Category Archives: Politics

Senator Rand Gall

 

On Saturday, I found an envelope with the following return address and postmark in our mailbox.

It raised the following questions.

  • Since Senator Rand Paul is from Kentucky, why would he be sending a letter from Fredericksburg, Virginia?
  • If it was official business, why would the envelope have a “non-profit” postmark instead of a congressional frank?

Inside were two pieces of correspondence, a survey and a self-addressed envelope to Senator Paul (see below).  Note the return address implied either Paul wanted me to believe the U.S. Capitol (following the January 6 insurrection) had moved to Loveland, Colorado for security reasons or NAGR headquarters was exact replica of capitol building.

The cover letter from Paul to “Dear American Patriot” explained he was sending this information on behalf of the National Association of Gun Rights (NAGR), and at the bottom, wanted me to know it was “NOT PRINTED OR MAILED AT TAXPAYER EXPENSE.” (His emphasis.)  The accompanying letter from NAGR president Dudley Brown included six pages of the usual pro-gun arguments why I needed to stand up to national and global forces trying to deprive me of my constitution rights to own weapons of mass destruction and more ammunition than any civilian needs to possess.  Brown then asked me to complete the enclosed survey and (drum roll) “return it with your generous contribution of $100 TODAY.”

There is one more relevant piece of information.  At the bottom of the survey is the following disclosure.  “The National Association of Gun Rights, Inc. is a non-profit, tax-exempt advocacy organization under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code.  Contributions or gifts to NAGR are not tax-deductible for IRS purposes.  Not paid for or mailed at taxpayer expense.”

There is a lot to unpack here.  First as a 501(c)(4) non-profit, NAGR is similar to a chamber of commerce or trade association which is not automatically eligible for the non-profit bulk postal rate of 16.9 cents per piece, a 50 cent subsidy over the current rate of 55 cents you and I pay for a one-ounce letter.  The U.S. Postal Service is very specific about this.  Question 11 on the USPS Form 3624, “Application to Mail at Nonprofit USPS Marketing Mail Prices,” specifically omits 501(c)(4) organizations as a choice to justify its eligibility for the non-profit rate.  (See below.)

I am sure I was not at the top of the target list for this mailing; so there is no telling how many pieces of mail were involved.  For argument sake, let’s pick a conservative number of 100,000.  In this case, NGRA would have saved $38,100.  If the mailing approaches one million pieces, the federal subsidy (something which is a thinly disguised equivalent of taxpayer expense) would rise to $381,000.  There are two reasons it is hard to determine the exact subsidy.  First, we do not know the size of the mailing.  Second, the envelope (pictured above) appears self canceled by the mailer and only has five cents worth of postage.  So it is impossible to tell whether NAGR paid the full 2021 bulk rate.

One could also argue Senator Paul only fronted this mailing because NGRA lobbies on an issue near and dear to his heart.  Or maybe it’s personal.  After all, following the attack by a neighbor in which Paul suffered rib injuries, he might want to own an AR-15.  However, you would be wrong.  Michael Rothfeld, founder and CEO of Saber Communications, the company which manages NAGR’s mail marketing has a long history with the Paul family.  He was a major fundraiser for the Senator’s father Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential run.  Of the $40.6 million in campaign donations Rothfeld helped generate for the failed attempt for the Republican nomination, $7.7 million (19 percent) went to Saber Communications.  Rothfeld provided similar services for Rand Paul’s senate campaigns.

Based on past history, would anyone be surprised if Rothfeld and Saber Communications received a substantial share of the “$100 ask” accompanying the NAGR survey?  Especially since the surveys and donations will be returned to a Fredericksburg post office box.  Is it a coincidence Saber Communications, Inc., a company with no public record of its clients, consisting of Rothfeld and two employees, is located in (drum roll reprise) Fredericksberg while NAGR is headquartered in Colorado.

