This week, the Supreme Court rejected the appeals of two cases, one from Ohio, and one from Florida, involving inmates challenging the constitutionality of their death sentences. In particular, the case from Florida involves Henry Sireci, who was first sentenced to death in 1976 over the murder of a used car salesman. Sireci’s lawyers have argued that Florida’s refusal to grant him a new trial based on newly discovered DNA evidence that might exonerate him was a violation of his due process rights.
Justice Steven Breyer, himself on a crusade against the death penalty, made an interesting note about this case:
“When he was first sentenced to death…the Berlin Wall stood firmly in place. Saigon had just fallen. Few Americans knew of the personal computer or the Internet. And over half of all Americans now alive had not yet been born.”
Very much a testament to the inordinately lengthy amount of time death row inmate typically spend waiting for their eventual deaths. This represents a blow to the Justice’s mission to bring an end to the death penalty, but one can imagine that this won’t be the end.
The battle for Aleppo, once Syria’s second largest city, has ended. The fighting will stop today after four years of a brutal military campaign that was marked by indiscriminate bombings and horrific human rights violations. In the end, Assad, who received enormous help from Russia, and his government forces have won. It is a sad day and a huge turning point in Syria’s 5 1/2 year civil war.
We all know that President-elect You-Know-Who has only attained that title through the machinations of the Electoral College. He has not won the popular vote, and therefore, in a sense, he is going into the presidency without very much legitimacy.
Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich has some further thoughts about the possible illegitimacy of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, some points of which are listed below:
“1. The CIA has found credible evidence that Russia intervened in the election in order to help Trump become president.
“2. It has been suggested that Trump owes vast sums of money to Russian oligarchs, friends of Putin, who have also invested substantially in Trump’s enterprises — which may explain why Trump won’t disclose his tax returns, which would show evidence of these deals.
“3. Several of Trump’s key campaign aides – including his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort – have close ties to Russia. Between 2007 and 2012, Manafort received some $12.7 million in cash payments from a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine.
“4. During the campaign, Trump said he admired Putin, questioned whether the U.S. should continue to support NATO, and argued that Putin was justified in moving into Ukraine.”
You can read more of Reich’s Facebook post here, and then sit and wonder as to how can we have a man, not even chosen by the people, somehow serve them while seemingly being beholden to the interests of foreign adversaries.
Members of our nation’s electoral college are requesting an intelligence briefing on Russia and its possible role in the recent presidential election before they themselves conduct the real vote next Monday. They have sent an open letter to the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, stating that the information is essential to their duties as electors to choose someone who is constitutionally fit and able to serve as president.
This call has been supported by Clinton Campaign Chairman John Podesta. All of this comes in the wake of a CIA report that has concluded that Russia has interfered in the US presidential elections on behalf of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Of course, President-elect You-Know-Who has rejected this claim outright, reducing the chatter on this issue to sour grapes over his victory.
Outgoing President Barack Obama stopped by the “The Daily Show” with Trevor Noah on Monday night, commenting on remarks recently made by President-elect You-Know-Who in regards to intelligence briefings (saying that he doesn’t need them daily because he is “smart”):
“I think the President-elect may say one thing and do another once he’s here [in the White House]…Because the truth of the matter is, it’s a big, complicated world.”
He stated that, while one can be pretty intelligent, they would still need top-quality information to make the best decisions possible.
Unfortunately, the President’s words here are likely to fall on deaf ears. We are, after all, talking about He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, an incurious man with incredibly unearned arrogance in his abilities and no desire to learn at all, something born right out of his track record.
It’s official now: President-elect He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named has chosen Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson to be Secretary of State. Never mind here, we have yet another example of the incoming president filling up the swamp (as opposed to draining it, as he promised during his campaign), but then we have someone in Tillerson with close ties to our adversary, Russia, someone who cut deals with the country and was bestowed the “Order of Friendship” by President Vladimir Putin himself.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is sure to give our Senators on Capitol Hill plenty of fodder during confirmation time. Unlike many of the other picks, since this has to do with Russia, this particular one might be extra problematic for President-elect You-Know-Who, given the bipartisan worry that it has stoked.
Trump campaigned on the promise of not getting involved in foreign conflicts. During the campaign, Trump called the war in Iraq a disaster (even though he supported it at the time) and blamed Hillary Clinton for the chaos in the Middle East. He criticized her for the decision to topple Gaddafi in Libya (guess what – he supported that too.) In his first major speech on foreign policy since the election, Trump introduced Mattis as his defense pick and laid out his vision for a new era of U.S. foreign policy.
Three terrorist attacks rocked the Middle East this weekend. In Turkey, a Kurdish militant group set off two bombs outside a stadium after a soccer game. The attack killed 38, including 30 cops, and injured at least 100 more. The TAK, the group that carried out the attacks, said the bombings were in response to “ongoing violence in the south-eastern Turkey and for the continuing imprisonment of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan.”
A bomb exploded at a Christian cathedral in Cairo, killing 25. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack that was carried out on a national holiday that celebrates the anniversary of the Prophet Muhammad’s birth.
In Yemen, where an 21-month war has ravaged the poorest country in the region, a suicide bomber blew himself up in an army compound, killing 45 soldiers. ISIL’s affiliate in Yemen claimed responsibility for the attack.
Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty says that an attack on one member of the alliance is an attack on all members of the alliance. It is the reason why so many Eastern European countries aspire to join NATO. It offers security and peace of mind to people that were subject to Soviet occupation. One of those countries that rely so heavily on NATO is Estonia. The small Baltic state of about 1.3 million people borders Russia and is one of only 5 NATO allies that actually meet their 2% GDP defense spending commitment.
The election of Trump has shook Estonians who now fear they will be defenseless in the event of a Putin offensive. This article in POLITICO details these fears and what leaders are planning to do to work with Trump to maintain the alliance.
Turkey was once the example of a modern Middle Eastern state. A secular country that was pro-West and eager to enter the EU. However, since July’s coup attempt, President Erdogan has cracked down on journalists, teachers, and opposition parties. Thousands have been jailed and now Erdogan is positioning himself for a power grab that will keep him in power until at least 2029. He was been leading the country for 14 years now and shows no signs of relinquishing anytime soon. This WSJ article details Turkey’s shift and the impact it could have on regional stability.