Jury Selection in the Trial of the Men who Killed Ahmaud Arbery: Grinding My Teeth

Travis McMichael holding his gun after he has shot Ahmaud Arbery. Arbery is stumbling toward his death. First responders didn’t even initially check to see if he was alive

I’ve spent a week and a half grumbling and grinding my teeth about the jury selection in the Ahmaud Arbery case.

Defense attorneys in this case wanted to shield the questioning of the jurors from the public entirely.  The judge, in what is called a “compromise” ruling, allowed two reporters at the time to listen in on individual questioning of potential jurors and take “notes.”  There is no transcript that is released to the public and as far as I know the general public is not allowed to sit in the courtroom and listen. *

Jurors are being called in 20 at the time.  First they are asked general questions by the Judge, the state prosecutor and each of the three defense teams.  Then, jurors are moved to another room and individual jurors are questioned out of hearing of the other jurors.

It is this last part of jury selection that the judge decided to shield from the public and only allow reporters (two at the time) to sit in and listen to.

These reporters supposedly release their notes not to the general public, but to other journalists.  So, what we the public have been left with every day are a few quotes from the potential jurors and some demographic information, that a couple of reporters think are important.

This is completely unhelpful for those of us in the public who feel we have a Constitutional right to observe pubic trials, especially ones this important and controversial.

As Shaun King notes in  “The Breakdown” podcast, (10/18/21) there are a lot of reasons to worry about the jury selection process, especially in a state like Georgia in a rural area like Glynn County.

As King notes, blacks are eliminated from the jury pool before we ever get to a trial.  For various reasons (such as involvement with the criminal justice system) many are not included on voter roles at all and therefore don’t appear on the lists of people who can serve as potential jurors.

Compound this with the questions defense attorneys are being allowed to ask potential jurors (Do you support the Black Lives Movement in any way?) and anyone with a brain would be concerned with black jurors (or even white jurors who have a social justice consciousness) who will make it onto the jury.

The questions about supporting (in any way) the Black Lives Movement, or what defense attorneys are calling the “social justice movement” have been allowed by the judge, again in what is being called a “compromise.”  Jurors are not being asked if they voted for Trump or support Trump “in any way.” 

And, remember these are questions that are being asked in the general questioning.  We know about them.  We do no know the questions nor the answers being allowed in the individual juror questioning.

Trials are public for a reason.  Democracy works when the public can oversee the workings of government and the court system.  We aren’t supposed to have secret trials in this country, but if jury selection can be conducted in secret, jury selection one of the most important parts of any trial, then the public can’t perform an oversight function.

In fact, the jurors in this trial are being treated as if they are flowers that might wilt and die at any moment.  The media keeps talking about preserving their “anonymity.”  We aren’t supposed to have anonymous jurors.

In the little town where I grew up, people were called for jury duty and were questioned.  They answered supposedly as truthfully as they could.  If they were embarrassed about their answers, they were embarrassed and needed to do some thinking about why they were embarrassed.  Other members of the community were allowed to think badly about them for their answers.  Members of the community had a right not to shop at their stores, or hire them for jobs depending on their answers.  This is what it is like to participate in a community.  If people are that embarrassed about their views then they damn well better think about asking themselves why. 

People, citizens in a democratic society should be willing to stand up and say what they believe and take the consequences.  That is what being a member of the community is about.  We are a community, not a collection of secretive, units, obsessed with keeping our opinions and attitudes hidden from others.  This is absurd.

But, the officials running this trial seem to think that jurors are fragile flowers who must be protected from giving an “unpopular” (not to say unjust) verdict.  Defense attorneys have moved to have the few people outside the court every day removed across the street in a “First Amendment Free” zone.  Folks, give me a break here, the United States is a “First Amendment Free” zone, not some parking lot designated as such by the Glynn County Sheriff’s office.

(Don’t get me started on Glynn County.)

To add to the problems caused by almost completely excluding the public from the jury questioning, for the past two days, the microphones in the court room have been turned down so low that even most of the general questioning cannot be understood.  For the past two days of jury selection when the judge or the attorneys turn their heads a fraction of an inch to the left or right, or look down, there is unintelligible sound.  No phone calls to the Clerk of the Court have been returned.

