Monthly Archives: April 2021

Biden Speaks & Republicans Whine

President Biden gave a long address to a joint session of Congress. Within minutes, Republicans cynically rolled out Republican Senator Tim Scott from South Carolina to criticize him.

The genius of Biden’s speech was that it was presented largely in plain speak, addressed to the real audience, the American people, rather than the collection of politicians in the chamber with him. Biden went big. His proposals were designed to say to the people: these are the benefits you can have  that will make America competitive in the 21st Century and that will reward you with good-paying jobs, better educational opportunities and improved/more affordable healthcare, among other things. This is bold stuff, designed to look forward and not back to the mythological past favored by white supremacists. Being the old pro that he is, I have no doubt Biden is quite aware of the challenges his agenda faces from the Republican Party of No.

Republicans sat like statues throughout, resisting the slightest show of support for anything Biden had to say, no matter how much it might address real problems of people not included in the richest upper class to whom the GOP owes its primary allegiance. During Biden’s speech, McConnell could have been replaced by a blow-up doll and no one could have distinguished the doll from the immobile person.

The Republican official response, delivered by Sen. Scott, was entirely predictable: NO. NO. NO. You can read the NPR fact-check here if you like. https://n.pr/3eDUCPC  I will not waste my time or yours with the details.

Suffice to say that the Republicans are in a bad place here. They are going to adopt the same agenda of obstruction they used against President Obama even as the country and the world were on the precipice of a major economic catastrophe. Republicans really didn’t care. Mitch McConnell made clear the agenda was to make Obama a one-term president, regardless of the cost to the country.

That plan failed. But we got Trump instead, perhaps because many Americans believed that Obama’s election represented a real turning point away from the country’s checkered past and that voting wasn’t necessary. It doesn’t much matter now. Trump was elected, almost certainly with the help of foreign powers, and the rest is history. We are approaching 600,000 dead Americans because Trump downplayed the virus and refused to accept the science. Yeah, sure, he started Operation Warp Speed, but it was going nowhere fast when Biden took over. Now over 200 million doses of vaccine have been injected in Biden’s first 100 days in office.

Turning to the Republican rebuttal, and at the risk of touching on touchy subjects, the fact is, I believe, that the Republican Party, in an effort to blunt accusations that it has become the party of white supremacy, produced Sen. Scott to assure us “it ain’t so.” ­The data strongly indicates it is so, but OK, what else could we expect from their chosen mouthpiece? Other than the standard Trumpist party lines, he had no real data to offer in support of his gaslighting generalizations.

Scott assailed President Biden with the all-too-familiar Republican trope that Biden promised to unite the country, be bi-partisan, “lower the temperature” etc. and so on. Ad nauseum. “We need,” Scott said, with rhetorical flourish:

policies and progress that bring us closer together. But three months in, the actions of the president and his party are pulling us further and further apart.

I won’t waste your time tonight with finger-pointing or partisan bickering. You can get that on TV anytime you want. I want to have an honest conversation about common sense and common ground. About this feeling that our nation is sliding off its shared foundation, and how we move forward together.

But first, a word about me, me and me. Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen. But, surprise, God saved me. And He will save you too if, four or five paragraphs later, we had opened our schools the way other (unnamed) countries did.

Any time a Republican politician tells you he/she wants to have an “honest conversation,” secure your wallet and your mind. Scott saying he’s not going to engaged in finger-pointing or partisan bickering is just cognitive priming in the hope you won’t notice that is exactly what he is doing.

The English translation of Scott’s rebuttal is simple enough: the stimulus bill Biden got passed was not the bill Republicans wanted so we voted against it. “Closer together” means doing things the Republican way, period: it’s not bi-partisan unless it’s the Republican agenda. If Democrats did things our way, we’d be all in on bipartisanship. But if you won’t let us control all the legislation, we’ll just whine about lack of bipartisanship and vote ‘no’ on everything.

