Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Hoosier GOP Members of Congress Rate Poorly on Support for the Constitution, American Democratic Values

The Republican Accountability Project is now offering an interesting tool which evaluates GOP members of Congress on their support for the Constitution and American Democracy.  It is based on four criteria: 

  • Did he or she sign on to the amicus brief filed along with Texas’ lawsuit to the Supreme Court that sought to nullify votes cast in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Georgia? More Info
  • Did he or she object to the certification of Electoral College votes from at least one state? More Info
  • Did he or she make public statements that cast doubt on the legitimacy of the 2020 election? More Info
  • Did he or she vote to hold Trump accountable via impeachment or conviction? More Info
Indiana Republican members of Congress do not fare well.  Representatives Jim Baird, Jim Banks, Greg Pence and Jackie Walorski all received an F, i.e. "Very Poor."  Rep. Trey Hollingsworth fared slightly better with a D-, while Victoria Spartz received a D, although her grade is somewhat incomplete since she was not in Congress at the time the Texas amicus brief was circulated for congressional signatures.

Indiana's congressional representatives who earned the best grades are Senators Mike Braun and Todd Young, and Rep. Larry Bucshon, who all received a   C-, "Mediocre" grade.

Other states had members of Congress who scored much better than those from Indiana. Senators Richard Burr (NC), Bill Cassidy (LA), Susan Collins (ME), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Mitt Romney (UT), Ben Sasse (NB), Pat Toomey (PA) and Representatives Liz Cheney (WY), Anthony Gonzalez (OH), Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA), John Katko (NY), Adam Kinzinger (IL), Fred Upton and Peter Meijer (both MI) all received perfect "A" or "Excellent" grades.  

The project is a work in progress.  Additional criteria will be added later.  Frankly, it seems a pretty fair rating of Indiana's congressional representatives, with the exception of giving Braun and Young the same grade. Braun is much more Trumpy and hostile to American democracy than Young, although Young will occasionally throw a bone to the Trump crowd to keep any GOP challengers at bay.

OOP's short takes:
  • This morning the FBI executed search warrants at the home and office of Rudolph W. Giuliani.  Supposedly the warrants are related to a criminal investigation into Giuliani's dealings in Ukraine.
  • If Giuliani would have passed away after 9/11, New York City would have erected statues to honor his service to the city.  Federal and municipal buildings would have been named after him.  It's hard to believe the former two-term NYC mayor and legendary federal prosecutor who crushed the NYC mob is the same person who turned himself into a joke in an effort to aid President Trump in his re-election efforts.  I really think one day we're going to learn that Giuliani has been suffering the last few years from a physical ailment that has affected his judgment and decision-making.  That's the only explanation I have for what happened to him.

Monday, April 26, 2021

Want to Ruin Baseball? Banning Defensive Shifts, Ghost Runners and Home Run Derbies Are a Good Way of Doing It

Yankees' first basemen/outfielder Jay Bruce has one talent - hitting the ball hard to the right side of the field, preferably out of the ballpark.   When the left-handed hitter entered the majors 14 years ago, defensive shifts to combat pull hitters like Bruce were not that common.  Now they are.  As a result, Bruce had a choice - adjust to the shift or retire.  Bruce chose retirement.

That decision caused Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated to pen an article advocating that the MLB ban the defensive shift.  Poor Jay Bruce.   Because he and other MLB pull hitters either won't or are incapable of taking legendary contact hitter Wee Willie Keeler's advice to "hit 'em where they ain't," Verducci believes MLB needs to ban the shift.

Give me a break.  Baseball has a long, long history of developing players to meet the changing nature of the game.  In the 1960s and 1970s, major league ballparks put in artificial turf, making the game faster, so teams started drafting and trading for players with more speed.  When those artificial turf ballparks were replaced with more compact ones using grass fields, speed began being downplayed in favor of power hitting.  

Major League teams are already adjusting to the shift.  Players who can hit the ball all over the field are a hot commodity.  Players who previously only utilized one area of the diamond are learning to hit the ball to openings created by the shift.  As a result, teams are increasingly abandoning shifts against these players.  These developments are a wonderful thing.  Verducci wants to stop that. 

Out of fairness to Verducci, he has even worse ideas such as his "bonus batter" idea that would allow a manager to designate a player who could be called upon to bat one time a game regardless of where he is in the lineup or even if he is out of the game.

Speaking of MLB teams adjusting to changes, another development is that, with fewer position players on the roster, finding players who can play a multitude of positions has become a priority.  An example of that is Kyle Farmer of the Reds.  Farmer has played all infield positions, as well as left field and catcher.  While he's an average hitter and average defensively at all those positions, he is of extraordinary value due to the need for teams today to be flexible.

"Ghost runner?"  I heard that term used in an MLB game the other day.  A change for 2020 and 2021 pandemic seasons is that in extra innings, teams will start out with a runner (the person who made the last out the inning before) with a runner on second.  That person, for some reason, is being referred to as a "ghost runner."  The change is supposed to more quickly end tie games and avoid the infrequent marathon extra inning games. 

