On a Sunday afternoon, February 23, 2020, a retired police investigator, Greg McMichael, 64, sees a young black man, Ahmaud Arbery, 25, jogging down the street past McMichael’s house. As it has been described, McMichael goes on “high alert.” He calls out to his son Travis McMichael who also lives in the neighborhood, grabs his 357 Magnum and runs to his white pick up truck. Travis McMichael grabs a 12-gage shotgun and jumps into the driver’s seat.
Arbery is jogging down the street with no cell phone, no weapon, wearing jogging clothes.
The two men, the McMichaels, later claimed that they were on high alert because they recognized the young man. They (with amazing rapidity) formed a self-appointed posse to hunt the young man down.
Ahmaud Arbery was a jogger. He had jogged in the Satilla Shores neighborhood before. In fact, this was part of the reason the two men (joined by another) pursued him. The McMichaels claimed that Arbery had been observed on video tape, entering a house in the area which was under construction.
The owner of the house under construction had set up the video equipment and had also viewed the tapes. Nothing he saw on the tapes alarmed him. There was a curious white couple who entered the house, a group of white young people who carted off pieces of wood. Arbery has also been filmed wandering around the house and leaving without disturbing anything. The owner didn’t call 911. He didn’t even notify the authorities.
But, evidently, there was a buzz in the neighborhood about trespassers. I would be willing to bet my bottom dollar this buzz wasn’t about the white couple, or the white kids who stole from the site. It was about a young black man daring to act like any number of other people fulfilling their curiosity about the new construction.
This is the kind of “buzz” that leads to two white men arming themselves in a matter of minutes and hunting down a young black man on the street. This is the kind of “buzz” that gins up hyper vigilance for men who see themselves as protectors of white privilege. It makes them feel special, like heros, like warriors. They love it.
And, they thought they were perfectly justified in arming themselves, jumping into a truck and pursuing another human being, cutting off his escape and murdering him in the street.
On a Sunday afternoon, February 23, 2020, Ahmaud Arbery jogged through a neighborhood in Glynn County, Georgia. He had jogged in the neighborhood before.
But, this jog ended with a retired police investigator and his son, Greg and Travis McMichaels, jumping into their pick up truck and pursuing Arbery. They shot Arbery in the street and killed him.
For nearly three months, the police, prosecutors, and press DID NOTHING. Only when a video of the killing surfaced on social media was national attention focused on the case and the total lack of action about the murder.
Another man in the Satilla shores neighborhood phoned 911 about Arbery jogging. After a few seconds, the caller said: “He’s running now” referring to Arbery. The 911 operator asked: “What is he doing?” Then, she asked: “I just need to know what he was doing wrong.”
Every citizen of this country needs to listen to the podcast about the murder of Ahmaud Arbery based on an investigation conducted by members of Emory University.
The Republicans are turning a massive failure of infrastructure and privatization in Texas into a condemnation of renewable energy. Even the Governor of the State is on national television spewing lies and disinformation.
Gov. Greg Abbott, on Fox News, said that the problem was caused by renewable energy systems.
Officials were told in 2011 that they needed to winterize the Texas system. But, the State of Texas didn’t make that winterization and other changes obligatory. Because the grid is operated by private companies, allowed to make as much profit as they can, the State failed to winterize and now we are watching people lose their lives.
Message #1: Don’t elect people to run government that don’t believe in government.
Message #2: Capitalism is going to kill us.
Message #3: We are living in a failed state.
On MSNBC, Joe Scarborough is complaining about networks allowing Donald Trump to phone in and spout lies. Morning Joe gave Donald Trump millions in free air time in 2015 and 2016.
Every morning, Trump was phoning in to Morning Joe and lying.
Georgia: Glynn County Police Department
Ahmaud Arbery was killed in Glynn County, Georgia on the street, murdered by a former police investigator and his son.
Police made no arrests and allowed Arbery to lay on the ground while they released the man and his son.
The only reason the two men are in jail now is because a video of the killing was released to the press.
In 2020, the County Commission prevented the citizens of Glynn County from voting to abolish this police agency.
