If there is a hell, let’s hope Ken Starr is trapped in a brightly lit pink room for eternity with nothing to keep him company but episodes of “The View” blaring on repeat

Erik Loomis over at LGM has a nice encapsulation of the life of newly dead right-wing hit man Ken Starr who, for those of us who were around for it, will always remember for the fact that despite his academic pedigree — GW, Brown and Duke law school — he was ready to bring down a presidency because of some oral sex.

Here’s the simplest way to describe Ken Starr. When it fit his interests to talk about “morality,” he did so.

When it fit his interests to defend the greatest moral reprobates in this country, he did so.

That it was always Democrats whom Starr found morally deficient and Republicans he defended maybe isn’t so surprising.

But given his witch hunt against Bill Clinton in the 1990s that he followed by being the greatest possible supporter of admitted sexual assaulter Donald Trump just sums up so much about today’s right.

Moreover, Starr himself oversaw one of the worst sexual violence scandals in contemporary college sports, when as president of Baylor, a conservative Baptist institution, he routinely overlooked serial rape committed by players because they won football games.

He defended Jeffrey Epstein.

He defended Donald Trump.

In short, Starr’s feelings about sexual crime depended entirely on whether he liked the person who committed it.

It’s important to remember Starr because he proves the point that Republican efforts to make the United States so divided it’s ungovernable didn’t start with Marjorie Taylor Greene or Lauren Boebert and any of the current crop of GOP lead-paint chip-eaters.

The most telling difference between Ken Starrs of the world and the Sarah Palins is that the Ken Starrs are smart enough to know that they are spewing lies, but they do it anyway because they love power and don’t care how they low they have to go to get it or keep it.

Ken Starr.

Trump keeps playing right into the hands of the Department of Justice

It’s a question that untold numbers of us have asked ourselves: How has Donald Trump gotten away with being so crooked for so long?

That question has been batted about ad infinitum.

But those days seem to have come to an end, with federal law enforcement finally using Trump well-known stupidity and lazy habits against him, as David A. Graham at The Atlantic recounts in this interesting article:

As the great American philosophers Ralph Waldo Emerson and Omar Little each expressed in their own ways, if you go after the king, you can’t make a mistake.

The Department of Justice now finds itself in just such a can’t-miss scenario in its legal battle with Donald Trump over documents he took with him to Mar-a-Lago. Given the delicate political calculation, any error could strengthen the former president, weaken the rule of law, and imperil the Constitution. But so far, the federal government has been a step ahead of Trump at every turn.

The latest demonstration came in a filing late last night, in which prosecutors dramatically swept away the most recent excuses from Trump and his allies, who have insisted that the former president cooperated with the government and acted in good faith. The filing provides evidence that Trump and his team not only didn’t hand over all classified materials, but actively sought to conceal them by misleading the FBI. And a striking photograph, showing cover sheets with bold red block letters reading top secret // sci, preempts any claim that Trump might simply not have realized the documents were classified.

This has been the pattern of the story of Trump’s mishandling of presidential records from the start. In January, the National Archives and Records Administration retrieved 15 boxes of documents from Mar-a-Lago. By February, NARA had already told DOJ about classified documents, according to a letter from the agency’s head to Representative Carolyn Maloney. Although a lawyer for Trump requested that NARA not disclose the contents of the boxes to the FBI, government lawyers were already a step ahead, pointing out that “there are important national security interests in the FBI and others in the Intelligence Community getting access to these materials … Some include the highest levels of classification, including Special Access Program (SAP) materials.”

Trump is a moron, and he’s mostly now only able to hire lawyers who are also morons or near-morons. The days of him being able to sleaze and bluster his way out of legal messes is (hopefully) drawing to a close.

One of several in a rotating list of Trumpland excuses for having top secret documents is that he didn’t know they were top secret. So the DOJ shared photos of what they found during the raid of Mar-A-Lago so that everyone could see that nobody could miss that these were restricted documents, since they were clearly and ostentatiously labeled as such.

