• At the beginning of the pandemic, because of the total lack of a federal plan to deal with the problem, New York spent $1.1 billion for supplies to deal with the crisis. According to the New York Times (NYT) Both the state and city governments entered into contracts rushing to try to deal with the pandemic. Now they are trying to avoid paying vendors who they say didn’t deliver on time, and making void contracts now that the crisis has abated. The New York Times called the behavior a “frantic buying spree.” But, this buying “spree” was the result of the lack of a federal plan and the decision to allow states to bid against each other for emergency supplies. (See NYT, 12/17/20)
• Several health care workers in Alaska have had severe reactions to the new vaccine. There is no coverage of the idea that rational people may be reluctant to have a vaccine because it was developed under the Trump administration. There are almost weekly stories about the Trump administration’s successful influence over the CDC. The corporate media is filled with stories about how black people and reluctance to get the vaccine. To give you an idea of how in touch these corporate media people are, one commentator noted that black people were reluctant to get the vaccine because of the Tuskeegee “airmen.” (NYT, 12/17/20)
• The Judiciary is time bomb waiting to explode. (NYT, 12/17/20) The NYT reviewed more than 10,000 published decisions and dissents during the first three years of the Trump administration. Trump appointees were “more likely…to disagree with peers selected by Democrats…” and “more likely to agree with their Republican colleagues.” The “published opinions from the nations’ appeals courts this year show that Trump appointees stand out from other judges…” The “conservative imprint” is only deepening. One of the reasons we managed to escape another Trump term is the federal judiciary. But, that is the reason Mitch McConnell is packing the federal courts with “right-thinking” judges. Next time, these judges may side with even the most outrageous lawsuits to maintain the power of the Republican party. McConnell has encouraged federal judges to retire to make room for these more radical colleagues. (NYT, 12/17/20)
• The new version of the stimulus bill doesn’t include the get out of jail fee card for corporations wanted by McConnell (NYT 12/17/20)
What Elie Mystal calls the “elite industrial complex” has already started, before the election(which the Democrats are convinced they are going to win) to make the case for allowing Trump and the Republican crime family escape accountability for all the crimes they have committed not least of which is an attempt to subvert democracy and turn this into an authoritarian kleptocratic state.
We wouldn’t even have a crime network running the government, had we a functioning criminal justice system for white collar, corporate and political criminals. Just take your pick from the various scandals and crimes the Trump family has been accused of ( sexual assault against women, including marital rape; defrauding the U.S. government through racial discrimination in housing; tax fraud; consumer fraud through Trump University; tenant intimidation; bankruptcy fraud; use of undocumented workers, including models; casino fraud; antitrust violations; money laundering; refusing to pay workers and contractors; charitable foundation fraud through the Trump Foundation; various frauds and scams related to ties with organized crime). As Jeff Wise has written in the New Yorker: “His entire life, after all, is one long testament to the power of getting away with things, a master class in criminality without consequences..”
But the elite industrial complex has already started working over time to pave the way for minimizing, normalizing and burying Trump’s crimes.
On October 16, the Washington Post published an astounding article by Jill Lepore who claimed to be responding to a suggestion by Chris Hayes that “if we survive this” (meaning the Trump administration,) we should establish a truth and reconciliation commission. She noted that NPR did a piece about a truth and reconciliation commission the same week.
“This is a terrible idea.” She wrote.
Lepore then reminded the reader that this country has a tradition of a “peaceful transfer of power” and of conceding an election “without violence.” What she didn’t point out was that there is nothing, nothing about a truth and reconciliation commission that implies a non-peaceful transfer of power or a resort to violence. Lepore is, therefore, objecting to something that has never been proposed, setting up a straw man to knock it down. This is how she starts.
Lepore then goes on to quote Thomas Jefferson. “If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated, where reason is left free to combat it.”
Lepore is arguing that the crime spree that has taken place in the past four years, calls for violence, threats not to allow an election, reminders by the likes of Mike Lee of Utah that the goal is not democracy, are just errors of opinion. No. These are not errors of opinion. Shaping foreign policy to fulfill your own personal agenda and financial interests instead of that of the country is not an “error of opinion.” Soliciting a bribe from the leader of another country, proposing to release public money in exchange for dirt on a political opponent is not an “error of opinion.” I could go on for pages if not books in this vein, but you get the point. Only an imbecile or a propagandist would call these errors of opinion.
