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The key question for many conservatives in deciding how to vote in November was the issue of the Supreme Court. Without the passing of Antonin Scalia, it’s very possible they might have felt more comfortable casting a vote for a third party candidate or staying home. The empty seat transformed the election into a referendum not on a potential court shift, but on a certain one. Many conservatives who voted for Trump did so purely for this issue, as the president acknowledged last night – and those voters have been rewarded. Rather than go any number of other possible routes in naming his choice for the high court, Trump settled on a jurist very much in Scalia’s mode, a highly qualified judge with a record of conservative decisions and one who has signaled on more than one occasion that he is more libertarian than Scalia on issues like Chevron deference. Sometimes people deserve to have their faith rewarded, and with this first choice for the court, Trump has done just that.

What kind of judge is he? Rivkin and Grossman answer.  “Judge Gorsuch has been at the vanguard of applying originalism to the questions raised by today’s Leviathan state, which is increasingly controlled by unaccountable executive agencies. These questions loom large after the rash of executive actions by President Obama, and now the whiplash reversals by the Trump administration.

“The deference that judges now must give to agencies’ interpretations of the law, he wrote in an opinion last year, permits the executive “to swallow huge amounts of core judicial and legislative power and concentrate federal power in a way that seems more than a little difficult to square with the Constitution of the framers’ design.”

“Judge Gorsuch added: “Maybe the time has come to face the behemoth.” His addition to the Supreme Court would give the justices a better chance than ever to do precisely that.”

More endorsements here from Robby George, who clearly indicated favorability toward Gorsuch out of the potential selections.  “Gorsuch and I have worked together on academic projects, most notably when I was the editor of the Princeton University Press book series for which he wrote “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia” — an impressive, deeply scholarly book that was praised by bioethicists (including the liberal Daniel Callahan and the conservative John Keown) as well as academic lawyers — in 2006. The book critically engages the work of scholars (including myself) across a range of disciplines and representing a spectrum of viewpoints. Gorsuch went the extra mile in ensuring that his treatment of the work of other writers — especially those with whom he disagrees — was sympathetic and impeccably accurate. His sheer fair-mindedness was the thing I found most striking about working with him.

“When it comes to fitness for judicial office, the first criterion usually considered is intellect and education, and here Gorsuch is off the charts. Even people who do not share his political outlook or judicial philosophy, but have read his judicial opinions, recognize him as an intellectual superstar. Anyone who has heard him speak, and especially anyone who has spoken with him, probably has had that impression strongly reinforced. His opinions are marked by analytical depth and precision and remarkably lucid writing.”

With such sterling credentials, one might expect that Gorsuch would, like Justices Kagan and Sotomayor, receive more than 60 votes for his confirmation. But then there are the protesters who demand nothing but resistance.  “Thousands of angry demonstrators gathered outside Sen. Chuck Schumer’s luxury Brooklyn apartment building — holding up signs and chanting “What the f–k, Chuck?!” — to protest his lukewarm stance on President Trump’s cabinet picks.

“Senator Schumer needs to know we’re watching him,” fumed Brad Wolchansky, a 40-year-old soccer coach from Flatbush who was carrying a cardboard cutout of a giant eye on Tuesday night.

“He works for us. We need him to be bold. We need him to stand up to Trump and oppose his picks,” Wolchansky said.

“He and roughly 3,000 others gathered at Grand Army Plaza around 6 p.m. before eventually making their way over to Schumer’s building at 9 Prospect Park West, between Carroll and President streets. As they marched, the anti-Trump demonstrators waved signs saying “Resist Trump” and “Show Some Spine Schumer” — while also chanting things like “Stay strong, Chuck” and “Shut it down, shut it down, New York is an immigrant town.”

Schumer is not dumb. He knows it would be pointless to shut down the Senate over a fool’s errand in attempting to block Gorsuch as a nominee. Any filibuster would last only as long as Mitch McConnell permitted it to last, and then, just as with lower level nominees, it would be eradicated by Republicans. Schumer would be much wiser as a tactical matter to keep his powder dry until a second seat should open on the court, when Trump does not have the momentum of the first 100 days, and when it could be a potential fight headed into the midterms or 2020.

Instead, his supporters may compel him to fight Gorsuch tooth and nail as a show of resistance. This is a key moment for Schumer – he may have to briefly disappoint the people screaming obscenities at him in order to play the wiser long game. But if he does that, will he be viewed by many as some already view him – as a traitor to the cause?

