It's your unjust Sunday show rundown!
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." It is a favorite quote of former Pres. Barack Obama (who had it woven into his White House rug) and cited by other politicians, often around MLK Day. But despite its good sentiment, some scholars have noted the meaning was taken out of context to excuse inaction all for a dream of "justice" we might never see in this world.
So, let's keep this debate in mind when we discuss two specific guests on this week's Sunday shows.
It's the Kyrsten Sinema Show!
The senior senator from Arizona, part-time reseller and full-time asshole made a rare appearance on a Sunday show to answer some questions. She also made sure it was at the McCain Institute in front of a live audience with CBS's "Face The Nation" so that she could receive maximum attention while being the feckless senator we all know.
For example, when Sinema criticized the Biden Administration's border policy, host Margaret Brennan mentions an immigration bill Sinema and Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma introduced. But when asked about passing it before Title 42 expires, Sinema joked about the uselessness of the Senate.
SINEMA: Oh, God, no, Margaret. This is the United States Senate. (laughter)
BRENNAN: That's what I was saying.
SINEMA: I don't think you can get agreement on a restroom break by next Thursday. The United States Senate is functioning at a fairly dysfunctional level right now.
Hahahahaha! Isn't it truly hilarious that the people elected to govern can't do a single thing?! And that they not only know they won't take action to help their constituents but find it a joke??! Just hilarious, Sinema. Hardy Har Har ...
Sinema was asked about Republicans holding the full faith and credit of the US hostage for draconian cuts with the debt ceiling and she outlined the real problem — "both sides."
\u201cWhile the proposed GOP debt limit bill "is not going to be the solution," @SenatorSinema\u00a0says, "what the president is offering is not a realistic solution either," she adds.\n\n"We're on really shaky ground right now," Sinema tells @margbrennan. #SedonaForum2023 @McCainInstitute\u201d— Face The Nation (@Face The Nation) 1683472670
While Sinema admitted Biden is correct to want a "a clean debt limit to meet the full faith and responsibility of the United States of America," she blamed him for not prioritizing Kevin McCarthy's political career over destroying the American people's lives or the global financial system.
SINEMA: [...] Kevin McCarthy, as we all saw, took him a long time to become Speaker. Barely squeaked by with the votes, had to make a lot of concessions to get the job and he has a very, very narrow road to walk. So he has to thread a needle where he can get the votes he needs to pass a debt limit increase and continue to be Speaker. [...] Reality is the bill that Kevin and his colleagues passed through the House is not going to be the solution. The votes do not exist in the United States Senate to pass that. But what the president is offering is not a realistic solution either. There's not going to be just a simple clean debt limit. The votes don't exist for that. [...]
The votes DO exist to pass a clean limit, Sinema. You just need all the House Democratic votes and enough sane Republicans for a majority. But the reason that someone like Sinema or McCarthy can't see that is because anything that doesn't advance their careers or risks political power for their constituents is not seen as a solution.
Ironically, Sinema's Senate career and McCarthy's speakership might be over soon due to that very calculus.
Dick Durbin: The Susan Collins of Chuck Schumers
Speaking of political inaction, Senate Judiciary chair Dick Durbin was on CNN's "State of The Union" with Jake Tapper.
Tapper asked Durbin about what Congress can do to solve the gun violence that led to ANOTHER mass shooting in Texas on Saturday.
DURBIN: There is something more that America can do, and it's called an election.
Oh, fuck you, Dick. Your answer to why Congress can't meet the demands for action from the majority of Americans tired of gun violence is "vote harder"?? Fuck off! Americans are united. It's Congress who isn't.
\u201cThis is a Fox News poll. That should tell you everything about how united the country is and how broken our representatives in Congress are.\u201d— M3Writer (@M3Writer) 1683557352
But that's too much to ask from someone like Durbin. When asked about Clarence Thomas's recent revelations, Durbin at best could muster mild disappointment.
TAPPER: Some of your fellow Democrats on Capitol Hill say that this seems to go beyond ethical lapses; it rises to the level of corrupt behavior. Is that a word you would use, corrupt?