NY set to award valuable marijuana dispensary licenses first to black, brown people most targeted by old marijuana drug laws

This seems like a great idea, if it works as it’s intended:

If you or a loved one have a pot conviction, you could have a new employment opportunity. New York will give you first dibs to sell marijuana, legally.

While 19 states have legalized recreational weed, New York is the first to offer its initial dispensary licenses solely to entrepreneurs with marijuana convictions. It’s a move aimed at offering an advantage to people, disproportionately in Black and brown communities, harmed by the war on drugs.

“We think that leaning into folks who are not only justice-involved, but have that business experience means that we’re going to find a bunch of applicants who have gone through some significant challenges to still open and operate successful businesses,” Office of Cannabis Management executive director Chris Alexander said in an interview. “We just took a different approach.”

Most states have let medical dispensaries be the first to roll out recreational products, which has largely let big fish get bigger. And places like Illinois and Detroit created lotteries or restrictions to promote diverse ownership in their adult-use weed sectors only to see them mired in legal challenges and legislative fixes for years. So, New York — one of the nation’s largest cannabis markets — went further.

New Yorkers with past cannabis-related convictions and business experience will get the first chance at Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary licenses. If selected, the state will set up the applicants with a retail location and financing to help develop their storefronts — with shops openings potentially as early as the end of the year.

That “social equity” framework, as set forth in in the 2021 law as part of the state Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act which legalized the drug for adult use, underpins the state’s efforts to ensure those most harmed by the decades-long prohibition of marijuana — and not large multi-state operators — are at the center of New York’s recreational program. The Democratic-led Legislature pushed for the measure as part of the law.

Here’s the rub: California was supposed to also set up this type of program for those residents — black and brown people — most sent to prison under draconian marijuana laws.

But loopholes, along with government inertia and stupidity, have made the program a farce.

Let’s hope NY state learns from those mistakes.

You can find out more about those New York cannabis dispensary licenses at this link.

A variety of strains at a recreational marijuana dispensary in Denver, Colorado. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons.)

Ahmaud Arbery’s killers get another life sentence for his death

This time they are sentenced on federal charges:

The three Georgia men serving life in prison for Ahmaud Arbery’s murder were again handed lengthy prison sentences Monday on federal hate crime charges.

Travis McMichael, who fatally shot Arbery, will serve his federal sentence of life plus 10 years. His father, Gregory, who initiated the deadly pursuit of the jogger, will serve life prison plus seven years. Their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan, who took a video of the killing, was sentenced to 35 years in prison.

They will serve the federal sentences concurrently with the state time. The judge denied each man’s request Monday to serve their sentences in federal prison.

In February, a jury found that the three men, who are white, violated Arbery’s civil rights and targeted him because of his race. Arbery was Black.

Although the men are already serving life sentences, the additional punishments mark “an important moment for the Civil Rights Section of the Department of Justice and an important moment for the federal judiciary,” said Ayesha Bell Hardaway, an associate professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Law and co-director of the school’s Social Justice Institute.

Arbery can never be brought back, of course. That pain will remain for all who knew him.

But there is a sort of poetic justice to the fact that the father and son will spend the rest of their lives surrounded by black men whom they would have hunted down in their pickup if they saw them running in their neighborhood.

Assuming either father or son lives very long with the giant targets they have on their backs.

The son already asked to serve his sentence in federal custody because he fears for his life in GenPop in state prison.

Insert sad trombone sound here.

I know. I shouldn’t condone prison violence. And in general I do not.

But given the ages of those good ‘ole white boys, their Ku Klux Klan outlooks on life and non-white people are hard-wired into them by now. They’re not candidates for rehab. The earth would be a better place without them walking on it.

Oklahoma is set to execute an innocent man in September

Texas has traditionally held the title of most bloodthirsty state when it comes to executions.