The agency has been fraught with controversy and illegal behavior.
The former chief of police was indicted, the Narcotics Unit was disbanded, officers killed a woman in her car and failed to remove an officer who had a history of assaultive behavior. This officer went to the house of his ex-girlfriend and shot her, her new male friend and himself.
Now, the County is paying a consulting firm to tell them who to hire as Police Chief. In addition, they are hiring a former “mentor” of one of the council members to also tell them who to hire.
The County gave the consulting contract to a company that didn’t even have the words “community policing” in their proposal. The proposal was the shortest of all those submitting, two pages.
Georgia: Voting Systems
The Republicans in the state legislature are on their way to pass some of the most restrictive voting rules in the country.
The new laws would prohibit the use of mail-in ballots for almost everybody.
Republicans depend on people not being able to vote.
Joe Scarborough, both-sideser in chief and head MSNBC misogynist is at it again this morning joined by his usual kiss ass crew. He got in a little trouble yesterday by repeatedly asking guests whether it was necessary to impeach Trump. The dreadful Mika told him to stop and he responded like the petulant bully he is, by berating her and trying to embarrass her on national television.
This morning, he and Peter Baker are trying to figure out how “we” can work with the Republicans like James Langford, who have suddenly had an attack of conscience over trying to overthrow an election.
But, for Scarborough and Baker, that’s just a minor blip. Sedition? Just apologize and Scarborough will find a way to launder your reputation (if you are a Repubican).
Baker’s contribution to this was to lament the fact that, in his words, both sides have decided to go back into their partisan corners. Equal corners, right? One side is providing the rationale for sedition and the other is trying to restore democracy, but they are both equally to blame.
On to other matters.
On Ari Melber’s MSNBC show last night, Eugene Robinson (Mr. Mild Manners himself) said that the Republicans created this division and now they are buying body armor.
AOC was evidently so afraid when the attack was going on, she was fearful of going into a safe room with Republicans. She thought they might lead the attackers to her. It was not an unreasonable suspicion since one of the members of the House was texting out the location of Nancy Pelosi.
Lindsey Graham characterized the impeachment proceedings as “sheer hatred.” I can’t wait to find out why Graham did a 180 turn to support Trump. Maybe if Trump gets more and more frustrated, he will start to spill the dirt.
Rep Madeleine Dean, who will be one of the impeachment managers said “Lindsay Graham knows better.” “You too” she said referring to Graham, “are complicit…”
Trump evidently brought Bannon back into the sedition circle. Roger Stone was the one who came up with the “Stop the Steal” rallying cry.
Tony Schwartz is saying that Trump is now moving “between rage and delusion.” And that Trump has unleashed forces that we may well see become more powerful in the future.
Peter Strzok, former FBI, expressed “frustration and anger” at the lack of preparedness at the Capitol. If you look at other events, Strzok argued: “The government can secure the capitol when it wants to and that didn’t happen here.” Strzok said that the tour groups that evidently went through the Capitol the day before the assault needed to be “looked into.”
Elizabeth Newmann, former Assistant Secretary for Threat Presentation and Security Policy at DHS, explained that the Terrorist Watch List is a separate list from the No Fly List and is broader, larger. She says it includes “suspected white supremacists.” But, she also said, this list functions more as an alert system than a surveillance system. If, for example, someone got arrested, law enforcement could run the name and the person would show up as on this Terrorist Watch List. But, there is no ongoing surveillance on these people. So, they could all decide to go to Washington at the same time and go and there would be no automatic alert because of this list.
Last night, Rachael Maddow was commenting on the absurdity of having people on this list, but not knowing that they were all converging on the same problematic location. The only way law enforcement could know this is if these people were under constant surveillance and I’m not sure that’s what we want.
A number of people are already pointing out on Twitter and in articles that this siege of the Capitol may well end up working to the disadvantage of legitimate protest. As always, it’s easy to argue for more surveillance of individuals when they are opposed to you politically. But, these same surveillance measures can be turned quickly against legitimate protest.
