Need More Proof that the Malignant Orange Polyp needs to be prosecuted?

I would like to be able to think about other things, write about things I love, things that cause me wonder — like the mischievous, versatile diminished chord — but most days, living in Berlin 1932, when 39% of my countrymen believe anything their leader tells them, the Bizzaro world where the “Big Lie” is the one told by people who claim the former president is lying about having won the 2020 election in a landslide, I’m transfixed by the steady stream of revelations of every horror one would expect at a historically perilous moment like this one. Trump is the US manifestation of the “autocratic” (fascist) monster that is rearing its deadly, racist, nationalistic head worldwide, in Poland, Brazil, Hungary, Turkey, Russia, the Philippines, India and so forth. If this country is to be any kind of bulwark against autocracy, our Department of Justice has a lot of work to do, and not much time to do it.

Every day there is more evidence of the depraved indifference, and cowardly cynicism, of one of our two major political parties. They are concerned only with consolidating power and making the country a minority run one-party state. The leaders of the other narrow majority party (though they represent a sizable majority of voters) do not show resolute courage very often, either. We have constant new proofs of the reality TV superstar former president’s corruption, megalomania and destructiveness. Every day, of course, we wait for a moment of possible accountability for past crimes. A reckoning for these crimes is the only way to avoid the clear and present danger the out-of-control violence stoking superstar presents.

Here is the latest, a trove of insane post-election emails from Trump’s final White House Chief of Staff, a former Tea Party Congressman and a founder of the Freedom Caucus, trying to get the acting Attorney General, the man who headed the DOJ briefly (after even Trump gunsel Bill Barr jumped off the sinking ship with other survival-oriented rats) to file a conspiracy- based Supreme Court lawsuit to try to overturn the election results. The Washington Post editorial:

MANY REPUBLICANS want the nation to ignore and forget President Donald Trump’s poisonous final months in office — the most dangerous moment in modern presidential history, orchestrated by the man to whom the GOP still swears allegiance. Yet the country must not forget how close it came to a full-blown constitutional crisis, or worse. Tuesday brought another reminder that, but for the principled resistance of some key officials, the consequences could have been disastrous.

The House Committee on Oversight and Reform on Tuesday released emails showing that the White House waged a behind-the-scenes effort to enlist the Justice Department in its crusade to advance Mr. Trump’s baseless allegations of fraud in the 2020 election. On Dec. 14, 10 days before Jeffrey Rosen took over as acting attorney general, Mr. Trump’s assistant emailed Mr. Rosen, asserting that Dominion Voting Systems machines in Michigan were intentionally fixed and pointing to a debunked analysis showing what “the machines can and did do to move votes.” The email declared, “We believe it has happened everywhere.”

Later that month, Mr. Trump’s assistant sent Mr. Rosen a brief that the president apparently wanted the Justice Department to submit to the Supreme Court. The draft mirrored the empty arguments that the state of Texas made to the court before the justices dismissed the state’s lawsuit. Piling on the pressure, then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows also dispatched an email asking Mr. Rosen to examine allegations of voter fraud in Georgia. A day later, Mr. Meadows apparently forwarded Mr. Rosen a video alleging that Italians used satellites to manipulate voting equipment. These were just some of the preposterous White House emails claiming fraud in arguably the most secure presidential election ever.

To his credit, Mr. Rosen rebuffed the White House’s entreaties to deploy the Justice Department’s vast powers on behalf of Mr. Trump’s lie, adding his name to the roster of honorable state and federal officials who showed fidelity to truth and duty at that crucial moment. Some have paid with their jobs. Republicans committed to the “big lie” are gunning to replace others, including those with vote-counting responsibilities. If Mr. Trump or another candidate again presses false fraud claims, many Republican officials may find it more difficult to resist the pressure to back the lie — or, indeed, may eagerly participate in advancing it.

Given Mr. Trump’s reckless actions after losing the 2020 vote, and the violence they spurred, the newly released emails are unsurprising. But consider that fact for a moment: It is unsurprising that the president of the United States leaned on the Justice Department to help him try to steal an election. The country cannot forget that Mr. Trump betrayed his oath, that most Republican officeholders remain loyal to him nonetheless — and that it could be worse next time.

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MLK’s response to Kyrsten Fucking Sinema

“Moderate” Arizona senator Kyrsten Sinema recently gave her rationale for opposing any change to the crippling filibuster rule, even a carve out for voting rights. She claims that senators need to change their behavior, not make any adjustment to the parliamentary rule, shamelessly abused by filibuster king Mitch McConnell, that allows 35 senators, or even one, to block debate (no debate!) on any bill they, or their big donors, don’t like.

This line about a sorely needed change of heart apparently echoes her predecessor Barry Goldwater, who famously said, in opposing the 1964 Civil Rights Act

“This is fundamentally a matter of the heart. The problems of discrimination can never be cured by laws alone.” Or as he told a crowd later: “You cannot pass a law that will make me like you or you like me. This is something that can happen only in our hearts.” 

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Here is what Martin Luther King, Jr. said to that sensible “laws can’t change hearts” shit:

“It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me and I think that is pretty important, also.”

Pretty important, also. The filibuster was used for more than a century to block every attempt to make lynching a federal crime [1]. Lynching, proponents of the status quo argued, was a matter of States’ Rights, something for each local jurisdiction to lawfully decide according to its customs, like common murder, divorce, most other laws. It was left up to a state like Texas (number three in lynchings, US leader in executions since 1976 with 563), or Mississippi (leader in lynchings with 583 documented lynchings), to decide what to do when some goddamn trouble maker/rapist who deserved to die was strung up by righteous patriots as an example to other dangerous raping rabble rousers to keep their damned radical beliefs to themselves. Hell, isn’t lynching one dangerous raping maniac preferable to mass murder of the rapist’s whole raping community?

