Wednesday, February 24, 2021

This Week in Stupid: Michigan County GOP Censures Congressman for Voting Against Qanon's Marjorie Taylor Greene

I present to you this week in stupid:  the Cass County Michigan Republican Party.  The Detroit News reports:

Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI)

The Cass County Republican Party has again censured GOP U.S. Rep. Fred Upton — this time over his vote to remove Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene from her committees.


The executive committee of the Cass GOP on Tuesday night adopted a resolution blasting the "attack" on Greene and saying she was being "canceled" because she is "unafraid to speak out."

"We believe Congressman Upton's vote is a betrayal of his oath of office and core values of the Cass County Republican Party," the resolution stated, adding that Upton's vote was against the interests of county voters. 

Okay, let's discuss some of the things Greene has said and done:

  • Claimed Democratic politicians were running a pedophile ring out of a Washington, D.C. pizza parlor.
  • Promoted the Qanon conspiracy theory that there is a secret cabal of Satan-worshipping cannibalistic pedophiles running a child sex-trafficking ring, and that these pedophiles (mostly Democrats, Hollywood celebrities and members of the media) plotted against President Donald Trump.
  • Liked a tweet that a "bullet to the head would be [a] quicker" way to remove Nancy Pelosi from power.
  • Promoted conspiracy theories that mass school shootings were staged events and taunted a Parkland school shooting survivor who showed up at Congress to testify.
  • Claimed California wildfires were started by a Jewish space laser.
  • Questioned whether 9/11 really happened
Rep. Marjorie Taylor
Greene (R-Qanon)
With that kind of resume, how dare Rep. Upton think Greene was not fit to serve on the House Education Committee?  FYI, that was sarcasm.  

Most Republicans in Congress know that Trumpism and its associated wild conspiracy theories hurts the GOP brand.  They just lack the political courage to speak out.  But while bemoaning their lack of courage, perhaps we Republicans have a bigger problem at the state and local level where GOP organizations are increasingly populated by conspiracy true believers who will lash out at anyone who will not sign on to Qanon and other similar nonsense.

The leadership of the Cass County (Michigan) GOP has brought stupid to a new level.

OOP's short takes:
  • While Tiger Woods is a big celebrity and his car wreck yesterday a big story, it did not deserve the coverage it received.  Everything that was known about the crash could have been summed up in five minutes.  After that the coverage just involved guests speculating about what happened and the medical treatment Woods might be receiving. When will the cable news networks learn to chew gum and walk at the same time?  The news of the day didn't stop happening when Woods drove off the road.
  • In July of 2009, the federal minimum wage was raised to $7.25 an hour.  To keep pace with inflation, that would have had to be raised to $10.97 an hour.  Even though the minimum wage hasn't been raised since 2009, lower end wages have increased dramatically the last few years.  You'd be extremely hard pressed to find any employer paying an unskilled worker less than $10 in Indianapolis.  Most pay at least $12 an hour.  While some states and local governments have mandated minimum wages which have been increased, the driving factor in improved pay has been competition.  That competition has made the $7.25 an hour federal minimum wage an irrelevancy. That is a very good thing.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

CPAC Cancels Speaker Prior to Conference Aimed at Condemning "Cancel Culture"

Given Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Trump Union, is one of the worst human beings on the planet, it is no shock that his annual Conservative Trump Political Action Conference invited an anti-Semitic speaker to this year's convention.  Indeed, every year, Schlapp who is so lazy he won't even do five minutes of internet research on a speaker before issuing a CPAC invitation, ends up canceling a speaker's invitation.  What makes it so ironic is that this year's CPAC theme is "America Uncancelled."

Of course, while Trumpers complain about cancel culture, they have no problem engaging in cancel culture to stop any opposition to Dear Leader.  Any politician who votes against Donald Trump will quickly be censured, assaulted in public by members of the Trump cult, and made a target for defeat at the next primary.  No one is ever allowed to stray from the Trump cult.

You will never hear me speak against "cancel culture."  Personally, I 100% support canceling the political careers of members of Congress such as Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Devin Nunes, Ron Johnson, Paul Gosar, Matt Gaetz, Louie Gohmert, Jim Jordan, Lauren Boebert, and Marjorie Taylor Greene. They
Young Pharaoh

sold out the conservative causes I've fought for all my life to go all in on blind, unfailing support for Donald Trump.  When Trump lost at the polls, those Republican legislators spit on American democracy and supported his staying in office through a sedition effort.  When that failed, they gave aid and comfort to the Trump-supporting insurrectionists who attacked the Capitol on January 6th to try to stop the counting of electoral votes.  Those members of Congress are traitors to this country and their careers in public service need to be canceled.

While Schlapp was originally coy about which speaker he had canceled, it turns out it was the "Young Pharaoh, " who was identified as a "Philosopher, Scholar, Musician" on the CPAC website.  Here's what a five minute research of the "Young Pharaoh" 2020 twitter feed would have revealed:

Eric Hananoki @ehananoki

This week's CPAC is featuring a speaker named Young Pharaoh. In the past year, he's claimed that: 1) Judaism is a “complete lie”; 2) Jewish people are "thieving"; 3) and “all the censorship & pedophilia on social media is being done by Israeli Jews.” Featured CPAC speaker said Judaism is a “complete lie” and referred to Jewish people as “thieving fake Jews”

February 22nd 2021

Young Pharaoh™ 𓂀 @PHARAOH_ATEN_


Young Pharaoh™ 𓂀 @PHARAOH_ATEN_


And, of course, he is into Frazzledrip too:

Young Pharaoh™ 𓂀 @PHARAOH_ATEN_


CPAC's speaker list also includes Wayne Dupree, who called the Sandy Hook shooting "a hoax," and the parents of the dead children "actors."