I heard no discussion yesterday of the way in which a person might be put on this Terrorist Watch List. Once on this list, are you ever taken off? What surveillance measures can the government take after you are put on this list? These are questions we need to answer.
Newman, after explaining the list, went on to say that there was “no excuse for the lack of preparation” at the capitol. She pointed out that that the Executive Branch, while reluctant to tell another branch of government what to do, has a “duty to warn” of dangerous situations. They, for example, should have issued a “Joint Intelligence Bulletin.” They did not. “They knew that violence was planned” Newman continued. “You always assume the worst, prepare for the worst…”
Petef Strzok expressed disappointment that we had not heard from Director Wray. He wondered whether the FBI attempted to warn other agencies but was prevented from doing so. Strzok didn’t say by whom.
Anna Palmer noted that since the COVID outbreak, the Capitol had been like a “ghosttown.” She noted the extensive security measures for even going into the Capitol as a reporter. “It’s been months since people were even around” she noted. These tours were highly unusual.
Biden has named Jamaal Bowman head of the DNC. It has not escaped notice that Bowman is against Medicare For All.
And, lastly, in Georgia…
I had an interesting exchange with a friend on Facebook. He commented that when the FBI asked all these low-level attackers who are being arrested if they had any coordination or contact with Congressmen or Trump, they would flip and implicate them.
I responded: True, if the FBI agents ask them.
Now, as usual, he took exception to this. Most people, especially those who have worked around law enforcement accept a law enforcement ethos. They resist any aspersions on the integrity of the force, even confronted with daily evidence to the contrary.
He responded in a curious way. First he said that I shouldn’t paint all agents with a “broad brush.” Seemed to me that he was painting them with a broad brush, just assuming that the FBI would be trying to turn offenders on higher ups. Why this assumption is made, I don’t know.
We have just witnessed years of the most curious behavior on the part of the FBI and the Justice Department in recent memory. Why did James Comey make public the absurd reopening of the investigation of Hillary Clinton right before the 2016 election? Why did he within the past few days argue publicly that Biden should pardon Trump? What was going on in the New York City office of the FBI in 2016 that almost lead to a work stoppage? These are just a few threads that need to be followed up here. In addition, why was the Justice Department so easily compromised by Jeff Sessions and then Bill Barr? Why was the Mueller investigation so limited as to make it meaningless?
I’m sorry, but I just don’t think we can assume that all those FBI agents out there are crusaders for justice especially when it comes to investigating people at the top of the food chain. (See Jesse Eisinger’s “The Chickenshit Club.)
Then, my friend said that the last time he talked to me I was (overly) concerned “dismayed” with voter suppression in Georgia, and Georgia had become the beacon of election security. Georgia, he said had become the “honest election state that is saving democracy. What truly happened?”
Now, I have no idea what this last paragraph has to do with FBI agents working overtime to get dirt on powerful Congressmen, but there you are.
I find the statement amazing. I fully realize that the media, prone as they are to simplistic narratives, is trying to make heroes out of Raffensperger, Sterling and Kemp, but anybody who reads should know that Georgia is far from a beacon of hope.
Brian Kemp’s government spent a fortune on a fancy new voting machine system. And they conducted a propaganda operation by replacing all the “I voted” material with “I secured my Vote.” It was all a propaganda operation. I did poll worker training in Georgia before the general and I left at lunch and didn’t go back. It was obvious to me then that the new system was unwieldy and full of holes. The measures taken to “secure the vote” were geared toward security threats in the 19th century. Nobody could answer questions about hacking into the system.
Even though the media has touted “paper ballots” as an indication of transparency, in Georgia, they are not really “paper ballots.”
The ballots are marked by a machine. Then, the voter gets a sheet of paper which has his choices printed on it. The voter is supposed to check these choices to make sure they are right. But, the scanners that count the votes do not even register the words printed on the ballot. They count a bar code at the bottom of the ballot. The voter cannot read the bar code. The poll workers cannot read the bar code. I don’t think anybody outside of the Voting Machine company can read the bar codes. It’s protected by law. What kind of state of affairs is that?
Before the general election, Brian Kemp’s government made a decision that any recount in Georgia would be done by simply feeding the same ballots (with the same bar codes) through the scanners again.
In short, Georgia spent a fortune on a voting system that is impenetrable. They regularly send out “experts” who claim that the system cannot be hacked. But, Jennifer Cohn, Jonathan Simon and the Coalition for Good Governance have repeatedly offered evidence that at best, we don’t know this.
In addition, Kemp is the king of voter suppression. That’s how he won a race against Stacey Abrams for governor. Raffensperger and Sterling were in the voter suppression game up to their eye balls. Kemp, Raffensperger and Sterling are like the guys who are willing to drive the getaway car, but not willing to go into the liquor store with the gun.
Just in case you hadn’t heard…Kyle Rittenhouse is out on bail and sitting in a bar drinking and yucking it up with the Proud Boys. Reality Winner has COVID and in still in jail. I know she’s not receiving her mail because I have a box of returned letters.
Ali Velshi of MSNBC started last night trying to push what I can only suppose will be the corporate media line, i.e. that the election in Georgia had nothing to do with policy. It had nothing to do with voters choosing one view of the future and the way to get there over another.
Velshi said that the wins in Georgia were not due to “ideology.” This is the quote:
“What happened here in Georgia…This stopped being a Republican versus Democrat thing in Georgia and became a referendum on everything that was going on – on the Senate, on federal politics, on Perdue and Loeffler who are two of the richest senators alive, Loeffler is in a whole different field of her own….they were involved with stock trading. This was not a battle of ideology, Democratic versus liberal ideology or conservative versus liberal ideology.”
Later on in the night, Kimberly Atkins handed Velshi his head on a plate. She talked about the “issues that drove them to the polls,” like criminal justice reform. And, she said, these voters have a sense of “urgency” about change. They want something “beyond forming commissions.” And they are going to let Biden know.
But, Velshi couldn’t help himself. He had to take another shot at progressives by claiming that they “sat on their hands” in 2016.
Whenever there is anything like a progressive win, or a demonstration that the corporate democrats are on the wrong track in terms of fighting for power, the corporate media consolidates like a fist. They did it after Sanders won Nevada.
Jamil Smith (Rolling Stone) was on the same panel with Kimberly Atkins. He also put Velshi right about what was going on. He noted that Abrams decided to “turn out the people who are already on our side” rather than going after people who aren’t. For four years corporate Democrats like Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden and the DNC have courted independents and republicans rather than try to appeal to their own base.
“At what point” Smith asked, “do you act like you are in charge” and stop trying to negotiate with “people who have promoted hatred and lies about you.” When are the Democrats going to start to “….act like they have a mandate? “At what point do you act like you belong there…you’re in charge?”
Trump most likely lost because of mail in ballots. So…
The Georgia state senators pledged on Tuesday to eliminate no-excuse absentee voting, require a photo ID to obtain a ballot, outlaw drop boxes and scrap a court agreement to quickly tell voters about signature problems on ballots so that they could be fixed…new york times.
Jennifer Cohn, an election security advocate, writer, and attorney is essential reading if you are at all interested in fair elections. One of the downsides to Biden winning the 2020 election is that everybody wants to go home, drink and relax. As women keep saying to me, they want to get back to “normal.” But, “normal” brought us here and as in the quote from Thomas Wolfe: “You can’t go home again.” Normal, or what people are referring to as normal, is over. It will never return, at least not in our lifetimes. In fact, normal on the political scene has been over for a long time, at least since 2000. Most people just never noticed.
I don’t claim to understand what happened in the election of 2020. I was certain that the Republicans would cheat electronically just like they cheated when wiping hundreds of thousands of people off the voter rolls, enacting laws that acted as voter suppression, closed down polling places, decreased hours for voting, sabotaged the post office in an attempt to slow if not stall the movement of votes and tried the best they could to restrict mail-in voting.