A federal anti-lynching law may not have changed what was in people’s hearts but it would have allowed a jury that was not composed of local lynching supporters, and lynching tolerant local judges (some of them members of groups like the Ku Klux Klan), to apply a uniform law and decide any case involving the unfortunate death of somebody who, in the considered opinion of the unrepentant murderers, and local authorities, was in desperate need of a hard lesson.

So, yes, Kyrsten, laws cannot change hearts, and you also cannot legislate morality. The best legislators can do is make and enforce laws against things like lynching, defying Congressional subpoenas, lying under oath during a confirmation hearing (whether or not the lies are “material”) and protecting democratic values like universal adult suffrage, non-partisan counting of votes, and so forth.

In the absence of that kind of national consensus about basic right and wrong, good luck changing behavior — especially when behavior to obstruct all debate, including violent behavior, is rewarded by dark money donors and cheering mobs of angry citizens, ready for further orders from their outraged leader.

I’ll continue my presidency in August, assholes

[1]

As Adam Jentleson writes in his invaluable 2020 book, Kill Switch: The Rise of the Modern Senate and the Crippling of Democracy: “The filibuster has mainly served to empower a minority of predominantly white conservatives to override our democratic system when they found themselves outnumbered.” He notes that in the almost nine decades between Reconstruction’s end and 1964, “the only bills that were stopped by filibusters were civil rights bills.” A bipartisan team of opponents, but mainly Southern Democrats, filibustered the 1964 Civil Rights Act for roughly two months before it ultimately passed. (In those days, senators actually had to speak and hold the floor in order to filibuster; now they just have to vote to block debate.)

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Ancient American History

When Adam Schiff and the House Intelligence Committee began investigating the July 25, 2019 Perfect Call between Trump and new Ukrainian president Zelensky (not long after Mueller wrapped up his investigation into the tangled relationships between the Trump campaign and strongman Vladimir Putin, and the obstruction thing), Trump targeted Schiff for personal abuse.

He told an interviewer that Schiff was insane. “I think he is a maniac, I think Adam Schiff is a deranged human being. I think he grew up with a complex, for lots of reasons that are obvious. I think he’s a very sick man.”

He might also have mentioned that Schiff is paranoid, he thinks the president has singled him out for an open-ended dirt gathering investigation, that the FBI is spying on him, his staff and his family. Of course, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean the president hasn’t ordered the FBI to spy on you, your staff and your family. It turns out to have been no fantasy, the Trump DOJ was spying on Schiff, and others, including Trump’s own White House counsel.

How the gag orders to the companies who provided the data the FBI used in their snooping into these lives did not expire until years after the illegal, fruitless investigations closed, is another one of those things US lawmakers need to fix. When a baseless secret government investigation is over, the gag order should expire with it.

The communist sympathizers on MSNBC never missed a chance to create a snarky headline at President Trump’s expense. They named one of their segments, in the lead up to Trump’s first impeachment:

A perfect illustration of why Trump is so disdainful of the “free press”. Enemies of the best people, you understand, a bunch of rats releasing sensitive information that could hurt these very fine people. The next thing you’ll have these sick, dangerous terrorists inciting people to demand so-called democracy.

By the way, speaking of releasing sensitive information, fifty years ago this week the New York Times began publishing the Pentagon Papers. The disclosure of the secret information, hidden from the public and lied about by US president Lyndon Johnson, was the beginning of the end of the long, bloody military project we call the Vietnam War. For those too young to remember:

The Pentagon Papers, officially titled Report of the Office of the Secretary of Defense Vietnam Task Force, is a United States Department of Defense history of the United States’ political and military involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967. The papers were released by Daniel Ellsberg, who had worked on the study; they were first brought to the attention of the public on the front page of The New York Times in 1971.[1][2] A 1996 article in The New York Times said that the Pentagon Papers had demonstrated, among other things, that the Johnson Administration had “systematically lied, not only to the public but also to Congress.”[3]

The Pentagon Papers revealed that the U.S. had secretly enlarged the scope of its actions in the Vietnam War with coastal raids on North Vietnam, and Marine Corps attacks—none of which were reported in the mainstream media. For his disclosure of the Pentagon Papers, Ellsberg was initially charged with conspiracy, espionage, and theft of government property; charges were later dismissed, after prosecutors investigating the Watergate scandal discovered that the staff members in the Nixon White House had ordered the so-called White House Plumbers to engage in unlawful efforts to discredit Ellsberg.[4][5]

In June 2011, the documents forming the Pentagon Papers were declassified and publicly released.[6][7]

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The Boston Globe nails it — MAGA man must be prosecuted

In a six part series, which any American (or anyone else) can read without encountering a pay wall (Mexicans will pay for the paywall…) the Boston Globe editorial board makes a clear, overwhelmingly strong case for the need to prosecute the former president if we are to save American democracy.

As simpering Trump toady Lindsey Graham put it, after voting to acquit the commander-in-chief who’d incited a violent attack on the Capitol, doubling down on his desperate efforts to prevent the peaceful transition of power (one of his last big crimes in office) “if you believe he committed a crime, he can be prosecuted like any other citizen.”  Indeed.

Here’s a link to the conclusion of the Boston Globe series making the final argument for prosecution (the previous five parts, which I have not yet fully read, are linked below by the Globe). Nicely done, y’all are wicked smart.