Then you have several CPAC speakers who don't believe in religious freedom, well at least not for Muslims.

This year's CPAC conference will no doubt be a magnet for Qanon followers and white supremacists.  Qanon enthusiast Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) is a speaker and and Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Qanon supporter, will be in attendance at the conference and speaking to one of the CPAC sponsors in a nearby meeting room.  No doubt members of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers will be in attendance to hear their hero, Donald Trump, speak.

Let the craziness begin.

OOP's short takes:
  • Biden's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) nominee Neera Tanden has over the years used her Twitter account to assault some Republicans (and progressive Democrats).   Now they don't want to vote for her nomination because of her mean tweets. Really?  We had a President the last four days who spent much of his working day issuing mean tweets, and Republican Senators either said they didn't read them or that the tweets should be ignored because they were nothing but Trump blowing off steam.  But now these Republican Senators have read Tanden's tweets and they are offended!  Grow up.  OMB Director is not a policy making position.  President Biden should be able to have his choice to lead the OMB.
  • Poor Heidi Cruz. She is mad at the negative coverage her family received after her husband, Senator Ted Cruz, was spotted on a plane heading for a weekend vacation to Cancun while fellow Texans suffered through the worst cold snap in decades.  Was the problem that Ted and Heidi were doing something selfish and stupid?  No.  Was the problem that Sen. Cruz initially lied when asked about his trip to Cancun. (He falsely claimed he was just escorting the children, then flying right back.)  No. Rather, the problem was Heidi's DEMOCRATIC neighbors who leaked her group text messages inviting them to the Cruz's weekend vacation trip to Cancun.  (The Cancun Ritz Carlton has room rates of "only" $300 a night Heidi texted.)   Yes, I have no problem canceling Ted Cruz and his annoying wife.
  • After initially filing paperwork to run, former Georgia Senator David Perdue has decided against challenging Senator Raphael Warnock in 2022.  As bad a candidate as Perdue was, the GOP Senate nomination may go to an even worse candidate.  Former Senator Kelly Loeffler and former Rep. Doug Collins are considering running. 

Monday, February 22, 2021

Ivy League Stupid; Will Qanon and the Proud Boys Attend the CPAC Clown Show?

I need to get caught up on a lot of smaller stories, so I decided to devote this column to OOP's short takes:

  • Can we please stop pretending that getting a degree from an Ivy League school means someone is smart?  Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has a degree from Yale.  Former Trump spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany graduated from Harvard Law School.  Texas Senator Ted Cruz graduated from college at Princeton and then received his J.D. from Harvard Law School.  After graduating from Stanford University, Missouri Senator Josh Hawley received a law degree from Yale.  Donald Trump and his children, Ivanka, Donald Jr., and Tiffany, all graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, which is an Ivy League school.  Maybe some of these people have "book smarts" (although the Trumps, with the possible exception of Tiffany, clearly do not even have that), but they lack any common sense which they combine with a heavy dose of intellectual dishonesty.
  • Speaking of Ivy League Stupid, how about Senator Ted Cruz?  Was he really so incredibly stupid he didn't know someone with a camera phone would take his picture getting on the plane heading to Cancun while Texas was experiencing a week long natural disaster?  Caught trying to skip out on his state, Cruz claimed he was just escorting his wife and daughters to the vacation spot and had no intention of stay.  Then that turned out to be a lie when group text messages sent by his wife were published, showing that the Senator planned to spend the entire weekend vacationing in Cancun.  His wife, Heidi, told friends that the Ritz-Carlton, where they planned to stay had rates of "only" $300 a night.
  • It has been announced that President Donald Trump is going to speak at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference to be held in Orlando, Florida this week.  In recent years, CPAC has become a joke under the leadership of Matt Schlapp, President of the American Conservative Union which hosts the event.  CPAC used to be an event in which prominent conservative intellectuals in the GOP pass on their wisdom and ideas to up and coming young conservatives in the party.  Since Trump's election, Schlapp has turned away from conservative intellectualism to go all in on Trump crazy.  Most of the speakers at this year's CPAC would never have been allowed to speak at conferences held in the pre-Trump era.   They not only are too extreme, they do not have the intellectual heft of the CPAC speakers of the past.
  • Is Schlapp oblivious to the possibility that the Orlando CPAC event is likely to be attended by Qanon, Proud Boys, Oathkeepers, etc,  and that their presence will become the story?  Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), a Qanon enthusiast, in fact is one of the speakers at the event.  Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green, an even bigger Qanon supporter than Boebert, has not been invited to speak at CPAC, but is speaking at the event to one of the group's sponsoring the CPAC event.  Schlapp seems to have no interest in stopping extremists from taking over the conservative movement.
  • Reports are that Trump will announce at CPAC that he is the "presumptive 2024 GOP presidential nominee."  I think many Republican Senators voted against convicting Trump because they never believed he would run again.  Facing likely criminal prosecution, Trump now has every reason to run in 2024, which would allow him to raise money for his criminal defense and to be able to claim any prosecution of him is about partisan politics, not his violation of the law.
  • Speaking of likely criminal prosecution, the United States Supreme Court, without dissent, ruled that New York prosecutors can obtain Trump's tax returns as part of a criminal investigation into the operations of the Trump Organization.  Those tax returns will now be going to the grand jury considering what indictments, if any, to bring.  While the New York prosecution is something Trump should be worried about, I think Trump's prosecution in Georgia for trying to coerce election officials into changing election results, may be a bigger legal and political concern.
  • I keep reminding people that you can be a felon and run for President of the United States.  If Trump is convicted in New York or Georgia and is nominated, the Republican Party will have a felon as its nominee.  While I think it is entirely possible that Trump runs, I doubt he would go all the way to the convention. Trump would likely end up as a two time loser and he wouldn't want that on his record.
  • The United States Supreme Court also declined to hear an appeal out of Pennsylvania regarding ballots received late (Justice Thomas dissented).  Pennsylvania had a law that absentee ballots had to be received by Election Day. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court extended that by a few days due to the pandemic.  The question was whether the PA Supreme Court could do this or whether that had to be done by the legislature.  The ruling only affected about 10,000 ballots, not nearly enough to have affected the result.
  • Regarding the deep freeze of Texas which has created a major crisis, I was listening to a podcast in which two climate scientists were interviewed.  The host asked whether the Texas freeze was proof of "climate change."  Even though both scientists very much believed in climate change, they were adamant that the deep freeze was a weather event and not proof of climate change.  They talked about how the winters in Texas had in fact gotten warmer and that the deep freeze contradicted that trend.  Their point, which I wholeheartedly endorse, is that you can't prove climate by focusing on weather have to look at long-term trends.  Yet, members of the media are constantly suggesting weather events prove climate change.  It was so refreshing to get push back from climate scientists who know the difference between weather and climate. 

