Please do make sure to read that headline in the voice of Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof. On Tuesday, Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and his associate Kelly Meggs were convicted of seditious conspiracy. Three other associates, Jessica Watkins, Kenneth Harrelson and Thomas Caldwell, were convicted of lesser felonies.
The convictions are far and away the most serious to be secured by the Department of Justice thus far in connection with the 1/6 insurrection. Meggs is looking at up to 86 years in prison, Rhodes 60 years, and the other three newly minted convicts between 40 and 56 years. People rarely get the maximum, of course, but the quintet is nonetheless going away for a long time. The 54-year-old Rhodes, for example, might effectively be looking at a life sentence, especially since the feds don't shave off all that much time for "good behavior."
On one hand, the activities of Rhodes and these other future guests of the federal penal system are pretty scary, since they took significant and potentially violent steps to try to overturn a presidential election. On the other hand, they are also kind of pathetic. For example, one part of the plan that got much attention at trial was that Rhodes built a "quick reaction force" of armed Oath Keepers, ready to swoop into Washington if needed. As a private citizen, Rhodes does not have access to things like, say, barracks. So, where was his "quick reaction force" as it awaited orders to deploy? Why, at a Comfort Inn in Arlington, VA, of course. Presumably they took their meals at a Cracker Barrel, and had a fleet of Subarus ready to carry them into battle.
Tuesday's verdicts mark the first time that a court proceeding has produced the finding that there was a conspiracy in place on 1/6. We are not lawyers, nor are we privy to the thinking of DoJ leadership, but we have to assume that's not a good thing for the fellow who was arguably the head conspirator, and who appears to be headed for an indictment of his own. (Z)
The Cochise County Board of Supervisors still hasn't certified the election results from Nov. 8, and now they've got a bunch of lawsuits on their hands. Gov.-elect Katie Hobbs (D-AZ) has filed one in her capacity as the current Arizona Secretary of State. There are also at least three lawsuits from private citizens and a couple from activist groups.
For the moment, at least, the supervisors are sticking to their guns. They held an emergency meeting yesterday and decided to retain a lawyer. Apparently, their dream counsel is Bryan Blehm, who represented Cyber Ninjas in their various legal tilts. Whether he has accepted the job is unclear. And how the supervisors are going to pay him (or some other lawyer) is also unclear. They are not legally allowed to accept gifts or donations, so the money will presumably have to come from their own pockets.
It is likely this will get fast tracked, and that the supervisors will be compelled by one or more judges to comply with the law. Note that the vote is consistently 2-1, so all it will take is for one of the two Republicans to defect. However, if this does not get resolved by the time that Arizona is legally required to report its results (Dec. 8), then it will be as if the people of Cochise County never voted. That, in turn, would flip two election results: Superintendent of Public Instruction for Cochise County, and... House seat AZ-06. At the moment, Rep.-elect Juan Ciscomani (R), who won 50.7% of the vote, is headed to Washington. However, without those Cochise votes, it will be Kirsten Engel (D), who took 49.3%. One imagines that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy will soon be placing phone calls to the two Republican supervisors in Cochise, and that instead of "Stop the Steal" he'll be talking to them about "Stop the Stupid." (Z)
It's still 2 years until the next presidential election. However, the Republican horse race has already begun, and the Democrats don't want to get left behind. In particular, the progressive wing of the Democratic Party has been having many conversations about whom they will back, and they are quickly coalescing around a white guy in his 80s. It's not Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), though. Nope, it's one Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
Ultimately, the progressives are practical folks, and their support for Biden comes down to three things. The first is that he's overseen the enactment of more progressive priorities than any president since the 1960s. Yes, they would like more than Biden has delivered, but sometimes you can't let perfect be the enemy of good. The second is the midterm elections, wherein Biden helped prevent a shellacking. And the third is that they regard both Donald Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) as scary, and don't want to divide the party or do anything that might improve the odds that one of those two men becomes president (or president again).
