What does Kyrsten Sinema want? Really, nobody has a clue.

What is wrong with Kyrsten Sinema? Like a lot of the rest of you, I don’t really know.  Sinema is a head-scratching case, for sure.

Sinema had a complicated childhood, which included her parents divorce, her mother’s remarriage, and apparent periods of quasi-homelessness while growing up. She graduated high school as a valedictorian and went to BYU (even though she now claims to be an atheist). She became employed as a social worker and subsequently earned not only an MSW, but eventually also a J.D. She then began working as a criminal defense attorney, and while doing that, she also earned a Ph.D in Justice Studies, also from Arizona State University. Subsequently she became an adjunct professor teaching master’s-level policy and grant-writing classes at Arizona State University School of Social Work and an adjunct business law professor at Arizona Summit Law School. So this is a woman who (unlike Donald Trump, for example) pulled herself up by her own bootstraps and also became quite educated.

Politically, she’s also been something of a Sphinx. She began her political career in the Arizona Green Party and worked on Ralph Nader’s presidential campaign in 2000.  She initially ran for local elected offices as an independent, races which she lost. In 2002, Sinema first ran for the Arizona House of Representatives as an independent affiliated with the Arizona Green Party. She finished in last place in a five-candidate field. Undaunted, Sinema joined the Democratic Party in 2004 and tried again for the 15th House district (in Arizona’s state legislature, two Members can represent the same district). In 2004, both she and David Lujan won the two seats for Arizona’s 15th district, with 37% for Sinema and 34% percent for Lujan. Sinema then went on to win a seat in the Arizona State Senate (2010), the U.S. House of Representatives (2012) and finally the United States Senate (2018), where she defeated Martha McSally by 55,900 votes (or about the same number as the Green Party candidate that year). With her election, Sinema because the first openly bisexual member of the Senate.

And yet, she has migrated to becoming one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress, and a strange obstacle to voting reform. With her Ph.D in Justice Studies, she must be well aware of how critical it is to be engaging in progressive voting reforms. Indeed, she claims to be in support of both the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the Freedom to Vote Act.

Yet, Sinema somehow thinks that changing the Filibuster rules — which weren’t adopted until 1917 and have been changed numerous times since then — will break the Senate.

The Senate is already broken. And it’s absolutely clear who broke it: one Addison Mitchell McConnell III. His manipulation of the rules and absolute hypocrisy around Supreme Court (and other) judicial nominations, his failure to support the second impeachment of Donald Trump right after McConnell (like other Senate leaders) had essentially been held hostage in the January 6th insurrection, and his overall Machiavellian politics broke the Senate a long time ago. Failing to create a carve-out for voting rights will simply allow the Republicans to shamelessly continue to use the “Big Lie” of Trump’s (allegedly) stolen election to enact voter suppression laws around the country.

Is this what Sinema wants?

What does Sinema want?

If she really believes that not voting for a carve-out from the filibuster will somehow make the current Senate a saner place, then she is as deluded as the people who think that the vaccines are “experimental” and unsafe to administer during a pandemic.

The Senate Democratic leadership plans to force a vote on these issues today. Both the filibuster questions and the voting bills themselves. People will have to go on the record.  And let’s not forget that any single Republican could break rank from Republican orthodoxy and support voting rights in the United States if they just had the courage to do so. So far, not a single one of them has shown that courage.

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Why aren’t things moving a little faster with the Investigation of January 6th and the Trump Family’s other crimes?

Like a lot of you, as we’re coming up on the anniversary of the January 6th attempted insurrection, I’m wondering where the hell we are.  There are a lot of moving parts so it’s hard to keep track of things. In addition, there are a lot of ways in which Trump was personally supposed to be in legal jeopardy that have not yet come to fruition.

As an attorney, I know that the wheels of justice can turn slowly.  But come on people!  This is getting ridiculous. 

Before we get into the merits of the investigations and prosecutions (or lack thereof), this is just a reminder (to those of you who have forgotten) that the January 6th insurrection was not based on some principle or political theory. It was based on the fragile ego of one hyper-inflated man-child, and his complete (and completely predictable) inability to handle the fact that he lost the election. To “sleepy” Joe Biden, of all people.

