Category Archives: US Supreme Court

Vallejo Times-Herald’s not-so-subtle promotion of Trump’s Supreme Court judicial pick

By Roger Straw, October 16, 2020

The Vallejo Times-Herald’s headline writer was decidedly NOT impartial this week.

Local commercial news media in one-paper towns are obliged to do their best to present a balanced perspective, especially on controversial topics.  True objectivity is difficult, but the public’s primary source of news needs to do its very best.

And yet, consider the Times-Herald’s headlines Oct. 13-16, each of which accompanied a sweet photo of the fast-tracked Trump/GOP sham nominee, Amy Coney Barrett:

  • Original AP headline on Oct. 13: “Barrett vows fair approach as justice, Democrats skeptical
    • VT-H headline: Barrett vows fair approach
  • Original AP headline on Oct. 14: “Barrett bats away tough Democratic confirmation probing
    • VT-H headline: Barrett unscathed by tough questions
  • Original AP headline on Oct 16: “GOP pushes Barrett toward court as Democrats decry ‘sham’
    • VT-H headline: GOP pushes Barrett’s nomination ahead

When approached by email, Times-Herald Editor Jack Bungart let me know that staff does not write the paper’s headlines.  Their “pagination hub” converts from an Associated Press headline according to “what fits in each situation.”

So who or what is the “pagination hub” serving our friendly staff at the Vallejo Times-Herald?  Is there bias at work here?  Who, exactly, is responsible for the seemingly partial editing of the AP headlines that came up with these pro-Barrett Times-Herald headlines?!

Come on, Vallejo T-H “pagination hub”.  Who are you?  In the future, give us a more nuanced and accurate first look at the day’s highly controversial news.

The death of RBG; news orgs remember legal legend; election jolted; McConnell warns of ‘pressure from the press’; views from right and left

Reliable Sources with Brian Stelter

Oliver Darcy here. It feels wrong to tease any of the stories in this newsletter here when there is such significant and tragic news…

The death of RBG

Alternate text

Only a tiny fraction of stories leave a control room in shock and a news anchor visibly startled. Only a small number of stories cause a host to interrupt their own script, mid-paragraph, for breaking news, cautiously digesting the information being relayed by his or her producers before conveying it to the audience. Only few stories cause newspapers to rip up and redo their front pages on a Friday night.

The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg was one of those stories.

‘We have breaking news right now’

On MSNBCJoy Reid was talking about Trump University when she abruptly stopped in the middle of the segment. “I’m going to hold on because we have some breaking news that we have to report,” Reid said, before taking a breath and informing her audience that Ginsburg had passed away at the age of 87.

CNN, meanwhile, was on a commercial break when Erin Burnett suddenly cut in. “We have breaking news right now,” Burnett told viewers with an urgency reserved for only the biggest news stories. It took Fox News several more minutes to bring their viewers the breaking story. The network was airing the Trump rally in Minnesota. Eventually Martha MacCallum broke in with a Fox News Alert, cutting away from Trump as he attacked the “fake polls.”

How news orgs remembered her

>> New Yorker: “Ginsburg bore witness to, argued for, and helped to constitutionalize the most hard-fought and least-appreciated revolution in modern American history: the emancipation of women. Aside from Thurgood Marshall, no single American has so wholly advanced the cause of equality under the law…”

>> WaPo: “Born in Depression-era Brooklyn, Justice Ginsburg excelled academically and went to the top of her law school class at a time when women were still called upon to justify taking a man’s place. She earned a reputation as the legal embodiment of the women’s liberation movement and as a widely admired role model for generations of female lawyers…”

>> NYT: “Barely five feet tall and weighing 100 pounds, Justice Ginsburg drew comments for years on her fragile appearance. But she was tough…”

>> CNN: “Ginsburg developed a rock star status and was dubbed the ‘Notorious R.B.G.’ In speaking events across the country before liberal audiences, she was greeted with standing ovations as she spoke about her view of the law, her famed exercise routine and her often fiery dissents…”

Front and center

Ginsburg’s death will place the Supreme Court front and center of not only the presidential race, but in Senate races all across the country. This is one of the issues that will define the weeks leading up to the election. The precedents set by landmark cases like Roe v. Wade are quite literally at stake, as well as a host of other issues the court will decide in the years to come. And as Jim Sciutto pointed out, “A 5-3 conservative court may have some very big decisions to make about the upcoming election.”