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Mendenhall Chronicles: Part Eight (The Conclusion)

The insanity defense meant demonstrating for the jury that there was no logical explanation for Auggie to be angry at DeLaney for what happened to his father, Burke, at least not enough for him to have an armed confrontation with DeLaney in the Carmel church parking lot.  But was Auggie’s anger really that irrational? 

Auggie was just a teenager when DeLaney filed the DeBartolo injunction lawsuit against his father.  It was shortly afterward, that Marion County Prosecutor Steve Goldsmith filed a civil forfeiture lawsuit against Burke Mendenhall to, in advance, padlock the very building which was the subject of DeBartolo lawsuit.  To serve the civil forfeiture summons on Burke Mendenhall at his home, approximately eight Carmel police cars showed up, when one was sufficient.  Obviously, the police presence in serving a civil summons was an attempt at intimidating Burke.  No doubt, Auggie, who was still a child living at home, witnessed what happened to his father.

The Goldsmith civil forfeiture action spawned news stories which left the false impression that Burke was some sort of pornographer.  (Auggie talked about the embarrassment the stories caused for him at school.)  That publicity was followed by a cascade of lenders foreclosing on Mendenhall properties. Deprived of rental income and reeling from cost of defending his business and reputation in court, Burke was eventually broken financially and declared bankruptcy. 

After years of losses in federal and state court, Burke Mendenhall did eventually prevail when the United States Supreme Court said in a separate case that Indiana’s civil forfeiture did not allow for the pre-trial seizure of bookstore contents as it was a prior restraint on expression in violation of the First Amendment. With Goldsmith’s tactic used against Burke being declared unconstitutional, his office had no choice but to drop the civil forfeiture lawsuit.  Unfortunately, the victory did not give Burke his reputation or restore his real estate development business.

Auggie Mendenhall

A closer look at the facts suggest it was hardly irrational for Auggie or Burke to see a connection between DeLaney’s filing of the DeBartolo lawsuit and Goldsmith filing the civil forfeiture action.  Delaney and Goldsmith were neighbors, and both had been partners at the Indianapolis law firm Barnes & Thornburg.  Delaney’s wife, Ann, worked for Goldsmith at the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office.  Indeed, during his deposition before Auggie’s criminal case, DeLaney admitted he may well have talked to Goldsmith about the lawsuit he had filed against Burke Mendenhall.  

Far from being irrational, it was quite rational that Auggie would blame DeLaney for the financial and personal harm that was done to his father.   It is likewise understandable that years later, Auggie would still nurse a grudge that motivated him to confront DeLaney for what happened to his father.  For his meeting with DeLaney in a car parked in a Carmel church parking lot, Auggie wore a Halloween outfit, heavy winter gloves (even though it was in the 50’s that day), and he brought with him a cheap handgun (instead of the Glock which he owned) which was encased in a plastic bag.    When the gun was found later, the safety was on.  Hardly the actions of someone who had the intent to kill.

It could well have been that Auggie was an uncooperative client who would not agree to a “I was just there to scare him” presentation of facts that, even if accepted by the jury, would been a felony conviction which gave him substantial time in prison.  The only way to avoid any felony conviction and avoid prison entirely was for Auggie to win on the longshot insanity defense. 

Nonetheless, the defense strategy had the unfortunate effect of further brutalizing the reputation of Burke and Auggie, while most undeservedly lionizing DeLaney.  DeLaney almost certainly shares blame for the financial and personal harm inflicted on Burke Mendenhall.  To think otherwise is to ignore the strong possibility that Goldsmith's civil forfeiture lawsuit against Mendenhall was filed to aid DeLaney in the representation of his corporate client.   But while DeLaney is not without fault, Goldsmith may be even more to blame.  As an elected prosecutor he had enormous power, and he seems to have blatantly abused that power to try to destroy Burke Mendenhall.    He should not be given a pass for his conduct.

