Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Saturday, September 11, 2021 8:46 am

9/11 + 20

I’ve already said what I need to say about what we lost on 9/11 and in its aftermath — what we lost, and what we pissed away. So today, as is my habit on this anniversary, I’m directing you to what Sars Bunting wrote three days after 9/11, as haunting and elegiac as anything I’ve ever read on the subject.

Sunday, August 15, 2021 7:38 pm

Colts 21, Panthers 18

Filed under: Panthers — Lex @ 7:38 pm
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As you might expect of the first preseason game, it was ugly; at one point each team had 7 penalties, and that was before Carolina’s third-string O-line committed false starts on three consecutive plays.

The starters didn’t play on either side of the ball, so today was an opportunity to get a hard look at the second- and third-stringers. Primarily for the Panthers, that meant no Sam Darnold or his likely offensive weapons. Whether Darnold will outperform his time with the Jets and become the franchise QB the Panthers need will remain unsettled for at least another week.

The second-string defense had some really good moments. DEs Yetur Gross-Matos and Marquis Haynes, who started, had some excellent play between them, including a strip-sack and fumble recovery by Gross-Matos. The secondary looked good in spots as well, although it gave up 116 first-half yards; safety Kenny Robinson had the team’s only interception. Daviyon Nixon and Bravvion Roy both showed they could play at DT. Linebacker depth remains a concern. And Frankie Luvu forced a turnover by sacking Colts QB Jacob Eason deep in his backfield on fourth down.

P.J. Walker had a decent first half at QB for the Panthers. He was only 10-for-21, but he racked up 161 yards passing, a decent half’s work, and didn’t turn the ball over. He hit rookie second-round pick Terrace Marshall three times on five targets, and Marshall converted for 88 yards, looking about as spectacular as he did in Draft Night tape. Will Grier in the second half was a significant drop-off from Walker, going 6-for-10 for 31 yards. Were it up to me, Walker is the backup and Grier ends up on the street. In O-line news, Brady Christensen looks like he’s at least good enough to back up Taylor Moton at RT (if Moton doesn’t end up moving to LT). Other than him, though, the O-line play was not good, particularly in the second half, which will not assuage fans’ fears that last year’s anemic run game and inadequate pass protection will recur. In fairness, the line likely would have looked better if G Dennis Dailey had played with the second team, but he was excused for the weekend to tend to a family matter.

Rookie RB Chuba Hubbard looked good in the first half, getting seven carries for 80 yards, most of which was on a 60-yard run on third and short. He ran into the pile, which consisted of collapsing Panther O-linemen, then bounced back out and around right end. He should have made it to the end zone, but one of the fleeter Colts caught up with him.

Thomas Fletcher, who’s being given a look at long snapper, gave the team no reason to replace stalwart J.J. Jansen with him, but he did recover a fumbled punt. For kicker Joey Slye, every kick was an adventure. He missed a 60-plus-yarder, although he was not short, and he missed an extra point. A couple of his field goals were just inside the uprights.

Without a single starter on either side of the ball, it’s difficult to make any sweeping pronouncements about the state of the team. The practices this week with the Baltimore Ravens, and the game next Saturday in which the starters will play, should give us a much better picture.

Afghanistan was never winnable

Filed under: Reality: It works,Say a prayer — Lex @ 5:26 pm

The news from Afghanistan today in the wake of the American troop pull-out is grim: The Taliban have taken the national capital, Kabul. The U.S. has dispatched 2,500 Marines and soldiers to assist in the evacuation of U.S. Embassy personnel and dependents. Meanwhile, Afghan soldiers and political leaders are surrendering to the Taliban or fleeing to Kabul in hopes, probably vain, of being evacuated by the U.S.

Anyone who was around for the fall of South Vietnam in 1975 knows how this is going to go. I was around for it, not least because my ninth-grade health teacher, Larry Byers, had served a tour in Vietnam and had, arguably, an extracurricular interest in what was going down. He devoted several of our classes to watching TV news about the North Vietnamese advance on Saigon and the hurried American attempts to abandon the place, rather than on the regular health curriculum. Neither I nor, so far as I recall, any other boy in that class felt cheated.

So what puzzles me today is why so many people who were around for the fall of South Vietnam didn’t see this coming.

The reason the U.S. went into Afghanistan in 2001 — or at least the reason the government gave us — was that the Taliban in Afghanistan was protecting Osama bin Laden, who had, with a lot of Saudi help and money, planned and launched the 9//11 attacks. So, on the surface, it seemed logical to go in and pursue bin Laden and his Taliban protectors.

Thing is, the Taliban were mostly the same guerillas the U.S. had armed to try to expel Soviet invaders during the 1980s. They succeeded, but that didn’t mean they were U.S. allies. For all that, Afghanistan remained very tribal, with only a loose central government. The best the U.S. could have hoped for, the only thing that might have had a chance of looking like a victory, would have been to pop into the country, kill or capture Osama bin Laden, and pop right back out, letting the devil take the hindmost.

That is not, of course, what happened.

Bush allowed bin Laden to escape at Tora Bora in 2001 by sending Afghan units after him instead of well-trained, well-supplied U.S. military units. And with that escape went any chance of anything that the U.S. could point to as a victory in Afghanistan. Bush should have evacuated the country then and there.

His next best option was to take that time to work with Afghanistan to try to stand up a competent Afghan army and national police force. Whether that was doable under any circumstances was arguable at best. It clearly was never going to be doable if, after occupying Afghanistan, the Bush administration and the military immediately turned their attention and resources to the invasion of Iraq (under the, shall we say, mistaken belief that Iraq was preparing to use weapons of mass destruction). I’m not sure when soldiers on the ground first decided that the war was unwinnable, but they definitely had by the time bin Laden was killed by U.S. forces in Pakistan — more than a decade before we finally withdrew.

This is going to be awful for the Afghan people, particularly women and girls. But it’s too late for us to mount a military offensive to drive the Taliban back into hiding. America has along since tired of fighting this war — both service members and the public at large, except for some of the generals, who, remember, have been lying to us for years about how that war was going. No, the time for doing something passed long ago.

Thursday, August 5, 2021 12:08 am

Friday Random 10, Wednesday-after-class edition

Filed under: Friday Random 10 — Lex @ 12:08 am
Tags:

Steely Dan – Bad Sneakers
Replacements – Shooting Dirty Pool
Blink 182- Josie
Graham Parker – Don’t Ask Me Questions
R.E.M. – Walk It Back
Dictators – Faster and Louder
Mudcrutch – Love of the Bayou
Pressure Boys – Hallow’s Eve
Wilco – More …
Tonio K – The Ballad of the Night the Clocks All Stopped (and the Government Failed)

lagniappe: LMNT: Hey Juliet

lagniappe lagniappe: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Chicago, 1/16/2009: Thunder Road

Tuesday, August 3, 2021 12:21 am

Friday Random 10, Monday late night edition

Filed under: Friday Random 10 — Lex @ 12:21 am
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R.E.M. – Shaking Through
Commodores – Brick House
Lyres – Ain’t That Lovin’ You, Baby
Sarah Siskind – Falling Stars
The Hold Steady – The Weekenders
Hindu Love Gods – Walking Blues
Roy Orbison – Working for the Man
Connells – Something to Say
Lynyrd Skynyrd – Comin’ Home
U2 – Stuck in a Moment

lagniappe: Scarface – Money and the Power

Friday, July 16, 2021 11:08 pm

Friday Random 10

Filed under: Friday Random 10 — Lex @ 11:08 pm
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Counting Crows – Hangin’ Around
Bob Dylan – Subterranean Homesick Blues
Jerry Lee Lewis – Whole Lot of Shakin’ Going On
Islands – Rough Gem
R.E.M. – Pale Blue Eyes
AC/DC – Moneytalks
Solomon Burke – She Thinks I Still Care
Pink – U + Ur Hand
The Offspring – Come Out and Play
Monomyth – Candleholder

lagniappe: Rolling Stones – All Down the Line

Friday, July 9, 2021 6:08 pm

Friday Random 10

Filed under: Friday Random 10 — Lex @ 6:08 pm
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R.E.M. – Can’t Get There from Here
Connells – Gauntlet
Pressure Boys – Lava Booger
Rolling Stones – Time Is on My Side (live)
New York Dolls – Frankenstein
Warren Zevon – Jungle Work
Pearl Jam – Corduroy
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band – Thunder Road (live acoustic)
Counting Crows – Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby
Third Eye Blind – London

lagniappe:

