Saturday, October 24, 2020

Last Call For A Supreme Suppression

With Senate Republicans all turning into cowards and expected to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court as early as Monday, the GOP plan to steal the election and engineer a coup is now clear. Pennsylvania Republicans are petitioning to have their recent 4-4 decision on extending the voting by mail deadline to Friday heard a second time once Barrett is confirmed, meaning there could be five votes to issue a broad ruling that states cannot count any votes received after Election Day, and giving the Trump regime every dark reason to jam up the postal service for the last week of the election, disenfranchising possibly tens of millions of Democratic voters.
Pennsylvania Republicans asked the U.S. Supreme Court again late Friday to overturn a mail ballot deadline extension ordered by the state’s high court, quickly returning to an issue on which the Supreme Court had only just deadlocked and raising the prospect of a different outcome after a new justice is installed next week.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered last month that ballots be counted if county elections officials receive them in the mail by 5 p.m. on Nov. 6, and are either postmarked by the Nov. 3 Election Day or have no or illegible postmarks. State law requires ballots to be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day to be counted, but the state court changed that deadline because of concerns that mail delays would disenfranchise voters.

In a filing Friday night with the nation’s high court, the state Republican Party made essentially the same argument it had unsuccessfully presented earlier to the same court: The Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s ruling allows ballots to be cast and counted after Election Day, the GOP said, violating the federal law setting one single Election Day across the country, and is unconstitutional because it takes away the state legislature’s power to decide how elections are run.

In a 4-4 split Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court did not grant that previous emergency request to step in and block the deadline extension. Friday night’s filing differs in that it is asking the court to take up the case itself and decide whether the state court ruled properly. And Monday’s all-but-certain confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court could tip the balance in deciding the new request.

The GOP on Friday night also asked the U.S. Supreme Court to fast-track the case, given that Election Day is just over a week away.

Also late Friday, the party asked the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to order any ballots received after 8 p.m. on Election Day be kept separate from the other ballots. That would allow them to be affected by a court ruling after Election Day. Otherwise, once ballots are counted and mixed together, there would be no way to remove them from the results.
The problem is what happens if the Supreme Court does decide to take up the case, with a week before the election, with Barrett on the high court. University of Kentucky law professor Joshua A. Douglas explains:

Normally, a state supreme court has the last word on state laws. So the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's decision should have ended the matter. The US Supreme Court's 4-4 decision rejected the appeal, but if the Court had accepted the Pennsylvania Republicans' argument, we would have been in for a whole new wave of federal judicial oversight over election rules. That would spell bad news for state constitutional protection for the right to vote, which is broader than the safeguards afforded under the US Constitution. It could have also thrown Election Day and any post-election disputes into further chaos. 
The Court declined that invitation with its 4-4 tie. Chief Justice John Roberts voted with the three liberal justices, but the four most conservative members of the Court, Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, would have granted the request. Add expected-to-be Justice Barrett as the fifth vote, and the Supreme Court's doors could be wide open to undermine the protections for the right to vote embedded within state constitutions. 
The US Constitution does not affirmatively grant the right to vote. Instead, the founding document construes the right to vote in the negative: states may not deny the right to vote based on certain characteristics, including race, sex, inability to pay a poll tax and age. In addition, the US Supreme Court has recognized the right to vote under the federal Equal Protection Clause, albeit, in my opinion, too narrowly. 
State constitutions, on the other hand, more robustly protect the right to vote. Forty-nine of the 50 state constitutions affirmatively grant the right to vote by saying that citizens "shall be qualified to vote," "shall be entitled to vote" or similar language (only Arizona's does not). In addition, about half of the state constitutions have a provision saying that elections shall be "free," "free and open," or "free and equal." 
Pennsylvania's constitution includes a "free and equal" clause, and the state supreme court has invoked that provision to provide more protection to the right to vote than federal courts do under the US Constitution. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court had issued a ruling that extended the absentee ballot receipt deadline to November 6, three days after Election Day, so long as the ballots were postmarked by November 3 or, for ballots without a postmark, there was no evidence that they were mailed after Election Day. 
Normally, the state supreme court would have the final say on state law. But Republicans made a bold argument: the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's decision unconstitutionally took away power from the state legislature. Article II of the US Constitution provides that states shall appoint presidential electors "in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct." Similarly, Article I of the US Constitution grants authority to state legislatures to determine the "times, places, and manner" of holding congressional elections, subject to congressional oversight. 
The Pennsylvania Republicans argued that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's decision, which altered the statutory language to extend the absentee balloting deadline because of the pandemic, effectively took away the power of the state legislature to determine the "manner" of running elections. 
Three justices bought into a similar argument in 2000 in Bush v. Gore. Chief Justice William Rehnquist, along with Justices Scalia and Thomas, argued that the Florida Supreme Court's decision in that case was so out of bounds that it took away authority from the state legislature to determine the "manner" of appointing presidential electors. But the other two conservative justices in the 5-4 majority did not sign on to that opinion. 
A vote from a new Justice Barrett, who might eventually agree with her fellow conservatives on this point, could open the floodgates to the US Supreme Court potentially regulating every aspect of the election process. Any decision from a state court that involves a federal election -- which is to say, virtually all rulings from state courts about any aspect on how we vote -- would be subject to federal oversight. 