I evaluated his statement in categories, as a primer to what was really going on. His statement was comprised of 1908 words in 39  paragraphs (New York Times version of transcript).

My categories were:

Racial messaging (overt or covert)

Trigger words/phrases & religious messaging for Republican base

            Anti-partisanship/reverse partisanship

Victimhood

Racial messaging accounted for 14 paragraphs and 778 words, or 36 percent of the total paragraphs and 40 percent of the total words in Scott’s statement. The central message was “I’m Black and I have suffered as a Black man in America so you can trust me when I tell you Republicans are not racist and neither is America.” Perhaps, but likely not, accidentally, he used one of Donald Trump’s standard lines, “believe me,” and claimed his efforts to fund police body cameras  and his “even bigger police reform proposal”  were blocked by Democrats who even rejected debate by using the filibuster. Implication: the real racists are Democrats.

The problem with that song-and-dance number is that Scott’s legislation was rejected by Democrats in 2020 because it did not include bans on chokeholds or “no-knock” search warrants and did not address qualified immunity that prevents effective lawsuits against police officers using excessive force. Democrats saw the bills as non-starters because Republicans made clear that the protective umbrella of qualified immunity was non-negotiable. Our way or the highway. So much for bipartisanship.

My second category includes classical Republican talking points/trigger words & phrases/religious references to appeal to the GOP base. These accounted for a small share of the total words, but were center cut from the Donald Trump playbook and calculated to get the biggest rise from the base:

“Even more taxing, even more spending, to put Washington even more in the middle of your life — from the cradle to college”

“Weakening our southern borders and creating a crisis is not compassionate”

 “The beauty of the American dream is that families get to define it for themselves”

“Washington schemes or socialist dreams”

“America is not a racist country”

            “Washington power grab”

Details were sparse but when you’re throwing fresh meat at the mob, you don’t need them.

Scott’s assault on the bona fides of Biden’s appeal to unity and bipartisanship accounted for 16 paragraphs and 621 words. Race-related messaging thus won the day as a share of Scott’s statement.

He also played the victim card. Since he remains a disciple of Donald Trump, asserting victimhood is hardly a surprising move. It accounted for six paragraphs and 278 words.

Finally, Scott closed out his statement with a blessing, comprised of 2 paragraphs and 141 words. This seems bizarre because while Scott is reportedly an evangelical Protestant, he is not ordained as a minister.

So, there you have it. No doubt the Republican base will love Scott and believe that he effectively showed up President Biden. More important, however, is the question how this struggle is going to play out with the American population as a whole. Biden has shown the country what is possible, what they can have if they have the courage to get it. Republicans will continue to fulfill their role of obstruction with a side of commitment to the wealthiest Americans whose financial welfare is the prime mover of Republican philosophy and policy.

If Republicans really wanted bipartisanship, they would stop saying ‘no,’ to almost everything Democrats propose. They have now undergone their standard re-conversion back to “conservative” principles, by demanding smaller government, less regulation and rejection of science. With those as their touchstone, there is little prospect for bipartisan solutions to anything resembling a real problem. Biden has offered the people a roadmap to a future of possibilities and promise for better lives in an increasing complex and uncompromising world. The question now is: how will they choose?

 

Didn’t Take Long, Did It?

President Biden gave a long address to a joint session of Congress. Two hours later (12:04 a.m. this morning), Leana S. Wen,  filed a 775-word response as a “Contributing Columnist at the Washington Post.  https://wapo.st/3xyYfPc Dr. Wen (a title I use out of respect but is curiously omitted from her byline) is prodigiously educated and experienced in matters medical. However ….

The gist of Dr. Wen’s instant response to the President was that by requiring masks & physical distancing, Biden undermined the effort to achieve herd immunity through vaccination because the images of the audience of politicians in masks will support rather than negate vaccine hesitancy. She took this position despite the rule in place since January that requires masking while on for federal properties.

