Category Archives: Law

Democrats, Time to Call the Question on MTGCuckoo

Media reports, https://wapo.st/3blQSS0, for example, indicate that Marjorie Three Names, real name Marjorie Taylor Greene, known to me as MTGCuckoo, has once again violated House rules and norms of behavior by openly confronting Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez outside the House chamber, screaming at her and calling her names. WAPO reports that this led “the New York congresswoman’s office to call on leadership to ensure that Congress remains “a safe, civil place for all Members and staff.”

Indeed. It can be frustrating at times to observe the extreme formalities used by Members of Congress in addressing each other during hearings and debates, but those formalities serve a vital purpose. They are a device for keeping the focus on the issues being discussed and to reduce the flaring of tempers and personal recrimination that serious disagreements about serious matters can inspire. By and large they work.

Or at least they worked until the arrival of Donald Trump on the American political scene. Trump consistently behaved like the trashy human being he consistently proved to be. He labeled his political adversaries in his own party with offensive nicknames, made derogatory remarks about their physical appearance and their families, mocked a disabled reporter and on and on and on. His Republican competitors vehemently objected to Trump’s schoolyard behavior until he won the presidency. Then, like the miracle that was supposed to end the COVID crisis at its inception, they bent the knee to him, seeking jobs, swearing fealty to him personally and adopting his constant lies as “alternative facts.”

Trump inspired a new wave of Republican leaders who have adopted his tactics, among them is MTGCuckoo, a QAnon conspiracist among her other charming propensities. She cares nothing for tradition, standards of personal respect or any other norm of civilized conduct, just like her idol, Trump. With the support of 11 Republicans, she was stripped of her committee assignments in February because her extremist remarks that included

questioning whether deadly school shootings had been staged and whether a plane really hit the Pentagon on 9/11.  A supporter of the fantastical QAnon conspiracy theory, she also shared videos with anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim sentiment, and expressed support for violence against Democratic leaders in Congress.  [https://cbsn.ws/3yazBF6] ….

Greene has made a number of incendiary and false statements in recent years, among them that Black people “are held slaves to the Democratic Party,” that Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) — the first two Muslim women elected to Congress — represented “an Islamic invasion into our government offices,” and that Jewish megadonor George Soros collaborated with Nazis.

She had previously harassed David Hogg, one of the teenage survivors of the Parkland school shooting, on the Capitol grounds and, reportedly, another member of Congress in a hallway dispute over Greene’s refusal to wear a mask.

This obnoxious and dangerous behavior has not harmed Greene’s appeal with the Trump base. She continues to collect large donations from them. In typical fashion, Republican House leadership has done nothing meaningful to rein in Greene’s manic conduct.

This is on the Democratic leadership. MTGCuckoo is violating every rule  and norm of behavior for a Member of Congress. She craves attention and will do almost anything to get more of it. One of these days someone is going to get hurt because of her low class schoolyard behavior. It may be her or someone else, but Democrats control the House and should put a stop to this immediately before it gets further out of hand. Many of the Trump sycophants look to people like MTGCuckoo for guidance regarding their own behavior. She doesn’t care a bit if she inspires some craven Trumper to act out their violent fantasies on a Member of Congress or someone else.

Closing Note: no doubt someone will decide to chastise me for hypocritically name-calling Greene in the fashion that I am criticizing her. Guilty as charged. Now they don’t have to bother. Greene has earned the nickname I gave her on Twitter, and I’ll continue to use it as long as she behaves like a tantrum-throwing child who makes statements that are, by any standard, beyond the realm of rational behavior. She belongs in rehab, not in Congress. My choice of nickname relates to her behavior, not to her appearance or her family. Apologies, however, to cuckoos.

Has the Washington Post Gone Over to the Dark Side?

I was astonished and disturbed that the Washington Post would give a member of the January 6 insurrection streaming time on the Washington Post Live, but that’s exactly what it did with Senator John Hawley on May 4. The full transcript may be read here: https://wapo.st/3eT235C

I am doubly disturbed about this now that I am aware that it was the Washington Post that invited Donald Trump to sit at its table at the 2011 White House Correspondents Association Dinner at which then-President Barack Obama mercilessly and deservedly chided Trump for Trump’s role in the birther conspiracy regarding Obama’s birthplace. Trump was clearly very unhappy at being the butt of President Obama’s humiliating jokes. I’ll have more to say about that when I review Obama’s magnificent memoir, A Promised Land.

The interview at hand was conducted by Cat Zakrzewski, identified as a tech policy reporter and author of The Technology 202 newsletter. She was chosen, perhaps, because the program was billed as “The Missouri senator discusses breaking up big tech, antitrust reform and the post-Trump era for the Republican Party,” but it did not go well, in part because Zakrzewski opened the interview by testing Hawley on other subjects for which she was, it seemed, ill-prepared to cope with his aggressive style.