DURBIN: Well, I can tell you that the conclusion most people would reach is that this tangled web around Justice Clarence Thomas just gets worse and worse by the day. [...] The question is whether it embarrasses the Supreme Court and the Chief Justice. [...] This is the Roberts court, and history is going to judge him by the decision he makes on this. He has the power to make the difference.
History? You're the Senate Judiciary Committee chair! It's YOUR job, you feckless fossil! If you are waiting on history, which if I remember is written by the victors, we are all doomed.
Durbin, who can't even stand up to end the bullshit blue slips, also made an idle threat about taking action about Thomas on Twitter like a telephone tough guy.
\u201cLet me tell you this: everything is on the table when it comes to Supreme Court ethics reform.\n\nSince the Court won't act, @JudiciaryDems will.\u201d— Senator Dick Durbin (@Senator Dick Durbin) 1683507867
Tapper, who is no progressive, seemed almost as frustrated by this when he asked about Dianne Feinstein's return to the Senate and let his inner sauciness out on Durbin's bullshit about Feinstein's wishes over the needs of the American people.
\u201cDang. Jake Tapper to Durbin: "All due respect, sir, you and your fellow Democrats were very ginger and very polite when it came to RBG and not pushing her to retire when you had a Democrat majority in the Senate. How'd that work out for you? How'd that work out for Roe v Wade?"\u201d— Aaron Rupar (@Aaron Rupar) 1683466636
Republicans are pursuing evil, but politicians like Durbin and Sinema help gatekeep progress through incrementalism instead of fighting hard.
And Dick Durbin should know better.
Have a week.
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The past isn't dead. It isn't even past.
Sometimes I like to imagine what things might be like in the alternate universe where Al Gore won the 2000 presidential election. Maybe there was no Iraq War, because Gore's Cabinet wouldn't have been full of neocons. Following 9/11, the US still probably would have gone to war in Afghanistan, but without the shiny object of invading Iraq distracting everyone, the US might have caught up with Osama bin Laden in 2003 or 2004, not 2011. [Some of us who are editing this post think there would have been no 9/11, but Dok is being obstinate about it even though he is wrong.] [And others of us who wrote the post think there's at best a better chance that 9/11 would have been avoided] And just think of how much farther the US would be toward addressing global warming if Gore had had even a single term to put us on that track? Haha, we know from science fiction that the actual outcome would somehow involve brain-eating worms from Neptune, because those "better" timelines always go wrong.
In any case, we at least know a little more today about how we ended up with George W. in the White House, because on Tuesday, the Library of Congress made available files from the late Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, which CNN reports include a bunch of memos from the Supreme Court's wrangling over the Bush v. Gore decision, which handed the election to George W. Bush. If you have a spare 15 minutes today, go ahead and read the CNN piece, which looks at how Justice Sandra Day O'Connor joined up with Justice Anthony Kennedy to shape the unsigned opinion that was eventually released by the five Republican-appointed justices in the majority. The alliance between Kennedy and O'Connor shut out a far more radical opinion pushed by then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist.
Spoiler warning: The Kennedy/O'Connor option was bad enough, laying the groundwork for the openly partisan Court we have today. But the Rehnquist option, which he published as a concurring opinion, endorsed the fuckbonkers "Independent State Legislature Doctrine" that became the basis for Donald Trump and his cronies' attempt to overturn the 2020 election, was far far worse. Had Rehnquist's view prevailed in 2000, we can only assume the brain eating worms from Neptune would have been close behind.
On December 10, 2000, even before oral arguments in the case, O'Connor circulated a four-page memo that laid out much of the rationale for what went into the eventual opinion, particularly the argument for blocking the Florida Supreme Court's order for some counties to hand-count "undervotes" — ballots that may not have shown up in the machine count, but which had some evidence of the voter's intent, like a "hanging" or "dimpled chad," and OMG I am having 2000 flashbacks already. O'Connor's memo argued, as did the eventual opinion, that there was so much variation in how the counties were conducting the recounts that there was no way to ensure "equal protection of the law."
CNN summarizes thusly:
“The Florida Supreme Court provided no uniform, statewide method for identifying and separating the undervotes,” O’Connor wrote, referring to instances when machines had failed to detect a vote for president. “Accordingly, there was no guarantee that those ballots deemed undervotes had not been previously tabulated. More importantly, the court failed to provide any standard more specific than the ‘intent of the voter’ standard to govern this statewide undervote recount. Therefore, each individual county was left to devise its own standards.”