My first draft of this post went on at length about Dr. Wen’s curious choice of hills to fight on, but after a short walk, I concluded “so what?” The truth is probably that no matter which course President Biden took (assuming he was even involved in the decision), it would have been wrong in some “expert’s” eyes. Too cautious, not cautious enough, ad nauseum.

To her credit, sort of, Wen also attacked the CDC for “overly-cautious guidelines” that she says may lead people to conclude, “What’s the point of getting inoculated if not much changes?” She goes back and forth between “Biden sent the wrong message” and “CDC needs to urgently change its recommendations” that Biden followed.

Pretty mushy messaging in the end. Somebody’s at fault, but who? In the end, in my opinion, her attack on the speech arrangements added more fuel, not less, to the ignoramuses who claim that the vaccines are unsafe, contain secret devices to …. oh, never mind.

 

Is DC Sinking?

Since returning to live in DC four months ago, one thing that has struck me, literally and figuratively, is the condition of the District’s streets. Roads I drive on frequently, long sections of I Street NW, Pennsylvania approaching Washington Circle from the east and in the 24-to-25th block, and long stretches of L Street NW, are in really poor condition. A remarkable number of axle-busting holes are everywhere and either jolt you out of your kidneys or cause cars to suddenly veer out of their lanes in avoidance maneuvers. And then there are the manhole covers. Some streets are “littered” with them and they seem to be set in the precise path that car wheels follow if the car is centered in the lane. All too frequently the covers are an inch or more below the road surface. These are not acceptable conditions for the capital city of what purports to be the greatest nation on earth.

I recently learned, courtesy of the DCist newsletter, https://bit.ly/3sWOXZT, that a monster machine, named Chris, has just finished digging and lining the walls of a 5-mile, 23-foot-wide tunnel 100 feet below the city. The 650-ton machine is reportedly longer than a football field (100 yards for the unknowing). We better hope that Chris does not become sentient one day and decide it doesn’t like working underground anymore.

Anyway, the purpose of the tunnel is to “prevent sewage overflows into the Anacostia River and stop flooding in low-lying neighborhoods, including Le Droit Park and Bloomingdale,” which seems like a really good idea. My theory, however, is that one explanation for the condition of the roads may be subsidence induced by Chris’s underground excavation.

My theory is no doubt a bunch of hooey, but I need to understand why Washington’s roads are in such terrible shape, so I make up stuff. There is, however, some hope. This morning I noticed, as I was flung about the interior of my car, that a long section of I Street NW has been “shaved,” perhaps by a relative of Chris, in preparation for resurfacing. Now the manhole covers protrude above the road surface. It was dodge-em cars the entire stretch as drivers tried to avoid blowing tires on the edges of the covers that, as I have noted, seem to be everywhere and in all the wrong places.

I am now aware that Mayor Bowser “has committed to eliminating all poor quality roads in the District by 2024.” More details than you want to know may be seen at the DDOT Paving Plan. https://bit.ly/3dZbpxh Hmmh. 2024? That’s easier to grasp if you look at the history of road improvement expenditures. https://tabsoft.co/3nqSxKM To paraphrase a paraphrase, it’s a long road ahead.

 

Congress is Failing the Country Again

The Washington Post reports that the prospects for Congress establishing an independent commission to investigate and report on the January 6 attack on the Capitol are dimming. https://wapo.st/3v3Nh2o In a report that could have emerged from Alice in Wonderland, the Post says,

Congress’s pursuit of an independent investigation into the Jan. 6 insurrection is facing long odds, as bipartisan resolve to hold the perpetrators and instigators accountable erodes, and Republicans face sustained pressure to disavow that it was supporters of former president Donald Trump who attacked the U.S. Capitol.

Once again, it seems, “political interests steadily overtake lawmakers’ appetite to push for accountability.”