Finally, a sense of curiosity demands one inquire, “Why did Paul align with NAGR rather than the National Rifle Association (NRA) which has a significantly larger membership despite its current legal and financial troubles?”  That answer may lie in an April 9, 2015 article in the Washington Times titled, “Rand Paul shunned by NRA over National Association of Gun rights ties.”  According to reporter Kelly Riddell, Paul did not receive the NRA’s endorsement “…because of Mr. Paul’s association with the National Association for Gun Rights (NAGR), a rival pro-gun rights umbrella group, that has angered other gun rights advocates, who accuse the group of misleading mailings and headline-stealing tactics.”  Misleading mailings?  Headline-stealing tactics?  What better surrogate for Senator Paul than NAGR?

ENDNOTE:  At an August 21 meeting of the Senate government affairs committee, of which Paul is a member, he raised the possibility of cutting mail delivery from six to five days a week and reducing the postal service workforce.  He claimed these changes could reduce the agency’s budget by $1.5 billion.  Senator, you know what else might help the USPS operating budget?  Not disguising questionable non-profit mailings by attaching your name to them.

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP

 

Florida Man

 

Proponents of a ban on assault weapons often make this argument.  If you are someone who thinks there are that many people out to get you you need an AR-15 to defend yourself, you are probably an individual who should not have access to such lethal armaments.  Perhaps the same should hold true for people who are constantly being sued for libel and then propose new restrictions on the press.  Or those who question others’ morals yet are the subjects of multiple questionable personal relationships. Consider the following example.

In investigation of Rep. Gaetz's alleged sexual relationship with minor, feds looking beyond Florida, sources say - ABC NewsIt is hard to think of Matthew Louis Gaetz II as a U.S. congressman.  Every time he appears on television, I think I have accidently turned on a rebroadcast of Paul Sorvino as Reverend Willie Williams in  “Oh, God!” or am watching auditions for the Joe Pesci role in a remake of “Good Fellas,” both of which give me the creeps.  Yet, somehow this native of Hollywood, Florida and product of Niceville High School (no April Fools joke), Florida State University and William and Mary Law School has found a home on the “Redneck Riviera,” otherwise known as the Florida western panhandle.  Voters in Florida’s 1st Congressional District have thrice elected him to fill the seat once held by repentant former-Republican Joe Scarborough.

ImageThe last 12 months have not been kind to this Trumpist wunderkind. Least among them was the announcement last November he had tested positive for the coronavirus, the same health crisis he mocked on March 7, 2020, donning a gas mask on the floor of the House chamber.  For the record, two days after this picture was taken, one of his constituents was among the first Floridians to succumb to COVID-19.  In an effort to minimize any pushback related to being a long-time COVID denier, Gaetz explained he had actually tested positive for anti-bodies, not the virus itself, a precursor of the verbal Rorshach images he would employ in other embarrassing situations.

Let’s start with the mysterious case of Gaetz’ sudden acknowledgement in June 2020 that he had a Cuban-born “son” to refute Representative Cedric Richmond (D-LA), who, following George Floyd’s death, suggested that many of his colleagues could not understand what it was like to be a black father who wondered if a son or daughter would return home safely every time they left the house.  The disclosure came during an interview with (drum roll) Tucker Carlson although the 17 year old had never been mentioned in Gaetz’ official biography or anywhere else.

Gaetz explained the boy was the orphaned brother of a former girlfriend and had lived with him for six years, even after Gaetz’ relationship with the boy’s sister ended.  When asked during a People Magazine interview if he had legally adopted the boy, Gaetz explained why it was unnecessary.  “Our relationship as a family is defined by our love for each other, not by any paperwork.”  Too bad the congressman does not feel the same about birth certificates and gender identification.

In an unintentional effort to prove T. S. Elliot wrong (“April is the cruelest month” from Waste Land), June continued to plague Gaetz as we now know from reports he is the subject of a Department of Justice investigation related to possible sex trafficking.  The examination is part of a larger inquiry into a Gaetz political ally, former Seminole County, Florida tax collector Joel Greenberg.  Greenberg was indicted (drum roll reprise) last June of multiple sex trafficking charges and misuse of the government data.  (Synchronicity runs deep in the Sunshine State.)

