Thanksgiving is more Complicated that it Used to Be

When I first got to this country, Thanksgiving seemed like a nice holiday. It was non-denominational, you didn’t have to believe any particular thing, and it involved being thankful. What was not to like?

In the meantime, it’s become obvious that Thanksgiving also celebrates the beginning of the displacement of the indigenous population from their land. Not so simple anymore.

Now, I was born in Germany. Having been born as a “2nd Generation” German, the one thing that I’ve had to do is educate myself and face history. I’ve had to face it squarely, not shirk from it, not minimize it, not to try to explain it away. 

While white Europeans were driving indigenous people off their land, my forefathers were assembled in feudal city states fighting each other, and getting their collective asses kicked by Napoleon. My forefathers had nothing to do with the displacement of  the indigenous population.That doesn’t prevent me from grieving deeply for the Native Americans and how they were displaced from their own land. 

While the Austrians were the big fish in the German-speaking world, white Europeans were driving the slave trade into North America. Germany wasn’t even united under Otto von Bismarck until 1872, or eight years after the emancipation proclamation. My forefathers had nothing to do with American slavery. That doesn’t prevent me from grieving deeply for African Americans through the centuries and how they were enslaved and subsequently treated in this country.

When I became an American, I also acquired the duty to educate myself about slavery and the displacement of Native Americans. And to all those snowflakes out there who don’t want their children to be “uncomfortable” learning about American history, I say, if I can learn about the Holocaust, your children can learn about slavery and the displacement of Native Americans. If Ruby Bridges can live through integration your children can learn about Ruby Bridges.

So, when it comes to Thanksgiving, I don’t celebrate the “cooperation” between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag, but I’m simply grateful for the life that I am allowed to lead here, or frankly, anywhere.

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This seems like a Suicide Mission to Me

Hamas surprise attack on Israel seems to me to be a kind of suicide mission in which the retaliation will be much worse than the damage Hamas can cause.

And that damage is not inconsiderable.

  • Yes, the vaunted Israeli intelligence forces seemed to miss this surprise attack entirely.
  • Yes, Hamas kidnapped a bunch of kids at a local music festival. Reportedly, over a hundred Israelis have been kidnapped.
  • Yes, Hamas shot some people in their cars, and shot civilians indiscriminately.
  • Yes, Israel has already begun its retaliation, which everyone knows will continue for a long time.
  • Yes, there are an estimated 510 Palestinians who have already been killed and approximately 2,750 more have been wounded.
  • Yes, there are an estimated 800 Isrealis who have been killed, with more than 2,200 also wounded.
  • These are all useless deaths, over 1300 people who have been killed for no reason. No reason at all.

This is why I call the “holy” land the “unholy” land. More blood has been spilled in this region for a longer period of time than probably anywhere else in the world.

Starting with the destruction of the First Temple in 587 BCE, and continuing with the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, and then the razing of Jerusalem and the dispersion of the Jews into the great diaspora, and more recently the eight recognized wars between the state of Israel and its neighboring Arab states, the two major Palestinian Arab uprisings known as the First Intifada and the Second Intifada, and a broad series of additional armed engagements, this is a region that, since the Israeli war for independence has barely seen any time where they weren’t at war.

Unholy indeed.

Israel, by the way, has drifted further and further rightwards since the assassination of Yitkzhak Rabin in 1995, one of the clearest times where an assassination accomplished exactly what it was intended to accomplish.

Who says assassinations can’t be effective?

Israel is governed, once again, by Benjamin Netanyau, now in his sixth (but not necessarily consecutive) term as Prime Minister, who is essentially a criminal. Charged multiple times with various forms of corruption, Netanyahu is also the prime minister who tried to hijack the judiciary because he didn’t like some of the decisions coming from his own Supreme Court.

If only we could do that in the United States.

The residents of the Gaza Strip surely have many very legitimate grievances. Often described by rights groups as an “open air prison,” the Gaza Strip jams approximately 2,375,250 residents into 140.9 square miles, making it one of the most densely populated land areas on the planet. The Gaza Strip is blockaded not only by Israel, but also by Egypt.