For that reason, O'Connor wrote, the recount system “in no way resembles the statutory scheme created by the Florida legislature” for choosing electors, so the recount should be shut down and the state's certification of the election for Bush, by just 537 votes, should be upheld.
Kennedy wrote to Rehnquist on December 11 to say
“Sandra’s memorandum sets forth a very sound approach” and said he wanted to build on it. He suggested he would point up how the varying recount practices breached the guarantee of equal protection.
Up to that point, CNN says, Rehnquist seems to have been planning to collaborate with Kennedy on a "composite opinion" that would include both the equal protection argument and Rehnquist's pet theory that the Constitution allows state legislatures to decide how to award electors without any interference from state courts, and regardless of how people actually voted, which is every bit as bizarre as it sounds. Once it became clear Kennedy wouldn't join him on that train to Crazyville, Rehnquist rewrote his own draft as a concurring opinion that was joined only by Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.
CNN notes that Kennedy
had foreshadowed his reluctance to accept that theory during the Bush v. Gore oral arguments. “It seems to me essential to the republican theory of government that the constitutions of the United States and the states are the basic charter, and to say that the legislature of the state is unmoored from its own constitution, and it can’t use its court … (is) it seems to me a holding which has grave implications for our republican theory of government.”
But then, 20 years later, it sure looked to a lot of Trump supporters like a terrific way to keep him in office while claiming that the actual election results in several Republican-controlled states won by Joe Biden were simply too unknowable to rely on, so it would be best if the legislators simply stepped in to save the election from the voters. Guess we know where the brain-eating worms from Neptune ended up!
We also learn that Antonin Scalia was really pissed off that the four dissenting Democratic appointees had each submitted their own dissents saying that the Court's decision would undermine its legitimacy, presumably because that idea wouldn't occur to anyone if the justices in the minority had simply stayed quiet.
“Going home after a long day,” Scalia wrote to fellow justices when it was all over on December 12, “I cannot help but observe that those of my colleagues who were protesting so vigorously that the Court’s judgment today will do it irreparable harm have spared no pains – in a veritable blizzard of separate dissents – to assist that result. Even to the point of footnote 4 in Ruth’s offering (I call it the Al Sharpton footnote), alleging on the basis of press reports ‘obstacles to voting disproportionately encountered by black voters.’”
Oh, and big surprise, Scalia comes across as a big ol' racist, too! Ruth, why are you sounding like that awful man Al Sharpton? Scalia wasn't finished tut-tutting, though:
“I am the last person to complain that dissents should not be thorough and hard-hitting (though it would be nice to have them somewhat consolidated). But before vigorously dissenting (or, come to think of it, at any other time) I have never urged the majority of my colleagues to alter their honest view of the case because of the potential ‘damage to the Court.’ I just thought I would observe the incongruity. Good night.” He signed it, “Sincerely, Nino.”
Kennedy similarly sent a memo around to let his liberal colleagues know just how disappointed he was, not personally, no, but just for what they had done to the Court by badmouthing the very nonpartisan decision to hand the election to the Republican:
“I do not usually respond to dissenting opinions, and will not do so for the per curiam in this case. I take the occasion in this memo, however, to say that the tone of the dissents is disturbing both on an institutional and personal level. I have agonized over this and made my best judgment. Some of the dissenters in fact agree on the equal protection point, but take great pains to conceal that agreement. The dissents, permit me to say, in effect try to coerce the majority by trashing the Court themselves, thereby making their dire, and I think unjustified, predictions a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
What a sad state of affairs! And here we are, all these years later, with Democrats once more trying to undermine the legitimacy of the Supreme Court after it very soberly and non-partisanly eliminated women's rights to bodily autonomy. How disappointed Antonin Scalia would be in all of you.
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He seems nice.
Federal prosecutors argued at a hearing yesterday that Massachusetts Air National Guard guy Jack Teixeira needs to stay in jail before his trial for allegedly leaking classified Pentagon documents. The 21-year-old walking security risk should be detained until trial because he gave up a ton of military secrets for the sake of impressing his gamer dork friends on Discord, the prosecutors said. Teixeira also regularly talked about his desire to equip a minivan or SUV as an "assassination van" and to "kill a [expletive] ton of people," for the lulz we guess. The DOJ detention memo did not specify whether that was a shit ton of people or a fuck ton of people, nor whether, if it were the latter, he meant a metric or standard fuck ton.