Oklahoma has wrested that title from the Lone State state. Oklahoma is slated to execute, on average, one prisoner a month through December of 2024.

One of those is Richard Glossip. The evidence for his innocence is so strong that even 28 Republican lawmakers, nearly all of whom support the death penalty, have said his case needs to be re-visited.

One of the GOP lawmakers calling on the state to review Glossip’s case, despite a long history of supporting the death penalty, said he’ll advocate to end capital punishment in Oklahoma if Glossip is executed.

“I’m 99% sure that he is not guilty sitting on death row,” state Rep. Kevin McDugle said in an interview with ProPublica. “My stance is not anti-death penalty at all. My stance will be (different) if they put Richard to death, because that means our process in Oklahoma is flawed.”

In a sharply worded dissent in a case challenging Oklahoma’s choice of execution drugs, then-Justice Stephen Breyer argued that the death penalty was no longer constitutional. Among his reasons, Breyer cited studies showing death penalty crimes have a disproportionately high exoneration rate.

In fact, courts have reversed verdicts or exonerated prisoners because of prosecutorial misconduct in 11 death sentences in the same county where Glossip was convicted, according to a study released last month by the Death Penalty Information Center. Another 11 from that county, home to the state Capitol, were put to death using testimony from a disgraced police chemist, the study found.

Though Glossip’s recent appeals have been unsuccessful, a state court judge and a federal judge have noted in appellate rulings the relatively thin nature of the evidence against him. “Unlike many cases in which the death penalty has been imposed, the evidence of petitioner’s guilt was not overwhelming,” the federal judge wrote.

In a letter last year to Gov. Kevin Stitt, McDugle joined more than 30 state lawmakers, nearly all Republicans, in asking him to appoint an independent body to review Glossip’s case and examine what they say is compelling evidence he is innocent.

“Many of those who have signed this letter support the death penalty but, as such, we have a moral obligation to make sure the State of Oklahoma never executes a person for a crime he did not commit,” the letter states. “Mr. Glossip’s case gives us pause, because it appears the police investigation was not conducted in a manner that gives us confidence that we know the truth.”

You can read the rest of the ProPublica article by Ziva Branstetter by clicking here.

Are college students re-thinking their plans to go to colleges in states legislating extremist morality?

It has always been the case that some students with the most to lose in states with extreme right-wing regimes — students who are LGBT, Black, Latino, women in general — have likely chosen not to go to places like Alabama, Mississippi and the like because they are afraid of what might happen to them in that kind of atmosphere.

(Sports scholarships and winning records can blunt some, but not all, of that in recruiting incoming elite athletes. But we know some of those upper tier athletes choose to go to schools in states that align more with their progressive values.)

I wonder how many high-value students, academically and athletically, have decided against going to school in my own home state of Nebraska because right-wing goon and presumed Opus Dei idiot Pete Ricketts has been governor?

Anyway, Reuters has an article that broaches these subjects:

With its excellent academic and music programs, Oberlin College in Ohio seemed like a perfect fit for Nina Huang, a California high school student who plays flute and piano and hopes to eventually study medicine or law.

But Huang, 16, said she crossed the college off her application list after Ohio enacted a near-total ban on abortion last month. She now plans to cast a wider net for schools in states with less restrictive laws.

“I don’t want to go to school in a state where there is an abortion ban,” she said.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in June to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion nationwide has some students rethinking their higher education plans as states rush to ban or curtail abortion, according to interviews with 20 students and college advisers across the country.

While it has long been the case that some students hesitated to attend schools in places with different political leanings than their own, recent moves by conservative states on issues such as abortion and LGBTQ+ rights have deepened the country’s polarization.

For some students, the restrictions raise fears that they won’t be able to get an abortion if they need one or that they will face discrimination for gender differences. Others said they worried about facing racial prejudice or being politically ostracized.

“I’m only in high school right now, and I’m still finding out who I am,” said Samira Murad, 17, who will be a senior this fall at Stuyvesant High School in New York. “I don’t want to move somewhere I can’t be myself because of laws put in place.”