Obviously, if Biden does not run again, then all bets are off. However, this is a pretty good sign that, at least as of the moment, he's running. The folks in Washington probably have insider information, and progressive leadership wouldn't be talking in this way if they weren't pretty certain of a Biden run. Further, Biden can make a credible case that he's the only one that can hold the Party together in 2024 and can avoid a repeat of Hillary vs. Bernie. (Z)
If you're looking for entertainment, then the campaign of would-be U.S. Senator Herschel Walker (R) is the gift that keeps on giving, with still more news breaking in the last couple of days. To start, it was already reported last week that Walker took a tax break on his house in Texas that is only available to Texas residents. The candidate has explained that—and the general charge that he's a carpetbagger—away by noting that he has a home in Georgia, too. However, The Daily Beast has discovered that until very recently, Walker was renting out the Georgia house.
For those keeping score at home, then, we have a fellow who lives in his Texas house and doesn't live in his Georgia house. That sounds like "Texas resident" to us. This does not make him ineligible to serve in the Senate, mind you—a person only has to live in the state they represent while serving, not while running. However, it does mean another spate of headlines reminding Georgians that Walker is a carpetbagger. And Southerners, in particular, are not big fans of carpetbaggers.
Meanwhile, the last time Georgia had a U.S. Senate runoff—all the way back in 2021—Donald Trump campaigned aggressively for the Republican candidates (David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler), including holding several rallies. That did not work out so well. Nor did his campaigning for the folks who challenged Georgia governor Brian Kemp (R) and Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger (R) in the primaries. In other words, the former president is a net negative in the Peach State, enough so that even Walker (or someone who works for him, at least) realizes it. So, the Walker campaign has not asked Trump to come to Georgia, and is hoping he'll stay at Mar-a-Lago until the election is over. If the Republicans won't reject Trump, but they can't afford to embrace him, that certainly leaves him in a strange political netherworld.
And finally, this isn't particularly important, but it is amusing. Recall that, back in July, Walker was expressing his disdain for the Green New Deal. He was trying to make the point that eco-friendly rules in the U.S. won't matter much if China continues to ride roughshod over the environment. That's potentially a fair argument. However, Walker expressed this view in the clunkiest way imaginable:
Since we don't control the air, our good air decided to float over to China's bad air so when China gets our good air, their bad air got to move. So it moves over to our good air space. Then now we got to clean that back up, while they're messing ours up.
We bring this up because reader M.U. in Seattle, WA, brought our attention to this site: www.herschelwalker.shop. It "sells" products like this:
The site has many other products that reference Walker's various gaffes. The products aren't real, unfortunately, but they do let us know that, as M.U. puts it, "Apparently Sen.-elect John Fetterman (D-PA) isn't the only one who can brutally mock his opponent!" Clearly, we are now squarely in the era of the ironic campaign. (Z)
In 1996, when Gallup first began asking the question, just 27% of their respondents wanted same-sex marriage to be legalized. Just 8 years later, the number had crept into the low 40s, with the result that Barack Obama ran on an anti-same-sex marriage platform. That probably didn't reflect his true feelings, but sometimes a politician's gotta do what he's gotta do. Of course, when he ran for reelection, Obama flipped, and came out in support of same-sex marriage. That was still not yet a majority position overall, but it was a majority position among Democrats by 2012, and he needed to shore up his left flank.
All of this is to say that we are not far removed from a time when Congressional approval of same-sex marriage was unthinkable. Here's a chart of the responses Gallup has gotten on the issue over the last three decades:
As you can see, same-sex marriage legalization is now a solid majority position among all Americans. It's also a majority position among all political factions (Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, independents). That was enough to get all of the Democratic and independent senators on board, as well as a few Republicans. A few more Republicans could see the writing on the wall, and looked to salvage what they could on behalf of constituents who would prefer to keep discriminating against same-sex spouses. That added up to 62 votes, which was enough to forestall a filibuster and pass a bill effectively making same-sex marriage legal nationwide.
Note that states don't actually have to allow same-sex marriages, but they will have to recognize same-sex marriages from other states. So, gay Mississippians or gay Alabamians or gay South Carolinians will just have to travel to a nearby blue or purple state to get married. Between this and abortion rights, social conservatives certainly are doing their part to boost interstate commerce, aren't they?