Gaetz chose (this drum is getting beaten to death) an interview with Tucker Carlson to refute the New York Times report the DOJ investigation included his having paid expenses for a 17 year old girl.  At one point, Gaetz said he had never travelled with any 17 year old, adding, “It is a verifiable lie.  People can look at my travel records and see that is not the case.”  And any travel payments were merely evidence of his generosity to friends.  However, even I, without the advantage of a William and Mary law degree (To paraphrase Gaetz, “Paperwork doesn’t matter.”) know there is a no legal distinction between “travelling” with someone across state lines and paying for them to travel unaccompanied across state lines when it comes to sex trafficking. HISTORICAL FOOTNOTE: In December 2017, Gaetz was the only Congressman to vote against the Combating Human Trafficking in Commercial Vehicles Act which also passed the Senate by unanimous consent.

Gaetz’ legal entanglements do not stop there.  During the Carlson interview, he volunteered he and his father were cooperating with the FBI to thwart an attempt to extort his family in exchange for making any legal or political problems disappear.  He went so far as to accuse Pensacola lawyer David McGee, a former federal prosecutor, as being behind the extortion plot.

For the record, Gaetz has not been charged with any crime nor have any of these stories been independently substantiated.  That is best left to DOJ and local prosecutors.  However, it does explain why Gaetz may need an army of defense lawyers and public relations specialists to address the reports.  Not to mention (but I will) many of his House colleagues have failed to come to his defense.  Gaetz admitted as much, telling The Daily Beast:

The last time I had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old, I was 17. As for the Hill, I know I have many enemies and few friends. My support generally lies outside of Washington, D.C., and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

There are two notable exceptions.  Ohio congressman “Gym” Jordan who told CNN, “I believe Matt Gaetz.”  And Georgia congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene who compared the reports to “conspiracy theories and lies like Trump/Russia collusion.”  With friends like these…

On this opening day of the 2021 baseball season,  I can hear the man or woman behind the table as you enter the stadium, “Get your program!  Get your program!  You can’t tell the players or the Matt Gaetz scandals without a program.”

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP

 

CHUTZPAH: A New Standard

 

In his book The Joys of Yiddish, Leo Rosten gives the following example of the word “chutzpah” which Merriam-Webster defines as “nerve or gall.”  A person on trial who, after murdering his mother and father, begs the judge for mercy because he is an orphan.  Of course, this example is fiction.

Last week Representative John Rutherford (R-FL) provided an actual example which should become the new standard.  The March 10 edition of the Fernandina Beach News Leader included a picture of our congressman participating in “Read Across America” Day by virtually sharing a book with a third-grade class at Jacksonville’s River City Science Academy.  The book he chose was One Vote, Two Vote, I Vote, You Vote, part of the Dr. Seuss Learning Library.  NOTE:  The book, though authorized by the Dr. Seuss Enterprises, L.P. was written by Barbara Kiefer in the style of Dr. Seuss and published in 2016.

For those unfamiliar with the book, it focuses on the importance of voting as the way society makes choices.  From pages 8 and 9:

Voting gives each of us
our very own voice.
It allows a large group
to make ONE single choice.

Can you choose NOT to vote?
Yes, but that’s a sure way
to lose your own voice
and to not have a say.

The item or person
that most of us select
will wind up the winner—
the one we elect.

On page 10 the author selects a presidential election as perhaps the single event in which voting is most important.

The biggest of all of
America’s voting events
chooses our president
and vice president.

It takes more chutzpah than Rosten ever imagined for Rutherford to choose this particular book after voting NAY on H.R. 1, the For the People Act of 2021, which according to the bill’s text is designed “to expand Americans’ access to the ballot box, reduce the influence of big money in politics, strengthen ethics rules for public servants, and implement other anti-corruption measures for the purpose of fortifying our democracy…”

This was not a one off.  His March 3rd vote against H.R. 1 followed his January 6th challenge of the certified electoral votes in six states which resulted in Joe Biden’s election.  So, let me suggest that Mr. Rutherford, if he chooses to continue to use this book as a teaching prop, edit page 9 to make it more consistent with his personal philosophy and actions, as follows:

The persons with the most votes
after the results are disclosed
will wind up the winners—
unless they are a Democrat the GOP opposed.