Apparently, the Republicans in the House are demanding “equal representation” and “subpoena authority” despite their position as the minority party in Congress. If Republican resistance continues, which seems a virtual certainty, Speaker Pelosi reportedly could appoint a “select committee” or allow the multiple Congressional committees already bogged down in multiple proceedings. Republicans have undermined efforts to move ahead in the manner of the post-9/11 commission by demanding, in classic deflection style, that any such commission also investigate “left-wing extremism” which would include the “antifa” movement.

Republican resistance is reportedly still driven by the bizarre reality that “a majority [of rank-and-file Republicans] still believe the election was stolen from Trump.”

Norm Ornstein, an emeritus scholar with the American Enterprise Institute, was quoted in this confession:

“The political imperative at this point is to discredit any investigation, to deny any ties either to Donald Trump or to the members of Congress . . . who either helped to plan the [riot] or helped to incite it.”

The Republican strategy is apparently working, as

“public hearings held by the House Judiciary and Armed Services committees have devolved into shouting matches, as GOP members accuse Democrats of ignoring threats from the far left, while Democrats accuse them of equivocating to distract from the fact that far-right extremists have become an active force in the Republican Party.”

Much of the current focus appears to be on the question of how the government security apparatus was caught off-guard and failed to respond properly to the unfolding threat to the Capitol. Those are certainly important questions that must be addressed. But the most significant forward-looking issue is how the attack came to pass: who planned it, who inspired it, who coordinated it, who supported it? Those questions include not only the active participants in the insurrection but the critical question whether Members of Congress were involved in any actions related to planning and/or executing the attack. The purpose of the assault was to stop the Constitutional process of final accounting for the election outcome and certification of the Electoral College votes. There are numerous indications of involvement by Members of Congress in both houses.

It is time to move this process forward rapidly and to focus on the key questions. It is obvious now that the Republican Party is 100 percent dedicated to preventing any substantive accountability for the attack that led to multiple deaths, many severe injuries and exposed members of Congress to possible capture and even death. Recall the battle cry of the insurrectionists: “Hang Mike Pence!”

The stalling and deflection by the minority party are unconscionable. It’s time for the Biden administration to take charge and get his task done. There is no space for “bipartisanship” here – Republicans have no interest in that, so it’s fine to ignore them.

The administration should bring this to a head by having the Justice Department take charge of the investigation on a top priority basis. Every passing month with no answers to the complicity of the Republican Members of Congress makes it that much harder to get political accountability in the mid-term elections as memories fade and new bright objects overtake the public consciousness of the threat to democracy that the January 6 attack represented. If Members of Congress are culpable, action should be taken against them promptly. They do not enjoy the same privileges regarding indictment and arrest for criminal conduct as does the President. https://bit.ly/3n1lH2H  Gravel v. United States, 408 U.S. 606 (1972).

Attacks on the central elements of our democracy cannot be tolerated. The First Amendment allows Americans in most circumstances to advocate many types of change in the operation of government. It does not sanction violence to stop the execution of Constitutional duties related to national elections. That is what was attempted on January 6 and justice must be brought to bear on the perpetrators inside as well as outside the Congress.

Fill In the Blanks

You wake up in the morning to yet another mass shooting. https://cnn.it/3spRvPS

Forty-five in the last month alone. https://cnn.it/3afv5eb

Just another day in America.

This one was in Indianapolis. Tennessee. Texas. But it could have been anywhere in the United States. Small town, big city, rural, urban, suburban. Anywhere. Any time.

More than one a day for the last month alone.

Eight dead in Indianapolis. So far. Details at 11.

Mass shootings are now so common, reporters don’t need to write new stories. They can make a standardized form for reporting mass shootings. Then just fill in the blanks between/with the clichés. The news is not new. It often doesn’t rise to the level of news.

