Are we a nation of laws or men?
Years ago, I wrote a blog entry about inheritance scenarios. These were situations I had experienced firsthand, or things that happened to immediate friends of mine. I received an e-mail in response to that posting, from a young law student, who said, "I'm taking a class in Trusts and Estates, and the scenarios you mention could never happen because they are against the law!" This made me very sad - that someone could be a law student and be so naive.
But then again, as I always say, any idiot can be a lawyer and
I'm Rudy Giuliani is proof of that. Actually, I digress here, but it is an important point. So-called "experts" or "professionals" can be off their rockers. We've seen the parade of shitty and deranged lawyers in Trump's attempt to steal the election. We are seeing a parade of shitty and deranged doctors who claim the Corona Virus is a hoax. We've seen airline pilots lose their minds, after buying in to MLM schemes - and others, who have intentionally crashed planes, because they have "suicidal ideations" whatever that word means. Don't fall into the trap of expertise - experts can be wrong, or not even very expert. This goes triple for the world of finances, where anyone can anoint themselves as a financial guru, whether it is the Shouting Guy or the Sooze Orman - or just some shill hyping a stock for a pump-n-dump scheme. Same shit, different day. You do have to think for yourself, and consider "expert" advice with the same skepticism as non-expert advice.
Getting back to the law, there are myriad ways to break the law within the law - that is to say, you might not get caught or prosecuted for some crime, even if your victims and the police know your name and address. I mentioned invention brokers before - they ask for $5,000 to $20,000 to "evaluate, patent, and promote" your invention, and they do little other than tell you your invention is great, spend as little as possible getting a shitty worthless Patent and then just keeping the rest of the money. You could sue them, sure. But it would cost you more money to do that, and you might not win (after all, they fulfilled the terms of the contract, right?) and even if you did win, you would have a hard time collecting, as they would just re-open under a new corporate name.
Class-action suits sound like a way around this, but the lawyers end up with most of the money in those, and they aren't interested in suing some thinly-financed con-artist who may have underworld connections, whose attachable assets are maybe an office with some furniture and old computers, or even just a mail-drop address. Class-action attorneys want to sue big companies like GM or Coca-Cola, with large, attachable assets and fixed addresses.
If someone sticks a gun in your face and steals $5000 from you, and if you can identify them, the Police will arrest them, they will go to jail, and maybe you might even get some of your money back. Someone swindles you out of $5000 in a contract, well, that is a civil matter, and you have to hire a lawyer to sue them, and that lawyer will want more than $5000 just to get started. You see how this works, which is one reason I started this blog. If you sign a contact with someone and they don't perform, you may be out of luck, unless the amount involved is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, to make it worth suing. And even then, you might end up settling for pennies on the dollar. By the way, this is how our Grifter-in-Chief works - he sues or threatens to sue people, or is sued by the people he has ripped-off, and gets them to settle financial disputes in such a manner that he pays little, if anything. Your only defense is to not sign contracts with grifters.
So, as you can see, even "within" the law, you can get away with bloody murder - well, maybe not actual murder (although about 1/3 of the murders in this country are indeed, unsolved, and the number is rising). But those "illegal" scenarios are still within the scope of the legal system. Yes, technically, these might be illegal activities, but they are things our legal system simply can't handle, either because, in the case of contract disputes, they are difficult to adjudicate or too small to be worth litigating, or in criminal matters, difficult to detect and prosecute. Illegal shit goes on all the time, which is why indeed we have courts and lawyers and police.
In recent weeks, there have been a number of articles online about whether Trump can declare martial law and order a new election or anoint himself dictator-for-life. Most of these articles make noises about martial law and then conclude that legally, it isn't possible, usually by quoting an "expert constitutional lawyer" on the issue. And yet, historically, overseas - even in recent history - dictators have anointed themselves, usually with the help of the military, who then takes over the country and declares a perpetual state of emergency. We saw this in the past, we are seeing it, today, although usually this is in smaller, third-world countries, where it is much easier to consolidate power. It hasn't happened in larger countries - or has it?
I mean, after all, isn't Putin basically President-for-life at this point? There is a photo of the "G-8" summit on Sea Island, Georgia with all the world leaders, as shown above. That was more than a decade ago - all the world leaders in that photo are gone - except one. Lingering behind the crowd is old Putin, with a wry expression on his face, as if to say, "I will outlast all you bastards!"
And China - that basically is another country with a leader-for-life, isn't it? So really, if you get down to brass tacks, the number of countries that have freely elected leaders is probably in the minority. The military coup or the legal coup (as we are seeing in Poland) is really more than the rule (sorry, pun) than the exception.
