Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Kobach and Windmills

“‘Vote early and vote often’ the advice openly displayed on the election banners in one of our northern cities.”
— William Porcher Miles, 1858 Speech in the House of Representatives

A number of you have written asking if Wikipedia is wrong. They cannot believe that Kris Kobach, the man whose awesome educational background is described in Wikipedia, is the same man who spends his time attacking 21st Century windmills. Those asking the question should remember that Don Quixote de la Mancha, too, was an educated man, who saw in windmills foes to overcome. For Don Quikobach de la Kansas, the windmill has been replaced by the electoral system.

Don Quikobach graduated with highest honors as an undergraduate from Harvard, went on to Oxford where he earned an MA and PhD in politics, and from there, went on to Yale Law School. His post graduate career is proof that, as one university president said of college graduates, although they had graduated, you could never be sure they were educated men. Don Quikobach is proof of the pudding. His academic credentials notwithstanding, his life is filled with windmills that serve as his opponents and he is the hero of all who, like him, focus on those perceived enemies.

Don Quikobach’s favorite windmill is voter fraud. No matter how often he is told that there is no evidence of voter fraud, he continues to detect it and remains determined to defeat it. As Secretary of State of Kansas, Don Quikobach tried all manner of devices to make it more difficult for people to vote. When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2013, that states could not impose proof of citizenship requirements on those registering to vote in federal elections, Don Quikobach persisted in his efforts to make it more difficult for people in Kansas to register to vote. He joined in a lawsuit seeking to force the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to add a requirement for proof of citizenship to the U.S. voter registration form used in Kansas. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals blocked imposition of that requirement. Undaunted, Don Quikobach engaged in a series of actions intended to make it more difficult for citizens to vote. He went so far as to propose that the votes of those who registered in Kansas using the U.S. registration form, only be counted for U.S. and not Kansas races. He was again thwarted by the courts. In his attempt to apply the birth certificate requirement to federal elections, the windmill at which he tilted was abruptly removed from the field by the federal judge overseeing the law suit. In turning down his request that proof of citizenship be required before those seeking to register could do so, she observed: “There is evidence of only three instances where noncitizens actually voted in a federal election between 1995 and 2013.” She further observed that during that period, only 14 non-citizens attempted to register.

Although Don Quikobach was unsuccessful in tilting at Kansas windmills, thanks to the national election that took place in 2016, Don Quikobach has been given a new assignment by a president as delusional as he. His assigned task is to tilt at the non-existent windmills representing voter fraud that both he and the man who appointed him, believe occurred on a national scale. He is being assisted in that noble cause by none other than the vice president of the United States, Michael Pence aka Sancho Panza Pence. Sancho Panza Pence is the chair of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Electoral-Integrity that is charged with uncovering voter fraud and Don Quikobach is its vice chair. The first field of windmills they have discovered is found in New Hampshire.

Although Don Quikobach had a distinguished academic career, the years that separate him from his education have dulled his legal skills and intellectual ability. His foray into the voting fields of New Hampshire have offered sad proof that his legal education was for naught. In a triumphant piece in Breitbart News, he gleefully howls that there is “proof” that 5,513 voters who voted in New Hampshire in 2016 were not eligible to vote. He bases this on the fact that those voters used out of state driver’s licenses for identification when they registered, but then failed to obtain New Hampshire drivers’ licenses or register motor vehicles in New Hampshire, there is nothing in New Hampshire law to suggest that the requirements on which he relies exist. There is no legal requirement in New Hampshire that automobile registration take place in order to validate the vote of someone using an out of state driver’s license as identification. There is no requirement that someone using an out of state driver’s license as identification when registering, obtain a New Hampshire driver’s license after voting. Don Quikobach does not care. Neither facts nor the law are permitted to replace preconceived ideas in the mythical world in which he lives. In that respect he is very much like the man who created the commission on which he serve