The change smacks of a gimmick, a bastardization of the rules of the game.  So I was intrigued by an article which bemoaned the change, pointing out that teams can win in extra innings simply by bunting over the ghost runner and bringing him in on a sacrifice fly.  Good enough so far.  Then the author proposed an alternative - a home run derby!!!  Each team could pick a player to pitch and the team could see how many home runs they could hit before the other team caught three balls in the outfield which didn't make it to the fence.  A run would be added to the score for every home run!  So the score of extra inning games would be like 17-15 or 20-18.  How exciting! 

I'm not sure lengthy extra inning games are a huge problem.   But I'm more open to games ending in ties (maybe after 12 innings) than ridiculous gimmicks like ghost runners or a home run derby.

There are changes to the game I would make:

1) Shrink the length of the season.  Playing and watching baseball in cold weather is awful.  The regular season needs to start and end about three weeks earlier.  This can be done by scheduling day-night doubleheaders on the weekends.  I'm also not opposed to returning to a 154 game season.

2) Playoff and World Series Games need to start earlier.  MLB cannot have its premier games concluding after midnight.   I know the reason the games start later.  MLB wants to try to hit prime time in both the Eastern and Pacific time zones.  But there are a lot more people living in the Eastern time zone and it is important to get those games over before that audience goes to bed.

3) Batters stepping out of the box.  Let's call this the Small Rule as my friend Mark Small is constantly mentioning it to me. Once a player steps into box, he is to stay there until the completion of the at bat.  No stepping out and scratching or doing other things. 

4) Enforce the 12 second rule between pitches.  People do not know this rule exists, but MLB requires that when the bases are unoccupied, pitchers need to throw a pitch every 12 seconds. The rule is consistently ignored.

5) Move the mound back.  Fewer and fewer balls are being put into play which is ruining the excitement of the game.  One of the reasons why is that even middle relief pitchers are throwing in the middle to upper 90s.  While this seems to contradict my earlier position, I don't think human beings are ever going to be able adjust to consistently make contact with balls thrown that hard.  And I don't believe the mound distance of 60 feet, 6 inches is somehow magical.  The mound has been lowered before.  I don't think moving it back is any different.  The MLB is experimenting with this.

5) Modified Designated Hitter.  Okay, to be clear I am not in favor of the DH.  I think it removes a very important strategic decision in the game - when and whether to take out a pitcher for a pinch hitter.  But if the universal DH is going to be adopted, which seems increasingly likely, it needs to be modified.  When a hitter is designated to hit for a pitcher, that DH should be tied to that particular pitcher.  Remove that pitcher and you need to designate another hitter when that relief pitcher's turn comes up in the lineup.  Or you could have the relief pitcher hit (say for example it is only a bunt that the manager wants) and not burn another position player as DH.  My modified DH rule would return a lot of the strategy to the game that the current DH rule removes.  Let's call this the Ogden Rule as I seem to be the only one advocating it.

6) Stealing First Base.  I like this rule.  The ball gets away from the catcher, the batter can opt to try to make it to first base rather than continue hitting.  Right now, the batter can run to first (assuming its unoccupied) on a third strike that gets away from the catcher.  This basically expands upon that rule.  It would be a fairly rare occurrence and would add excitement while not undermining the integrity of the game.  MLB has experimented with this rule in the minors.

Indiana Senator Todd Young's Re-Election in 2022 No Sure Thing

When it comes to Democrats compiling a list of vulnerable Republican Senators, Indiana's Todd Young is unlikely to make the cut.  But a close look at recent Indiana voting trends suggests Democrats have a chance to steal a seat in the Hoosier state. 

No one was better at driving turnout than Donald Trump.  Rural voters who previously weren't motivated to go to the polls did so in massive numbers during the Trump era, particularly the years when he was on the ballot.  The problem for Republicans though was that Trump not only drove GOP turnout, he motivated Democrats to go to the polls.  That pretty much evened out the score. What defeated Trump in 2020 was GOP-leaning voters in swing state suburbs crossing over to vote for Biden.  Although those voters didn't like Trump, they voted for Republican candidates down ballot.  

In 2018, Trump was in the White House but not on the ballot.  That year, the GOP statewide baseline in Indiana fell to 57.5% from 62.1% in 2014.  Nearly every larger suburban Hoosier county saw a relative decline in GOP votes.  Here are the top 12 Hoosier counties ranked by population with the decline in the GOP base vote noted:

Marion  -8
Lake    -2.5
Allen  -7.7
Hamilton -13.1
St. Joseph  -6.5
Elkhart  -8
Tippecanoe  -10
Vanderburgh -15.7
Porter -1.9
Hendricks -10.2
Johnson - 8.6
Monroe -10.8

While the number of Republican votes in these counties went up in Trump's only mid-term, the Democratic turnout in these populous counties increased even more causing the GOP vote decline.

I also took a look at Trump's performance in Indiana, 2016 versus 2020. In 2016, Trump won Indiana by 19.1%.  In 2020, his winning margin declined modestly to 16%.  The biggest drops in Trump support came in:

Hamilton -12.8
Boone -11.1
Johnson -8.3
Allen -8.3
Hendricks -8.2
Vanderburgh -7.3
Hancock -7
Bartholomew -7
Tippecanoe -6.6
Marion -6.4

Obviously the greatest decline in Trump support was in Marion County and its suburbs, including the donut counties of Hamilton, Boone, Johnson, Hendricks and Hancock.

