Sunday, May 31, 2020

Sunday Reading

He Should Have Seen It Coming — Jelani Cobb in The New Yorker.

There, yet again, were the flames. Before the furious conflagrations erupted in Minneapolis, the final weeks of May had already seemed like the answer to a grim math problem: What is the product of a crisis multiplied by a crisis? The official mortality count of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States swept toward a hundred thousand, while the economic toll had left forty million people out of work. It was difficult to countenance how so much misery could come about so quickly. But on Memorial Day we became video witnesses to the horrific death of George Floyd, at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department. By Friday, the looted shops, the charred buildings and cars, the smoldering Third Precinct—these were evidence of what the world looks like when a crisis is cubed.

These seemingly disparate American trials are not unrelated; they’re bound by their predictability and by the ways in which the Trump Administration has exacerbated them since they began. In March, the President claimed that “nobody knew there would be a pandemic or epidemic of this proportion,” and he has echoed that sentiment throughout the course of the emergency. But virtually everyone paying attention to public health saw something like the novel coronavirus coming. In less than two decades, we have seen epidemics of the SARS, MERS, Ebola, and H1N1 viruses. The Obama Administration created a National Security Council Directorate to mitigate the impact of such events; the Trump Administration largely disbanded it.

On Friday, Trump tweeted that the protesters in Minneapolis were “thugs”—a term with deep-rooted racist connotations—and later noted that the military was present in the city. “When the looting starts,” he warned, “the shooting starts.” This situation, too, is part of a long-building problem whose warning signs have gone unheeded by the current Administration. Progressives have widely criticized the 1994 Crime Bill, which was spearheaded by Joe Biden, but an element of that legislation has been underappreciated. The 1992 Los Angeles riots broke out after the acquittal of four police officers who had violently assaulted Rodney King (an incident that was also captured on video). As has often been the case with riots, the chaotic fury in Los Angeles was not simply a response to one incident but an accretion of anger at innumerable issues with a police department which had gone unaddressed for years. The Crime Bill authorized the civil-rights division of the Department of Justice to intervene in the instance of chronically troubled departments, by negotiating consent decrees that laid out specific reforms to be followed, and provided for monitors to oversee their implementation. Like the precursors to the coronavirus, Los Angeles—and later Ferguson and Baltimore—was an indicator of how such problems could play out without intervention. But, in this area as well, the Trump Administration has functioned like a building contractor who can’t recognize a load-bearing wall.

In July, 2017, in an address to law-enforcement officers in Suffolk County, New York, Trump told them to use more force when taking suspects into custody. “Like when you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting the head,” he said. “You can take the hand away, O.K.?” The following May, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in a speech to the National Association of Police Organizations, said that the Justice Department “will not malign entire police departments. We will not try to micromanage their daily work.” That November, as one of his last acts on the job, Sessions issued a memorandum that severely curtailed the civil-rights division’s ability to pursue decrees with police departments. This meant that, in communities plagued with bad policing, resentments could accrue unchecked by any higher authority until they reached their detonation points. Those detonations tend to resemble the streets of Minneapolis this week.

On Thursday, in a press conference that was short on developments or new information, Erica MacDonald, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota, said, “To be clear, President Trump as well as Attorney General William Barr are directly and actively monitoring the investigation in this case.” But what, precisely, does that mean? Barr presides over a civil-rights division that has been stripped of its chief mechanism for creating compliance among police officers. In the past five years, the Twin Cities area has seen three other controversial police shootings: of Jamar Clark, in 2015; of Philando Castile, in 2016; and of Justine Damond, in 2017. Each of these fatal incidents featured a victim of a different racial background from the officers involved, and each was highlighted as an example of police misconduct. Like the COVID cases that emerged in Seattle at the beginning of the year, Minneapolis is a study in the importance of foresight and planning, and an example of what happens when neither of those things occurs.

The President posted his “the shooting starts” tweet early on Friday morning, just hours before Officer Derek Chauvin, who had knelt on George Floyd’s neck for eight minutes, was taken into custody and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Twitter, in an unprecedented move, labelled Trump’s tweet a violation of company policy against “glorifying violence.” A Presidential threat to have the United States military shoot civilians is the opposite of leadership, the antithesis of wisdom—a comment as ill-advised and as detrimental to the public well-being as recommending injecting disinfectant or self-prescribing hydroxychloroquine.

