Thursday, May 26, 2022

Television Needs to Stop Making Mass Shooters Famous and Promoting Their Cause

On Tuesday, an 18-year old man drove his car into a Texas elementary school, evaded an armed security guard and then began shooting up a classroom of fourth graders.  Nineteen children and two adults were killed.  The gunman, who was killed by a police officer, was quickly identified and his name and photograph were broadcast around the world.  As I write this, reporters are looking for the "motive" so they can publish that as well.

This week's shooting followed one last week at a Buffalo grocery store in which a white shooter shot and killed ten shoppers, almost all of whom were black.  The shooter was quickly identified as well as his motive, i.e. that whites were being replaced by non-whites, and the hopes his actions would cause a race war.  It didn't.

The political debate immediately turned to a partisan battle over whether more strict gun laws should be passed.  Democrats are not wrong that Republicans need to embrace reasonable gun restrictions.  An 18 year old shouldn't be able to legally buy an AK-47 semi-automatic gun.  Large magazine clips shouldn't be sold.  

Indeed, reasonable legislative changes could deter some of these mass shootings, and in some cases, dramatically reduce the death toll.  But, unfortunately, they'd only affect these events at the margins. Republicans are not wrong about that.  Someone who is determined to engage in a mass shooting is almost always going to be able to get a gun.  While we shouldn't make it easy for them, we need to be realistic about how much impact new gun laws can have.  

Why do these shooters engage in these events?   Almost always it is for two reasons:  First, they want to be famous.   Second, they often have a cause that they want publicized.  So, what does the media do?  They make the shooters famous and publicize their cause!

Here's a solution.  Television networks cover the mass shooting event, but they agree they won't identify the shooter or publicize the shooter's cause, i.e. the motive.   People will still be able to go to other media outlets, such as print, to get the details of the shooting, including the name and motive.  Frankly, print media coverage isn't what these shooters crave. They want to be on TV. 

If television networks stopped making these shooters famous and publicizing their cause, you'd see mass shootings stop almost completely.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Trump Suffers Worst Loss in Georgia Since Sherman's March to the Sea

The results in yesterday's Georgia's Republican Primary were a truly remarkable repudiation of former President Donald Trump's control of the Republican Party.

For the last several weeks, it has been apparent that Donald Trump's handpicked gubernatorial candidate, former Senator David Perdue, was going to lose the nomination to Governor Brian Kemp.  But it was expected to at least be somewhat competitive.  It wasn't.  As I write this, with 93% of the vote in, Kemp leads 73.5% to 21.9%.    Kemp's nearly 52% victory margin translates into nearly 600,000 votes.

Georgia Secretary of State
Brad Raffensperger

Kemp was the No. 1 target on Trump's 2022 revenge tour chiefly because of his prominence at the top of the ticket.  But the bigger enemy for Trump was undoubtedly Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.  Not only did he refuse Trump's demand that he "find" votes to put him over the top in the state during a phone call, Raffensperger had the temerity to record that call and make it public.  The recorded conversation is now evidence in a possible criminal prosecution of Trump for election interference.  

Up until a couple months or so ago, Raffensperger was considered to be dead politically.  Trump had recruited a Big Lie proponent, Congressman Jody Hice, to run against him. Going into the election, the betting was that Raffensperger would fall well short of 50% to avoid a run-off which he would surely lose to Hice. Instead, Raffensperger shocked the political world, winning handily 52.1% to 33.6%, a margin of over 200,000 votes.  There will be no run-off in the Secretary of State's race.

Turning back the clock, in June of 2021, the Georgia Republican Party passed a censure resolution condemning Raffensperger.  That year Raffensperger and Kemp were censured by numerous local GOP committees.  The difference between then and now highlights how the Georgia GOP climate has shifted.

Trump also recruited attorney John Gordon in an effort to oust Georgia Attorney General Christopher Carr.  Despite Trump's endorsement of Gordon, Carr won with 73.7% of the vote.  

As to the two Georgia open congressional seats, the 6th and the 10th, Trump endorsed attorney Jake Evans and former Democratic state representative Vernon Jones respectively.  Evans lost 43.2% to 23.2% and Jones was edged out 25.6% to 21.6%.  Both did qualify for next month's runoff primary.

Trump's one bright spot in Georgia was that his candidate, former football legend Herschel Walker, easily won the GOP nomination for Senate.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Trump's Endorsed Gubernatorial Candidate Falls Short in Nebraska

A week ago, former President Trump's endorsement of J.D. Vance pushed the Hillbilly Elegy author over the finish line in first place.  For the "Glass is Half Full" anti-Trumper crowd, many of whom work at the highly regarded Bulwark, that was conclusive evidence of Trump's stranglehold over the Republican Party.

Charles Herbster
But wait.  Vance received just 32.2% of the Republican vote.  More than 2 out of 3 Ohio Republicans heard Trump's endorsement and voted for someone else.  Plus, the number of actual voters in a Republican primary is a tiny fraction of the electorate, and doesn't include many conservatives, who choose not to participate in the GOP primary but will be voting in the general election.

I am highly skeptical of the Bulwark consensus that Donald Trump is the unquestioned GOP kingmaker. The results of yesterday's Nebraska primary confirmed my doubts about Trump's influence in the party.

Trump's enthusiastic endorsement of Charles Herbster netted the businessman only 30% of the vote in the Nebraska gubernatorial race.  Trump had even held a big rally in the state to push Herbster to victory.  But it didn't work.  Nebraska Republicans heard Trump loud and clear and instead voted for University of Nebraska regent Jim Pillen who was endorsed by outgoing Gov. Pete Rickets.  

Trump though had better luck with a congressional endorsement in West Virginia.  But the Nebraska governor's race was the big contest of the evening and Trump clearly lost that race

At the end of the primary season, Trump's endorsees are likely to win some races and lose others.  It appears that the former President is only able to move a small percentage of Republican voters with his support, but in many races that may be just enough to put the GOP candidate over the line.

I'm less worried about Trump's role in endorsing GOP midterm candidates than I am about Trumpism's influence on my Republican Party. Trumpism has clearly outgrown Trump.  Dr. Frankenstein (Trump) created a monster.  I'm not worried about the doctor.  I'm worried about the monster.