The first installment in the short series starts this way:

Boston is an ANARCHIST JURISDICTION, the Globe editors suite is crawling with lying transexual anarchist antikhrist covfefes

Twenty minute drill on America’s would be tyrant

If rich parents pay a very young kid $200,000 a year (from1948-58, before he got a substantial raise), he is a millionaire before he hits puberty. If he remains a bully in adolescence, you send him to military academy, where, to boost his low self-esteem, you visit every weekend with an age appropriate cute rented girl, a model. He poses for photos with these adorable models and is seen by his peers as a ladies’ man. He excels at making his bed and disciplining younger cadets, he looks good in his uniform.

As a young adult you put him in charge of the highly lucrative family business. He soon branches out to running his own other businesses as well. No matter how many times he fails, by taking stupid risks, you bail him out. Teach him how to use the bankruptcy code to preserve his personal wealth each time he dissolves a failed business venture.

It becomes apparent that he will never be satisfied just to be a rich celebrity playboy with his amazing sex life in the tabloids every day, but that is a start. He makes important contacts in tabloid world, including a powerful man named Pecker. He is introduced to important political contacts and he donates money to them, tax deductible donations.

He is eventually seen as a “useful idiot” to extremely wealthy right wing extremists, a block of religious extremists of a certain stripe, a once powerful foreign adversary led by an autocratic former spook skilled in dirty tricks. Aided by a cabal of domestic political dirty tricksters (two of whom he will later pardon for felonies committed in his name) and the profit-hungry mass media (he is a ratings goldmine), he becomes the GOP candidate for president.

He is cheered by millions of tabloid readers, every bigot in the country, as well as every white person with a grievance, tens of millions of whom vote for him. He is also supported by many of America’s wealthiest, to whom he has promised (and will deliver) a huge tax windfall worth many billions of dollars. With the help of the media (everyone loves a star), a huge, skillfully targeted Russian social media campaign enriching America’s richest 32 year-old entrepreneur, and strategic payments to silence two women he had extramarital affairs with, he becomes the 45th US president by a slim, beautifully engineered Electoral College margin.

But he’s the same person he always was– low self-esteem, an angry bully, a person with no idea how to actually run a business (the family business has always been a closely held dictatorship) a man with childishly weak impulse control who has famously never compromised, not once, ever. The times he did have to settle some of his thousands of lawsuits, papers were signed saying he didn’t compromise. The term “doubling down,” a desperate gambling move to appear confident, becomes part of normal American English. He demands loyalty, and when he doesn’t get it, he lashes out, takes revenge. He’s angry, vindictive and increasingly delusional.

When he loses his re-election bid, he manages to convince tens of millions of people, not defaming any particular religion, that wealthy Jew Cannibal Pedophile Satanists have stolen the election from him, in league with America hating Muslim-American terrorists, dead Mexican rapists, angry Black terrorists (with irrational anger at a system that gives them everything), a few million Asian disease spreaders (causing a pandemic to support the usurper Biden), vicious anti-fascist doom squads laying waste to American cities (out of an irrational hatred of fascists), traitorous Republican state officials, Socialists, Communists, Reds, Anarchists (entire illegal jurisdictions of them!) enraged homosexual and environmental extremist terrorists and so on.

Angry people, we note, will believe anything that supports their rage.

Oh, during the lead up to his first impeachment he was in a rage about the sick, dangerous enemies who were arrayed against him. Daily he’d vent about the maniacs out to get him, simply because he was the greatest genius ever to be the American president. One day he said this:

Two years later we find out he ordered the Department of Justice to investigate Representatives Schiff, Eric Swalwell, their staffs, and their families. The DOJ issued subpoenas, with gag orders to the subpoenaed companies (Apple and Microsoft), to conduct a long “leak” investigation looking to turn up dirt to discredit these vicious enemies of America’s greatest president. Apparently they didn’t turn up anything useful, and this illegal misuse of the government to hunt the president’s enemies was hidden, but not that well. Now it is public knowledge, among about 61% of the population.

But the fucking leaks don’t stop! The NY Times reported the fake news today that Trump had the DOJ issue subpoenas to dig into the phone records of then White House counsel Don McGahn II and his wife. [1] The man was open about hating his many crazy, dangerous enemies, his fulminations against them united his base (Al-Qeada, in Arabic), and it is no surprise that he openly (if secretly) used his DOJ to go after them. In spite of that, the NY Times attacks him, with that typical “objective” tone they use so despicably:

Still, the disclosure that agents secretly collected data of a sitting White House counsel is striking as it comes amid a political backlash to revelations about Trump-era seizures of data of reporters and Democrats in Congress for leak investigations. The president’s top lawyer is also a chief point of contact between the White House and the Justice Department.

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The question before us all now is how strenuously will Attorney General Merrick Garland defend America’s greatest former, and future, president against these scurrilous charges that he innocently (and within the scope of his duties) used the FBI to engage in numerous personal witch-hunt fishing expeditions against a small handful of his many nefarious enemies?

Let us all remember the great man’s pronouncement, via twitter, the day after he was completely exonerated of any and all wrongdoing by the “conflicted” partisan traitor Robert Mueller III.

[1] from that lying article, about the timing of the DOJ subpoena of McGahn:

Because Mr. McGahn had been the top lawyer for the Trump campaign in 2016, it is possible that at some earlier point he had been among those in contact with someone whose account the Mueller team was scrutinizing in early 2018.

Notably, Mr. Manafort had been hit with new fraud charges unsealed the day before the subpoena. Subsequent developments revealed that Mr. Mueller’s investigators were closely scrutinizing some of his communications accounts in the days that followed.