Zakrzewski opened the discussion by asking the open-ended question, “what responsibility do you feel for the cascading events that resulted on January 6th?” This presented Hawley with the perfect opening to gaslight, both-sides and what-about the country regarding his role. And he did. Hawley claimed that what he did was nothing compared to Democrats who had lodged objections to three past presidential elections.

True, as far it goes. But there are a few critical differences Hawley conveniently failed to mention. They are set out in detail at https://bit.ly/33kU7ES Suffice to say that in 2000, after the Supreme Court’s 5-4 extremely questionable decision to stop the Florida recount, it was Al Gore, the losing Democrat, who, serving as Senate President, enforced the rules to stop the objections. In 2004, overwhelming bipartisan votes rejected the objections lodged by just one member from each house. In 2016, it was again a Democratic Vice President who insisted that the rules be followed in the final certification and, absent any support in the Senate for objections, the tally in Trump’s favor was approved.

In 2020, on the other hand, Republicans brought, and lost, more than 60 legal challenges to multiple swing state outcomes. They never produced evidence of voter fraud on which the claim of “The Big Steal” was based. The entire claim was nonsense and Hawley knew it. His disassociation from facts mirrors the subordination of the entire Republican Party to the Big Lie by Donald Trump that the election was stolen.

Hawley then ran away with the interview in a late-in-coming exegesis on his disapproval of the January 6 mob attack on the Capitol, the same attack he encouraged with the fist pump that was photographed and seen by millions. And, again, Hawley attempted to minimize the attack by deflective references to other acts of violence to which he also objected, returning at the end to refer to the non-existent issue of “election integrity” that he insists was at the root of his objections to the Electoral College certification.

…in terms of having a debate about election integrity, I promised my constituents I would. I did, and I don’t regret that at all. That’s me doing my job.

When Zakrzewski challenged Hawley, noting that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court had dismissed challenges to the Pennsylvania count, Hawley rejected the Court’s decision, claiming it was not on the merits, was partisan,  that the court “also interfered with the count itself,” and was “in violation of their own precedent.” In other words, Hawley rejected the action of the highest court in Pennsylvania because he disagreed with it and proceeded to demand the overturning of the election in that state. So much for Republican devotion to “law and order.” Zakrzewski barely got a word in.

On the subject of a national 9/11 style commission to investigate the January 6 attack, Hawley, being the loyal Trumpist, objected to focusing on the attack and argued that the commission should instead address the security failures that allowed the attack to take place. Those issues, however, have already been investigated and Hawley has no explanation, other than deflecting from the core issues of the attack and its inspiration by Trump, for expanding the commission’s scope to other issues. It doesn’t take much imagination to foresee how a commission with a multiple-element mandate would be derailed by Republicans who clearly intend to protect Trump from accountability for his role in directing the assault. Just watch any hearing in which Rep. Jim Jordan participates and you’ll understand.

When again asked about the attacks on Capitol Police, Hawley again deflected to other incidents, mentioning for the second time the Nation of Islam. No objection from Zakrzewski. When asked about the fist-pump incident, Hawley, for the third time brought up BLM protests and riots.

The interview then shifted to other subjects related to the power of tech companies and Hawley’s proposal to break them up. Hawley was able to talk over Zakrzewski on every issue. It brought to mind the first Biden-Trump debate in which Trump simply ran over the moderator throughout the program. After each Hawley monologue, Zakrzewski just moved on to the next topic. But when she tried to explore the effects of the Big Lie about the stolen election, Hawley just continued his rant about political censorship by tech companies. She let him get away with it and turned to the then-pending plan to remove Liz Cheney from leadership to which Hawley demurred (she’s in the House so their problem).

The “interview” ended with Zakrzewski asking “would you support former President Trump running again for office in 2024?” Hawley again deflected, saying Trump’s decision was his to make, Hawley would never give him advice, etc. In short, no answer. Interview over.

Other than providing Hawley a platform from which to practice his both-sides deflection routines, what did the Washington Post accomplish by giving this supporter of January 6 this exposure? Whatever it was, it didn’t work. Instead, Hawley was given the opportunity to promote himself and his  “oh, no, it wasn’t me. I’m opposed to violent protest in all forms. Did I mention Portland? I was just doing what my constituents wanted me to do. Oh, yeah, I’m just a humble servant of the people of Missouri, though I reserve the right to reject the rulings of the highest courts in states like Pennsylvania and vote to overturn elections whose outcomes I don’t like. Did I mention antifa? Riots? Yeah, I’m for law and order unless it means following the decisions of the highest courts in a state whose election result I don’t like.”