They lost at least at the presidential level. They didn’t lose outright at the state level. The Democrats actually lost seats in the House and they are fighting for their lives in the Senate. Once again, the polls predicted a landslide for Biden. He barely squeaked through. They predicted losses in the Senate, but Collins and McConnell and others won. The two Republicans running for Senate in Georgia will most probably win.
But, since we cannot see into the vote count, because machines count our votes and partisans in the race control the voting process, how would we know what happened, really?
As Jennifer Cohn tweeted today:
• “Polls predicted Trump would lost in a landslide, Rs blocked robust election audits (#SAFEAct), GOP senate wins are red shifted, voters lack means to investigate, DEM leaders won’t do it, and Rs are the ones screaming fraud. I see no progress toward evidence-based elections.”
• “Evidence-based elections are the only way to know if electronic election outcomes are legitimate. They require hand Marked Paper Ballots plus robust manual audits plus a secure and transparent (perhaps videotaped) chain of custody through conclusion of the audit.”
• “I worry we win a battle only to soon lose a war.”
• “The next four years will be hell if the GOP maintains control of the Senate. The next election could be hell too. And I see no Democrats discussing the possibility that the GOP cheated. I hope they are just waiting until Ds Hopefully win the senate.”
• “…Those of us not in Congress must…continue to sound the alarm re some of these unexpected red shifts and other anomalies favoring Rs.”
• “…Rs and right-wing media will spend the next 4 years claiming falsely that Biden is illegitimate when it was Republicans that blocked progress toward evidence-based elections and, if anything, it is suspicious that Trump and the GOP did as well as they did.”
• “We cannot let Rs spin this faulty narrative…the GOP steadfastly blocked efforts to move to evidence-based elections and that DeJoy engaged in highly suspect conduct with vote by mail. WE MUST STAND FOR EVIDENCE BASED ELECTIONS.
Republicans are furious with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and SOS Brad Raffensperger because even with a new $150 million voting machine system, they couldn’t reliably deliver a win for Trump and two Republican Senators. The two senate candidates, Perdue and Loeffler, called for Raffensperger’s resignation. Kemp, it will be remembered, is widely thought in Georgia to have stolen the governorship from Stacey Abrams in 2018.
Given the amount of voter suppression, the millions spent in overt propaganda to convince Georgians that their voting machine system was “secure,” and the black-box nature of machines which cannot be meaningfully audited, the only reason Kemp and Raffensperger couldn’t deliver is the large number of mail in ballots that were cast.
Geogia’s highly touted “secured” voting system, includes paper ballots with the voter’s printed choice of candidate on them. One big problem is that the scanner that counts the votes, doesn’t count the words printed on the page. The scanners count a barcode at the bottom of the page that neither the voter nor the voting officials can read. Many people, like me, voted by mail because this allowed circumventing the Ballot-marking devices and the barcode scanners.
So now, Kemp and Raffensperger are scrambling to save their political careers. Even though there is a large margin for Biden in the state, they have announced that there will be a recount. Yesterday (November 11) Raffensperger announced that the recount would be a hand recount of every ballot. He even made jokes about the amount of overtime that would cost counties to do such a recount. I’m not sure they shared his humor.
Jennifer Cohn and others have been on twitter, however, pointing out that the SOS has no authority to mandate a hand recount, so the legality of this proposal is dubious. Several other Georgia watchers have also pointed out that lawyers representing Trump in litigation about the election are also representing the State of Georgia. This conflict of interest has not been explained.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Georgia state law requires an audit but leaves up to elections officials the choice of race. This leaves the people in charge of the election in charge of determining what race to audit. Officials in Georgia have chosen the presidential race to recount rather than the senate races. The certification deadline in Georgia is November 20. It is unclear how counties in Georgia (where they are already pleading for volunteers to help monitor the recount) are going to do a total hand recount by the deadline for certification. This may in fact be the game.
Not long ago a friend of mine was complaining about MSNBC. “I don’t watch MSNBC anymore,” he said. “I’m tired of the blame game.”
I didn’t question the statement since I figured I’d already pushed the conversation to its limit. That means, I had already opened my mouth at least once. In this day and age, for me, that’s always one too many times.