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP

Liar’s Poker

 

If we learned nothing else from the 2020 election and its aftermath, we now know what happens to law students who graduated at the bottom quartile of their classes.  They represent Republican officials.  Not that we needed more proof, but last Tuesday the sample size increased by one during Supreme Court arguments related to new voting restrictions enacted in Arizona.

Briefly, the Court was conducting oral arguments on two appealed cases related to newly enacted state laws, one by the Arizona attorney general and the other by the Arizona Republican Party.  In Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, the lower court had ruled Arizona violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 when it disqualified the votes of individuals who had mistakenly cast their ballots in the wrong precinct.

The second case Arizona Republic Party v. Democratic National Committee was triggered by a new law which prohibits anyone other than a family member or caregiver from collecting and delivering a voter’s absentee ballot.  NOTE:  No-excuse absentee/mail-in balloting has been legal in the Grand Canyon State since 1991, and the issue of “ballot harvesting” had never been raised until the 2020 election.

In an illuminating moment during oral arguments, Justice Amy Coney Barrett and attorney Michael A. Carvin, representing Arizona, have the following exchange over the state’s motivation in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee.

Justice Barrett:  What’s the interest of the Arizona RNC here in keeping, say, the out-of-precinct voter disqualification rules on the books?

macarvinMr. Carvin:  Because it puts us at a competitive disadvantage relative to Democrats.  Politics is a zero sum game, and every extra vote they get through unlawful interpretations of Section 2 hurts us.  It’s the difference between winning an election 50 to 49 and losing 51 to 50.

Voting rights activists were quick to jump on the obvious.  Carvin had just said out loud what they rightfully assumed all along.  This was not about election security, but the value of voter suppression to GOP candidates.  By doing so, Carvin affirmed the lessons of both 2018 and 2020.  When Democrats vote, Democrats win.  But here is the other issue.  Not only was Carvin’s argument a rare moment of truth, it also represented gross ignorance, something that no one on the court or any legal analyst pointed out.

In no way is what Carvin described a “zero sum game.”  Consider the formal definition of the term.

A mathematical representation of a situation in which each participant’s gain or loss of utility is exactly balanced by the losses or gains of the utility of the other participants. If the total gains of the participants are added up and the total losses are subtracted, they will sum to zero.

For the argument to apply to the situation under debate, every vote cast out-of-precinct would not be disqualified.  It would have to go to the other candidate.  What’s more, his example of how the percentages would change is even more inane.  The numbers would not change, much less total 101 percent (Do these people ever hear what comes out of their mouths?).   The percentages would merely flip.  Instead of losing 50-49, in a truly zero sum game, the alternative outcome would still be 50-49, but in the opposite direction.

Let me explain this to Mr. Carvin with an analogy he might understand.  A zero sum game in politics works the same way it does in a poker tournament.  Imagine each of five participants pays a $10,000 entry fee.  At any given point in the tournament, there is always $50,000 on the table.  If Player #1 wins the first pot, his holdings increase by the aggregate losses among the remaining four players.  At the end of the tournament, the winner has $50,000 and the losers walk away empty-handed.

Under Carvin’s analogy, Player #2 could win even though his total was now less than half the total entry fees, if and only if, he finds a way reduce that amount.  Suppose, for example, Player #2 declares any dollar bill with the signature of former Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew (2013-2017) does not count.  By this measure, the total pot is reduced to $43,000.   Player #2 then declares he won a majority of the stakes while holding only $21,501.

In a real political zero sum game, the vote total is not reduced.  Instead voting preferences shift among candidates.  Of course that would require the GOP adopt policies and programs which appeal to current Democrats and independents who do not share the GOP’s predilection for trickle-down economics, global isolation or defending insurrectionists including the leader of their own party.

What lesson should we take from this day in court?  Never, ever play Liar’s Poker with Mr. Carvin.  Anyone who can make the above argument in front of the Supreme Court with a straight face probably is not likely to show his hand during a game of chance.

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP

 

The New GOP Mascot

 

In the spirt of what has become known as the “let elephants be elephants” movement in which these animals are no longer being exploited for entertainment or as caged curiosities, perhaps it is time for the Grand Old Party to do likewise and look for a new mascot.  HISTORICAL NOTE: Although most people believe the origins of the Republican symbol are tied to an 1874 political cartoon by Thomas Nast, it first appeared in a Civil War illustration years earlier.  Union soldiers used the phrase “seeing the elephant” to mean experiencing combat. Nast is credited with making the association stick having represented Republicans as elephants continuously during the 1870s.