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Trump mulls changing official unemployment rate.  “The official rate, known as U-3, calculates people who are out of work and actively looking for a new job. Critics have said that is too narrow of a definition because it doesn’t include the people who are not actively looking for jobs but who might if they thought that there were opportunities available. The department does calculate that in a number called U-5. Another figure, called U-6, includes those people and the underemployed — people who technically have jobs but are not getting full-time hours or wages. Currently, the U-5 unemployment rate is 5.7 percent, while the U-6 rate is 9.2 percent.”

Saudi Arabia signals end of tax-free living as oil revenues slump.  “Tax-free living will soon be a thing of the past for Saudis after its cabinet on Monday approved an IMF-backed value-added tax to be imposed across the Gulf following an oil slump. A 5% levy will apply to certain goods following an agreement with the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council in June last year. Residents of the energy-rich region had long enjoyed a tax-free and heavily subsidised existence but the collapse in crude prices since 2014 sparked cutbacks and a search for new revenue.”

Warren Buffett lost with Clinton, but bought with Trump.   “The failure of Warren Buffett’s favored candidate to capture the White House has not dimmed the billionaire’s appetite for stocks. Buffett revealed that he has bought 12 billion of stock for his company Berkshire Hathaway Inc since the Republican Donald Trump beat Democrat Hillary Clinton in the Nov. 8 U.S. presidential election.”


Not exactly a secret.   “That worldview, which Bannon laid out in interviews and speeches over the past several years, hinges largely on Bannon’s belief in American “sovereignty.” Bannon said that countries should protect their citizens and their essence by reducing immigration, legal and illegal, and pulling back from multinational agreements.

“At the same time, Bannon was concerned that the United States and the “Judeo-Christian West” were in a war against an expansionist Islamic ideology — but that they were losing the war by not recognizing what it was. Bannon said this fight was so important, it was worth overlooking differences and rivalries with countries like Russia.

“It is not yet clear how far Bannon will be able to go to enact his agenda. His early policy moves have been marred by administrative chaos. But his worldview calls for bigger changes than those already made.

“In the past, Bannon had wondered aloud whether the country was ready to follow his lead. Now, he will find out.

“Is that grit still there, that tenacity, that we’ve seen on the battlefields . . . fighting for something greater than themselves?” Bannon said in another radio interview last May, before he joined the Trump campaign. That, said Bannon, is “one of the biggest open questions in this country.”


Or at least plan to.   “Less than two weeks into Trump’s administration, federal workers are in regular consultation with recently departed Obama-era political appointees about what they can do to push back against the new president’s initiatives. Some federal employees have set up social media accounts to anonymously leak word of changes that Trump appointees are trying to make.

“And a few government workers are pushing back more openly, incurring the wrath of a White House that, as press secretary Sean Spicer said this week about dissenters at the State Department, sends a clear message that they “should either get with the program, or they can go.”

“At a church in Columbia Heights last weekend, dozens of federal workers attended a support group for civil servants seeking a forum to discuss their opposition to the Trump administration. And 180 federal employees have signed up for a workshop next weekend, where experts will offer advice on workers’ rights and how they can express civil disobedience.”


Facebook Dead At 12, A Victim Of 2016.   “Since the end of the 2016 election, and especially since it resulted in the victory of Donald J. Trump as president, Facebook has become utterly intolerable. I took the application off my phone when I realized, a few days after the election, that I felt angry every time I scrolled through my newsfeed, and that this sour mood was affecting how I spoke with my co-workers, who happen to be my children (I’m a stay-at-home mother by profession). Deleting the application made me feel more disconnected from these online friends from all walks of my life, but also happier and more calm.

“One of my many friends also feeling this way, Sarah Barak, wrote on Facebook recently: “I feel hectored. I’ll be happier if I unfollow the worst offenders. It’s just too much and the constant negative coverage is affecting my happiness.” It’s not just in our imaginations; there’s plenty of social science research that indicates surrounding oneself with Negative Nancies has a way of turning you into a Negative Nancy also. It’s impossible to know for sure, but it seems many who were once politically ambivalent at best are now caught in a negative feedback loop, perpetually hysterical because all of their friends are as well.

“The problem with Facebook political rants is this: It is not Twitter. I do not “follow” my high school best friends because of their insightful political commentary; I want to see updates on their lives and pictures of their adorable children. Unlike Twitter, I don’t want to unfollow or unfriend them because of their rants, because if I do so, I’ll miss out on the all-important baby announcements and updates.

“If all you’re using Facebook for is to yell into the digital void about politics, you will find your audience for such rants is getting smaller by the minute. Sorry, random friends from all walks of life: I just don’t care what you think about Donald Trump today.”

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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