It should be noted that Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula borders Gaza to the south — this is the territory that Israel returned to Egypt through the Camp David peace accords — which area is gigantic and largely unpopulated. The Peninsula consists of about 23,000 square miles — which makes it about 163 times as large as the Gaza Strip, and contains a population of only 600,000 — or about a quarter of the population of the Gaza Strip.

And yet, Hamas has not attacked the Sinai Peninsula, or asked Egypt if they could give them a few hundred more square miles — a drop in a bucket for Egypt — so that the territory could expand and provide more livable conditions for its people.

No they have not.

Hamas is, of course, dedicated to the permanent destruction of Israel and its replacement with an Islamic state in the area that is now Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Not going to happen.

So instead we get another war. The people of Israel will rally behind their odious prime minister, hearts will harden, thousands more people will perish, the “two state solution” will become further removed from reality, and no borders will shift whatsoever.


There is a saying, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, and pretty soon everyone will be blind and toothless.”

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Trump wears his Indictments like a “Badge of Honor”

Trump has finally been indicted for his part in stoking (or really creating) the January 6th insurrection. And Trump — as he always does in these kinds of circumstances — has doubled down, and claims that he wears these indictments like a “badge of honor.” And his acolytes support him.

So much for the party of law and order.

Trump — who did more to “weaponize” the Department of Justice than any President before him or since — claims that the indictments are political “persecutions” and that they are intended to damage his campaign. Well, so far they’ve only managed to inflame his base, so if that were the Democratic strategy, it’s not working out well.

But lest we forget, while Trump was President he could not be prosecuted because of the famous Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel memo from 1973. We know this, of course, because of the neutered Mueller Report, in which Mueller’s team essentially said, yes, he colluded with Russia and broke other laws, but we can’t prosecute him for it while he’s President.

Now, Trump wants to be shielded from prosecution because he’s running for President. Of course, he began running for President again about 5 minutes after it was certified that Biden had won the election. Trump, who prior to becoming President had never been held accountable for ANYTHING, is desperate to keep that winning streak alive, because the consequences if he doesn’t escape again this time are pretty severe.

As others have noted, Trump isn’t running “for” President, he’s running “from” being incarcerated.

And yet, as my sister noted this morning, there is still 43% of the electorate that would be willing to elect him President again.

Let that sink in for a moment.

I mean, back in 2016 people could legitimately ask the question, “how bad can he be?”

Well, you can’t legitimately ask that question anymore.

If you’ve seen this guy perform for 4 years as president and for another 2½ years as a candidate since, and you still think he’s qualified to be President, the problem isn’t with him. The problem is now with you.

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Whither the Supreme Court

The reputation of the Supreme Court took a pretty good hit this year, what with its ethical lapses by conservative justices, and the consensus opinion of almost everyone who watches them that the court has become more political and more partisan with each and every year.

John Roberts, the Chief Justice of the court — an acknowledged “institutionalist” — is keenly aware of this. And keenly aware that the sniping between justices like Thomas and Brown-Jackson in cases like the “Fair Admissions” case does not enhance their credibility.

Unlike Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg — who were known to genuinely like each other despite their ideological differences — that does not seem to be the case for justices like Thomas and Brown-Jackson. 

So, in the Biden v. Nebraska case, the Chief Justice took it upon himself to write this unusual paragraph:

It has become a disturbing feature of some recent opinions to criticize the decisions with which they disagree as going beyond the proper role of the judiciary. Today, we have concluded that an instrumentality created by Missouri, governed by Missouri, and answerable to Missouri is indeed part of Missouri; that the words “waive or modify” do not mean “completely rewrite”; and that our precedent— old and new—requires that Congress speak clearly before a Department Secretary can unilaterally alter large sections of the American economy. We have employed the traditional tools of judicial decision making in doing so. Reasonable minds may disagree with our analysis—in fact, at least three do. We do not mistake this plainly heartfelt disagreement for disparagement. It is important that the public not be misled either. Any such misperception would be harmful to this institution and our country.