In short, the way the Democrats win Todd Young's seat in the Senate is for rural turnout to return to its pre-Trumpian levels while Democratic turnout in the more populous counties remains juiced.  It would also help if the Democrats could recruit a more moderate candidate who could get GOP crossover vote living in the Indianapolis' suburbs.

Is that possible?  Certainly.  I am not convinced rural voters will continue going to the polls en masse to vote for Republicans when Trump is neither on the ticket or in the White House.  I think it is a bit more likely that the Democrats will continue with higher turnout post-Trump, at least for awhile.

Of course, it all depends on the Democrats recruiting a top notch U.S. Senate candidate to oppose Young.  I'm just not sure the party will do that.  Witness the debacle in 2020 with its gubernatorial nominee, Woody Myers.

OOP's short takes:

  • For the record, let me just reiterate it is a myth that Trump was an expert at getting Democratic crossover.  In 2016, his crossover vote was even with Hillary Clinton's.  In 2020, Biden had a lot more Republicans voting for him than there were Democrats voting for Trump.
  • Regarding my 2016 v. 2020 Trump comparison, there is one county whose numbers seemed so far off that I had to review them several times to make sure I didn't make a mistake.  Five of Indianapolis' seven donut counties are in the top 7 in the the decline of the Trump vote, and in a sixth, Shelby County, the Trump vote only increased by .7%.  But the final donut county, Morgan, was the No. 1 county for an increase in Trump vote.  Trump's 38.5% victory margin in Morgan County in 2016 increased to 54.6% in 2020.  That 16.1 point improvement in Morgan County is nearly double the next closest county.
  • Part of the reason for reason for the aberration seems to be that Morgan County has a large number of Libertarian-leaning voters who elevated its gubernatorial nominee Donald Rainwater to second place with 22.8% of the vote, but those voters crossed over to vote for Trump instead of the Libertarian presidential nominee who only received 2.4% of the vote in Morgan County.  Of course, I'm baffled why any Libertarian would support Trump who seems completely antithetical to libertarian principles.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Thoughts on the Derek Chauvin Conviction and Allegations of Systemic Racism in Policing

On Tuesday, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of second and third degree murder and second degree manslaughter for his killing of George Floyd last year during the latter's arrest for allegedly passing a counterfeit $20 bill.  Minnesota's sentencing guidelines recommend 12.5 years in prison for each of the murder charges and 4 years for the manslaughter conviction.  The judge could run those sentences concurrently so Chauvin could be out much earlier than people realize.  Chauvin though will have to spend the rest of his life as a convicted felon and is unlikely to ever work in law enforcement again.

Much has been made of Rep. Maxine Waters' comment to Minneapolis protesters on the need to be more confrontational as grounds for an appeal.  Also, the failure of the judge to sequester the jury is cited in some reports as justification for appeal.  While those claims undoubtedly will be included in the appellate brief, they are long shots at best. Instead, the focus will be on more fertile appellate issues such as jury instructions and the judge's decisions regarding admission of evidence and testimony. 

I think we must have an appreciation for the difficult work law enforcement officers do and give them the benefit of the doubt when they're making split-second decisions that may involve the life and death of others, including their own.  That's why it is so wrong that the police officer was immediately condemned for the shooting of the black teen in Ohio.  Turns out body camera footage showed why she was shot - she was wielding a knife and trying to stab two other young women.  

The Chauvin-Floyd confrontation was not a close call however.  Floyd was handcuffed, face down on the pavement.  Chauvin kneeled on his neck for several minutes after Floyd had stopped moving.  In fact, even after other officers checked and found Floyd without a pulse, Chauvin didn't let up.  A paramedic tried to intervene to save Floyd, but Chauvin would not allow it.  In total, Chauvin kneeled on Floyd's neck for 9 1/2 minutes. 

Prior to the Floyd incident, Chauvin had been involved in three police action shootings, one involving a death.  He had 18 complaints filed against him.   I take that with a grain of salt as complaints are inevitable if one is a police officer.   The number and nature of the complaints though raise red flags.  At trial several law enforcement officers, including supervisors, testified against Chauvin.  

It is just hard to think what was going through Chauvin's mind. At about the fourth minute when Floyd was no longer moving, one would think it would occur to the officer that it might be time to remove his knee.  Yet Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd's neck.

While I understand the eagerness to celebrate justice being served, it is still a tragedy from top to bottom.  Hopefully though the tragedy will bring light to the fact that whites and blacks are not treated equally by the judicial system, particularly when it comes to interactions with law enforcement.  I honestly thought everyone, including those of us with white skin, knew that.

Back when I was practicing law, I represented a few clients in the Carmel City Court. They employed a "cattle call" in which a multitude of defendants had their cases set for early morning and the judge would make his or her way through the docket wrapping up by around noon.  Almost all of the cases were traffic offenses.  Even though Carmel was then maybe 95% white (certainly less so now), about 50% of the defendants in that courtroom were African-Americans and Latinos.

Several years ago, I was contacted by a woman about representing her in a divorce.  She was employed as a manager of a Carmel Kentucky Fried Chicken, located just north of the Indianapolis/Marion County line.  We began talking about her business.  The manager, who is white, said that her black employees were constantly getting stopped by the Carmel City police while her white employees rarely were.  She also said the Carmel police would regularly come in to the restaurant's parking lot and run the plates of her workers.