So an overly broad ruling literally days before the election could instantly disenfranchise millions of voters, and absolute worst-case scenario, if states don't sequester mail votes that arrive late, SCOTUS could declare that the elections are tainted and send things to the House where Trump would win, even if Biden was clearly ahead.

It would be a nightmare. The country would come apart.

This is far from over.

Black Lives Still Matter, Con't

The enduring story surrounding the reaction by Minneapolis to George Floyd's murder for the last several months has been "Antifa and Black Lives Matter took over the MPD 3rd Precinct, looted it, and burned it."  Every right-wing outlet has been pushing that narrative, all the way up to and including Donald Trump.

Only one problem though. It wasn't Antifa or Black Lives Matter being charged this week in federal court with those crimes, but a member of the white supremacist terrorist group Boogaloo Bois trying to start a race war.

In the wake of protests following the May 25 killing of George Floyd, a member of the Boogaloo Bois opened fire on the Minneapolis Police Third Precinct with an AK-47-style gun and screamed “Justice for Floyd” as he ran away, according to a federal complaint made public Friday.

A sworn affidavit by the FBI underlying the complaint reveals new details about a far-right anti-government group’s coordinated role in the violence that roiled through civil unrest over Floyd’s death while in police custody.

Ivan Harrison Hunter, a 26-year-old from Boerne, Texas, is charged with one count of interstate travel to incite a riot for his alleged role in ramping up violence during the protests in Minneapolis on May 27 and 28. According to charges, Hunter, wearing a skull mask and tactical gear, shot 13 rounds at the south Minneapolis police headquarters while people were inside. He also looted and helped set the building ablaze, according to the complaint, which was filed Monday under seal.

Unrest flared throughout Minneapolis following Floyd’s death, which was captured on a bystander’s cellphone video, causing Gov. Tim Walz to activate the Minnesota National Guard. As police clashed with protesters, Hunter and other members of the Boogaloo Bois discussed in private Facebook messages their plans to travel to Minneapolis and rally at the Cub Foods near the Third Precinct building, according to federal court documents. One of the people Hunter coordinated with posted publicly to social media: “Lock and load boys. Boog flags are in the air, and the national network is going off,” the complaint states.

Two hours after the police precinct was set on fire, Hunter texted with another Boogaloo member in California, a man named Steven Carrillo.

“Go for police buildings,” Hunter told Carrillo, according to charging documents.

“I did better lol,” Carrillo replied. A few hours earlier, Carrillo had killed a Federal Protective Services officer in Oakland, Calif., according to criminal charges filed against him in California.

On June 1, Hunter asked Carrillo for money, explaining he needed to “be in the woods for a bit,” and Carrillo sent him $200 via a cash app.

Five days later, Carrillo shot and killed a sheriff’s deputy in Santa Cruz when authorities tried to arrest him, according to charges filed in California. Authorities say he then stole a car and wrote “Boog” on the hood “in what appeared to be his own blood.”