However, the Chief Justice’s effort to persuade is not going to be persuasive. In fact, Justice Kagan had a pretty tart reply:

From the first page to the last, today’s opinion departs from the demands of judicial restraint.  At the behest of a party that has suffered no injury, the majority decides a contested public policy issue properly belonging to the politically accountable branches and the people they represent. In saying so, and saying so strongly, I do not at all “disparage[]” those who disagree. . . And there is surely nothing personal in the dispute here. But Justices throughout history have raised the alarm when the Court has overreached—when it has “exceed[ed] its proper, limited role in our Nation’s governance.” . . . It would have been “disturbing,” and indeed damaging, if they had not. . . The same is true in our own day.

The problem is, of course, that people recognize that the court — as I have previously pointed out — has decided cases that don’t need to (and in some cases really should not) be decided. In doing so they are overturning long-settled precedent and taking away rights.

When the liberals were in the majority the conservatives tended to complain bitterly about “activist” judges creating rights that they believed were not in the Constitution. And that was, at times, a fair complaint.

What we now have is activist judges (or perhaps “deactivist” judges) taking away rights that have already been enshrined in the Constitution. For many years.

Defenders of the court have argued that the court is not just a 6:3 court, it is really a kind of 3:3:3 court. Three hard right justices (Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch), three moderately right justices (Roberts, Kavanaugh, Coney-Barrett) and three moderately left justices (Kagan, Sotomayor, Brown-Jackson).


And yes, there are plenty of unanimous decisions, and a few surprising decisions such as Moore v. Harper, (refuting the independent state legislature theory) or Allen v. Milligan (finding that Alabama’s congressional map violated the Voting Rights Act).

But on the biggest and most important cases — affirmative action this year, abortion rights last year — the Court is taking away fundamental rights through a 6:3  conservative majority. They certainly did not have to take away debt relief from some 2.2 million former students.

And then, of course, there is the case of Justice Clarence Thomas. Aside from his many ethical lapses, Clarence Thomas is a hypocrite’s hypocrite. The man is married to a white woman — ironically named Virginia — which would not have been possible but for the case of Loving v. Virginia, which decided that the “due process” clause of the 14th amendment did not permit states to prohibit men and women of different races from marrying. And yet, here is Thomas deciding not only that the 14th amendment no longer protects the right to abortion, but now also deciding that it no longer protects efforts at affirmative action.

Clarence is apparently the original angry black man. This can be discerned from the recent and probing profile of Thomas on Frontline. He’s still resentful to this day, that anyone would question his bonafides even though he clearly benefited from affirmative action . . . twice! Thomas was apparently a fan of Malcolm X. He has a funny way of expressing his admiration.

And now we have Mitch McConnell, the architect of this court — he stole Merrick Garland’s seat and gave it to Neil Gorsuch, and he rushed Amy Coney Barrett onto the court in the dying days of the Trump administration — backing away from the court because it has become so unpopular. So unpopular that it might derail his efforts to regain the Senate in 2024.

Next year, the court is likely to hear arguments about whether to ban or limit the use of the FDA-approved abortion pill mifepristone.

Just in time for the 2024 elections.

In the short term, the court is not going to be expanded from 9 to 13 justices, and the life-time appointments are not going to be reduced to a term of years — like, for example, 18 year terms — even though they should be. So we’re stuck with this court for quite a number of years to come.

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Gay Rights vs. Religious Beliefs

The final of the four major Supreme Court cases decided at the end of the 2022-23 term is 303 Creative v. Elenis, in which the court held that a website designer cannot be forced to design a website related to a gay marriage if it violates her sincerely held religious beliefs.

This is another case that probably never should have made it to the court.


Lorie Smith is a website designer who runs a limited liability company known as 303 Creative, LLC.  She wanted to move into creating websites for weddings, but wanted to post a notice on her website to notify users of her unwillingness to create websites promoting same-sex marriages. Such a notice, it turns out, would violate Colorado’s anti-discrimination laws, which prevent businesses which “open their doors to the public” from discriminating against gay people. 

Represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, Smith sued Colorado preemptively, seeking to block enforcement of the anti-discrimination law. In federal district court, Colorado sought dismissal because Smith had not received such requests, so there was no “live” controversy. Several months later, Smith added a sworn statement that a same-sex wedding request had been submitted to her website (which turned out not to be true).

But the court clearly wanted to rule on the merits here. Just like with the student loan case before it. And so they did.

Case Discussion

Many cases in constitutional law are “balancing” questions, where different interests are balanced against each other. And this case is no exception. On the one side there are the interests of LGBT people (or as they are now sometimes known, LGBTQIA+ people) and on the other side are the sincerely held beliefs of certain religious people (most commonly conservative Christians). 

Should a conservative Christian who sincerely believes that gay marriage is a sin be “forced” to support such a ceremony?

Most reasonable people can probably agree that the answer is no.

But what becomes tricky is when you open a business that is open to the public.

Opening a business that is open to the public makes it a quasi-public forum. Not as public as city hall; not as private as your own home. Retail establishments, where anyone can walk in and shop during business hours are typically a quasi-public forum. And discrimination in those kinds of establishments are not allowed.

That’s why you can no longer refuse to serve black people at a lunch counter.

Now, where one of the prongs of the balancing test involves religious beliefs, this ever-more conservative court has swung firmly in favor of those beliefs in recent years. And so with this case.

There Was No Controversy

The parties in this case are 303 Creative on the one hand and Aubrey Elenis on the other. Aubrey Elenis is the Director of the Colorado Civil Rights Division, the agency charged with enforcing Colorado’s anti-discrimination. She is an appropriate party if you seek to enjoin the state from enforcing its laws. 

In federal district court, Colorado sought to have the case dismissed because Smith had not received any requests to create websites for a gay wedding, and therefore had no “justiciable injury.” In response, Smith added a sworn statement that a same-sex wedding request had been submitted to her website. However, that turned out not to be true.


The New Republic reported that the man who allegedly sent the request — and whose, email, address and phone number were submitted — turns out to be married to a woman for many years, to have a child, and to be a website designer himself. He had never submitted such a request.


Smith’s attorneys scrambled to explain the incongruity, theorizing that maybe the information had been submitted by “trolls” on the Internet. 

So, before making this filing, no one had ever checked whether this guy had actually submitted such a request?


The Supreme Court could easily have avoided deciding this case in the absence of a “live” controversy. But clearly, they wanted to decide it.

What will the Consequences Be?

Truthfully, that is hard to assess. There probably won’t be all that many website designers, or bake shops, or other merchants who refuse to provide services to gay couples.

But the precedent has been set.

As Justice Sotomayor noted in her dissent:

Today, the Court, for the first time in its history, grants a business open to the public a constitutional right to refuse to serve members of a protected class.

Where that will lead to is not known, but it sure ain’t a good thing.

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The Supreme Court screws 2.2 Million Student Borrowers

The third of the four major Supreme Court cases decided at the end of the 2022-23 term is Biden v. Nebraska. This is the case in which the Supreme Court struck down Joe Biden’s debt relief program for student borrowers, which would have altered the financial lives of some 2.2 million borrowers across the nation.


A couple of things should be noted at the outset:

  1. Unlike the other three cases decided at the end of the term, this one is quite fact-specific, and is unlikely to impact many (if any) other cases.
  2. This case should probably have never made it to the Supreme Court, and that is where the argument really lies.


One of Biden’s campaign promises had been to try to cancel as much student debt as possible, given the bleak economic conditions that many graduating students face these days (especially the cost of housing). In order to do that, he needed to invoke the provisions of a very specific statute — the Higher Education Relief Opportunities For Students Act (or HEROS Act) — established in 2001 in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. That act allowed waivers or other relief to recipients of student financial aid programs “in connection with a war or other military operation or national emergency.”

