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Social Justice Discussions For The 21st Century

Is Atheism The Last Unforgivable Sin Of American Politics?


      All who want to know why atheists need to organize, to actively defend ourselves in America, need to read this long-ish essay, and probably the book by Moore and Kramnick as well:


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      Opinion: The Extraordinary Bias Of The Judge In The Manafort Trial


          The judge in the Manafort trial, T.S. Ellis III, has had a number of journalists complain about his prejudicial treatment of the prosecution as they have tried to do their jobs in the Manafort case.

          Judge Ellis, who was nominated by Ronald Reagan in 1987, has challenged Robert Mueller's intentions, thus he has earned Trump's praise.

          Throughout Manafort's trial, this judge, according to those in the free press, (even FOX on occassion) has shown extreme bias.

          Nancy Gertner, a retired U.S. District Court judge in Massachusetts who is now a lecturer at Harvard Law School, has given us her opinion of Judge Ellis' prejudicial court behavior in the following article.

          A sketch of Judge T.S. Ellis III. (Handout/Reuters)

          It is not unusual for judges to intervene in court proceedings from time to time — to direct the lawyers to move the case along or to admonish them that evidence is repetitive. The judge's role is to act not as a "mere moderator," as the Supreme Court noted in Herron v. Southern Pacific in 1931, but as the "governor of the trial" responsible for assuring the proper conduct of all participants.

          The performance of U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III in the trial of Paul Manafort on bank fraud and tax evasion charges has been decidedly unusual.

          During the trial, Ellis intervened regularly, and mainly against one side: the prosecution. The judge's interruptions occurred in the presence of the jury and on matters of substance, not courtroom conduct. He disparaged the prosecution's evidence, misstated its legal theories, even implied that prosecutors had disobeyed his orders when they had not.

          Under the Code of Conduct for U.S. judges, a judge is supposed to be fair and impartial, as well as "patient, dignified, respectful and courteous" to those in his courtroom. The rule's concern is as much about the appearance of justice as its reality. If the judge violates that rule and a defendant is convicted, there may be a trial remedy — an appeal.

          But there will be no appeal available to address Ellis's anti-prosecution bias if Manafort is acquitted by the jurors, who began deliberating on Thursday. The prohibition against double jeopardy precludes it. And if President Trump's former campaign chairman is convicted despite Ellis's interventions, the judge's hostility toward the prosecution will have been irrelevant.

          Image result for Pictures of paul manafort

          For now, we have only the extraordinary evidence of Ellis's conduct during the 12-day trial. The judge continually interrupted the prosecution's questioning of witnesses, prompting lead prosecutor Greg Andres to pointedly note: "Your honor stops us and asks us to move on." Ellis pressed the prosecution to rush through testimony about important financial documents. He made critical comments about prosecution evidence and strategy — all in front of the jury.

          Ellis also questioned the relevance of Manafort's work as a political consultant for Russian-backed politicians in Ukraine, for which he was paid tens of millions of dollars from 2010 to 2014. But if Manafort didn't disclose some payments because he was not registered in the United States as a foreign agent, it would provide a motive to hide the amounts from the U.S. government — just what the trial was about. Ellis chided prosecutors for eliciting testimony about Manafort's lavish lifestyle, but that kind of testimony is also a classic element in a tax-evasion case. That your cars, boats, condos and clothing suggest you made much more income than you reported would surely be relevant.

          After prosecutor Uzo Asonye questioned a bank employee about Manafort's failed attempt to obtain a $5.5 million construction loan on a Brooklyn brownstone, the judge — unprompted by a defense objection — declared: "You might want to spend time on a loan that was granted." The comment strongly implied to jurors that the prosecution was wasting their time. But an attempt to defraud was part of the conspiracy count in the indictment; false representation to secure a loan, successful or not, is itself a crime.

          Despite appearances, Ellis doesn't think he is infallible. He admitted on Aug. 9, "I may have made a mistake" the day before when he berated prosecutors for allowing the government's tax expert witness to sit in the courtroom during other testimony. Earlier in the trial, prosecutors had explicitly sought and obtained Ellis's permission for the tax expert to be present while other witnesses testified.

          The Manafort trial is the most prominent case to emerge so far from the investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III into Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election. Clearly worried about its outcome, prosecutors went so far as to urge Ellis to tell the jury, in his instructions before they began deliberating, not to let his commentary affect their decision-making. Ellis essentially did just that on Wednesday.

          It may well have been too little too late. The potential for judges to influence juries is so great that courts often caution jurors against reading too much into a judge's subtle nonverbal behaviors, a nod of the head, a smile or a frown. Jurors do it anyway. Legal scholars study whether judges' conduct on the bench influences juries — and reliably find that it does. The research typically concerns a judge's anti-defendant bias. Defendants have all the protections of a trial — the high standard of proof, the presumption of innocence, the evidentiary rules designed to protect them. What will be the impact of Ellis's anti-government bias, which was not nonverbal and hardly subtle? Hard to tell. We know next to nothing about this jury. Seeking to expedite matters, Ellis impaneled the Manafort jury in a single day.