It might be useful to remember here that these three men are being tried by a county system that tried to cover up the killing of Ahmaud Arbery.  A Glynn County police officer went to Mr. Arbery’s home and told his mother that he had been killed in the process of a burglary (in the middle of the afternoon).  There were no arrests for two months after the killing and those only occurred because one of the perpetrators was stupid enough to think that releasing the video of the killing would help him.  The GBI only took the case away from the County after this video went viral and the state of Georgia looked so racist and corrupt that they were shamed into taking the case away from Glynn County.

A few other facts you might want to remember when considering that Glynn County is trying these men:

  • The County DA in charge when the killing took place was such a close friend of one of the men (Gregory McMichaels) that he phoned her at the scene and told her (on a first name basis) that he needed advice.
  • The Glynn County Police Department did not make any arrests at the scene.
  • First responders (from the GlynnCounty Police) did not even offer assistance or try to see if Arbery was still alive when they first arrived.
  • Officers repeatedly reassured the assailants that everything was alright and that they (the officers) could “only imagine” the terrible situation the men had faced.
  • The DA (jackie Johnson, for whom Greg McMichaels had worked) recused herself and immediately phoned another DA and had him offer an opinion about the shooting to the police.
  • This DA (George Barnhill, Sr.) told the Glynn County police that no arrests were necessary since the men had acted in self defense.
  • Then when the case was taken over by the GBI, Barnhill, Sr. was given the case.  Johnson did not tell the state attorney (who appointed Barnhill) that she had talked to Barnhill or that he had issued a letter absolving the men of responsibility.
  • Johnson has denied recommending Barnhill, Sr. to the office of the State Attorney.
  • Evidently when Barnhill, Sr. took the case, he also did not tell the state attorney that he had issued the letter.
  • The Glynn County Police Department has a history of corruption and brutality.
  • Their Drugs Unit was disbanded, the police chief was removed and indicted.  They also killed a young woman in a hail of bullets because she did not immediately stop her car when they ordered her to do so.
  • The Glynn County Police continued to employ a man who was actively stalking a former partner and bragging about it to other officers.
  • This officer went to the former partner’s home, murdered her and her friend and then killed himself.
  • This is just what I know and I don’t keep close track of the goings on in Glynn County.
  • A new police chief has just been hired by the Glynn County Police who lied on his application for the job. 
  • Members of the Glynn County Commission (voted out of office recently) prevented the citizens of Glynn County from even having the opportunity to vote on whether to disband the Glynn County Police.
  • One of the Commissioners who was central in preventing this vote from taking place was quoted in the media as saying “That’s not how it works.”
  • No, that’s not how it works. Citizens of Glynn County aren’t allowed to control their own police department.

The trial of the men who killed Ahmaud Arbery hasn’t even started yet and I am furious, incensed, disgusted by the way in which the trial is being handled by the Judge, Glynn County and the media.

*Phone calls to the Glynn County Clerk of the Court to complain about the microphone levels have not been returned.

“Over-the-Horizon” Foreign Policy” Afghanistan

Pundit after pundit in the corporate media has given the U.S. military enormous credit for coming clean and admitting to the world that they made a “mistake” with the drone strike that killed 10 people in Afghanistan, including 7 children.

It seems evident, however, that the military would have never admitted the tragic error had the New York Times not done a documented investigation of the strike that made it impossible for the military leadership to do anything else.

Because we still had reporters in Afghanistan, in Kabul, they were able to visit the site and document the outrageous irresponsible drone strike. But, the U.S. military has been carrying out drone strikes for 20 years in Afghanistan and almost none of them were subjected to the kind of scrutiny this one was.

In the period that led up to the total withdrawal from Afghanistan, the U.S. military carried out two drone strikes in Kabul that we know of. They initially claimed with certainty that the attack on August 29, 2021 was a hit on Isis. It was not. That means that if we believe them, their rate of successful targeting of Isis was 50%. Is that what we are willing to accept?

CNN and MSNBC are no longer worth watching. This podcast episode, put out by the New York Times, should be listened to by every citizen.

Sources:

Podcast:

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/a-righteous-strike/id1200361736?i=1000536128627

New York Times

DC Rally and the Corporate Media

Despite several Twitter friends who repeatedly tell me to stop torturing myself by watching the corporate news channels, I can’t help myself.