Another roughly concurrent event was that around that time, Mr. Trump had become angry at Mr. McGahn over a matter related to the Russia investigation, and that included a leak.

In late January 2018, The New York Times had reported, based on confidential sourcing, that Mr. Trump had ordered Mr. McGahn the previous June to have the Justice Department remove Mr. Mueller, but Mr. McGahn had refused to do so and threatened to resign. The Washington Post confirmed that account soon after in a follow-up article.

The Mueller report, and Mr. McGahn himself in private testimony before the House Judiciary Committee this month, described Mr. Trump’s anger at Mr. McGahn after the Times article, including trying to get him to make a statement falsely denying it. Mr. Trump told aides that Mr. McGahn was a “liar” and a “leaker,” according to former Trump administration officials. In his testimony, Mr. McGahn said that he had been a source for The Post’s follow-up to clarify a nuance — to whom he had conveyed his intentions to resign — but he had not been a source for the original Times article.

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NOTE: McGahn was a liar, according to Mr. Trump, because he refused to memorialize the lie that Mr. Trump had never asked McGahn to do the thing McGahn refused to do, and in the process of that refusal becoming public, had made Mr. Trump look like a liar. Which, of course, would make McGahn a complete fucking liar, as well as a leaker, and, of course, he probably lied about the extent of his leak to the enemy press. Hence, the subpoenas.

FURTHER NOTE: just because Trump had the investigation into his own White House counsel started the day he learned that Mueller brought new fraud charges against his campaign’s point man with Putin (via Konstantin Kilimnik), Paul Manafort, who lied repeatedly to Mueller, is no reason to add these leaked leak investigations to the long list of Mr. Trump’s alleged “pattern and practice” of using the DOJ in the course of “obstructing” justice, or whatever you want to call the crazy five year conspiracy by sick and dangerous traitors to bring our greatest American to his knees, something that will never happen.

My man, Don McGahn

Don McGahn, Trump’s first White House lawyer, is a dedicated conservative who was largely responsible for the selection and lifetime appointments of Messrs Gorsuch and Kavanaugh. After Trump fired FBI director Comey, for refusing to commit to personal loyalty to the president and for not dropping the “Flynn Thing” (Mike Flynn’s illegal contacts with Russia that he lied about), the DOJ appointed a Special Counsel to investigate numerous connections between the Trump campaign and Russia and Trump’s suspicious loyalty to Vladimir Putin, a foreign leader who had openly (and secretly) helped Trump win the “close” election of 2016.

During his famous Oval Office reaction to the news of Robert Mueller’s appointment as Special Counsel, Trump said “this is the end of my presidency, I’m fucked!” according to sworn witnesses. You can look it up. Trump was outraged at this intrusion on to his unlimited executive powers. Partisan witch hunt was a common cry, conducted by “sick and dangerous individuals” who he would punish when the time was right. After a moment of self-pity Trump exploded at his team for letting this witch hunt start in the first place, and his vendetta against the loyal, but not loyal enough, Jeff Sessions began in earnest.

Members of Trump’s inner circle lied to Mueller’s investigators, in exchange for the promise of a pardon from the big guy, which they got. Mueller found 140 instances of coordination, working together, direct communication, collusion, between members of Trump’s campaign and the Russian government, a foreign actor who worked tirelessly to swing the election to Trump. Mueller found there was no doubt of the ongoing collusion, which is not a legal term, but that there was “insufficient evidence” of a criminal conspiracy. Mueller also noted evidence had been withheld and numerous witnesses had lied to him. Hence Barr’s finding of “no collusion” and the announcement that Mueller had “exonerated” Trump of all wrong-doing.

When Mueller started digging he encountered so much lying from Trump’s people, the president’s refusal to answer even written questions his lawyers had agreed to have him answer, defiance of every subpoena and numerous other maneuvers to avoid production of evidence that he began to investigate Trump’s apparent obstruction of justice. One of the ten instances Mueller gave to illustrate what appeared to have been a consistent pattern of obstruction (a substantial pattern that did not allow Mueller to exonerate Trump, even if he also couldn’t directly accuse him of — per DOJ memo about accusing a sitting president of a crime — Mueller took that extra step– if he can’t be prosecuted, it’s unfair to accuse him) involved White House counsel Don McGahn.

At one point Trump asked McGahn to fire Mueller. McGahn advised the president that firing the Special Counsel investigating obstruction of justice would look bad, could bite him hard. As McGahn told Mueller’s investigators, he’d refused to fire Mueller, consulted his own lawyer, packed up his office and wrote a letter of resignation to Trump. Trump didn’t accept McGahn’s resignation, instead asking him to write a memo stating that they had never discussed firing Mueller. McGahn revealed all this, under oath, to Mueller’s investigators.

When Congress sent McGahn a subpoena to appear before a committee looking into impeaching Trump, McGahn filed a federal suit seeking a ruling on whether Congress had the right to subpoena him, whether such a subpoena would violate attorney-client privilege and any other defense to giving testimony that he could think of. The suit dragged on for a couple of years, long past both Trump impeachments. The predictable delay prevented McGahn from giving public testimony that could have seriously hurt his demanding, sometimes lawless, former client. While nothing McGahn did was illegal, it certainly fits into Trump’s pattern of doing everything possible to obstruct any investigation into anything he has ever done.