Magistrate Judge David Hennessy didn't make an immediate decision yesterday on whether Teixeira will be kept in jail before trial, or to grant his attorneys' request that he be allowed to stay under supervision at his father's home, because he's a good boy who would definitely stay off the internet and there's no chance he'd flee.
The feds' court filing detailed Teixeira's murderous fantasies, as well as the trove of weapons he'd collected, and argued that he's too much of a flight risk to let out of jail, particularly since he might still have classified information that hasn't yet made it to public view. That information, the government argued, could be of "tremendous value to hostile nation states that could offer him safe harbor and attempt to facilitate his escape from the United States."
We can see that the government wouldn't want to risk that, even if it would settle online arguments about whether Thor could beat the Russian military in Ukraine alone, or if he'd need help from Doctor Strange or Captain America. (Iron Man or Captain Marvel would be too over-powered to make the argument worth even having.)
The feds show that Teixeira has a long history of talking about killing and shit, going back to an incident in high school (in March 2018, which was like last Tuesday for most of us) that led to his suspension after
a classmate overheard him make remarks about weapons, including Molotov cocktails, guns at the school, and racial threats. In the pretrial services interview, the Defendant attributed those remarks to a reference to a video game.
Call us skeptical, since we're pretty sure that "guns at the school and racial threats" aren't part of any video games, unless maybe Teixeira had downloaded the special School Shooter Expansion Pack. That incident also kept Teixeira from being approved for a firearms ID card, since 1) local police knew about it and 2) Massachusetts actually has sane firearms laws.
But the boy really wanted guns, and was eventually able to buy a small arsenal after getting his application approved, in part because he "cited his position of trust in the United States government as a reason he could be trusted to possess a firearm." Who says government lawyers don't have a sense of irony?
When Teixeira was arrested, FBI agents found a gun locker in his bedroom containing "multiple weapons, including handguns, bolt-action rifles, shotguns, an AK-style high-capacity weapon, and a gas mask." Elsewhere in his room, agents found ammunition, "tactical pouches," and what seems to be a silencer, which would be illegal unless he had a license.
And then there's the jolly social media posts where he talked up all the murder he wanted to do:
The Defendant’s statements included the following:
• In November 2022, the Defendant stated that if he had his way, he would “kill a [expletive] ton of people” because it would be “culling the weak minded.”
• In February 2023, the Defendant told a user that he was tempted to make a specific type of minivan into an “assassination van.”
• Also in February 2023, the Defendant sought advice from another user about what type of rifle would be easy to operate from the back of an SUV. He describes how he would conduct the shooting in a “crowded urban or suburban environment.”
• In March 2023, the Defendant described SUVs and crossovers as “mobile gun trucks” and “[o]ff-road and good assassination vehicles.”
OK but who among us hasn't occasionally told all our online buds that we need to cull the weak by going full DC sniper? Oh, all of us?
The filing also noted that Teixeira had taken some very half-assed steps to try to cover his tracks, since tampering with witnesses and destroying evidence are among the criteria that can be used to order detention until trial. He deleted the Discord server where he had shared the classified documents, told friends to "delete all messages" and "If anyone comes looking, don’t tell them shit," and gotten a new phone number and email address.
Teixeira also smashed up a tablet, a laptop, and his Xbox — although he may not be a super spy, since the FBI found the devices in a dumpster at his parents' house, where he lived.
At yesterday's hearing, the AP reports, Judge Hennessey
expressed skepticism of defense arguments that the government hasn’t alleged Teixeira intended leaked information to be widely disseminated.
“Somebody under the age of 30 has no idea that when they put something on the internet that it could end up anywhere in this world?” the judge asked. “Seriously?”
We can only assume that Teixeira's defense in the case will be that he's simply too fucking stupid to have been a threat to national security.
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Sen. Mike Lee wants to make it so you can sue people for stating true facts.
It’s a big week for defamation cases — and threats!