A couple of days later, during police protests in Austin, Texas, police pulled over a truck after seeing three men in tactical gear and carrying guns drive away in it. Hunter, in the front passenger seat, wore six loaded banana magazines for an AK-47-style assault rifle on his tactical vest, according federal authorities. The two other men had AR-15 magazines affixed to their vests. The officers found an AK-47-style rifle and two AR-15 rifles on the rear seat of the vehicle, a pistol next to the driver’s seat and another pistol in the center console.

Hunter denied he owned any of the weapons found in the vehicle. He did, according to the complaint, volunteer that he was the leader of the Boogaloo Bois in South Texas and that he was present in Minneapolis when the Third Precinct was set on fire. Police seized the guns and let Hunter and the others go.

Hunter had bragged about his role in the Minneapolis riots on Facebook, publicly proclaiming, “I helped the community burn down that police station” and “I didn’t’ [sic] protest peacefully Dude … Want something to change? Start risking felonies for what is good.”

“The BLM protesters in Minneapolis loved me [sic] fireteam and I,” he wrote on June 11. According to the complaint, “fire team” is a reference to a group he started with Carrillo “that responds with violence if the police try to take their guns away.”

“Hunter also referred to himself as a ‘terrorist,’ ” the complaint states.

A confidential informant told police that Hunter planned to “go down shooting” if authorities closed in. He didn’t. They arrested him without incident in San Antonio, Texas, this week, and he made his first court appearance Thursday
This super genius apparently shot up a police precinct, looted and burned it, then allegedly killed a deputy, then bragged about it all on Facebook for months.  And it still took the feds nearly five months to arrest this asshole.

But his goal was to convince police to start butchering Black folk. This is what being Black in America is like in 2020, assholes like this trying to bring about your very extinction.

Our Little White Supremacist Domestic Terrorism Problem, Con't

More evidence is emerging this week that white supremacist domestic terrorism group The Base is actively recruiting white men with law enforcement and military experience, and training them for strikes against Black and brown targets across America.

Young men hoping to join a White supremacist group spoke about hosting paramilitary trainings and how to legally bring firearms to those events, according to secret recordings of vetting calls published by the Southern Poverty Law Center Thursday. 
Some 83 hours of calls with more than 100 participants linked to The Base group were analyzed by the SPLC, which monitors hate, for a new podcast, "Sounds Like Hate." 
Military training or knowledge of firearms was an important asset, according to the released calls. So was having a place to train. 
One of the people in the calls trying to join the Base says he is 17 years old and offers his mother's property for a training exercise.

"What date would be best in January for everybody?" the caller, who gave a pseudonym of Erik, asks the group. Two members, apparently vetting 'Erik' for membership, talk about stocking up on ammunition before the event. One talks about having blown through a lot of ammunition at a prior meeting. One offers to place orders and ship them for others. 
That meeting appears to have been postponed, according to the calls, because Erik says his mother got nervous. It is unclear if it ever took place. But it gives insight into what the group values, how they operate, and how they view themselves. 
The SPLC's release of parts of the calls comes at a time when US intelligence services say domestic violent extremists, specifically White supremacist groups are the "the most persistent and lethal threat in the Homeland." 
The calls, dating from 2018 until January 2020, were supplied by a confidential source, said Jamila Paksima, co-host of the podcast. The authenticity was verified by subject matter experts who recognized the leader's voice from previous audio appearances and were able to verify other corroborating details, Paksima told CNN.

Remember, these guys are straight up neo-Nazi terrorists. 

The man at the center of most of the calls is Rinaldo Nazzaro, the group's leader, who the SPLC says now lives in St. Petersburg, Russia. 
CNN contacted Nazzaro via an e-mail address attached to his name regarding the leak of the secret calls. 
He did not dispute that he was the leader of the group, but challenged its characterization. 
"The Base is a survivalism and self-defense network. Our objective is sharing knowledge and training to prepare for crisis situations," Nazzaro said in an e-mail to CNN. "The Base is not a neo-Nazi organization or a terrorist group. We do not encourage violence beyond self-defense situations." 
In the encrypted calls aired on the podcast, Nazzaro said being "pro-White" was the main criteria for membership, adding there were many Nazis. "Most of us are national socialists, but there are others who just consider themselves White nationalists," he told one caller. 
Federal authorities have said alleged members of The Base have talked about forming a White ethno-state and "committing acts of violence against minority communities," including Black and Jewish people.