The Cult – Brother Wolf, Sister Moon

Friday, May 14, 2021 5:05 pm

Friday Random 10

Filed under: Friday Random 10 — Lex @ 5:05 pm
Tags:

Neil Young & Crazy Horse — Country Home
R.E.M. — Chorus and the Ring
The Brains — Hypnotized
The Smithereens — Blues Before and After
The Cult — Revolution
Big Pink — She’s No Sense
Hornit — Twisted
Squeeze — There’s No Tomorrow
R.E.M. — New Orleans Instrumental No. 2
Diana Krall — They Can’t Take That Away From Me

lagniappe: Cheap Trick — Oh Caroline

Friday, April 16, 2021 4:52 pm

Friday Random 10

Filed under: Friday Random 10 — Lex @ 4:52 pm
Tags:

Elvis Costello – Mouth Almighty
Solomon Burke – These Arms of Mine
Crowded House – Something So Strong
Bob Dylan – Lay Lady Lay
Brothers Johnson – Get the Funk Out Ma Face
AC/DC – Moneytalks
U2 – Love Rescue Me
R.E.M. – All the Way to Reno (You’re Gonna Be a Star)
Velvet Underground – Heroin
John Hiatt – Circle Back

lagniappe: Suicidal Tendencies – Institutionalized

Wednesday, April 14, 2021 4:39 pm

America doesn’t value journalism’s values, and why that’s a bad thing

For America to function well as a democracy, more Americans need to adopt the values of journalists rather than disdaining them.

Media columnist Margaret Sullivan of The Washington Post brings news of a new study that finds that when you ask Americans what they think of common journalistic values, without telling them that the values are from journalism, people don’t think much of them.

The study tested five core journalistic values — oversight, transparency, factuality, spotlighting wrongdoing, and giving voice to the voiceless — and found that only one, factuality, enjoyed support by a majority of Americans surveyed (about 70 percent). Sullivan also notes:

The value drawing the least support is the idea that a good way to make society better is to spotlight its problems. Only about 3 in 10 agree.

And only about 1 in 10 Americans fully support all five of the journalism values that were tested.

Researchers believe the lack of support is attributable more to people’s moral instincts than to their politics.

The report divides respondents into four groups, according to their various moral principles: Upholders, Loyalists, Moralists, and Journalism Supporters. Alas, that last group is the smallest of the four. But we have a chance of making inroads with some of the others.

Upholders, for example, put a high value on respect for leaders and groups [and therefore do not rate the journalistic value of oversight highly]. “They worry that some of the things journalists believe in can be intrusive and get in the way of officials doing their jobs,” the report notes. They would like to see more stories about what works, not just what is going wrong. In general, there is an appetite for more solutions-oriented journalism.

I was doing solutions-oriented investigative journalism back in the ’90s, and I wasn’t alone, for whatever that insight is worth.

The study couches its findings in the context of public trust in the news media, which, Sullivan notes, has dropped from about 70% in the early 1970s to about 40% today. And she raises the question: If journalism’s values aren’t popular with the public, does journalism need new values?

I’m going to argue just the opposite: For America to function well as a democracy, more Americans need to adopt these values of journalists rather than disdaining them. The fact that Journalism Supporters were the smallest identified group among study subjects explains a helluva lot about what’s been going wrong in our country over the past 50 years. There is some corroborative evidence in the report, which finds that support for journalistic values correlates with education level, for example.

You also cannot talk about American trust in news media without talking about the unrelenting conservative campaign against news media that dates at least to the Nixon administration. When conservatives haven’t been trying to squelch news media, they’ve been trying to co-opt it, as the Reagan administration’s Michael Deaver did, or discredit it entirely, which has been Donald Trump’s approach as he developed the concept of “fake news” — news that reported information that he didn’t like or that made him look bad. His epithet had its roots in the Nazi phrase lugenpresse, or “lying press.” So Trump, in the memorable phrase of Trump advisor Richard Bannon, set out to “flood the zone with shit” — so much shit that our news media, as big and wealthy as they are, literally could not keep up. Nor could our institutions, such as the Congress and the courts.

Relatedly, you cannot talk about that trust without acknowledging that the real decision makers in U.S. news media — the people who decide how much money there will be for news coverage and where that coverage money will go — are almost all wealthy people who identify with the wealthy and powerful, not the man or woman on the street and certainly not with racial/ethnic minorities, LGBTQ folks, and so on. They are not about giving voice to the voiceless, and the people whom journalists try to hold to account frequently are their friends.

But the Framers of the Constitution understood how badly the nation they had created would need these journalistic values. That’s why they included freedom of the press in the First Amendment. And they did so even though the press of the day was in many ways as antagonistic, partisan, and virulent as it is today; it is no coincidence that among quotes about journalism attributed to Thomas Jefferson is at least one that praises newspapers and at least one that damns them. The Framers envisioned that in the nation they were creating, any man — at least, any propertied white man — might function as a journalist. Societal moves toward more equity as time passed and the advent of the Internet and portable devices have brought what the Framers envisioned into full view.

And can anyone seriously argue that the country would be better off if journalists did not value oversight, transparency, factuality, spotlighting wrongdoing, and giving voice to the voiceless? Can anyone argue that the country would be more democratic without those values? Certainly the Framers would not.

If we are to keep the Republic the Framers vouchsafed to us, the country needs journalism more than journalism needs the country. Journalism and its values should be taught as early as elementary school, and American citizens who are serious about protecting and improving our democratic republic should embrace these values not just in their own lives but also in their political and moral choices.

Thursday, March 11, 2021 5:46 pm

Friday Random 10, Thursday Porch-Weather Edition

Filed under: Friday Random 10 — Lex @ 5:46 pm

The Vibrators – Watch Out Baby
Mission UK – Like a Hurricane
The Clash – The Right Profile
James Brown – Think
R.E.M. – Arms of Love
Warren Zevon – The Heartache
Sarah Bethe Nelson – Paying
U2 – I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
Carl Perkins – Blue Suede Shoes
Cheap Trick – Ain’t That a Shame

Lagniappe: New York Dolls – Jet Boy

Friday, March 5, 2021 11:34 am

The truth about truth and reconciliation?

A new article implies that Greensboro’s 2004 Truth & Reconciliation initiative was less a well-intentioned failure than grift.

Mother Jones magazine has published an interesting take on the 1979 Greensboro Massacre, the city’s 2004 Truth and Reconciliation Commission convened to investigate the massacre, and T&R processes generally. I think the writers’ conclusion is generally correct: Such processes can be long on truth but usually are short on reconciliation. I had that same impression of Greensboro’s process when I covered it almost two decades ago.

That said, the writers depict the T&R process less as a well-intentioned failure than as a grift of some sort (they refer derogatorily to the so-called “Truth and Reconciliation Complex”), which I don’t think is accurate, let alone appropriate. I think that in part because the piece basically ignored that many of the former CWP members did indeed acknowledge and apologize for the fact that their intemperate language helped raise the temperature of the times and might even have prompted the violence. The writers convey the impression that the CWP members in general, and the Rev. Nelson Johnson in particular, were using the process as a means of squeezing out from under any responsibility for the incident and the deaths. I have no idea what was in Johnson’s mind at the beginning of the T&R process, but I was there and can tell you what resulted from it: Johnson and many of his colleagues apologized, publicly and unreservedly, for their roles. And while the writers acknowledged that the city was found liable for its role, they generally whitewash by omission the Greensboro Police Department’s involvement via informant.

As with all parachute journalism, it gets a few other things wrong that locals would spot easily: Greensboro hasn’t been a “mill city” for decades. It is located west, not north, of the “university-heavy” Research Triangle. And Greensboro is pretty university-heavy itself — between UNCG, N.C. A&T, Bennett College, Greensboro College, Guilford College, GTCC, and Elon Law, it is a bigger college town than Columbus, Ohio.

