by Joseph Ferguson and
Thomas A. Durkin
After three indictments of former President Donald Trump, the fourth one in Georgia came not as a surprise but as a powerful exposition of the scope of Trump’s efforts to remain in power despite losing the 2020 presidential election.
New conservative legal scholarship spells out how and why those actions—which were observed by the public over many months—disqualify Trump from serving in the presidency ever again. And our read of the Georgia indictment, as longtime lawyers ourselves, shows why and how that disqualification can be put into effect.
The key to all of this is the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which states that “No person shall… hold any office, under the United States… who, having previously taken an oath… to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.” Trump took that oath at his inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017.
Both Trump’s Georgia indictment, and his federal indictment in Washington, D.C., cite largely public information—and some newly unearthed material—to spell out exactly how he engaged in efforts to rebel against the Constitution, and sought and gave aid and comfort to others who also did so.
Legal scholars William Baude and Michael Stokes Paulsen, conservatives themselves and members of the conservative Federalist Society, have recently published a paper declaring that under the 14th Amendment, Trump’s actions render him ineligible to hold office.
We believe the Georgia indictment provides even more detail than the earlier federal one about how Trump’s actions have already disqualified him from office, and shows a way to keep him off the ballot in 2024.
Disqualification is automatic
Trump’s supporters might argue that disqualifying him would be unfair without a trial and conviction on the Jan. 6 indictment, and perhaps the Georgia charges.
But Baude and Paulsen, using originalist interpretation—the interpretive theory of choice of the powerful Federalist Society and Trump’s conservative court appointees, which gives full meaning to the actual, original text of the Constitution—demonstrate that no legal proceeding is required. They say disqualification is automatic, or what’s known in the legal world as “self-executing.”
Recent public comments from liberal constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe and conservative jurist and former federal judge Michael Luttig—who has characterized the events before, during and since January 6th as Trump’s “declared war on American democracy”—suggest an emerging bipartisan consensus supporting Baude and Paulsen.
Backed by history
This is not a theoretical bit of technical law. This provision of the 14th Amendment was, in fact, extensively used after the Civil War to keep former Confederate leaders from serving in the federal government, without being tried or convicted of any crime.
Few former Confederates were charged with crimes associated with secession, rebellion and open war against the United States. And most were pardoned by sweeping orders issued by President Andrew Johnson.
But even though they had no relevant convictions, former Confederates were in fact barred from office in the U.S.
In December 1865, several who had neither been convicted nor been pardoned tried to claim seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. But the House clerk refused to swear them in. It took an act of Congress—the 1872 Amnesty Act—to later restore their office-holding rights.
There is no requirement in the Constitution that the disqualification be imposed by any specific process—only that it applies to people who take certain actions against the Constitution.
A path through the states
For the U.S. in 2023, we believe the most realistic avenue to enforce the 14th Amendment’s ban on a second Trump presidency is through state election authorities. That’s where the Georgia indictment comes in.
State election officials could themselves, or in response to a petition of a citizen of that state, refuse Trump a place on the 2024 ballot because of the automatic 14th Amendment disqualification.
Trump would certainly challenge the move in federal court. But the recent disqualification proceedings against former North Carolina Congressman Madison Cawthorn provide a road map and binding legal precedent affirming the 14th Amendment as a valid legal ground for disqualification of a candidate for federal office.
The Georgia indictment against Trump and allies exhaustively details extensive acts of lying, manipulation and threats against Georgia officials, as well as a fraudulent fake elector scheme to illegally subvert the legitimate 2020 Georgia presidential vote tally and resulting elector certification.
Trump’s failure to accomplish what is tantamount to a coup in Georgia and other swing states set the stage for the violent insurrection of January 6, 2021, that sought to achieve the same result—Trump’s fraudulent installation to a second term.
In fact, the Georgia scheme is included in Special Counsel Jack Smith’s federal indictment as one of the methods and means in “aid” of the larger January 6th federal conspiracy against the United States.