The same-sex marriage bill still has a couple of hurdles to clear. It has to pass the House, where it will come up for a vote next week. That should not be a problem, since the country's finest cat herder still has the Speaker's gavel for another couple of months, and since a fair number of House Republicans support the legislation. Then it will need Joe Biden's signature, which he has promised is forthcoming. Ultimately, the Senate was the real challenge, since just a couple of Republican defections would have sunk the bill. Now that the Senate is in the rear-view mirror, it's shaping up to be a very gay Christmas, indeed. (Z)
On the day that the U.S. defeated Iran 1-0 to advance to the knockout round (a result that was cheered by many Iranians, incidentally, because they are so unhappy with their government), we continue our contest. The previous entries, should you care to take another look (or to cast your vote, if you haven't already):
Up today are slogans used by reform movements. Here are the four contenders:
Votes for Women (ca. 1890s): This might not be the catchiest slogan the world has ever seen, but it's very much in the running for most impactful. The fight for women's suffrage, both in the United States and Europe, began in the 1830s. It gained steam in the 1880s and 1890s, and that is when the "Votes for Women" slogan first enters the historical record.
The phrase achieved national and international prominence when the author Mark Twain used it as the title of a pro-suffrage speech he delivered in 1901. Some parts of that address were prescient. For example, he correctly predicted that women would have the vote nationwide within 25 years (that happened in 1920, meaning that Twain made the cut with about 6 years to spare. Other portions were less on-target. For example, he decreed: "If women had the ballot they would drive the corruption out. Each party would be compelled to put up its best candidates to stand any chance of winning. I would like to see the ballot in the hands of every woman." Twain has been dead for 112 years, so we can't check with him, but we're pretty sure that Donald Trump is not what he had in mind when he said that.
By 1905 or so, "Votes for Women" was a mainstay of the suffrage movement; you were sure to see it at suffrage parades and pro-suffrage booths at county fairs, in particular. This coincides with a string of victories won by the movement; in 1910, just four states allowed women to vote, but by 1920, another 11 states had joined the list. And on August 18 of that year, the 19th Amendment was ratified, concluding a struggle that had been underway for close to a century.
Make Love, Not War (1965): This slogan squeezes two reform movements in for the price of one. It was created, and used, by counterculture types who simultaneously advocated for an end to the Vietnam War (which effectively began in 1964) and also for sexual liberation (which broadly included reproductive autonomy, acceptance of same-sex relationships, an embrace of women's sexuality and sexual needs, and a less Puritanical attitude to sex in general).
There are at least a dozen people who claim to have coined this phrase, from the cheesy poet Rod McKuen to expert-in-dirty-jokes Gershon Legman. However, it actually appears to have emerged from student activist groups at the University of California, Berkeley. You know those Cal students; always making trouble.
Both halves of the slogan ended up having some efficacy. Every American war has triggered an anti-war movement, but the anti-Vietnam War movement was the largest and loudest and the most effective, ultimately helping force an end to the conflict by 1975 (and an end to major military action by 1971). Meanwhile, the late 1960s and 1970s saw the emergence of the Sexual Revolution. "Make Love Not War" is also a major part of pop culture, appearing in songs like "Mind Games" by John Lennon and "No More Trouble" by Bob Marley, in movies like Avengers: Endgame and Field of Dreams and in countless other cultural texts.
There Is No Planet B (ca. 1970): This is yet another one whose origins are murky. That's how it often works with reform movements. We know that the environmental movement really began to assert itself in the late 1960s and 1970s, and we know that "There Is no Planet B" began to show up in Sierra Club literature in 1970 and 1971. So, the slogan was probably coined by one or more Sierra Clubbers at the start of the 1970s.
Not too many slogans in our contest have their own website, but "There Is No Planet B" does. In fact, it has two of them: noplanetb.org and theresnoplanetb.net. The latter is just the personal site of environmental activist Mike Berners-Lee, who is the brother of world wide web creator Tim Berners-Lee. The former is run by the Sierra Club, with an eye toward raising funds to fight global warming. The main pitch was written by none other than John Kerry, which seems a somewhat odd choice. If they're going to go with a failed Democratic presidential candidate, shouldn't it be Al Gore? Yes, Kerry is the first United States special presidential envoy for climate, but Gore won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work on global warming.
The two previous slogans are basically defunct because they achieved their goals. Women got the vote. The Vietnam War ended. Lots of different types of sex were had. The environmental movement, by contrast, is a work in progress, particularly as regards the fight against global warming. That might make "There Is No Planet B" a bit harder to evaluate.
#MeToo (2017): And now we get to one of the newest slogans to make the contest. It's also a slogan where the backstory is much clearer than with the three above. On October 16, 2017, actress Alyssa Milano posted this message to Twitter: "If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote 'Me too' as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem." Within an hour, #MeToo was trending, and a slogan was born. Milano later explained that she got the idea from a friend, but the actress still deserves a lot of the credit.