The quote itself ends with a phrase that contradicts Lepore’s premise. Jefferson says to let these folks stand undisturbed “where reason is left free to combat” their wishes to dissolve the union or change its republican form. But, reason is not free to combat this effort at replacing a democratic system with an autocracy. We have Fox News churning out propaganda 24 hours a day. We have social media promoting the worst, most base fear mongering propaganda 24 hours a day. No. Reason is not “left free to combat” the threat. So the quote Lepore’s using contradicts the argument she is advancing.
Lepore then quotes Justice Robert Jackson, chief counsel for the U.S. at the Nuremberg trials. “The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant and so devastating that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored, because it cannot survive their being repeated.”
Once again, Leopre’s own quote belies her entire argument. The crimes and attacks on democracy and justice by the Republicans have indeed been “calculated,” “malignant” and “so devastating that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored.” And, democracy “cannot survive their being repeated.”
I am not at all convinced that Joe Biden will even win the election. The Republicans have been working for decades to install a system of voter suppression, stuffing the courts with right-wing religious zealots, voting system manipulation, data mining through social media (Cambridge Analytica) and legislation that erodes voting rights. They have too much to lose to allow a Biden win and I do not think they will do so. And withe Supreme Court packed with right-wing ideologues who have no respect for the law, I doubt we will get another chance to hold a fair election.
Lepore goes on to assert that Trump was elected in a “fair election.” But, there is evidence that this is not the case. A former president of the United States, Jimmy Carter, an expert in election security, has said as much. We have indictments of Russian nationals who hacked computer systems. We have a Mueller report that details the handing over of computer voting information to the Russians by Paul Manafort. And, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Lepore self-righteously asserts that truth and reconciliation commissions don’t take place after democratic elections. Well, that may well not have been a democratic election.
And, then, idiotically enough, Lepore just asserts, without question, that we can trust “investigative journalism, a functioning judiciary, legislative deliberation and action and dissent” to solve any problems caused by the crime spree of the last four years.
Well, investigative journalism is the first thing to go in newsrooms taken over by conglomerates and has been gutted. We certainly don’t have investigative journalism from television networks that are owned by corporations. The Republicans have worked for decades to stock the courts with ideologues who have no respect for law, but for dogma and some of whom have even been deemed incompetent by their own Bar Association. Mitch McConnell bragged recently on Fox News that he totally blocked any legislative agenda the Obama administration had in the last six years Obama was in office. And, we just had an impeachment process where Republicans in the Senate voted not to even hear evidence against the President, let alone convict him. Dissent has been met with violence and illegal surveillance of the protestors, and Lepore is suggesting we rely on people protesting during a pandemic.
In short, this essay is idiocy and the fact that the Washington Post published it is a travesty. But, as Elie Mystal notes, it’s the “elite industrial complex at work.” Rick Stengel was on MSNBC waxing poetic about the “lovely” way in which the Biden campaign refused to engage in recriminations. And, Joe Biden is part of this complex. As Lepore points out, Biden has already said that pursuing charges against Trump officials is “probably not very…good for democracy.”
“We are facing too many crises, we have too much work to do, we have too bright a future to have it shipwrecked on the shoals of anger and hate and division.” This was Biden at Gettysburg, delivering a speech that had been carefully crafted to make the case for unilateral surrender.
So, Biden and the “elite industrial complex” like Lepore will work to convince us we just have to engage in “self-reflection.” Sen. Cory Booker thinks what we need is a “return to civic grace.”
Leopore ends with the statement: “Lock him up” cannot be the answer to “lock her up.” What she fails to see, however, is that one of them is guilty and the other is not.
Just note the phrases of submission, of deliberate non-threatening language in the opening statement of ACB. The play here is: Look, this is a soft-spoken, non-threatening, non-intellectual mom, home, apple pie person. How could you be afraid of this? But, make no mistake about it, this woman is the handmaiden of oppression.
