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Sai (saizai)
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Syncretist
Syncretist

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Alabama election laws are weird. The GOP's convulsions dealing with Roy Moore hinge on exactly how weird they are.

Updated below.

As you listen to Alabamian GOP officials hem and haw about supporting Roy Moore, you should know a few things specific to Alabama:

• Alabama has a law (complemented by party rules) that automatically punishes any elected officials for endorsing a candidate other than their party's. It's written such that "anti-endorsing" Moore may trigger the penalty as well: a six-year exclusion from any ballot printed in Alabama. So yesterday's spectacle of Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) literally running away from a reporter asking him if he was revising his endorsement can be perhaps better understood in those terms: if he spoke out against Moore, he could lose his seat in congress by being unable to appear on next year's primary ballot.
Even the few GOP officials who have said that they personally intend to vote for the Democrat, or write in another candidate's name, are threading a needle: they may be able to express this, but only so long as they don't make any suggestion this constitutes an endorsement or a recommendation for how other Alabamians should vote.

• Many have asked why the Alabama GOP doesn't strip Moore of his nomination, or why Donald Trump (or whoever else it's believed might have influence over Moore) hasn't made a personal appeal to Moore to withdraw. There are two reasons, with the first being most straightforward and not particular to Alabama:
The ballots with Moore's name have already been printed and sent to absentee voters; it's too late to change them. After the date the ballots are statutorily considered "printed" (in Alabama, 76 days before the election), if the candidate on the ballot wants to run, a party's withdrawal of its nomination has no practical effect. The party can withdraw funding, it can run ads or put up posters condemning the balloted candidate and supporting another candidate (perhaps a write-in, as Sen. Lisa Murkowski successfully did in Alaska after losing her party's nomination), but if the plurality of votes go to Moore and he's still a qualified candidate who says he's still in the race, he is elected regardless of any action the Alabama GOP takes at this point.

• The second reason shows why urging Moore's withdrawal is a non-starter in Alabama. First, let me explain why it could be a reasonable strategy in most other states: in those other states, if Moore had been disqualified or withdrawn, and voters picked Moore's name anyway over that of Democrat (and not the Star Trek: Discovery actor who plays the alien Saru) Doug Jones, the result would be a null election. (This is known in electoral-geek circles as "the American rule.")
The seat would once again become vacant, the governor would choose another interim Senator (or re-appoint current interim Sen. Luther Strange), and she'd announce another special primary and general election for the seat. (In which, incidentally, Roy Moore would be free to run.)
But in Alabama, a 2014 law states that in such a case, the election is not considered null under "the American rule"; instead, any ballot marked for a disqualified or withdrawn candidate (such as—in this hypothetical—for a withdrawn Moore) is considered "spoiled" and is not counted. (This is, in contrast, known as "the English rule", and will be familiar to people who have sat through election-night coverage on the BBC when each constituency declares its votes—the "spoiled ballot" count is always mentioned in the tally.)
The upshot of "the English rule" here means that the highest legitimately balloted vote-getter (almost certainly Democrat Doug Jones) wins.
(Incidentally, I can find absolutely no record of why the Alabama legislature made this change in 2014. If anyone knows, I'd be curious why this change was enacted.)

So, the GOP basically has three choices here:

1. Cede the election to the Democrat Jones. It's been eye-opening for many of us to learn how Alabama Republicans have difficulty determining which is worse, being a child molester or a Democrat.

2. Try to push a write-in candidacy. Perhaps for current interim appointment Luther Strange, or perhaps—as Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has suggested—for the current Attorney General (and former holder of the vacant seat), Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III. The possibility of Sessions attempting to re-take his seat is one I'll come back to in a moment.

3. Tacitly continue to back Moore's candidacy. This could just be the default by inaction. It may, or may not, be informed by a presumption that the Senate will refuse to seat him or promptly eject him, at which point the (Republican) governor would again get to appoint a new (Republican) interim Senator, and announce a new round of special elections.

As an aside, I should mention there's a fourth, wild and unprecedented possibility—but if the past two years have taught us anything, it's that "wild and unprecedented" don't mean what they used to in electoral politics: the Alabama Secretary of State and Governor could together declare an emergency and cancel the election, to start over with a less problematic Republican candidate.

As far as I can tell, this provision has never been used anywhere in a statewide race for political reasons; it's heretofore been used in cases where a disaster or a massive polling failure means a normal election can't be conducted on the day planned. (For instance, New York exercised this emergency power to reschedule the mayoral election that was to be held on September 11, 2001—and they made this decision on that day, after the terror attack, after many ballots had already been cast.) But nothing seems to preclude Republican elected officials from using such emergency powers to protect party control of a Senate seat. Like I said, precedent may no longer mean anything, so this is a real possibility.