Friday, May 6, 2022

The Media Fails to Ask the Obvious Question: Why Wasn't a Newer Draft of the Alito Proposed Abortion Opinion Leaked?

The day I heard about the leaked Justice Alito opinion on abortion, my immediate response was: "Where are the other drafts?"  Yet nobody in the media seems to be asking this most obvious question.

Here's the thing.  News about the leaked opinion broke on May 3rd, almost three months after Alito's draft which was dated February 10th.  While I have not worked at the United States Supreme Court,  I have clerked for an appellate judge.  The judge who was assigned the task of drafting the appellate opinion goes through numerous drafts that would be circulated among the other two judges deciding the case.  The judge tries to get to a majority and, if possible, unanimity. 

When it comes to the United States Supreme Court, the process would be like I described, except on steroids.  Revising and re-circulating drafts would drag on for months.  There would also be competing opinions circulated among the justices that could end up being concurring opinions, dissents, or even the majority opinion.  The goal is to get five justices who will line up in support of a draft, more than five if possible.

The leaker is probably not a justice, but more likely a judicial clerk or other employee of the Court.  The person certainly would have access to all the draft opinions, but chose instead to leak a draft that is almost three months old.  Why would that be?

No doubt the leaker's motivation was politics, a desire to undercut justices who are wanting to overturn Roe v. Wade.  But that still begs the question of why not instead leak a more recent draft of that opinion?

The answer is obvious...the more recent drafts do not advance that political agenda as well as the February 10th draft.  In short, the later drafts likely sounded more moderate and, thus, were not as useful to the leaker.  Perhaps even Chief Justice Roberts' compromise has won out and a majority only want to modify Roe by approving the Mississippi's ban on abortion after 15 weeks.

We don't know where the Court is going on the abortion issue. But it would behoove the media to ask the obvious question about why an old draft of an opinion was circulated instead of a newer one.  

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Ohio Senate Republican Primary Tests Trump's Influence in the GOP

Today marks the start of the primary election season.  Indiana and Ohio are first up. 

We're going to have an early test of former President Donald Trump's influence over the GOP.  He has endorsed "Hillbilly Ellegy" author J.D. Vance.  This is despite the fact that other Republican candidates, including most notably former state treasurer Josh Mandel, have desperately sought his endorsement.

Just a couple months ago, Vance was polling in the teens.  Helped by Trump's endorsement, Vance is now up to a 26 point average in the Real Clear Politics average of polls.  Mandel, the former front runner, has declined slightly to 22.5% while businessman Mike Gibbons, once a top candidate, has dropped back to 15%.  

J.D. Vance

The surprise of late is that Ohio state senator Mike Dolan, who has mostly self-funded his campaign, appears to be surging.  While it's a stretch to say Dolan is anti-Trump, he has not hesitated to call out Trump for saying the election was stolen. Dolan has made it a point to say the focus needs to be on the future, not looking back at 2020.  That has earned him the ire of Donald Trump who has personally called him unqualified for the Senate.  But Dolan's approach seems to be gaining traction.  While he polled in the single digits just two months ago, he is now at 21.5% in the RCP average of polls.

My guess is it's a little too late for Dolan.  I expect that Vance will win the primary by a handful of points over Dolan.  Look for Mandel to finish third.

While Trumpers are likely to celebrate a Vance primary win tonight, there is another group that's going to be celebrating: Democrats.  Ohio Democrats are looking forward to running against Vance who has had to go so Trumpy to win the nomination, that he is unlikely to shake the association for the general election.  No doubt the Democrats have plenty of footage of Vance campaigning with Reps. Marjorie Taylor "Jewish Space Laser" Greene and Matt Gaetz, who may be under indictment by November.   

Meanwhile, Ohio Democrats appear likely to nominate Congressman Tim Ryan, a moderate Democrat who has honed an appeal to working class voters.  He is very much in the mold of the other U.S. Senator from Ohio, Democrat Sherrod Brown.  Vance's best hope is that it is an extremely good Republican year which will sweep him into office despite his being damaged goods.

In the other marquee Ohio race, look for Trump to take a loss.  Despite his best efforts, Governor Mike DeWine, a sometimes Trump critic, appears poised to win the GOP nomination.  The popular DeWine will then almost certainly cruise to re-election in November.

So, expect the Ohio GOP primary to offer a split decision.

Meanwhile, in Indiana not much is going on.  Due to restrictive petition requirements, there is only one Democratic Senate candidate, former Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott, Jr. who is set to take on sitting U.S. Senator Todd Young.  Young faces no competition in the Republican primary.

Indiana does have some interesting state legislative races, at least on the Republican side.  The Indianapolis Star did an interesting piece featuring some of the races, though the Star writer lazily falls into the trap of just assuming most of those races involve moderate officeholders being challenged by more conservative opponents.

I'm most interested in the fate of Rep. John Jacobs whose house district is based in Johnson County. Jacobs has said that "the Roman Catholic Church is a cult and of Satan, that its parishioners should repent and leave the church, and that the Pope is an anti-Christ."

As a Catholic, I'm well aware that my religion has plenty of flaws and deserves plenty of criticism.  But a "cult?"  If the Catholic Church is a cult, it's the worst run cult ever. The Pope will make a pronouncement on an issue, for example birth control, and 80% of Catholics will dismiss the Pope's position and refuse to follow it.  Catholics listen to the Pope and then do whatever they want to do.  It's been that way for years.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Smoke Free Indy Peddles Unsupported Health Claims

I was in the breakroom at work when I came across a warning contained in a Smoke Free Indy flier:

Secondhand and Thirdhand smoke is common in multi-unit housing, the toxins of tobacco and nicotine can be left behind in vents, walls and floors. This can lead to serious health issues such as, (sic) lung cancer, heart disease and complications with asthma.  Exposure to smoke and the toxins left behind not only affect the user but also their neighbors as smoke travels through cracks, doorways and vents.