The sad tale of Auggie Mendenhall is not a story about a crazy son and his delusional father.  It is a story about how powerful, well-connected people can misuse their power to hurt people who lack the power to fight back.  While we cannot know for certain that DeLaney enlisted the awesome power of Marion County Prosecutor Steve Goldsmith to advance the interests of his client and, in the process, crush Burke Mendenhall, it is entirely rational to make that connection. 

Burke Mendenhall and his son, Auggie, deserved better.

RIP, Augustus “Auggie” Mendenhall.

Mendenhall Chronicles: Part Seven

A couple problems with the shared psychotic disorder insanity defense are apparent from looking at the record in the case.  First, while a defense expert witness did examine Auggie and testified in support of the insanity defense, there was no examination of Burke to determine if he too had a psychotic disorder.  If the defense is that Auggie got his psychosis from Burke, one would think Burke too should have been examined by a psychiatrist and that expert testimony presented to the jury.

A second problem is that the nature of shared psychotic disorder is that the primary and secondary are close, and usually live together.  While Auggie had moved back into Burke’s Indiana home a few months before his altercation with DeLaney, Auggie had otherwise lived for years outside of Burke’s home and even outside of Indiana.  As an adult, Auggie had served in the Air Force, gotten married (and divorced), and worked in Florida.

To advance the insanity defense, Crawford put on evidence that suggested the lifelong animosity that Auggie and Burke harbored toward Delaney was without any justification, indeed delusional.  The flip side is that Crawford sought to prove Delaney was a man of integrity, someone who had done absolutely nothing that should have made Burke and Auggie upset, much less have caused such a bitter grudge that Auggie felt compelled to act on years later.

Auggie Mendenhall
Crawford’s final argument, highlights his denunciation of the Mendenhalls and praise of DeLaney:

When I grew up, I think in many neighborhoods there was always a crazy house in the neighborhood.  I used to walk to school and as a kid we’d always avoid Mr. Daniels’ house. That was the crazy house.  There were crazy people there.  They did odd thing things they said odd things.  We avoided them.  When you walk down the street and you see someone talking to themselves in an unusual peculiar manner a lot of us will avoid eye contract with that person.  Because we don’t want to engage a crazy person.  And that’s what this case is about.  So many strange unusual happenings in this case.  The way DeLaney and Mendenhall got together.  Strange, unusual….

[Delaney] filed a suit, an injunction to shut down the building out of the porno shop for ten days, ten days.  He was actively involved in this case for about two months and then Goldsmith took over.  Ed Delaney had nothing to do with it. The idea that it’s Ed DeLaney that caused the misfortune for this family is in August Mendenhall’s head.

It’s his senseless psychotic rant against Delaney that makes no sense in the world.  Burke Mendenhall would gladly let Ed DeLaney administer any beating, whipping, hands down, no resistance if he could restore his life prior to Delaney’s and Goldsmith’s unbridled quest for greed, political power, publicity and money…. I say there’s nothing to support that.  That DeLaney ruined Burke Mendenhall’s life.  Maybe Goldsmith and that’s a stretch.  The only reason he believes it is he’s sick as the day is long.  He’s as crazy if not crazier than his son.

The doctors talked about a possible cure for shared psychotic disorder.  What’s the cure. Separation from the crazy person in the house.  Separation. Cole (Auggie’s brother) got separation.  And he survived.  Auggie didn’t.  He was a living with his dad at the time this happened.

Let me tell you one reason, I know he’s crazy.  And you should know too. To choose DeLaney for something like this.  To show that Edward DeLaney represents the powers of society hurting little people is absolutely ridiculous and crazy. The DeLaney name is a prominent name in our community.  And he and his wife have fought hard for people’s rights.  For the rights of the accused. For the downtrodden. For the little people. That’s his reputation.  The name DeLaney stands for justice in this community. It stands for helping people fight government.  Not hurting people.  In [Auggie’s] crazy mind he thought he was a bad man.  But he’s not.  Far from it.  If you were going to pick a legislator to go after you wouldn’t pick Edward Delaney for oppressing small little people or using his position to hurt families.  That’s the antithesis of who that man is and what that family name means.  His wife has worked hard for the rights of person [sic] who are victims of domestic violence.  He has stood up for the rights of people and the rights of the accused and the rights of the mentally ill and the disabled time and time again.  That’s who he is.  How did they pick him of all the people that he’ could pick.  Because he’s sick.  And if the name DeLaney means anything in my opinion it stands for, in our community, doing the right thing.  Doing the right thing….

The final argument, viewed in isolation, makes one wonder who Crawford represents. But the argument is consistent with Crawford’s aggressive pursuit of insanity on behalf of his client.  It could well be that Auggie insisted on total exoneration for his actions, which could have only been achieved with the insanity defense.  In the end, the jury did find Auggie guilty but mentally ill, a designation though which did not really help in term of the length of his sentence. 

Some quick clarifications and corrections to Crawford’s final argument quoted above.  As already noted, while Auggie was living with his father at the time of the incident, that was only a recent development.  The injunction civil case Delaney filed against Mendenhall on behalf of his client, property owner DeBartolo Corporation, lasted for more than “two months.”  Finally, Goldsmith certainly did not take over that injunction case from DeLaney (although the assertion highlights how the two lawsuits were essentially aimed at the same goal.)  Goldsmith, in his role as Marion County Prosecutor, pursued, quite aggressively, a separate civil forfeiture case against Burke.