If the Post is fooled by Hawley’s professed devotion to protecting free speech and the First Amendment, we are in even more serious trouble than I have thought. The Post should know by now that it cannot escape the fascist propensities of the rightwing politicians who shout at every opportunity, “fake news, enemy of the people” about the mainstream media. I fully accept that the Post should report genuine news – the Capitol attack on January 6 was news – but it should stay out of the business of creating news by giving platforms to the very people who would destroy the free press in a heartbeat if given the power. @WashingtonPost, do better. Before it’s too late.

Will DC Statehood Bring Down Our Representative Democratic Republic?

On April 13, the Attorneys General of 20 Republican-led states wrote a letter to President Biden, the Speaker of the House and the Majority and Minority Leaders of the Senate informing them that if the pending Washington DC Admission Act (H.R.51 and S.51) is passed and signed, these “legal officers” will challenge the statute in court on grounds that it is unconstitutional and “bad policy.”

As a legal document, the AGs letter is one of the silliest creations I have ever seen. Here’s why.

  1. Courts don’t have jurisdiction to decide whether a statute is “bad policy.” Policy (good, bad or otherwise) is the purview of the Executive and Legislative branches of government. You would think that these “legal officers” would understand that most fundamental principle of American jurisprudence.
  2. A simple summary of the AGs’ arguments goes something like this: a. The Constitution granting Congress “exclusive authority” over DC means that authority cannot be delegated. In other words, “exclusive” really means “permanent.”

Oops. The dictionary does not square with that idea. “Exclusive” does not mean “permanent.” There is also a problem that the Supreme Court has in effect ruled otherwise. A few  quotes from District Of Columbia V. John R. Thompson Co., Inc., 346 U.S. 100 (1953):

The power of Congress to grant self-government to the District of Columbia under Art. I, § 8, cl. 17 of the Constitution would seem to be as great as its authority to do so in the case of territories.

The power of Congress over the District of Columbia relates not only to ‘national power’ but to ‘all the powers of legislation which may be exercised by a state in dealing with its affairs’. [citations omitted] There is no reason why a state, if it so chooses, may not fashion its basic law so as to grant home rule or self-government to its municipal corporations.

A municipal corporation, in the exercise of all of its duties, including those most strictly local or internal, is but a department of the State. The legislature may give it all the powers such a being is capable of receiving, making it a miniature State within its locality.

3.  The “exclusive authority” language also means that the Constitution’s text providing for admission of new states simply does not apply to DC because … the AGs said so. They gave no other reason, and none is apparent.

4. The Constitution says DC may not exceed “ten Miles square,” but that actually means the capital District may not be reduced below that size.

Sorry, but the District of Columbia is only 68 square miles now. Clearly, it can be reduced below “ten Miles square”

Virginia asked for the land in what is now Alexandria to be returned from its original ceding of land for the capital and this was done (with Congress approval, of course). It follows that both the natural meaning of the original text and the history of Congressional action indicate that the size of the District is not immutable, no matter how much the AGs might wish it were otherwise.

5.  The federal presence in DC consists of just a “few federal buildings and surrounding parks and it self-evidently cannot have been the Framers’ intent to permit the District to be so reduced.

In fact, the boundaries of the Capital District as set out in HR 51 occupy some 12 pages of legislative text setting out the capital district boundaries street by street, to be confirmed by a metes-and-bounds survey. Quite a bit more than a “few federal buildings” are encompassed in that space. We are talking about the entire federal government for the United States in the present time, not it’s condition in 1787. Perhaps the AGs reference to a “few federal buildings” simply reflects their ignorance regarding the scale of , or merely their contempt for, the federal government.

6.  Adoption of the Twenty-third Amendment, giving Electoral College votes to DC, would been unnecessary if creating a new state were possible, or less difficult, so since the Twenty-third was adopted, it follows that statehood is forbidden.

This is apparently intended to say that Congress could have made DC a state but chose not to do so. Instead, it was easier to give DC some Electoral College votes, while still denying it voting representation in Congress. No doubt that was the easier course. But that says nothing about whether Congress had the authority to do more.

7.  Statehood will create all manner of “practical problems” involving “utilities and the provision of basicservices”

Hoo boy, that’s good one. Can you imagine that something as complex as providing electricity to federal buildings, something that happens routinely every single day now, would befuddle the government of the “greatest nation on earth” in dealing with the new state? The Republican AGs would fail any respectable law school exam with that argument. Oh, and recall how Texas failed to provide electricity during the recent storm. Based on the Republican AGs argument, Texas should it forfeit its status as a state and return to territorial status.

Beyond the issue of delegation, the AGs argue that,

“the Constitution’s provision of exclusive authority over the District of Columbia to the United States Congress cannot be wiped away simply by ordinary legislation. Rather, the only lawful way to provide statehood to the District of Columbia is to amend the Constitution.”