The flier then asks people to share "their experiences and thoughts regarding second-hand and third-hand smoke exposure in multi-unit housing" by taking an anonymous survey.  It is clear that Smoke Free Indy's next target is to outlaw smoking in private apartments.

In participating in the survey, Smoke Free Indy insists you accept as established fact that second and third-hand smoke (what is third-hand smoke?) has terrible health consequences.  But that is a lie. The dangers of secondhand smoking have never been established.

Several years ago, I with co-counsel Mark Small, represented several establishments in an effort to overturn Indianapolis' ban on smoking in bars.   (It should be noted that casinos and cigar bars were inexplicably exempt from the ban despite the supposed dangers being exactly the same.)  In that role, Mark and I became very knowledgeable about the studies done regarding the health effects of secondhand smoke.  

In determining whether something causes health problems, epidemiologists review studies and develop something called a "risk factor" that has a basis of 1.  If a review of the studies indicates a risk factor below 1, that means there is a negative association between thing being studied and health consequences. If it is above 1, that means there is a positive association.  But as epidemiologists will tell you, association is not the same thing as causation.  There may be a number of reasons for a positive association.  To establish causation, epidemiologists require that the risk factor be 1.95 or more.

The risk factor between second-hand smoking and cancer and/or heart disease is about 1.3, a very weak association.  Even that 1.3 level was only accomplished by epidemiologists putting their finger on the scale by omitting from consideration several legitimate second-hand smoke studies that showed a much lower association than 1.3.  One very credible study that was not included even showed a negative association.

For comparison purposes, directly smoking cigarettes carries a risk factor of about 10.  Causation is clearly established.    

Don't get me wrong.  I detest smoking.  It's a nasty habit and I always prefer establishments that choose not to allow it.  But to say my health is threatened by second-hand smoke?  Well, that's just a lie.  Scientific studies have never shown that.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

While Democrats Won Congressional Redistricting, Voters Lost as the Number of Competitive Districts Decline

The website for political junkies, FiveThirtyEight, has an article demonstrating that Democrats won congressional redistricting although Republicans controlled redistricting in far more states:

As the maps stand on March 30 at 5 p.m. Eastern, 175 congressional districts have a FiveThirtyEight partisan lean1 of D+5 or bluer, 181 have a partisan lean of R+5 or redder and 33 are in the “highly competitive” category between D+5 and R+5. 

That’s a net increase of 11 Democratic-leaning seats from the old maps. Meanwhile, the number of Republican-leaning seats has decreased by six, as has the number of highly competitive seats.

Of course, that’s just the partisan lean of the districts. To get a sense for how these changes will affect the race for control of the chamber, you need to factor in which party currently controls each seat (not to mention the national political environment, but put that aside for a moment). Still, Democrats are likely to gain seats from redistricting in 2022 even after you consider that they already hold a lot of those newly blue-leaning seats. By my calculations, redistricting alone should net Democrats about two more seats in the House next year,2 while Republicans are in position to lose around three or four seats on net from the process.3 Of course, the national political environment (which is currently Republican-leaning) will have a much bigger impact on the 2022 midterms than redistricting, so this doesn’t mean Democrats are favored to hold onto the House — but it does mean that redistricting made that task slightly more possible.

We also have a good sense for what the new maps will look like in the four states that have yet to enact them;4 Florida is the only state that might deviate significantly from the old map. If we add their projected partisan breakdowns on top of the numbers we already have, I estimate that we’ll end up with 220-223 districts that are to the right of the nation as a whole and 212-215 districts that are to the left of the nation as a whole. Pretty evenly split!

But the most interesting analysis is FiveThirtyEight's discussion of the tipping point congressional district:

Accordingly, the tipping-point congressional district — the one that theoretically would be the majority-clinching 218th seat for either party — should be historically close. Since 1996, the tipping-point House seat has always had a FiveThirtyEight partisan lean of R+2.7 or redder. In recent years, it’s been closer to R+5 — meaning, in theory, Democrats have to win the national aggregate House vote by roughly 5 or more percentage points to win a majority in the House. Depending on how things shake out in the remaining four states, the tipping-point seat could be anywhere from R+1.0 to R+1.9 in 2022.

Note on the chart how the tipping-point seat’s partisan lean lurched rightward in both 2002 and 2012, reflecting Republicans’ gains in redistricting after the 2000 and 2010 censuses. Not only did Democrats break this mini-streak of good redistricting cycles for Republicans, but they also reversed the effects of two pro-GOP redistricting cycles in one fell swoop.

Even in Democrats’ worst-case scenario at this point, the House’s long-standing (we’re talking over 50 years) bias toward Republicans would drastically diminish. That would certainly be historic — but it wouldn’t mean everything is finally hunky-dory with our congressional maps. Some of this increase in balance is thanks to courts striking down Republican gerrymanders in states such as North Carolina, but Democrats achieved this near-parity mostly through gerrymanders of their own in states such as New York and Illinois. The result is an overall national map that looks fair but individual state maps that are anything but.

Indeed. While Democrats won redistricting overall, voters and democracy lost.  Republicans and Democrats focused their redistricting efforts on creating safer districts with more incumbents who will be immune from general election competition.   That means more crazy far right and far left members of Congress and fewer moderates in both parties.  

OOP's short takes:

  • News today is that an Indiana man was killed robbing a bank in California.  Robbing a bank today is an incredibly irrational act.  Most of the money handled by today's banks involves electronic transfers of money.  They keep very little cash on hand. The most prolific bank robber of the 21st Century is Anthony Hathaway, a former Boeing engineer, who stole money to subsidize his heroin addiction.  In robbing 30 banks in one year's time, an incredible rate that exceeds any bank robber that I'm aware of, Hathaway averaged a take of $2,500 per bank.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Is Trump Losing His Influence Over GOP Primary Voters?

Speaking at the Gridiron Dinner on Saturday, New Hampshire Republican Governor Chris Sununu mocked former President Donald Trump:

"You know, he’s probably gonna be the next president. No, I’m just kidding. He’s fucking crazy. Are you kidding? Oh, come on.”''

