Thursday, May 26, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

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

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

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

Georgia Secretary of State
Brad Raffensperger

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Trump's Endorsed Gubernatorial Candidate Falls Short in Nebraska

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 6, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

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

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

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

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

J.D. Vance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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