I’ll be particularly interested in the response of Jill Williams, then the executive director of the GTRC, who is quoted in the piece but described as if she somehow benefited personally from what the article implies is the grift of T&R work by getting jobs at, first, the Andrus Family Fund, which funded Greensboro’s T&R Commission, and then the International Center for Transitional Justice, another nonprofit.

The writers apparently are involved in a larger project examining T&R processes generally, which is fine. And they certainly are correct that Greensboro’s T&R process didn’t result in much reconciliation. But they fail in examining why.

I’ve lived in Greensboro for almost 35 years. I was a journalist here for 22 years. In particular, I was the journalist who patiently nursed along a Freedom of Information Act request to the FBI for years during the 1990s, seeking declassification and disclosure of that agency’s records on the massacre and subsequent investigation. (Those records were released in time for the News & Record to report on them around the 20th anniversary of the massacre; my colleague and friend Lorraine Ahearn wrote the articles, which you can still find on the N&R’s website.)

My impression as someone who didn’t grow up here but has lived here a long time is that part of the reason there hasn’t been reconciliation is not just that people had a pox-on-both-their-houses attitude toward both the Klan/Nazis and the CWP. No, a lot of white folks in this town still believe that it’s perfectly OK for rightists to kill leftists in the streets — that the victims had it coming. (That attitude has been reflected nationally in the rise of Donald Trump as a political figure, with its apotheosis being the Jan. 6 seditious attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump followers.) That attitude is morally stillborn, but it still prevails.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021 5:04 pm

We told you this would happen

Republicans on a dangerous antidemocratic path since 1994 today conjured violence in the people’s U.S. Capitol.

As I write, hundreds or thousands of pro-Trump supporters have breached the U.S. Capitol — for the first time since the War of 1812, according to the Capitol historian — and forced the suspension of what should have been a pro-forma, if lengthy, counting of Electoral College ballots. TV news shows evidence of at least five injuries and is reporting that at least one person has been shot and critically wounded (UPDATE, 5:48 p.m.: she died) inside the Capitol. Moreover, at least one explosive device was found at the Capitol. These rioters — yes, rioters — were there at the urging of President Donald Trump, who spoke at the protesters’ rally earlier today and urged them to march on the Capitol, raving falsely that the election had been stolen from him.

So many of us told you this would happen. You laughed, or demurred, or insisted that we were taking Trump too seriously. Not so much, it turns out. Welcome to the banana republic, population: you.

MSNBC’s Chuck Todd calls this “unfortunate.” But it is seditious conspiracy. U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, called it “sedition” and said, correctly, “This is what the president has caused.”

Here is the seditious-conspiracy statute, 18 USC 2384:

“If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.”

The rioters conspired to oppose by force the authority of the U.S. government and by force prevented, hindered, and delayed the execution of U.S. law, and took and possessed the Capitol contrary to the authority of the U.S. government. Every single one of them needs to go away for 20 years. So does Trump himself for inciting this sedition.

It’s not just Trump who has brought us to this pass. It also is the Republican Party. Republicans have been marching down an antidemocratic, minority-rule path since at least 1994. Republicans rioted in 2000 to interrupt the vote recount in Florida — not one of them was arrested, and a recount was unlawfully stopped — and Republicans have ignored decade-old warnings that the likeliest source of domestic violence and terror was not Islamicist terrorism but homegrown right-wing white nationalists.

And so here we are.

It’s not clear now why the Capitol Police weren’t prepared for this, but they weren’t. The protest had been talked about on social media for days, and Trump had been egging his right-wing nationalist followers on. Moreover, its lack of preparedness raises the question of how it is going to ensure security and safety at President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration in two weeks.

It’s also important to note that if this had happened in any state, that state’s governor could have called out the National Guard immediately. But in D.C., that request must be relayed up the Department of Defense chain of command, which delayed the Guard response today. If you’re looking for another argument for statehood for the District of Columbia, welp, here you go.

How did Capitol Police allow this to happen, and how are they going to ensure safety at the presidential inaugural in two weeks? One of those questions has a long-term answer, but one needs to be answered right away.

How do we prevent this from happening again? For one thing, swift enforcement of the criminal law, and, yes, some people need to be made examples of. For another, Donald Trump must be impeached immediately and removed from office to ensure he never again holds a position of trust and responsibility within the U.S. government. He also needs to be criminally charged after leaving office for inciting this riot, for it wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t egged the protesters into rioting and sedition. He eventually gave in to requests from Republicans to urge the rioters to stand down, but even in doing that, he made clear where his sympathy lay, calling Biden supporters names and telling the rioters, “We love you.”

Three other Republicans, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, and Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, bear particular responsibility for today’s insurrection. They were the prime movers behind the efforts of some Congressional Republicans to overturn the valid, duly certified electoral-college ballots submitted by some states that Biden carried. They knew that under our Constitution and the law, they had zero chance of success, but Cruz and Hawley, at least, both hoped to win the approval of the Trumpite base as they plan their respective runs for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination. Gohmert, after his joke of a lawsuit was dismissed, went on the far-right-wing outlet Newsmax to say that the correct response to the dismissal of his suit was “violence in the streets.” All three should be expelled from Congress and indicted and prosecuted, as well.

The government must begin taking white-nationalist terrorism seriously, devoting resources to undermining and punishing it swiftly and harshly when it manifests. Biden, in his remarks, emphasized that the rioters were a tiny minority, and perhaps they are. But they look more numerous than that — and a number of rioters told MSNBC reporters today, “This is not over.”

But we’re not going to be out of the woods until American voters start holding Republican politicians responsible for sedition. And I see zero likelihood that that is going to happen anytime soon. So it’s entirely possible we could see sedition like this again, perhaps as soon as at Biden’s inauguration.

Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Saturday, December 12, 2020 2:01 pm

Punish them, or they’ll just keep coming back

The Constitution specifies how sedition by American officials should be treated. Let’s follow the Constitution.

Ever since the pardon of Richard M. Nixon by Gerald Ford, we in America have been letting GOP criminals off the hook. Ford pardoned Nixon. Reagan and Bush the Elder got away with Iran-contra. Not only that, on his way out of office, Bush the elder pardoned Iran-contra conspirators with the assistance of Bill Barr, then as now an attorney general who believes there are no legal constraints on the executive branch. Bush the Younger, and his minions, Dick Cheney, Condi Rice, Don Rumsfeld, et al., got away with torture.

And what do we have to show for all this lenience? The worst batch of GOP criminals yet.

It remains to be seen whether Donald Trump and his minions will be held to account. But as bad as their crimes were, there’s one even bigger issue implicating Trump, 18 state attorneys general, and more than half of House Republicans: seditious conspiracy, an attempt to overturn the lawful and fair outcome of a presidential election.

Earlier this week, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued four other states, arguing 1) that they had violated their own constitutions/laws by allowing executive-branch officials rather than legislators to change election laws and 2) that Texas somehow had been harmed by this. Notwithstanding the fact that Texas did some of the same things that it was accusing other states of doing, 17 Republican attorneys general filed amici briefs signing on to the suit, as did more than half of House Republicans.

The suit was the most egregious of more than 50 legal actions Trump’s lawyers have taken since the election to try to overturn the will of the people. Joe Biden won the election popular vote by 81 million to 74 million and the Electoral College by 306 to 232. Had all the votes been counted on election night, people would be talking about Biden’s comfortable margin of victory. Vote tallies eventually were certified throughout the United States, and Biden won fair and square. Even Bill Barr who has served in office more as Trump’s personal attorney than as attorney general for all the people, admitted finding no significant issues in the election, let along anything approaching the wild accusations of cheating that Trump supporters had leveled. (That has led to renewed talk that Trump might fire him — imagine, not being corrupt enough for Trump.)

But because it took most of a week to count the ballots — because of Republican-approved measures, but that’s a long story — Trump could screech about “election theft” and his backers believed him, the fact that he is, at this writing, 1-56 1-58 in court notwithstanding. Many of those suits were almost literally laughed out of court.

The attorney general of Pennsylvania, one of the states sued by Texas, didn’t laugh at the suit. He snarled at it instead, calling it “seditious abuse” of the legal process. And he was right: The lawsuit was a seditious conspiracy of the type barred by 18 U.S.C. 2384:

If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.