DC Rally

The corporate news has spent weeks and untold hours of air time fretting about the right-wing rally today in Washington.  It’s almost 2 PM, and there are not more than a handful of people at the rally.  What an enormous waste of time and energy and money.  In addition, what a diversion from covering some of the more serious issues that confront the society.

I am not minimizing the seriousness of this right-wing, authoritarian movement, but there was no need to spend hours and hours of valuable media time with people talking about what MIGHT happen today.  In addition, because of all the hype, the low turn-out crowd makes it seem as if the media is blowing the threat out of proportion.  The threat is not taken seriously enough, not talked about seriously enough, but the coverage of what might happen in one rally is overblown.

We have a house full of sick cats and Wednesday night I spent sleeping on the floor downstairs so I could hear if one of them needed something.  Needless to say, I did not sleep, but spent most of the night listening to podcasts.

One of the very best was an interview of Kathleen Belew about right-wing movements.

Belew pointed out that the coup attempt on January 6, was intended as a recruiting tool, not a violent insurrection.  Far from a failure, the right widely considered Jan. 6 a stunning success.  I would guess that they view September 18 as something similar, a fake out of the corporate media and a demonstration of how they can make fools of the establishment.

The podcast is Spy Talk, part of the Deep State Radio group.

Just a note: MSNBC has its anchors sitting outside on a platform as if they are covering Macy’s Parade.  There is nothing, just nothing that corporate media can’t cheapen.  A deeply serious challenge to democracy itself turned into a spectator sport. 

“it was not the outcome we had anticipated”: afghanistan

During the past few weeks the corporate news media has been studiously ignoring the disastrous military and humanitarian crisis shaping up in Afghanistan.  They have been doing so, I think, because the crisis makes Biden look feckless, ruthless, and incompetent. 

For so long, there was almost nothing on the corporate news, but every day it was possible to read about astonishing advances by the Taliban.  Every day estimates of how much of Afghanistan was controlled by the Taliban increased, and estimates of how long it would be until the Taliban took over Kabul decreased.

I am no foreign policy expert, but even I could see that the Biden withdrawal of forces in Afghanistan was accelerating a Taliban takeover of the country.

The negotiated “peace plan” was non-existent.  I never understood what was being “negotiated” with the Taliban in the first place either by the Trump or the Biden administration.  One reporter late this week said that the “negotiated” peace process was not only on hold, it was in the basement with the door locked. 

And who had the bright idea that the Taliban could be negotiated with in the first place?  The group is defined by a suicidal religious refusal to compromise or negotiate with the modern world. 

Let me be clear, I did not support the invasion of Afghanistan or Iraq but even I acknowledge that once you have invaded and occupied a country you can’t just walk out and leave everyone who has fought with you at the mercy of the enemy.  You cannot just withdraw without considering the implications for the population you are leaving behind.

But this is precisely what the Biden administration seems to have done.  They either didn’t consider the implications for the population, or they didn’t care.  I’m not sure which is worse.

Reports today (Friday) are that members of the Biden administration knew that this disaster was coming.  The Joint Chiefs warned them.  But the Biden administration decided that the disaster was inevitable (although they have denied this reality).  One official was quoted by Peter Baker as saying: It’s a tragedy, but it’s not our tragedy.  Who would say something this crass and unfeeling? There is not even much of a pretense of having any empathy with the abandoned population.

And in an effort to make the chaotic, precipitous, and disastrous withdrawal look better, the Biden administration has blamed everyone in sight – except themselves.

Evidently, the defense department that costs us trillions every fifteen minutes, just couldn’t manage to plan a withdrawal from a country they had occupied that didn’t create a humanitarian crisis.  How can that be?

Gen. John Kirby, in a painful press conference today, said the Afghanis had every conceivable advantage in the war.  A reporter asked Kirby how the Afghanis could have every conceivable advantage and still be losing.  Kirby balked at the rudeness of the question, then evaded answering it.  He went on to list all the advantages the Afghanis had (airplanes, an air force, more soldiers, etc.).  So, according to Kirby, the Afghanis have all these advantages and it’s just a great fucking mystery why they are losing.