Mendenhall Chronicles: Part Six

Ten years ago, I wrote “The Mendenhall Chronicles,” a five-part series that provided background for what led to Attorney August “Auggie” Mendenhall’s strange encounter with attorney and Indiana state representative Ed Delaney, a confrontation that led to Mendenhall’s conviction for attempted murder.  The Chronicles though stopped at the point a Motion to Correct Errors set to be filed in the case.

Sadly, last Mother’s Day 2019, Auggie took his own life in his prison cell.   The time is long past to update the Chronicles.

After the failure of the Motion to Correct Errors, Mendenhall took a direct appeal of his convictions for attempted murder, felony murder resulting in seriously bodily injury, aggravated battery, criminal confinement and resisting law enforcement.  The appeal claimed it was error not to order a mistrial after a police officer testified that, after being advised of his rights, Mendenhall had refused to speak to him without an attorney.  The direct appeal also challenged the order of witnesses, claimed the court improperly allowing rebuttal testimony and asserted that one of the convictions was barred by Indiana’s prohibition on double jeopardy.  Mendenhall lost every issue on appeal, except the one related to double jeopardy, a victory which reduced his robbery conviction from an A felony to a C felony but had no effect on 40-year sentence Mendenhall received for his attempted murder conviction.

Auggie Mendenhall

Next up Mendenhall tried to overturn his convictions through a process known as post-conviction (PCR) relief.  This process included a review of whether Mendenhall’s convictions were the result of ineffective counsel.    Mendenhall’s trial counsel was former Lake County Prosecutor Jack Crawford who, following his resignation as the first Hoosier Lottery Director, built a successful practice as a criminal defense attorney.

Attorneys representing defendants on PCRs are hampered by court rulings that sharply limit any challenge to trial counsel’s strategy even if another strategy may well have produced a better outcome.To succeed in challenging strategy, Mendenhall’s PCR counsel Adam Lenkowsky would have had to demonstrate that Crawford’s representation amounted to a “farce” or a “mockery of justice” that is “shocking to the conscience of the court.”>This incredibly high standard often results in PCR attorneys, pursuing other grounds on behalf of their clients.

The strategy Crawford pursued on behalf of his client was insanity.  It had the advantage of Auggie possibly being acquitted on all charges.  The insanity defense though might be characterized as the “Hail Mary” pass of legal defenses, a strategy employed when defense attorneys have no other options to secure an acquittal.   Studies have found the strategy is used in only about 1% of cases and in only a quarter of those cases did the strategy work. 

In particular, Crawford employed a particular type of insanity defense – “shared psychotic disorder” – which may be the hardest type of insanity to prove.  The National Center for Biotechnology Information defines shared psychotic disorder (Folie a deux) as an “unusual mental disorder characterized by sharing a delusion among two or more people who are in a close relationship.  The (inducer, primary) who has a psychotic disorder with delusions influences another individual or more (induced, secondary) with a specific belief.”

Thus, an attorney advancing the shared psychotic disorder insanity defense, basically must show the defendant (the induced, secondary person) is delusional, which delusion he got from another person (the inducer, primary person) with whom he had a close relationship.  In this case, that meant showing that Auggie’s father, Burke, was delusional in believing that DeLaney was at fault for the cascade of litigation which broke Burke emotionally and financially.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Kinzinger Letter Proves Beyond Doubt that Trumpism is a Cult

Congressman Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), who was elected to a suburban Chicago district in 2010, is one of the more conservative members of the United States House of Representatives.  He opposes gun control measures, sponsored several anti-abortion bills (earning him a 0% rating from the National Abortion Rights Action League), and supports lower personal and business taxes.  A fiscal and social conservative, Kinzinger checks all the conservative boxes.  Kinzinger was also an Air Force pilot who flew missions in Iraq and Afghanistan

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL)

But in the era of Donald J. Trump, whether you're a good Republican (and not a "RINO") or a conservative is measured by if you will embrace undying fealty to Dear Leader Donald J. Trump.  That is the only thing that matters.  

Kinzinger though refuses to bend the knee to Trump.  Instead, he stubbornly believes character, honesty, and competence should matter.  He looks at Trump and sees someone singularly unqualified and unfit to be President of the United States.  But unlike most other Republican members of Congress who feel the same way, Kinzinger is willing to speak out and to hold the President accountable for his actions, the most recent of which was voting to impeach Trump for the ex-President's role in lying about a "stolen election" then inciting an insurrection that left five dead and 65 police officers injured to try to stop Congress from counting the electoral votes.

Kinzinger's political courage has made him Public Enemy No. 1 among some "Republicans" and even among some of Kinzinger's family member.  Recently his cousin Karen Otto, authored a letter which she sent to Kinzinger and other Republican officials, a letter which she no doubt believed took Kinzinger down a notch.  Rather the letter, which purportedly is signed by 11 Kinzinger relatives (the names of everyone but Karen and her husband, Greg, were redacted when the New York Times published the letter), actually is devastating evidence that Trumpism is nothing more than a cult and that those in the Trump cult live in an alternative reality.  Below is the letter which I've re-typed from the handwritten copy.

                                                                January 8, 2021


    Oh my, what a disappointment you are to us and to God!  We were once proud of your accomplishments~!  Instead, you go against your Christian principals [sic] and join the "devil's army" (Democrats and the fake news media).  How do you call yourself a Christian when you join the "devil's army" believing in abortion!  We thought you were "smart" enough to see how the left is brainwashing so many "so called good people" including yourself and many other GOP members.  You have even fallen for their socialism ideals!  So, so sad!