Recently McGahn agreed to testify in Congress, behind closed doors, with his own lawyer, and Trump’s lawyer, in the room. According to the deal he struck with those who had subpoenaed him years earlier he would not answer anything outside of the scope of what he had revealed to Mueller under oath. I started reading the transcript of his testimony, which was released in its 240 page entirety the other day. I made it to page 8 where I read:

In a nation of angry, divided, freaked out citizens, this McGahn shit is a dead letter, ancient history, irrelevant, Trump already got away with obstruction of justice, and nobody is going to do anything about his incitement to riot, we’ve seen it a hundred times over now — he publicly did many things far worse than asking his lawyer to lie for him and make a written record of the lie.

Moderate Merrick Garland’s DOJ is so far following up on all of Barr’s objections to investigations into Trump’s monkeyshines. No public disclosure of Barr’s lying, falsely classified memo, we appeal the judge’s ruling, no prosecution of Trump and Barr for using teargas, horses and batons against a peaceful protest for Trump’s photo op, we move to dismiss the lawsuit, no penalty for a president defaming a private citizen “during the scope of his duties,” we appeal the denial of our right to substitute ourselves for the former president in this lawsuit according to federal law.

I may be the only person, certain the only poor bastard I know, who is wondering “what the fuck?!” as I read the words from the McGahn transcript “although this interview is not under oath” you’re still not allowed to lie, you know.

My only hope, I think, is that my head will explode before too much longer. We live in Berlin 1932 and we are watching the principled, decent, reasonable, elected Weimar government let the angry right call all the shots, many of them based on outright, easily demonstrable lies. Alternative facts, driving new laws that could help Trump loyalists overturn the next election, if Americans turn out in large numbers to vote the wrong way again, next time. What could fucking go wrong?

You can say “seig heil!” can’t you you? I know you can.

Follow the Dark Money

If there is a chokepoint in democracy, a vulnerability in the experiment in majority rule, count on the clever engineers of the Koch network to find and exploit it. In this case, it is the two “centrist” Democratic “mavericks” who espouse fundamental change to the current partisan acrimony over a sensible, necessary, straightforward rules change that will allow their 51 votes to rule on policy. The party they advocate cooperating with is the one that has been forcing 51-49 outcomes on their opponents as often as humanly possible when they had control of the Senate.

So the conservative U.S. Chamber of Commerce may have given Manchin and Synema a lot of money. Whose business is that? The Supreme Court said wealthy donors that make political contributions in a certain way are engaged in protected First Amendment speech, not campaign “speech”, which would, theoretically be subject to regulation, so it is fine that the wealthy donors keep their names out of it. Dark money, Mitch McConnell’s fondest wet dream. Three Supreme Court cases make the irrefutable case that this is the case, that the status quo Manchin and Synema refuse to challenge is the law of the land. Unless, by some chance, the law of the land gets changed by something like the John Lewis Voting Rights Act or the For the People Act.

The 1965 Voting Rights Act, been there, done that. It solved the problem, now it is time to move on from enforcing it, said John Roberts in 2013. When John Roberts ruled that because the US now had a mulatto president it proved that racism was no longer a factor in American politics, and, he claimed, the data Congress relied on in almost unanimously reauthorizing the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act was old, from 1965, a time when there was racism in the USA, it was no longer necessary to strictly enforce the Voting Rights Act.

Under this wrongly decided, unappealable ruling formerly racist states no longer had to clear new voting laws before they could be put into effect, as formerly required under the Voting Rights Act, as the 98-0 Senate voted to continue requiring. His 5-4 majority overturned the two lower court cases where Shelby County, Alabama, a carefully chosen plaintiff, had lost in federal court.

Immediately after this decision came down, literally days after Roberts used his cockeyed rationale (the dissent pointed out the hundreds of hours of debate in both houses, and the thousands of pages of pertinent contemporary voting data produced before the Senate voted 98-0 to extend the law) to craft the cynical 5-4 Shelby County v. Holder ruling (and Shelby County itself had recently been found guilty of some race-based voting shenanigans) cutting enforcement out of the Voting Rights Act, the first few of almost two hundred new state voter suppression laws were enacted by a number of states, led by the great state of Texas.

This desired result was but one success of the anti-majoritarian project of the forces that founded the John Birch Society and then efficiently engineered their advocacy into a more and more effective political action network. Appoint federal judges from partisan lists maintained by the Federalist Society (a business networking fraternity for committed right-wing law students, lawyers and judges) and then have other members of this society bring cases designed to be upheld by a now 6-3 Federalist Society Supreme Court. They’ve done this very well over the years, to sometimes horrific effect, and the plan is to soon end a working class woman’s ability to make the painful decision to end an unwanted pregnancy.

To be sure, Charles Koch and his buddies don’t care about the lives of the unborn, fetuses, whatever you want to call them. They simply recognize a great opportunity to galvanize the support of millions of fervent GOP voting Christians who want this done. This large block of conservative Christians will vote for virtually anyone who announces a firm commitment to end the state sanctioned mass murder of the unborn.

A case to end partisan gerrymandering, Rucho v Common Cause (2019) wound up upholding the right of the right-wing network to continue conducting its successful Operation Red Map (the plan to take over the majority of the state governments) by drawing districts however they please to maximize their power in the state house and the House of Representatives. The Roberts court declared that partisan gerrymandering, because it is a partisan political issue, was something the Supreme Court was forbidden to rule on, due to the famous Political Question Doctrine [1]. The ruling meant partisan gerrymandering, the process that brought us Marjorie Taylor Jew-Anon, Matt Gaetz, Louie Gohmert and a host of firebrand GOP luminaries (they run in crazily convoluted districts drawn to be 70% Republican), cannot be challenged in federal court. Done and done.