In the wake of Dominion settling its incredibly valid defamation lawsuit against Fox News for $787 million, it’s important to remember that most defamation cases are stupid bullshit that waste the time of our courts and taxpayer money, all in an effort to stop other people from criticizing the rich and powerful.
But remember we shall, thanks to three Republicans who couldn’t help but make fools of themselves in order to aid us all in our continuing civic education. In Texas, secessionists have filed a defamation lawsuit arguing that it’s illegal to call seceding from the union “seditious treason.” In Florida, a state legislator is threatening to sue her constituents for defamation for stating true facts to her face. And in Utah and/or DC, Senator Mike Lee continues to make us all wonder if he did, in fact, actually go to law school. (Maybe he attended with George Santos?)
So let’s dig in!
Let’s start in Texas
Jeff Leach is a Republican member of the Texas House of Representatives. He’s, well, pretty terrible on most issues. He doesn’t think women are full citizens and supports total abortion bans. He opposes gun regulation, wants a constitutional amendment to ban state income tax, and supported SB 1, a voter disenfranchisement bill Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed last year.
However, unlike many other members of his party, Representative Leach does not actually support sedition and treason against the United States.
Texas always has some crazies talking about seceding from the union. And for extra special fun, those crazies include several Republican members of the state Legislature! Last month, these anti-America enthusiasts introduced HB 3596, which they call the “TEXIT Referendum Act.” In effect, the TEXIT bill would trigger a statewide vote on whether or not Texans want to engage in Civil War 2.0. (And not for nothing, the author of HB 3596 was none other than Representative Bryan Slaton, whose other key issues include calling drag queens groomers and taking rights away from women … and who has recently been credibly accused of sexual misconduct for preying on a young Capitol intern who is “under the age of 21.”
In fact, he's been so credibly accused that last night he resigned!)[Due to an editing mistake by me, the Editrix, we incorrectly said Slaton had resigned. In fact, that was an entirely different Tennessee Republican member of the House who resigned after serial grotesque sexual harassment of House interns. You can understand our mistake. No apologies to Bryan Slaton.]
To his credit, Leach was … not a fan of the TEXIT proposal.
\u201cThis same State Representative - who here is violating his very oath of office - will proudly pledge allegiance to the American flag every day when we commence #txlege session. \n\nThis ridiculous bill is the very definition of hypocritical & seditious treason & it is already dead.\u201d— Jeff Leach (@Jeff Leach) 1678133319
So far, Leach has been right and the TEXIT bill has not moved since being assigned to committee.
But now, we get to the good part.
Wednesday, while he was chairing a House Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence Committee hearing, Leach was served with a truly ridiculous defamation lawsuit about … his tweets.
\u201cLooks like the man who served @leachfortexas with the lawsuit this morning signed up to testify on a bill - misrepresenting what he was there to do - then served Leach with the legal paperwork #TxLege\u201d— Scott Braddock (@Scott Braddock) 1681916024
The person suing Leach is Morgan McComb, a constituent with a very sane Twitter feed who fancies herself a “Republican activist.” She describes herself in her bio as “A TRUE Conservative TX Grassroots Leader, Mom & Patriot Community RE-Organizer. Rescues horses. God Guns Guts and Glory!” so you just know she’s on the level. McComb is also currently under felony indictment for violating Texas’s online impersonation statute. In 2020, she allegedly used “the name and photo of a rival Republican campaign operative in Frisco” and “used the account to publish the other campaigner’s records from family court, psychological and counseling records, and a criminal court record.” She seems nice!
So McComb is, umm, an interesting character. But when you come across a case this bad, you also have to consider the lawyer. McComb’s lawyer in this truly ridiculous case is Frisco-based Paul Davis. Davis is a supergenius who posted a video of himself outside the Capitol at the January 6 insurrection and still thinks he did nothing wrong. Since losing his old lawyer job for, you know, participating in a coup attempt, McComb has decided to make a name for himself by filing the worst lawsuits he can think of and branding himself a “lawyer for patriots.” He also has the dubious achievement of filing perhaps the most bogus of all the anti-democracy suits after the 2020 election, arguing the entire 117th Congress was “illegitimately elected.” (Here’s that complaint. It’s a doozy.)