The Trump election loss and the “Big Lie” that Trump had to invent/endorse around it has, to be sure, slowly morphed into an effort to preserve minority rule. Republicans are still cloaking their effort in claims about election integrity, but those claims are about as credible as Mitch McConnell’s explanations for why he handled the nominations of Merick Garland (more about him later) and Amy Coney Barrett in completely opposite ways.

January 6th Commission

The January 6th Commission could have and should have been a bipartisan “9/11 style” Commission. It would have been, but for the Republicans completely chicken-shit inability to cross #45, their former guy, and the (soon to be proven) mistaken belief that they will need him to win future elections. They won’t. He’ll soon become an Albatross around their necks. But for now, the mythology persists.

The January 6th Commission was able to begin its work when two (dare I say) “brave” Republicans agreed to serve on the Commission. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger. (Like a lot of you out there, I’m still perplexed at having to sing the praises of a Cheney. Really, is this what we’ve come to America?)

It appears that the Commission is, at least, unearthing a treasure trove of documents, which will support a historical understanding of what happened on January 6th. Supporters of #45 and most Republicans will, of course, claim that the Commission is a political hit job. It isn’t, but there will be no convincing those people whose minds are already made up.

The biggest criticism I can see of the January 6th Commission is that it seems to be very slow in dealing with those members of the Trump administration or his inner circle that have refused to cooperate. I’m looking at Steve Bannon, Mark Meadows, Jeffrey Clark, John Eastman and Roger Stone. Some of these “gentlemen” have been referred to the Department of Justice for prosecution, but here out old friend Merrick Garland — who seems to be trying to prove that his Justice Department is the opposite of Trump’s, one that will not be driven by political considerations — is surely taking his time in moving on doing anything about it. Always the discrete, ethical lawyer, it would be nice if Merrick could just give us some effing reassurance that he’s on the case.

January 6th Prosecutions

Here the news is largely better. There have been a large number of investigations and prosecutions, bedeviled mostly by the sheer size and scope of the event, and the number of people engaging in criminal behavior.

The current estimates that there are northwards of 2000 people involved in illegal behavior in the day’s activities, and apparently as many as 700 have already been arrested. Participants made it easy for law enforcement to identify them by (1) disregarding that the Capitol grounds probably has more cameras per square inch than any other building in the federal government; (2) live-streaming their adventure on Facebook and other platforms; and (3) completely ignoring the fact that most cell phones stream location data on a real-time basis. A lot of them had also pissed off family and friends to a degree that many of these people were only too happy to identify and turn in the perpetrators. Especially scorned lovers and ex-spouses!

The large volume of people needing to be prosecuted has made for slow going. Even so, there are hundreds of people — including some of the most visible and outrageous offenders (looking at you Jacob Chansley) — who have either been convicted or who have agreed to plead guilty. Many of them, when questioned post-conviction, have (and here’s a shocker!) professed to a change of heart and alleged that they were misled by #45. They had, they thought, responded to his call to arms to do their civic duty (or so they now say).

There is still a lot of work to be done, but at least there is a large cohort out there who has learned the hard way that trashing the Capitol and trying to prevent the changeover in administrations does have consequences. 

Investigation of Trump Election Interference in Georgia

Anybody who was listening to the news at the beginning of 2021 had the chance to hear a recording of Trump’s infamous January 2nd phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensburger, the one in which Trump asked Raffensburger to “find” him 11,780 votes, just enough to overturn the election results in Georgia. Rarely has the general public been more privy to hearing a crime being committed in what was almost real time. (BTW, if Raffensberger had done what Trump wanted, it still wouldn’t have helped him in the election.)

So why the fuck hasn’t anything happened on this? A lot of you, myself included, are asking themselves this question. The Atlanta D.A. is said to be “likely” to impanel a special grand jury in her criminal investigation of election interference by the former president and his allies, according to a story in the New York Times.

Likely?

Sometime soon?

What the fuck is going on down there in Georgia that has prevented this from happening already? With the recording from the phone call a matter of public record, it seems to me that this should have been one of the easiest indictments of all time. But then what do I know? I’m only a lawyer without about 37 years experience practicing law.