Later, Governor Sununu took another dig at Trump's mental health:

“The press often will ask me if I think Donald Trump is crazy. And, and, I’ll say it this way. This is probably the best way. I don’t think he’s so crazy that you could put him in a mental institution. But I think if he were in one, he ain’t getting out.”

The crowd roared with laughter.   

In a later interview, Sununu tried to soften his comments about Trump by saying that it was just a joke and that Trump would get a big laugh out of it.  Nobody believes either of those things is true.  The "joke" Governor Sununu said is what virtually every elected Republican feels about Trump, but have been too afraid to say out loud due to Trump's dominance of Republican primary voters.   As far as Trump appreciating a good joke at his expense...well, he most famously does not.  Trump is notoriously thin-skinned and insecure.  He certainly does not like to be the butt of a joke.

Governor Chris Sununu (R-NH)

Sununu, who undoubtedly aspires to a future outside the New Hampshire's governor's mansion, no doubt considered the political impact of his mocking the former President.  After all,  the jokes were not made off the cuff...they were part of a prepared presentation.  Sununu's political calculation was that there was an opening, that Trump's cultish hold over his base was weakening.

Indeed, that appears to be the case. Trump has endorsed several candidates going into the 2020 GOP primary.  While most of his anointed candidates will win their primary, several notable ones appear to be struggling.  The most prominent one is former Georgia Senator David Purdue who was induced to put his hat in the ring to oppose Republican Governor Brian Kemp.  Trump has a well-publicized grudge against Governor Kemp who refused to ignore the actual election results (confirmed by multiple recounts) in order to hand the state to Trump.  Kemp is far ahead in the polls and looks likely to have a general election rematch with former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.  Notably, Abrams, like Trump, claims the election was stolen without offering any proof.

In Alabama, Congressman Mo Brooks was endorsed by Trump, but that endorsement failed to gin up much support in the state.  Indeed, after the endorsement, Brooks' numbers fell to the point where he  was running a distant third.  As a result, Trump pulled the endorsement.  

By the way, look for that approach to be replicated in other races.  If an endorsed candidate is running behind, Trump may well pull the endorsement claiming that the candidate is not running on the right issues or is not Trumpian enough.  That way, Trump can avoid taking a loss on his record.  There is the real possibility that will happen in the Georgia Governor's race.

In Idaho, Trump gave his "complete and total endorsement" to Lt. Governor Janice McGeachin who is challenging Governor Brad Little in the GOP primary.  The endorsement appears not to have helped McGeachin as she trails Governor Little badly in the polls.

The 2022 primary season is Trump's revenge tour.  It doesn't appear to be going that well.  It would certainly help if Trump used some of the millions he's raised to support his endorsed candidates. But Trump has a history of not sharing his campaign cash, so that's not likely to happen.

As far as 2024 goes, I still think it's less than 50-50 that Trump runs.  (Though, to fleece his flock as much as possible, Trump will play the role of possible candidate as long as he can.) This weekend, Meet the Press' Chuck Todd had the best two word explanation as to why Trump might choose not run:

"It's work."  

Exactly.  Running to be President of the United States is a lot of work.  I'm not convinced that Trump, who will turn 78 years old in 2024, will want to put in the work to be President again.  

Monday, March 28, 2022

Lifetime Federal Judicial Appointments was a Mistake by the Founders

 CNN reports:

The House Select Committee investigating the January 6 riot has in its possession more than two dozen text messages, 29 in total, between former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Virginia "Ginni" Thomas, a conservative activist and the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, according to multiple sources familiar with the messages.

These text messages, according to sources, took place between early

Ginni Thomas
 November 2020 and mid-January 2021. Thomas recently revealed that she attended the pro-Trump rally that preceded the US Capitol attack on January 6, 2021, but says she "played no role" in planning the events of that day.

The text messages, reviewed by CNN, show Thomas pleading with Meadows to continue the fight to overturn the election results.

"Help This Great President stand firm, Mark!!! ... You are the leader, with him, who is standing for America's constitutional governance at the precipice. The majority knows Biden and the Left is attempting the greatest Heist of our History," Thomas wrote on November 10, 2020.

...

Thomas regularly checked in with Meadows to encourage him to push claims of voter fraud and work to prevent the election from being certified. Meadows often responded. On that same day as the previous text, he wrote: "I will stand firm. We will fight until there is no fight left. Our country is too precious to give up on. Thanks for all you do."

On November 24, 2020, Meadows promised he wasn't done battling on then-President Donald Trump's behalf and evoked his faith as a source of strength.

"This is a fight of good versus evil. Evil always looks like the victor until the King of Kings triumphs. Do not grow weary in well doing. The fight continues. I have staked my career on it. Well at least my time in DC on it."

Thomas wrote to Meadows on November 19, 2020, "Sounds like Sidney and her team are getting inundated with evidence of fraud. Make a plan. Release the Kraken and save us from the left taking America down." Attorney Sidney Powell, who worked on Trump-aligned lawsuits seeking to challenge the results of the 2020 election, was also referred to by herself as "The Kraken" in reference to the ancient mythological sea creature.

By the end of November, Thomas was getting increasingly frustrated with the lack of progress of the attempt to find a path to overturn the results.

On November 24, 2020 she wrote: "I can't see Americans swallowing the obvious fraud. Just going with one more thing with no frickin consequences... the whole coup and now this... we just cave to people wanting Biden to be anointed? Many of us can't continue the GOP charade."

The committee is in possession of only one text from the month of January 2021, four days after the riot on Capitol Hill.

Thomas wrote to Meadows that she was angry with then-Vice President Mike Pence for not taking the steps necessary to block the certification of the election results.

"We are living through what feels like the end of America. Most of us are disgusted with the VP and are in a listening mode to see where to fight with our teams. Those who attacked the Capitol are not representative of our great teams of patriots for DJT!! Amazing times. The end of Liberty," Thomas wrote.

While it's hard to fashion a rule limiting the political activity of a judge's spouse, conflict of interest rules still constrain the judge's participation in cases involving spouses and family members.  In January of this year, Justice Thomas was the lone dissenter in an order that rejected Trump's attempt to keep documents from the select committee investigating events surrounding January 6th.  At the time Justice Thomas participated in that vote, he had to have known his wife was lobbying in support of the coup attempt.  Indeed, considering her role in the effort, she very possibly will be called as a witness before the January 6th Committee.  Yet, Justice Thomas did not recuse himself from participating in the ruling earlier this year.  