The people of this country are told repeatedly that we have the greatest military in the history of the world, but that military just can’t figure out how after twenty years of supplying and training and fighting, to get the Afghanis in a position to hold their own against the opposing force. 

Earlier this week I listened to a podcast where the panel was pointing out that supply lines were a problem in Afghanistan.  Supply lines?  Twenty years and they haven’t figured out how to secure supply lines?  Even my cat knows not to go further away from the door than he can safely run back should there be a threat.  And they can’t figure out secure supply lines?  I just find this preposterous.  What the bleeding devil have they been doing for twenty years?

A lot of the feedback on Twitter consists of people arguing that the very fact that we have been in Afghanistan for twenty years legitimates the withdrawal. But, nobody is objecting to the withdrawal, it’s the way the withdrawal is carried out. 

As Paul Riekhoff said on Nicolle Wallace’s show the other night, this was a “reckless” withdrawal.  Riekhoff’s honesty about the situation made me wonder if the producers on MSNBC knew what he was going to say. (The next night I don’t think Wallace even talked about Afghanistan). Riekhoff lambasted the Biden administration’s withdrawal.  And Riekhoff, like Kevin Baron from Defense One, stated flatly that the administration was not “leveling” with the American people. 

The refusal to “level” was painfully obvious in the Pentagon presser this afternoon with Gen. John Kirby.  Kirby couldn’t even bullshit with any talent the obfuscation was so blatant.  Kirby stood at the podium and spewed nonsense.  He looked like a man experiencing a severe attack of piles as he fielded questions from reporters. 

He was fine with questions like that from MSNBC’s Pentagon correspondent.  After a day when every conceivable TV pundit repeated like a parrot: “The administration was not surprised with what happened but at the speed with which it happened” she asked if the administration was surprised at the speed with which the take over had happened.  Seriously?   

Another reporter doggedly tried to get Kirby to say that Kabul was “isolated.”  “Would you say Kabul was isolated?”  He asked repeatedly.  Kirby verbally danced all over the universe refusing to say that Kabul was “isolated.”  We all fucking know that Kabul is “isolated.”  What is the purpose of a journalist taking up valuable time trying to get Kirby to say the word?  Kirby said everything under the sun else except that Kabul was “isolated.”  What goddamn difference does it make if he uses the word?

I don’t think I have seen such a blatantly pathetic Pentagon press conference since Vietnam, and even then the brass talked the bullshit with some panache.  Kirby just seemed to be desperate to finish, desperately uncomfortable, resentful of meaningful questions.  John Kirby is a bad liar and bullshitter. If they are going to try to pass off this level of (do you believe me or your lying eyes) bullshit, they need to get another spokesperson.

And, it seems that we should have learned (with the best military in the history of the world) that the solution to a badly thought-out war is not (or should not be) a badly thought-out withdrawal.  Evidently not.

But the thing that keeps sticking in my craw and going through my mind for the past few days is why?  How could the Biden administration be so inept as to create this situation?  Who was this precipitous withdrawal designed to please?  I just can’t think of anybody placated or pleased with this hair-brained withdrawal.  Why, after breezing through the deadline in May that the Trump administration had set, did Biden rush headlong into this withdrawal that seems so badly planned.

I will give just one example.  On another podcast about Afghanistan the commentators were pointing out that the Taliban ratchets up fighting in the Spring and then makes a big push over the summer.  Then, I suppose because of the weather, they retreat to bases in Pakistan in the fall and fighting dies down.  The panel members were pointing out that if Biden had just waited over the summer and pulled out most of the troops in the fall, it would have helped immensely.  So, what was the problem with that small change?

And there another thing that keeps going through my mind.  This is in response to a comment made on the Majority Report (a great podcast).  The guest was saying that there are many competing factions represented within the Biden administration – progressives (damn few), conservatives, moderates, hawks.  When some policy or appointment comes up that sparks strong opposition among these groups, they fight it out vociferously.  Fine. But when all this fighting and debate occurs, when positions are entrenched, Biden evidently does not step in and make a decision so everybody can go on.  Biden refuses to take make a decision that might alienate somebody and so everybody retreats to their respective corners.  The result is that nothing gets done.  The example that was being talked about was an appointment that had remained vacant for months.

