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Republican attorneys general seek assistance from courts in thwarting Biden’s agenda


WASHINGTON (AP) — These are busy days for Republican state attorneys general, filing repeated lawsuits that claim President Joe Biden and his administration are overstepping their authority on immigration, climate change, the environment and taxes.

The strategy harks back to what Democrats did during Trump’s presidency, heading to court in New York, California, Maryland and other states where they were likely to receive a friendly reception. Even before that, Republicans were frequent filers during Barack Obama’s White House years.

“This is something the Republicans have taken from the Democratic playbook, just as the Democrats had taken a lot of things from the Republican playbook during Trump’s tenure,” said New York University law professor Sally Katzen, who served in the Clinton White House.

The legal action reflects GOP opposition to Biden initiatives, but it also is providing the attorneys general, many with higher political ambitions, to showcase their willingness to stand up to Biden and unabashedly side with Trump.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, seeking the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in 2022, brags in a TV ad that he is “on the conservative front line suing to stop the Biden administration’s worst abuses.”

The main target of lawsuits filed so far have been executive orders issued by Biden.

But several states also have sued over a provision of the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 rescue plan that prohibits states from using their share of federal money to reduce taxes.

Chris Carr, the Georgia attorney general and new chairman of the Republican Attorneys General Association, said he and his colleagues have been cast in this role because Democrats control both houses of Congress and the White House.

“We’ve got a situation where President Biden says, ‘Look, I want to be more bipartisan in nature.’ But then he turns around and has issued more executive orders in the beginning of a term than any president in modern history, I’m told,” Carr said.

“Our job is to ensure the rule of law is upheld. It’s a natural tension we’ve seen throughout American history. How does the federal government stay in its lane?” he said.

It took only two days after Biden’s inauguration for the first legal fight to erupt.

Following the president’s announcement of a 100-day pause in deportations, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton — who famously appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Trump’s loss to Biden in a crucial set of swing states, drawing the support of 17 fellow state attorneys general and 106 Republican members of Congress — went to court and won a court order against the halt.

Several other states have since followed with similar claims.

Just since the middle of March:
• Texas, Montana and 19 other states filed suit in Texas to overturn Biden’s cancellation of the contentious Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada.
• Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry led 13 states in suing the administration to end a suspension of new oil and gas leases on federal land and water and to reschedule canceled sales of leases in the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska waters and western states.
• Missouri sued over the restriction on state tax cuts as a condition of receiving money from the huge COVID-19 bill.

See: Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton battles Texas news media over records related to Capitol siege on Jan. 6

Also: Twitter sues Texas attorney general, claiming retaliation for its Trump ban

Earlier in March, Schmitt led 12 states in a suit that claims the administration lacks the authority to take account of the social costs of climate change. The president said on Jan. 20 that federal agencies must account for damages caused by increased greenhouse gas emissions, including changes in farm productivity, human health and property damage from increased flood risk.

In at least two instances, Republicans are trying to get the Supreme Court involved to keep in place Trump policies that Biden is reviewing or has indicated he will reverse.

Paxton is leading a push to get the justices to reimpose the Trump-era immigration rule denying green cards to immigrants who use public benefits like food stamps. A federal court has blocked the policy nationwide and the Biden administration dropped the defense of it.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost is leading a 19-state effort to keep the court from dismissing a case over the Trump policy that bans family planning programs that receive federal funds from referring women for abortions.

The administration and medical groups that had challenged the policy agreed to dismiss the case because the Health and Human Services Department shortly will propose a new rule rescinding the ban on abortion referrals.

Paxton’s predecessor was Greg Abbott, now the Texas governor. Abbott burnished his conservative credentials by frequently going to court over Obama initiatives. “I go into the office, I sue the federal government, and I go home,” he said in 2013, boasting then of having sued the administration 25 times.

By the middle of 2016, the Wall Street Journal counted at least 44 times that Texas went to court against the Obama administration.

The one thing that has changed since the last Democratic administration is that Trump was able to move appeals courts across the country to the right, adding six judges each to appeals courts that hear cases from Ohio and Texas and four to the court that includes Missouri. All three already leaned conservative.

Even the famously liberal 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, which hears appeals from Montana, became more evenly balanced in the past four years, with the addition of 10 Trump appointees.

“Republican attorneys general might take extra comfort from the fact that there were a significant number of conservative judges confirmed during the Trump administration, and there are a number of courts of appeals where the balance was tipped. So, it’s an even better shot than before,” Katzen said.