A couple years ago, I talked to some African-American fast food employees who worked at Carmel restaurants just north of 96th Street which divides Marion County (Indianapolis) and Hamilton County (Carmel).  Many of the employees would actually park their cars at businesses south of 96th Street and walk the 1/4 to 1/2 mile to their employer located across the street in Carmel.   The employees surprisingly were not really angry about the situation.  They accepted that was something they should do if they wanted to work at that restaurant.

While much of the supposed advantage that white skin provides ("white privilege") is exaggeration, there is no question you are better off being white if you're going to be stopped by police in most jurisdictions.   If that's defined as "systemic racism," then yes that is a real thing.  

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Big Money from Small Donors is Driving Republican Extremism

One of my first things I do in the morning is read Prof. Sheila Suess Kennedy's blog.   In addition to being a fellow attorney, Sheila, according to the bio on her blog, is "Emerita Professor of Law and Public Policy at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis. Until her retirement in December of 2020, she was a Faculty Fellow with both the Center for Religion and American Culture and the Tobias Center for Leadership Excellence, an adjunct professor of political science and founder of the Center for Civic Literacy at IUPUI."

Having taught political science as an adjunct instructor at IUPUI and the University of Indianapolis for some 25 years, I concur with Sheila's frequent articles emphasizing the importance of civil education.  So many problems today are exacerbated by people who don't have a grasp of how politics, government, and the world in general, works.

I would not want to go back into a college classroom today to teach politics.  It's a brand new game, and I'm still struggling figure it out.  One thing that has changed dramatically is fundraising. 

That brings me to today's column.  Sheila pens an article talking about the Republican Party and corporate fundraising.  Sheila's readers often chime in with their own take on the article.  The readers today seem to sound the same theme - that GOP criticism of corporations is not sincere, that the Republican Party will continue to pursue the big corporate contributions that dictate what Republicans do in office.

For the record, I think it is fair to say that, while Sheila's readers are quite thoughtful and erudite, they tend to be older and more liberal than average.  Being older myself, I find it difficult to adjust to the changing political landscape, to understanding the new rules of politics.  One thing I've gained an understanding of, however, is the new way in which politicians raise money.

Sheila and her readers have it wrong.  The big money for Republican officials today is in small donor donations, not corporate contributions.  Republican elected officials like Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, Matt Gaetz and Senators Ted Cruz and and Josh Hawley are examples of GOP elected officials who raise huge sums of money off of small, individual contributions.

If you would have told me that there would come a day in politics in which elected members of Congress could eschew hosting big fundraising events attended mostly by corporate donors in favor of raising small donations from individuals, mostly online, I would have applauded the change.  The lack of corporate contributions means these elected officials can now act in a way that is in the people's best interests rather than the interests of their big corporate donors.

Or so I thought.  That supposed "good government" change to fundraising practices has turned ugly. For elected officials to get a plethora of small donations, they have to draw attention to themselves.  The best way to do that is to act as crazy as possible, say outrageous stuff, and get as much time on Fox News, NewsMax and other conservative media outfits.  

Sheila's readers bemoan Republicans getting corporate contributions and think they should be cut off.  But it turns out that the reliance on corporate contributions actually forced those GOP candidates receiving the money to moderate their policies and behavior.  Now, untethered by corporate contributions, Republicans aspiring for office have no incentive to appear rational and reasonable.  Indeed, pursuing the most extreme policies while saying outrageous things is what brings in the small dollar donations.

The fundraising game has changed.

Oh, and that Citizen's United decision that allows corporations and outside groups to spend an unlimited amount on election activities (albeit not direct contributions to candidates)?  The day is rapidly coming when Democrats benefit from the decision more than Republicans.  Let's see if they still want the decision overturned then.  My guess is it will be like gerrymandering.  Democrats oppose gerrymandering until the minute they are in power and get to draw the maps.  

Friday, April 9, 2021

"Christian" Crowdfunding Website Raises Money for Violent Insurrectionists and White Supremacists

GiveSendGo purports to be a "site [where] crowds of Christians [can] come together and support other Christians in their endeavors."  Apparently those "endeavors" include supporting those who attempt the violent overthrow of the United States government, engage in physically assaults on police officers, and embrace white supremacy. 

The GiveSendGo site has become the place to go if you are one of the January 6th insurrectionists charged with a crime and need some cash to pay your attorney or other bills.  Let's sample some of those campaigns currently appearing on the GiveSendGo's website.

Freddie Klein Legal Defense Fund

Freddie Klein

This campaign, created by Freddie's mother, Cecelia, remarks that Freddie, a "devout Catholic and Iraq war veteran is facing serious legal charges stemming from his alleged involvement in the January 6, 2021 'Capitol riot'."  Although the brief campaign is short in specifics, it has raised $43,164.

Klein is one of the more interesting insurrectionists.  A Trump political appointee to the State Department, Federico "Freddie" Klein had a top-secret security clearance that was renewed in 2019.  Yet, Klein had a fairly lengthy rap sheet which included underage drinking, driving while intoxicated and marijuana possession.  While those charges were about two decades old, Klein was charged in 2013 with public drunkenness, and more significantly, second-degree assault, robbery and theft relating to an altercation he had with a woman he had met at a pro-life rally.