Police arrived to ______ [a very chaotic scene] [shocking carnage]

The motive for the shooting was _____ [not immediately known] [suspected terrorism] [not suspected terrorism]

The gunman had at least _____ [one weapon — “a rifle of some sort”] [an AR-15 with high-capacity magazines] [multiple firearms] [a massive arsenal legally acquired] [rifles, a shotgun & pistols] [a machine gun]

Witnesses heard _____ [ten shots] [dozens of shots] [too many shots to count] [a pause while the gunman reloaded & resumed firing]

The number of dead is _______ [any number four or larger up to 60 (so far)] and the number injured is [any number up to 867 (so far)]

The company was _________ [deeply shocked and saddened] [heartbroken] [shaken] by _______ [senseless act of violence] [tragic loss of life]

Safety is _______ [our top/highest priority] [taken very seriously]

The Governor/Mayor/Police Chief/Members of Congress offer_______ [condolences] [heartfelt sympathies] [thoughts and prayers to ________ [victims and their families] [friends and co-workers] [all who are affected] [everyone]

        Flags will be _______ [lowered] [at half mast]

The shooter ______ [took his own life] [was killed by responding police] [died at the scene of unknown causes]

Number of security guards employed by the company to defend employees _____ [none]

Statement from the National Rifle Association said _______ [thoughts and prayers to victims] [nothing]

Number of “good guys with guns” who stopped the shooter ______ [none]

Steps taken by state governments and Congress to limit access to rapid fire weapons of war and keep weapons from hands of unstable people [none] [none] [none]

Old White Guy Has Some Questions for the Sedition Caucus

Having gone to the trouble of creating the Congressional Hall of Dishonor, it seems, upon further reflection, appropriate to pose some questions to some of the more illustrious, and seemingly most proud, members of the Sedition Caucus. I refer to Senators Cruz, Hawley and the others who voted to overturn the 2020 election on January 6.  See Congressional Hall of DishonorUpdated at https://bit.ly/3rOT89t Think of this as a final exam that determines who these politicians really are and what they are destined to become.

As an Old White Guy, I report (confess, if you prefer) that I grew up, partially, in Memphis, Tennessee. The standing joke was that Memphis was really in Mississippi because its racial attitudes and conduct toward Black people most closely resembled that of Mississippi. But, alas, Tennessee was destined, it seems, to grow more like Mississippi as Mississippi was, perhaps, growing less like Mississippi.

Growing up in Memphis, one was exposed to naked racism everywhere. As a child I was reprimanded for drinking from a “Negroes only” water fountain in Sears. The idea was that  it was socially unacceptable to behave as if “Negroes” were the equal of white people. Go along to get along. I was embarrassing everyone. Nothing to discuss or debate. That’s how it was and how it was supposed to be according to … something no one could or would identify. Raise the question and people looked at you like you were insane and dangerous. I didn’t understand it then and I don’t understand it now.

We are now 70+ years on from those days. Sometimes it feels as if nothing much has changed.

I have some questions for the Sedition Caucus and all those who support them:

  1. Are you prepared to say that QAnon is a ridiculous concept, impossible for a rational person to believe? If not, why not?
  2. Are you prepared to denounce the Proud Boys as a domestic terrorist organization? If not, why not?
  3. How about the Three Percenters? The Oath Keepers?
  4. OK, here’s an easier one: the Ku Klux Klan?
  5. Further on No. 4, are you prepared to state, without qualification, that the Ku Klux Klan is a racist organization/entity/group/assemblage/collection/aggregation?
  6. Reversing field for a moment, are you prepared to state, without qualification, that the Charlottesville march by the Proud Boys and others was a racist action? If not, why not? Are you prepared to state, without qualification, that in Charlottesville there were not “fine people on both sides?”
  7. Are you prepared to say, without qualification, that the murders of children at Sandy Hook & Parkland were not staged?
  8. Are you prepared to say, without qualification, that the 9/11 attacks were not an “inside job” by the American government?
  9. Are you prepared to state, without qualification, that anyone who claims the California wildfires were started by Jewish space lasers is delusional?
  10. United States leads world in firearms per capita. Why is the population armed to that extent? You may not answer “ because they can” or “Second Amendment allows it.” The question is: WHY are so many people armed? Be precise. Very precise and specific.
  11. Do you believe that in general Black males are more prone to violence than white males? Why?
  12. Do you believe that police generally treat Black people the same as white people? If yes, upon what facts/data do you base that belief ?
  13. What, exactly, do you believe is the symbolism in the year 2021 of monuments to Confederate soldiers/generals/politicians? Define your terms – nothing like “southern culture” – be specific.
  14. Do you believe it is alright, ethically or morally, for one human being to own another human being and treat that person as property?
  15. Do you believe females should have the same rights and be treated with the same deference and respect, as males?
  16. Do you believe that non-white people should have the same rights and be treated with the same deference and respect as white people?