The Trump administration had invoked the act back in 2020 when it had suspended both repayments and the accrual of interest on federal student loans at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Biden then sought to turn that suspension into a permanent waiver, and invoked the HEROS Act once more to cancel the loans of those students whose repayment programs had already been suspended.

Who Has Standing to Sue?

In law, there is a very basic idea that in order to sue somebody you have to have “standing.” And to have standing you normally need to have a concrete injury. 

  • Another driver drove into your car and caused damage? It’s the damage that gives you standing.
  • A contractor failed to complete a home improvement project they had agreed to? It is the financial loss that gives you standing.

So, the question in this case was really, who was injured by the student loan forgiveness program? 

  • Certainly not the students who had their loans forgiven. 
  • Not really the banks, as almost all of these loans were government backed.
  • Certainly not the real estate brokers who would now be able to sell houses or rent apartments to student borrowers who previously could not afford them.

Who had been hurt by this program?

Nevertheless, six states with Republican attorneys general managed to find a would-be plaintiff in the form of the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority (MOHELA), a quasi-public authority that would lose some of its loan-processing fees under the Biden plan. However, MOHELA had not sued the Biden administration. The state of Mussouri had.


That should have been the end of the story. I mean, in Massachusetts, the MBTA — which runs the subways in Boston — sues under its own name, when it has a legal dispute; it does not sue in the name of the Commonwealth. That’s how quasi-public authorities operate.

But Chief Justice Roberts and the majority in this case, wanted to get to the merits of this question very badly. They found that the plaintiffs had standing, and that the Biden administration had exceeded its authority under the HEROS act. Whether they had or not was a very technical question, a question of statutory interpretation. The result is likely to be limited to this particular case.

But it impacts about 2.2 million people.

Comparison with Paycheck Protection Program

Some of the commentators — and I will now add my voice to them — noted the ironic difference between the treatment of student loan forgiveness and the Paycheck Protection Act. For those of you who have forgotten, “PPP” is the act that was enacted at the beginning of the pandemic in order to help businesses — especially retail businesses who had to shut their doors to the public — survive during the lean times of the pandemic. The intention was to “protect the paychecks” of all those workers who might otherwise have lost their jobs. Hence the name of the act.

Noble idea.

Poor execution.

By now it’s become clear that the program was beset by fraud, that people who never should have received any money under it — such as celebrities like Tom Brady and Khloe Kardashian — and manufacturing and construction firms that thrived during the pandemic, received billions of dollars, collectively. 

So where are the Republican attorneys general, looking to preserve the interests of the public?

Nowhere in sight.


Republicans are never anywhere in sight when it comes to protecting the rights of the little guy.

And yet, lots and lots and lots of little guys still vote Republican, animated by their hate of other little guys, wanting to lash out at somebody, but somehow, somehow, never lashing out at the corporate elites.

Or celebrities.

Why is that, my friends?

Why is that?

My advice: if you’re one of those $2.2 million students who just got screwed by the Republicans, maybe you want to go to the polls in 2024 and vote Democratic.

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The Supreme Court rejects Affirmative Action

The second of the four major Supreme Court cases decided at the end of the 2022-23 term is Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard. This is the case that was revisiting the question of whether “race” can be used as an affirmative factor in college admissions, which has been the law of the land for the last 45 years, ever since the 1978 decision in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke.

This time the court decided that affirmative action in college admissions is unconstitutional.

A little like last year’s Dobbs decision on abortion.

To get from here to there, the Court’s 6:3 majority essentially had to declare the United States to be a “post-racial” society and the United States Constitution to be entirely color blind.

Anybody who has their eyes open realizes that we are not a post-racial society.

But I digress.

As new justice Ketanji Brown Jackson wrote in her dissent, 

With let-them-eat-cake obliviousness, today, the majority pulls the ripcord and announces ‘colorblindness for all’ by legal fiat. But deeming race irrelevant in law does not make it so in life…It would be deeply unfortunate if the Equal Protection Clause actually demanded this perverse, ahistorical, and counterproductive outcome. To impose this result in that Clause’s name when it requires no such thing, and to thereby obstruct our collective progress toward the full realization of the Clause’s promise, is truly a tragedy for all of us.