During the January 6th insurrection, Klein was, allegedly, caught on film using a police shield to repeatedly hit police officers while instructing other rioters to continue assaulting the police.  Klein only ended his attacks on law enforcement officers when he was physically subdued by pepper spray.  Klein has been charged with several felonies, including assault on police officers, interfering with police during civil disorder, and obstruction of an official proceeding.'

Fight for Freedom (Chris Kuehne)

The campaign, written by Chris Kuehne's wife, Annette, points out that Chris was a Marine who was awarded the Purple Heart and other medals and awards during a 20-year military career.  As a Marine, Chris was injured by an exploding IED while serving in Olathe.  The campaign details his arrest by an FBI SWAT team and suggests the stress of that event caused Annette to miscarry.  The lengthy campaign says Chris was just in Washington, DC on the 6th to "support President Trump and protect civilians from Antifa."  

Annette has raised $52,645 off of this appeal.

Chris Kuehne, who lives in Olathe, Kansas, is identified as a member of the Kansas City-area Proud Boys.  Chris is charged with conspiracy, civil disorder, obstruction of an official proceeding, knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted buildings or grounds without lawful authority and disorderly conduct on the Capitol grounds.  The affidavit charging Chris Kuehne suggests he had an organizing role on the day of the insurrection.

Help Rachel Powell

Not all of the insurrectionists on January 6th were men.  There were a significant number of women involved in the assault.  One of them was Rachel Powell, a divorced mother of eight living in Western Pennsylvania.  The campaign for her legal fees, which thus far has raised only $5,100 of the $50,000 goal, notes that "Rachel attended the Capitol protest and got caught caught up in the moment.  Anyone who knows her knows that she is a good person and mother.  We want her to have a chance to be able to see her children grow up."

Rachel Powell

The story of how Powell became radicalized by the pandemic, Trump's rhetoric and various conspiracy theories she read on the internet is both sad and fascinating.  The New Yorker devoted a lengthy piece to her story.  The Pittsburg CBS affiliate reported on what Powell was alleged to have done on January 6th:

According to the indictment, Powell is accused of storming into a restricted section of the U.S. Capitol carrying an axe and a large wooden pole. She allegedly showed up to disrupt Congress and destroyed a window in her path, costing more than $1,000 in damage. She’s become known as the lady with the bullhorn, and seemed to have knowledge of the Capitol building’s floor plan, instructing insurrectionists where to go. Moments before, she can be seen in position with a battering ram breaking the glass window, forcefully leading the pack onward.

The FBI says Powell was with a group inside the Capitol and provided detailed instructions on the building’s layout, telling rioters that “they should ‘coordinate together if you are going to take this building.’”


Powell had all her guns taken by the feds. When they raided her home, they also found bags loaded with duct tape, rope, cell phones, throwing stars and other weapons.

A D.C. grand jury indicted Powell on charges including act of physical violence in the Capitol grounds or buildings; obstruction of an official proceeding and aiding and abetting; destruction of government property; and engaging in physical violence in a restricted building or grounds with a deadly or dangerous weapon.    

Powell and her supporters have pushed back against the suggestion she had a role coordinating the rioters' actions on January 6th.  No doubt, a conspiracy charge would significantly increase any prison sentence Powell might receive.

Retired Army Sgt Harrelson Kenneth and family

This campaign, created by Angel Harrison, discusses Kenneth Harrelson's service in the military, which is said to have ended with a medical discharge.  The campaign discusses his continued medical issues, the family's teenage children and the desperate need for money to pay for an attorney, pay bills and buy groceries.  As far as what Kenneth is alleged to have done on January 6th, the campaign only says that "[h]e didn't do any of those things they say."

The Campaign has raised $181,230.

Kenneth Harrelson, who is from Titusville, Florida, is a member of the Oath Keepers, a far right paramilitary group.  Harrelson is charged with having committed felony conspiracy to defraud the United States, obstruction of an official proceeding and tampering with documents or proceedings.  He also faces a misdemeanor charge of entering a restricted building.  The affidavit supporting the criminal complaint suggests Harrelson was coordinating efforts that day with other members of the Oath Keepers.

Lt. Col Larry Brock Jr. Legal Defense

The campaign describes what happened that day:

January 6th of this year, Larry attended a rally in Washington DC to protest what he believed to be a fraudulent election and to show support for President Donald Trump.  Larry attended the President's speech, but left a little early to find a restroom with plans to continue on to the Capitol building, knowing that is where the peaceful protest would take place.  He arrived at the Capitol building towards the beginning of the group and noticed that the barricades were opened and uniformed police were waving everyone through - closer to the Capitol building.  Larry continued to follow the crowd and found himself at a main entrance to the building.  He stopped at the door and decided to enter as a policman (sic) held the door open.  No violent entry and no intent to commit violence of any kind.  Larry can be seen on many videos on the Senate floor, not being violent, but in fact being a peackeeper (sic).  He can be heard asking people to behave and respect "the people's house." Larry decided it was time to leave as things got more crowded and sought out a uniformed policeman to escort him out.