    President Trump is not perfect, but neither are you or any of us for that matter!  It is not for us to judge or be judged!  But he is a Christian!  (If God can forgive and use King David in the Bible, He can do the same with President Trump.)  Franklin Graham, Robert Jeffress, to name a few of many Pastors who mentor President Trump, know that he is a believer!  Obviously, you did not hear President Trump's "Christmas Message" to the American people (fake news media did not cover his message) where he actually gave the plan of salvation, instructing people how to repent and ask the Savior into their heart to be "Born Again"!  (To believe in John 3:16)  When was the last time you proclaimed your faith Adam?  (Oh, we forgot you now belong to the "devil's army.")  You won't convince us otherwise with your horrible, rude accusations of President Trump!  (To embrace a party that believes in abortion and socialism is the ultimate sin.)  We should list even more grievances against you, but decided you are not worth more of our time to list them.  We have said enough!

    You should be very proud that you have lost the respect of Lou Dobbs, Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Greg Kelly etc. and most importantly in our book, Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh and us!

    It is embarrassing to us that we are related to you.  You have embarrassed the Kinzinger family name!  We are not judging you.  This letter is our opinion of you!

  Oh, by the way, good luck in your fund raising endeavors.  We are sure (we know) there are many other good GOP and Christian supporters, that feel the same way we do.  Also very disappointed with the many other GOP that have sided with the Democrats. (We should demand our money back!)

   The following Kinzinger family members have asked that their name be added to this letter:

                   Greg and Karen Otto  (the other names are redacted)

P.S.  For your information, many more family members, feel the same as we do.  They just didn't have the courage to sign our letter or write their own letter!  Not us, we are thoroughly disgusted with you!! And, oh by the way, we are calling for your removal from office!  I have received numerous calls concerning your actions and egregious behavior towards our President of the United States, Donald J. Trump!*

cc.  Many conservative Republicans

*President Trump has done more for the American people in four years, than you, the Rino's and Democrats have done in years!!

Yes, it's a cult.  No doubt about it.

OOP's short takes:

  • Rush Limbaugh, who used to be such a force in conservative politics, died today.  When Trump came on the scene five years ago, Limbaugh threw away his conservative principles to climb on the Trump train  When the devastating cancer diagnosis became public, many of us hoped Limbaugh would spend his remaining days returning to his conservative roots and restoring his image.  Instead, Limbaugh amped up the crazy Trump rhetoric to new levels as cancer continued to eat away at his body. So sad that he will be remembered as a Crazy Trumper instead of a pioneering conservative commentator who forever changed talk radio.
  • Been listening to the Bulwark podcast.  The last few guests have discussed the possibility of the Trump children and in-laws running for office and suggested it is a slam dunk that GOP voters will automatically back anyone named Trump.  I don't buy that Donald Trump's hold over the GOP transfers to other Trump candidates, including Trump's family members.  While a Lara Trump or an Ivanka Trump might be able to win the GOP Senate nomination in North Carolina and Florida respectively (I have more doubt about Ivanka in Florida), they're not going to get the GOP turnout that Donald Trump enjoyed and the Republicans who do go to the polls aren't going to be that motivated to vote for candidates with zero conservative credentials.  Meanwhile, Democrats will flock to the polls to vote against someone named Trump.  I don't think a Lara Trump or Ivanka Trump would win a general election.
  • Covid-19 rates are dropping dramatically.  I think we can finally see the end to the pandemic.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

The Constitution is Broken: We Need a Constitutional Convention to Fix It

The Constitution is broken and it needs to be fixed.   Yeah, I know it's heresy to say that.

I once assigned to my political science students the task of identifying a provision in the Constitution that has not worked and how it could be fixed.  I was shocked by my students' response.  The Constitution is PERFECT.  Nothing needs to be changed.  You would have thought I was suggesting the Bible be rewritten.

While reverence toward our (second) Constitution is not unreasonable, it should not blind us to the imperfections in the document.  Certainly if Madison, Hamilton, Washington and Franklin had lived to see 2021, they no doubt could identify specific constitutional provisions they drafted in 1787 which have proven over time not to work.  They would also undoubtedly have suggested changes.

Since the Founders are not coming back, my thoughts on Constitutional changes will have to suffice.

IMPEACHMENT:  The threat of impeachment and removal was considered to be a significant check on the executive and judicial branches.  Yet, there has only been eight federal judges impeached and removed from office in the entire history of this country.  When it comes to Presidents, none have ever been removed through the impeachment process.  (Nixon probably escaped that fate by resigning.)  But even more damning is that only one Senator - Mitt Romney - has ever voted to convict a President of his party during the trial of his impeachment.  While that number will no doubt improve as of today, the fact Donald Trump will once again easily avoid the 2/3 vote for conviction despite inciting an insurrection to stop the counting of electoral votes, an insurrection that resulted in five deaths and members of Congress and the Vice President narrowly escaping with their lives, shows how partisan politics has made a mockery of impeachment as any sort of check on the President.  

SUGGESTION:  When it comes to the President and perhaps cabinet officials, the Constitution should be changed so the House and Senate should be responsible, by majority vote, for impeachment with the trial of that impeachment taking place in the U.S. Supreme Court, with 6 or 7 (out of 9 justices) votes being required for removal. 