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Dreams Become Nightmares

But I being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams

— William Butler Yeats, He wishes for the Cloths of Heaven

It is the thought that counts-not the amount that funded the thought. I refer, of course, to the extraordinarily generous offer of DJT to give to Hurricane Harvey flood relief, $1 million of his “personal money,” as spokesperson, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, described it in a meeting with reporters at the White House on August 31st. Sanders said that DJT had not yet decided to what specific charities he wants to give the money. She said he was soliciting advice from the purveyors of what he has repeatedly called “fake news” who were at the meeting. As she explained: “He’s actually asked that I check with the folks in this room since you are very good at research and have been doing a lot of reporting into the groups and organizations that are best and most effective in helping and providing aid. He’d like some suggestions from the folks here, and I’d be happy to take those if any of you have them.”

If DJT’s annual income is $60 million, as some reports say, it would mean that DJT is giving away slightly less than 5 days’ worth of income. Of course, since he lives in the White House at taxpayer expense, the loss of $1 million for a 5-day period is not going to have a huge impact on him or his family, so it is not as great a sacrifice as it at first appeared. And then, of course, there is the question of whether he’ll in fact make the gift. Last year he promised to make a gift of $1 million of his own money and $5 million he said he had raised, to veterans’ organizations. Because of what must have been merely an oversight, the gifts were not made until reporters’ asked him, months after he’d made the promise, who the recipients of the funds were. And for what were surely good and sufficient reasons, the amounts given were less than the promised $6 million. None of that is, of course, meant to detract from the enormous generosity his promised $1 million gift for Hurricane Harvey victims demonstrates. The early estimates of the cost of Hurricane Harvey is $190 billion and as those affected by Harvey would surely say, every penny given for flood relief helps. DJT has given his penny.

DJT’s penny does not simply go a long way towards helping flood victims. It goes a long way towards showing that, executive actions suggesting otherwise notwithstanding, DJT is deeply concerned about people. Showing that concern and compassion was needed when, less than a week after announcing his generous gift to hurricane relief, DJT sent a surly surrogate, Jeff Sessions, (a poor substitute for a tweet), to announce that DJT was ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program known as “DACA, “that had been created by President Obama. It was created because Congress refused to enact legislation to address the plight of immigrant children brought into this country as youngsters by their parents. Those children had no contact with the countries from which they were brought and, in many cases, do not even know the language in their home countries. Eliminating the program, even though postponing the effective date for six months, introduces a plague of uncertainty into the lives of those who have been beneficiaries of the program. Many of them work in medicine, law and other occupations, or are in college or secondary school hoping to complete their educations. They are now confronted with the terrible uncertainty of not knowing what the future holds for them.

The rescinding of that program is not approved by all Republicans. In expressing his opposition to the elimination of DACA, Senator Orrin Hatch (R. Utah) said that rescinding DACA would “further complicate a system in need of a permanent legislative solution” that, he said, should come from Congress. Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan (R. Wisconsin) also said that DACA should not be eliminated but that Congress should come up with a permanent solution. In a radio interview, he said it was up to Congress to determine how immigrants who had enrolled in DACA should be treated. Senator John McCain (R. AZ.) said it was the wrong approach to immigration policy and risked sending innocent children out of the country.

The lives of 787,000 people (as of March 2017) will be affected when the program is ended. They are the people who are now protected by its provisions. They may recall, ruefully, that before ending the program, DJT had repeatedly said that: “We love the dreamers. We love everybody” and, “I think the dreamers are terrific.” The Dreamers might have taken comfort from those words before the end of the program was announced. Had they done so, they should have considered by whom those words were spoken. DJT had certainly expressed similar sentiments to his ex-wives and ex-girlfriends before leaving them. The ex-wives were, of course, better off than the Dreamers. They got alimony and property settlements. The Dreamers are left with only memories.