This slogan is also different from the other three in another important way. The movements described above already existed when their slogans were coined; the slogan just served to give them focus and a rallying cry. On the other hand, when Milano sent out that tweet, there were millions of people who had individual experiences, but there was no connective tissue between them. #MeToo created that connective tissue, almost overnight. Undoubtedly, the behavior of Harvey Weinstein, which was the primary impetus for the creation of #MeToo, would have been punished. But with the slogan, countless women (and some men) learned they were not alone, while countless sleazeballs were called to account for their bad behavior. Long after people have forgotten Who's the Boss and Charmed, Alyssa Milano will be remembered for striking that particular match.
We would have preferred to run this last week, but sometimes other news stories (and other things) get in the way. Anyhow, we had reports from two readers, B.J.L. in Ann Arbor, MI, and E.W. in Skaneateles, NY, about their pre-election experiences working the polling places. Then we had post-election reports from E.W. and several other readers. Now, it is finally time for the post-election report from B.J.L., along with a couple of other readers:
B.J.L. in Ann Arbor, MI: Ann Arbor is home to the University of Michigan, so welcome to the Big 10, (Z)! We have 45,000 students split between four campuses in Ann Arbor and two satellite campuses in Flint and Dearborn. We are home to a wealth of top-ranked programs including law, medicine, dentistry, nursing, business, engineering, etc. I heard that the law school suspended classes and encouraged students to be poll workers and watchers. There are several polling sites on campus at common buildings such as the Michigan union and the Michigan league. From a voting perspective, this would be where the action would be in terms of poll challengers and shenanigans. The chatter on Twitter was that there was a 4-hour wait to vote past the closing of polls at one of the campus locations. But we were at a sleepy poll location (I'm not complaining) that had a handful of final voters in the last hour.
On our ballot, we had 3 statewide races all won by Democrats, our House race, regents races for our universities, and on the nonpartisan ballot, we had a bunch of judges and local races. Honestly, I had never heard of the one person running for our local ward alderman. Maybe I'm not the most attuned voter. We had three ballot initiatives, one on due diligence to get our state legislators to disclose financial conflicts of interest (something our Republican legislature wanted to kill), the reproductive freedom endorsement, and a third one I can't remember at present. They all went through quite easily here, 85-90% locally and well above 55% statewide. We had few problems, at most a couple of spoiled ballots, a couple people who brought in absentee ballots to surrender, and one so-called challenged ballot from city hall. But otherwise, it was uneventful.
Each precinct has 2 different voter-tally terminals, one for the regular voters and one for disabled voters including a Braille instruction set for voting. For all the effort to enable this disabled voter terminal for our 7 a.m.-8 p.m. poll open period, out of nearly 500 in-person voters, none used the assist device. We had several octogenerarians among voters for in-person voting, but none availed themselves of this device. There's a similar device at every one of our 53 precincts in place.
We hosted several VIP visitors at our site briefly including two visits from staff from our county clerk's office and an assistant Secretary of State for the state of Michigan. Our precinct leader (our token Republican) said that in 22 years of elections, this was the first time they had ever seen someone from their SOS office at their poll site. The takeaway was that the SOS office was expecting problems. The VIP was quite well dressed and asked what he could do to help. I suggested if he wanted to help, he could sit down and help put ballots in sleeves for voters, but he begged off on that quickly, albeit with a smile.
On the process, polling was handled professionally, courteously and efficiently. One poll worker had to go home early and we were able to muddle through with the seven of us who were left. There are requirements, include having both Republicans and Democrats to observe and vouch for vote tallies, including zeroing out the machine before the polls open and again after close. We were required to sign the tallies, seal ballots signed by Republican and Democratic signatures, and tote the ballots, etc. to city hall. About 2 hours later, I think the tallies were ultimately posted from HQ.
I'm reminded of all of the relief mentioned by voters who were literally assaulted by months of negative advertising. I helpfully pointed out to those in line that we're only 700+ days from another election and another onslaught. It made me think about the absurdity that some billionaire can literally buy up all ad spots for a TV station and block an opponent from advertising. The ads are so valueless and should be treated like hazardous waste. I'm all for taxing all political advertising at this stage. At least some good might come from what's collected. The size and scale of money spent on elections is so obscene; we need a new way.