Trump Family Tax Investigation

The investigation of the Trump family taxes does not (of course) have anything to do with January 6th. I mention it here only because it is part of the overall criminal conduct by the Trump family, and one (like with Al Capone) that has a great deal of potential to bring the entire family down.

What say you, “law and order” Republicans?

Just to review how we got here, we actually have Mary L. Trump to thank for this one.

  • Mary, who is the daughter of Trump’s brother Fred — the one who died at age 42 of alcoholism (after he couldn’t take the pressure of being part of this family) — was screwed (along with her brother) out of their rightful inheritance by the Trump family.
  • Mary and her brother eventually sued the Trumps, which led to an out of court settlement back in 2001.
  • Shortly after he became President, the New York Times began a very in-depth look at #45’s finances.
  • As part of that investigation, the NYT journalists convinced Mary to retrieve the legal documents that were part of her initial fraud claim. (Because she was the client, Mary was entitled to the entire set of documents that her attorneys had amassed.)
  • The New York Times published, towards the end of his presidency, a remarkable set of pieces about the Trump family finances. This surely benefitted the Manhattan District Attorney as he investigates the Trump family for tax fraud.

As it happens, Cy Vance Jr. has just stepped down as the District Attorney in New York. His successor Alvin Bragg will now have to finish the job. I will just note that these tax investigations are incredibly complicated, both to investigate and prosecute, but this one really has the chance to bring the whole family down.

Finally, the Manhattan D.A. isn’t the only one investigating the Trump family in New York. No, New York Attorney General Letitia James is also investigating the family for fraud, and just last month she subpoenaed Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. (who have, of course, promised not to cooperate).

Lawsuits Against Trump for January 6th

There have also been civil lawsuits filed against #45 personally, including by Representatives Karen Bass and Eric Swallwell, and by at least two Capitol Police officers, for Trump’s precipitation of the January 6th insurrection. Those cases are apparently in various stages of discovery, and they may not come to anything, but we will see.

Why Are Republicans Being Rewarded? 

So one thing that amazes me is that I keep hearing dire warnings about how the Republicans are going to clean up in the mid-terms.

Seriously?

Why?

I mean, what have Republicans done for which they should possibly conceivably be rewarded? 

They have voted reflexively and consistently against anything positive that Joe Biden has tried to achieve, including his big infrastructure plan (but will be taking credit for it when the resources arrive in their city or town).

They have refused (with extremely limited exceptions) the big lie that Trump won the election.

They have used the cover of the Big Lie to enact discriminatory voting legislation that will make it harder for ordinary people to come vote.

I don’t think seeing a few members of the Trump inner circle will change many minds, but for the suburban housewives that are apparently the crucial swing vote these days, maybe it would make a few of them think, “hmm, why are we voting for these cowards and hypocrites again?” Maybe giving Joe Biden the chance to keep working with a Congress that may actually help him wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

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I just realized that Jesus is the “nurturant mother” of the Bible.

I was thinking about something as I was driving to my family’s house on Christmas Day.  I was thinking about Christmas Carols, and that most Christmas Carols are really about the birth narrative of Jesus. That birth narrative (of course) is only part of Matthew and Luke’s gospels, and non-existent in Mark and John’s.  In addition, the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke are inconsistent.

  • In Matthew’s narrative Jesus is born in Bethlehem, followed shortly by the three wise men.  Having been tipped off by the wise men’s arrival and informed that the “King of the Jews” has been born, King Herod orders the slaughter of baby’s in and around Bethlehem. Mary and Joseph flee to Egypt, and then go to Nazareth in the Galilee, after they hear that Herod has died. That’s where Jesus grows up.
  • In Luke, Joseph and Mary travel from their home in Nazareth to Bethlehem for the census that has been ordered by the Roman emperor Augustus. When they arrive in Bethlehem there is no room at the inn, so Jesus is born in a manger. Shepherds come to visit Jesus having been informed by angelic hosts that he has been born. Mary and Joseph return to Nazareth after Jesus has been recognized as the Messiah in the Temple.