The suit struck the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, at least, as in violation of this statute, at least as far as conspiring to overthrow a duly elected government went. (And there’s precedent for documents being acts of sedition: Consider the articles of secession of the Confederate states.) And believe it or not, the Constitution has something to say about that. From Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment:

No Person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

“No person SHALL.” That means that the House has an affirmative duty not to seat for the 117th Congress (which opens Jan. 3) any House member who signed on to the “seditious abuse” of the Paxton lawsuit. And IANAL, but as I read this, residents of the states whose AGs signed on may sue in federal court to have their respective AGs removed. I hope at least some of them will. (Paxton himself has more immediate problems: He has been under indictment since 2015 on securities-fraud charges, and some top aides who recently left his office have accused him of taking bribes and abusing his office. I speculate, and I am not alone, that he started this whole thing just to catch Trump’s eye in hopes of being pre-emptively pardoned before Trump leaves office.)

Refusing to seat that many House members at once would be unprecedented and would heighten the already huge conflict between Republicans and Democrats. And I’m not under any illusions that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would have the guts to do it, even though the language of the 14th Amendment appears to give her no choice. And I get the idea that Biden and his team, as well as congressional Democrats, will face so much Trumpian damage come Jan. 20 that their triage of the many crises we face may not allow time to be devoted to this.

But the Republicans have been playing with the fire of fascism since at least 1994 and arguably since the early 1960s. Their doing so has damaged the country repeatedly in significant part because they are never held to account. It is high time they got burned by their own flame, in public fashion, to discourage anyone else from engaging in sedition. Otherwise, history suggests, it’ll happen again. And next time, the perps might be just as evil and unpatriotic as Trump and his allies — and nowhere near as stupid.

Thursday, December 10, 2020 4:28 pm

Friday Random 10, Thursday edition

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lex @ 4:28 pm
Tags: ,

Monkey Sees — Chris Mars
Say a Prayer — Tom Verlaine
Smells Like Teen Spirit — Nirvana
Mixed Emotions — Rolling Stone
Nashville Skyline Rag — Bob Dylan
Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town — Pearl Jam
There at the Top — Squeeze
This Too Shall Pass — OK Go
Pablo Picasso — Burning Sensations
I’ll Go Crazy — James Brown

lagniappe: Look Through Any Window — Hollies

Tuesday, November 17, 2020 5:51 pm

There must be prison

If President-elect Joe Biden doesn’t appoint an attorney general who is inclined to investigate and prosecute at least the biggest crimes of the Trump administration, then he is being derelict in his duty.

Donald Trump has committed so many crimes — not just impeachable offenses, but outright crimes — in broad freakin’ daylight that it seems impossible to consider that perhaps he shouldn’t be investigated and prosecuted for them once he leaves office.

But apparently it’s not impossible for Joe Biden to consider. NBC News reported today that Biden has told aides that he’s concerned that investigations would divide the country, but that he would leave decisions up to an independent Justice Department.

On the one hand, this was predictable, given how Biden campaigned as a uniter and not a divider. And, sure, everyone wants to dial down the partisanship a little, right?

But on the other hand, OH COME ON.

I can’t believe we’re even having to say this, but, hell, YES, he should be criminally investigated, prosecuted if probable cause is found, and sent to prison if convicted. Biden says he wants the Justice Department to be independent — and that’s good! But if he doesn’t appoint an attorney general who is inclined to investigate and prosecute at least the biggest crimes of the Trump administration, Biden, who as president has a constitutional duty to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed,” is being derelict in his duty.

Here’s the thing: For 50 years, we have been letting criminal Republicans off the hook. What do we have to show for these 50 years of letting GOP criminals off? More and worse GOP criminals. The normalization of everything from political dirty tricks to torture and treason. And a republic that was at the edge of the abyss before Biden beat Trump and is still one hell of a long way from out of the woods. If we are to avoid anything like a Trump administration again, which everyone who believes in democracy thinks would be a good thing to do, then we must punish Trump and his minions.

The sins of Donald Trump and his minions have been so many, varied and spectacular that if I were to list them all I’d be writing this blog post for the rest of my life. Just for starters, let’s look at the stuff he did right out in the open, like permanently separating immigrant children from their parents at the border — at least 666 that we know of. I am not a lawyer, but that appears to me to constitute one form of genocide under the U.S. genocide statute, 18 USC 1091(a)(6). And it’s not just Trump who is culpable; other investigative targets should include Alex Azar, then and now Secretary of Health and Human Services, and Kirstjen Nielsen, then Secretary of Homeland Security, as well as Trump White House aide Stephen Miller, who has been reported as being behind the separation plan.

In addition, federal prosecutors in Manhattan named “Individual-1,” later identified as Trump, as an unindicted co-conspirator in the conspiracy to violate election law by funneling hush money to Stormy Daniels. Currently, a Watergate-era Justice Department policy precludes indictment of a sitting president, but that protection evaporates once Trump leaves office Jan. 20.

Vol. 2 of the Mueller Report indicated that Trump obstructed justice up to 10 times during the investigation. Indeed, Special Counsel Robert Mueller made it clear that if not for that Justice Department policy, he would have indicted Trump on a number of those counts. (Some more clearly include all three statutorily defined elements of the crime than others.)

And those are just what is out in the open. Subjects crying out for either new or renewed criminal or counterterrorism investigation include the 2016 Trump campaign’s relationship with Russian leader Vladimir Putin and Trump’s finances, of which the little that has come to light has suggested the possibility of tax fraud, bank fraud (or both), and conspiracy. Trump’s former CFO cooperated with the Mueller investigation and is now cooperating with state and local prosecutors in New York.

It’s not just that the crimes themselves are bad, although they are. Trump’s entire administration was full of grifting (almost $200 million in tax money to his resorts for golf alone), and he ran the government not like a chief executive, but like a mobster. Every relationship was purely transactional, with nothing undertaken in the nation’s best interests. He didn’t even try to govern in the interests of states that had not voted for him in 2016.

The reason that prosecution would be so symbolically important is that it would send the signal that that’s not how you faithfully execute the office of president — and that no one else should try it ever again.

Joe Biden also would be wise to ponder his decision in the context of the 2022 midterms. Voters in the 2018 midterms indicated strongly that they wanted Trump held accountable, and a majority of Americans approved his impeachment earlier this year. If Biden doesn’t at least look like he’s trying to seek justice for Trump’s crimes, a lot of the Democratic base will sit home in 2022, just as they did in 2010, with disastrous results for the party, for the country as a whole, and for many states. They shouldn’t — I get it; it would be stupid and self-destructive — but they probably will.

Finally, if Trump and at least some of his minions do not go to prison for their crimes, then the country will be admitting that we are no longer a nation under the rule of law. And if we’re not that, then what good are we?

Saturday, September 12, 2020 8:00 am

The Panthers will go 4-12 and miss the playoffs

Filed under: Panthers — Lex @ 8:00 am
Tags:

Obviously, I’d love to be wrong about this. But facts are facts.

I’ve been watching this team since its first home exhibition in 1995. As goes the O-line, so goes the season. The Panthers, who gave up more sacks than anyone else last year, have a decent O-line on paper, but basically no depth. Moreover, starting left guard Dennis Daley already is out with an ankle injury for Week 1, and as I write this there’s no one listed behind him on the depth chart. Obviously SOMEbody will play, but that’s going to hurt the run game and result in a lot of pressure on QB Teddy Bridgewater.

As for the rest of the offense: The WRs are potentially a huge threat, especially if Curtis Samuel breaks out like he hinted at last season, and offer Bridgewater a lot of weapons, not to mention RB Christian McCaffery, who is as good a slot receiver as there is in the league (and proved it last season with a 1,000/1,000 season) when he’s not running the football. If Bridgewater gets time to stay in the pocket and work his progressions — and that’s a big if — the Panthers may hang a lot of points on a lot of people.

But that won’t be enough. The defensive front seven couldn’t and didn’t replace the retired ILB Luke Kuechly. First-round draft pick Derrick Brown and Kawann Short, returning from injury, will make the Panthers tough up the middle. But will the linebackers be able to close the deal on running plays? And will that front seven be able to sack the star QBs they’ll be facing twice in Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Matt Ryan? Depth also is a concern here.