Judicial ethics demand judges recuse themselves on cases that could involve family members.  But here's the thing.  Supreme Court justices, unlike other judges, are not bound by ethics rules. They are literally above the law.  Whether they recuse themselves is totally up to them.

In the Constitution, the Founding Fathers gave federal judges lifetime appointments, subject only to removal through the impeachment process.   As a result, lower court federal judges have very few restraints  as they only answer to the federal judges at the level of above them. But Supreme Court justices have no one above them.  If they choose not to follow judicial ethics, the only remedy is impeachment by the House and removal by the Senate.  In 235 years, not a single United States Supreme Court justice has ever been removed through the impeachment process.  Only 15 lower court federal judges have been so removed.

Lifetime appointments of federal judges was almost certainly a mistake by our founders.  It's been particularly problematic at the Supreme Court level where justices often serve 30 or more years, exerting virtually absolute power in deciding major policy issues.

I like the idea of the nine Supreme Court justices serving 18-year terms, with a term expiring every two years.  That way, every President would have two appointments during a single four-year term.  But it may require a constitutional amendment to make the change.  

But maybe it would not.  There is an argument that lifetime tenure only applies to the appointment as a federal judge, not to a particular court. 

Finally, I should note that I'm not one of those who philosophically oppose Justice Clarence Thomas.  Most of his opinions reflect my own conservative views, although there are major exceptions such as Thomas' desire to limit free speech by revisiting the "actual malice" standard set out in NY Times v. Sullivan.  The Democrats' effort to dig up dirt on Thomas and then smear him with a factually specious and uncorroborated claim of sexual harassment which supposedly happened decades earlier is one of the worst things I've seen in politics, rivaled only by what the Democrats attempted to do to now Justice Kavanaugh.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Trump Keeps Campaign Cash For Himself Rather Than Help Out His Endorsed Candidates

In February, former President Trump's Save America PAC reported taking in $3.5 million, while spending $1.2 million.  As a result of the fundraising effort, the PAC now has $110 billion in the bank.

While Trump's businesses have profited from the haul, virtually none of the candidates he has endorsed has received money from the Trump's PAC.  In February, Trump endorsed two dozen candidates.  None have received a contribution.  February marked the second straight month that Trump didn't donate a cent to Republican candidates.

Bloomberg reports:

Trump has endorsed GOP candidates at the federal, state and local level, focusing on those who support his baseless claims the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him or are challenging Republican incumbents who opposed him. He’s championed more than 130 candidates since leaving the White House, more than half of whom are running for federal office. He’s also endorsed politicians running for state and local positions as well as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

But while he has the biggest bank roll in Republican politics, he hasn’t spread much of it around. Save America has given just $350,500 to other candidates since July. It hasn’t made a single donation in 2022. PACs can donate $5,000 to federal candidates per election, while state laws set different maximum contributions. Save America could also make unlimited independent expenditures -- usually ad buys -- on behalf of candidates it supports.

*******
OOP's short takes:

  • The Senate confirmation hearing for Judge Katanji Brown Jackson begins today.  I am not terribly offended that President Biden announced in advance that he would be picking a black woman for the opening and that Brown meets that criterion.  
  • Republicans are using the process to complain about how Kavanaugh was treated by Democrats during the last confirmation.  Republicans are not wrong about the lack of credible evidence in support of the accusation against Kavanaugh that nearly derailed his nomination.  But Kavanaugh is not the first nominee who has faced such attacks.  The late Robert Bork and Justice Clarence Thomas also faced character assassination during their confirmation hearings. Thomas survived those attacks, Bork did not.   
  • Now Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) though is trying to equal the score by acting as deplorable in confirmations as his Democratic colleagues have.  Senator Hawley is taking a page out of the Qanon playbook by suggesting that Judge Jackson is pedophile friendly.  Disgusting, but not unexpected.
  • Saw that Dick Van Dyke is now 96 years old.  I would have bet anything that Van Dyke, a former smoker who has long struggled to overcome depression and alcoholism, would never reach 90 years old, much less 96.  Congrats.



Monday, March 7, 2022

Four Days on Former President Trump's Fundraising Email List

On Thursday, the Trump fundraising appeals began with an email at 9:06 am asking me to "Save the date" about an upcoming rally in South Carolina.  I could be his VIP at the rally if I were selected.   Even

though I'm one of Trump's "most loyal supporters," it would cost me $25 to have a chance to win the honor.  Twenty-four minutes later, I received another email from the Trump campaign asking me to take a survey about who is better for American - "President" Trump or Joe Biden.   When you submit the survey, the Trump campaign again asks for money even if you picked "Joe Biden" in all your answers. 

The Trump campaign email onslaught continued on Thursday and throughout the weekend.  I have them catalogued along with the subject line of the email.

Thursday, March 3rd (12 emails)
9:06 am:   Save the Date
9:30 am:   I urgently need your input
11:16 am:  Would you vote for President Trump a third time
11:50 am:   Record-high energy prices
2:16 pm:   Response requested
2:34 pm:  I really need you to read this
5:16 pm:  We have something important to tell you
5:49 pm:  You + my father at the rally (supposedly from Don, Jr.)
7:45 pm:  I cannot do this alone
9:15 pm:  600%: REACTIVATED  (this is the fake matching fundraising appeal)
9:49 pm:   A trip down memory lane
11:05 pm:  This is your last chance (I'm guessing probably not)

Friday, March 14th (13 emails)
8:46 am:  ERROR
9:06 am:  Let's take a picture
11:16 am:  what should be the biggest story of our time
1:35 pm:  600%-IMPACT 600%-IMPACT 600%-IMPACT
2:31 pm:  Just in:  Your 600% IMPACT
2:52 pm:  Gold is my favorite color
4:00 pm:  I'm preparing for my next rally
5:28 pm:  Commemorative Gold Trump Coin
5:50 pm:  President Trump needs your input
6:45 pm:  Entry #20224545
8:35 pm:  I designed a limited-edition Make America Great Again Hat
9:50 pm:  600%: REACTIVATED
11:05 pm:  Joe Biden's State of the Union Address was TERRIBLE