The two narratives are, obviously, quite different. They have almost nothing in common. All these distinctions are ignored and commingled (of course) in the various Christmas carols, which mostly paint a moving portrait of the precious baby being born and anointed. (Nothing happens for the next three decades in the Biblical narratives until Jesus reappears as a disciple of John the Baptist.)

I also have some affection for the adult Jesus, with his placid blue eyes (as depicted in countless paintings), his enunciation of the “Golden Rule” during the Sermon on the Mount, as well as his many parables and teachings.

And then something occurred to me: if you’re familiar with George Lakoff’s “Moral Politics,” then you are familiar with the idea that some people are attracted to the “strict father” model of political leadership, while other people are more attracted to the “nurturant mother” model of political leadership. 

In the Bible it is clear that Yahweh, the traditional war God of the Israelites, is the “strict father.” He’s only a “loving” God if you ignore about 90% of the text in the Old Testament.  On the other hand, he barely makes an appearance in the New Testament. Those books are all about Jesus. 

And here, finally is my insight: Jesus is the “nurturant mother” of the Bible. I mean, Jesus is obviously a man. He is not a Mother Goddess. But the role that he plays is that of the nurturant mother. He’s the one who is advocating for the oppressed, he’s the one saying we all can be saved, he’s the one saying that in the end it’s all going to be alright.

Yes. Jesus is the “nurturing mother” of the Bible.

Maybe that’s why a lot of progressives are attracted to the message of Jesus, notwithstanding that both the Old and New Testament are an unrestrained chaparral of inconsistencies, contradictions, and incongruities.  

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Biden’s approval ratings are sliding while Americans seem to have remarkably short memories

I keep reading about how Biden’s approval ratings are sinking, especially with independent voters, because of inflation and the continuing opioid epidemic. And because he hasn’t been able to get Build Back Better through Congress.

Hello America, does anyone here remember Donald Fucking Trump? The extraordinary grifter who conned his way into the White House and still hasn’t been able to admit that he lost the 2020 election?

Let’s first demonstrate that Joe Biden has very little to do with inflation and almost nothing to do with the continued epidemic and certainly didn’t elect Joe Manchin to the Senate. But let’s take them one at a time.

Inflation

Inflation is complicated and not usually caused by one thing. But the current round of inflation is caused at least substantially by the current supply chain problems (which in turn have mostly been caused by the pandemic) and by the Federal Reserve system’s strong support to re-engage the economy. It’s not being caused by Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan — the spending on which hasn’t even begun yet — or by the Build Back Better legislation, which hasn’t even been passed into law yet.

Covid Epidemic

One also can’t pin the continuation of the Covid epidemic on Joe Biden. First of all, the pandemic is a world-wide phenomenon, not just something happening here in the United States. But mostly, it’s being exacerbated here (and also worldwide) by all the anti-vaxxers who refuse to be vaccinated or wear a mask, and whose unrelenting obstreperousness has contributed substantially to the pandemic’s continuing long enough to develop multiple variants. The one thing where Biden could do more is by pushing harder to make the vaccines available in countries like India and South Africa, where some of the variants mutated (or at least where some of the mutations were discovered).

Build Back Better

Joe Mancin, the Senator from West Virginia has been a singular roadblock to Build Back Better, and there ain’t much that Joe Biden can do about it. First of all, the House progressives held out so long precisely because they didn’t trust Joe Manchin. And they were not wrong. Build Back Better has been scaled back and reduced in size and scaled back some more and been reduced in size some more all to please Joe Manchin, who gave President Biden his word and then broke it. By announcing his opposition on Fox News and letting a staffer notify the White House instead of manning up himself, Manchin really pissed Biden off.

In explaining himself Manchin, of course, trotted out a bunch of Republican tropes, like claiming that he couldn’t support the continuation of the expanded child care tax credit because he fears that families will use the extra income to buy “drugs.”

Nice thought, Mr. Racist.

Although Manchin is a Democrat in name only, we still need him to maintain the Democratic majority and allow Shumer to be the Majority Leader. Otherwise we’d be back to having Mitch McTurtle back in charge.