It should be noted that Chief Justice Roberts, in his majority opinion, did leave the door open for “individualized” considerations of race. The Chief Justice said that students can “discuss” their own experience with race as part of the application process, as long as “that discussion is concretely tied to a quality of character or unique ability that the particular applicant can contribute to the university.”


So Universities should be prepared for a flood of essays in which minority applicants discuss their experiences with racism at a personal level.

Also, it should be noted that the court specifically did not decide whether race-based affirmative action can continue in U.S. military academies. As some commentators noted, the court seemed to implicitly acknowledge that diversity in the officer corps of the military is (surprise, surprise!) a good thing.

Ketanji Brown-Jackson vs. Clarence Thomas

The other thing that was notable in the opinion was the rather public sniping between Ketanji Brown Jackson and Clarence Thomas. Both of them (along with Sonia Sotomayor, who wrote the principal dissent) are clear beneficiaries of affirmative action. Thomas, the überhypocrite, said this about Brown-Jackson:

As she sees things, we are all inexorably trapped in a fundamentally racist society, with the original sin of slavery and the historical subjugation of black Americans still determining our lives today. The panacea, she counsels, is to unquestioningly accede to the view of elite experts and reallocate society’s riches by racial means as necessary to ‘level the playing field,’ all as judged by racial metrics. I strongly disagree.

Well, okay then.

Justice Jackson’s race-infused world view falls flat at each step. Individuals are the sum of their unique experiences, challenges, and accomplishments. What matters is not the barriers they face, but how they choose to confront them. And their race is not to blame for everything — good or bad — that happens in their lives. A contrary, myopic world view based on individuals’ skin color to the total exclusion of their personal choices is nothing short of racial determinism.

Well, okay then.

The other justices apparently perceived Thomas’ attack as sufficiently personal, that none of them joined in his concurring opinion.

Brown-Jackson was less personal in her response, but in footnote 103 she does make this observation:

Justice Thomas’s prolonged attack, ante, at 49–55 (concurring opinion), responds to a dissent I did not write in order to assail an admissions  program that is not the one UNC has crafted.  He does not dispute any  historical or present fact about the origins and continued existence of  race-based disparity (nor could he), yet is somehow persuaded that these realities have no bearing on a fair assessment of “individual achievement,” ante, at 51. [1]

Well, okay then.

The Court has come Full Circle

To look at it briefly, in 127 years the Court has traversed a kind of full circle:

  1. In Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) the court announced the “separate but equal” doctrine.
  2. In Brown v. Board of Education (1954) the court essentially introduced affirmative action as a kind of remedy for past discrimination.
  3. And  now, in Students for Fair Admissions the court has declared the United States to be a post-racial society.

I guess that’s it. We can stop trying now.

  1. Please note that Brown-Jackson recused herself from consideration of the Harvard case, and her opinion only deals with the admissions policy at the University of North Carolina.
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The Supreme Court ends its term with a bang

The Supreme Court’s session ended on Friday, June 30th, and as expected, they handed down some real dizzying decisions. There are four of significance, and I will be discussing them over four days in separate posts, because there is simply too much material to try to condense into one post.

The four cases in question are:

  1. Harper v. Moore
  2. Students for Fair Admission v. Harvard College
  3. Biden v. Nebraska
  4. 303 Creative v. Elenis

Three out of these four cases were very disappointing for anybody on the progressive side of the political spectrum. The only one that wasn’t was Harper v. Moore. Of course, that case was a complete wackadoodle case, one that never should have been before the courts to begin with.

But let’s celebrate the few victories that we can.