P.S.: It's 2 days post-election and I've noticed who has pulled yard signs already. In Michigan we had a relatively polarizing ballot initiative on reproductive freedom. Voting "yes" acknowledged that I have no business suggesting how someone else's care is managed and "no" was to continue our ambiguous state regulations with both an unconstitutional law on our books dating back to 1931 banning abortion and also some concern about enforcing this. Our local Catholic school had these giant signs out front suggesting that the initiative was both confusing and extreme and encouraging a "no" vote. Other individuals had similar giant signs posted prominently on roads including the northeast corner of Ann Arbor, where there is apparently a relatively tight knit group of religious people who are offended that abortion is legal. Well, those signs have disappeared quickly following the vote tallies, including a 57% approval rating on this initiative in the state overall, and more like 90% "yes" in Ann Arbor. I haven't been by the school but the residential signs have been pulled. No one wants to be linked with losing ideas... I get that. But I'm also less convinced that the initiative was the element that was confused and extreme.
P.W. in Baltimore, MD: I am a chief election judge in Baltimore County, MD. I have been a judge since 2006 and a chief since 2012. Each precinct has two chief judges, one from each party, plus several other assisting judges for the other jobs (pollbooks, ballots, scanner, provisional). We arrive at 5:45 a.m. in order to be open at 7 a.m. and we close sharply at 8 p.m. If you are in the door, you are allowed to vote. As a chief, it is my responsibility to do all of the closing paperwork and make sure all the numbers add up. After that, I help clean up. We were completely out of the school before 10 p.m.
Baltimore County decided on an unusually long three-page ballot this year (there were several state constitutional questions and a lot of local bond questions). The ballots in use are paper and the voter fills in the bubble next to their selection (like school) and then takes the ballot to the scanning machine. There are also ballot-marking devices, which are machines that show the ballot on a screen. The voter selects, then the machine prints the ballot. This BMD ballot is then scanned the same as a paper ballot. At the end of the day, the memory sticks are returned very quickly to the board of elections. We are supposed to have a "closer" judge who is to do this for us, but in all the elections I have done, we have only had this once. So I just assign a judge to do it. At the end of the day, all of the physical ballots, provisional ballots and various paperwork, after being signed by both chiefs and tamper-tape-sealed, are dropped off by us to the board of elections drop-off spot.
Fortunately the board of elections has learned from its previous mistakes and stopped making the ballots on tear off sheets and this eliminated the extreme hassle and lines at the scanning unit like the previous time we had a multipage ballot.
Overall, the day went fine, if long, with no notable incidents. It was a steady pace all day, with maybe 30% turnout. There were the usual people coming to the wrong precinct. Baltimore County had redone its precincts for 2022, so this was especially common this year. A few same day registrations, this was new in 2020. And a few men (its always some old guy) complaining that we do not ask for ID when checking them in. (Maryland requires we do not ask for ID)
J.F. in East Allen Township, PA: A short and succinct comment that probably sums up my experience working the polls:
My confidence and faith in my fellow Pennsylvanians was restored, a small but measurable bit in my heart, because while the 67% turnout proves my district was "fired up!" and loaded with emotion... everyone remained calm, even friendly, the whole time in the lines and outside, etc. Speaking with workers from other districts at the courthouse at the end of the night, their experiences seemed to be the same. I heard no stories at all about anyone "losing it" at any poll here in Northampton County, so while I'm still sad that so many of my friends and neighbors somehow found it in their souls to vote for Doug Mastriano (R), it's still with the knowledge that while doing so they kept composure at all times. I was not so sure that was going to be the case.
This was my first non-primary election as a poll worker, with huge turnout, and I recommend it to anyone who's thinking about it. The time goes far faster than you'd expect and it is a great way to meet your neighbors (and, I must admit, find out who's in what party...) and feel like you're adding just a tiny little something to the Big Machine that is the election system.
And, of course, my confidence and faith in my Commonwealth was restored a bit more when I saw the results. I have John Fetterman and Rep. Susan Wild (D) signs out in my blood-red neighborhood so I'm sure I was personally responsible for getting them elected. You're all welcome! :D
Thanks to the three of you! We'll have one more entry in this series, hopefully later this week. (Z)