Then there is arguably the most important and destructive Supreme Court case in recent history, the 2010 5-4 Citizens United ruling that removed limits on campaign spending by certain legally created non-profit entities and corporate persons. The questions teed up for Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, Alito and Kennedy (who wrote for the 5-4 majority, and for whom Boof Kavanaugh once clerked) were four:

Question

1) Did the Supreme Court’s decision in McConnell resolve all constitutional as-applied challenges to the BCRA when it upheld the disclosure requirements of the statute as constitutional?

2) Do the BCRA’s disclosure requirements impose an unconstitutional burden when applied to electioneering requirements because they are protected “political speech” and not subject to regulation as “campaign speech”?

3) If a communication lacks a clear plea to vote for or against a particular candidate, is it subject to regulation under the BCRA?

4) Should a feature length documentary about a candidate for political office be treated like the advertisements at issue in McConnell and therefore be subject to regulation under the BCRA?

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If this sounds like “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” you are not wrong. Can we distinguish between protected “political speech” and that regulated as “campaign speech”? Does it not rest largely on where we put the “quotation” marks?

So, in the meantime, and without new laws to prevent it (such as the For the People Act, HR1, the bill Manchin has already committed to voting against) the law of the land is that

1) all state laws to restrict voting, no matter how discriminatory they may smell, are presumed not to be discriminatory unless successfully challenged in court, surviving all appeals;

2) the political party that controls the state legislature (see Operation Red Map, they have 30 of 50 states now) draws the gerrymandered districts most advantageous to increasing their power and those gerrymanders cannot be challenged in court, and;

3) the flow of dark money allowed by Citizens United (with the Court’s assurance that democracy would be protected because all these dark money sources would be disclosed to the public) may not be challenged, as it is obviously protected “political speech” and clearly not “campaign speech”.

Manchin refused to say which parts of the For the People Act are repugnant to his sensibilities. Given the similarities between his recent incoherent op-ed and the equally sophisticated position of Americans for Prosperity, a Koch operation, one suspects there may be financial and career incentives involved for Joe Fucking Manchin.

How much dark money does the conservative, indispensable Manchin get from the secret liberty caucus? Synema? It’s nobody’s right to know that, ask John Roberts.

For now, it is enough to know this, Manchin will not vote with the rest of the Democrats to change the law to protect voting rights from the fraudulent fraud-based voter suppression laws popping up in more and more heavily gerrymandered, dark-money funded state legislatures. Synema is now free to vote however she likes, though she’s a rock on the sanctity of the filibuster rule, preferring the more reasonable “change in behavior” that would make the Senate as collegial as it was when Charles Sumner was almost caned to death on the floor of the Senate in those bipartisan days leading up to the glorious Civil War the brave, outnumbered insurrectionists never lost.

History, yawn.

[1] You can read about it here, the recent history of the Political Question Doctrine.

A condensed explanation, from the link above:

Writing for the Court, Chief Justice Roberts, while deploring the practice of partisan gerrymandering, concluded that no judicially manageable standards existed that could be applied by the federal courts.  Justice Kagan, writing for four dissenters argued that the lower courts (two district courts, one in North Carolina considered a Republican gerrymander and one in Maryland considering a Democratic gerrymander) have done an admirable job separating the typical run-of-the-mill partisan gerrymander (which Kagan and the dissenters suggest would be constitutional) from the extreme gerrymanders (using new technological tools that allow parties to maximize their political advantage) that the dissenters contend violate both the Equal Protection Clause and the First Amendment.  Rucho leaves modern politics in a mess.  The beneficiaries of gerrymandering have zero incentive to adopt more neutral redistricting approaches and Congress is too polarized to act.

The plan for January 6 (outside of the MAGA riot)

The following is from an early morning January 6, 2021 article from Bloomberg, published in the Washington Post, describing the legal backdrop for, and the history of, the parliamentary machinations planned by Trump supporters in Congress:

3. What happens then?

If at least one representative and one senator object to a state’s result, the joint session immediately recesses before the next state is called. The House and Senate meet separately to debate the objection for up to two hours before voting on whether to count or discard the electoral votes in question. Only if the objection is approved by both houses would votes be excluded. With a Democratic majority in the House, and several Republican senators on record opposing Trump’s attempts to overturn Biden’s win, any objection would be highly unlikely to succeed in getting electoral votes thrown out. But if separate two-hour debates are required for multiple states, the process could become a drawn-out, acrimonious affair.

5. Have objections been raised before?

Actually, objections aren’t rare during this process, but usually they are disposed of quickly and easily. After the 2016 election won by Trump, for instance, several Democratic representatives attempted to challenge electoral votes, but no senator joined them. In 2005, following the contest between George W. Bush and John Kerry, some Democrats were unhappy about voting issues that had come up in Ohio. In that instance, both Ohio Representative Stephanie Tubbs Jones and California Senator Barbara Boxer objected to Ohio’s results, triggering consideration by both chambers. After about an hour of debate among senators — and lengthier debate among representatives — the challenge was rejected by votes of 267-31 by the House and 74-1 by the Senate.

6. Has Congress ever rejected votes?

In 1873, Congress decided not to count votes from Arkansas and Louisiana in the re-election of President Ulysses S. Grant, though Grant would have been the victor either way, according to the Congressional Research Service. Four years later, in 1877, a joint session of Congress confronting competing slates of electors opted to create a bipartisan electoral commission to resolve the highly disputed election between Democrat Samuel Tilden and Republican Rutherford B. Hayes, who ended up winning by a single electoral vote. In hopes of avoiding such a situation in the future, Congress passed the Electoral College Act of 1887, which formed the basis for the current law. There have been no cases to date in which the process has changed the outcome of an election, according to the Congressional Research Service.