Baude and Paulsen acknowledge that “insurrection and rebellion” are traditionally associated with forced or violent opposition. But we see the broader set of actions by Trump and his allies to subvert the Constitution—the Georgia vote count and fake elector scheme included—as part of a political coup d’etat. It was a rebellion.
Our incorrigible Wandering Photographer insisted on lurking past Trumpville Sunday. A couple of the usual suspects were in attendance, but half the lawn chairs were empty. Flags certainly outnumbered the faithful.
Georgia as a bellwether
So what makes the Georgia scheme and indictment compelling for purposes of disqualifying Trump from the 2024 Georgia ballot?
There are minimally six aspects revealed in the latest indictment that we believe justify Georgia—under Section 3 of the post-Civil War Fourteenth Amendment—keeping Trump off the ballot:
1. The racketeering scheme was a multifaceted attempt to subvert Georgia’s own part of the 2020 electoral process;
2. The officials on the receiving end of the unsuccessful racketeering scheme were elected and appointed Georgia officials. …
3. … whose actions to reject election subversion vindicated their own oaths to uphold the Constitution and laws of the United States as well as Georgia’s;
4. Most of these officials were and are Republicans—including Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger, Governor Brian Kemp and former Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan;
5. These officials will, in 2024 as in 2020, collectively determine who is qualified to be on Georgia’s presidential ballot; and
6. These officials’ testimony, and related evidence, is at the heart of the proof of the Georgia racketeering case against Trump.
In other words, the evidence to convict Trump in the Georgia racketeering case is the same evidence, coming from the same Georgia officials, who will be involved in determining whether, under the 14th Amendment, Trump is qualified to be on the 2024 presidential ballot—or not.
Little if any additional evidence or proceedings are needed. The Georgia officials already hold that evidence, because much of it comes from them. They don’t need a trial to establish what they already know.
How could Trump avoid this happening? A quick trial date in Atlanta with an acquittal on all counts might do it, but this runs counter to his strategy to delay all the pending criminal cases until after the 2024 election.
With no preelection trial, there will likely be no Trump on the 2024 Georgia ballot, and no chance for him to win Georgia’s 2024 electoral college votes.
Once Georgia bars him, other states may follow. That would leave Trump with no way to credibly appear on the ballot in all 50 states, giving him no chance to win the electoral votes required to claim the White House.
Joseph Ferguson is Co-Director of the National Security and Civil Rights Program at Loyola University in Chicago. Thomas A. Durkin is Distinguished Practitioner in Residence at Loyola. This article may be republished for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license, CC BY ND.
“Climate Scam”: 180+ Groups Tell Biden to Drop Support for Hydrogen
by Jake Johnson
More than 95 percent of hydrogen produced in the United States is made using fossil fuels, but that hasn’t stopped its backers—including industry groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce—from touting the energy source as critical to the fight against climate change.
A diverse coalition of advocacy organizations on Tuesday implored the Biden administration to stop buying into the hype.
In a letter to officials at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), more than 180 groups called on the administration to abandon plans to invest in hydrogen projects, warning that “a large-scale buildout of hydrogen infrastructure will further exacerbate the climate crisis and disproportionately harm people of color, low-income communities, and Indigenous peoples.”
Two recently enacted pieces of legislation—the Inflation Reduction Act and a bipartisan infrastructure measure championed by oil industry ally Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)—include benefits for the hydrogen industry.
The latter bill authorized the Department of Energy to spend roughly $8 billion on developing Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs (H2Hubs), drawing outrage from community organizers in Colorado, New Mexico, and other states behind the Western Interstate Hydrogen Hub, a project aimed at expanding U.S. hydrogen production.
“We recognize that the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act directs DOE to fund these hubs, but we ask DOE to find a different path and reject this false solution. It’s time for DOE to do the right thing,” the groups wrote in their letter on Tuesday.
The groups behind the letter—including the Center for Biological Diversity and Food & Water Watch—note that hydrogen production generates significant planet-warming emissions.