Finally—I said I'd come back to the possibility of Jeff Sessions running as a write-in candidate. This has obvious political advantages for the United States Senate Republican Conference and for the Alabama GOP: the four-term senator has near-100% name recognition, and is probably the only candidate that Republicans could be reasonably sure would win in a write-in campaign, unlike other candidates like Luther Strange who very well could result in a split vote with Moore (whether or not he was a qualified candidate on election day), resulting in a win for Doug Jones. Also, should Sessions unexpectedly not win, he could retain his post as Attorney General.

But there's another factor: President Donald Trump would love to be rid of an Attorney General in Sessions who has recused himself from issues relating to Russia, to the Trump campaign, and to Hillary Clinton. He could then hand-pick a new Attorney General who would follow Trump's will and fire special counsel Robert Mueller, and begin the politically-motivated investigations of Hillary Clinton he so desperately wants.

Trump has apparently felt boxed-in up till now, unable to fire Sessions due to his enormous popularity among conservatives and the Bannonites, and for fear of a minority of congressional Republicans banding with Democrats to take action to curtail his power over the Department of Justice. But if Sessions were to leave to resume his Senate seat,¹ Trump would be far freer to select an AG more to his liking. (Or, more precisely, Republicans in Congress would be freer to run cover for him by pretending a nakedly political power-grab was simply the president exercising his normal constitutional powers as prescribed and expected.)

So: is it contemptible that Alabama Republicans won't disavow Moore, even now? Absolutely. But it's a teensy bit less contemptible than you may think, due to quirks in Alabama election law.

UPDATE, 16 Nov. 21:30 GMT

(I've added this as a comment to several reshares; my apologies if you see it repeatedly.)

I left out a possibility that's being floated today (not because I wasn't aware of it, but because it didn't occur to me as a "choice" the "GOP" could "decide" to "use", but of course it is)—interim appointment Sen. Luther Strange could resign. Because of yet another oddity in Alabama election law, that would create a new vacancy, separate from the one Strange was appointed into, and for which a new election could be held. The election underway would be null and void.

Gov. Kay Ivey could then appoint a new interim appointee (it could even be Strange, which would be strange, wouldn't it? [cough] sorry...), and announce a new special primary, where presumably Roy Moore is not elected (though if you believe some of the polls out today, that may not be a safe presumption!), and a new special general election.

This is roughly equivalent to the "Moore wins and Senate refuses to seat him or immediately ejects him", but is cleaner for Senate Republicans, which is presumably why it's the option McConnell is leaning towards. As he'd be the one who would have to lean on Strange to make it happen, it has a pretty good chance of happening, particularly as we get closer to December 12 if Moore is up in the polls.


¹ For readers who may not be familiar, the Constitution forbids an individual from simultaneously holding positions in more than one branch of the federal government (aside from the unusual and singular case of the Vice President also officially being President of the Senate, but that's mostly a tie-breaking and ceremonial role). The Attorney General is an officer of the Executive Branch, so would be unable to take a seat in the Senate without first resigning from DOJ.

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Note: I'm not posting individual updates on G+ about the Trump-related Special Counsel investigation cases. They're going instead to Twitter @saizai.

Follow me there if you want updates about US v Papadopoulos or US v Manafort & Gates. All of it is in the megathread starting at https://twitter.com/saizai/status/925294613778268160.

My folder @ https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0BzmetJxi-p0VZGp5d3BlU1Y1bTA has all the filings in all the cases, and I'm keeping it promptly updated, including any new cases.

My Twitter posts in that thread include interesting extracts, as well as minute orders from NEFs (which don't have separate docs, so aren't in the folder, just the docket).

Again, feel free to share, hotlink, forward, embed, etc. The google drive links will be stable. Please LMK if I've missed anything or if using my docs in a posting somewhere.

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Not quite the same, but: on the way back from the doctor's today, I got grabbed by strangers at least 6 times, with no warning, just for being blind. One or two of them I could sense might be a problem, and took active steps to guard (putting my cane between myself and them, orienting to make it harder, timing, etc). Didn't stop it. And if I snap at them "get your hands off of me", I risk escalation.

So … yeah, I kinda get it. Everyone is a potential threat to me, even (especially) when they're "just trying to be helpful".

PS I'd guess gender balance of my assaulters at 50-50, though I can't always tell.

/via +Rugger Ducky #yesallblindies
De-escalation and doing the math

I am so tired of having to de-escalate men.

