Justice for the QAnon Shaman

Plus: Biden's radically problematic pick

It is, as you might expect, far more in sorrow than in anger that I find myself in disagreement with my friend Tim Miller over the sentencing of the Insurrectionist Shaman.

You can read Tim’s piece here, where he makes the case that “41 Months of Jail for the Qanon Shaman Isn’t Justice.” He begins with three trenchant assertions:

(1) Our justice system shouldn’t be handing down especially harsh penalties to people because they are wearing ridiculous costumes.

(2) The prison-industrial complex is a menace, conditions in our penitentiaries are horrific, and sentencing guidelines that require minimum stays for nonviolent criminals are both imprudent and inhumane.

(3) A man who attends a Donald Trump speech on the Mall wearing facepaint, horns, and a ushanka made from wolf’s fur is not an enemy of democracy. He’s a mentally unstable pawn who is being manipulated by evil and power hungry men.

On that very last point, Tim is absolutely right: Like so many others, the shaman, — whose name is actually Jacob Chansley — was “manipulated by evil and power hungry men” who need to be held accountable. ICYMI: His lawyer had a pointed message to the TFG. If he had a chance to speak to Donald Trump, attorney Albert Watkins said, “I’d tell him, ‘You know what? You’ve got a few f------ things to do. Including clearing this f------ mess up and taking care of a lot of the jackasses that you f----- up because of January 6.’”

As to Tim’s other points: I beg to differ.

Tim writes that “A man who attends a Donald Trump speech on the Mall wearing facepaint, horns, and a ushanka made from wolf’s fur is not an enemy of democracy.”

But Chansley did not merely attend a rally. He invaded the Capitol along with thousands of others who sought to overthrow a presidential election. Lives were lost, dozens were injured, the life of the vice president was threatened. If this does not make him an enemy of democracy, what would?

Let’s start with a review of what Chansley actually did.

“Armed with a six-foot long spear, the defendant brazenly marched past dozens of law enforcement officers, with rioters throwing debris of all kind at those who opposed them, past broken windows and through doors ringing with alarm bells,” federal prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo. “The defendant was among the first 30 rioters to penetrate the U.S. Capitol building. The defendant then stalked the hallowed halls of the building, riling up other members of the mob with his screaming obscenities about our nation’s lawmakers, and flouting the ‘opportunity’ to rid our government of those he has long considered to be traitors.”

Once in the Senate chambers, Chansley yelled, “time’s up motherfuckers” as other rioters went through senators’ desks. He made his way to the senate dais “where he posed for photos, flexed his muscles, and held a spear with an American flag, shouting, ‘Where’s Pence? Show yourself!’”

As other rioters in the Capitol chanted “Hang Mike Pence,” the shaman left a letter on the desk that been occupied by Pence, which read, “It’s only a matter of time. Justice is coming.”

Afterward, he told reporters: “We won by sending a message to the senators and the congressmen, we won by sending a message to [Vice President Mike] Pence, OK, that… if they don’t uphold the Constitution, then we will remove them from office one way or another.”

“I don’t see Biden ever getting in office,” he said. “One way or another, Biden will not be the president.”

Tim objects that Chansley seems to have been singled out because he was so… photogenic. He writes:

The justice system is supposed to be blind, not drop the hammer on the guy whose outfit got the most TV coverage. According to this logic, if Chansley had just worn a camo jacket and a MAGA hat like all the other idiots, the prosecutors would have sought a lesser sentence. You’re supposed to be sentenced according to your crimes, not your wardrobe.

Fair point. But there is no insurrection cosplay loophole. Perhaps it was unfair that he became “the public face of the Capitol riot,” but dressing up in “facepaint, horns and a ushanka” is not a mitigating circumstance when you carry a spear into the Capitol in an attempt to overthrow the government.

As for Chanley’s non-violence:

“‘Time’s up, motherfuckers’ is not peaceful, your honor,” [Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly] Paschall said, referencing what Chansley yelled in the Senate chamber. “That’s chilling.” She noted the letter Chansley left on Vice President Mike Pence’s desk ― which said, “It’s only a matter of time. Justice is coming.” ― was “not peaceful.” She called the note “a threat.”

Which brings us to the “harsh” sentence:

“The world watched the actions of this defendant and others on January 6, 2021 shake one of the foundations of our democracy ― the peaceful transfer of power after free and fair elections ― and has made us all question the safety and security of the country in which we live,” [argued the DOJ]. “Those enormous harms, borne out of the acts of this defendant, must be deterred so that we never see a similar assault on our democracy again.”

In the end, Chansley actually received the minimum sentence under the sentencing guidelines. Even so, Tim objects to the prison sentence, writing that, “The prison-industrial complex is a menace, conditions in our penitentiaries are horrific, and sentencing guidelines that require minimum stays for nonviolent criminals are both imprudent and inhumane.”

The question of sentencing guidelines is a separate issue because it doesn’t apply exclusively or particularly to the shaman. But in re Tim’s point about the “horrific” prison system: He’s not going to Attica… it’s Club Fed for godsakes.

But there is a larger point. Perhaps it is unfair that Chansley became the “public-face” of the riot. But he was. And symbols matter. “He made himself the image of the riot, didn’t he?” Judge Lamberth said. “For good or bad, he made himself the very image of this whole event.”

So the sentence was designed to send a very clear message, which is what such sentences are supposed to do, especially if there is a possibility that the January 6 coup — or something very much like it — could happen again.

Prosecutors argued that it was “important to convey to future rioters and would-be mob participants ― especially those who intend to improperly influence the democratic process ― that their actions will have consequences.”

In other words, if the Insurrection posed an existential crisis to democracy, the courts should act like it. In this case, the court did.

Forty-one months for the QAnon shaman is exactly what justice looks like.