I can’t keep from wondering if something like that happened here.  There was such strong disagreement about what to do, everybody was fighting and pushing and Biden just walked away (sort of like he’s doing in Afghanistan) and nothing got done. The withdrawal just ticked on without Biden taking control.  It was easier to do nothing than to make a decision.  Now, the administration is facing not only a humanitarian crisis, but a political disaster.

I have watched Fox News, OANN, and that other channel of Steve Bannon’s in the past two days.  You can bet they are making hay over this situation.  And, to my great discomfort and consternation, I agree with some of the commentary. 

A final thing that makes me uncomfortable about this situation is how similar it is to the way Democrats are handling the serious threat Republicans pose to the continuation of democracy. 

Democrats are so engorged with hubris, so convinced that the world is the way they want it to be, they are leading us into disaster at every turn.

I fear that they are going to do with Republicans exactly what they are doing with the Taliban – negotiate without reason, rely on the good intentions of murderous men determined to assume power at all costs and then when these men pull off a religious based authoritarian take over, wring their hands and say it was not the outcome they had anticipated.  

IT’S NOT JUST THE CORPORATE MEDIA THAT PERPETUATED THE DELUSION THAT TRUMP WAS IRRELEVANT

It’s not just the corporate media who underestimate Trump.

Michael Isikoff

Just listened to a podcast, Skullduggery, hosted by Michael Isikoff. This episode was recorded before the coup attempt. He was talking with someone and they were saying that Trump was likely to just fade away. Why do we have journalists, not just celebrity “journalists”, people who should know better, dismissing Trump and his movement?

I don’t understand it.

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/skullduggery/id1333621434

Podcast: Preet Bharara

https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/preetbharara

Bharara is a former U.S. Attorney.

In this episode, Bharara interviews Rachael Maddow about her book “Bagman.”

Notes:

Agnew was on the take in Maryland before he was chosen Vice President by Nixon.

Nixon liked Agnew partly because he talked aggressively about race in his speeches and public appearances.

Agnew was essentially getting a cut of every construction contract in Maryland. He wanted to try to establish that relationship with federal contracts.

George HW Bush tried to squelch the investigation into Agnew’s criminal behavior. These Bushes have a lot to answer for. They are a crime family just like the Trumps only better behaved in public and more circumscribed.

When Agnew started to be aware of the fact that he was being seriously investigated, he invented a story that he was the target of assassination plots. He talked publicly about buying a gun to protect himself against government agents.

Angew engaged in “grievance politics.” He was always the victim being pursued by bad men. After he left office he established a career for himself as an “anti-Semite” for hire.

essential podcasts: majority report interview with jared yates sexton

This is by far the best podcast out there. I know the corporate media is seductive, but your time would be better spent giving this a listen. Sam Seder puts together some of the most interesting and pertinent interviews available.

Sam Seder

Sam Seder interviews Jared Yates Sexton

https://majorityreportradio.com/2020/12/08/12-8-american-rule-how-a-nation-conquered-the-world-but-failed-its-people-w-jared-yates-sexton

From the Majority Report Website:

“Sam hosts writer and political analyst Jared Yates Sexton to discuss his new book, American Rule: How a Nation Conquered the World But Failed Its People, and why the foundational myths of American Exceptionalism have such a hold on the populace.

Sam and Jared explore the stories Americans told themselves throughout the country’s history, from how the process behind writing the Constitution to how the “Mound Builders” stories helped justify indigenous Americans’ slaughter. The two consider how these stories have shaped the populace’s thinking and why it’s essential to reject politics as a spectacle. 

Follow on @cjjohns1951

ESSENTIAL PODCAST: DECONSTRUCTED INTERVIEW WITH PROGRESSIVE MIKE SIEGEL

Essential Podcasts: Deconstructed (Episode 11/6/20)

Mike Siegel, progressive candidate for the House in Texas is interviewed by Deconstructed. The district Siegel ran in was drawn to be permanently Republican through gerrymandering.  