PARDON POWER  As I have documented on these pages, the President's pardon power was originally limited for the simple fact that there were then very few federal crimes and pardons could only go toward those crimes. With an expansion of the federal criminal code came an expansion of the President's pardon power.   During his term, President Trump rewarded friends with pardons, and even dangled pardons as a reward for political cronies who refuse to speak to prosecutors about Trump's misdeeds.

SUGGESTION:  The President retains the federal pardon power, but the pardons have to be submitted to Congress.  Unless both houses of Congress decide by a majority vote to override the pardon by a certain date, the pardon is approved.


TERM LIMITS FOR SUPREME COURT JUSTICES:  We need to get away from the game of appointing a 45 year old, relatively inexperienced person to the U.S. Supreme Court, hoping that he or she gets 40 years on the bench.  This is not a good practice, but one both parties understandably engage in.

SUGGESTION:  18 year terms for Supreme Court justices, with a term of a justice ending every 2 years.  That way every President will have at least two appointments during a four year term.


TERM LIMITS FOR OTHER FEDERAL JUDGES:  I have never been a fan of lifetime appointments for federal judges.  I understand the need to be insulated from politics, but a long tenure in office, with no reappointment, would accomplish the same goal while instilling more youth and vitality in our federal judiciary.

SUGGESTION:  Perhaps a single 10 year term for federal district and appellate judges.  I guess you could match my Supreme Court proposal and make the terms 18 years.  Just don't make it a life term or give the judge a chance to be reappointed. 


EMOLUMENTS CLAUSE:  The Constitution contains a foreign emoluments clause.  The purpose of the clause is to prevent corruption and foreign influence on federal officers, including the President.  It does this by prohibiting federal officials from receiving things of value from foreign leaders (who might be seeking to influence the official) unless Congress assents.  Up until Donald Trump, Presidents regularly divested themselves of business entanglements and investments that could have provided a possible avenue for foreign governments to seek influence.  Trump decided to just ignore the emoluments clause, never once seeking the assent of Congress for his numerous business ventures for which Trump personally profited from payments by foreign governments.

SUGGESTION:  It would notrequire a constitutional change to the emoluments clause, but there needs to be legislation which gives the emoluments clause teeth by requiring disclosure and deadlines for seeking approval from Congress.


25TH AMENDMENT:  The 25th Amendment provides a process to remove a disabled President.  The Amendment says the Vice-President can have an unfit President removed with a majority vote of the President's cabinet.  This has proven to be unworkable.

SUGGESTION:  Fortunately, the 25th Amendment has language that allows Congress to establish an alternative body to the President's cabinet for the purpose of evaluating the President's fitness and casting a vote.  (Say a panel including medical experts and other professionals.) Congress just needs to get off its collective duff and pass the law.


REDISTRICTING (GERRYMANDERING):  With the advancement of technology came the ability of state legislators to better gerrymander districts so competitive general elections have become few and far between. No longer needing to appeal to the broad electorate, candidates run appealing to their party's base by usually taking the most extreme positions possible.  The reason why compromise in Congress is rarely an option is that there are few legislators who have to worry about anything but appealing to their party's base in a primary.

Some people have argued Congress could pass a law taking away from states the drawing of congressional district lines.  Possibly.  It might take a constitutional amendment though.  Certainly as to states drawing their own legislative district lines a constitutional amendment would be required.  

SUGGESTION:  Turn the drawing of congressional and state district lines to federal judges.  You could assign the responsibility to federal circuit court judges to draw district lines for the states that they cover.  The 7th Circuit Court, for example, would draw district lines for Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin.  I know some people will suggest "independent commissions" but too often those commission are as political as legislative bodies they replace.  I'm more confident in federal judges, with life tenures, drawing fair, competitive districts.


HOUSE:  As House members are up every 2 years, they are constantly in re-election mode.  There needs to be more insulation from the whims of voters.

SUGGESTION:  House members should have four year terms, with half the chamber up every two years.


How to go about making these numerous changes?  A constitutional convention.  

Extremists on both sides of the political spectrum freak-out when the possibility o f a constitutional convention is mentioned.  The far right envisions liberals using the Convention to write into the Constitution left-wing policies. The far left envisions conservatives doing the same thing.  

The extremists are united in their delusion..  Any proposal that a constitutional convention came up with would still have to be ratified by 3/4 of the states, a huge lift which ensures no far-right or far-left constitutional changes have a prayer of being approved.  Only the most reasonable, most most moderate changes to our foundational document would have a chance of being ratified.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

How to Improve the Designated Hitter Rule: Tie the DH to the Pitcher

A week from today, we will finally see the first sign of Spring.  Pitchers and catchers are slated to report to MLB facilities in Florida and Arizona.  Two weeks after that, spring training games will begin.

Before the 2021 season began, baseball management and the players union agreed to some temporary rule changes for a second Covid-19 influenced baseball season.  Doubleheaders will still be 7 inning games.  Extra inning games will feature a runner on second base.  I particularly hate that.  That's a slow pitch softball rule.  I'd rather have ties than that rule.

One 2020 rule that did not make it in 2021 is the universal designated hitter.  After a one year respite, the National League will be back to having its pitchers go to the plate.

I have long despised the designated hitter rule.  I have several reasons, but the major one is that it removes the major strategic decision from the game.  Baseball is not a sport which has a lot of obvious strategic decisions that fans can discuss and debate.  Whether to pull a pitcher who is performing well in favor of a pinch-hitter is an exception. But with the DH, there is no debate - you just "designate" a good hitter at the start of the game and let him bat for whichever pitcher enters the game.  Outside of whether to have a left or right-handed designated hitter depending on pitching matchups, there's no strategy involved.