The suit is being funded by the “Texas Nationalist Movement,” a group of people who are exactly who you think they are. TNM has apparently been excitedly hoping for an opportunity to file exactly this ridiculous lawsuit for a while now, with a blog on its site from July 2022 titled “Should TEXIT Supporters Sue Opposers Who Accuse Us of Treason?”
The suit against Leach for all the libelslander is pretty much what you would expect from all of these brilliant minds.
To the Complaint!
Although McComb whines about several of Leach’s tweets in the complaint, there is only one where he addresses her directly.
\u201cIf you believe that Texas should secede from the United States of American# - then yes. Unequivocally yes.\u201d— Jeff Leach (@Jeff Leach) 1678153838
According to McComb, this defames both her and … the Texas secessionist movement?
“In fact, one obstacle to the movement for Texas independence is that many people mistakenly believe that it literally is sedition or treason to advocate for Texas independence.”
According to the complaint, Leach’s tweet is defamation per se, because “Neither McComb’s support for the TEXIT Bill nor a belief that “Texas should secede from the United States” fit the definition of treason or sedition under the United States Code or any other applicable law.”
Adorably, taking a close look at the complaint itself shows just how meritless it is. The case the suit cites for support is Lilith Fund for Reproductive Equity v. Dickinson, where the Texas Supreme Court just ruled … that it was not defamatory for a forced birth proponent to call abortion rights activists "murderers."
We hold that the challenged statements are protected opinion about abortion law made in pursuit of changing that law, placing them at the heart of protected speech under the United States and Texas Constitutions. Such opinions are constitutionally protected even when the speaker applies them to specific advocacy groups that support abortion rights. In our state and nation, an advocate is free “to speak, write or publish his opinions on any subject,” perhaps most especially on controversial subjects like legalized abortion.
To most people with a modicum of logical reasoning, it would be pretty obvious that this case does not, in fact, support a finding of defamation here. But, according to the complaint,
Leach’s statements can be distinguished from the statements at issue in the Dickson case because a reasonably intelligent member of the public is not equipped with the same general understanding and awareness that supporting Texas independence is not sedition or treason as compared to the general understanding that abortion is not legally defined to be murder.
In fact, one obstacle to the movement for Texas independence is that many people mistakenly believe that it literally is sedition or treason to advocate for Texas independence. Thus, the holding the Texas Supreme Court reversing the Dallas Court of Appeals holding in Dickson does not apply to the facts of this case. Therefore, under the reasoning of the Dickson precedent, Leach’s statement is actionable defamation.
No, I don’t have any ungodly idea what that is supposed to mean. And at no other point does the complaint attempt to explain why it’s constitutionally protected speech to call someone a murderer but not a traitor. Or, for that matter, how McComb and her buddies plan on seceding from the union without committing treason or sedition. Since in our history, seceding from the union tends to be an act of war, and therefore, you know, seditious treason.
But let’s not let facts get in the way of a good story!
Meanwhile, in Florida …
Earlier this week, Florida state Senator Ileana Garcia voted for SB 1718, a bill that would make it a felony for anyone in Florida to associate with an undocumented person. While a group of Floridians talked to Garcia about her vote, Thomas Kennedy, an immigrant and political activist, called her “illegitimate” and stated that she won her election because of “a ghost candidate.”
Guess what? It’s true! Alex Rodriguez, the ghost candidate in question, pleaded guilty to taking bribes in the election fraud scheme that helped elect Garcia. He was recruited by Frank Artiles, a former Florida state senator, who paid Rodriguez to change his party affiliation from Republican to independent and put his name on the ballot.
The reason? The incumbent Democrat in the district in question also had the last name Rodriguez. In the end, Rodriguez the ghost candidate, who did not campaign at all, received 6,382 votes. Garcia won her senate seat by 32 votes.
So, naturally, Senator Garcia’s response to a constituent pointing out this inconvenient truth was to threaten to sue him.
\u201cWhen discussing an anti-immigrant bill with GOP State Senator Ileana Garcia, she said I didn\u2019t have \u201cvalidity.\u201d I said she\u2019s elected because FPL funded a spoiler candidate in an election fraud scheme. She threatened to sue & brought up a bill making it easier to sue journalists.\u201d— Thomas Kennedy (@Thomas Kennedy) 1681917536
Kennedy: You have no validity. You won because of voter fraud.You’re illegitimate.