In any case, it ain’t over yet, because Shumer has promised to bring back Build Back Better and get all the Senators on the record with a vote. Manchin will be feeling the heat, and there is still time to negotiate some more. This is where the fact that Manchin and Biden have a relationship is to every one’s advantage.

Short Memories

In the meantime Americans are seeming to have a remarkable amount of amnesia about #45, who is being investigated in New York, Georgia and Washington DC. The January 6th committee is clearly getting a lot of information on the attempted insurrection, and if one more former staffer writes a book throwing Trump under a bus it will be an all-time world record.

All the pundits keep claiming that the Democrats will be wiped out in the mid-terms, which might be a good reason to stop listening to the pundits. I’m not quite sure what all the naysayers want Biden to do that he isn’t doing, but God help is all if the Republicans get back the reins of power in 2022.

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How to talk (or not talk) to an Anti-vaxxer

I have a friend — an acquaintance, really — who is a very public anti-vaxxer on Facebook. She believes that vaccines are both dangerous and ineffective. Most of the time I don’t bother with people like this, but she posted something which really got my goat, something that made the preposterous suggestion that the unvaccinated would end up in a gas chambers. So I wrote back. I was not polite.

We went back and forth a little bit, and then she asked a question which I was willing to answer. Here was her question:

And here was my answer:

You asked a reasonable question, so let me try to give you a reasonable answer. 

There are many things reasonable people can disagree about. Sometimes those disagreements are dressed up as science. So, for example, John Edward Mack, who was at one time a professor and the head of the department of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, became a fervent believer that alien abductions were real. There are very serious people with fancy degrees who believe that people can come back from the dead, who believe in homeopathy and astrology,  and who believe that the Bible is literally inerrant. For the most part, these disagreements are relatively harmless (with the exception of biblical inerrancy). But the belief that vaccines are ineffective and dangerous is not harmless.

You recently posted an article which you quickly took down, entitled “The Pandemic of the Vaccinated.” Of course, that article was not making the point that vaccines are ineffective. It was making the point that there are enough people who have either refused to take the vaccine, or don’t have access to vaccines, that the virus has mutated so much that it is now infecting many people who have been vaccinated.

I haven’t wanted to be drawn into debates about the science behind the vaccines because I’m not a virologist. And neither are you. If you want to debate a virologist, you  could try debating Pamela’s daughter Hilary, who literally worked in a Nobel-prize winning lab. But I doubt you’d be able to get her attention or, frankly, follow her explanations. In any case, there is a reason that I believe the scientists.

I believe the scientists because scientists have been able to create airplanes, helicopters and other things that fly, including flying to the moon.

I believe the scientists because scientists have been able to create microchips, and computers, and the Internet.

I believe the scientists because scientists have been able to figure out how to transplant hearts, and livers, and lungs, and on occasion even a face.

I believe the scientists because scientists have been able to produce a remarkably effective set of vaccines, at least two of which use messenger RNA, which had never been used to produce vaccines before. And they did it  in less than a year.

Now, in mathematics, answers are, for the most part, either right or wrong. Science is a little less black-and-white than mathematics. But there are many areas where a scientific consensus has emerged. The effectiveness of vaccines is one of those.

In addition, there have been something like 8.53 billion doses of vaccine administered worldwide, and there have been almost no adverse consequences.  In addition, it is well known that the ICUs in American hospitals are overwhelmingly filled up with unvaccinated patients. The empirical evidence is staggering.

Now I don’t know where your devotion to junk science comes from, but just like the driver who continues to insist there is no danger in their driving drunk, I just want you to stop. Some of your acolytes have accused me of being impolite. And I have been impolite. But I believe that the time for politeness has long since passed.

I’m tired of having to wear a mask all the time. I’m tired of having to curtail my social activities all the time. But mostly, I’m tired of you and your fellow antagonists risking the lives and health of all of us because of your quixotic devotion to junk science. That’s why I’m enraged. And I get especially enraged when you post items (as you have) that clearly imply parallels between vaccine enforcement and the holocaust.