In brief, Harper v. Moore was a test of the independent state legislature theory, which is an absurd theory, proposing that only state legislatures can regulate elections, including federal elections. (Note that most elections involve joint ballots, where both state and federal candidates are on the ballot.) The theory proposes that:

  • Governor’s cannot veto provisions related to elections;
  • State courts cannot interpret provisions related to elections; 
  • Only state legislatures can regulate provisions related to elections, without any checks or balances.

The practical impact of all this would be that state legislatures could gerrymander the hell out of congressional districts and enact all kinds of discriminatory provisions that would deny many of their own citizens the vote.

The theory is grounded in Article I, Section 4, Clause 1 (The Elections Clause) of the United States Constitution, where it is written:

The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators.

The problem with this language — and this is often true of language in the U.S. Constitution — is that it is insufficiently specific. Any reasonable interpretation of the language would simply conclude that state legislatures can decide things like where elections are to be held, the hours that the polls will be open, and issues like absentee voting, subject to the same restraints as any other legislation. Namely:

  • The Governor can veto the legislation;
  • The Legislature can override a Gubernatorial veto;
  • State courts can decide whether the legislation violates any State Constitution;
  • Federal courts can decide whether the legislation violates any provisions of the United States Constitution, or any preeminent federal law.

Nevertheless, this case — which is essentially a dispute about whether the North Carolina legislature had drawn impermissible state and congressional district maps — still found its way to the Supreme Court. Before it found its way up there:

  • In 2022 the Supreme Court of North Carolina found that the most recently drawn Congressional maps were unconstitutionally gerrymandered.
  • In the November 2022 elections, Republicans gained a 5-2 majority on the Supreme Court of North Carolina.
  • In February 2023 the court agreed to reconsider the prior court’s ruling.
  • In April 2023 the court reversed the previous ruling and declared the maps constitutional.

So, in effect, by the time this case was argued before the United States Supreme Court, it was moot. It never should have been decided.

But, as it happens, the Supreme Court did decide it, and for once, correctly. Even so, Justices Thomas, Alito and Gorsuch dissented, albeit mostly on grounds related to standing. But Thomas and Alito in particular had previously been on record endorsing the independent state legislature theory.

So, we were all fearing the worst.

But that’s about it as to good news. The next three cases did not have a happy ending.

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36 Hours in Russia

If you’ve been following the news at all you know about the 36 hour uprising in Russia that could be the beginning of the end of the Putin regime and the Ukraine war, or it could amount to no such thing. Nobody knows. Literally.


Let’s set the stage first by introducing the main characters in this play:

Vladimir Putin, who is the President of Russia, and who needs no further introduction.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader and founder of the Wagner Group, a private paramilitary organization, and a former close ally of Putin. 

The Wagner Group, a private paramilitary organization, some 50,000 troops strong, which has been the most effective Russian fighting force in the Ukraine war. The Wagner group has previously fought on Russia’s behalf in places like Syria, Lybia, and the Central African Republic. The Wagner group is well known for recruiting inmates from Russia’s prisons into their fighting force.

Alexsandr Lukashenko, the President of Belarus, and another close ally of Putin’s. Under Lukashenko’s leadership Belarus has essentially become a vassal state of Russia’s.


Prigozhin’s military has been assisting Russia in Syria and other locations from 2014 onwards.  Once the war in Ukraine started and the Russians got bogged down in Ukraine, the Wagner  group was called in and quickly became the most effective fighting force on the Russian side. Right from the beginning, however, Prigozhin was critical of Russian tactics and the performance of the regular military. Much of that criticism was communicated via social media, where Prigozhin amassed a considerable following.