But the real concern, and it’s huge, is the DBs. Tre Boston returns at safety, but he’s joined by Juston Burris, who has started only nine games in his career. Donte Jackson has this year to prove he can be the man at CB1, and while he has shown flashes, he’ll face some of the toughest WRs in the league twice and I just don’t know how he’ll do. Rookie Troy Pride will start at the other corner, and you know QBs will be firing at him early and often.

On special teams, I’m not sure K Joey Slye won’t be gone by midseason. (I was reminded again Thursday night watching the Chiefs that the Panthers could have had Harrison Butker at kicker but let him get away. That one hurt.) Pharoah Cooper will return kicks and punts, but this special team is going to have to perform significantly better than it did last year.

But here’s the biggest reason I think the Panthers are going to have a poor year: luck. For them to have success (a playoff spot, which they still might snag at third in the division under the new playoff format), a lot of things would have to break just the right way in the league’s toughest division. The Panthers haven’t been lucky since the 2015 season, and I’m not feeling lucky on their behalf heading into 2020. I think injuries will hurt the O-line and the linebackers, and I don’t think our corners are up to their competition. I also don’t think this new, young team will be able to handle adversity well, starting with the fact that they’re playing the eighth toughest schedule in the league. I see wins against perhaps the Chargers, Lions, Bears, and Washington and a high draft pick again in 2021. Again, I hope I’m wrong.

Friday, September 11, 2020 8:37 am

“For Thou are with us …”

Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 8:37 am
Tags: , ,

As is my custom on this day, I’m going back to read Sarah “Sars” Bunting’s post-9/11 essay, “For Thou Art With Us,” and I strongly urge you to do the same.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020 7:04 pm

Bob Woodward has blood on his hands

Filed under: Evil — Lex @ 7:04 pm
Tags: , , ,

Bob Woodward knew early this year that Donald Trump understood early on that COVID-19 would be a dangerous epidemic but denied that for weeks and called the pandemic a “hoax.” Had Woodward reported that at the time he knew it, he might have saved tens of thousands of lives. Instead, he held onto that information to drive up sales of his book. And now, as I write, we’re a tad shy of 190,000 COVID-19 deaths, most of which could have been prevented had Woodward acted.

Woodward’s behavior has been called an example of the “beyondist personality,” author David Dark’s word for one who speaks of himself “as operating outside of ‘politics’ & thereby capable of opining & weighing in magically above the fray.” But there’s no such thing. What Woodward did is sociopathy, plain and simple, and no different from Trump’s. And not just Woodward but also the top managers of The Washington Post have blood on their hands for letting Woodward delay the release of this information.

Sunday, August 16, 2020 10:04 pm

An open email to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy

via email: louis.dejoy@usps.gov

Dear Postmaster General DeJoy:

You need to undo all the changes you have made that have hampered delivery of mail generally and mail-in ballots in particular.

Failure to do so, given Trump’s statement on Fox Business News Thursday morning that he is cutting funding to the USPS to prevent delivery of mail-in ballots, implicates you in conspiracy to deny U.S. voters their civil rights, a felony violation of 18 USC 241 punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine.

Failure to do so also would constitute a violation of 18 USC 595, election interference, punishable by a year in prison and a fine.

It also would constitute a violation of 18 USC 1703, which makes interference in mail delivery by an officer of the USPS a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine.

You’re trying to help Trump steal an election, and we’re not going to let that happen.

Sincerely,

Hooper “Lex” Alexander IV
Greensboro, NC 27403

Friday, August 14, 2020 7:00 pm

Here’s how to get Postmaster General Louis DeJoy fired and charged for his role in Trump’s attempt to steal the election

UPDATE: Added all members of the Board of Governors (h/t @DataAndPolitics)
UPDATE: Corrected email address (h/t @C0URTNEE)
Robert M. Duncan: mduncan@inezdepositbank.com
John Barger: barger.jm@gmail.com
Ron Bloom: ron.bloom@brookfield.com
Roman Martinez: roman@rmiv.com
Donald Moak: lee.moak@moakgroup.com
Wiliam Zollers: directoraccessmailbox@cigna.com

Dear Members of the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors:

I write to you in your capacity as members of the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors to ask you to remove Louis DeJoy as Postmaster General and refer his case to the U.S. Department of Justice for criminal prosecution.
As postmaster general, DeJoy has introduced slowdowns in mail delivery and removal of sorting equipment and postal boxes without adequate explanation. He has done this, according to President Donald J. Trump, for the express purpose of hindering delivery of mail-in ballots for the Nov. 3, 2020, general election.
In so doing, he has committed criminal violation of 18 USC 241 (felony conspiracy to deny civil rights), 18 USC 595 (election interference) and 18 USC 1703 (felony interference with mail delivery by a member of the U.S. Postal Service), whence my request for a criminal referral.
I look forward to the board’s prompt attention to this matter.
Sincerely,
Hooper “Lex” Alexander IV
(address)
Greensboro, NC 2740X
(phone)

Wednesday, July 15, 2020 5:57 pm

U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis: “Look! A squirrel!”

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote both of my congresscritters, demanding to know what they were going to do about Trump letting Russia get away with putting bounties on the heads of U.S. service members in Afghanistan. My senior senator, Richard Burr, who says he will retire after the 2022 elections, responded almost immediately but said he was still waiting to find out more about the situation. Inasmuch as he is chairman of the Senate Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, I seriously doubted that there was much more he needed to know, but at least he responded — a low bar, but significant for a guy who’s retiring.

My junior senator, Thom Tillis, who’s running for re-election this year, took a while longer to write back. And I’ll let you read what he wrote verbatim:

Dear Mr. Alexander:

Thank you for taking the time to contact me about the reports that Russian military operatives offered bounties to Taliban and Taliban-affiliated militants to attack United States and coalition servicemembers in Afghanistan. I appreciate hearing from you.

As you may know, on June 26, 2020, the New York Times published an article alleging Russian GRU operatives provided “bounties” to Taliban and Taliban-affiliated militants as payment for attacking U.S. and other Western coalition forces deployed in Afghanistan. According to the New York Times article, the anonymous American officials based their assessment primarily on intelligence obtained from interrogations of captured Afghan militants and criminals.

While American Intelligence agencies have not yet been verified these reports, I take them incredibly seriously. No nation or terrorist group should escape retribution after targeting American troops or civilians.

Therefore, I called for the United States to designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, if the intelligence community corroborates and verifies the allegations made in the New York Times report. Designating Russia as a state sponsor of terror is one of the strongest actions the administration could take against Putin, and it would instantly force Russia into pariah status with the international community.

As the intelligence community works to verify the intelligence, I will continue to carefully monitor the U.S. operations in Afghanistan and our national security interests in the broader region. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I will continue to attend any classified briefings on this matter.

Moving forward, it is imperative the United States continues to oppose Putin’s destabilizing tactics designed to divide and mislead us. Russia remains an authoritarian police state committed to undermining the interests of the United States and our allies and partners. In recent years Putin has illegally annexed the Crimean Peninsula, waged expansionist wars against Georgia and Ukraine, attempted to interfere in elections in the United States and other democracies. He now threatens our North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) partners Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and Poland. Russia has also shamefully chosen support the foremost state sponsor of global terror, Iran, a regime that continues to support war criminal Bashar al-Assad and his grip on power in Syria.

For these reasons, I support taking tough punitive actions against Russia, including the use of crippling financial sanctions to pressure Putin to stop continued Russian aggression.

Thank you again for contacting me, and I will keep your views in mind. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with me again about other issues that are important to you.

 

Sincerely,

Thom Tillis

U.S. Senator

We’ll talk in a minute about what he said, but first I’d like to talk about what he didn’t say.

He never mentioned Trump’s name.

He never mentioned the president in any way.

He basically ignored the thrust of my question in the hopes that I wouldn’t notice or wouldn’t care.

In so doing, he made it clear that he is ride-or-die Trump, that there is nothing Trump could do that would cost him Tillis’s support.

Uh-oh. I noticed. (And now, so have you.)

And there is nothing Tillis can do that would lead me to do anything but vote for his Democratic opponent, Cal Cunningham. If you can’t vote for Cal, please send him money. This race could dictate control of the Senate come 2021. And I don’t have to tell you how important that is.