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Luther, Roy, and Alabama

Old times there are not forgotten. . . .
Dixie Land

Alabama is back. It hadn’t gone far, but whenever it returns, it fills the heart of the observer with wonder. Its most recent re-entry onto the national stage is occasioned by its September run-off election to fill the senate seat left vacant when Jeff Sessions became DJT’s attorney general.

The qualities of the Republican candidates running in that election bring to mind, for reasons unrelated to the upcoming election, (except that it also happened in Alabama,) the letter sent out to parents by the W.F Burns Middle School in Valley, Alabama, in 2015. The letter suggested that all children attending that school be armed with “canned goods” to protect themselves should an intruder enter their classroom. The letter said: “We realize at first this may seem odd, however, it is a practice that would catch an intruder off-guard. The canned food item could stun the intruder or even knock him out until the police arrive. The canned food item will give the students a sense of empowerment to protect themselves. . . .” It takes someone who lives in Alabama to feel secure when contemplating a roomful of middle schoolers throwing cans of food at an intruder who would, in all probability, be armed with something more lethal than a can of corn. As odd as this may seem, it is no odder than the run-off election that will take place in Alabama in September, where the two Republican contestants are Roy Moore and Luther Strange. On a comparative basis, Roy is stranger than Strange. The strange thing about Strange is how he became the replacement for Jeff Sessions as United States Senator, when Sessions gave up his senate seat in order to become DJT’s attorney general. The strange thing about Roy is Roy.

In April 2016, the Alabama House announced that articles of impeachment would be introduced to impeach then Governor Robert Bentley for corruption and neglect of duty because of an affair the Governor had with one of his former aides. The House Judiciary Committee conducted the investigation on behalf of the House. In early November, Luther, who was the attorney general for the state, wrote the Judiciary Committee saying it: “would be prudent and beneficial to delay the work of the House Judiciary Committee on impeachment. . . . I respectfully request that the Committee cease active interviews and investigation until I am able to report to you that the necessary related work of my office has been completed.” In response, the Judiciary Committee suspended its activities. On February 11, 2017, the governor appointed Luther to the United States Senate. On April 10, 2017, Governor Bentley resigned. Only someone familiar with how things work in Alabama would tie Luther’s instructions to the House Judiciary Committee to the Governor’s appointment of Luther to the United States Senate.

Luther’s competition in the September 26 run-off election is Roy Moore. Roy has the distinction of being, probably, the only person in the history of the United States to have served as the Chief Justice of a state’s highest court, and to have been removed from his position the first time he served, and barred from continuing to act the second time he served.

Roy’s career as Chief Justice began in 2000 when he was elected to that post. One of the first things he did upon assuming the chief justice’s office, was to have a 5,280-pound granite monument of the Ten Commandments built, and following its construction, installed in the central rotunda of the State Judicial Building. Litigation over the propriety of this installation followed and the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a district court order for removal of the monument. Roy refused. As a result he was removed from the court by the Alabama Court of the Judiciary and the monument was removed from the rotunda by a large crane.

Ambition awakened again in Roy, and in 2012 he decided he would make a good chief justice notwithstanding his earlier disgraceful departure from that office. He ran again, and was elected to the position by the people in Alabama who had either forgotten about or didn’t care about his earlier service. Once again, Roy believed himself to be above the law. After a federal judge ordered Alabama probate judges to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, Roy ordered the judges to ignore the federal court order. After a trial before the Judicial Inquiry Commission, he was found guilty of 6 violations of the Judicial Ethics by the commission and suspended as Chief Justice of the Court. He continued to draw a salary, but the commission’s order said he could not remain an active member of the court. On April 17, 2017, the ruling of the Commission was upheld by the Alabama Supreme Court and on April 27, 2017, Roy resigned from the Court. One day later he announced that he was running for the United States Senate seat held by Luther Strange. The primary election that took place on August 15, 2017, provided Roy with enough support to permit him to compete against Luther in the run-off election.

The foregoing goes to show that in Alabama you can’t keep a good man down. The quality of the two candidates in the run-off, however, suggests you may have trouble finding good men.