I think the GOP is mistaken if they don’t think young people think about these issues. And the Democrats are stupid if the Biden administration doesn’t do something, even if it’s partially symbolic, to show that President Biden and the people who work for him are as panicked about the future as young people are today.

Oberlin College could lose out at students worried about Ohio’s turn the the extreme right politically choose to get their education in another, less-restrictive, state.

Judge re: AZ prisons: “No legitimate humane system would operate in this manner”

A federal judge has finally had enough with the medical neglect in Arizona prisons:

Arizona prison officials were deliberately indifferent to “grossly inadequate” medical and mental health care, violating inmates’ Eighth Amendment rights, a federal judge ruled Thursday in a long-running civil rights lawsuit.

Judge Roslyn Silver of the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona agreed with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and several other law firms that the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation, and Reentry (ADCRR) has been flouting the terms of a previous settlement over gruesome medical neglect in its prison and found that unconscionable delays and incompetence put incarcerated people at risk of grievous harm and even death.

“No legitimate humane system would operate in this manner,” Silver concluded.

In an expert witness report filed during the trial in November, Tod Wilcox, medical director of the Salt Lake County Jail System, described several cases of preventable deaths that he says were offensive to him as a medical professional and showed that Arizona prisons put incarcerated people at unacceptable risks of harm.

The cases Wilcox reviewed included a paraplegic man that was left to physically deteriorate until his penis had to be amputated; a man with undiagnosed, untreated lung cancer lost 90 pounds and died “slowly and agonizingly” without pain medication; and a woman whose multiple sclerosis was ignored and misdiagnosed until she was left, at age 36, nearly completely paralyzed.

“A system that allows this level of sustained incompetence and cruelty, and fails to take decisive action to determine the causes of these myriad and horrific breakdowns and to ensure that the people involved in this case are thoroughly retrained and/or separated from service,” Wilcox wrote, “is morally bankrupt.”

Silver found Wilcox’s testimony persuasive, concluding that a toxic combination of short-staffed and under-qualified nurses puts incarcerated Arizonans at an unacceptable risk of harm and death.

You can read the rest here.

Grifting physician’s assistant (and GOP House member) convicted of slew of federal charges; resigns Missouri seat

Now former Missouri state Rep. Tricia Derges has resigned her seat because she has been convicted by a federal jury of 22 charges that included wire fraud, distributing drugs over the internet without a valid prescription, and making false statements to a federal law enforcement agent.

Derges, a fully Trumpian MAGA crazy, is a piece of work, as this article about her original indictment attests:

A Missouri GOP state lawmaker has been indicted on federal fraud charges after she allegedly sold nearly $200,000 worth of fake stem-cell treatments she claimed could cure various illnesses, including COVID-19, at her medical clinics.

The 20-count grand jury indictment unsealed Monday also accuses 63-year-old Rep. Tricia Derges, a Republican from Nixa, of illegally providing prescription drugs to clients and making false statements to federal agents investigating the case.

Derges was released on her own recognizance after making an initial court appearance during which she pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

State Rep. Tricia Derges, 63, is a Republican from Nixa, Missouri

Her defense attorney, Stacie Bilyeu, said that after the U.S. attorney’s office held a news conference to announce the indictment, Derges’ social media was flooded with comments by people who assumed by what they heard that she was guilty, which she called unfortunate.

‘These are just allegations, these are just charges,’ Bilyeu said. ‘Dr. Derges hasn’t been convicted of a thing and she is presumed innocent until, and if, she is — and that simply hasn’t happened yet.’

Derges took to Facebook … and sounded a defiant note, writing in a post in part: ‘Lies and twisted words mean nothing. Truth and righteousness mean everything. I can stand before God and know that He will smile at me.’

Prosecutors say Derges administered amniotic fluid, which she falsely claimed contained stem cells, as a treatment to patients who suffered from various diseases, including erectile dysfunction, Lyme disease and urinary incontinence.