Saturday, March 5th (12 emails)
2:38 am:  President Trump's Book  (release of yet another Trump book that he didn't write and didn't read)
9:05 am:  You have an unread email
9:31 am:  Inner Friend Circle
11:15 am:  I've never done this before.  (Yeah, right.)
11:50 am:  Make sure the Radical Left hears you LOUD AND CLEAR.
2:15 pm:  Joe Biden's State of the Union Address was pitiful
2:35 pm;  Join the ranks
5:15 pm:  The American People LOVE President Trump.  (The 2020 election results say otherwise)
5:50 pm:  re:my last email to you
8:35 pm:  Win a limited-edition MAGA Hat that I signed for you
9:49 pm:  30 seconds
11:04 pm:  The Fake News will always TRASH President Trump

Sunday, March 6th (13 emails)
9:05 am:  Pitiful
9:31 am:  Let's take a picture
11:15 am:  We urgently NEED your input
11:50 am:  You are always someone I can count on to tell me the truth"
12:07 pm:  Rally Entry #20224522
2:16 pm:  It's time to enter
2:35 pm:  RE: entry status
5:14 pm:  I really need you to read this
5:50 pm:  600%-IMPACT 600%-IMPACT 600%-IMPACT
7:45 pm:  Are you going to claim your DOUBLE-ENTRY?
8:35 pm:  Your offer is ready
9:50 pm:  I'm giving you the chance to INCREASE your IMPACT by 600%
11:05 pm:  Urgent Trump Donor Wall - This is for YOU only (I'm thinking not)

Over the years, I had fallen off Trump's email list.  Not sure how I got back on.  I have never given that failed businessman, reality show star, failed President a dime.  Imagine how many emails I would get if I had donated to him?

Thursday, March 3, 2022

January 6th Committee Files Evidence Which It Says Shows President Trump's Involvement in a Criminal Conspiracy

 In what would have been the number one story were it not for the war in Ukraine, the January 6th Committee last night filed a document alleging it has evidence that then President Donald Trump and his campaign "engaged in a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States."  Politico reports:

In a major release of its findings, filed in federal court late Wednesday, the committee suggested that its evidence supported findings that Trump himself violated multiple laws by attempting to prevent Congress from certifying his defeat. 

The Select Committee also has a good-faith basis for concluding that the President and members of his Campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States,” the committee wrote in a filing submitted in U.S. District Court in the Central District of California.

John Eastman

Characterizing excerpts of nearly a dozen depositions from top aides to Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence, the committee described a president who had been informed repeatedly that he lost the election and that his claims of fraud were unfounded — only to reject them and continue to mislead the American public.  

He then pushed top advisers to continue strategizing ways to overturn the election results.

The panel released its findings as part of a legal push to force John Eastman, an attorney who was a key driver of Trump’s strategy to subvert the 2020 election, to produce crucial emails tying together elements of the scheme they described.

In 16 accompanying exhibits, the panel showcased testimony it received from key figures in Trump-world, including campaign adviser Jason Miller, White House communications aide Ben Williamson, Pence national security adviser Keith Kellogg, Pence counsel Greg Jacob and Pence chief of staff Marc Short. Top Justice Department officials also provided crucial testimony revealed by the panel Wednesday night, including Acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen and his top adviser, Richard Donoghue.

A deposition of Eastman himself reveals that the Trump ally invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination nearly 150 times in declining to answer the committee’s questions.  
...

The committee suggests Trump and some of his allies may have committed three distinct crimes: Obstruction of an official proceeding — in this case, Congress’ Jan 6 session to count electoral votes — defrauding the United States by interfering in the election certification and spreading false information about the results, and a violation of the District of Columbia’s common fraud law.

...

The panel says the evidence supports an “inference” that Trump knew he had lost the election —
 Miller described a blunt conversation with Trump in which campaign aides told him he had lost — “but the President nevertheless sought to use the Vice President to manipulate the results in his favor.”

Miller told the committee that campaign aide Matt Oczkowski told Trump in the Oval Office that “he was going to lose,” citing county and state-level results that were being reported. But Miller said Trump refused to accept their assessment.

...

Eastman, however, didn’t relent even after a violent mob — egged on by Trump — stormed the Capitol and sent Pence and Congress fleeing for safety. Eastman continued to press Pence to overturn the election.

“Thanks to your bullshit, we are now under siege,” Jacob, Pence’s counsel,
 emailed Eastman, along with a lengthy refutation of his argument.

...

Even after this exchange, Eastman made one final plea to convince Pence to stop the counting of electoral votes, acknowledging it would amount to a “relatively minor” violation of the federal law known as the Electoral Count Act.

“Plaintiff knew what he was proposing would violate the law, but he nonetheless urged the Vice President to take those actions,” the committee wrote in its filings.

...

The select committee revealed its evidence as part of a bid to convince a federal judge to require Eastman to provide more of his own emails — held by his former employer Chapman University — to congressional investigators. Eastman sued to block the panel from accessing his Chapman emails, claiming they would reveal records protected by attorney-client privilege.

But the panel’s emphasis on potential crimes may convince U.S. District Court Judge David Carter — who has repeatedly ruled against Eastman — that none of Eastman’s records are protected by privilege.

No doubt the evidence of Trump's criminal conduct will be turned over to the Justice Department by the January 6th Committee.  I am just not confident that Attorney General Merrick Garland will do anything with it.  When the committee made a criminal referral of Steve Bannon for failing to comply with a subpoena, Garland dragged his feet for over on a month on whether to file a slam dunk contempt case against Bannon.  Garland has now had on his desk for going on three months a criminal referral for Trump's former chief of staff Mark Meadows for also failing to comply with the committee's subpoena. 

(Now would be a good time bring up again my argument that Congress needs to use its inherent powers to enforce subpoenas, not delegate that task out to the Justice Department and federal courts.)