The operative language in Article I, section 8, clause 17 of the Constitution says, “To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District….”

The AGs see Clause 17 as a self-evident permanent mandate to rule the territory ceded as the capital district rather than a grant of authority to be exercised through “exclusive Legislation” that can, among other things legislation can do, delegate control to local authorities consistent with Congress’ correlative authority to admit new states under Article IV. In the AGs’ view, Clause 17 is not merely enabling; it overrides Article IV, section 3, clause 1 of the Constitution which permits the addition of new states to the Union through Congressional action:

New states may be admitted by the Congress into this union; but no new states shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other state; nor any state be formed by the junction of two or more states, or parts of states, without the consent of the legislatures of the states concerned as well as of the Congress.

The Congress shall have power to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to prejudice any claims of the United States, or of any particular state.

Not one word of Article IV-3-1 directly or by reasonable implication has anything to do with whether DC can be made a state by legislation because none of the constraints in the text has any application to the current state of the District’s physical relation to surrounding states. The Republican view that the conclusion is otherwise is not based on facts or evidence, just an assumption that what they prefer is how things are or should be.

Finally, the AGs get to the heart of the matter:

[HR 51’s] enactment would be antithetical to our representative democratic republic, and it wouldconstitute an unprecedented aggrandizement of an elite ruling class with unparalleled power and  federalaccess compared to the existing fifty states in the Union.

That word salad looks like something taken from a Donald Trump stump speech back in the day. This is not a position grounded in the Constitution, and no evidence is offered in support of the claim that granting statehood to DC would undermine the “representative democratic republic,” that is the United States.

What in the world are the AGs thinking? Granting the benefits (and obligations) of statehood to an area representing 68 square miles out of the total 3.797 million square miles of the United States (or .0018 percent) will bring down the “representative democratic republic?”  Can’t wait to see that presented in court.

The District of Columbia, according to the Republican AGs would be a “super-state that would have primacy over all others.” The AGs seem to have confused the introduction of the Declaration of Independence (”We hold these truths to be self-evident”) with their Trumpian version of reality. A super-state!? An elite ruling class!?

The AGs next “argument” was put in a footnote, fittingly:

[the legislation] does not address the potential conflict with the requirements that “no new State shall beformed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or Parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.” U.S. Const. art. IV, § 3.

This beyond incoherent. The statute does not take land from other states; it reorganizes the existing land known as the District of Columbia.

Finally, I know I’m skipping some crazy stuff, the AGs object to the provisions granting liberal voting rights to DC residents that may be more voter-friendly than some of the restrictive regimes favored in Republican-dominated states. So what?  Some states have better voting laws than others. Why should the District of Columbia be deprived of the opportunity to have the most vote-friendly system?

At the root of this nonsense is likely an animus against a community with a majority of Black and Brown citizens that tends to vote for Democrats. It is not hard to imagine that if the vast majority of DC residents were white and voted Republican, the Republican AGs would have a different view. No doubt some people with balk at the suggestion that the Republican AGs determination to deny statehood to DC is race-based. If they are right, they should be able to produce better arguments than the sorry stuff of the AGs’ letter.

We have good reason to believe that the Republicans in the Senate will defeat the DC Statehood legislation. Democrats everywhere should take note and understand that the only way real progress is going to be made in the United States is by removing the obstructionist/insurrectionist party from political power.

Court Eviscerates Barr Attempt to Whitewash Mueller Report

Federal District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson yesterday issued a 35-page opinion (exclusive of attachments) rejecting the claims of the Department of Justice that it can withhold  a memorandum behind then-Attorney General Barr’s attempt to whitewash the Mueller Report.  Citizens For Responsibility and Ethics in Washington v. U.S. Department Of Justice,  Civil Action No. 19-1552 (DC DC May3, 2021). [Note: bolding of text is mine]

You may recall that, as brilliantly reported by Judge Jackson, and at the risk of giving away the conclusion,

 On Friday, March 22, 2019, Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller, III delivered his Report of the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election to the then-Attorney General of the United States, William P. Barr.

But the Attorney General did not share it with anyone else.

Instead, before the weekend was over, he sent a letter to congressional leaders purporting to “summarize the principal conclusions” set out in the Report, compressing the approximately 200 highly detailed and painstakingly footnoted pages of Volume I – which discusses the Russian government’s interference in the election and any links or coordination with the Trump campaign – and the almost 200 equally detailed pages of Volume II – which concerns acts taken by then- President Trump in connection with the investigation – into less than four pages. The letter asserted that the Special Counsel “did not draw a conclusion – one way or the other – as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction,” and it went on to announce the Attorney General’s own opinion that “the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.”