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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On the other hand, if thousands in that massive MAGA crowd hadn’t been so timid that day — and had followed the bold, riled up, normal tourist crowd that beat the Capitol police, smashed windows, broke down doors and invaded the Capitol — Mike Pence likely wouldn’t be around today to boldly tell a crowd of Republicans in New Hampshire:

“As I said that day, Jan. 6 was a dark day in history of the United States Capitol. But thanks to the swift action of the Capitol Police and federal law enforcement, violence was quelled. The Capitol was secured,” Pence said.

“And that same day, we reconvened the Congress and did our duty under the Constitution and the laws of the United States,” Pence continued. “You know, President Trump and I have spoken many times since we left office. And I don’t know if we’ll ever see eye to eye on that day.”

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Then, because Pence is what he is, and has always been, he added:



“I will not allow Democrats or their allies in the media to use one tragic day to discredit the aspirations of millions of Americans. Or allow Democrats or their allies in the media to distract our attention from a new administration intent on dividing our country to advance their radical agenda,” Pence said. “My fellow Republicans, for our country, for our future, for our children and our grandchildren, we must move forward, united.”

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“I don’t know if we’ll ever see eye to eye on that day.”

Or, as one internet wag put it right after Pence’s brave words were spoken:

Which is kind of a low blow. It’s not as if Trump was watching the riot live on TV, and tweeted anything like this moments after his MAGA crowd of normal tourists, who’d erected a working gallows outside (as normal tourists so often do) breached Capitol security and roamed the halls chanting “Hang Mike Pence!”

Indeed we do, boss.

Dumbocrat Joe Manchin and the Bipartisanship Trap

I’m convinced now, after his incoherent “op-ed” the other day, about his fond, Anne Frank-like hopes for bipartisanship and the sanctity of the filibuster, that Joe Manchin is an idiot.   As smart as Trump himself, or Kyrsten “just change human nature, parliamentary rules are forever” Sinema, is what I’m saying.  That our all-wise Founding Fathers made no provision for one or two idiots ending democracy was a serious oversight. It would be great to live in a country where majority rule, open public debate, bipartisanship and a sense of fair play were rewarded. We don’t live in that country, unfortunately.

The echoes of the high-minded liberal democracy in 1920s Germany, the Weimar Republic, relying on the better angels of Germany against a charismatic radical movement are hard to ignore (historians refer to this stance as the Weimar Republic’s “supine passivity” in the face of Nazism).  It’s part of the problem of having well-meaning “moderates” and “compromisers” like Biden, Pelosi and Schumer in charge of the opposition party in a time of unprincipled, fantasy-based, well-financed, no-compromise extremism on the other side.   

I don’t know if it’s a lack of guts, smarts, an inability to see just how radical and insane (and essentially unpopular, when you poll on actual policies) what they are up against is, or just Charles Koch’s complete victory in his well-engineered 50 year war against “majoritarian tyranny,” (his network has captured most state governments and now dominates the federal courts) but the Democratic party’s halting steps toward justice and accountability, even to investigate a carefully orchestrated, presidentially stoked lie-fueled (ad budget $50,000,000) riot to overturn an election, are really disturbing, as I don’t need to tell you, I’m sure. What do Democratic leaders not understand about Berlin 1932?

How Democrats got played into “bipartisanship,” by McConnell’s 51-49 Suck it Caucus is beyond me.   The stunningly partisan McConnell’s sudden call for bipartisanship, by the party that gave us the last two party-line 51-49 “Suck It” Supreme Court justices, is the glue trap the dim Mr. Manchin is firmly stuck to (and, yes, Trump won Manchin’s conservative state by 40 points…). We also recall that McConnell got his 6-3 Supreme Court by changing the filibuster rule for Supreme Court justices, as he will nuke the filibuster itself, should he regain majority power in the Senate.

Someone compiled this chart of major post Civil War civil rights legislation, to show that amendments and laws supporting real social change are rarely, if ever, passed on a bipartisan basis.  Those who want slavery, and believe that Negroes, because they are inferior, “have no rights a white man is bound to respect” (in the infamous phrase of Justice Roger Taney), are never going to suddenly compromise with those who want to amend the constitution to make slavery and racism at law illegal.

There was a kind of bipartisanship, since World War One, between Dixiecrats (racist southern Democrats who ruled the now solidly Red South) and racist Republicans, who united, time after time, to filibuster and block debate on bills that would have made lynching a federal crime, as well as the two twentieth century Civil Rights Acts.

The 1965 Voting Rights Act, which finally made enforcement of the 1870 Fifteenth Amendment possible, somehow passed on a bipartisan basis [1].

The most recent reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act, 98-0 in the Senate, was struck down by John Roberts in his deeply flawed, unappealable 5-4 Shelby County v. Holder ruling back in 2013 [2] (tip of the cap to Leonard Leo and the Federalist Society for finding the weak-ass local Alabama case that allowed Roberts to neuter the Voting Rights Act and usher in the age of baseless fraud challenges to fraud-free voting).

The only thing recently that gave me any optimism was this bit from Heather Cox Richardson last night:

At the same time, McConnell appeared to win the filibuster over the January 6 commission only by appealing to his caucus to vote against it as a personal favor to him. Even so, lots of senators chose to be absent on that day. It is not clear to me that McConnell is confident he can hold the filibuster wall as he was able to in the past, and having continually to defend filibusters of popular measures can only hurt the Republicans.

