Nel's New Day

October 29, 2020

More Voting Decisions Cause Chaos

The U.S. Supreme Court may wait until after Election Day to disenfranchisement voters, but the 8th Circuit Court thought doing it right now was just dandy. Today, just four days before Election Day, two federal judges, George W. Bush’s and DDT’s appointees, changed the date when ballots must be delivered in Minnesota, moving the goalpost up by seven days—a full week. The extension was made almost three months ago because of COVID-19, and it was the understanding of all the voters. The opinion stated, “There is no pandemic exception to the Constitution.” Two of three judges on a panel told voters to make different plans if they haven’t already mailed their absentee ballots. Although the ruling merely ordered the separation of ballots received after Election Day, the intent to remove them is clear. The disenfranchisement comes from deliberate delays in the USPS to suppress the votes. Tim Walz, the state’s governor, said, “It speaks volumes when your goal is to make it more difficult for people to vote.” 

You have to give Republicans persistence. After failing to definitely reduce extension time for returning North Carolina ballots yesterday, they went back to the Supreme Court. The majority again denied the GOP appeal with Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, and Samuel Alito again dissenting. The 1.4 million voters requesting absentee ballots in the state are seven times more than in 2016, and Democrats are twice as likely as to vote by mail as Republicans.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh had to correct one part of his error-riddled opinion denying Wisconsin its extension time for returning ballots after a Vermont official complained. Kavanaugh had used Vermont to show how “ordinary election rules” were not changed in spite of COVID-19. Earlier in the year, however, Vermont had authorized mailing ballots to all registered voters and processing them before Election Day—just like all the other successful vote-by-mail states do. After Vermont Secretary of State’s office formally requested a correction, Kavanaugh’s new opinion was changed to “ordinary election-deadline rules.” Although a minor change, it shows the sloppiness of Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court statements. In Vermont, mail-in votes are still due by Election Day if dropped off at polling places, but ballots are mailed out at least 45 days before Election Day—plenty of time for the two to three weeks needed for voters to receive and return them even with the GOP-orchestrated USPS delay.

Slate listed other Kavanaugh mistakes, but the most horrifying may be Kavanaugh’s belief that states formally declare elections on the night of the election deadline. He maintained any ballots after that time will “flip the results of an election,” a completely erroneous perspective with no legal standing. Justice Elena Kagan had to remind him, “There are no results to ‘flip’ until all valid votes are counted.” No states “definitively announce the results” on election night, as Kavanaugh declared, no matter how impatient people might be.

In addition, Kavanaugh was wrong when he stated the Supreme Court “has repeatedly emphasized that federal courts ordinarily should not alter state election laws in the period close to an election.” No majority opinion has ever made that rule. Kavanaugh also quoted, out of context, an article New York University law professor Richard Pildes to support his personal opinion about late-arriving ballots causing crisis, an article supporting time extensions for states’ receiving ballots in opposition to Kavanaugh’s position. He also violated his rule that only legislatures have constitutional authority to make voting rules by preserving Alabama’s ban on curbside voting never addressed by the legislature.

No other justice signed on to Kavanaugh’s misguided statements.

Voters at Texas polls had to wear masks for under one day after a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court blocked an order for mask-wearing at the polls. A lower court found the governor’s not requiring masks at the polls violated the federal Voting Rights Act’s disallowance of discriminatory voting practices based on race. The appeals court said the lower court would have jurisdiction to order changes, probably after the election and people already contracted the virus.

Missouri may have the most restrictive laws in the nation for absentee voting. Justification for mail-in voting is narrow, ballots must be mailed and not dropped off (risking not being counted because of GOP-caused postal delays), be received by Election Day, and have a notary authorize the signature. The last item creates a poll tax with the cost of hiring a notary.

Three notable law professors wrote an opinion piece asking federal courts to stay out of state court rulings protecting voting rights under state law. DDT’s judges refuse the federalist argument to honor only decisions from state legislatures and refuse state courts to interpret state law. The conservative “originalists” hope that DDT’s newest justice will give them a comfortable majority to disenfranchise voters across the country although 56 percent of people in the polls want Amy Coney Barrett to recuse herself from any cases connected to DDT’s reelection attempt. Calling Bush v. Gore a disgrace, the authors bluntly state:

“Federal court have no business interfering in state-law matters.”

The Supreme Court rationale moving George W. Bush into the White House was already rejected by Arizona Legislature v. Arizona Redistricting Commission (2015): “legislature” in Article I of the U.S. Constitution means the lawmaking process set up by a state’s constitution. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that nothing in the federal Constitution “instructs, nor has this court ever held, that a state legislature” may regulate “federal elections in defiance of the provisions of the state’s constitution.” This rule also applies to Article II which empowers each state “legislature” to regulate the manner of picking presidential electors but does not empower a state “legislature” to ignore the state constitution creating that legislature, or the state supreme court that authoritatively interprets that state constitution.

A state court interpreting a state election statute to align it with a state constitution is in alignment with the authorization of the federal constitution. States use uniform rules for both state and federal elections; states should not be forced to develop separate rules because of a Supreme Court decision. State legislatures also deputize state courts to oversee elections to conform with state constitutions. One of the authors, Neal Kumar Katyal, is also a former acting U.S. solicitor general.

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) began his strategy of voter disenfranchisement through disinformation during the 2016 election. Eric Prince, brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, explained the project, “We merely need to dampen turn out [sic]. … A shift of a few points in the right places can swing this election.” And it did. All it needed was the standard DDT barrage of lies, over-the-edge rhetoric, and disinformation, called “flood the zone with shit,” by DDT’s former adviser Steve Bannon—this year a heavy use of QAnon conspiracy theories. Rolling Stone writer Andy Kroll used “internal documents, tax records, and interviews about [Roger] Stone and Prince’s efforts [to] illustrate how a lax campaign-finance system and an overtly racist voter-suppression effort created the perfect opportunity to follow Bannon’s directive.”

For donations, DDT’s campaign leaders created a front, the Committee for American Sovereignty Education Fund and Project Clintonson, to develop the false scenario of Bill Clinton’s Black son, hoping to smear DDT’s opponent, Hillary Clinton. The Committee used a UPS store for its address, failed to incorporate with California listed as its legal domicile, had no employees or board members, and declared no “direct or indirect political campaign activities” despite its objective to depress the Black vote. DDT bragged to a group of prominent Blacks he won the election because fewer Blacks voted in the 2016 election.

Nine Supreme Court election rulings between April and October 26 were unsigned orders with no explanations, no full briefings, and no oral arguments. Some of these decisions concerned absentee voting during the pandemic in three states and the disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of people with felony convictions in Florida. Nicholas Stephanopoulos, a Harvard law professor, compared the decisions to a “shadow docket”:

“If courts don’t have to defend their decisions, then they’re just acts of will, of power. They’re not even pretending to be legal decisions.”

Judge Frank H. Easterbrook wrote in 2000 that explaining is the difference between judges and politicians:

“The political branches of government claim legitimacy by election, judges by reason. Any step that withdraws an element of the judicial process from public view makes the ensuing decision look more like fiat, which requires compelling justification.”

Stephen I. Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas, attributed the growth of the shadow docket to DDT’s administration which filed 36 “emergency” applications in three and a half years. Administrations of George W. Bush and President Obama filed only eight of these applications in 16 years.

Three reasons for giving reasons from Rick Hasen:

“Reasons will help lower courts use the right standards in election cases, rather than having to try to read tea leaves from unexplained court orders…

“[Reasons] bolster the legitimacy of the court in the eyes of the public, something especially important in controversial cases, such as election cases…

“[Reasons] may also discipline justices into deciding similar cases alike, regardless of the identity of the parties.”

DDT’s judges are suppressing votes, but he needs every vote he can get to win swing states, all of them hot spots for COVID-19. Pennsylvania, with 20 Electoral College votes, has a 50-percent increase in the past week. The highly infectious zones roll from northern Mississippi to the Canadian border. New U.S. cases in the last 24 hours, 91,530, and 1,047 more deaths that DDT doesn’t find concerning.

April 11, 2020

A Week of New ‘Loyalists’ for DDT’s Coterie

Wisconsin’s Tuesday election keeps getting worse and worse. Thousands of requested absentee ballots in a hotly-contested Wisconsin election were never delivered or too late for the U.S. Supreme Court deadline to return, in a scenario probably leading to court cases on the event’s validity. The margin in the state’s 2019 Supreme Court race was about 6,000 votes.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the post office may not have placed a postmark on ballots when they were mailed in or not put dates on the postmark. Ballots sent by metered mail on April 7 may have postmarks indicating that the ballots were mailed with no specific date, just “APR 2020.”  The U.S. Supreme Court demanded that all mail-in ballots be postmarked by 4:00 pm on April 7. The court ruling may disenfranchise thousands and thousands of additional eligible voters who followed the rules. The state’s election commission agreed to count ballots with that postmark if the USPS states that this postmark was used only on April 7.