  • According to Siegel, the Democratic Party has a narrow range of issues it “recommends” their candidates run on.  The Party does the research, the polling, and tell the candidate what they should do.  If they receive any push back, it is possible for them to withdraw funds and ruin the campaign, so most candidates find themselves in a position to go along.
  • Party pollsters do the research and tell the candidate what the talking points are, what segment of the voting population the candidate should reach. 
  • Organizing with poor people is a long difficult process and it doesn’t appeal to the donor class.  As Siegal says, “We need to get out the non-voters.” 
  • The Party, Siegal says is “too invested in conservative donors”  These donors are “moderating the message” so that only an extremely narrow set of issues is ever talked about.  “They (the party operatives) are cynical about democracy…” 
  • Party consultants produce TV ads in a quick time frame.  Then, they come to the candidate and say: Give me this many dollars, we can run this may ads, we can expect this much shift in the polling.
  • The consultants tell the candidates: We made 2,000 calls, these are the issues that matter.  These are the issues you should stress.  These are the talking points.  As Siegel says,   “it’s relatively conservative.”
  • The consultants do their research and say your issue is, for example, health care, these are the talking points.
  • As Siegel says of the party consultants: “They completely narrow what they think you can accomplish.”
  • If the candidate disagrees or tries to change the messaging of the campaign, the consultants say: “That doesn’t poll quite as well as health care.”
  • “At every point they (the consultants) push back against you.”
  • As Siegel points out, there are not pollsters and consultants who work with a populist message.  There are no people you can hire who know how to run what Siegel calls a “left campaign.” 
  • The framework, according to Siegel, is how can you raise and spend x dollars and change vote this much. 
  • Siegel challenged one of the wealthiest members of congress, and had a lot of progressive support, but came up short.  
  • Siegel says: “We need to do deep organizing.”

But, the take-away from the interview is that the Democratic Party, their donors and their elite consultants have no interest in “deep organizing.”  Deep organizing takes time and money and an actual interest in the problems of working and lower class people.  It involves demonstrating to people who have seen politicians come and go and their lives not change, that politics is important to them.  The issue is demonstrating this, not just telling them.

Another problem is that the Democratic party is a party obsessed with technocratic solutions.  One of the points that screams out from this interview with Siegel is that pollsters are dominating party strategy.  These are the same pollsters who (based on their scientific models) predicted landslides in 2016 and 2020.  Either their technology was wrong, or Republicans are systematically stealing elections through electronic voting manipulation.  There are no other options.  But, electronic voting manipulation is an issue that Democrats consistently refuse to talk about.  In fact, just raising the issue provokes angry denials and even more angry accusations about the motivations of people who talk about the issue.  It is the unspeakable topic.

The Party pollsters would rather point to their own failures in predicting the outcomes of the last two elections than admit that the vast difference between the poll numbers and the election results might be the product of cheating.  There is a very good reason for this.  If, in fact, Republicans are cheating, systematically, repeatedly then pollsters become irrelevant.  The last thing they want to be is irrelevant because they would then be out of business. 

So, the consultants and pollsters themselves acknowledge that their predictions have been wildly inaccurate, but they are still put in the position of essentially determining the way individual Democratic campaigns are run.  How does this make sense? 

You can follow me on Twitter @cjjohns1951

The majority report: stuart stevens, they still don’t get it.

https://majorityreportradio.com/2020/09/02/9-2-why-the-republican-party-was-always-a-lie-w-stuart-stevens

If you really want to learn something about politics and the coming “election,” I suggest you start listening to podcasts. The corporate media is useless. They are intellectually masturbating on top of a pile of verbal garbage waiting to catch fire.

This is a particularly fascinating episode of the Majority Report, where Sam Seder interviews Stuart Stevens who has just come out with a book entitled “It was All a Lie” about the Republican party.

Stevens maintains that the party was not hijacked by Trump, but then goes on to try to defend policies of the Republicans that have been a standard feature of party theory for decades.

Stevens also uses the standard Republican device of oversimplification and magnification of the position of the other side to try to make his points. Example, I don’t think people in this country support open borders. Seder never says this and the Democrats never advocated “open borders.” This is much like the current “abolish the police” characterization of the de-funding movement.

Stevens has written a book called “It was all a Lie” but demonstrates so well in this interview that he hasn’t learned anything. Trump is the extension of Republican policy that has been a part of the party ideology for over half a century.