In many, if not most cases, a substantial portion of the population goes along with this, if in fact, doesn't root for it. In many third world countries, people trust the military more than they do politicians. When lawlessness prevails, people will vote for "law and order" even if it means they lose their personal freedoms. And often, it only takes a small minority of people to push such putsches through.
The media has been treating Trump and his post-election circus as a joke, much as we treated Hitler as a joke, at first. Surely someone so buffoonish cannot survive on the political stage for long, right? But politics are not the milieu of such leaders - raw power, is. And so long as they have support of key players - the military, the police, and a large enough portion of the general population - and a substantial portion of the population "goes along" with it, or is unable to prevent it, well, they succeed.
In America today, we have a movement of people who believe a military takeover of the government would be a good thing. Some of these are "Qanon" conspiracy theory believers, others are just right-wing Republicans. People in the GOP, including the Trump administration (or recently pardoned former members thereof) and its orbits have "come out" with their belief that nothing short of a military coup is needed. Trump himself has pushed State legislatures and Governors to invalidate election results and hand him the election. If he can do that, well, what's to prevent him from invalidating elections where Democrats have won House and Senate seats? What's to prevent him from serving a third term? A fourth? Or forever?
"But that's against the law!" people say - like my young law student who argued that people stealing an inheritance from their siblings simply could not happen, but yet happens all the time. And so far, it seems a majority of people in the right places are following the law - Governors and State legislative leaders are rejecting these radical ideas of a takeover of the government. But not all are going along with the law. This disturbing article yesterday notes, off-hand, that:
The Democratic-controlled House and Republican-controlled Senate would both vote separately to resolve any disputes. One already has arisen from Pennsylvania, where 75 Republican lawmakers signed a statement on Friday urging Congress to block the state’s electoral votes from being cast for Biden. But the state’s Republican U.S. senator, Pat Toomey, said soon afterward that he would not be objecting to Pennsylvania’s slate of electors, underscoring the difficulty in trying to change the election results through Congress.
That 75 State lawmakers are petitioning to overturn an election should be screaming headlines across the nation, not a footnote to a victory-lap article for Biden. Meanwhile, here in Georgia, at a recent rally, a "Qanon" supporter urges Republicans to boycott the runoff election, until a "do over" election for Trump is held. The craziness is off the charts.
To many, Trump's challenge of the election results seems haphazard and lazy. He has raised $200M for his "election fraud" fund, and put 60% of that into his new PAC. $2M was actually spent on legal fees. Many on the Left are arguing that Trump's sideshow is just the final grift - a way to score some more dough on his way out the door. And perhaps this is true - everyone, it seems, has a legal defense fund these days, and often these are attorneys who are billing said same fund for their legal fees.
But there could be a method behind this madness. I would hope it wasn't so, but it is possible. We will know for sure in the next few weeks. The lawsuit sideshow was intentionally ridiculous, so they would lose all these suits, to give the pretext that "the legal system is broken" - as one of Trump's now-ex-attorneys (who is still suing to overturn the election, nevertheless) has claimed in her self-published memoir. If the legal system is "broken" then they can use this as a pretext for a military takeover of the government - right? It doesn't have to be true - anymore than the Reichstag fire was a justification for Hitler taking power.
And sadly, it seems this strategy is working. More and more people are wondering whether maybe there isn't something to all these wild claims. You make them often enough, and people will start to wonder - like with the "Birther" movement about President Obama. I tell you three times, it is true. I know people who I thought were rational, who said, "Well, you know, there are some questions that are unanswered! Where is his birth certificate, anyway?" These ridiculous lawsuits and allegations give politicians cover. Even those who profess that Biden won, will say, "Well, the President has the right to seek legal redress" - even as they know that bringing frivolous lawsuits, over and over again, is itself, against the law (but thanks to weak Rule-11 sanctions, still within the law, alas).
But Trump can't declare martial law - legal scholars say so! Well, there really is no such thing as a legal coup - that's the whole bloody point. What Trump would hope to do is get the military, along with State militias, plus private "militias" to back him in a takeover by force. Sounds far-fetched, but it has happened time and time again, all over the world, just not in this country, yet, presuming you don't count our first Civil War, which, when you think of it, was basically a coup.
Meanwhile, the left publishes articles arguing over whether this would be considered a "coup" or not, and what the dictionary definition of "coup" really means - I suspect they will have this resolved shortly before they are lined up before a firing squad. In recent days, right-wing publications, some of whom had admitted that Biden had won, are now waffling a bit, and giving credence to Trump's wild claims of election fraud (one of which was shown to be based on a "satire" website).
But surely, the men and women in the Pentagon won't go along with this, right? The rank-and-file officers and even enlisted men will refuse to obey orders to take over their hometowns or arrest or shoot their neighbors, right? Right?
