orchestration of the drums, keyboards, and horns. Here it is as fans heard it 50 years ago. But the new release adds as a bonus track an earlier demo (no, not the one he had cut in his Beatles days with McCartney warbling over the melody) in which George is backed by just a few guitars, and strips away all of the folderol from the original recording.
Beyond that version is the best version of a song which anchors the middle part of the final record. George had cemented a lasting friendship with Bob Dylan years earlier — Dylan and famously introduced the Beatles to marijuana — and the two had collaborated on a few songs, one of which, “I’d Have You Any Time,” made it to the album. Apart from all of that, Harrison had written an unreleased song of encouragement back in August of 1969 when Dylan was getting ready to play the Isle of Wright of festival, his first live performances since his motorcycle accident three years earlier. George brought in Pete Drake, a Nashville pedal steel guitar player who had played earlier that year on Dylan’s Nashville Skyline album, and with the band in place Harrison recorded one of the finest songs of friendship, coaxing Dylan away from his self-imposed isolation and encouraging him to resume his public duties:
It’s a beautiful song, helped along immensely by the pedal steel line from Drake as well as the odd clarity that Spector had imposed upon the album. The original recording on the 1970 album was majestic, establishing the song as one of the best Harrison compositions on the record. Yet thirty years later the album version was completely surpassed by an enhanced demo recording which reimagined the song as it could have been before being touched by Spector’s Wall of Sound. Minus Spector’s overdubs and with Drake’s pedal steel guitar holding back until after the second verse, the song assumes a new elegance befitting the genius of the author:
George Harrison would go on to record a number of fine songs and decent albums, and the would lead one of the most awesome supergroups of the rock era. But one half century ago he released an album that has lasted longer than anything his mop-haired contemporaries produced and stands today as the greatest solo contribution of the most famous band of all time. I hope we’re still listening to this record in another half century.
A federal appeals court on Friday handed another loss to the Trump campaign’s effort to undo President-elect Joe Biden’s win in Pennsylvania, with a judge — one of Trump’s nominees — writing that the campaign’s “claims have no merit.”
In a 3-0 decision, the US Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit rejected the campaign’s effort to get a do-over of its lawsuit challenging the election results in Pennsylvania, which a lower court had already tossed out last week.
“Free, fair elections are the lifeblood of our democracy. Charges of unfairness are serious. But calling an election unfair does not make it so. Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here,” Judge Stephanos Bibas wrote in a 3-0 decision from the US Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit.
Crazy Trump superfans who think the election was stolen hardest hit.
The Supreme Court, by a 5-4 ruling, yesterday placed an injunction upon New York State and the office of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s ability to enforce the limitations on religious gatherings that they had imposed in response to coronavirus outbreaks over the past several months.
The opinion is located here. As a Cliff’s Notes version, here are some snippets starting with the Per Curiam order of the Court (which was either written by Justice Thomas, Alito, or Barrett; my money is on Alito):
Not only is there no evidence that the applicants have contributed to the spread of COVID–19 but there are many other less restrictive rules that could be adopted to minimize the risk to those attending religious services. Among other things, the maximum attendance at a religious service could be tied to the size of the church or synagogue. Almost all of the 26 Diocese churches immediately affected by the Executive Order can seat at least 500 people, about 14 can accommodate at least 700, and 2 can seat over 1,000. Similarly, Agudath Israel of Kew Garden Hills can seat up to 400. It is hard to believe that admitting more than 10 people to a 1,000–seat church or 400–seat synagogue would create a more serious health risk than the many other activities that the State allows.
[. . .]
Members of this Court are not public health experts, and we should respect the judgment of those with special expertise and responsibility in this area. But even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten. The restrictions at issue here, by effectively barring many from attending religious services, strike at the very heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty. Before allowing this to occur, we have a duty to conduct a serious examination of the need for such a drastic measure.