I spent almost ten years living outside the country, missed the entire 80s, while this country was going through what another friend referred to as the “moving right show.” When I returned to the country, I usually refrained from talking about politics since my perspective was radically different from almost anybody I socialized with on a regular basis. And, I was a writer. You don’t need to talk to people about politics and law if you write about them. In fact, most of the time, it’s the last thing you want to talk about.
The past four years, however, have not only pushed me further to the left than I already was (which was pretty far to the left), but made me believe that it was possible to talk to other people about politics since the Trump/Republican crime family was openly dismantling everything decent there ever was about the society.
But, what I quickly found was that even though people wanted to grouse, when you got right down to it, they didn’t want to do much more. What most people wanted was to 1) vent and to 2) “get back to normal.” They didn’t much appreciate it when I pointed out that “normal” was what got us Trump.
In the past four years I have been infuriated, disgusted, and repelled by Trump and the Republican party. But, my real rage has been provoked by Democrats. I suppose you expect the worst from your enemies, but when you see it coming from your friends, it is both disheartening and alienating.
Early on in 2016, after Trump was elected and people (even in Georgia) started to mobilize, I had an exchange with one of the group of women I call the “southern ladies” that summed up my dilemma.
We were at a street demonstration peopled largely by the elderly and women. (I am both.) An acquaintance said: Now, we have to be careful that we’re respectful. I looked at her and blinked. “Why?” I asked. She looked back at me and blinked herself. Neither of us could understand what on earth the other was talking about.
I have spent the past four years trying to understand what she was talking about, what the Democratic Party was talking about. I have been dumfounded, utterly dumbfounded by people who act like the worst thing in the world would be to be perceived by other people as “disrespectful.”
Now, I grew up in the South where being rude was a cardinal sin. But we are watching the destruction of democracy, the transformation of a country into an authoritarian kleptocratic state and people, grown people, are worried about whether or not they will be perceived by the people dismantling democracy as disrespectful. I don’t get it.
And, it’s not only regular people. I sit and watch hearing after hearing where Democrats are in a position to expose the utter corruption and rot that is characteristic of the Republican party and Senator after Senator, Representative after Representative virtually gets down on their hands and knees and apologizes for asking questions. It disgusts me and enrages me.
And, as if things weren’t bad enough, the week after Diane Feinstein went out of her way to grovel at the feet of Lindsay Graham and possibly cost the Democrats a crucial Senate seat, Democrats have already started promising Republicans not to hold them accountable for the crimes that brought us to this point. Democrats, like my friend, might call this “the blame game” but in my neck of the intellectual woods we call it justice. And I am a believer in justice.
We would not even be here, on this precarious knife edge, if there was justice in this country for white collar, corporate and political criminals. Donald Trump, Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, and many others would not even be in a position to hold office if we had a criminal justice system that prosecuted the crimes of the wealthy. They would be in jail. Instead, they control the government.
And, already, even before the Democrats have won the election *, they are already trying to bow down and promise they will not hold accountable the people who have done everything in their power to steal and degrade democracy. On Nicolle Wallace’s show on Monday, Rick Stengel found it necessary to point out one of the things that he thought was “lovely about the Biden campaign.” Lovely? This thing was that the Biden campaign talks about “bringing the country together [in a way that] is not about recrimination, not about punishing people who may have made a mistake.” We need, says Stengel to be “moving ahead.”
I have been saying for months that people who think that a Biden administration will do anything to hold the Trump/Republican crime family to account are delusional. Biden will do exactly what Obama did in the face of people who had recklessly and greedily brought down an economy. He will say that we need to “move on.” People like Rick Stengel are just paving the way.
George Bush used the Justice Department to create a fictional legal foundation for the use of torture, but Obama said we should move forward not backward.
Every time leadership evades responsibility for holding criminals accountable for their crimes, it paves the way for more crime. Barak Obama and Eric Holder paved the way for Trump as surely as if they had nominated him as the candidate of the Republican party.
*I do not believe that the Democrats will win the “election.” I believe the Republicans will steal it.
A discussion of politics, law, justice, and crime.