All posts by Mike Tully

Ghost Voters in the Sky

A delusion is a belief that is clearly false and that indicates an abnormality in the affected person’s content of thought.

 – Chandra Kiran and Suprakash Chaudhury, “Understanding delusions

When a man sees things others don’t see, the most beneficial possibility is that he is a visionary.  Unfortunately, visionaries are as common as icicles in Yuma and it’s more likely the vision is the product of delusion, hallucination, or fabrication.  For example, Donald Trump told a rally he “watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering” when they saw the World Trade Center collapse on 911.  “I saw it,” he told George Stephanopoulos of ABC News.  “It was on television.”  Nobody else saw the thousands of invisible celebrants that Trump saw.  The Washington Post, while awarding Four Pinocchios, generously characterized the claim as “another case of Trump’s overactive imagination.”  That’s a politically correct way of saying “delusion.”

Delusions are usually harmless unless they provoke a reaction, because actions resulting from delusions rarely turn out well.  We have a new player in national politics that is nothing more than a reaction to a delusion:  the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.  The delusion is Trump’s insistence that “I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”  He joined the Commission’s initial meeting and told its members, “throughout the campaign and even after it, people would come up to me and express their concerns about voter inconsistencies and irregularities, which they saw.”  “In some cases,” he added, “having to do with very large numbers of people in certain states.”  Apparently those are states that voted for Hillary Clinton.

The group’s mission is to identify “those laws, rules, policies, activities, strategies, and practices that enhance the American people’s confidence in the integrity of the voting processes used in Federal elections,” as well as those that “undermine the American people’s confidence,” and “vulnerabilities in voting systems and practices used for Federal elections that could lead to improper voter registrations and improper voting.”  The News Release announcing the Commission said it “will utilize all available data, including state and federal databases.”  On June 28, 2017, the Commission’s Vice-Chairman, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, wrote his fellow Secretaries and asked for “the full first and last names of all registrants, middle names or initials if available, addresses, dates of birth, political party (if recorded in your state), last four digits of social security number if available, voter history (elections voted in) from 2006 onward, active/inactive status, cancelled status, information regarding any felony convictions, information regarding voter registration in another state, information regarding military status, and overseas citizen information.”  Exactly how compiling a federal-level database of voter registrations would serve the Commission’s purpose is unclear, and many states pushed back against the voluminous request, although a federal court refused to stop it.

Trump also told the Commission this:   “Any form of illegal or fraudulent voting, whether by non-citizens or the deceased, and any form of voter suppression or intimidation must be stopped.”   Take a minute to unpack that statement.  First of all, voting by non-citizens is incredibly rare and a non-issue – studies of state prosecution records show that votes by non-citizens are, at most, one-thousandth of one percent of the votes cast.  Suffice it to say the number of dead people voting is probably lower than that; nothing suppresses voting like death.  Speaking of voter suppression, Trump’s reference to it – echoed in the news release – is curious, since the Commission’s Charter and Mission Statement (which is included in the Charter) do not mention voter suppression.

The Commission includes members with a history of supporting efforts to restrict voting, the most prominent of whom is Kobach, the Vice-Chairman.  Given the fictitious basis for the Commission’s existence, as well as the participation of Kobach and others with a history of voter suppression activity, it is not unreasonable to suspect the actual mission of the group is voter suppression, not protection.  That suspicion is reinforced by the fact that it is relying on what The Economist refers to as “some really dodgy studies,” including one cited by Trump that claims 5.7 million non-citizens voted illegally in the 2008 election.  That study is statistically invalid and widely disparaged, and Trump’s claim of illegal voting was rated “False” by Politifact.  The entire basis for the Commission is fraudulent — or delusional.

The Commission only has five hundred thousand dollars to conduct a study and release a report next year.  Hopefully, its members will spin their wheels, crank out some kind of document, and quietly slink away as the report gathers dust in the Museum of Bureaucratic Futility.   While it’s unlikely any substantive action will result, the President might take its report seriously and try to act on it.  But that’s next year.  Let’s wait and see what President Pence has to say then.

© 2017 by Mike Tully


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I’ll Be Your Public Servant Today. How Would You Like Your Sleaze?

Introducing a fictitious politician, Governor of an unidentified state named S. Lee Zbag.  Call him “Governor Lee.”  He has a new acquaintance, a wealthy and ambitious businessman named Richard Guy.  Let’s call him “Rich.”  Governor Lee has expensive tastes and enjoys the good life.  Rich knows what the wealthy and powerful have known for years:  local politicians are easier to buy off than national-level politicians.  In the District, Senators and Representatives demand top dollar and get it.  In the hinterlands, however, there are bargains galore.  And Governor Lee is for sale.

Rich has a problem.  He’s chairman and majority share-holder of a huge international corporation called Monstrous Alliance for Global Acquisition, Inc., commonly known as MAGA.  The corporation’s interests include Big Brass Door, Inc., a janitorial service located in Governor Lee’s home state.  Big Brass Door has done well but Rich has his eyes on a big prize:  state buildings.  The contract for cleaning state buildings is about to expire and Big Brass Door wants to bid on it.  There’s a problem:  state law forbids subsidiaries of international corporations from entering into state contracts.  Rich needs to have the law changed. 