The Wisconsin requirement was that the ballot be received by April 13, but the U.S. Supreme Court changed that requirement the day before the election, violating the reason for their ruling—that changes to election rules not be made immediately before the date of the election. Another question is whether to count ballots arriving on Wednesday, April 8, because they had to be mailed by Tuesday, April 7, at the latest to arrive the next day. Ballots with no postmark on Thursday may not be counted although they could have been mailed at the appropriate time. The Supreme Court decision, a “stay pending appeal,” blocked a lower court order from taking effect while a full appeal follows a tortured path through the appellate process. No one knows if counting ballots will have further federal litigation. The high court disregarded its ordinary procedures in a ruling for Republicans in the Wisconsin election case just as it has for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) in the past.

As Rick Hasen wrote: 

“The biggest problem with the Supreme Court’s opinion in the Wisconsin voting case was not the result (which was still wrong), but the Court’s sloppiness and nonchalance about voting rights and what that means for November.”

Election officials plan to start counting Wisconsin ballots at 4:00 pm on Monday, April 13. Madison has also received absentee ballots with two postmarks, one before the deadline and one after. About 50 ballots also lacked witness signatures. Thus far, an organization has recorded over 2,100 cases of voters who requested but did not receive absentee ballots. Election officials plan to start counting Wisconsin ballots at 4:00 pm on Monday, April 13. 

Eliminating voter rights wasn’t the only corruption from last week.

Last week, DDT continued his purging the U.S. intelligence agencies when he fired Michael Atkinson, the community’s inspector general in retribution for Atkinson’s legal action. One reason was DDT’s act of revenge for Atkinson’s telling Congress about a whistleblower’s complaint that revealed DDT’s extortion of Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky.

Three days later, DDT attacked Christi A. Grimm, the acting HHS IG who released a report on hospitals’ struggles to cope with COVID-19 patients. The report included 323 hospitals in 46 states that contradicted DDT’s claims that everything in the hospitals was just fine. Grimm found a “severe” and “widespread” shortage of testing supplies and protective gear at hospitals dealing with the pandemic.

Tuesday, Pentagon Inspector General Glenn Fine, designated to oversee the $2.2 trillion for the coronavirus disaster, hit DDT’s chopping block by moving him to a deputy IG. Picked by the head of a council of IGs, Fine would have led the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee to conduct and coordinate audits, but his position as deputy disqualifies him from leading the committee. Investigators are to search for waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer money in the disbursement of loans, loan guarantees, and financial payments to households and businesses. As a deputy IG, Fine is disqualified to lead the committee.

DDT replaced Fine with the unqualified Jason Abend to the new Defense Department IG, responsible for overseeing audits and criminal investigations of nearly $700 billion in annual spending. Abend is a Customs and Border Protection policy adviser who had previously been special agent at the Federal Finance Housing Agency and HUD. Until Abend is confirmed by the GOP senators who will confirm a ham sandwich, however, Sean Donnell, IG at the EPA will do double duty by also being acting Defense Department IG. Being IG is an easy job under DDT because he doesn’t want any investigations.

Grimm could also be removed from the pandemic committee if she is no longer IG, and DDT has nominated a new Education IG to disqualify the current IG on the panel by moving him to deputy IG. Senate would have to confirm DDT’s appointment before that would happen.

DDT is also appointing his White House lawyer Brian Miller as a special IG at the Treasury Department to oversee distribution of $500 billion to distressed industries. His work is supposed to be coordinated with the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee. Miller helped put together DDT’s defense for the Senate impeachment trial and will easily manage gifts to DDT’s political allies and donors. During negotiations for the $2.2 trillion bill, DDT said, “I’ll be the oversight.” Now he figured out a way to do it. DDT’s pick will need to deal with a five-member oversight commission: one of them jointly picked by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and the other four each picked by one of the four congressional leaders. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has selected Bharat Ramamurti, a former top aide to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

DDT also threatened to fire seven more IGs. Before DDT, Republicans thought that government oversight was important. Former Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), House Oversight Committee Chair, called the Obama administration “the most corrupt government in history” and said about funding during that time, much less than DDT’s new slush fund:

“This money, at the American people’s expense, going through the hands of political leaders, is in fact corrupting the process.”