Epilogue: as expected, we didn’t make any dent in each other’s thinking. It’s a fact of cognitive dissonance that people, once they acquire a false belief, cling to it with increasing determination as the evidence against it mounts. But she’s hardly the only one. The Boston Globe recently reported on how Robert F. Kennedy Jr., of all people, has built an anti-vaccine juggernaut.

But I really am done “debating” with these people. And I no longer feel any need to be polite about it. It won’t change any minds, but as the famous saying goes “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”  And right now, the anti-vaxxers are oppressing all of the rest of us.

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The Kyle Rittenhouse verdict is probably the least surprising verdict in years.

The Kyle Rittenhouse verdict is probably the least surprising verdict in years. Judge Bruce Schroeder was probably the most biased judge ever in a high-profile trial, and everything was prepped for Rittenhouse to be acquitted. Anyone with half a brain knows that if Rittenhouse had been black, he never would have survived the night, never mind be acquitted in a public trial. It’s the reason that we need a Black Lives Matter movement to begin with.

Just to review: Kyle Rittenhouse is the little 17-year old punk and wannabe police officer whose mother chose to drive him from his home in Antioch, IL to Kenosha WI (about a 33 minute, 21 mile drive) so that he could pretend to be a law enforcement officer. Kenosha was, on August 25, 2020, in the midst of several days of protests related to the shooting of Jacob Blake, where police officers shot Blake in the back several times, leaving him paralzed from the waist down.

Rittenhouse pretended to be an EMT and pretended to protect a car dealership (where the cars had already been moved off the lot; to be fair, the dealership had suffered damage the two previous nights). The following sequence followed:

  • Rittenhouse then had a confrontation with 36 year old activist Joseph Rosenbaum at 11:48 p.m.  (Why is a 17 year old kid still on the streets from 10 minutes to midnight?)  Rosenbaum was unarmed but may have been trying to take Rittenhouse’s gun. Rittenhouse shot him four times and killed him. (Richie McGinniss, a reporter for right wing Daily Caller, apparently tried to administer first aid.)
  • After fleeing the scene, several protestors ran after Rittenhouse for a few blocks, identifying him as the man who had just shot someone. At some point Rittenhouse tripped and fell down. Anthony Huber, a 26 year old skateboarder who was also at the protests, then tried to take Rittenhouse’s gun and was shot while Rittenhouse was sitting on the street. 
  • Finally, Gaige Grosskreutz, a 27 year old trained paramedic who actually was trying to provide assistance in Kenosha was also shot (but not killed) by Rittenhouse when he also tried to take the kid’s gun.

In order for Rittenhouse to get off, the jury had to find that all three shootings were justified by the doctrine of self-defense, as applied in Wisconsin.

So, let’s first acknowledge that none of the victims was perfect. Rosenbaum, in particular, seems to have been kind of a little prick; Huber has had “mental health challenges” in his life; and Grosskreutz initially “forgot” to tell the police that he had been armed that night.

Of course, if being an asshole were justification to shoot someone, we’d have to shoot about 1/3rd of the population of the United States.

All three of the people who were shot by Rittenhouse were apparently trying to disarm him, so it’s not that there isn’t some legal basis for the verdict. But as various commentators have noted, you shouldn’t be able to claim self-defense in a situation where you yourself provoked the danger.

Rittenhouse — although police had been warned that there was an “active shooter” in the streets — was not arrested, and turned himself in the next day in Illinois. 


The kid was released from detention on November 20, after his attorneys posted $2 million bail. He got the money for the bail from right-wing websites that had raised the funds for him. Later, security footage from a Wisconsin bar showed Rittenhouse drinking beers in a bar, wearing a shirt that said “Free as Fuck,” and posing for pictures alongside five men flashing an “OK” sign. Later, a mailed notice about a scheduled court appearance was returned as undeliverable when Rittenhouse had changed his address without notifying the court. Judge Schroeder denied the prosecutors’ request for an increase in Rittenhouse’ bond, stating that people out on bail “often fail to update their address without being arrested.” 

The defense put all three victims (but especially Rosenbaum) on trial. The judge confirmed his biases when he refused to let the prosecutors call the three men who were shot “victims” but allowed the defense to call them “rioters” and “looters” and “arsonists,” even though the victims were not on trial.