Mitch McConnell vowed on Friday night to ensure Trump’s nominee — should he nominate someone, and all indications are that he will — gets a vote, and as Dana Bash pointed out on CNN, filling the bench has been the majority leader’s “singular focus.” Which is to say it’s very difficult to imagine a scenario where Republicans don’t move forward at some point between now and January 20th. Brit Hume made a smart point on Fox, noting that Trump’s promise to appoint conservative judges was an argument that actually helped persuade some Republicans who were otherwise uncomfortable with voting for him in 2016. Biden’s campaign has made significant effort to win over Republican voters in this race. Will the future of the court hinder Biden’s efforts? Or will it rally the left even more?

McConnell warns of ‘tremendous pressure from the press’

In a note McConnell sent to GOP senators, the majority leader wrote, “Over the coming days, we are all going to come under tremendous pressure from the press to announce how we will handle the coming nomination.” McConnell’s advice? “For those of you who are unsure how to answer, or for those inclined to oppose giving a nominee a vote, I urge you to all keep your powder dry. This is not the time to prematurely lock yourselves into a position you may later regret.”

>> McConnell is advising his colleagues that they should withhold from their constituents how they are leaning on an issue of incredible importance with an election fast approaching…

‘My most fervent wish’

Will Ginsburg’s dying wish be honored? We’ll see. Before she died, Ginsburg dictated a statement to her granddaughter Clara SperaNPR’s Nina Totenberg reported. The statement read, “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

Fox guests call for Trump to make nomination

Some guests on Fox wasted no time calling for Trump to nominate a justice to fill the vacancy. Ned Ryun said the President should “seize the moment” and make a nomination. Ted Cruz later told Sean Hannity that he believes Trump should “next week nominate a successor to the court.” Cruz added, “I think it is critical the Senate takes up and confirms that successor before Election Day.”

Expect this pressure to ramp up and be at full speed by the end of the weekend. Right-wing media will undoubtedly call for Trump to make a nomination. The mindset for conservatives has, for some time, been defined by what the late Andrew Breitbart used to say: “#WAR.” In other words, arguments about rules and precedent are not likely to be effective. There are no rules in war — and that is the state that right-wing media has conditioned its audience to be in.

Related: Matt Gertz at the progressive media watchdog Media Matters put together a compilation of “when Fox hosts said that you shouldn’t push a Supreme Court nomination during an election year…”

The view on MSNBC

Brian Stelter writes: “Chris Hayes‘ guest Rebecca Traister took a big gulp of wine as Hayes reported McConnell’s statement. Hayes ended his hour by saying, ‘The future is unwritten, and anyone who tells you they know what is going to happen is wrong. We are utterly uncharted territory.’ Rachel Maddow agreed and said humility is essential in a moment like this. Maddow then interviewed Hillary Clinton, who said ‘She stood on the side of moving us toward a more perfect union…'”

NYT’s historic A1

Alternate text


— CNN and Fox News are staying live until 1am ET and starting Saturday morning coverage early at 5am…

— “Trump is expected to put forth a nominee to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat on the Supreme Court in the coming days,” sources told ABC’s John Santucci and Katherine Faulders… (ABC News)


— Trump is “likely to meet again with those on his short list in the coming days,” a source told NYT’s Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman… (NYT)


— “An already chaotic and corrosive presidential campaign was jolted anew,” Philip RuckerMatt ViserSean Sullivan and Josh Dawsey wrote… (WaPo)


— CNN’s Ariane de Vogue reported that Ginsburg, “even after her fifth diagnosis with cancer was working on a book with one of her former clerks, Amanda Tyler. It was based on her life on gender equality…” (CNN)