Some Republicans who exonerated DDT for impeachment because they thought he had “learned his lesson” are getting nervous, especially about DDT’s firing Atkinson. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), endorsed by Sens. Mitt Romney (R-UT), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Democrat senators, asked DDT for an explanation.

Progressives are pressing congressional members to stop the firing of IGs except for highly limited circumstances, like an amendment the House passed in 2008 for the Inspectors General Act. The Senate axed that provision, but similar legislation has again been introduced.

DDT managed another slush fund in the $2.2 trillion bill through a last-minute provision allowing the Federal Reserve to set up a $450 billion bailout plan with minimal oversight. These funds are exempt from the federal open meetings law without requirements for announcing meetings and keeping records about discussions. The record of votes will be secret until after the health crisis ends. Charles Glasser, media attorney, said:

“We may never know what terms are being given to banks, what collateral is being offered, what repayment methods and duties banks and other financial institutions may have, and those are important questions.”

AG Bill Barr went on Fox’s Laura Ingraham show to support DDT’s firing of Fine, known as a bulldog investigator. Part of Barr’s defense is the ongoing criminal investigation into the FBI’s Russia investigation for possible abuse or improprieties headed by Barr’s guy. Barr described the investigation as a “sprawling case” that “takes some time” to fully investigate. He also accused media criticism of DDT’s pushing an unproved drug, hydroxychloroquine, for COVID-19 of being a “jihad.” Barr may not realize that jihad means “striving for the benefit of the community” or a fight against Satan.

Another empty seat in the administration is that of acting Navy secretary Thomas Modly who spent $243,000 to fly to Guam to speak to the crew of the USS Theodore Roosevelt after he fired its captain for saving the crew from possible death and more illness from COVID-19. In his address to the crew who had cheered the captain, Modley called the captain stupid, later apologized, and “voluntarily resigned” his position after talking with Defense Department Secretary Mark Esper.

DDT has become the wrecking ball of the federal administration.

Today’s world deaths (108,834) from 1,780,440 confirmed COVID-19 cases in 210 countries and territories. On April 11, the U.S. has 20,577 deaths in 532,879 confirmed cases. 

October 28, 2018

The Travesty Doesn’t End

Many of us have given up on any expectations that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) will exhibit any compassion or sympathy for people. He claims he is a nationalist, he supports white supremacists, and he jokes about not going to a campaign rally only hours after a racist white man slaughters people in a place of worship because of a “bad hair day.” Fox network lies about events and either covers up or excuses the bigotry and violence of conservatives. In an attempt to exonerate the connection between DDT’s rhetoric and the suspect who sent the bombs, Fox network blurred the stickers/images on the bomber’s van. Yet some of us hope that the mainstream media might present information in a direct way rather than following DDT’s and Fox’s example.

Chuck Todd dashed that hope on today’s Meet the Press when he decided to blame progressives equally to the conservatives, despite the right-wing violent racist diatribes about immigration, Jews, George Soros—the list goes on. This past week, a Nazi walked into a Pittsburg synagogue and killed as many people as he could before he was captured. The police reported that he still spewed his vicious racist rhetoric while they took him to jail. A white supremacist shot and killed two older black people in a Kentucky supermarket because the church was locked, and he couldn’t get inside. He had wanted to replicate the massacre in Charleston (SC). One of the dead men was accompanied by his 12-year-old grandson because they were buying poster board for the boy’s school project. Last week, people waited in fear to see where the next bombs would be sent and whether they would kill people.

When Todd’s guest Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH) blamed the inability to detect fact from fiction in the media on “older people” who cannot “navigate” social media, Todd agreed. No matter what Stivers said to exonerate Republicans, Todd said, “Right.” Or a version of agreeing. Stivers’ pablum included the need to “keep our dialogue civil” while Republicans refuse to so that and his ability to show “moral leadership. When he said that he hoped that DDT would “continue on that path” of moral leadership, Todd said, “Fair enough.” Then Todd equated the attacks on George Soros as a Jew and the lying about his giving money for protests (although he didn’t mention those facts) to Democratic attacks on Koch brothers with no evidence. He also said nothing about voter suppression, the racist connection between conservatives’ murders to the constant false accusations surrounding the caravan from Honduras, and DDT’s incessant lying attacks on people as he supports white supremacy.