Our problems generally do not stem from treacherous unknowns; they’re the result of a failure to make good use of what is known already. In July, 1967, after a brutal police raid at an after-hours bar in Detroit, that city exploded in retaliatory violence. A month later, Martin Luther King, Jr., gave a speech to the American Psychological Association, in which he described riots as “durable social phenomena” that arise in conjunction with discernible conditions—acts of lawlessness that mirror the excesses of those charged with upholding the law. Leaders cannot predict the future, but they can be cognizant of the immediate past, and the possible dangers it suggests. They cannot be clairvoyant. They need only be intelligent.

Doonesbury — Instant Karma

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

The Karma Virus

It’s not nice and certainly unfeeling to make light of a disease that spreads rapidly and can kill a lot of people.  That seems to be the lesson here.  Not only is it rude and boorish, it paints a huge bullseye of karma on your ass.

Days after Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) wore an enormous gas mask during a House floor vote on an emergency funding package for the coronavirus response, the congressman announced that he would self-quarantine for 14 days after coming into contact with a Conservative Political Action Conference participant who tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Gaetz said on Twitter that he has not experienced any symptoms but was tested Monday and expects results soon.

“Under doctor’s usual precautionary recommendations, he’ll remain self-quarantined until the 14-day period expires this week,” his Twitter account announced, hours after Gaetz traveled on Air Force One with President Trump.

Gaetz accompanied Trump from Florida to Washington, according to the White House pool report.

Gaetz attended the conservative conference last month. Other Republican congressmen, Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Rep. Douglas A. Collins (R-Ga.), who attended the same conference have announced they would self-quarantine even though they weren’t feeling symptoms.

Collins’s announcement comes on the heels of Trump’s visit to Georgia, where the congressman greeted the president with a handshake.

So I’m not going to laugh sardonically and point at them, and obvious out-of-the-park comments about self-quarantining are set aside.  But even if I did, I doubt that it will sink in to the people who so desperately need to hear them.

By the way, if you’re keeping track of the virus and news about it, the good folks at Balloon Juice are doing a better job than the CDC of keeping people informed.

Meanwhile, wash your hands.  Greet people with a nod, a bow, or, if you’re a total nerd, use the Vulcan salute.  Live long and prosper.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Predicting Panic

The one thing that will make Trump and his minions freak out about coronavirus COVID-19 isn’t that a lot of people in the United States will get sick and a number of them will die.  It’s that the stock markets will see what’s coming and do what stock markets do: crater.

Wall Street looked poised for a sharp drop on Monday morning after the outbreak worsened in Europe and the U.S. Oil prices and bond yields tumbled.

Financial markets don’t care whether or not people actually get sick; they can handle that.  What they can’t handle is instability and how governments and populations respond to a crisis.  Right now Trump & Co. have no idea how to deal with the disease or what to say about it.  They’re putting out contrary and contradictory messages, all backed up by the fact that Trump himself has no clue as to what the disease really is, what tools he has to deal with it, and what to do with the flood of information and scientific insight that is out there.  He’s spent most of his term denigrating science and scientists who aren’t sufficiently sycophantic to his political point of view, and he’s playing to his audience at Fox and telling them — mostly old people who have the greatest chance of dying from the disease — that there’s nothing to worry about.  The only sure thing that he and his cronies will do is to find some way to blame this all on Obama, then go off and play golf in Florida.

I’m not a financial guru, but I can see that the worldwide financial markets don’t give a shit about whether or not Trump is dealing with the crisis to his advantage or not.  They see China closing schools and factories and know that will impact whether or not a charter school in Miami will get the delivery of their computers in time to pay for them from a grant before it ends.  They see schools in Italy teaching their students via Skype and know that those kids won’t be shopping in downtown Florence, and they see authorities closing the borders in provinces and know that the tourists won’t be going to Milan to see opera or buy clothes.  They see cruise ships lying idle in the ports in Florida or languishing a hundred miles off the coast of California and know that the people who come off the ships will not be replaced by eager passengers looking forward to being locked in their cabin for two weeks, and they know that places like South Padre and Fort Lauderdale and Naples and Punta Gorda and Key West will see empty streets, beaches, and bars when spring break starts in a week while snowbirds and college kids stay home.