Garcia: llegitimate how, Thomas?
Kennedy: You won because of a ghost candidate funded by [Florida Power & Light].
Garcia: Put him on video saying that.
Kennedy (to Garcia staffer videotaping the exchange): You won because of a ghost candidate funded by FPL.
Garcia: If I sued you tomorrow for that comment, would you be up for that?
Kennedy: Sue me. Sue me. Sue me for defamation.
Garcia: It’s on record. It’s on record. It’s on record. We got a good defamation bill coming up. We got a good defamation bill coming. What’s coming up now, what’s coming up now is the validity of a couple of other things that are going on.
The bill Garcia is referring to here is SB 1220/HB 991, an anti-free speech proposal designed to stop people from criticizing Ron DeSantis and other Republicans. And in particular, it says that you don’t even have to prove you suffered any harm or damages if the defamation suit is about the fact that someone called you a racist, sexist, homophobe, or transphobe.
Yes, really. It is actually that bad. The bill has been condemned far and wide as an attack on free speech — which it absolutely is. In particular, it is intended to scare oppressed people into being afraid to publicly stand up for themselves. Make no mistake, SB 1220 is a fascist bill that is designed to silence critics and further oppress groups of people the state has already historically sought to disenfranchise.
It’s also incredibly unconstitutional, but the Roberts Court has given fascists every reason to think that they will do the bidding of their fellow Republicans, precedent and rule of law be damned.
Once again, for the cheap seats in the back: TRUE STATEMENTS ARE, CATEGORICALLY, NOT DEFAMATORY. But Garcia’s immediate jump to legal threats tells you exactly where she stands: She will use the legal system to silence her critics, even if she has to change the law to do it.
So that’s fun …
I always enjoy mocking this particular version of stupid bullshit. For whatever reason, it seems to be my sweet spot (luv u, Bob Murray, Diamond & Silk, and my buddies Monty and Steve). And while I do appreciate the entertainment, these kinds of lawsuits and threats are actually a huge problem in our legal system.
Because this isn’t just about one or two hilariously batshit cases. Using completely meritless lawsuits to try to shut up people who disagree with you is now a common tactic of politicians, the mega-rich, and other powerful people. From Donald Trump and Devin Nunes to Don Blankenship and Bob Murray, abusing the legal system to stifle free speech has become an everyday.
\u201cMake no mistake: this is defamation. The media gets away with it only because Justice Thomas is a public figure, and under a Supreme Court ruling from 1964, public figures have essentially no recourse when they\u2019re defamed by the media.\u201d— Mike Lee (@Mike Lee) 1681874510
Lee also showed his ass in this tweet (not literally, thank god). In addition to being just entirely wrong about the definition of defamation, the freedom-loving senator also made it a point to criticize New York Times v. Sullivan, the case that made it harder for public figures to sue people for being mean to them. For years, far-right looney toons like Lee and Donald Trump have been openly saying they want to be able to use the legal system to attack people for criticizing them. Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch have already written that they want to overturn Sullivan, because powerful men should be able to do whatever they want.
Now, it looks like Lee is even saying we should change the definition of defamation to include true facts. That is, emphatically, not a thing, but with this Supreme Court, who the fuck knows.
The American legal system is already set up to work for the rich and only the rich. Even when a lawsuit is entirely meritless, the people defending a defamation, libel, or slander lawsuit usually have to pay their own attorneys’ fees — and even if you get a lawsuit dismissed at an early stage, several hundred dollars an hour adds up quickly.
These kinds of lawsuits and threats also pose the danger of simply stifling critical speech before it is uttered. Most of the time, scaring people into silence is the entire point of suing in the first place. Small local news outlets, independent journalists, activists, and everyday citizens alike must be free to criticize public officials and public policy decisions.
Speaking truth to power is exactly the kind of thing the American legal system should protect, not punish.
As the Supreme Court held in Sullivan, the United States has
“a profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials."
Free speech is something Americans should be proud of and fiercely protect. Even people we don't like have the constitutional right to be assholes. Like Mike Lee!
[ Complaint ]