(ICYMI: Tim and I debated the issue on last night’s livestream, which you can find here.)

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McCarthy’s talkathon

Like so much of the GOP leader’s tenure, Kevin McCarthy’s all-night quasi-filibuster was “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

By the time you read this, BBB will likely have passed the House (or will shortly).


Deplorable and disastrous

Bear with me, because I suspect I’m going to make everyone mad.

(1) Yesterday, GOP senators behaved abominably to one of President Biden’s nominees.

All of this was beyond despicable. But (deep breath here)….

(2) That nominee —Saule Omarova — has proven to a be disastrous miscalculation by the Administration.

She is Biden’s pick to be the Comptroller of the Currency, which oversees about 1,200 banks with total assets of $14 trillion, roughly 2/3 two-thirds of the total banking system.

She has fantastic credentials. A native of Kazakhstan, Omarova is a Cornell Law School professor, worked with banks as a lawyer at Davis Polk & Wardwell, and was a policy adviser in the Treasury Department under George W. Bush.

She has also written a lot of stuff.

She attended Moscow State University, on a Lenin Personal Academic Scholarship. and wrote a thesis titled “Karl Marx’s Economic Analysis and the Theory of Revolution in Das Kapital.”

As National Review has noted: “One can see how this might be of interest to senators looking to evaluate Omarova for her fitness to serve in an important capacity in the United States government. Senator Pat Toomey has requested that Omarova turn over her thesis to the Senate Banking Committee. Omarova has not done so.”

But let’s leave that aside —as well as the smears of her ethnicity and educational background — because her more recent work is actually far more problematic. As the Wall Street Journal notes:

Ms. Omarova thinks asset prices, pay scales, capital and credit should be dictated by the federal government. In two papers, she has advocated expanding the Federal Reserve’s mandate to include the price levels of “systemically important financial assets” as well as worker wages. As they like to say at the modern university, from each according to her ability to each according to her needs…

In a recent paper “The People’s Ledger,” she proposed that the Federal Reserve take over consumer bank deposits, “effectively ‘end banking,’ as we know it”…. What could possibly go wrong?

Do not take the WSJ’s word for it.

Take a look at what Omarova herself has written. Just last year, her 71-page “The People’s Ledger,” offered what she called “a blueprint for a comprehensive restructuring of the central bank balance sheet as the basis for redesigning the core architecture of modern finance.”

Whatever you think of her policy ideas, it seems fair to say that they are quite radical… because she says so herself.

She describes her paper as outlining “a series of structural reforms that would radically redefine the role of a central bank as the ultimate public platform for generating, modulating, and allocating financial resources in a democratic economy—the People’s Ledger.”

Her paper “envisions the complete migration of demand deposit accounts to the Fed’s balance sheet and explores the full range of new, more direct and flexible, monetary policy tools enabled by this shift.”

But wait, there’s more. There have also been tweets, including this one:

And then there was this. Via the WSJ:

“A lot of the smaller players in that industry are going to, probably, go bankrupt in short order—at least, we want them to go bankrupt if we want to tackle climate change,” she said in the session that was part of the Jain Family Institute’s “Social Wealth Seminar” series….

But then she adds that the response would be to set up a National Capital Management Corporation that would “become a kind of equity investor at that point, taking over management of those companies and basically leading them through restructuring to a new technological basis and to a new technological business model.”

So first put private companies out of business “in short order,” then put government central planners to work to restructure them as the political class wants. Give Ms. Omarova credit for candor. Most progressives disguise their real intentions.

All of this has made Omarova a juicy target for Republicans. Senator Pat Toomey says that “I’ve never seen a more radical nominee to be a federal regulator….”

Senator Sherrod Brown, called Toomey's remarks "despicable" and "character assassination." But the banking industry has mobilized opposition to her nomination and even moderate Democrats are expressing reservations.

Sen. Jon Tester (D., Mont.) and Sen. Mark Warner (D., Va.) challenged Saule Omarova on her thinking and past writing on bank oversight. Mr. Tester also pressed her over remarks she made earlier this year calling for smaller oil-and-gas companies to go bankrupt to aid the U.S. in tackling climate change.

“Do you see how risky that is, to make that statement?” said Mr. Tester, a third-generation family farmer who said he feared a lone regulator with the discretion to decide whether to put his farm out of business. “Do you see how dangerous that could be?”

Bottom-line: Omarova may be a respected scholar and a wonderful person who is being unfairly maligned. But her nomination undermines Biden’s claim to govern as a centrist, while providing the GOP with mountains of grist.

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Quick Hits

1. How Trump’s Real Estate Holdings Attract Kleptocrats

Make sure you check out this fantastic deep dive by Casey Michel:

There on the contract was the description of the unit, the signature of the notary present, and the details of the purchase itself. All formal, rote stuff. But on the second page of the contract—hovering just above the names of Baby Doc’s lawyer and shell company—was a scrawl Americans would become familiar with in the years to come. It belonged to a man who would come to dominate America’s luxury property market, America’s reality-TV programming, and, in time, America’s politics.

It was the signature of Donald Trump, the man who decided to sell this unit in Trump Tower to one of the most heinous despots the Western Hemisphere had ever seen.

On that day in 1983, decades before Trump entered the White House and upended the entire trajectory of American democracy and American kleptocracy alike, Trump landed his first kleptocrat.

It wouldn’t be his last.


2. Autocrats and the Spineless Olympics Committee

Shay Khatiri in today’s Bulwark:

[The] IOC has enslaved itself to China. This week brought disturbing revelations that a Chinese women’s tennis player who accused the former vice premier of sexually assaulting her may have been abducted. It is all but impossible to imagine any meaningful action on this matter from the IOC. Just as it is difficult to imagine any disciplinary action against Iran’s Powerlifting Federation.

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