 

 

 

Tuesday, March 17, 2020 10:12 pm

Farewell, Cam Newton

Filed under: Panthers — Lex @ 10:12 pm
Tags: , ,

The Carolina Panthers are shopping QB1 Cam Newton in a trade, and they also have signed New Orleans backup QB Teddy Bridgewater as their new QB1 at roughly $21 million/year.

I am not surprised that the Panthers are shopping Cam Newton. His recent injury history and uncertain recovery timetable made that inevitable.

What I AM pissed about, however, is, with the benefit of hindsight, how badly the Panthers organization misused and ill-served the most talented athlete ever to wear the Panthers’ black and blue.

At almost NO time in Newton’s nine seasons with the Panthers did the team ever provide him a rock-solid offensive line. O-line has been problematic for the entire history of the franchise, so you would think the Panthers would learn a lesson, and you would be wrong.

The Panthers’ selection of complementary offensive weapons also has been inexcusably hit-and-miss. Both once- and current GM Marty Hurney and ex-GM David Gettleman bear the responsibility for that.

To the extent that, in the history of the franchise, the Panthers have been consistently competitive, that is pretty much 100% attributable to QB1, Cameron Newton. And now Hurney and head coach Matt Ruhle are going to attempt to rebuild the offense around former New Orleans QB2 Teddy Bridgewater. Well, we’ll see how that goes.

But in the quarter-century history of this franchise, the one player most consistently associated with post-season wins was Cam Newton, a guy the team never supported. I hope he lands somewhere where management will appreciate and support his talents. Sadly, that team ain’t the Panthers and never has been.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020 6:28 pm

Today is the day the United States became an autocracy

We are in a very bad place. We need to vote Trump out in November. And God help us if we do not, because no decent person will be safe.

I’ve said, on here and on social media, that there is no bottom to what Trump and the GOP are willing to do, and today we got proof of it.

Longtime GOP dirty trickster Roger Stone who has thumbed his nose at the law pretty much his entire adult life and who was convicted of lying and obstructing justice in the Mueller investigation, is going to be sentenced. Federal prosecutors recommended a sentence within the appropriate sentencing guidelines — a range of roughly seven to nine years.

Then, later today, after tweets from Trump that the proposed sentence for Trump was far too excessive, the Justice Department said it would be recommending a much lower sentence for Stone. It also said that what the career prosecutors had recommended had never been communicated to their higher-ups.

Obviously, the safest course in any situation is to assume that Bill Barr’s Justice Department is lying. But that was particularly obvious in this case because not only did all four career prosecutors assigned to the case withdraw from it after Justice’s statement, one of them also quit the Justice Department entirely. Lawyer Twitter seems to have never seen anything like it. Neither have I.

Make no mistake: Trump and Barr are using the power of the Justice Department to protect their political friends. And if you think they won’t also use that power to attack and punish their political enemies, you are 12 different kinds of stupid. Trump, particularly has a vengeful streak a mile wide, a product of his malignant narcissism. And Barr has shown no inclination to press his boss to stay within law and ethics. To the contrary, he has facilitated his boss’s every illegal desire.

Today is the day the United States became an autocracy. Newspapers and cable news won’t say that, but I will because it’s true. We are in a very bad place. We need to vote Trump out in November. And God help us if we do not, because no decent person will be safe.

UPDATE: Senate Republicans just blocked three election-security bills. Sleep well, America.

Thursday, December 19, 2019 12:52 pm

Impeachment is only the beginning

I know you don’t want to, but please do me a favor and watch the three-minute pre-impeachment speech given last night by U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., because I think you need to see and hear it to understand just how much danger the country would remain in even if Donald J. Trump disappeared tomorrow.

After the votes last night to impeach Trump, MSNBC commentator Nicolle Wallace, a former Bush 43 administration official, decried the “cheap tribalism” of Congressional Republicans, calling it “sad.”

Well, don’t be sad, be terrified, because the problem with Republicans goes way further than “cheap tribalism.” The party has been on an unbroken 50-year slide toward dictatorship, and it shows no signs whatever of being ready to get off the ride. Trump is merely the logical, predictable, and predicted result of that slide, a symptom and not the disease.

Indeed, Trump could be gone tomorrow and we would still have to reckon with the fact that one of our two major parties has forsworn constitutional democracy in pursuit of absolute, dictatorial power. The GOP is now the party of treason, not nearly enough Americans understand that, and not nearly enough of those who understand it are saying so, including our so-called liberal media.

Again, if you doubt me, welp, just watch Nunes’s speech (or Mitch McConnell’s much longer speech from this morning, embedded below), in which Nunes ludicrously insists that it was the Democrats, not the Republicans, who colluded with Russia. While Nunes was last seen suing an imaginary cow, he cannot be underestimated because his speech is weapons-grade batshit and Reichstag-fire evil — and there’s not a Republican man or woman in the House or Senate who doesn’t agree with him.

I don’t know how you fight an entire party, but I do know that it starts with not giving them a single vote and denouncing them at every opportunity. But if we don’t fight it, America’s 232-year experiment with constitutional republican government could be over not in years, but in months.

(Here’s McConnell’s speech.)

 

Sunday, December 15, 2019 9:53 pm

I’m supporting Elizabeth Warren for president. Here’s why.

I set a simple but high bar for my choice for president in 2020. The only person who cleared it is U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

I posted on Twitter in March 2019 that I wouldn’t be picking a Democrat to support for president in 2020 until at least October 2019. I ended up waiting longer than that, figuring that circumstances would make a lot of my decisions for me. And so it has come to pass.

I’m supporting U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, for the Democratic nomination for president. The selection process wasn’t so much a weeding through of candidates as it was a very simple process of elimination.

Here’s what I mean: I decided well before the 2018 elections that my choice for president in 2020 was going to have to be able to get enough stuff done in the way of cleaning up after Dump so that by, say, June 2022, Democratic congressional candidates not only would have made big progress toward de-Trumping the government but ALSO would have a solid platform on which to run and win.

Accomplishing that was going to require a president who had two traits: a solid record of knowing how to move the levers of the federal government to GET SH*T DONE, and a long list of IOUs from Congressional Democrats in order to GET SH*T DONE.

Those criteria effectively filtered the field for me: It left Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden. That’s it. Nobody else met those criteria. So it’s not like I have to go negative on anyone else in the field, even if I were so inclined.

But I had a second criterion as well.

My choice for the Democratic presidential nomination needed to have grasped, beyond any doubt and without any hesitation, just how big an existential threat to the Republic the current Republican Party is. My candidate had to understand that the GOP is now the party of treason and be under no illusions about the possibility, let alone advisability, of “working with” the GOP as it is currently constituted.

And after that? Elizabeth Warren stands alone.

Your own criteria for a candidate might differ, and that’s fine. And I’m not going to say much negative about other candidates, except for: 1) cleaning up after Donald J. Trump is no job for a federal-government virgin, and 2) serving as president of the United States is no job for a narcissistic billionaire dilettante, of whom the Democrats allowed WAY too many into the race.

I could say a lot of nice things about many of the other Democratic candidates. And given that the base of the Democratic Party is basically women of color now, I would be remiss if I, an old white guy, didn’t admit I’m not entirely comfortable ruling U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris out.

But my criteria were my criteria before any candidate announced, I stand by them, and Sen. Harris made her own call for her own reasons. I understand if you don’t share my preference, but I hope you will.

And, finally know this: I understand that the chances that Warren won’t be the nominee are nontrivial. But I pledge, right here and right now, to support the eventual Democratic nominee with my time, my money, and my vote, whoever he or she turns out to be, because voting for that nominee is the ONLY way to ensure that we make Donald Trump a one-term president and turn him over to the tender mercies of the criminal-justice system — which defending the Republic demands we do. He needs to die in prison in a diaper, his following in the GOP needs to be not just discredited but sentenced to spend at least 40 years in the wilderness, and voting blue is the best and only way to make sure that happens.

So, what happens if Trump gets convicted, or loses in 2020, and refuses to leave?

No one sane wants to think about what might happen, and what might have to be done, if Trump gets convicted or loses in 2020, but refuses to leave office. But the sane people had better start thinking about it, because for damn sure the insane people already are.