Governor Lee and Rich are introduced by a mutual acquaintance at a resort during a national governors’ meeting.  Governor Lee was there to network with other governors.  Rich was on a shopping trip.  He chatted up Governor Lee over cocktails.  They discussed the weather and resort accommodations over the first cocktail, sports during cocktails two and three.  By cocktail five Governor Lee was complaining about his low pay as governor.  Two cocktails later he was expressing his love for Rolex watches, sports cars, exotic vacations and good meals.  One more cocktail and Governor Lee said his wife wasn’t with him and he wanted to take advantage of the opportunity.  Rich made sure Governor Lee did not sleep alone that night.

In the coming months, Rich bought Governor Lee a Rolex, loaned him a sports car, and paid for his daughter’s wedding.    He gave Ms. Governor a credit card and told her to use it for anything she wanted.  She used it during a shopping spree at Waikiki – during a family vacation paid for by Rich.  Governor Lee decided Rich was his new best friend and, when Rich told him about the janitorial contract and the law preventing his company from bidding on it, he listened.  He decided to help.  What are friends for?

Governor Lee attended the grand opening of Big Brass Door’s downtown corporate headquarters and praised the company as “a good example of old-fashioned American hard work and success.”  He allowed his name to be used in a company commercial.  He hosted an event for Rich at the Governor’s Mansion and invited members of the Legislature to attend.  He introduced Rich to a powerful committee chairman and several other legislators.  After Rich talked one of his new legislative friends into drafting and submitting legislation to help his company, the Governor called the committee chairman to ask about the bill’s progress.  Governor Lee did not overtly lobby for the bill, nor twist any arms, but he made it clear that he was interested in the bill’s progress.  When the bill passed he allowed it to become law without his signature.  Rich then gave him hard-to-get tickets to a popular Broadway musical, telling him it was his way of thanking him for his help with the legislation.  Neither man doubted that Governor Lee did favors for Rich because Rich did favors for Governor Lee.

Governor Lee is a scumbag, right?  No question.  But did he break the law?  Based on the Supreme Court’s decision in McDonnell vs United States and the Second Circuit’s decision in United States vs Silver, the answer is:  probably not.  Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell is a scumbag whose conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court and Sheldon Silver, former Speaker of the New York State Assembly, is a scumbag whose conviction was overturned by the Second Circuit.  Both convictions were overturned because juries were wrongly instructed that “official acts” included any action taken by a government official under color of his or her authority.  McDonnell, Silver, and “Governor Lee” all acted within the scope of their elected positions because the matters they were involved with concerned public policy, like awarding state contracts.  The Supreme Court narrowed the definition of “official act,” stating it must involve a “question, matter, cause, suit, proceeding or controversy” and the official must make a formal decision or perform an official act directly related to it.  “A typical meeting, call, or event does not qualify,” said the Court.  If there’s any degree of separation between official and action, there’s probably no crime.  Illegal is still illegal, but mere sleaze is constitutionally protected.

The unanimous McDonnell opinion might be a realistic concession that politicians will enjoy the “perks” of their offices.  Perhaps it brings a necessary loss of innocence, a capitulation to human nature that helps us more realistically regard our public officials.

But is this innocence lost, or paradise lost?

© 2017 by Mike Tully


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I’ve Got A Secret

              The liberties of people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.
                              – Patrick Henry

Ally Miller, a local County Supervisor with a penchant for sluicing her official email through a personal email account, has a powerful new friend in high places.  Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich has declared, in a Legal Opinion, that messages sent or received through a private email account, messenger service, or social network are not public records.  Brnovich did not mention his ongoing investigation into Miller’s emails.  Nonetheless, if the investigation reflects his Legal Opinion, then Miller is largely off the hook – along with every public employee in Arizona who wants to hide his or her official communications.  Brnovich has given every unscrupulous public official a blank check to draw on the Bank of Chicanery and knee-capped Arizona’s Public Records Law.

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Love and Kisses, America

On July 4, 2017, America celebrated its dual independences:  from England and from sanity.  We earned independence from England 241 years ago through bravery, battle and sacrifice.  The other independence – we’re still figuring out how we “earned” that one. But, earn it we did and our achievement was made official on the First of July when Donald J. Trump, the daffy blonde helicopter we made President, proclaimed himself modern day presidential.  The President was responding to bipartisan criticism of a string of verbal wedgies he unleashed on two MSNBC cable hosts and CNN.  While Hurricane Tweety blows crazier and crazier – witness the doctored video  of him “beating up” CNN — the Beavis and Butthead-ization of the Executive Branch continues.  Exhibit 1 is poor Homeland Security Advisor Tom Bossert, who drew the short straw and had to defend the “beating up CNN” video, stating, “I think that no one would perceive that as a threat. I hope they don’t.”  (“I hope I wake up from this nightmare before I die in my sleep!” added his inner voice, sadly.)

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