If not a pachyderm, what would be most representative of the modern day Republican Party?  One potential answer comes from a most unexpected source, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.  Following his vote to acquit Donald Trump of inciting an insurrection, he took to the floor of the upper chamber to affirm Donald Trump incited an insurrection.  But that is not what caught my attention as it was nothing new.  During the Trump era, more than one Republican had morphed into a rhetorical pretzel to defend the indefensible.

In this case, McConnell decided to take the law into his own hands in what can only be called anti-vigilantism.  His words:

If President Trump were still in office, I would have carefully considered whether the House managers proved their specific charge.

But in this case, that question is moot. Because former President Trump is constitutionally not eligible for conviction.

One more reason to remove the elephant as his party’s standard bearer.  McConnell displayed a mammoth lapse of memory that would put the beast to shame.  Just four days earlier the U.S. Senate had taken up this exact question.  By a vote of 55-45, including five members of his own party, the Senate affirmed just the opposite.  As pointed out by the overwhelming majority of constitutional scholars, this vote established the rules for the trial.  It was the equivalent of a judge’s refusal to dismiss a case on technical or procedural matters.  Once that judge determines the trial must proceed, the jury CANNOT use those same arguments to excuse the defendant’s behavior.

But not Mitch McConnell.  He announced to the world, “I don’t care what the rules are.”  Think about it.  Much of the defense’s arguments during the trial, and Republican oratory surrounding it, focused on precedence.  Ohio Senator Rob Portman:

Think of the precedent of saying that Republicans could go after President Obama or President Clinton or Democrats could go after George W. Bush as a private citizen.

But think about the precedent of this newly manufactured McConnell Doctrine.  Imagine you or I decide to ignore a congressional action.  For example, Congress votes to raise taxes to support an increase in defense spending.  What if I follow McConnell’s lead and say, “I don’t care.”  I then choose to use the previous year’s rate when calculating my income tax.  Is there any doubt I would be excused of tax evasion because I chose not to accept a congressional vote as binding?

So far, I have focused on Mitch McConnell as he is now the highest ranking federal official in the Republican party.  But “I don’t care” is often the mantra of the entire caucus.  One hundred forty seven Republican members of Congress, when presented with evidence Joe Biden had been elected president in what a Trump appointee affirmed was “the most secure election in American history,” said, “I don’t care.”  One hundred ninety seven Republican House members experienced the terror of January 6, 2021 and said, “I don’t care.”  Forty three GOP senators looked at the evidence before, during and after the insurrection and said, “I don’t care.”

Should we be surprised?  Absolutely not.  The GOP has been singing from the same hymn book for the past four years.

  • An October 2017 Gallup poll showed 96 percent of adults favored “background checks for all gun purchases.”  The GOP:  “We don’t care.”
  • Data for Progress found those who had an opinion supported the creation of a “public option for health insurance” by a 55 to 18 margin.  Even Republicans supported the measure by a 47 to 27 margin.  The GOP:  “We don’t care.”
  • According to a June 2020 Pew Research survey, 74 percent of adults favor legal status for DACA recipients (Dreamers).  The GOP:  “We don’t care.”
  • When Pew Research asked adults about “raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour,” 67 percent favored the change.  The GOP:  “We don’t care.”

Which brings us back to the question, “What symbol should replace the elephant as the visual embodiment of today’s Republican Party?”  Who better to make the case than Trump lapdog South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham?  On “Fox News Sunday” this past weekend, Graham declared:

The Trump movement is alive and well.  All I can say is the most potent force in the Republican Party is President Trump. We need Trump-plus.

There is only one chose for the new mascot based on Trump’s continued presence as the de facto voice of the Republican Party and the GOP’s insistence on ignoring the preferences of an overwhelming majority of Americans.  The good news is we do not need a modern incarnation of Thomas Nast to create it.  It already exists.  (See below.)

Image result for melania i don't really care

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP