It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over

Georgia On Everyone’s Mind

It’s finally here. Election day in Georgia! As a Georgia resident, I am so glad this is about the end. No more text messages, phone calls, political ads, and mailers. But on a more serious note, everyone is watching these races because they will determine control of the Senate and thus the strategies the Biden administration will have to use to get things done. If you are in Georgia, I hope you voted, if not the polls close at 7pm tonight. Get there. There has been record turnout for a primary, with more than 3 million Georgians having already voted. 

Follow the money: Democrats have poured money into the Georgia Senate races to the tune of  $210 million in two months, which is $78 million more than Republicans. Whew! That’s impressive. Between the candidates, party committees, and outside groups there has been  $452 million spent on television, radio, and digital ads. On television, however, Republicans are outpacing Democrats because of big spending groups like American Crossroads, the Senate Leadership Fund, and Peachtree PAC, all of which have close ties to Mitch McConnell.

Quick History Moment: The runoff rules we follow today were developed during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. Prior to these rules, Georgia had a county unit system to determine the winner of the primary, meaning that votes were allotted by county population. Because Georgia has 159 counties, this allowed small counties with fewer residents to control the outcome of elections. Thus restricting Black votes because it favored the majority white rural communities. In 1963, however, the Supreme Court said that the system violated the Equal Protection Clause. Then Georgia had to count one person, one vote. The fear was that this could make it easier for Black candidates to win. White politicians believed that Black people would vote as a block and the white votes would be split among the candidates. State Rep. Denmark Groover had a solution. He proposed that election winners had to have over 50% of the vote. This succeeded in allowing white voters, who supported different candidates, to then throw all their support behind the white candidates in the runoffs, blocking black candidates. And that has been the rule since. This rule was presented as a way to “prevent the Negro bloc vote from controlling the elections.” 

Other states with this rule in some form are: Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, and Washington.

Tomorrow is Another Day

Once the Georgia elections are done, we have to contend with the certification of the electoral college votes. More than 12 current and upcoming Republican Senators have vowed to oppose the electoral college results. This group includes Senators Ted Cruz (TX), Marsha Blackburn (TN), Josh Hawley (MO), and Ron Johnson (WI). Johnson said “We’re not acting to thwart the democratic process. We’re acting to protect it. The fact of the matter is we have an unsustainable state of affairs in this country where we have tens of millions of people who do not view this election result as legitimate.” Could that be because you keep telling them it was not legitimate? Duh! Johnson also said that after Trump won in  2016, some Democrats said he was not legitimate. So what? They did not file more than 60 lawsuits, sign amicus briefs to those lawsuits, and try to obstruct him taking office. Get real. This is obviously an attempt to “thwart the democratic process” because you don’t like the results. 

Last weekend, judges dismissed a last ditch effort by Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas and a group of Trump supporters from Arizona to overturn election results. This lawsuit alleged that Vice President Pence has the power to accept or reject the Electoral College results from individual states. Because he announces the results of each state they wanted him to have the power to reject a state’s electoral college votes. He cannot do that. 

At any rate, there are more House objectors but they will need at least one senator to sign their written protests before they can force a debate and vote. In the end, this will not change the election results, it is, however, enough pomp and circumstance to rile up Trump supporters.

Remember WikiLeaks?

This week a British judge rejected a U.S. request to extradite Julian Assange. The Judge said that Assange would be at severe risk of suicide if sent to isolation in a U.S. prison to await trial. Assange is the founder of WikiLeaks, who published classified documents about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The U.S. lawyer plans to appeal this decision at the High Court in London. In the Judge’s ruling, she said that Assange has already “toyed” with suicide and that being held in the U.S. prison system would exacerbate the risk. The court heard evidence from doctors who diagnosed Assange with depression and autism. “Under British extradition law, as well as European human-rights law that the U.K. is party to, a judge can block extradition on health grounds if it would result in unjust or oppressive treatment.”

Mexico has stepped up for Assange. Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said he would ask the U.K. government about freeing Assange, and Mexico would offer him asylum. He said the U.K denying extradition was justice because Assange is a journalist. 

Google: How to deal with a union

A group of Google workers plan to unionize with the Communications Workers of America (CWA). The Alphabet Workers Union is open to all employees and contractors at Google’s parent company. They said the goal is to tackle issues like pay disparity, retaliation, and controversial government contracts. One government project that caused issues was Project Maven, an AI initiative to improve targeted drone strikes. Many Google workers had an issue with this saying it was unethical. Google did not renew its contract with the Pentagon in 2018 after these objections. The Alphabet Workers Union is not seeking collective bargaining rights, but will represent employees who voluntarily join. 

This union can hopefully prevent incidents like the firing of AI ethicist Timnit Gebru in December and the illegal firing of 2 workers for organizing employee protests. 

“The firing [of Gebru] has caused outrage from thousands of us, including Black and Brown workers who are heartbroken by the company’s actions and unsure of their future at Google.”

The Alphabet Workers Union press release announcing the union.

VID/VAC Update

United Kingdom: PM Boris Johnson said shut it down. He instituted a nationwide lockdown until at least mid-February because the more contagious strain of COVID-19 is spreading quickly and overwhelming hospitals. As of Monday, all schools and nonessential shops are closed and people were told to only leave their homes if necessary. This makes the third national lockdown.

New York: The state now has a confirmed case of the new COVID-19 strain. They join Colorado, California and Florida.

Wisconsin: The pharmacist arrested for destroying over 500 doses of the vaccine was a conspiracy theorist who believed the vaccine would harm people and change their DNA. 

North Korea: Well, Well, Well, look who wants help. North Korea has submitted an application to receive vaccines from the global alliance that is helping lower-income countries. North Korea has reached out to several European embassies, inquiring how the country might obtain Covid-19 vaccines. This is strange, since the country claims to have zero cases of COVID-19.