The President then declared himself to have been fully exonerated.

The Attorney General’s characterization of what he’d hardly had time to skim, much less, study closely, prompted an immediate reaction, as politicians and pundits took to their microphones and Twitter feeds to decry what they feared was an attempt to hide the ball.

When, almost a month later, Barr presented the Mueller Report to Congress, “He asserted that he and the Deputy Attorney General reached the conclusion he had announced in the March 24 letter “in consultation with the Office of Legal Counsel and other Department lawyers.” CREW immediately filed Freedom of Information Act requests for any documents related to those consultations. Predictably, DOJ resisted, citing exemptions from disclosure based on “deliberative process” and “attorney-client privilege.”

At issue then before the Court were two memoranda to the Attorney General. The DOJ justification for withholding the first one, the Judge noted, was poor, but the Judge conducted an in camera [private, in chambers] review of the document and gave DOJ a helping hand:

there was a particular, immediate decision under review to which the document pertained, that it also addressed another specific issue that was likely to arise as a consequence of the determination made with respect to the first, and that the entire memorandum was deliberative with respect to those decisions.

Judge Berman therefore held that document need not be disclosed to CREW.

The other document, however, was another cup of joe entirely. It was dated just two days after Mueller gave Barr the report and “specifically addresses the subject matter of the letter transmitted to Congress.” Most of the document is redacted in the Judge’s opinion but she also conducted, over DOJ’s strenuous objections, an in camerareview of that document.

Noting first CREW’s objections to the timeline represented by DOJ attorneys:

DOJ’s . . . arguments rest on the demonstrably false proposition that the memo was submitted to the Attorney General to assist him in making a legitimate decision on whether to initiate or decline prosecution of the President for obstructing justice . . . . [H]owever, the Special Counsel already had made final prosecutorial judgments and the time for the Attorney General to challenge those judgments had passed. Whatever the contents of the March 24, 2019 OLC memo, it was not part of a deliberation about whether or not to prosecute the President….

The absence of a pending decision for the Attorney General to make necessarily means the memo did not make a recommendation or express an opinion on a legitimate legal or policy matter. Instead, it was part of a larger campaign initiated by Attorney General Barr to undermine the Special Counsel’s report and rehabilitate the President . . . .”

The Judge concluded:

the redacted portions of Section I reveal that both the authors and the recipient of the memorandum had a shared understanding concerning whether prosecuting the President was a matter to be considered at all. In other words, the review of the document reveals that the Attorney General was not then engaged in making a decision about whether the President should be charged with obstruction of justice; the fact that he would not be prosecuted was a given.

In a footnote, most of which is redacted, the Judge noted, “DOJ made a strategic decision to pretend as if the first portion of the memorandum was not there.” Ooof.

Similarly, Judge Jackson later observed,

the in camera review of the document, which DOJ strongly resisted …. raises serious questions about how the Department of Justice could make this series of representations to a court in support of its 2020 motion for summary judgment

and,

summary judgment may be granted on the basis of agency affidavits in FOIA cases, when “they are not called into question by contradictory evidence in the record or by evidence of agency bad faith.” But here, we have both.

Noting a previous court opinion (the EPIC case) that found,

The speed by which Attorney General Barr released to the public the summary of Special Counsel Mueller’s principal conclusions, coupled with the fact that Attorney General Barr failed to provide a thorough representation of the findings set forth in the Mueller Report, causes the Court to question whether Attorney General Barr’s intent was to create a one-sided narrative about the Mueller Report – a narrative that is clearly in some respects substantively at odds with the redacted version of the Mueller Report.

Judge Jackson found,

the [DOJ] affidavits are so inconsistent with evidence in the record, they are not worthy of credence.

and,

the suspicions voiced by the judge in EPIC and the plaintiff here were well-founded, and that not only was the Attorney General being disingenuous then, but DOJ has been disingenuous to this Court with respect to the existence of a decision-making process that should be shielded by the deliberative process privilege. The agency’s redactions and incomplete explanations obfuscate the true purpose of the memorandum, and the excised portions belie the notion that it fell to the Attorney General to make a prosecution decision or that any such decision was on the table at any time.

and,

A close review of the communications reveals that the March 24 letter to Congress describing the Special Counsel’s report, which assesses the strength of an obstruction-of-justice case, and the “predecisional” March 24 memorandum advising the Attorney General that [redacted text] the evidence does not support a prosecution, are being written by the very same people at the very same time.

As to the claim of attorney-client privilege, Judge Jackson was equally incisive and for similar reasons:

… since the memorandum was being written at the same time and by the same people who were drafting the Attorney General’s letter to Congress setting forth his views on the basis for a prosecution, and the record reflects that the priority was to get the letter completed first one simply cannot credit the declarant’s statement that the Attorney General made the “decision” he announced based on the advice the memo contains.