Concurrence from Justice Gorsuch:
As almost everyone on the Court today recognizes, squaring the Governor’s edicts with our traditional First Amendment rules is no easy task. People may gather inside for extended periods in bus stations and airports, in laundromats and banks, in hardware stores and liquor shops. No apparent reason exists why people may not gather, subject to identical restrictions, in churches or synagogues, especially when religious institutions have made plain that they stand ready, able, and willing to follow all the safety precautions required of “essential” businesses and perhaps more besides. The only explanation for treating religious places differently seems to be a judgment that what happens there just isn’t as “essential” as what happens in secular spaces. Indeed, the Governor is remarkably frank about this: In his judgment laundry and liquor, travel and tools, are all “essential” while traditional religious exercises are not. That is exactly the kind of discrimination the First Amendment forbids.
Justice Kavanaugh, also concurring:
In light of the devastating pandemic, I do not doubt the State’s authority to impose tailored restrictions—even very strict restrictions—on attendance at religious services and secular gatherings alike. But the New York restrictions on houses of worship are not tailored to the circumstances given the First Amendment interests at stake. To reiterate, New York’s restrictions on houses of worship are much more severe than the California and Nevada restrictions at issue in South Bay and Calvary, and much more severe than the restrictions that most other States are imposing on attendance at religious services. And New York’s restrictions discriminate against religion by treating houses of worship significantly worse than some secular businesses.
Chief Justice Roberts, who joined the liberal bloc in voting against the injunction, attempted to strike a fine balance between the sides. While conceding that the governor’s orders “do seem unduly restrictive,” the Chief tried to punt the issue on the basis that New York had since moved the area affecting the plaintiffs into a less-restrictive zone:
It is not necessary, however, for us to rule on that serious and difficult question [of whether the restrictions run afoul of the Constitution] at this time. The Governor might reinstate the restrictions. But he also might not. And it is a significant matter to override determinations made by public health officials concerning what is necessary for public safety in the midst of a deadly pandemic. If the Governor does reinstate the numerical restrictions the applicants can return to this Court, and we could act quickly on their renewed applications. As things now stand, however, the applicants have not demonstrated their entitlement to “the extraordinary remedy of injunction.”
The Court’s three remaining leftish bloc, Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, agreed with the Chief that there is no need to decide upon Constitutional issues unless the plaintiffs were once again placed into the most restrictive zones. They also don’t believe the Constitutional issue is a clear-cut as the majority or the Chief seems to believe, and ought to be determined first by the Court of Appeals before being taken up by the Court. In the dissent, Justice Breyer writes:
We have previously recognized that courts must grant elected officials “broad” discretion when they “undertake to act in areas fraught with medical and scientific uncertainties.” That is because the “Constitution principally entrusts the safety and the health of the people to the politically accountable officials of the States.” The elected branches of state and national governments can marshal scientific expertise and craft specific policies in response to “changing facts on the ground.” And they can do so more quickly than can courts. That is particularly true of a court, such as this Court, which does not conduct evidentiary hearings. It is true even more so where, as here, the need for action is immediate, the information likely limited, the making of exceptions difficult, and the disease-related circumstances rapidly changing. [The quotes above are from the Court’s earlier decision South Bay United Pentacostal Church v. Newsom, and citations have been omitted.]
It’s notable that Justice Amy Coney Barrett likely provided the decisive vote for the majority, unless we choose to believe that Chief Justice Roberts would have suppressed his desire to defer the decision for another day had Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg lived (and presumably voted with the left bloc). As we start to swing into Advent and Hanukkah, Christians and Jews not just in New York but nationwide can feel comfortable that the highest Court respects our First Amendment rights against arbitrary and capricious edicts from government.
Happy Thanksgiving to all the blog’s readers and commenters, especially those who suffer through my posts.
In spite of 2020 being the long punch in the gut it’s been, we still have much to be grateful for. I hope everyone enjoys the day because, no matter what side of the political aisle you fall, we are all abundantly blessed by simply living where we live and the opportunities we have to express ourselves and let our opinions fly.
It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon. Congratulations to @GenFlynn and his wonderful family, I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving!
The pardon brings an end to a long-running legal odyssey for Flynn, who was the only member of the Trump administration to be charged as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
Flynn pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador, and then cooperated extensively with prosecutors. But he ultimately reversed course and accused the government of trying to frame him.
Flynn went to so far as to withdraw his first plea of guilty and substitute a second plea of not guilty, even though he’d acknowledged the underlying conduct that was against the law and been close to receiving a sentence.
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