If you think these are fair questions to ask men and women who purport to lead the country, who seek our approbation for their views of our values and ideals, send the questions to your senators, congresspersons, mayors, councilmen and others in positions of “power” and who are members of the Sedition Caucus. You are among the grantors of those powers so it’s entirely appropriate to ask them to answer these questions. They’re mostly easy to answer – a yes or no will suffice. Some of the explanations will be … harder. But that’s why it’s a test.

If you get any answers and want to share them, please do so via the Leave a Reply.

Georgia’s New Voting Law – Truth or Consequences?

One of the two replies reacting to my post, Caw! Caw! Jim Crow Returns to Georgia, asserts that I am “spreading lies” about the new Georgia voting law and that “Even the Washington Post gave Biden four Pinocchios for what he said about it. Today’s Washington Examiner explores what’s behind all the lies and misrepresentations:” The Examiner article mentioned can be read at https://washex.am/31Lo8g1

Since the responder is known to me to be an intelligent person with extensive education and professional experience, I cannot just let the accusation of lying pass without comment. Quite a bit of comment, actually. I apologize for the length of this post, but accusations of lying require detailed responses. I have strong opinions about many things but work very hard to cite authorities and avoid false statements.

When someone does something inconsistent with normal practice, the action often raises questions of motive and intent. Doubly so when the asserted rationale has no factual foundation. Examples from the Trump years abound. The call with the President of Ukraine comes to mind. Demand is made for an investigation of something that has no factual basis for the apparent purpose of undermining a political opponent. No other plausible explanation of the event is presented and the documentary record of it is sequestered in a secret server by attorneys for the then president. Strange behavior causes suspicion to arise about what was really going on.

It is more than curious, then, that the new Georgia law was rushed through as if an imminent emergency faced the state’s electoral system. I am not aware that such an emergency existed. What then was going on?

The Washington Examiner tells us  that the “voting reform law contains simple, commonsense measures, most of which … will make it easier for people to vote.” That much is actually true of some parts of the law.

But then the Examiner exposes what I had argued was the underlying reality: the claim that the conduct of the 2020 election showed real risks of fraud that needed to be stamped out immediately when in fact no such fraud was found in Georgia (after, I believe, three audit/recounts [https://cnn.it/3dMbAuL] and the Governor’s own aggressive investigations). No fraud was found in Georgia or anywhere else. More than 60 lawsuits claiming fraud were brought and all were promptly dismissed, mainly for lack of evidence or other legal deficiencies. One of the principal attorneys bringing those cases on behalf of Trump has stated in court filings that, in effect, the fraud allegations made were so outlandish that no rational person would have believed them as being factual allegations. https://bit.ly/3fEhfFr

The only fraud that occurred in Georgia was the attempt by Donald Trump to induce the Georgia Secretary of State to “find” just enough votes to overturn the official results and award Trump the state’s electoral votes. It’s on tape and cannot be denied. https://wapo.st/3wn2Nrr

Thus, the stated rationale for this massive, intricate detailed rewrite of Georgia’s already intricate, detailed election statute was false. There was no fraud requiring the law to be changed and certainly not so urgently.