According to the Air Force Times, Brock was photographed on the Senate floor wearing a helmet and a heavy vest, and carrying plastic zip-tie handcuffs. The initial charges against the retired Air Force officer and Grapevine, Texas resident is that he knowingly entered or remained in a restricted building or grounds without lawful authority, and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.  In court, the Assistant U.S. Attorney said Brock "means to take hostages. he means to kidnap, restrain, perhaps try, perhaps execute members of the U.S. government."  Brock posted on social media during the riot:  "Patriots on the Capitol.  Patriots storming.  Men with guns need to shoot their way in."

Thus far, the Brock campaign has raised $1,430, well short of the $20,000 goal.  The GiveSendGo website doesn't seem to identify the date campaigns are started, but from the comments included with the donation, the campaign has been up for more than two months.

This is only a small sampling of the numerous campaigns for January 6th insurrectionists appearing on the GiveSendGo fundraising website (the more popular GoFundMe website kicked them off). Some have done poorly in fundraising, while others spectacularly well.  Many lean heavily on claims the insurrectionists are "patriots" (clearly their actions say otherwise), God-fearing, family men and women. 

It should be noted that GiveSendGo's crowdfunding website says that it takes nothing from these fundraising campaigns, that it survives entirely on donations.  GiveSendGo also claims to kick back 10% of the donations it receives to the campaigns on its website.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Daring to Criticize the Amber Alert Program

It is not often that blogger/podcast host/attorney Mark Small hits a home run on a public policy issue, but he nails it today with his criticism of Indiana's Amber Alert program.

The other night, I was awakened from a deep sleep when my phone suddenly began emitting a loud wailing alarm.  I knew right away it wasn't the regular alarm I had set.  Far too early.   Was my or my neighbor's house on fire?  Was a tornado about to hit my neighborhood?  Had a murderer escaped and was roaming the northwest side of Indy?

None of the above.  It was an Amber Alert...a child supposedly had been abducted in, as I recall, South Bend, Indiana, which is 2 1/2 hours north of Indianapolis.  The alert gave a description of the child and the name of the supposed abductor, and the car the alleged abductor was thought to be driving.  Not sure why they decided to wake up Indianapolis residents in the middle of the night to alert them to this information.  At least, South Bend though is in Indiana.  I have gotten Amber Alerts from Lexington, Kentucky.

Fortunately, I don't have any problem sleeping.  But I know many people who struggle to get and stay asleep and, for them, an early morning alert means the end of their slumber.

According to the Indiana State Police, this is the Amber Alert criteria:

1. The child must be under 18 years of age.
2. The child must be believed to be abducted, AND in danger of serious bodily harm or death.
3. There must be enough descriptive information to believe the broadcast will help.
4. Request must be recommended by the law enforcement agency of jurisdiction.

Here is Mark's article:

Few things are scarier than a self-righteous mob bent on saving lives and keeping people safe, facts be damned. In the middle of the night my cell phone went off. I looked at the screen. An AMBER alert had been issued. Another went off a few minutes later.

Little kids should not be in jeopardy. However, despite news items of individual successes or articles published by those who advocate for the system itself, a peer-review study suggests the alerts are not so effective.

Timothy Griffin is an associate professor of criminology at the University of Nevada-Reno, He led a 2015 study, published in 39 Journal of Crime and Justice No. 4 (2016). In a “sample of 448 child abduction cases in which [an AMBER] Alert was issued ...

We reached conclusions consistent with the scant available prior research on AMBER Alert: although over 25% of the Alerts facilitated the recovery of abducted child(ren) and are thus arguably ‘successful’ by that standard alone, ...

there was little evidence AMBER Alerts ‘save lives.’ In fact, AMBER Alert success cases are in almost every measurable way identical to AMBER Alert cases in which the child(ren) were returned unharmed but the Alert had no direct role in that outcome:...

they typically involve abduction by family members & other (apparently) non-life-threatening abductors, and the vast majority of recovery times are over 3 h....”

To put everyone on a fictional “high alert” makes some self-righteous people feel good and a few kids might be saved. But more kids might be saved, and some not even placed in danger, if we devote resources in other ways.

AMBER alerts going off on cell phones in the middle of the night are unlikely to reach people who can do anything at all. The self-righteous can react to this and sneer about inconvenience of disturbed sleep. I more concerned about kids’ safety and our limited resources.

I might be more concerned about people losing sleep than Mark.  But I'm more worried about the "Chicken Little" effect of constant Amber Alerts that desensitize the public to child abduction.

It is very politically incorrect, however, to criticize the Amber Alert program, so kudos (is there such a thing as a "kudo," singular?) to Mark for taking on the issue.  As I noted in my comments to his article, his taking on the Amber Alert issue is like pointing out that the law mandates too many handicapped parking spaces for businesses (it does), or my pet peeve, the gross exaggeration of the problem of human trafficking.  Regarding the latter, local law enforcement officials are quick to suggest human trafficking to the media because that gets the headlines and lots of federal grant money.  But at the end of the day, the facts rarely support the human trafficking charges.   Almost always it is not human trafficking, but rather good old-fashioned prostitution, adults freely deciding to trade sex for money.

Yes, let's rethink the Amber Alert program.  If you disagree and want to lambast someone for daring to criticize the program, I will be happy to give you Mark's number.