— Within thirty minutes of the bulletin, each of the top ten Twitter trending topics in the US were related to RBG… (Twitter)


— Watch the moment that Bill Maher broke the news to his panel. You can hear gasps from people in the audience… (“Real Time”)

Robert Reich: We must unite to fight back against our country’s bullies

Repost from the San Francisco Chronicle

We must unite to fight back against our country’s bullies

By Robert Reich, October 7, 2018
Brett Kavanaugh uses emotional bullying in an effort to get his way. | Erin Schaff / New York Times

As a kid, I was always a head shorter than other boys, which meant I was bullied — mocked, threatened, sometimes assaulted.

Childhood bullying has been going on forever. But America has become a culture of bullying — the wealthier over the poorer, CEOs over workers, those with privilege and pedigree over those without, the white over the brown and black, men over women.

Sometimes the bullying involves physical violence. More often it entails intimidation, displays of dominance, demands for submission, or arbitrary decisions over the lives of those who feel they have no choice but to accept them.

The hearing for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 27 was a window into our bullying culture.

On one side: powerful men who harass or abuse women and get away with it, privileged white men intent on entrenching their power on the Supreme Court, men vested with the power to take away a woman’s right to choose what she does with her body.

On the other side: women with the courage to tell what has happened to them, to demand an end to white male privilege, and to preserve and enlarge their constitutional rights.

Christine Blasey Ford was poised, articulate, clear and convincing. More than that: She radiated self-assured power.

Kavanaugh, by contrast, showed himself to be a vicious partisan — a Trump-like figure who feels entitled to do and say whatever he wants, who suspects left-wing plots against him, who refuses to take responsibility for his actions, and who uses emotional bullying and intimidation to get his way.

Even if Kavanaugh gets on the Supreme Court, a large portion of the American public will never trust him to be impartial. Many will never believe his denials of sexual harassment. Most will continue to see him as the privileged, arrogant, self-righteous person he revealed himself to be.

Which brings us to the upcoming midterm elections.

It’s not really a contest between Democrats or Republicans, left or right. It’s a contest between the bullies and the bullied. It’s about the power of those who are rich, white, privileged or male — or all of the above — to threaten and intimidate those who aren’t.

And it’s about the courage of the bullied to fight back.

Donald Trump is America’s bully-in-chief. He exemplifies those who use their wealth to gain power and celebrity, harass or abuse women and get away with it, lie and violate the law with impunity, and rage against anyone who calls them on their bullying.

Trump became president by exploiting the anger of millions of white working-class Americans who for decades have been economically bullied by corporate executives and Wall Street.

Even as profits have ballooned and executive pay has gone into the stratosphere, workers have been hammered. Their pay has gone nowhere, their benefits have shrunk, their jobs are less secure.

Trump used this anger to build his political base, channeling the frustrations and anxieties into racism and nativism. He encouraged Americans who have been bullied to feel more powerful by bullying people with even less power: poor blacks, Latinos, immigrants, Muslims, families seeking asylum.

This bullying game has been played repeatedly in history, by self-described strongmen who pretend to be tribunes of the oppressed by scapegoating the truly powerless.

Trump is no tribune of the people. He and his enablers in the Republican Party are working for the moneyed interests — the Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson and other corporate and Wall Street chieftains — by cutting their taxes, eliminating regulations, slashing public services and allowing them to profit off public lands, coastal waters and privatized services.

The moneyed interests are America’s hidden bullies. They have enlarged their net worth by repressing wages (or pushing the companies they invest in to do so), and enlarged their political power through gerrymandering and suppressing votes (or pushing their political lackeys to do so).

Their capacity to bully has grown as the nation’s wealth has become concentrated in fewer hands, as the economy has become more monopolized, and as American politics have become more engulfed by big money.

It is time to fight back against the bullies. It is time to join together to reclaim economic and political power.

It begins with the midterm elections on Nov. 6.

© 2018 Robert Reich
Robert Reich, a professor of public policy at UC Berkeley, is the author of “The Common Good.”