And so here we are. Rittenhouse acquitted. Of course, it’s not necessarily the end of litigation for him. First of all — since he crossed state lines to accomplish his shooting spree — there is a small chance that he could face federal charges, if the justice department is willing to indict him. Don’t hold your breath on that.

Much more likely is that he will be embroiled in civil suits brought by the families of the three victims, just like O.J. Simpson was sued civilly after his acquittal. The police department in Kenosha will also be sued and maybe others with responsibility for keeping the peace. It’s very unlikely that Rittenhouse will ever be a police officer, which was apparently one of his career ambitions. In any case, he’s not out of the woods yet legally, but he has obviously survived the most dangerous legal proceeding that he had to survive.  Stay tuned.

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Alex Jones is defaulted in two of his defamation cases without offering a defense.

There was more litigation news on Monday having to do with Alex Jones, the right wing POS super-prick who, among other things, claimed that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was a “false flag” operation intended to derogate people’s Second Amendment rights.

He went so far as to accuse Leonard Pozner, the father of one of the victims, of being a “crisis actor,” requiring Pozner to move several times to avoid harassment and death threats from followers of Jones who believe the accusations.

Well, some of those parents finally sued Jones for defamation — I have no idea why this took so long, as this was just a set of cases crying out to be filed — and those cases are now coming back to haunt Jones. Under the law of defamation in the United States you cannot publish information which is “wholly and patently false” or that it was published “with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.” In addition, the parents of the murdered Sandy Hook children are not “public figures,” with respect to whom there is a much greater degree of liberty about what may be published.

Well this prick, Alex Jones, isn’t even losing the cases on the merits (although he most certainly would). He’s losing them because he is refusing to cooperate with discovery requests, which is requiring the courts to do something they almost never do: to default the defendant.

I mean, you really have to piss off the courts for them to default for failing to comply with discovery requests.

And this didn’t just happen in one jurisdiction. No, it happened in two: first in Texas, and now in Connecticut.

In an effort to avoid liability, Jones has, at various points in his career, claimed to be a “performance artist” and therefore (I guess) not responsible for what he says. (Too bad that’s not a defense to libel in the United States.)

I can only hope that when it comes to damages, that the courts bleed this prick dry. I hope he ends up in bankruptcy court and loses all the money he ever earned. Nothing less would be just.

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Republicans threatening to “payback” Democrats because of Steve Bannon

There was an article in the Washington Post yesterday about how Republicans are rallying around Steve Bannon. In the wake of the indictment of Bannon for contempt of Congress, Republicans are threatening “payback” once the Republicans regain the House. Republicans are claiming that Democrats are “weaponizing” the Department of Justice, and that there will be consequences for doing so.

Bullshit.

Oh sure, the Republicans (if and when they do regain control of the House) will surely create hearings about things that they think will be controversial, like the multiple hearings they had about Hillary’s email server or Benghazi.

But here’s the difference: Democrats have not been engaging in illegal conduct, while the Republicans have the insurrection.

Hillary was able to testify for 11 hours before Congress because she had done nothing illegal.

Of course, Bannon, upon turning himself in at the FBI’s field office, immediately proclaimed that this action was going to be “the misdemeanor from hell, for Merrick Garland, Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden.” How so? That was not immediately clear.

He then offered that “we’re going to go on the offense. We’re tired of playing defense, we’re going to go on the offense on this.” How so? That was also not immediately clear.

And finally, “We got the Hispanics coming on our side, African Americans coming on our side; we’re taking down the Biden regime.” Okay Steve, if you say so.

So threaten all you want, Republicans. As it is, finally indicting Bannon for his open defiance of Congress is the least the Department of Justice could do, and a lot of us were wondering when Merrick Garland is going to show some balls and finally indict this guy.

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Typhoid Mary and Henning Jacobson prove that the Anti-Vaxxers are Wrong.

There are still a bunch of people (mostly Republicans) who seem to think that the government cannot mandate the use of masks or that people be vaccinated. They are (of course) wrong on both counts. Let’s disprove that theory with just two examples:

Typhoid Mary

Mary Mallon, better known as “Typhoid Mary,” was an Irish cook who eventually came to the United States, where she infected as many as 53 people with typhoid fever while being an asymptomatic carrier of the disease. 

