Friday, December 11, 2020

Pax Americana

(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari.)
You can pretty much say bye bye to that, if it can ever be said our various political and ideological factions were ever at peace with each other.
    Now, I don't pretend to be a legal expert. I know the definitions of a few legal phrases in Latin and the basics of American jurisprudence but I'm no expert. So perhaps you're wondering why isn't Mikey leaving this to better-versed and pragmatic legal bloggers and journalists such as Marcy Wheeler (emptywheel). OK, fair enough.
     However, a layman's interpretation of a legal filing such as Ken Paxton's amicus brief that he'd sent to the Supreme Court is all that's needed to pick it apart like a three day-old Thanksgiving turkey. It's so spectacularly insane, in fact, that it actually attempts to turn jurisprudence on its very ear. And Paxton is attempting to do this by switching the burden of proof of guilt off the shoulders of prosecutors and place the burden of innocence onto those of the defense attorneys.
     And it doesn't take a legal expert to know that no person in the history of American jurisprudence has ever been found innocent in a court of law. Defendants are found either guilty or not guilty. And the reason for that is simple: In the Before Times, when lawyers were actually interested in doing their jobs and seeking justice for their jurisdictions or clients, the burden of proving guilt was and is still, theoretically, on prosecutors. A prosecutor brings forth charges and it is up to he or she to prove the defendant's guilt. This is exactly why no one is ever found innocent, because it isn't up to the defendant or their counsel to prove innocence.
     So it's perhaps not unusual that a lazy-eyed psychopath like Ken Paxton would have a cock-eyed perspective on how the law actually works. Paxton, as well as the rest of Trump's legal team, had long since given up on trying to prove evidence of widespread voter fraud. They know they've got bupkiss. If this was at the law enforcement level, it would be like calling 911 on someone without evidence of a crime and demanding some random victim prove their innocence.
    In the real world (Yes, that also includes Karens who call the cops on black people for nothing), filing a false police report is a felony. I utterly fail to see why wasting the Supreme Court's time on this tripe also isn't a felony that would eventually result in Paxton and all associated attorneys on this brief getting sanctioned, suspended and, eventually, disbarred.
     Paxton actually wrote in his brief, "The constitutional issue is not whether voters committed fraud but whether state officials violated the law by systematically loosening the measures for ballot integrity so that fraud becomes undetectable." Which sounds reasonable only after the most cursory and undiscrimninating reading of the text. What Paxton's essentially saying is that both Republican and Democratic election officials in four states, on the same night, perpetrated a fraud so endemic and widespread that it actually became a palimpsest superimposed over what they think the reality should be- That the Republican won the election.
     This evidence-free allegation is so absurd in the extreme that it's hard to imagine even a Supreme Court justice seriously entertaining these ridiculous allegations emerging with their integrity and reputation intact. After all, Roger B. Taney never fully recovered after his disastrous opinion in the Dred Scott decision of 1857. This would be the equivalent. In demanding endless recounts (and Georgia had already done two, by hand), Paxton and Trump bring to mind Jimmy Fallon's Red Sox fan in Fever Pitch endlessly watching the Bill Buckner play from the '86 World Series. When asked by his friends why he was doing so, his response was (saying it for all pre-2004 Red Sox fans the world over) that if he watched it enough times, the outcome would be different.

Evidence? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Evidence!
In a Republican road show that looks less like a legal clinic and more like a reality TV adaptation of the DSM V, we've seen the following lowlights from this seemingly endless Amateur Hour:
    In a now-infamous press conference we saw Rudy sarcastically declaiming in front of a Philadelphia landscaping company literally around the corner from a porn shop that the media and the heavens had spoken and anointed Joe Biden the president-elect (They didn't. It was the state of Pennsylvania being called for Biden).
    In an even more infamous press conference, this one at RNC HQ (the baleful shape of things to come), Rudy screamed about Hugo Chavez and Venezuela and Dominion, all while sweating and slowly secreting what appeared to be his liquified soul. In Michigan, he gave us a mini Sarah Palin in Mellissa Carone, whose "testimony" before Michigan lawmakers was so off the rails that even Rudy tried to shut her up. In Georgia, his farts made more sense than his legal arguments.
    Then he got COVID-19 after refusing to wear a mask, resulting in several states having to shut down legislative sessions. Yes, Trump's lawyer is so toxic, his very physical presence is shutting down state governments. Then recently, he went on another conspiracy-laden rant before Georgia legislators that had to be heard to be believed. And that was just Giuliani.
   Sidney Powell, a woman who apparently got her law license from a Durham Costco vending machine, threatened to "release the Kraken." Her own rants were too crazy for even Trump's all star clown legal team and she was fired the next day. Undeterred, she entered into courts of law briefs citing fictional counties and countless typos such as the misspelling of the word "district." Like Mr. Godot in Beckett's play, just because the evidence isn't here, it doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Keep waiting. it's coming, it's coming...
    Until it doesn't. Paxton's brief at least admits they have no facts and that their only hope rests on four states proving their innocence of voter fraud. Which, again, is not how the law is supposed to work.
     And in this tangle of sloppy, misspelled, geographically-illiterate legal counter measures that had been wearisomely launched, sometimes on behalf of states that don't exist, lies the GOP's real rationale, the racist point Trump's been trying to make for decades: People of color can't be trusted. Trump and his second-rate hit men's targeting of certain communities can only be described as cruelly surgical in nature. It's no coincidence that he's targeting African American communities because, well, when you enfranchise people like that, we can't really trust the votes they cast, now can we?
   Hence putting Atlanta, Detroit, Philadelphia, Milwaukee and other large African American communities in the cross hairs.
     The lawsuits are not to win but to undermine faith in an electoral process that had performed more flawlessly than any other in US history (CISA chief Chris Krebs said so and paid the ultimate vocational price for doing so). So now at least 74,000,000 people are conditioned to believe, based on absolutely no evidence whatsoever, that any election that doesn't favor the Republican is crooked and rigged.
     Paxton's transparent angling for a pardon aside (which alone proves he knows he's guilty of the charges of bribery and abuse of office and that he can't beat those charges), that is the GOP's end game. This was why 126 Republican members of Congress (over two thirds of its caucus) committed sedition by signing on to Paxton's laughable brief. They see an energized Republican voting base filled with hatred and anger and suspicion of democracy itself.
     And they want to get in on that action.
(Addendum: The SCOTUS finally did its job and shitcanned the lawsuit.)


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