Todd’s biggest pandering, however, came when Todd said to conspiracy theorist Erick Erickson, “You’ve had to deal with conspiracy theories on your site.”  The topic was “civility,” and Erickson’s personal conspiracy theories include smearing Christine Blasey Ford who reported Brett Kavanaugh’s sexual assault, accusing Parkland survivor David Hogg of not being at the school during the mass murder, comparing Planned Parenthood leaders to Nazis, claiming that transgender people are “perverts and the mentally ill,” attacking Muslims by saying that DDT’s ban is “brilliant politics,” stating that gay men in bars wearing certain clothing are asking to be assaulted, and arguing that mass shootings are “so rare.” And more. Yet Erickson claims that it’s the older people who can’t tell fact from fiction in the media.  (Erickson is 43 years old.)

Erickson exonerated DDT in his conclusion is that the blame for increasing violence is “on the American people as a whole…. Society is crumbling around us…. The president’s not the cause, he’s a symptom.” Todd just kept saying, “Right.”

Todd overlooked the fact that the alleged shooter at the Pennsylvania synagogue echoed the lie from DDT and other Republicans that George Soros funded “caravans” of refugees full of ISIS terrorists and called for the same white genocide that DDT and Fox’s Tucker Carlson push. DDT’s white supremacy goes back to his birtherism that led him to the Oval Office. He launched his campaign by calling all Mexican immigrants of being “drug dealers, criminals, rapists” and followed that by promising “a complete and total shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”

The predominant myth regenerating within the next few weeks until the horror of the shootings dies down but reappearing with the next mass shooting is that of the “lone wolf.” Anyone of color who murders people is a “terrorist,” but a white man is assumed to be mentally unbalanced. The right-wing pundits deny responsibility, and Republicans support them while moving toward the next murders. DDT wins his base with hatred and fear, the fuel useful for more and more violence.

Erickson claims that the U.S. has very few mass shootings, buy white supremacist murders more than doubled in DDT’s first year of office. The first terrorist plot connected to DDT occurred the night of his election.    Arun Gupta has listed several of these, and others can be found here.

Other cover came from VP Mike Pence who said that “Everyone has his own style” and that nothing DDT says can be connected to any acts of violence.

The federal government is exacerbating the problem of domestic terrorism. In April 2009, the DHS tried to issue a report titled “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment.” GOP politicians attacked the leaked report and forced part of it to be retracted. Parts about tracking and combating domestic terrorists were gutted, including the part of the report that assessed “lone wolves” who hold violent rightwing extremist ideology as “the most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States” bent on “committing violent acts.”  The report noted that “white supremacist lone wolves pose the most significant domestic terrorist threat because of their low profile and autonomy.”

Rick Hasen wrote:

“Things with President Trump are different. He has refused to condemn anti-semitism and racism; he has encouraged chants of “lock her up” against his political opponent Hillary Clinton and against others; he has appeared with, and promoted the views of, those who blame George Soros and the Jews for immigration problems; he calls his political adversaries by demeaning names, especially African-American women opponents such as Rep. Waters. He has done these things even as this violence grows. He praised the body slamming of a journalist by Rep. Gianforte. He has shown no interest in bringing the nation together, suggesting that rather than ‘toning it down’ he could ‘really tone it up.’

“He has pursued a political strategy that is aimed at inflaming his base to try to win the election. He has even complained about how the pipe bombs could hurt Republican election momentum.

“And he has brought many Republicans along with him, such as Kevin McCarthy, soon to be leader of Republicans in the House of Representatives. McCarthy, in a now-deleted tweet, accused ‘Soros, Steyer, and Bloomberg’ of ‘trying to BUY this election.’ Such anti-Semitic tropes have moved from the fringe right wing to the center of the Republican party.”

Thanks to DDT, the GOP that enables him, and far-right media—including Fox network that gives DDT his talking points promoting violence—the United States is a place where people are no longer safe in even ordinary settings such as shopping, worshipping, attending school, seeing a movie, riding mass transit—in short, going out of their house.

Mainstream media like Meet the Press have become complicit in the lack of freedom in the United States because of the increasing violence. The violence will only grow if nothing is done.

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