Finally,

The Court emphasizes that its decision turns upon the application of well-settled legal principles to a unique set of circumstances that include the misleading and incomplete explanations offered by the agency, the contemporaneous materials in the record, and the variance between the Special Counsel’s report and the Attorney General’s summary.

These devastating (for the DOJ attorneys) findings confirm the suspicions that I and many other expressed at the time that the fix was in at the Barr Justice Department and that Barr was acting more as personal counsel to Trump than doing his job as Attorney General of the United States.

Judge Jackson gave DOJ until May 17 to move for a stay pending appeal, but it is unlikely that AG Merrick Garland is going to do anything to resist the force of Judge Jackson’s definitive analysis. Stay tuned. The release of an unredacted version of the Judge’s opinion will be an explosive eye-opener about the extent of corruption in the Trump-Barr Justice Department.

 

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.

 

Great Expectations Meet Legal Reality

Politico appears to have joined the ranks of journalists who, having lost their matinee idol (Donald Trump), have turned their attention to throwing dirt at the Biden administration. It’s apparently hard doing political journalism when the President is a normal human being who actually works at his job and doesn’t spend all day demeaning others while praising himself.

In any case, Politico reports that for some reason, not entirely clear to me, the Biden administration may be embarrassed by the prospect that many of the insurrectionists who invaded and debased the Capitol on January 6 may not do much, if any, hard jail time. https://politi.co/3wbBBMj

There is nothing new or surprising about that possibility and no reason for the Biden administration to be “embarrassed” about it.

This click-bait story suggests that it was reasonable to believe that every one of the crazed mob of Trump supporters would be charged with felonies and imprisoned under very long sentences for their crimes. At the same time it notes that the many “lower-level cases” are clogging the District of Columbia federal trial court where all these cases are being “heard.” Those lower-level cases involve misdemeanor charges that typically plead out.

The reason for this is not ‘justice.” If justice were to be had here, all of the people who invaded the Capitol to stop the final approval of Biden’s election victory would be charged with felonies and required to plead to deals involving meaningful jail time.

But practical reality governs in these situations. Mass arrest scenarios rarely lead to jail time for  many who are swept up in the arrest net. This has been true for as long as mass arrests have occurred. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_arrest  The court system simply cannot handle trials of hundreds of people on top of its already heavy case load.

The result is that “deals” are made between prosecution and defense to an agreed sentence, often probation for first-offenders when only property damage is involved, in exchange for a guilty plea that avoids the time and cost of a jury trial. This is true almost regardless of the circumstances, although, as a society, we generally do not treat white people who commit “light crimes” with the harshness meted out to minority defendants.

There is, of course, an unusual amount of visual evidence in these cases — hundreds of hours of video of the crime scene. While the videos show a staggering amount of violence by the mob that led to dozens of injuries to police, it is apparently also true that many of those identified and arrested so far were not actually engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the Capitol Police or in physical desecration of the building. These people allegedly just “went along for the ride.” If so, they almost certainly will end up “pleading” to some misdemeanor offense and may indeed be spared jail time. That is an outrage given the threat to our democratic system that they attempted to achieve, but the judicial system simply cannot cope otherwise.

Politico takes this simple reality to the extreme of making a “federal case” out of nothing in stating that,

The prospect of dozens of January 6 rioters cutting deals for minor sentences could be hard to explain for the Biden administration, which has characterized the Capitol Hill mob as a uniquely dangerous threat. Before assuming office, Biden said the rioters’ attempt to overturn the election results by force “borders on sedition”; Attorney General Merrick Garland has called the prosecutions his top early priority, describing the storming of Congress as “a heinous attack that sought to disrupt a cornerstone of our democracy, the peaceful transfer of power to a newly elected government.

Justice Department prosecutors sent expectations sky-high in early statements and court filings, describing elaborate plots to murder lawmakers — descriptions prosecutors have tempered as new details emerged.

Nonsense. There are plenty of serious cases of violence that will lead to meaningful jail time and other penalties for the perpetrators. Many felons remain to be identified and arrested. This is not going away. It was a “uniquely dangerous event.”

The report is accurate in noting the time pressure on the prosecution, but again this is not unusual in mass-arrest cases. Speedy trial is a constitutional right, sometimes ignored, but a right nonetheless. And we can be sure that these virtually all-white “protestor insurrectionists” will get every advantage to which they are accustomed.

Other than the target of this particular mob, and the inspiration for their attack (the former president), there is nothing especially unusual about these cases. Mayhem has degrees just like other violence and the law treats each case individually. It’s likely that violent “protestors” in Portland and other places are facing the same issues, and opportunities, as the insurrectionists who attacked the Capitol.