Since the DH slot is often filled by a high-paid veteran player who no longer can play the field, the player's union loves it.  Since the union seems willing to accept more playoff teams (don't get me started with devaluing a 162 game season by adding yet more regular season losers to the playoffs) in exchange for the DH, it seems inevitable the National League will adopt the DH soon.

So reluctantly I offer this simple proposal for improving the DH.  Tie the DH to the particular pitcher he is batting for.  Let's say Smith starts the game on the mound.  Jones is designated to bat for Smith.  But if Smith leaves the game so too does Jones.  If a relief pitcher's slot in the order comes up, the manager can designate another hitter for that relief pitcher.  That new DH will bat for that pitcher as long as he continues pitching. 

Let's say that a relief pitcher's spot comes up, and the manager just needs a runner bunted over. The manager might just keep the pitcher in to do that rather than burn a position player as DH.

By tying the DH to a particular pitcher, you're adding back into the game a lot of strategy you take out with the current DH rule.

Yes, I am available to take the MLB Commissioner job. 

Trump Attorneys Fumble the Ball on Day One of Impeachment

As I write this, the second day of Donald J. Trump's impeachment trial is taking place.  Donald Trump is the first President in the 245 years of this country to have been impeached twice.

Once an impeached President is convicted in the Senate, the Constitution provides for two punishments.  One is automatic - removal from office.  The second, which requires a separate vote (but majority only), is to disqualify the convicted person from running for federal office again.  Republican Senators have landed on the position that if the first punishment is no longer an option, someone who is impeached cannot be convicted.  That nonsensical position would give the President a free ride to do whatever he or she wants during the final weeks in office, knowing that Congress would never have time to impeach and remove that person from office.  Or the President, facing removal and disqualification, could simply resign and run for re-election at the next opportunity.

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA)

Those who argue that an ex-President can't be impeached often point to the criminal law as providing a way of holding the President accountable.  Yes, but no.  While a President could be charged with a crime, and ultimately convicted and imprisoned, even a felony conviction does not disqualify him from running for President again.  Courts have long held that barring felons from serving in federal elected office would require an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to include that prohibition.

Last week, Republican Senators voted 45-5 that it is unconstitutional to try the impeachment of a President who is no longer in office.  Yesterday though, the opening statements went so badly for the Trump legal team, that one GOP Senator flipped on the constitutional issue.  The Hill reports:

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) on Tuesday panned the arguments made by former President Trump's legal team, saying that House Democrats made a more compelling case that the impeachment proceeding is constitutional.

"I said I'd be an impartial juror. Anyone listening to those arguments — the House managers were focused. They were organized. They relied upon both precedent, the constitution and legal scholars. They made a compelling reason. President Trump's team were disorganized," he said.


"They did everything they could but to talk about the question at hand, and when they talked about it, they kind of glided over it, almost as if they were embarrassed of their arguments. Now, I'm an impartial juror, and one side is doing a great job, and the other side is doing a terrible job on the issue at hand. As an impartial juror, I'm going to vote for the side that did the good job," Cassidy said.  

Asked why he thought Trump's team did a bad job, Cassidy fired back, "Did you listen to it?" 

Cassidy's vote and his comments apparently brought a quick rebuke from the Louisiana GOP.

“The Republican Party of Louisiana is profoundly disappointed by Senator Bill Cassidy’s vote on the constitutionality of the impeachment trial now underway against former President, now private citizen, Donald J. Trump,” the party said in a statement.

“We feel that an impeachment trial of a private citizen is not only an unconstitutional act, but also an attack on the very foundation of American democracy, which will have far reaching and unforeseen consequences for our republic,” it added. 

The statement is unsigned and it is not clear who in the Louisiana GOP approved it.

What is truly astonishing is the comments attached to the Louisiana GOP statements in which posters (who may or may not be from Louisiana) react in anger to Cassidy's vote and demand he resign.  Never mind that Cassidy is one of the most conservative members of the U.S. Senate and voted about 99% of the time with Trump's agenda, Cassidy is labeled as a RINO and not being conservative enough.  In reality, the problem is that Cassidy dared to stray from the Trump cult and now must be punished.

OOP's short takes:

  • Speaking of the Trump cult, the Aiken County Republican Party is considering a censure resolution against GOP Senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott for not objecting to the counting of electoral votes that favored Joe Biden.  Never mind that they really had no choice under the Constitution and have otherwise voted 100% for anything Dear Leader wanted.
  • 'The Fulton County Prosecutor Fani Willis has opened up a criminal investigation into former President Trump's "attempts to influence the administration of the 2020 Georgia general election" relating to his phone call to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, during which Trump pressured Raffensperger to "find" enough votes to give him the win in Georgia.   In a letter to state officials asking for the preservation of potential evidence, Willis has indicated the "investigation includes, but is not limited to, potential violations of Georgia election law prohibiting the solicitation of election fraud, the making of false statements to state and local government bodies, conspiracy, racketeering, violation of oath of office, and any involvement in violence of threats related to the election's administration."
  • I find the inclusion of the last phrase to be noteworthy.  While Trump did, indirectly, suggest his Justice Department might prosecute Raffensperger if he didn't do as he was told, I am not aware that Trump was involved in instigating violence or threats toward Raffensperger or other Georgia officials.  Makes me wonder if they have evidence of that allegation.  Nonetheless, as far as Trump being charged criminally in Fulton County, I think the odds are at least 50-50.