“Hydrogen lifecycle emissions which use carbon capture and storage are 20 percent greater than directly burning natural gas or coal, and 60 percent greater than burning diesel oil, because of the increased fossil fuels required to power it,” the letter states. “The process of producing gray and blue hydrogen is a major source of fugitive methane emissions from flaring, transportation, and other upstream processes—releasing even more potent greenhouse gases and exacerbating atmospheric warming over the next two decades.”
As Nature explained in an editorial warning against “overhyping” hydrogen, “Most hydrogen is currently made by processes—such as steam reformation of natural gas (methane)—that produce large amounts of CO2 as a by-product.”
“Although ‘green’ hydrogen can be made by using electricity from renewable sources to split water molecules,” the outlet added, “this process is costly compared with more conventional production methods.”
Silas Grant, a campaigner with the Center for Biological Diversity, said Tuesday that “calling hydrogen clean energy is a scam to prop up the oil and gas industry.”
“The Biden administration’s plans to expand this dirty energy will only increase oil and gas extraction at a time when the climate emergency demands the opposite,” said Grant. “We need investment in affordable, reliable, community-supported renewable energy like wind and solar.”
The coalition’s letter comes two months after New Mexico-based advocacy organizations urged the Biden administration to reject funding for the Western Interstate Hydrogen Hub, arguing the initiative would “devastate public health, clean air, Indigenous sacred places, and the climate.”
“The climate crisis poses a grave threat to all life on Earth,” the groups wrote in a letter to the U.S. Energy Department. “DOE has the power to help lead a transformation to a more sustainable future. To do so, you must help phase out fossil fuels and reject false solutions like hydrogen.”
But the Biden White House has yet to waver in its support for hydrogen, claiming in a brief last month that “clean hydrogen has the potential to play an important role in decarbonizing the U.S. economy.”
Jim Walsh, policy director at Food & Water Watch, countered Tuesday that investments in hydrogen are “a distraction from real climate action that will cause more pollution, more strain on water resources, and more extraction of climate warming fossil fuels.”
“President Biden can’t claim to be a climate leader while his administration continues to embrace the hydrogen climate scam and other policies that continue to perpetuate fossil fuel production and infrastructure,” Walsh added.
Jake Johnson is a staff writer for Common Dreams. This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
In a rare instance of compliance with the hackneyed old Journalistic Commandment, “Thou Shalt Be Balanced,” Ol’ W.P. strolled through Market Square on Sunday, as well. Somewhat surprisingly, considering the latest indictment of the former Felon-in-Chief, the assemblage was fairly modest. It was enthusiastic, though, as was the beeped response from passersby.
Wealthiest 10 percent of US Households Responsible for 40 percent of
Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Study
by Brett Wilkins
The richest tenth of U.S. households are responsible for 40 percent of all the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, a study published Thursday revealed, underscoring what progressives say is the need for regulations and taxes on carbon-intensive investments.
Published in PLOS Climate, the study—which was led by University of Massachusetts, Amherst sustainability scientist Jared Starr—analyzed 30 years of U.S. household income data and the greenhouse gas emissions generated in creating that income.
“We find significant and growing emissions inequality that cuts across economic and racial lines,” the paper notes. “In 2019, fully 40 percent of total U.S. emissions were associated with income flows to the highest earning 10 percent of households.”
“Among the highest-earning one percent of households (whose income is linked to 15-17 percent of national emissions), investment holdings account for 38-43 percent of their emissions,” the publication continues. “Even when allowing for a considerable range of investment strategies, passive income accruing to this group is a major factor shaping the U.S. emissions distribution.”
The study’s findings are consistent with research published in 2021 by the Institute for European Environmental Policy and the Stockholm Environment Institute that estimated the wealthiest one percent of humanity was on track to produce 16 percent of all global CO2 emissions by 2030. Additionally, a 2022 Oxfam report found that a single billionaire produces a million times more carbon emissions than the average person.
Starr told The Washington Post that “as you move up the income ladder, an increasing share of emissions is associated with investments.”