Because she had no symptoms, it took public health authorities in New York quite some time to find her. In fact, it took public health authorities about seven years before they had conclusively identified her as the source of the typhoid infections. She was subsequently quarantined:

  1. From 1907 through 1910, until she agreed to stop working as a cook (which agreement she breached in 1915).
  2. From 1915 until her death in 1938, during which time she was held at North Brother Island, one of a pair of small islands located in New York City’s East River, and which was once the site of the Riverside Hospital for quarantinable diseases (but is now uninhabited).

So, if you’re counting, that is 26 years that Mary Mallon was held in confinement. That is what can happen to you when you’re the asymptomatic carrier of a deadly disease. That is the power that public health officials actually have.

Jacobson v. Massachusetts

In 1905, the Supreme Court of the United States decided a case named Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 U.S. 11 (1905). Massachusetts had a compulsory vaccination law that empowered the Board of Health of a city or town to enforce mandatory, free vaccinations.  In 1902, faced with an outbreak of smallpox, the Board of Health of the city of Cambridge,  adopted a regulation ordering the vaccination of all its inhabitants. Cambridge pastor Henning Jacobson, who had lived through an era of mandatory vaccinations in his native Sweden, refused to comply  because Jacobson’s childhood vaccination had gone badly. However, the Court held that mandatory vaccinations are neither arbitrary nor oppressive so long as they do not “go so far beyond what was reasonably required for the safety of the public.”

And there it is.

Vaccines can be required if they are reasonably required for the safety of the public.

And the Covid vaccine is reasonably required for the safety of the public.

There are (of course) plenty of law enforcement, medical, educational and other personnel who haven’t complied with vaccine requirements at the risk of their own jobs. But they are just plain wrong. This is necessary for the public health; there have been approximately 422 million doses administered in the United States and there have been no major problems; it’s time to stop complaining and just comply with the requirements of public health.

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There will be a lot of Gnashing of Teeth in Democratic campaign headquarters tonight

There will be a lot of gnashing of teeth in Democratic party headquarters as a consequences of the results in Virginia and New Jersey, which don’t bode well for 2022.  In Virginia, Glenn Youngkin, a businessman with expertise in mergers and acquisitions and capital market financing, proved that the culture wars are alive and strong in the Republican party. In New Jersey, the tight race between Republican Jack Ciatarelli Democratic incumbent Governor Phil Murphy, may hinge mostly on the local issue of property taxes. Some of the other races around the country didn’t look so bad for Democrats.

But the matchup between Youngkin and former Governor Terry McAuliffe hurts.

So far, Republicans have not been hurt at all by their persistent lying and continued affiliation with #45, the Former Guy. This election became a referendum on Critical Race Theory, which as honest commentators (i.e., the ones who are not lying) have repeatedly pointed out, is a legal theory taught in law school, and is not taught in secondary schools in the United States. What Republicans are really objecting to is that a lot of white people are made uncomfortable with learning about or having their children taught about the history of race in America.

Pretty soon the GOP will be advocating that German school children not learn about the Holocaust because it will make them uncomfortable.

Now, I was, in fact, born in Germany, where having to learn about what the NAZIs did can indeed make a person very, very uncomfortable. It was also very, very necessary to learn about it in detail, discomfort be damned. There is, of course, the maxim that “history is written by the victors,” and that is part of the reason German school children had to learn about the history of the Holocaust in excruciating detail. But it also made us, all of us, better people.

White people in America might want to embrace the history of American racism for what it can teach him, instead of fleeing towards “parental rights” in an effort to avoid their own discomfort.

But — as we all know by now — Republicans have made a great deal of hay with the culture wars, starting with What’s the Matter with Kansas.

And they’re not stopping now.

I don’t know what the solution is, except that maybe the Democrats should be more willing to engage the Republicans on cultural issues unapologetically. Like, stop trying to mollify the opponents of vaccines and mask mandates and just ask them to grow up already. 

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