MarketWatch contributed.



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‘Nobody’ Review: New Blood for an Old Genre


If you happen to be a psychopathic Russian drug lord with a yen for extinguishing human lives, the takeaway from “Nobody” might well be to think twice before you antagonize a mild-mannered American suburbanite who has rediscovered his inner

John Wick.

That’s the matchup in this bloody mashup of ultraviolent tropes. The film stars

Bob Odenkirk,

of all the unlikely casting choices for action hero—he’s pretty darned good—and was directed by

Ilya Naishuller

(“Hardcore Henry”) from a script by

Derek Kolstad,

who happens to have created the John Wick franchise and written three installments thus far, all of them notable for their elegantly stylized violence. No one can accuse “Nobody” of elegance, apart from

Pawel Pogorzelski’s

cinematography. This is punishment as entertainment, a short and sour saga of a pacifist turned vengeful brute in order to win back his self-respect. (The film is playing in theaters.)

The good news here is Mr. Odenkirk’s performance, not to mention his endurance in strenuous action sequences that must have taken a real-life toll on his physique; he certainly doesn’t look computer-generated. The body and soul of “Better Call Saul” was already famously versatile. Still, who could have guessed that the next stop on his artist’s journey would have him playing Hutch Mansell, a killing-and-maiming machine with a Dirty Harry scowl-and-growl in a movie where almost everyone spits out teeth if they’re still able to spit?

Hutch’s escapades don’t begin right away. He may be a nobody in the grand scheme of things, but he’s a quietly charming family man with a lovely wife, Becca (

Connie Nielsen,

absurdly wasted on an off-the-shelf housewife role), and a couple of kids—earnest Blake (

Gage Munroe

) and adorable Abby (Paisley Cadorath). His first personality shift comes after a home invasion that recalls “Straw Dogs,” except that Hutch, unlike

Dustin Hoffman’s

David, does not manage to cover himself in gory glory. Yet his failure of courage—at least that’s what those around him think it is—energizes him to go forth and inflict vigilante justice on bad guys in order to feel good about himself.

RZA, Bob Odenkirk and Christopher Lloyd in ‘Nobody’



Photo:

Universal Pictures

You needn’t know much more than that to decide whether to spend 92 minutes of your time on Earth watching the film, and you shouldn’t know much more if you’re going to open yourself to its grindhouse charms. Suffice it to say that mayhem begets mayhem, Hutch unwittingly incurs the wrath of Yulian, a Russian drug lord played with popping

Klaus Kinski

eyes by

Aleksey Serebryakov,

and a new cycle of violence is provoked—not by thugs from a Russian crime syndicate invading a home and killing a cute puppy named Daisy, as in John Wick’s story, but by Russian thugs relieving poor Abby of her Kitty Cat bracelet.

“I’m just a soul whose intentions are good,” goes the song from the Animals on the soundtrack. Maybe so. We’re given reason to believe that Hutch’s behavior during the first round of home invasions is less a matter of cowardice than a fear of reverting to who he was during a shadowy paramilitary past. Participants in that history pop up in the person of his father, David (a zestfully funny performance by

Christopher Lloyd

), who is not the nursing-home dodderer he seems to be; and in the voice of his mysterious brother, Harry, who is only heard on a radio link until he finally appears as a brother-in-arms played by the hip-hop artist and actor

RZA.

And larger questions of identity are hinted at when Hutch, fully and lustily back in action, says to his wife, “Just like old times, huh?” and Becca responds, “I’m ready, Hutch.”

Bob Odenkirk in ‘Nobody’



Photo:

Universal Pictures

What is that all about? Who knows? The only thing certain is that, good intentions notwithstanding, Hutch is thrilled to be a wolf in wolf’s clothing once again. He and John Wick might both be hitmen, but the latter’s onscreen slaughters were always in the service of good, while Hutch’s appetite for inflicting—and sustaining—punishment is insatiable. As “Nobody” ground on, I thought not only of Wick, plus Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but of one of my favorite movies, “The Incredibles.” Hutch could be the dark side of

Bob Parr,

restless and robbed of purpose until he regains the superpower of rage, and makes the world uglier.

Write to Joe Morgenstern at [email protected]

Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

Appeared in the March 26, 2021, print edition as ‘‘Nobody’: New Blood for an Old Genre.’



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