“I thank the President” “my family” “I thank” “I am especially grateful” “it has been a privilege” “my family” “my husband” “have been married” “he has been a selfless” “marriage” Marriage “is easy.” “far luckier in love than I deserve.” “parents” “wonderful children.” “parents” “her parents’ “love” “liberal arts” “brought him home” “happy-go-lucky” “kind” “our delight” “loves watching movies” “mom” “siblings” “dearest friends” “happy” “so grateful” “my parents” “my parents” “life of service, principle, faith and love.” “grade-school spelling bee” “Dad sang” “devoted teachers” “high school” “literature class” “my first presentation” “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” “feared I had failed” “my professor” “filled me with confidence” “mentor” “degree in English” “passion for words” “legal mentors” “my first job” “continues to teach me” “he is cheering me on” “from his livingroom” “taught me” “devoted to his family” never let the law define my identity” “discussed the issues with my colleagues” “remain mindful” “I read every word from the perspective of the loosing party” “one of my children was the party””I would understand” “fairly reasoned” “deeply honored” “sacrifice, particularly from my family” “believe deeply” “humility” “with appreciation” “I was nine years old” “grace and dignity” “When I was 21 years old” “just beginning my career” “forever grateful” “honor of a lifetime” “valued colleague” “I might bring a few new perspectives” “first mother of school age children” “only sitting justice who didn’t attend law school at Harvard or Yale.” “Maybe I could even teach them a thing or two about football.” “I would like to thank” “reached out with messages of support” “I believe in the power of prayer” “so many people are praying for me.” “I pledge faithfully”
The Supreme Court is a nightmare.
Women, just think about where we are. This statement was not an exposition of brilliant legal reasoning. Instead, it was a woman displaying stories about her children, her husband and how wonderful he is, how she might teach men on the Supreme court something ABOUT FOOTBALL. What a f…ing embarrassment. Disgraceful.
Even though the corporate media seems drawn to the notion of Trump refusing to leave the White House after a massive win by Biden, there is another much more likely scenario. As Nichols writes: “…what could turn out to be the most concerted effort to overturn the will of the people is taking place before most ballots are cast.”
In a thousand different ways, the Republicans are deploying strategies to steal the election before it even beings. Nichols details “legal challenges, lawsuits, court orders, decisions and rulings in so many states.” It is, he says, a “strategic assault on voting rights.”
In May of 2020, the NYT was reporting millions of dollars allocated by the GOP to fund legal actions. This was part of a $20 million plan to challenge “voters deemed suspicious.”
In locality after locality, the Republicans and their teams of lawyers and jurists are placing barriers to high-turnout election. In some states, like Florida and Georgia, this includes taxpayer funded efforts being carried out by Republican minions such as Ron DeSantis and Brian Kemp.
In Florida, in addition to roadblocks to voting by mail, lawyers working for the Republican governor have secured a decision from the US Court of Appeals for the 11rh Circuit to require former felons to pay off any outstanding court fees before they can vote. This is after the voters in Florida voted to allow former felons to vote. But, the new poll tax approved by the court, means that some 774,000 former felons are now charged for the right to vote. It is instructive to remember that Clinton lost Florida by less than 115,000 votes.
In Iowa, a successful legal challenge meant that absentee ballot requests already sent out were voided because the requests contained identifying voter information already filled in. Republicans succeeded in having 64,000 requests voided in two counties.
In Pennsylvania, Republican lawyers are seeking to prevent voters from using drop boxes to deliver absentee ballots. The drop boxes were intended to help compensate for the post office slow downs that will delay the ballots if mailed.
Pennsylvania legislators have tried to ban drop boxes entirely and put new restrictions on deadlines for requesting mail in ballots. Trump won Pennsylvania by less than 45,000 votes.
In some states, the courts have not allowed the Republican party to get away with this pre-election voter suppression. In Ohio, for example, a judge ruled that the Republican Secretary of State, Frank LaRose’s, move to limit the use of drop boxes was “arbitrary and unreasonable.”
In Wisconsin, the State Supreme Court voted to let 1 million requested absentee ballots be sent to voters after the distribution of the ballots had been delayed. There was a dispute over whether the Green Party had qualified for the ballot.
But, in Texas last week, a panel of the US Court of Appeals for the fifth circuit ruled that Texas did not have to offer vote by mail to all eligible voters. They embraced a Republican argument that the state should be allowed to mandate a 65-and-over age limit for voting absentee.
These lawsuits and many others form an attack on voting rights, the use of the courts to restrict voting in districts where Biden is thought to be ahead.
“Nothing should be more self-evident than the simple statement that for an election to have legitimacy, the counting process must be observable” Code Red by Jonathan Simon.
In many states, however, Republican party officials have worked to make sure that the counting process is not observable. They have spent millions of taxpayer dollars to fool us into believing that we have a fair, observable system when we do not.
In the state of Georgia, to give but one example, the government of Brian Kemp (who himself benefited from vote manipulation that edged him into the governorship) is using tax payer money to make sure that the voting process is secret.