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That 35 cowardly weasels can stop all debate, hell, even one can do it, with an email, under present McConnell rules (Lyin’ Ted Cruz had to read Green Eggs and Ham not long ago to filibuster, I think it was Obamacare, suggesting the GOP-majority must have tweaked the talking filibuster rule recently) makes me want to holler.

But maybe, hopefully, Heather Cox Richardson is right and this 35 out of 50 filibuster vote shows how weak and counter-productive (for the GOP) McConnell’s “scorched earth” threat really might turn out to be. Can it be much more scorched than this, Joe Manchin?

[1]

The House approved this conference report version of the bill on August 3 by a 328-74 vote (Democrats 217-54, Republicans 111-20),[48] and the Senate passed it on August 4 by a 79-18 vote (Democrats 49-17, Republicans 30-1).[20]:167[49][50] On August 6, President Johnson signed the Act into law with King, Rosa ParksJohn Lewis, and other civil rights leaders in attendance at the signing ceremony.[20]:168

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[2]

Today, thanks to the last two 51-49 Suck It justices added by Messrs Trump and McConnell, that vote to strike down the Senate’s unanimous will, and the enthusiastic support of former president George W. Bush, who signed the law after making some remarks about its importance to democracy, would be a “bipartisan” 6-3 overturning of majority rule.

I Can’t Keep Blaming Mr. Hitler — note

I have a tendency to see Adolf Hitler as the explanation of, or at least the perfect illustration for, so much of what I dread in life. I tend to be judgmental about Mr. Hitler’s career and to blame the Nazi leader for many of the things I hate and fear. The arbitrary designation of enemies, who must be killed, the unappealable and irrational demand for absolute loyalty, breach of which is punishable by death. The long strings of words mobilized and deployed like Panzer divisions and formations of Luftwaffe bombers to convince the desperate that if only they obey absolutely, they will be saved and led to glorious victory over their hated enemies.

Hitler, for his part, started off claiming that he was just a drummer, the guy in front of the parade banging the drum to set the cadence for the march. A very modest self-portrait, I think, for a man who, just a few years later, would be celebrated as a national savior and worshipped by millions.

I apparently wrote up this note to myself back in September, 2019. You can read the post here, if you have a few minutes.

The quick point is this. I come from an average working class Jewish family that was wiped out, down to the infants and pregnant women, along with thousands and thousands of other families, in the aftermath of the German push into the Soviet Union. In the wake of this conquering army, Ukrainians and Belarusians often assisted the Einsatzgruppen, the special squads assigned to rid the world of the Jews and other poisonous threats to humanity.

So it was in the town my mother’s parents grew up in, in the heart of the Ukraine. Every surviving Jew marched from the little ghetto to the ravine on the northwestern edge of town, bang, dead [1]. You can’t even find this murder of several thousand, one airless night in August 1943, among the mass shootings committed by Mr. Hitler’s followers, it simply didn’t make the list. It’s only recorded one place on-line, a transcribed oral history of the massacre of the Jewish inhabitants of that town, and here, from time to time, on this blahg.

A cousin and I have been trying for years to find out exactly what happened to my father’s side, back in Belarus. They, and the benighted little hamlet they lived in, were wiped from the world without a trace. There were various aktions in the area, that much we’ve learned, and they were all killed in the course of those.

So I see myself as fundamentally different from a well-born ubermensch like Jared Kushner. His family had the good fortune (and the money, presumably) to escape the slaughterhouse that was Europe in the last of the Nazi years. They came here, these two poor immigrants, Jared’s grandparents, and slowly bought and operated a small empire of New Jersey apartment houses, which made them very wealthy. Their son, Charles, took this small real estate empire and greatly expanded it, becoming a billionaire, like his son Jared, after him.

Two generations after his grandparents escaped the Nazi killing machine, Jared Kushner has the haughty bearing of a young SS officer. He speaks with the absolute certainty of someone who has never been wrong, or, if he has been wrong, has never been corrected. You simply cannot picture a man like that marched to his dignity free mass execution in a pile of freshly combed dirt.

Easier, by far, to imagine him distractedly smoking a cigarette, in a long holder, as he gives the signal for the Ukrainian auxiliary police to fire the next volley, into the back of my head, and the heads of the people on either side of me.

Fortunately, Jared’s time in power did not last long enough for this important work to be completed. It took Mr. Hitler years to accomplish all that he accomplished, it was not the work of a single four year period, it took at least twice that long to get it all into high gear.

We are all poised in the fall of 1932 here (in other countries it’s already later). Here in US of A the future of our long experiment in democracy is at the mercy of two Democrats who insist there is no problem that can’t be solved if only we all just learn to respect each other and behave differently.

[1] from that transcribed oral history:

At the beginning of Elul 1943, about 10 SS men arrived from Kremenets. They gathered a large number of armed Ukrainian policemen from the surrounding area and stationed them in the shade. One SS man stood next to the great master, Mr. Shtayger, the destroyer of Vishnevets Jewry. He stood up and gave a short speech that I heard in full and still can’t forget.

He said, “Today we’re going to liquidate all the Jews in the ghetto. Go knock on each window, open it, and tell the Jews, ‘Leave your homes, you traitors, you Jewish Communists.’ Beat the Jews who refuse to leave their homes with the butts of your guns. Pay attention: you can strike to kill, but make sure you don’t kill them inside the ghetto. Take them outside town, to the designated area, and kill them there.”

I still don’t understand why he didn’t want to exterminate us inside the ghetto.

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I get it, they didn’t want the hassle of dealing with all the stinking corpses inside the town, during a hot summer, especially since they had a nearby mass grave ready to accommodate all the dead. You have to use common sense!