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          Pundit Post

          Broken Promises And Open Hostility: US White Poor Communities


              A friend of mine who works on Progressive causes focused on organizing the poor posted this article, which presents a needed perspective (I think) on thinking about poor white communities in the United States other than writing them off as deplorables etc.


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              The Rude Pundit: "Vatican Likely Won't Punish ..."


                  Lee Papa, aka The Rude Pundit, makes a practice of writing searing, profanity-and-vulgarity laced, hilarious, very adult for language and analogies, columns.

                  When, as he occasionally does, he leaves out the "adult" language, the crude humor, etc., you can be sure that the column is in fact more, not less, adult. That it is more, not less, scathing.

                  A perfect example is "Vatican Likely Won't Punish Those Who Covered Up Child Sexual Abuse"--


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                  Opinion | Something Not Rotten In Denmark


                      We've been to Denmark, just as tourists to be sure, pretty recently. And if that's socialism, bring it on.

                      Paul Krugman on Denmark, socialism (what is and isn't and why American progressives are fine with blurring distinctions):


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                      "Winner Take All" Is Unconstitutional



                          There is definite language in the 14th. Amendment (Equal Protection) that guarantees that every voter should have equal power. Ultimately, our only real "protection" is our vote. Does anyone think that the right to vote, and have your vote fairly counted, does not need, "protection"? When it comes right down to it, I will protect my life and property, I must. But, the government that guarantees the right to vote must protect it.

                          What the current system implies, logically, is that any state can direct its electoral votes any way it wants to; even ignoring the collective will of a majority.

                          That's why we had a functional Voting Rights Act. That's why it was dismantled, and reduced to a sham. That's why we have a national government.


                          From Day 1 of the 2016 electoral season, citizens were disenfranchised in a very dramatic way. A bare PLURALITY of primary voters in S. Carolina voted for the Liar; and when South Carolinians woke up the next morning their votes to decide the Republican candidate had been shifted over into another candidate's column-they were counted for Trump then, and in the national total of delegates. If you look at all the numbers closely, you will find that Trump did not receive a majority of Republican votes to be the candidate nationally: the candidate was chosen by a few-a few racist regressives. There is actually no way to determine who should have been the Republican Candidate, not after S. C.

                          In short, how can each and every voter have equal authority (I use the word, "authority" because we must individually decide how our vote is spent) in the process, when every state follows different rules, and one state, or a handful, can determine the candidate--before a real vote has even been cast. That's an unfair advantage.

                          Then, finally, another layer of disenfranchisement, the Electoral College, kicks in. How many walls are necessary to make our electoral system safe from the voters?

                          It is not a valid argument to say that wiser men (no women) built the system. Clearly their wisdom failed, over time, due to lack of vision.

                          There may be a constitutionally valid method to use "all-or-none", but it can't take away even the smallest fraction of any person's vote.

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                              A Trump appointed Judge, Dabney Friedrich, has upheld Mueller's authority to conduct investigations into and prosecute Concord Management and Consulting, which is a Russian company that had petitioned the Court to dismiss charges against them by alleging that Mueller did not have the proper authority to investigate and charge them.

                              The judge also threw out the company's argument that Rod Rosenstein, Deputy attorney General of the United states, was out of bounds by allowing Special Council Mueller to investigate their company for meddling in the U.S. elections.

                              Prosecutors for the USA have alleged that the Concord Company is under the control of a Russian business man, Evgeny Prigozhin who the Russian Media have reported is a close ally of Putin. Officials of the United States Government say that he has strong influence over the military and Russian politics.

                              Concord is one of three organizations that have been indicted by Mueller's team for alleged criminal and espionage conspiracy to tamper with the 2016 US election, thereby boosting Trump, and diminishing his Democratic opponent.

                              Image result for SMALL PICTURE OF ROBERT MUELLER

                              A Trump-appointed Judge Supported Mueller's Authority in the Special Counsel's Case Against a Russian Consulting Company

                              A US judge Monday refused to dismiss charges against a Russian company accused of helping fund a propaganda operation to sway the 2016 presidential election in Donald Trump's favor.

                              Judge Dabney Friedrich's opinion stated the special counsel Robert Mueller had not exceeded his power.

                              She also rejected the company's argument that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was out of bounds in bringing in Mueller to investigate the alleged Russian meddling.

                              The company is one of three entities, along with 13 Russian individuals, indicted by the special counsel's office for conspiracy to tamper with the 2016 US elections.


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