According to the Post:
“Then there were ‘super-emitters’ with extremely high overall greenhouse gas emissions, corresponding to about the top 0.1 percent of households. About 15 days of emissions from a super-emitter was equal to a lifetime of emissions for someone in the poorest 10 percent in America.
“The team found that the highest emissions linked to income came from white, non-Hispanic homes, and the lowest came from Black households. Emissions peaked until age 45 to 54, and then declined.”
Starr said, “It just seems morally and politically problematic to have one group of people reaping so much benefit from emissions while the poorer groups in society are asked to disproportionately deal with the harms of those emissions.”
The study asserts that “results suggest an alternative income or shareholder-based carbon tax, focused on investments, may have equity advantages over traditional consumer-facing cap-and-trade or carbon tax options and be a useful policy tool to encourage decarbonization while raising revenue for climate finance.”
Lucas Chancel, a French economist who was not part of the study, told the Post that “all Americans contribute to climate change, but clearly not in the same way.”
“Without policies such as regulations or taxes on very polluting investments,” he stressed, “it’s unlikely that wealthy individuals making a lot of money from fossil fuel investments will stop investing in them.”
Brett Wilkins is a staff writer for Common Dreams. This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
A Changing Climate, Growing Human Populations And Widespread Fires Contributed To The Last Major Extinction Event − Can We Prevent Another?
by Emily Lindsey, Lisa N. Martinez, and Regan E. Dunn
Over the past decade, deadly wildfires have become increasingly common because of both human-caused climate change and disruptive land management practices. Southern California, where the three of us live and work, has been hit especially hard.
Southern California also experienced a wave of wildfires 13,000 years ago. These fires permanently transformed the region’s vegetation and contributed to Earth’s largest extinction in more than 60 million years.
As paleontologists, we have a unique perspective on the long-term causes and consequences of environmental changes, both those linked to natural climate fluctuations and those wrought by humans.
In a new study, published in August 2023, we sought to understand changes that were happening in California during the last major extinction event at the end of the Pleistocene, a time period known as the Ice Age. This event wiped out most of Earth’s large mammals between about 10,000 and 50,000 years ago. This was a time marked by dramatic climate upheavals and rapidly spreading human populations.
The last major extinction
Scientists often call the past 66 million years of Earth’s history the Age of Mammals. During this time, our furry relatives took advantage of the extinction of the dinosaurs to become the dominant animals on the planet.
During the Pleistocene, Eurasia and the Americas teemed with enormous beasts like woolly mammoths, giant bears and dire wolves. Two species of camels, three species of ground sloths and five species of large cats roamed what is now Los Angeles.
Then, abruptly, they were gone. All over the world, the large mammals that had characterized global ecosystems for tens of millions of years disappeared. North America lost more than 70 percent of mammals weighing more than 97 pounds (44 kilograms). South America lost more than 80 percent, Australia nearly 90 percent. Only Africa, Antarctica and a few remote islands retain what could be considered “natural” animal communities today.
The reason for these extinctions remains obscure. For decades, paleontologists and archaeologists have debated potential causes. What has befuddled scientists is not that there are no obvious culprits but that there are too many.
As the last ice age ended, a warming climate led to altered weather patterns and the reorganization of plant communities. At the same time, human populations were rapidly increasing and spreading around the globe.
Either or both of these processes could be implicated in the extinction event. But the fossil record of any region is usually too sparse to know exactly when large mammal species disappeared from different regions. This makes it difficult to determine whether habitat loss, resource scarcity, natural disasters, human hunting or some combination of these factors is to blame.
A deadly combination
Some records offer clues. La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, the world’s richest ice age fossil site, preserves the bones of thousands of large mammals that were trapped in viscous asphalt seeps over the past 60,000 years. Proteins in these bones can be precisely dated using radioactive carbon, giving scientists unprecedented insight into an ancient ecosystem and an opportunity to illuminate the timing—and causes—of its collapse.
