They're Saying the Quiet Part Out Loud in the Trial of Ahmaud Arbery's Assailants Down in Georgia

·7-min read
Photo credit: Elijah Nouvelage - Getty Images
Photo credit: Elijah Nouvelage - Getty Images

(Permanent Musical Accompaniment To This Post)

Being our semi-regular weekly survey of what’s goin’ down in the several states where, as we know, the real work of governmentin’ gets done, and where the sun is going down on the sacred cow.

We begin in Michigan, where Attorney General Dana Nessel has copped to what is now called “Tailgate-gate,” which ought to doom that particular suffix forever. From the Detroit News:

Nessel posted the message on Facebook, saying she had consumed drinks, including two Bloody Marys, at a tailgate gathering and then started to feel ill during the game. "I laid low for a while, but my friends recommended that I leave so as to prevent me from vomiting on any of my constituents (polling consistently shows 'Roman showers' to be unpopular among most demographics)," the Democratic attorney general wrote on Facebook.

"I had a few folks help me up the stairs and someone grabbed a wheelchair so as to prevent me from stumbling in the parking lot," Nessel added. "Like all smart people attending festivities where drinking occurs, I had a designated driver. I went home, fell asleep on the couch, and my wife threw some blankets on me and provided me with some water and Tylenol for what she knew would be a skull-crushing hangover the next day.”

“Roman showers” is a new one on me. Possibly, I’m not as hip as I thought I was.

Photo credit: Bill Pugliano - Getty Images
Photo credit: Bill Pugliano - Getty Images

Meanwhile, in more serious business, down in Georgia, a defense attorney for the three men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery for the crime of jogging in the wrong part of town has decided to say the quiet part so that it’s audible all the way into Pennsylvania.

The idea that we're going to be serially bringing these people in to sit with the victim's family, one after another -- obviously, there's only so many pastors they can have. And if their pastor's Al Sharpton right now, that's fine, but that's it. We don't want any more Black pastors coming in here. Jesse Jackson, or whoever was in here earlier this week, sitting with the victim's family trying to influence the jury in this case.

In almost the exact obverse of what’s going on in Judge Schroeder’s courtroom in Kenosha, Judge Timothy Walmsley, presiding over this trial, already had put the defense on warning about the defense attorney’s disrespect for his rulings. In that instance, the judge made the unusual move of stepping down from the bench to admonish the defense attorney.

I would suggest that you take a moment to think about that. I'm gonna step off the bench because I found that -- I'll just call it rude. I have tolerated a number of things in the courtroom, including flip charts, writing in the middle of the -- the jury gets distracted when you were doing the flip charts here, jumping up, moving the boards. I would suggest that you temper some of that very quickly, because it will not be tolerated in this court, and I will leave it at that.

So Walmsley wasn’t about to allow the defense to blow this particular dogwhistle in his courtroom, and he slapped the defense’s motion into next Tuesday.

I can tell you this: I'm not going to start blanketly excluding members of the public from this courtroom.

Watching both trials at once is a dizzying experience, but that which is common to both of them is very depressing.

Photo credit: Pool - Getty Images
Photo credit: Pool - Getty Images

We move along up to North Carolina. The last time that the state screwed around with its voting laws, a federal judge concluded that it had targeted minority voters with “almost surgical precision.” Hah, said the state’s Republican legislature, as this year’s redistricting process began, we’ll show you surgical precision. From Vox:

In a state split nearly evenly between Republicans and Democrats — Trump won it in 2020 with 49.9 percent of the vote — the new map of districts for House elections would likely give the GOP at least 10 House seats out of 14 (71 percent). North Carolina law does not allow Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper to veto the maps, which means they will be used in 2022 unless courts intervene.

The Princeton Gerrymandering Project, an academic group that grades political maps based on a set of mathematical metrics of fairness, gave the North Carolina map an “F” for extreme partisan bias — marking it as one of the very worst proposals anywhere in the country. Two separate analyses, from a Duke University professor and the Campaign Legal Center, also found that the map was unusually tilted in the GOP’s direction.

“Ten years ago, North Carolina’s legislature drew an extremely gerrymandered congressional map. It was so gerrymandered that they were ordered to redraw it. Twice,” says Will Adler, an expert on gerrymandering at the Center for Democracy and Technology think tank. “This map appears to be at least as extreme as the ones drawn in the last cycle.”

In between these rounds of constitutionally required map-making, however, in 2019, the Supreme Court decided the case of Rucho v. Common Cause, in which the Court concluded that, while partisan gerrymandering was incompatible with democratic government, it raised political questions that were beyond the remit of the courts to adjudicate. This, obviously, gave a laurel-and-hearty handshake to any state legislature that wanted to draw its maps however it pleased. North Carolina, it seems, was happy to oblige.

Photo credit: Brandon Bell - Getty Images
Photo credit: Brandon Bell - Getty Images

We move along to Texas, whence all bad political ideas are born, and we find that Governor Greg Abbott is completely with the program of knuckling the public schools at every opportunity, and scaring the Velveeta out of parents who send their kids there. From the Texas Tribune:

Gov. Greg Abbott told the Texas Education Agency on Wednesday to investigate criminal activity related to "the availability of pornography" in public schools, saying that the agency should refer such instances "for prosecution to the fullest extent of the law.” It’s unclear why Abbott tasked the TEA to perform the investigation and not the state’s policing arm. The TEA does not employ law enforcement officers, according to state statute, and a spokesperson for the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement confirmed Wednesday that the education agency does not have any licensed peace officers.

It’s pretty clear to me. Greg Abbott has been the main midwife for all the bad political ideas birthed in Texas for nigh on a decade now. He has, in many ways, been the vanguard of bad ideas.

Abbott's request comes on the heels of other Texas Republicans taking aim at some books in public schools. State Rep. Matt Krause of Fort Worth, who is running for state attorney general, recently launched an inquiry into the types of books students can access in Texas schools, which included an 850-book list. The titles in the list range from children's books and anti-bullying tips to novels that discuss racism and sexuality.

What kind of a belligerent Neolithic omadhaun objects to an “anti-bullying” book? A guy who wants to succeed Ken Paxton as attorney general, I guess, and who got his law degree from Liberty University. A guy who sponsored the Texas House version of the draconian anti-choice statute currently before the U.S. Supreme Court. A guy who got on the anti-vax bandwagon in 2019, during a measles outbreak. Yeah, that kind of guy.

And we conclude, as is our custom, in the great state of Oklahoma, whence Blog Ceremonial First Cowpie Tosser Friedman of the Plains brings us another tale of Concerned Parents Who Have Concerns. From News6 in Tulsa:

The concerned parents say they've found a few dozen books in teacher's classrooms that don't fit their idea of Bristow's community standards and shouldn't be accessible to middle-schoolers. They say the books mention things like sex, rape, drug use, or use lots of curse words.

The parents say they should have a say in whether or not these books are available and want the district to create and enforce stricter standards. Superintendent Curtis Shelton says the district has standards in place and though these issues have been circulating social media for a while now, the board was just given the list of books in question Monday night.

I haven’t heard profanity called “curse words” since my grandmother passed. To Kill A Mockingbird, by the way, mentions rape.

This is your democracy, America. Cherish it.

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