The Examiner, and my commenter, note that President Biden was wrong is saying that the new law forced polling places to close at 5 p.m. Fine. The President appears to have been wrong on that one point. In fact, that was the only thing the Washington Post fact checkers addressed. See https://wapo.st/3cNHTu0

Maybe Biden was recalling an earlier version of the Georgia statute or was misinformed by staff. Whatever. He apparently made a mistake about one provision in the massive changes to what turned out to be 95 pages of legislative text.

The Examiner was also up in arms over the objections noted to criminalizing the provision of food and water to voters waiting in lines at polling places, claiming that’s the law in New York and “many states.” My research suggests the Examiner is wrong about New York but even if true, it doesn’t much matter. The rest of the Examiner article is just argument about the Democrats’ motives and other things that I decline to waste time addressing. Let’s address the facts and whether I have spread “lies” about the Georgia law, bearing in mind, again, that the entire stated rationale for the changes, in Georgia and a multitude of other Republican states, is a mirage, a political fantasy about voter fraud that never happened.

In a related vein,  by the way, the state of New York is moving toward no-excuse absentee voting, a process that requires a state constitutional amendment. In each vote on this, with one exception, all the negative votes have come from Republicans. https://bit.ly/3rHh1jq

Turning back to Georgia, in drafting my post I did not actually rely on what President Biden said about the Georgia law. I cited a Washington Post article (https://wapo.st/2QIONbe) for a number of specific actions in SB202, all of which I confirmed independently. Recognizing the possibility that I could have made a mistake in reading the complex and detailed language of SB202, I re-examined the legislation after the “spreading lies” accusation. I found the following about what I had written:

  • new identification requirements for casting ballots by mail. TRUE
  • curtails the use of drop boxes for absentee ballots. TRUE
  • allows electors to challenge the eligibility of an unlimited number of voters and requires counties to hold hearings on such challenges within 10 days. TRUE
  • makes it a crime for third-party groups to hand out food and water to voters standing in line. TRUE
  • blocks the use of mobile voting vans. TRUE
  • prevents local governments from directly accepting grants from the private sector. TRUE
  • strips authority from the secretary of state, making him a nonvoting member of the State Election Board. TRUE
  • allows lawmakers to initiate takeovers of local election boards. TRUE

Given that the predicate for the legislation was false and that these “improvements” were rushed through and signed behind closed doors, I stand by my conclusion that the legislation “is voter suppression in the guise of “cleaning up” issues that never existed in the first place.”

My view of this is apparently supported by a large number of major companies that do business in Georgia, including Delta Air Lines and Major League Baseball. The Georgia legislature’s reaction to the criticism from those companies was to attack those companies. See, e.g.,  https://bit.ly/3dwyZjt and any number of many other publications reporting on this. The Georgia Republican Party often rants about “cancel culture” but when faced with “consequence culture,” it has a conniption fit of outrage.

There is more. In looking again at the actual statute adopted in Georgia, I noted some other interesting details.

The Secretary of State was chair of State Elections Board and elected by popular vote.. This is supposed to be a non-partisan position but is now selected by entirely partisan General Assembly. The Secretary of State is reduced to an ex officio nonvoting member of the Elections Board.

There is a new procedure for suspending and replacing county or municipal superintendents. New provisions provide for politically-controlled demands for review of performance of individual local election officials. Toe the expected political line or face loss of your position.

Neither the Secretary of State, election superintendent, board of registrars, other governmental entity, nor employee or agent thereof may send absentee ballot applications directly to any voter except upon request of such voter or a relative authorized to request an absentee ballot for such voter. New restrictions limit who can “handle or return” a voter’s completed absentee ballot application.