” I can stand before God and know that He will smile at me.”

LOL.

Yeah, not so much, apparently.

Tricia Derges faces up to 20 years without the possibility of parole.

SCOTUS still has to rule on the case that could hobble the government’s efforts to regulate labor laws, Wall Street wrongdoing and the fossil fuel industries

Abortion, school prayer and guns have rightfully gotten much of the press about the Supreme Court this session. But a final high-profile case from this term could end up being the worst one of all:

Donald Cohen over the ITPI (In The Public Interest) an organization that fights corporate and government wrongdoing at all levels, has this to say:

[T}here’s another case with massive implications for our freedom.

No, I’m not talking about Carson v. Makin, which the court just struck down on Tuesday, allowing for more expansion of voucher policies that provide public money for private and religious education. (That’s a huge deal too.)

I’m talking about West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency—and it’s really, really scary.

The New York Times writes that the case is a “product of a coordinated, multiyear strategy by Republican attorneys general, conservative legal activists and their funders, several with ties to the oil and coal industries, to use the judicial system to rewrite environmental law, weakening the executive branch’s ability to tackle global warming.”

If the court does what it’s expected to do, the ruling will severely limit the federal government’s authority to reduce carbon dioxide from power plants.

But that’s not the half of it.

Remember when Trump’s right-hand man Steve Bannon said that the administration’s goal was the “deconstruction of the administrative state?”

As the Times documents, conservatives are ultimately after something much broader and deeper than just protecting the oil and coal industry’s right to pollute the air. They want to “overturn the legal doctrine by which Congress has delegated authority to federal agencies to regulate the environment, health care, workplace safety, telecommunications, the financial sector and more.”

The issues covered by this case will have far-reaching effects for every American. It’s a Federalist Society wet dream. And it has been a long-term goal of the oil, gas and coal industries. They might be about to get what they want as soon as this week or next.

You can read the rest here.

From the ITPI About page.

Lesbian denied opportunity to foster refugee kids drops suit against Catholic bishops

Lambda Legal and Americans United are on the case:

Americans United for Separation of Church and State and Lambda Legal, together with the law firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, today declared victory on behalf of Kelly Easter, an East Nashville, Tenn., woman who for more than two years had been denied the opportunity to foster refugee children through a federally funded program solely because she is a lesbian. After she filed a federal lawsuit, Easter v. HHS, the taxpayer-funded agency involved – the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) – told the federal government it no longer has a religious objection to working with a single lesbian foster parent and has allowed Easter the opportunity to provide a safe and loving home for refugee children.

Because Easter is now being allowed to participate in the program through the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), she is voluntarily dismissing her case for the time being against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and several HHS officials in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Camilla Taylor, deputy legal director for litigation at Lambda Legal: “The federally funded child welfare agency finally has allowed Kelly to apply to foster a refugee child, and she is in the process of becoming licensed. While we are glad that Kelly is now permitted to participate in a federal program and a refugee child may find a loving home with her, it is a shame that USCCB and ORR fenced her out for almost two years, and required her to file a lawsuit before determining that USCCB’s religious objections to her identity were flexible. Two years is a long time for a refugee child without a loving home. Congratulations to Kelly for overcoming discriminatory obstacles, and for her tenacity in pursuing her dream of providing a safe and loving home for a child in need.”

Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United: “This is a win for religious freedom, Kelly Easter and the vulnerable refugee children she’ll now be able to help. But it’s a victory that should not have taken two years to achieve. The federal government should never allow a taxpayer-funded agency to discriminate against prospective foster parents because they don’t live according to its religious beliefs. Our laws cannot allow anyone to use their religious beliefs to harm others, and especially not vulnerable children and the commendable people like Kelly who want to help them.”

A win against the Catholic bishops is a huge deal, although I doubt these kinds of victories will happen much longer if our current Supreme Court has its way.

Kelly Easter.