OOP's short takes:

  • Rep. Matt Gaetz just released a statement ostensibly written by the women in his congressional office in which they said:  "Congressman Gaetz has always been a principled and morally grounded leader. At no time has any one of us experienced or witnessed anything less than the utmost professionalism and respect. No hint of impropriety. No ounce of untruthfulness."   Trouble is the statement is not actually signed by any women in his office.  It is more than a little hypocritical that Gaetz complains that the accusations of his wrongdoing are coming from anonymous sources, then he uses anonymous sources to defend himself against those accusations.  Gaetz though is a Trumper.  I have found Trumpers do not grasp the concept of hypocrisy.  
  • I have lambasted the gross misrepresentation by Democrats and the media of the Georgia election law.  It is refreshing though to see Kentucky take a bipartisan approach toward voting reform, proving theere is considerable middle ground when it comes to how elections are run.  But as long as Republicans are lying about voter fraud and Democrats are lying about voter suppression, meaningful and needed election reforms will be impossible.
  • President Trump is trying to persuade Ron Johnson to run for re-election in Wisconsin.  Finally, Democrats have something for which they will enthusiastically support Trump.  There is nothing more the Democrats want than a shot to oust the unpopular Trumpian Senator who has embraced the most extreme conspiracy theories during his tenure.  If the Wisconsin GOP nominates someone else, that person likely will be favored to win in what should be a favorable Republican year.  If Johnson is the nominee, the Democrats are likely to pick up the seat. 

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

MLB Hypocrisy on its Decision to Pull All-Star Game Out of Georgia; My Lifelong Boycott of the "Midsummer Classic"

Although former President Trump has requested it, I am not going to boycott major league baseball this year.  This is especially true since the Reds are currently in first place...okay they are only four games into the 162 game season and tied with the Cubs.  But it still counts.

I am, however, going to boycott the All-Star game that MLB has announced it is moving out of Atlanta due to non-existent new restrictions on voting passed by the Republican-controlled Georgia legislature.

Okay, let me be perfectly honest. Although a lifelong baseball fan, I have never been a fan of the All-Star Game.  It was a lame contest when I was young and with the expansion of the all-star roster over the years it has become even more lame.  Players are constantly shuffled in and out of lineups.   Keeping track of who is playing and out of the game is next to impossible.   It is not a true baseball game in any sense.   An inning is about as much of the game that I can take.  I surveyed my friends who are big baseball fans.  None of them care about watching the All-Star game, which MLB wishfully calls the "Midsummer Classic."

I used to play in an amateur baseball league in my early 30s.  One year, after the conclusion of the season, I was asked to play in the league's all-star game.  I am pretty sure it was a lack of players wanting to participate in that post-season, early fall exhibition that spawned the invitation and not my playing skills. But it still counts.

The one thing MLB has going for it is that, while its all-star game is a pointless, insipid contest, the other professional leagues such as the NBA and NFL have even worse all-star games.  Never seen the NHL all-star game, but I'm sure it is also awful.

When MLB announced its decision to move the all-star game out of Atlanta (which game will now be played in Denver), the league avoided the specifics of the Georgia law it found to be objectionable.  It looks like the decision was driven more by politically active players who got caught up in the zeal to condemn the law.  MLB officials know that players have never been keen on playing in the meaningless exhibition game anyway (they prefer the four days off in the middle of the long season to spend with their family) and would jump at a reason to boycott the game.

During a recent press conference, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp denounced the move of the MLB All-Star game from the Peach State and did a point-by-point comparison of voting in Georgia versus voting in New York.  As Kemp pointed out, New York has less early voting than Georgia, unlike Georgia does not have no excuse absentee voting, and, like Georgia, it is a crime in New York to give food and water to people in line.  Yet apparently MLB has no problem having its headquarters in New York.

CNN viewers though would never hear Governor Kemp make the case.  Early into the Kemp press conference, CNN cut away for an interview with Democrat Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms in which the Mayor continued the false narrative, without evidence, that the new Georgia law imposes sweeping new restrictions on voting.  While former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams initially was reluctant to criticize the new Georgia law (compared to her early criticism of the restrictive proposals that were not included in the final bill), she soon came around to embracing the false narrative and now refers to the new Georgia election law as Jim Crow 2.0.

The Jim Crow comparison is more than over-the-top, misleading rhetoric.  It insults the legacy of civil rights leaders some who risked their lives to oppose Jim Crow laws in southern states, laws that restricted where African-Americans could live, eat, go to school, and which laws placed substantial and real obstacles on the right of blacks to vote.

There are a couple major problems with the Georgia bill - the legislature stripping power from the Secretary of State and giving itself the authority to take over county election boards the legislature believes is underperforming.  Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger was one of the few Republican elected officials who were willing to publicly refute Trump's big lie about election fraud and refused to help the former President steal the election in Georgia.  Still these "inside baseball" changes to the Georgia election law do not directly impact voting and do not seem to be enough for the faux outrage against the bill.

One of the ironies is that the MLB controversy has given Kemp an opportunity to shore up support with Republicans, including most importantly the Trump wing that was ready to take him out in the primary.  

Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock and presumed Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams do run the risk of overplaying their hand on the Georgia election law.  To win in Georgia in 2022, a midterm election which should be favorable to Republicans, they need to appear moderate and reasonable.  Suburban voters might get turned off by Warnock and Abrams' false characterization of a bill, which in many respects makes it easier to vote.