No wonder then that the GOP is openly threatening to classify the Southern Poverty Law Center and other NGOs monitoring white supremacists as hate groups themselves.  

They're defending white supremacists like The Base. They are depending on these groups to hurt or kill folks in a Biden administration.

The most powerful white supremacist in America is Donald Trump.

Retribution Execution, Con't

Donald Trump has apparently decided on the scorched earth approach to the executive, signing an executive order this week that will allow executive agency heads to reclassify civil service employees and then fire them at-will on the last day of the Trump regime.
President Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order creating a new classification of “policy-making” federal employees that could strip swaths of the federal workforce of civil service protections just before the next president is sworn into office.

The order would create a new Schedule F within the excepted service of the federal government, to be composed of “employees in confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating positions,” and instructs agency heads to determine which current employees fit this definition and move them—whether they are members of the competitive service or other schedules within the excepted service—into this new classification. Federal regulations stating that employees hired into the competitive service retain that status even if their position is moved to the excepted service will not apply to Schedule F transfers.

Positions in the new Schedule F would effectively constitute at-will employment, without any of the protections against adverse personnel actions that most federal workers currently enjoy, although individual agencies are tasked with establishing “rules to prohibit the same personnel practices prohibited” by Title 5 of the U.S. Code. The order also instructs the Federal Labor Relations Authority to examine whether Schedule F employees should be removed from their bargaining units, a move that would bar them from being represented by federal employee unions.

“Except as required by statute, the civil service rules and regulations shall not apply to removals from positions listed in Schedules A, C, D, E, or F, or from positions excepted from the competitive service by statute,” the order states.

The order sets a swift timetable for implementation: Agencies have 90 days to conduct a “preliminary” review of their workforces to determine who should be moved into the new employee classification—a deadline that coincides with Jan. 19, the day before the next presidential inauguration.

The White House argued that the executive order is a necessary reform to ensure that federal officials can more efficiently remove “poor performers.”

“Effective performance management of employees in confidential, policy-determining, policy-making or policy-advocating positions is of the utmost importance,” the order states. “Unfortunately, the government’s current performance management is inadequate, as recognized by federal workers themselves. For instance, the 2016 Merit Principles Survey reveals that less than a quarter of federal employees believe their agency addresses poor performers effectively.”

But federal employee groups and government observers described the executive order as a “stunning” attempt to politicize the civil service and undermine more than a century of laws aimed at preventing corruption and cronyism in the federal government.

“The [1883] Pendleton Act is clearly in the sights of this executive order,” said Donald Kettl, the Sid Richardson professor at the University of Texas at Austin’s Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. “It wants to undo what the Pendleton Act and subsequent civil service laws tried to accomplish, which was to create a career civil service with expertise that is both accountable to elected officials but also a repository of expertise in government. The argument here is that anyone involved in policymaking can be swept into this new classification, and once they’re in they’re subject to political review and dismissal for any reason.”

American Federation of Government Employees National President Everett Kelley said in a statement on Thursday that the executive order is “the most profound undermining of the civil service system in our lifetimes.”

“This executive order strips due process rights and protections from perhaps hundreds of thousands of federal employees and will enable political appointees and other officials to hire and fire these workers at will,” Kelley said. “Through this order, President Trump has declared war on the professional civil service by giving himself the authority to fill the government with his political cronies who will pledge their unwavering loyalty to him—not to America.”


In other words, if Trump loses, he'll reclassify, de-unionize, and most likely terminate every competent civil service employee in the executive branch, leaving the Biden administration completely crippled on Day 1. If Trump wins, he gets to claim credit for "finally draining the swamp" and then he gets to remake every single executive agency in his image from the ground up, including all the nation's intelligence and legal agencies.

At minimum, we won't have a functioning executive for months, because Trump will have fired tens, if not hundreds of thousands of agency employees.  It'll take Biden years to get things back in order if Trump does what I think he's going to do on January 19th.

Here's hoping this can be stopped.

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