Well, you have to hope so - that the men and women in the military will choose to follow the law, and not their Commander-in-Chief. There are two problems with this wishful thinking. First of all, the military has been "infiltrated" if you will, over the last couple of decades, by an increasing number of fundamentalist Christians, right-wing nutjobs, and racists and white supremacists. You recall recently an Air Force Sargent was arraigned for shooting and killing policemen because he wanted to start a race war, a la Charles Manson. This is not to say that everyone in the military is that radical, only that a lot of windup soldiers out there are actually soldiers.
But even among "ordinary" folks in the Military, the political spread skews heavily to the right. Trump decried mail-in ballots and absentee voting, but of course wanted to make sure that overseas military ballots were cast - they tend to favor Republicans, historically. So there is the possibility that many in the military, even if not rabid Trump-supporters, might just "go along" with things, particularly of the orders are coming down from the top. Military training is designed to get people to not think and to obey orders The Sarge tells you to march into withering machine-gun fire, and you do it, without thinking or rationalizing. We can't have soldiers deciding what orders to obey and which not to obey.
(This is, sadly, why so many in the military end up being exploited, monetarily. Trained to follow orders and suckling at the teat of Uncle Sugar, they don't develop financial prowess. Many enlisted men fall victim to payday loan places and buy-here-pay-here used car lots. Even some officers get snookered, in retirement, being induced to cash in their retirement payments for lump-sum payouts).
But who would be giving these orders? That is the great unknown, and I don't think it is coincidental that Trump, right after the election, cleaned house at the Pentagon and installed a sheaf of new civilian leaders. Who the military leaders are, is another question, as well as who their loyalty is to - the Constitution or the President. Press reports are maddeningly vague. Government employees - even Patent Examiners - are required to take an oath to "defend the Constitution" and not the fearless leader. And yes, I had to take that oath when I worked for the government.
That is why, when Hitler took power, oaths were changed so that soldiers pledged a oath to Hitler himself - he became the law, the Constitution, the ultimate power. And no doubt Trump would like that same level of control - who wouldn't? If he could persuade the right people in the right places to help him declare an illegal "marital law" he could get away with this - and likely trigger a second Civil War. But sadly, many on the left are ill-equipped to deal with such a scenario, while those on the right have been steadily arming themselves for well over a decade now - often with dozens of weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition. There are enough guns an ammunition in private hands in the USA to start and maintain a civil war for years, at this point.
If that happens, good luck. Where are you going to go? Canada? Sorry, the border is closed. Besides, I am sure the first thing Trump would do is make it impossible to take your money out of the country - already it is hard to do this, due to concerns about "funding terrorists". Whenever I tried to pay my overseas attorneys, in terrorist hotspots like Japan and Sweden, my wire transfers were scrutinized as though I was some sort of Al -Qaeda affiliate. You can only imagine how the same laws could be used in a Trump takeover scenario.
So what it gets down to is this - we have to rely on people in positions of power to do the right thing. Our secretary of State here in Georgia, as well as our Governor - both excoriated in 2018 by Stacey Abrams, who claimed they were "suppressing the black vote." Well, it is 2020, and the tables are turned - it is now Trump himself who has castigated our Governor and Secretary of State as "traitors" and members of the "Deep State" - along with anyone else who dares question the outcome of the election.
Sadly, this does not include, yet, most of the Republicans in the House and Senate, including the leaders of the House and Senate Republicans. Only those with nothing-left-to-lose or who have historically denounced Trump, have come out to say the truth - that the election was free and fair, and any attempt to overthrow it is nothing short of treasonous.
Could this happen? Like I said, we'll find out in the next few weeks. Once the electoral college meets (presuming this occurs without incident, such as two slates of electors showing up) on December 14th and Congress ratifies the results on January 6th, it will be up to Trump to either concede or attempt to make his move.
Whether he could succeed with such a scheme, however, depends not on laws, but the men (and women) who enforce those laws and obey those laws. Saying a coup is "illegal" and thus could not happen, is just nonsense. I feel like the mainstream media is whistling in the dark with its ridicule of Trump lawsuits and its constant re-iteration that Biden won the election (which he did, fair and square). All the late-night talk-show political comedians and SNL sketches won't win the day, if Trump decides to go off-the-leash.
We have to trust our institutions - and the people who run them. We are a nation of men, not just laws. But the men and women who run these institutions, need to follow the law. Sadly, if enough of the wrong people choose not to follow the law...... it pains me to think of it.
UPDATE: For those thinking of illegally declaring martial law and taking over the United States by force, it is important to think about the Treason Statute and the possible penalties:
Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.
So, Donald, Rudy, et al., you'd better get your ducks in a row on this one, because if you get it wrong, it could be a fatal error.