I, at least, deeply hope that none of the Capitol attackers is going to receive what Politico refers to as a wrist-slapping. This attack was not a response to a prior event (as, for example, the protests after George Floyd’s murder) – it had a specific goal: to stop Congress from carrying out its constitutional duty to certify the election. The article refers to people “who walked into the building that day without authorization.” That, I  believe, fails to recognize the gravity of what was happening that January 6. Few, if any, of the insurrectionists just “walked into the building” – the proof is in the videos.

Politico says, “the Justice Department will soon be in the awkward position of having to defend such deals, even as trials and lengthy sentences for those facing more serious charges could be a year or more away.” Again, there is nothing “awkward” about this, beyond the simple inability of the judicial system to cope, in a constitutional democracy, with mass-type arrests, whether all at once or individually later for crimes that occurred together. Politico adds to its hyping of a non-existent issue by noting that Trump continues to lie about what happened on January 6, claiming this adds to the “political awkwardness” of the situation.

Wrong. Trump will continue lying and blathering to his last breath. Except for his die-hard political base, no serious person thinks Trump has any substantive contribution to make to the American political situation. It is certainly and indisputably true that Trump can be expected to keep lying about January 6 in an effort to thwart what he rightly fears as criminal prosecution of himself personally. No one is more deserving.

Unfortunately for journalism, Politico uses a common Trump formula in referencing “what many in the court system are referring to as “MAGA tourists,” a phrasing of unknown provenance (who, actually, are the “many” who call the insurrectionists “MAGA tourists?”) and calculated to diminish the significance of what happened on January 6.

Finally, I note that some of the January 6 defendants continue to run off at the mouth on Twitter and other social media, claiming they did nothing wrong and remain proud of their actions that day. Those defendants should face the full weight of the law – no deals for them. Let them stand trial if they like and face sentencing for their January 6 conduct and their continuing indifferent or outright hostility to the rule of law. Unless the judges in these cases want a repeat of January 6 or worse, they had better take a direct approach to such cases that are deserving of no leniency or special treatment.

Caw! Caw! Jim Crow Returns to Georgia

Acting on the pretext that there is legitimate and widespread lack of public confidence in Georgia election processes, Governor Kemp, behind closed doors guarded by state police, signed a new law restricting voting in Georgia. The bill, 95-pages in length, was introduced in the Georgia Senate on February 17, passed on March 8, read in the House the next day, passed by the House on March 25 and that same day sent to the Senate, passed by the Senate that same day and sent to the Governor who signed it that same day. https://bit.ly/3lVoudr

When engaged in world-class voter suppression, the Georgia government can move faster than a scalded cat. Georgia joins a mob, the current Republican favorite form of action, of 43 states and more than 250 blatant vote suppression bills.

The only significant lack of confidence in state election laws comes from the Republicans’ whining, led by Donald Trump, starting well before the 2020 election, that the election was going to be rigged, if, and only if, Trump lost. If he had won, well then, no problems – voting systems working just fine. The intellectual and moral vacuity of the Republican reasoning behind this idea needs no elaboration. Nevertheless, ….

The sole reasons now given for the “voter fraud” claim are that “many people believe there was fraud.” That, need I point out, is no reason to believe anything. Large shares of the population believe that the Earth has been visited by aliens from other planets/galaxies and large shares of millennials are not sure the Earth is a spheroid shape (yes, they appear to be somewhat convinced that Earth is or may be flat). Remarkable, but that’s what the surveys show. It is what it is. I am not going to touch, beyond this sentence, on the belief of millions that the Earth, in fact, was formed out of the void in seven days.

That many people believe something is not is a justification for any rational person to believe in those ideas. You can believe them, of course; no one will lock you up for those beliefs (you may want to keep them to yourself in job interviews, though; just saying). But just because many people believe something is no reason for everyone else to believe it. Nor is it reason to legislate restrictions on behaviors and processes that are central to the function of our democracy. Unless, of course, your real motive is to undermine democratic processes and thereby ensure that your party, and people who think just like you, remain in power. That, friends, is not democracy; it’s fascism, communism and other similar forms of authoritarianism.

One tip-off to what’s really going on is that the Governor of Georgia has developed vertical pupils in his eyes. New studies confirm that “Vertical-slit pupils are most common among nocturnal predators that ambush their prey.” Science Advances, August 2015. They are also typically associated with poisonous reptiles.

While you’re recoiling at the thought of that, though you recognize it as satire, remember that the Republicans who are advancing this legislation in their states have already tried and failed more than 60 times to persuade courts that they had evidence of election fraud. Even Trump’s own Attorney General, and part-time Trump personal counsel, said there was no evidence of fraud that would have affected the outcome of the election. Even Mitch McConnell, whose relationship with truth is, well, tenuous at best, said Trump lost the election.