I know I would welcome reporting from national news outlets that, without disclosing classified details, makes clear that if Trump refused to leave when the time came, he would be evicted with dispatch and he and anyone who helped him would be prosecuted for sedition. I think it would do a lot to tamp down all this talk by Trump backers of revolting if things didn’t go his way.

And that would be a good thing.

Saturday, December 14, 2019 2:12 pm

We’re not nearly as worried about 2020 election security as we should be

Earlier today I started a Twitter thread on this subject. It ended up being long enough that Twitter was a cumbersome format for reading it, so I’m combining the thread and reposting the content here, with a bit of editing and formatting to make it more like a regular blog post.

A thread of uncertain length on 2020 election security:

I think that up to now, GOP attacks on an honest voting system have been attenuated: They wanted just enough votes to win without, they hoped, attracting much attention. And I think it’s fair to say that that’s what they’ve gotten.

When Jeb Bush and his Secretary of State, Katherine Harris, illegally kicked a bunch of Florida voters off the rolls just before the 2000 election, the attention in the immediate aftermath of the election wasn’t on that act. Rather, it was on recounts, stopping recounts, and hanging ballot chads – all of which were important but missed the bigger picture. It took the investigative work of reporter Greg Palast to bring the voter-roll purge to detailed light in a chapter of his 2002 book, “The Best Democracy Money Can Buy.”

In 2004, the issues seemed to revolve around the state of Ohio rather than Florida, and its secretary of state. There were reports of voting-machine malfunctions and other irregularities that seemed to suggest the possibility of sabotage. But nothing was ever conclusively proven.

Then Obama got elected, and the Republicans seemed to recognize the need for more and better ways to fix the vote. Vote suppression seemed the way to go, which is why Chief Justice John Roberts practically went case-shopping to get Shelby County v. Holder before the high court.

(It didn’t help that Dems stayed home in droves in 2010 because they were mad that Obama didn’t give them a rainbow single-payer health-insurance unicorn or whatever. That temper tantrum put a lot of psycho Republicans in power at all levels and, in Congress, often at the cost of Dems who had voted for the Affordable Care Act.)

Immediately after Shelby County — and I mean “immediately”; some of the bills were pre-written — GOP legislatures across the country began enacting vote-suppression measures. One was voter ID, based on fictitious claims that in-person vote fraud was a widespread problem. Such requirements, of course, usually were accompanied by measures that severely limited the types and availability of complying ID. No state university ID cards, for instance. Availability was limited by limiting the number of locations where one could obtain valid ID, which put a huge burden on people without reliable transportation — the people who disproportionately are minorities and vote Democratic.

And voter-roll purging became more widespread, led by transparent opportunists like then-Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, whose “Crosscheck” program – a sloppy way of matching voter names against lists of convicted felons, say – was adopted by Republicans in more states. (The fact that such efforts appeared to be felony violations of 18 USC 241 was widely overlooked.)

But even that wasn’t enough for the Republicans, so Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign accepted the fruits of Russian hacking of Democrats’ computers.  (The Russians also hacked GOP computers, and while there’s no proof, it’s a popular theory that they found info with which to blackmail some GOP officials into doing their bidding.) And let us not forget Russian manipulation of social media to influence public opinion, using messages targeted to many different relatively small groups of people to try to influence outcomes at the margins.

The result, of course, was that while Trump lost the 2016 popular vote by almost 3 million votes, he won the Electoral College by a mere 80,000 votes divided among just three states: Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

(And don’t get me started on the Electoral College: Its purpose, per the Federalist Papers, was to prevent the election of a demagogue. It has failed in that purpose twice in the past 20 years. Its real purpose was to get slave-owning states to ratify the Constitution, and it serves no useful purpose today and should be scrapped lest our future be that of minority governance. But that’s an issue for a different thread.)

So we know what happened in 2016: Far from being an awful candidate, Hillary Clinton could be defeated only by a perfect storm of a slave-era election mechanism, Russian election sabotage in cahoots with Trump’s campaign, GOP vote suppression, and possible machine hacking.

(The lousy news media coverage of the campaign also immeasurably helped Trump, as did James Comey’s bogus announcement of possible new evidence against Clinton right before the election. But those, too, are subjects for another thread.)

So Trump got in and started criming on Day 1 with violations of the Emoluments Clause. He has crimed away since while weakening our global standing, viciously attacking our most vulnerable Americans, betraying our national security and our allies, and ignoring the existential disaster that is climate change. His popularity remains underwater, and a slight majority of Americans favors his impending impeachment.

Regarding that impeachment: I am under no illusions that the GOP-controlled Senate will vote to convict. McConnell and his party are too corrupt. So our only way of getting rid of this agent of a hostile foreign power is at the polls on Nov. 3.

The problem for the Republicans is that they have become so corrupt, and their corruption so thoroughly intertwined with Trump’s, that they cannot allow Trump to be beaten. If he is, not only is it game over for him, with indictments likely the instant he leaves office, but it’s also game over for them — their tax cuts, their appointment and confirmation of inept and corrupt judges, their profiting from the school-to-prison pipeline and for-profit corrections, and so many, many other scams, particularly if Warren or Sanders wins.

So Republicans must win in 2020 by any means necessary. Any. Means. Necessary. And that means not just stealing the presidency again. That means congressional races, legislative races, you name it. The alternative is too frightening for them to contemplate.

And why shouldn’t they? It’s not like we have a lot of ways to detect and stop it even after the fact, let alone in real time. For example, international voting-rights groups have found that comparing exit polling against ballot counts is a reliable way to detect cheating. But we don’t do that in the U.S. Because of Republican opposition, we have enacted no protections against foreign sabotage of our elections. We do not routinely audit voting machines and elections. We have mandatory recounts in far fewer situations than robust election security would call for. We need to be using voter-hand-marked, voter-verified, hand-counted paper ballots to prevent electoral sabotage and fraud. But because our elections are governed by state and local governments, almost nowhere are we doing so.

Which all brings me to my concern: If the Republicans decide to steal big in 2020 — so big that it becomes obvious to most people, not just interested parties like me — what’s to stop them? We have no standard mechanism for election do-overs. (The do-over this year in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District, which was ordered after widespread absentee-fraud ballot by employees of a Republican candidate, is an exception.) We have no constitutional mechanism for undoing fraudulent elections,  let alone mechanisms for undoing the consequences of fraudulent elections. We can’t fire all the bureaucrats appointed by a fraudulently elected president. We would have to impeach them (and all the judges), one at a time, and then hold individual Senate votes to remove them from office — again, one at a time.

So what’s to stop Republicans from going so big on election theft that everyone is aware of it? Because no one will be able to do anything about it but demonstrate. And the GOP has an answer for that, too. From Trump’s executive order this week about Judaism down to bills in state legislatures, Republicans are seeking to criminalize our First Amendment right to peaceably assemble and petition our government for redress of grievances. So while I have no evidence that suggests the GOP WILL do this, I look at our situation and their corruption and think, well, why WOULDN’T they?

If Americans protested and Republicans tried to put down those protests, we might have riots. And, having no answers to how to fix this, I have to confess that I don’t know which I’m more afraid of: that we might riot, or that we might not.

Friday, December 13, 2019 4:30 pm

Want to know how crooked the Senate Republicans are? Here’s how crooked the Senate Republicans are.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made clear that Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial will be a sham. That would mean that Republican senators would be violating the Constitution, their existing and upcoming oaths to support the Constitution, and the Senate’s own rules. When that happens, Democrats must hold not just Republican senators but all Republican candidates accountable across the board.

With the full House of Representatives scheduled to vote Wednesday on the two articles of impeachment against Donald Trump, The Washington Post has reported that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his Republicans plan on “holding a short impeachment trial early next year that would include no witnesses,” with an immediate vote to acquit.

That would mean that all the witnesses who testified before the House Intelligence, Oversight, and Foreign Affairs committees in recent weeks would not be able to repeat their testimonies in a Senate trial. It also means that Donald Trump would be unable to call witnesses in his own defense; he has said he wants to call House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff, former Vice President Joe Biden, Biden’s son Hunter, and possibly other witnesses. This would be to create a narrative suggesting that rather than abusing his office to try to get Ukraine to announce a corruption probe of the Bidens, as one article of impeachment alleges, Trump actually was urging Ukraine to investigate alleged corruption on the part of the Bidens, the younger of whom sat on the board of a Ukrainian business.