If Garland is squishy about filing criminal charges against someone like Meadows, I can't see him having the guts to ask a grand jury to indict the ex-President regardless of how much the evidence points to his criminal conduct.  I will reiterate my prediction that Garland will be the most unpopular cabinet member and that, before the end of the year, pressure will build for President Biden to fire him.

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Senator Rick Scott's Tax Increase Plan Rejected by Senate Leadership

Last week, Florida Senator Rick Scott and head of the National Republican Senate Committee released a 11 point GOP agenda for the upcoming election that included a tax increase on one half of all Americans.  Scott says, correctly, that half of Americans don't pay income taxes.  Scott says those Americans need to have "skin in the game."  

Democrats immediately pounced while Republicans ran away as fast as they could.  Senator Scott then went on Fox, claiming he wasn't proposing a tax increase at all.  Naturally the Fox hosts went along with the absurd claim.

Senator Rick Scott (R-FL)

Let's go over the math.  If I pay $0 in taxes one year, then pay $500 in taxes the next, is that an increase in taxes?  Yes!   

Scott is in fact proposing that we raise taxes on the poor and middle-class Americans.  Not a good look.  

Now GOP Senate leadership is trying to distance itself from the tax increase idea.  Politico reports:

Asked about the proposal at a press conference on Tuesday, [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell firmly stated that Scott's plan was not his vision.

"Let me tell you what would not be a part of our agenda," McConnell said. "We will not have as part of our agenda a bill that raises taxes on half the American people, and sunsets Social Security and Medicare within five years."

"That will not be part of the Republican Senate majority agenda," he reiterated. "We will focus instead on what the American people are concerned about: inflation, energy, defense, the border and crime."

McConnell's rebuke of Scott -- a rare public admonishment of one of his top lieutenants -- demonstrated fissures within the GOP over how to win key Senate races that could determine which party controls the upper chamber after the November elections.

The ethically challenged Scott may have been the worst governor in America when he led Florida.  Fortunately for Scott, he is now in a chamber where his awfulness is overshadowed by other Senators on his side of the aisle.  

***

OOP's short takes:

  • Early on, I thought President Biden's State of the Union speech had a chance to be one of the best ever given.  Then he started into the laundry list...the list of accomplishments and policy objectives every President seems compelled to include in the State of the Union speech. As a result, the speech droned on for about 45 minutes longer than it needed.  With the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Biden had the perfect opportunity to break the laundry list tradition and he refused to take it.
  • Regardless, Biden proved the "Dementia Joe" nonsense is just that - nonsense.  He proved himself to be very articulate and in command.  He doesn't have a 95 mile an hour fastball any more.  But it's 90 mph, which is good enough.

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

41% of CPAC Respondents Would Prefer Someone Other than Trump for President in 2024

Over the weekend, former President Donald Trump won the annual Conservative Political Action Conference's straw poll with 59% of the vote.  Florida Governor Ron DeSantis finished with 28.4%.  While the media portrayed this as a great triumph of Trump's dominance within the GOP, I was shocked at how poorly Trump did in the poll.  CPAC attendees could not be more pro-Trump.   Yet, 41% of those polled preferred another candidate besides Trump.  It is also significant that the former president's support dropped from 70% at the 2021 CPAC event to 59% this year.

CPAC in recent years has been a gathering of the most Trumpy, and crazy, Republicans in the country.  Being "conservative" is no longer the price of admission.  Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, which runs the event, admits CPAC is no longer "conservative."  After all, CPAC's keynote speaker Friday night was former Democratic Hawaii representative Tulsi Gabbard.  Gabbard's last year in Congress, Schlapp's ACU gave her a 9% rating.  It seems that the only reason for Gabbard's invitation is that she is very pro-Putin.

Oh, and Marjorie Taylor "Jewish Space Lasers" Greene was also a main speaker at CPAC.  Fortunately for her, Greene's speaking duties did not stop her from attending a white nationalist conference the same weekend.

But while the straw poll of the candidates got the most attention, what I found perhaps more significant were the answers to a question about the three most important issues asked of CPAC participants.  Finishing 1-2-3 were election integrity, immigration/border wall and constitutional rights.  Unbelievably, "inflation/cost of living," almost certainly the No. 1 issue for Republicans heading into the 2022 mid-terms, finished a distant fourth in the poll.  "Taxes, Budget & Spending" and "Improve Economy," also Republican strengths, were listed seventh and eighth in importance. 

CPAC has become a Republican embarrassment.  It's time to shut it down.  Unfortunately, the CPAC event has become a cash cow for Schlapp and he wants to keep the money flowing.  At least, CPAC should be stripped of the "conservative" designation in its title.  It is anything but.

************

Speaking of conservative, last weekend also featured the Principles First Summit.  The PFS speaker list featured intellectuals and activists who actually live up to the conservative principles they espouse, unlike the unprincipled, and often fake, conservatives who spoke at CPAC.

***********
OOP's short takes:

  • Does anyone seriously believe that NATO would be as unified in its response to Russian aggression under a President Trump as opposed to President Biden?  Trump was set to take the United States out of NATO in his second term, and he spent his first term undercutting NATO at every turn.  Further, Trump was, and still is, a great admirer of the Vladimir Putin.  The fact Putin is willing to kill innocent civilians in Ukraine and violently put down dissent at home simply means he is "strong" and "smart" to Trump.
  • Fortunately for the United States and the world, Trump's initial cheerleading of Putin's advance into Ukraine did not find much support (outside of white nationalist groups).  So now Trump has changed his tune, trying to get ahead of the parade.  He is now saying Putin wouldn't have gone into Ukraine if he had been in charge.  Yeah, right.  Putin was no doubt planning to invade Ukraine during Trump's second term in order to take advantage of Trump's infatuation with him and his weakening of NATO.  Unfortunately for Putin, but fortunately for Americans, Trump never got his second term.
  • And let's not forget those Javelin missiles used by Ukraine in its defense against Russian aggression were the weapons Trump refused Ukraine unless it announced a fake investigation of Joe Biden that Trump could use in his re-election campaign.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

My Week with Covid-19 - Playing the Odds and Winning

Yesterday, the Indianapolis Star published a story about a woman who refused to get the Covid-19 vaccine and regretted it when she ended up hospitalized with the virus.  While she escaped death, she wanted her story published as a warning to those who resist getting vaccinated.