Today as I was leaving my apartment building, a man was outside waiting to go in. It was clear he didn't have an entry fob, and I had never seen him before. I slowed down as I exited, waiting for the door to swing shut behind me while trying to make it seem not obvious what I was doing but he reached out and pushed the door open and walked in while sarcastically saying "thanks". I have never seen this man before, and he did not display any identification or even ask to be let in. The sheer entitlement he displayed in expecting me to unquestioningly allow him into the building enraged me. I stopped and asked him what he was thanking me for and he responds "don't worry I'm not robbing or nothing".

I debated standing my ground and demanding he leave before I call the police but then, I did the math. I did the math on how much bigger he was than me, and how long would the police take to arrive. I did the math on how late that would make me for work, and the fact that the front door to my apartment itself is locked and he can't get it there despite gaining entry into the building. I did the math that if indeed he was intending to break into the building he likely wouldn't have antagonised a resident this way and that he'd probably have smiled and made himself seem non threatening. I did the math that women all over the world do when we are confronted with situations like this, and we decide to de-escalate because most of the time that's the only option we have. I just shrugged and walked away.

But I'm so tired of it. I'm so tired of doing the math around their entitlement. I'm tired of doing the math around their obliviousness. I'm tired of doing the math because I wonder "why should I?"

I have been doing the math and de-escalating ever since I was a teenager. I still remember the first time, when I went to see a cricket match with friends in Sri Lanka and as we were walking through the crowd a man walking past me reached out and grabbed my breast, hard, over my shirt. I was 16 years old. I opted to pretend it didn't happen and keep walking because if I had stopped I'd have lost my friends in the crowd and who knows what else he could have done. When a man feels enough entitlement to grab a woman without her consent, he also feels safe about the fact that he will get away with it. He too, has done the math and he knows that the equation always favours him.

My worst memory of de-escalation is still something I struggle to write about. It had to do with the surreal experience of a friend I trusted ignoring my boundaries, agency, and consent. My response was to freeze and then submit under the rationalisation that friends don't assault each other therefore this couldn't possibly be assault, especially if I do my best to pretend everything was fine. De-escalating helped me get to safety.

The worst part though, is living with the sense of anger, regret, and guilt afterwards. It takes a lot of processing for me to get to a place where I accept that this is just how things are, and I made the right decision in hindsight. Immediately after I de-escalate and remove myself from the situation, I find myself nearly shaking with impotent rage. I think of all the alternatives I wish I could have said or done instead. I look to myself and wonder what I could have said or done differently to either avoid or have prevented the situation. This endless post mortem is exhausting. Do you see how ridiculous and fucked up it is, that we have to do this emotional labour while the man who did the escalating gets to walk away with impunity? It's only later that I understand and accept that my instinct to de-escalate is a survival mechanism. My instincts get me out of these situations into safety, and I am learning to appreciate that more instead of berating myself for being a coward and not punching these fuckers in the face.

I'm so tired of doing the math and de-escalating. Even now I wonder if I should bother writing this or just suck it up because I don't know if I have the energy to deal with #NotAllMen comments. It feels incredibly lonely and isolating, and sometimes I wish I just didn't know or understand what rape culture is. Because then I could treat these incidents as minor unrelated inconveniences, and not as symptomatic of an ecosystem of male entitlement and privilege that feels too huge for me to do anything about.

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AFAICT, the alleged NYC terrorist is named as Sayfullo Saipov. However, there seems to be no record of such a person in NY state or city inmate searches, nor in pending NY criminal cases.

Anyone have corroboration?
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Here's a folder of all available filings in the Manafort/Gates case & 4 Papadopoulos cases. Will keep updated & add new cases as it develops. Feel free to share & hotlink. LMK if you have more.
https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0BzmetJxi-p0VZGp5d3BlU1Y1bTA

For instance, here's Papadopoulos' (still sealed) arrest warrant in E.D. Va. (filed w/out seal in D.D.C. 17-cr-182): https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BzmetJxi-p0VUllJd3hBSDkwS0U/view

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This podcast by More Perfect is an excellent history of the 2nd Amendment, as altered by the Black Panthers, Ronald Regan, NRA-ILA, Dick Heller, and Justice Kennedy. Whatever side you support, you should at least find it interesting, and it's good context for the more recent debates.

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+Alex Fink​ & I just had our 10th anniversary. Wit're thinking of going to Paris for a few days to celebrate it. (Scheduling TBD.)

a) What would be of interest to unk to do there? (If you know something that'd especially suit unker personal preferences, please mention that.)
b) Do any of you happen to have / know a place wit could stay?

* wit, unk, unker is the dual equivalent of the plural we, us, our
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