“All persons or entities, other than the Secretary of State, election superintendents, boards of registrars, and absentee ballot clerks, that send applications for absentee ballots to electors in a primary, election, or runoff shall mail such applications only to individuals who have not already requested, received, or voted an absentee ballot in the primary, election, or runoff.” The State Election Board is authorized to fine, apparently extra-judicially, anyone claimed to have violated the new rules on handling absentee ballot applications and ballots.

The law limits the days when advance voting can occur and forbids registrars from providing for advance voting on other days even if local circumstances indicate it would be helpful to people voting.

For counting absentee ballots, the process must be open to the view of the public, but no observer may make electronic records of what is observed.

“The Secretary of State shall be authorized to inspect and audit the information contained in the absentee ballot applications or envelopes at his or her discretion at any time during the 24 month retention period. Such audit may be conducted state wide or in selected counties or cities and may include the auditing of a statistically significant sample of the envelopes or a full audit of all of such envelopes. For this purpose, the Secretary of State or his or her authorized agents shall have access to such envelopes in the custody of the clerk of superior court or city clerk.”

What happens if “audit” reveals problems many months after the election result is declared? Who decides? How? The Secretary of State, as noted earlier, has been demoted to ex officio status on the Election Board. Will the solution be produced by the legislature?

Extending poll hours to accommodate a number of voters who were unable to vote during a particular period requires a court order. It is unclear what problem was this intended to resolve & how will it work in practice. Most likely, time and other practical considerations mean that no extended poll hours will be possible.

The “food and water” issue that has garnered much attention might have been more acceptable if it had stopped with “no campaigning,” which is common in many places, but instead, regardless of circumstances, no one, including non-partisan community groups, may provide foo­­d or water to voters in line. An exception was provided for “self-service water from an unattended receptacle,” whatever that means. Can party partisans set up passive food/water stations for self-service immediately adjacent to the voter waiting line and brand them with party or candidate labels?

There is a curious and unexplained disparity in treatment of two particular election offenses. If you “intentionally observe” a voter’s candidate selection, you have committed a felony. But if you “use photographic or other electronic monitoring or recording devices, cameras, or cellular telephones, except as authorized by law [??], to: (1) Photograph or record the face of an electronic ballot marker while a ballot is being voted or while an elector’s votes are displayed on such electronic ballot marker; or (2) Photograph or record a voted ballot,” you are only guilty of a misdemeanor.

Finally, special rules adopted by the State Election Board during a state of emergency “may be suspended upon the majority vote of the House of Representatives or Senate Committees on Judiciary within ten days of the receipt of such rule by the committees.” Politicians will apparently decide whether a declared public health emergency warrants changes to election processes.

To conclude, the legislation is not all bad. For example, I think that replacing signature- matching with identification requirements is a step in the right direction, provided that the identification requirements are reasonable for all classes of voters and do not have disparate effects on, for example, minority voters. It is not clear to me, and apparently to many others more expert in this, that the identification requirements adopted in Georgia satisfy that test, but I suppose we will find out soon enough.

Another provision I think is acceptable is the prohibition on campaigning while monitoring the processing of absentee ballots, although one wonders why it was necessary to impose a communications blackout on what absentee ballot monitors observe during that process and how that ban will work if litigation results and eye-witness testimony is needed.

It is, in short and overall, impossible to accept that, having lost the presidential election and two senatorial run-off elections, the Republican Party in Georgia was suddenly struck with over-powering public-spirited inspiration to straighten out the state’s already incredibly detailed, specific and, based on recent experience, reliable election processes with a bunch of politically neutral repairs that no one thought necessary before the election.

Thus, I remain steadfastly suspicious of massive and rushed legislative actions claimed to address problems that have been found, after multiple deep investigations, to be non-existent. The Georgia legislation, considered in detail and as a whole, seems to lack a rationale other than voter suppression. That’s what I called it, and I believe that’s what it is. Equally important for present purposes, everything I said about what was in the legislature was factually correct. It will take much more than an editorial in the Washington Examiner, the New York Post of the District of Columbia, to show otherwise.