It didn't take long for a reader to comment that the Covid-19 vaccine is not a "vaccine" because it is not 100% effective against people getting and spreading the disease.  

Ridiculous.  A vaccine does not have to be 100% effective for it to be a vaccine.  People get vaccinated against the flu every year, but vaccinated people sometimes get the flu anyway and can spread it. The reader cited the polio vaccine as an example of a real vaccine, apparently oblivious to the fact that even the polio vaccine wasn't 100% effective.  I looked it up.  Two shots of the polio vaccine gave 90% protection.  A third shot boosted that to 99%.  Still not 100%. Breakthrough polio cases still happened despite the vaccine.

The reader also bemoaned the Star for not publishing stories about those who refused the vaccine and only got mild cases of Covid-19.  Of course, those cases exist.  A lot of them in fact. But why in the world would one want to take chances with their health?  It's all about playing the odds. And the odds are that if you are vaccinated and boosted, you are much less likely to get Covid and, if you do get it, the symptoms from the disease are likely to be much less severe.

I know that from personal experience.  My 90-year old mother was coughing a few weeks ago so I tested her for Covid and found out she was positive.  A friend of mine insisted I also test myself.  I didn't see the point.  After all, I didn't really have the traditional Covid symptoms.  And like my mother, I had been vaccinated and boosted.  Yet I also tested positive.  

For the next week, my mother and I were (separately) in isolation.   Her coughing subsided after a couple days.  She had no other symptoms after that and felt fine.  The forced social isolation was by far the worst part of her Covid experience.  (I am much better at being isolated.)  My symptom-less Covid experience continued throughout the week.  I must say I have never felt better during the week I had Covid.

At the same time, I had my symptom-less bout with Covid, others were being hospitalized and dying from the disease.  Many others avoided a trip to the hospital, but had significant health complications, such as difficulty breathing, fever, etc.   Even those who eventually tested negative for Covid, may still have health consequences that could last for years.  

There is one thing in common with almost all of these people mentioned above - they didn't get vaccinated and boosted when urged to do so.  Nearly 950,000 Americans have died from Covid, almost all of whom were pre-vaccine or who refused to get vaccinated when they had the opportunity.

Yes, if you don't get vaccinated and boosted, you still may have an asymptomatic Covid experience like I had.  But the odds of that happening are much lower if you are fully vaccinated.  So why take the risk?

Friday, February 11, 2022

Last Week in Political Stupidity and Courage

Last Friday, the Republican National Committee passed a resolution censuring Reps. Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) for their work on the bipartisan January 6th Select Committee which is responsible for investigating the attempted insurrection.  In the resolution, the RNC states that the investigation is the "persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse."

"Legitimate political discourse" is a phrase that will live on in infamy.  The sheer stupidity of including that phrase seemed lost on RNC Chair Rona McDaniel and the RNC committee members.  It didn't take

Rona McDaniel
long for politicians, Republicans and Democrats, to pounce on the language in denouncing the RNC resolution.  Immediately, McDaniel tried to walk back the offending language, saying that the phrase "legitimate political discourse" only referred to those who were protesting peacefully on January 6th, not those who were involved in the violence that day that resulted in 140 police officers being injured trying to repel the attack, and the ultimate death of five participants.  

The RNC's assertion is nonsense.  The January 6th Committee was formed solely because there was a violent attack on the Capitol that day. The goal of the Committee is to find out who was behind it, including who funded it, and to consider measures to ensure it won't happen again.  The Select Committee would not exist if it was simply a peaceful protest on January 6th.  The problem for MAGA world is that some high-level Trump officials, and perhaps Trump himself, appear to have been involved in encouraging and organizing the assault on our nation's Capital which was aimed at stopping Congress from counting the electoral votes.

Last Friday, saw another development.  Former Vice President Mike Pence found his backbone.  Speaking at a Federalist Society event in Orlando, Florida, he said "President Trump is wrong" to claim he could not have overturned the 2020 election.  CNN reports: 

Former Vice President Mike Pence called out his former boss by name on Friday, saying that "President (Donald) Trump is wrong" in claiming that Pence had the right to overturn the 2020 election on January 6, 2021.

Speaking at the Federalist Society Florida Chapters conference near Orlando, Pence delivered his strongest response yet to Trump's ongoing efforts to relitigate the 2020 presidential election, calling it "un-American" to suggest one person could have decided the outcome.

Pence warned against conservatives who continue to insist the vice president can alter an election, and said it could be a problematic position for Republicans in the next presidential contest.

"Under the Constitution, I had no right to change the outcome of our election, and (Vice President) Kamala Harris will have no right to overturn the election when we beat them in 2024," Pence said.

Pence has spent years cowering in Trump's shadow fearful that expressing any opposition to Donald Trump would doom his chances of eventually becoming President.  By that calculation, the Federalist Society speech should have been the final nail in the coffin holding Pence's political career. But a funny thing happened after the speech.  Pence earned praise across the political spectrum, including from Republican elected officials and donors who are desperate for a leader who will finally speak truth to power. 

Pence's Federalist Society speech is no doubt too little, too late when it comes to reviving his political career.   But for Pence it is a refreshing change that his political fortunes have finally ticked up, if only slightly.

*****

I can't pen a political column discussing political stupidity last week without mentioning Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.  Admittedly, I'm not an Abrams fan.  Her claim that voter suppression cost her the 2018 gubernatorial election is even more bogus than Trump's claim he won the state in 2020.  Yet, Abrams, unlike the former President, is constantly given a pass from the media when it comes to her Big Lie.

Last week, a photo was published of Abrams appearing maskless sitting on the floor in front of a throng of school children all wearing masks.  Abrams has denied that she violated CDC protocols.  While I'm not sure I buy that, her actions belie a political stupidity that is undeniable.  How could she not know that the photo would be used against her?  The photo is so damning, it may help end her political career.