Our recent study from La Brea Tar Pits and nearby Lake Elsinore has unearthed evidence of a dramatic event 13,000 years ago that permanently transformed Southern California’s vegetation and caused the disappearance of La Brea’s iconic mega-mammals.
Sediment archives from the lake’s bottom and archaeological records provide evidence of a deadly combination—a warming climate punctuated by decades long droughts and rapidly rising human populations. These factors pushed the Southern California ecosystem to a tipping point.
Similar combinations of climate warming and human impacts have been blamed for ice age extinctions elsewhere, but our study found something new. The catalyst for this dramatic transformation seems to have been an unprecedented increase in wildfires, which were probably set by humans.
The processes that led to this collapse are familiar today. As California warmed coming out of the last ice age, the landscape became drier and forests receded. At La Brea, herbivore populations declined, probably from a combination of human hunting and habitat loss. Species associated with trees, like camels, disappeared entirely.
In the millennium leading up to the extinction, mean annual temperatures in the region rose 10 degrees Farenheit (5.5 degrees Celsius), and the lake began evaporating. Then, 13,200 years ago, the ecosystem entered a 200-year-long drought. Half of the remaining trees died. With fewer large herbivores to eat it, dead vegetation built up on the landscape.
At the same time, human populations began expanding across North America. And as they spread, people brought with them a powerful new tool—fire.
Humans and our ancestors have used fire for hundreds of thousands of years, but fire has different impacts in different ecosystems. Charcoal records from Lake Elsinore reveal that before humans, fire activity was low in coastal Southern California. But 13,200 to 13,000 years ago, as human populations grew, fire in the region increased by an order of magnitude.
Our research suggests that the combination of heat, drought, herbivore loss and human-set fires had pushed this system to a tipping point. At the end of this period, Southern California was covered in chaparral plants, which thrive after fires. A new fire regime had become established, and the iconic La Brea megafauna had disappeared.
Lessons for the future
Studying the causes and consequences of the Pleistocene extinctions in California can provide valuable context for understanding today’s climate and biodiversity crises. A similar combination of climate warming, expanding human populations, biodiversity loss and human-ignited fires that characterized the ice age extinction interval in Southern California are playing out again today.
The alarming difference is that temperatures today are rising 10 times faster than they did at the end of the ice age, primarily because of the burning of fossil fuels. This human-caused climate change has contributed to a fivefold increase in fire frequency and intensity and the amount of area burned in the state of California in the past 45 years.
While California is now famous for extreme fires, our study reveals that fire is a relatively new phenomenon in this region. In the 20,000 years leading up to the extinction, the Lake Elsinore record shows very low incidence of any fire even during comparable periods of drought. Only after human arrival does fire become a regular part of the ecosystem.
Even today, downed power lines, campfires and other human activities start over 90 percent of wildfires in coastal California.
The parallels between the late Pleistocene megafaunal extinctions and today’s environmental crises are striking. The past teaches us that the ecosystems we depend upon are vulnerable to collapse when stressed by multiple intersecting pressures. Redoubling efforts to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions, prevent reckless fire ignitions and preserve Earth’s remaining megafauna can help avert another, even more catastrophic transformation.
Emily Lindsey is Associate Curator, La Brea Tar Pits. Lisa N. Martinez is a Ph.D. Candidate in Geography, University of California, Los Angeles. Regan E. Dunn is Adjunct Professor of Earth Sciences, USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. This article may be republished for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license, CC BY ND.
“The basic principle of this government is the will of the people. A system was devised by its founders which seemed to insure the means of ascertaining that will and of enacting it into legislation and supporting it through the administration of the law. This was to be accomplished by electing men to make, and men to execute the laws, who, would represent in the laws so made and executed the will of the people. This was the establishment of a representative government, where every man had equal voice, equal rights, and equal responsibilities. Have we such a government today? Or is this country fast coming to be dominated by forces that threaten… representative government?”
– Rep. (later Sen.) Robert La Follette, (R-Wisc.), 1897
“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”
– Henry David Thoreau, Walden