In short, the odds of Brian Kemp being re-elected governor in Georgia in 2022 has gone way up.

Friday, April 2, 2021

OOP's Short Takes: Amazon Union Effort, Labor Law Changes, Politicology Podcast and Rep. Matt Gaetz

OOP's short takes on this Good Friday 2021: 

  • Amazon Union Vote - On Monday, the voting on unionizing an Amazon "fulfillment center" in Bessemer, Alabama ended.  We should know the results in a few days.  I'm not a big union supporter, but if there was ever a company's employees who need union representation it's Amazon's.  As I have preached to leftists, it is not pay or benefits at Amazon that is the problem (Amazon actually pays above market for warehouse workers). It's the horrific working conditions.  It is maddening though seeing Amazon promote their increasing lower end pay at their facilities to $15 an hour when the company at the same time eliminated much more lucrative employee attendance and performance bonuses.  Amazon's $15 an hour minimum announcement was nothing more than a PR stunt.  Unfortunately a lot of liberals like Bernie Sanders were duped.  By the way, can we stop pretending Bezos is some sort of liberal?  Liberal business owners don't impose sweatshop working conditions and engage in underhanded efforts to stop unionization.  Even conservative employers who care about their employees don't do that.
  • Overtime Exempt Rules - If Democrats want some low hanging fruit to help workers, they might consider increasing the overtime eligible threshold for salaried employees.  Right now salaried employees are not eligible for time and a half overtime if they make more than $36,000 a year.  So companies pay workers, (generally low level manager types) above that level, then demand they work ten, fifteen or more hours a week in uncompensated overtime.  One of those companies is Amazon.  I had a friend who worked at Amazon as an associate for seven years before being promoted to manager, receiving a substantial raise with the promotion.  Or so he thought.  In exchange for the salaried position, Amazon demanded he work so much uncompensated overtime that he was back making per hour what he made as an associate. He quit after a few months.
  • Student Loans - Another low hanging fruit idea.  Instead of trying to forgive student loan debt, Democrats (and thoughtful Republicans) would be wise to change bankruptcy law so student loan debt is treated the same as any other unsecured debt.   Right now, while student loans are technically dischargeable in bankruptcy, different rules apply.  As a result, student loans are rarely discharged even if those debts are included (and they often are not) in the bankruptcy petition.  Because there is little risk, lenders are eager to lend to students wanting to pursue post-secondary education. While that sounds good, the ability of adults to go deeply in debt for education has spawned a number of shady, for profit education institutions who are more than willing to take that money, leaving the borrower poorly educated and deeply in debt.
  • Politicology - I may have to cut the Politicology podcast out of my rotation.  On a recent episode host Ron Steslow asked guests about Stacey Abrams' complaints about voter suppression compared to Trump's complaints about voter fraud.  All three guests criticized Abrams stolen election claim and said it hurt democracy.  So on the next show, Steslow brings another election law expert on and coaxes him into explaining why what Abrams did was okay and Trump did was wrong.  While the expert mostly dodged the question, Steslow got his "clarification."  If Steslow is not going to be even-handed and honest in his political discussions, I will find other political podcasts to listen to.
  • Stacey Abrams - Let's be clear what Stacey Abrams did.  In 2018, Abrams complained that  Secretary of State Brian Kemp and gubernatorial candidate engaged in "voter suppression" by removing from the rolls 600,000 people who had not voted in numerous elections.  Kemp was obligated by federal law to perform this cleanup of the voter registration list, a statutory duty which had been delayed for years (which is why the numbers of voters purged was so large) by an NAACP lawsuit.  Despite Abrams' voter suppression claims, the 2018 Georgia midterm featured near record turnout and record turnout for African-American voters.  Abrams lost the election by 55,000 votes, FIVE TIMES more than what Trump lost the state by.  Abrams could only produce a handful of voters supposedly disenfranchised by the purge, yet to this day continues to claim the election was "stolen" by "voter suppression" and refuses to concede.  What Abrams did  has undermined Georgians' faith in election results maybe as much as what Trump did.
  • Georgia Election Law - I saw where President Biden said Georgia's election day hours had been shortened to 5 pm by the new law.  That is not correct. Georgia election day voting hours will be the same as they were before the new law passed - 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.  Early voting though was previously limited to "business hours." The new law simply clarifies that "business hours" for early voting means 9 am to 5 pm, which is exactly how the phrase had been interpreted.  The new law actually provides that Georgia counties can extend early voting to 7 pm.   Thus far, Biden's honesty has been a refreshing change from Trump's pathological and daily lies, but the President needs to stop spouting falsehoods about the Georgia election law.
  • Matt Gaetz - One thing that is incredible about the Rep. Gaetz story is the amount of the extortion demand - $25 million.  Does anyone believe that Gaetz's reputation, and protecting potential harm to his career, is worth $25 million?  The last thing an extortionist wants to do is to set the demand for money so high that the target has no choice but to go the authorities.  Gaetz's claim would have more validity if the extortionist had asked for $250,000.  I would add that, even if Gaetz is correct about the extortion effort, that doesn't mean he did not do anything wrong.  Reportedly he did a lot wrong.