So, what to do, what to do? If you’re in the leadership of a Republican-majority state, you fix things (“rig” is, I believe, the correct verb here) so that Republicans don’t lose any more elections. How do you do that? Look no further than Georgia’s SB202.

As reported in the Washington Post, https://wapo.st/2QIONbe,

The new law imposes new identification requirements for those casting ballots by mail; curtails the use of drop boxes for absentee ballots; allows electors to challenge the eligibility of an unlimited number of voters and requires counties to hold hearings on such challenges within 10 days; makes it a crime for third-party groups to hand out food and water to voters standing in line; blocks the use of mobile voting vans, as Fulton County did last year after purchasing two vehicles at a cost of more than $700,000; and prevents local governments from directly accepting grants from the private sector.

The vertical pupil infection has spread throughout the Republican side of the Georgia legislature.

The 95-page law also strips authority from the secretary of state, making him a nonvoting member of the State Election Board, and allows lawmakers to initiate takeovers of local election boards — measures that critics said could allow partisan appointees to slow down or block election certification or target heavily Democratic jurisdictions, many of which are in the Atlanta area and are home to the state’s highest concentrations of Black and Brown voters.

Those steps, according to Governor Kemp’s reasoning , “will take another step toward ensuring our elections are secure, accessible and fair. … the facts are that this new law will expand voting access in the Peach State” and expanded early voting on weekends in every Georgia county.

This legislation was essential, according to Kemp, because of the “many alarming issues” in how the 2020 election was handled, leading to a “crisis in confidence.” Blathering on, in the model favored by Trump himself, Kemp gave himself credit for aggressive investigations of the election frauds, saying that the investigation he directed “got to the bottom of each and every allegation of fraud.”

OK, but then what? Turns out, there were no findings of fraud. Kemp’s own aggressive investigations found no fraud. Kemp then proceeds to simply ignore that reality while claiming that immediate legislative action was essential to fix the fraud problems.

One of the most notable provisions of the Georgia legislation adds to the ability of one voter to challenge the qualifications of another voter. The prior law provided for an elaborate process, including subpoenas and a hearing. The challenger had the burden of proof at the hearing and a right of appeal was provided to both parties to the dispute. The principal change was to add this:

There shall not be a limit on the number of persons whose qualifications  such elector may challenge.

That means that one voter can now challenge thousands of ballots cast by voters of the opposing party. Thus, one Republican voter working with the party in power can undermine the voting process and compel hearings, appeals and other steps that will lead many, if not most, challenged voters to simply give up. And that, I suggest, is the entire idea behind this change in the election law. It is voter suppression in the guise of “cleaning up” issues that never existed in the first place.

The Governor chose to sign the “historic legislation” behind closed doors, guarded by state police and in the presence of six white male legislators. This decision was not accepted by Black Democratic state Rep. Park Cannon who, after knocking on the Governor’s chamber door after being told, apparently, not to knock, was arrested by state troopers.  See  https://bit.ly/3dagtx7 for a disturbing but accurate connection of Georgia’s decision and the history of suppression in the origin story of America.

It comes down to this: some Georgians, though not a majority of Georgia voters, were unhappy with the outcome of the 2020 election. The state went for Biden and for two Democratic Senators in runoff elections. Extensive, repetitive investigations were conducted with the full resources of the Georgia state government to uncover fraud that could have overturned the election results. No such evidence was found. Nevertheless, the Republican-dominated legislature says it had to act. It’s true they withdrew controversial and widely condemned provisions that were aimed squarely at suppressing Sunday voting by Black-majority districts, but that did not stop them from, for example, criminalizing the act of giving snacks or water to people forced to stand in long lines at the polls. Anyone with a reasonably open mind can see what’s coming.

There can be little doubt that Georgia, along with the other Republican-dominated states, is employing an explicit voter suppression strategy to prevent Democrats from challenging their power in the future. Lawsuits have already been filed to overturn these blatant anti-democratic acts.

But we don’t have to wait for the protracted court battles that will ensue. Article I, Section 4, Clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution states:

The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators.

As stated by Justice Ginsburg in Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, 576 U.S. __ (2015):

There can be no dispute that Congress itself may draw a State’s congressional-district boundaries.

There is little doubt that the Congress is also authorized by the Fourteenth Amendment, among other provisions, to stop state voter suppression legislation in its tracks if it has the will to do so. This power is analyzed in detail in a Congressional Research Service report at https://bit.ly/31s6j5H

Democrats have the power. Use it. It’s time for the United States to choose between democracy and authoritarianism, whatever its technical form. End Jim Crow … again.

Note: if you are unfamiliar with the Congressional Research Service, see this https://bit.ly/3rqyOuT