But Republicans, the Post says, would rather just reject the articles and go home.

Can they do that? Probably; Article I, Sec. 3, clause 6 of the Constitution gives the Senate the sole power to try cases of impeachment. Chief Justice John Roberts would preside, but unless an actual lawyer wants to argue otherwise, it looks to me as if the Senate can do as they damned well please in this regard. (That said, I think Roberts would be fine with the Republicans’ plans anyway; he almost always is. His reputation for caring about his and the Supreme Court’s places in history have always struck me as overblown.)

But there’s something else that affects this dynamic, something Senate Republicans really hope you don’t know about: the Senate Rules in Impeachment Trials. This article in The Bulwark helpfully explains how and why the Framers decided that the Senate, rather than the Supreme Court, should try impeachment cases, and how those rules come into play:

Hamilton reported that the Court lacked the political fortitude to weather the storm that would attend any verdict: the Court’s legitimacy as a final tribunal for ordinary legal disputes would be undermined if it took on the issue of high politics as well. The Court might be able to mitigate partisanship, but it would risk its own legitimacy in doing so.

The Senate, on the other hand, was a more promising venue because it was a political body, but not as tightly tethered to factionalism and political passion as the House. It was designed to take a longer view and was therefore a promising site for such extraordinary trials.

But, you say, today’s Senate is tightly tethered to factionalism. And you’re right. But the Framers thought about that, too:

The idea was that rather than lowering the Supreme Court down to high politics, the Senate would be raised up. To raise the Senate up to the demands of high politics, the Framers decided that the Senate would need to recompose itself into a new institution—an impeachment court. (Emphasis in the original — Lex)

This transformation was serious enough that senators would have to take a new oath of office.

According to Article I, section 3, clause 6 of the Constitution, senators, when sitting on a trial of impeachment, “shall be on Oath or Affirmation.” When they are elected to the Senate, all senators swear a general Oath to uphold the Constitution.

But the Oath taken in an impeachment trial is different. It is a juror’s oath and a judge’s oath—not a legislator’s oath. Rule XXV of the Senate Rules in Impeachment Trials provides the text: “I solemnly swear (or affirm) that in all things appertaining to the trial of ____, now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help me God.”

For an impeachment trial of a president, the chief justice of the Supreme Court presides. He can be overruled by a majority vote of the other judges/jurors—which is to say the senators. But it is vital to remember that the Constitution asks them to remember that they are not sitting as senators, but now as judges and jurors.

So much so that for this brief period the senators are all equal. For the course of the trial the roles of Majority and Minority Leader, President Pro Tem, Committee Chairs, Whips, and so forth no longer exist. For the duration of the trial the Senate is a literally new institution with new rules, new norms, and new responsibilities.

The more people who understand that, the more people will see that any attempt by Senate Republicans not to have a full and fair airing of the facts — or to acquit Donald Trump in the face of these facts — is constitutionally flawed and violates the Senate’s own impeachment rules. Democrats need to point that out in real time during the trial as well as afterwards.

And afterwards, Democrats in every 2020 race, from president down to dogcatcher, need to hang that corruption, that violated oath, like a putrescent albatross carcass around the neck of not just every Republican senator, but every Republican running for office in 2020, from Dump down to dogcatcher.

I am not optimistic that Democrats will win the White House in 2020. I think it’s entirely possible that the Democratic nominee can win the popular vote by 5 million and still lose the Electoral College through a combination of Russian sabotage, hacked voting machines, and GOP vote suppression in key swing states including North Carolina. But if there’s a way to win this election by a margin too big to steal, this is it.

A pep talk when the good guys badly need one

My friend Dan Conover posted something on Facebook Thursday that was so good that, with his permission, I’m sharing it. I’ll have a minor footnote of my own at the end.

* * *

The news is awful these days. Or should I say, the Republican *response* to the news is awful. Grinds the soul. Shreds hope. And the natural reaction is to retreat into pessimism. After all, what can we do?

Well, here’s a pep talk from history, and it’s as much for me as you.

On March 15, 1781, a fragile and reconstituted American Army under General Nathaniel Greene — a Quaker — finally turned to fight a pursuing British Army commanded by Lord Cornwallis at a place called Guilford Courthouse.

Greene’s army outnumbered Cornwallis’ redcoats, but that barely concerned the British commander. His army was comprised of battle-hardened professionals. The bulk of Greene’s force were simple militiamen. Locals with no experience or training. The kind of unreliable amateur fighters Cornwallis had routed time and again in the South.

How would such men stand up to cannon fire and bayonet charges in a major battle?

Greene, who understood both the limitations and the value of his militiamen, deployed them as the first defensive line the British would encounter. Before the battle commenced, he visited those nervous citizen soldiers, and gave them simple instructions: Hit the enemy hard once once or twice, then run like hell.

When I was a kid visiting the battleground in Greensboro, N.C., I felt disappointed to read that plaque. Reports that many of the militia fled the field after just one volley didn’t exactly fill me with Tar Heel pride in those days.

Now I understand Greene’s wisdom. He knew untrained irregulars under untested leadership couldn’t be counted on to hold up through the prolonged chaos of battle. But he also knew that he couldn’t win without them. That’s why he put them up front and kept things simple. Hit the Redcoats one good lick.

And brother, did they.

Cornwallis sent his best, most veteran infantry unit marching across the field toward that Carolina militia, bayonets affixed to enormous Brown Bess muskets. Just the sight of the Empire’s fearsome soldiers had sent previous backwoods militias running for home.

But those untrained Tar Heels stood their ground until the enemy was right in front of them — and unleashed a devastating 1,500-gun volley. An officer in the Scottish infantry unit that received that volley, the 71st Regiment of Foot, later described how it mowed down half of his proud Highlanders in an instant.

Some of those Carolina farmers ran off after that. Others stuck around to reload and try again. Some stood their ground and died on it.

But they did the job that was needed. And it mattered.

By the time the advancing Redcoats reached Greene’s Continental regulars, the British casualties were so high, and their tactical situation was so dire, that Cornwallis did the unthinkable. He ordered his cannon to fire, point blank, into the hand-to-hand melee in front of him.

Again, Greene was wise. Rather than have his precious Continentals cut to shreds by cannon, he ordered a retreat. Cornwallis slaughtered as many of his troops as ours with that order, but that’s why history records Guilford Courthouse as a British victory.

A truly Pyrrhic victory. Modern historians consider Guilford Courthouse to be the decisive battle of the Southern Campaign — and the singular disaster that forced Cornwallis to Yorktown, where his surrender to General George Washington seven months later effectively ended the American Revolution.

Like the militiamen of 1781, we don’t have to be superheroes. We don’t have to win every battle. We just have to show up when it counts, and do the job.

And we’ve been doing it, too. Instead of shrinking from the clear and present danger last year, we showed up in force in November 2018. That’s how we won back the House of Representatives, and our votes 13 months ago are why Trump’s Ukraine treason is bound for an impeachment trial in the Senate.

Sure, Trump’s base still doesn’t get it. But there were plenty of Lindsey Graham-ish Tories in the Carolinas during the Revolutionary War, too. They were on the wrong side then. They’re on the wrong side now. Fuck ’em. March on.

And no, we’re not likely to remove Trump from office in the Republican Senate. But so what if Trump wins a sham trial in that McConnell-controlled chamber? As British politician Charles James Fox wrote after learning of Cornwallis’ “win” at Guilford Courthouse, “Another such victory would ruin the British Army!”

It’s not going to be easy between now and the election. Our enemies know they’re outnumbered, which means they’re going to pull every dirty trick they know to break our morale and keep us away from the polls on Nov. 3, 2020.

Our side is going to make mistakes, too. It’s nature of conflict. Get your mind right for it.

But if we show up and vote when it counts? Like those nervous North Carolina farmers taking their one shot in 1781, we’ll make history.

Don’t we owe them that?

* * *

Lex again. I have lived in Greensboro for more than 30 years. Not only have I visited the battleground site numerous times, as a reporter I covered the commemoration of the battle more than once. Yet never before has anyone explained to me how and why the Continental troops achieved what they did as well as Dan has. Thanks, pal.

 

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