Georgia had used a paperless, touchscreen voting machine system since 2002. When we voted, our votes disappeared into a cyber world that could not be checked, verified, or audited.
The state then ignored warnings from independent researchers that the system had been easily penetrated through the internet. Because state officials refused to admit the problems with the system, it became necessary to file a lawsuit in 2017. The problems were found by the court to be so egregious, that in 2019, a federal court order had to be issued to require Georgia to stop using the all‑electronic voting system by year’s end because of the system’s proven vulnerability to cyberattack (Curling v. Raffensperger).
The response from Republican government officials was not to return to hand-marked paper ballots, but to spend over $100 million dollars on a new voting machine system that was designed not to secure the vote, but to convince voters (and the court) that votes were “secured.”
In addition to the amount of money paid for the voting system, an untold amount of state money was used in a PR campaign to dupe the people of Georgia into believing that this new system was an improvement over the last one. It was not.
What the new, outrageously expensive system did was to introduce a piece of paper into the process, what they called a “paper ballot,” that was printed by a machine. Officials then crowed that the vote was verifiable. And, they went around the state recruiting organizations and groups to pose with the new state “I Secured my Vote” propaganda. But, the paper, the “ballot” was nothing more than a prop in the theatre production that was to look like an “election.”
The process works like this:
The voter’s identification is checked in on an electronic polling book (computer) that has records of registered voters. If registered the voter is given a card.
This card is inserted into another machine, a Ballot Marking Device (BMD).
The voter then touches a screen to record his/her votes.
When finished, the BMD issues a “ballot.”
So, the BMD records the vote and marks a “ballot” for the voter. It then prints out that ballot with words that are said to reflect the voting preferences.
The voter is asked (encouraged) to take that ballot to a different station and check the words to make sure that they accurately reflect the voting preferences, i.e., how you voted.
Then, the voter takes the ballot and feeds it into a scanner which records the vote. The ballots collect inside the scanner which looks (ironically enough) like an enormous trash can.
Now, first of all, every polling place is mandated to stock readers, glasses that magnify the words on the ballot because the print is so small. This obviously in and of itself discourages voters from checking the ballots.
But, more importantly, what they don’t tell the voter is that the words on the ballot are not what is counted when s/he puts the ballot into the scanner. The words, the ones telling the voter who s/he voted for are meaningless gibberish. They are decoration, props. The words printed on the “ballot” have no relation to the vote counted by the scanner.
What the scanner counts is a bar code printed at the bottom of the ballot. You cannot read the barcode. In most cases, not even computer experts can read the barcode in these electronic voting systems. You have no idea what the scanner records, and you cannot check it with readers or without them.
So, just imagine this. You vote on a machine, it prints out words on a piece of paper that reflect who you voted for. You check these words to make sure that they reflect who you voted for. You put this paper in the scanner and this machine records not what you checked, but something you cannot check, a barcode at the bottom of the page. You have been duped.
But, you might say, these ballots are still paper, physical, they can be recounted if there is a problem. This is better than the completely paperless system before. Perhaps, but this actually makes no difference if the recount does not examine the words printed on the ballot.
The state of Georgia has made clear that any recount (and recounts are not easy to get) will only involve running the ballots through the scanner again, a second time. They have explicitly stated that there will be no examination of the match between the printed words and the barcodes.
So, the new voting system is designed not to provide a “transparent, fair, accurate, and verifiable election processes…” (as U.S. District Judge Totenberg mandated in 2019) but exactly the opposite. The new voting system is engineered to make people believe that it is transparent and verifiable, and to give them pieces of paper they can hold and “check” in order to fool them.
Judge Totenberg held a hearing this week to consider a preliminary injunction brought on behalf of the people of Georgia, to force the state to use hand-marked paper ballots in the November election for people who are voting in person.
But, after spending the outrageous $100 million for the new voting system/propaganda system, the lawyers for the state of Georgia maintain that this would be too expensive and too cumbersome.
We must start asking and demanding answers to questions about why the state of Georgia spent this enormous amount of money on a voting system that doesn’t ensure transparency and now is spending more money fighting measures to try to ensure transparency.
Lori Loughlin was sentenced to two months for paying bribes to get her daughters into USC. Loughlin not only paid a bribe, she cheated some other deserving student out of a college education.
There are two justice systems in this country. Race and class intersect to create sentence disparities.
While some studies report that arrest and prison admission rates are “dropping” for black people it’s because that rate dropped from black people going to state prison eight times the rate of whites, to five times.