36 Hours

In 36 hours, beginning on Friday morning, Prigozhin led an uprising which seemed to fizzle just as quickly as it began. In brief:

  1. 11 a.m. Friday, Prigozhin publicly questioned the rationale for the war and accused the Russian defense minister, Sergei K. Shoigu, of ordering deadly airstrikes on Wagner fighters the previous days.
  2. Just after midnight Friday, Russia ordered Prigozhin’s arrest.
  3. 7:30 a.m. Saturday, Wagner forces take Rostov-on-Don and the regional military headquarters located there.
  4. Saturday morning Wagner forces push north to Moscow, facing essentially no opposition.
  5. 10 a.m. Saturday, Putin addresses the nation, calling Prigozhin a traitor and ordering his arrest.
  6. Early Saturday afternoon, the Wagner convoy reaches Yelets, where they stop about 250 miles south of Moscow.
  7. 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Lukashenko announces a surprise deal under which Prigozhin can find sanctuary in Belarus.
  8. 11 p.m. Saturday, Prigozhin turns around his troops and leaves Rostov-on-Don.
  9. Putin announces that Prigozhin will not be arrested, and that his Wagner troops will be granted amnesty.

Now What

That’s the question everyone is asking. First of all it’s not really clear why Prigozhin turned around and stopped his march towards Moscow. In one day, his army took a major city and military center, and marched about 434 miles north, which is more than the distance from Boston to Baltimore.

In one day!

In Moscow, they were starting to put up street barricades as they were anticipating that nobody would stop Prigozhin and his Wagner forces before they reached the city.

Then Lukashenko gets on the phone with Prigozhin and promises him what?

Nobody seems to know.

For his part, Prigozhin rationalizes stopping by saying that he didn’t want to have “Russian blood” on his hands. He hadn’t thought of that before he started marching north for an entire day?

And what happens to the estimated 25,000 or so Wagner forces that are still in Russia. Do they turn around and start fighting in Ukraine again?

Seems more likely that they would just go to Belarus with their top guy.

Nobody, and I mean nobody, seems to know what happens next. 

In any case, it is certainly good news for Ukraine that Russia is in such disarray. Without the Wagner forces spearheading the opposition to the Ukrainian troops, it’s unclear how much success the regular Russian military will have in holding the parts of Ukraine that they did manage to take.

And what would their motivation be? It’s known that thousands and thousands of young Russian men tried to evade conscription, or fled to neighboring countries, or let the Ukrainians capture them as prisoners of war. Why would they want to sacrifice their lives for Putin’s war of vanity, a war that has gone worse than Putin could ever have imagined?

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The Republican playbook is becoming Increasingly Clear.

By now, the Republican game-plan with respect to the Trump indictments is becoming clear:

  1. Tell people over and over again that the indictments are politically motivated.
  2. Wait for people to believe that the indictments are politically motivated.
  3. Argue that the proof of the indictments being politically motivated is that a large number of people believe that the indictments are politically motivated.

It’s a closed feedback loop.

Religion works that way as well:

  1. Tell people that there is a God and that he has an impact on your life.
  2. Wait for people to believe that there is a God and that he is impacting their lives.
  3. Find the proof of God in people’s beliefs about God.

Of course, none of these things are true. God isn’t real, and Trump is not the victim of a witch hunt. He’s practically it’s opposite. Legal authorities have let Trump get away with extraordinary amounts of nonsense for years and years, and more recently have gone out of their way to dot every I and cross every T to make sure that Trump gets the benefit of every doubt.

What Trump — and by implication his supporters — wants is to be entirely unaccountable for anything he’s ever done.

I’ve argued many times in the past that the actual victim of a witch hunt was Hillary Clinton. For example, the whole Benghazi thing. What was that all about?

Without giving them a chance to look it up on Wikipedia first, ask one of your conservative friends to explain to you what Benghazi was all about. Yes, four people were killed in a very dangerous region that was undergoing substantial political turmoil. One was an ambassador, one was an information officer for the foreign service, and two were military contractors.

How was this Hillary Clinton’s fault?

Ask them to explain it to you.

They won’t be able to do it.

They have no idea how this might have been Hillary Clinton’s fault.

Of course, Hillary Clinton is the same woman who testified for over 11 hours before a Congressional subcommittee without once having to plead the 5th.

Because Hillary Clinton isn’t some lame ass pussy like Captain Bonespurs.

And because Hillary Clinton did not break the law.

If she had, believe me, Trump would have locked her up. They’re still chanting “lock her up” down in Trump country, although nobody there has any idea for what.

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