In a number of ways the financial markets are lagging indicators; they catch up with trends rather than lead them.  But when it comes to bad news and uncontrollable things like natural disasters such as hurricanes or epidemics, they are often out in front, often over-reacting but predicting where the money will land somewhere way down the road.  Smart investors have been predicting an economic reckoning for Trump’s financial maladroitness for years, saying it was just a matter of time before the unsustainable tax policies and literally staggering handling of the U.S. economy would end up teetering on the edge of disaster.  They just couldn’t say for certain what would or could cause it.  Now we know.  It’s not just some microscopic life form that makes people sick and spreads easily.  It’s that the people who have been warned for years that something like this would come along were ignored, then mocked, then vilified, and finally proven right.

And karma will exact her price: the idiot Rep. Matt Gaetz, who mocked the coronavirus by wearing a gas mask on the House floor, represents the district in Florida where the first fatality from the disease occurred.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Doing A Shitty Job

I love this.

The Customs and Border Protection agency is currently dealing with a pretty unfortunate bird problem.

CBP put out an official notice last week calling for potential vendors to help the agency devise a “vulture deterrence system” for one of its radio towers a couple of hours away from the U.S.-Mexico border in Kingsville, Texas.

“A population of approximately 300 vultures have built up and are roosting and nesting on the tower structure on the railings, catwalks, supports, and on rails and conduit throughout,” according to the notice, which was first obtained by Quartz. “Droppings mixed with urine are on all of these surfaces and throughout the interior of the tower where workers are in contact with it, as well as on areas below.”

Thus the border agency seeks a “viable netting deterrent” against the vulture brigade.

A CBP spokesperson told TPM in an emailed statement that the lawless birds “create a safety hazard.”

“They will often defecate and vomit from their roost onto buildings below that house employees and equipment,” the spokesperson said. “There are anecdotes about birds dropping prey from a height of three-hundred feet, creating a terrifying and dangerous situation for those concerned.”

Who says birds are stupid?

Monday, December 2, 2019

In All Fairness

The House Judiciary Committee picks up what Intelligence threw them.

As the impeachment inquiry moves into a critical week, President Trump and his Republican allies are debating the degree to which the president should participate in a process they have spent more than two months attacking.

On Sunday evening, White House counsel Pat A. Cipollone told the House Judiciary Committee in a five-page letter that Trump would not participate in its first impeachment hearing, scheduled for Wednesday. The invitation from Chairman Jerrold Nadler “does not begin to provide the President with any semblance of a fair process,” Cipollone wrote.

Four constitutional scholars — three chosen by Democrats, one by Republicans — are expected to testify on the standards for impeachment. Nadler (D-N.Y.) told Trump he had until 6 p.m. Sunday to notify the committee that he or his attorneys would attend; he has given Trump until Friday to decide whether to participate more broadly in the impeachment process.

It’s been a hallmark of Trump’s tenure that he and his minions are always talking about “fairness,” as if everything that happens to them is or isn’t fair.  Trump whines about how the press or the Democrats or the ice cream dispenser is so unfair to him, which is then followed by a tantrum, and then holding his breath until he shits his pants.  It’s like he’s never taken into account the simple fact that whether or not something or someone is fair or unfair to him and his fe-fe’s doesn’t really count for much, especially when the facts and the truth are what matter.

By definition, the impeachment process in the House is investigative.  Whether or not it’s fair depends on who participates.  If the White House refuses to comply with subpoenas and requests for information, they can’t then complain bitterly that they have been denied the opportunity to provide evidence.  If the Republicans who are in thrall to the White House sit through hours of depositions in closed sessions and then create a stink about the closed sessions being unfair, then they’re just pandering to their minders at Fox News.  In short, they can’t spend all their time trying to screw up the entire process and then pronounce it as unfair because the entire process somehow got screwed up.

As John F. Kennedy noted, life is unfair.  It’s something we should learn and take into account at about the time we learn how to take turns on the swing set on the school playground.  But trying to explain that to someone who has yet to rise to that level of maturity is a hard thing to do.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Sunday Reading

Impeachment as Spectacle — David Masciotra in Salon.

The House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment hearings have been the perfect sweeps-season exhibition of American dysfunction, weirdness and stupidity. Democrats are meticulously proving that President Trump is an inveterate liar who broke the law by transforming international diplomacy into a partisan, tabloid dirt-finding expedition in exactly the buffoonish manner that anyone would expect. Trump is a corrupt con artist unqualified for a junior high student council. Impeachment and removal are beyond debate to anyone of minimal sanity. In other breaking news, the Earth orbits the sun.

More shocking than the extent of Trump’s petty corruption is the obsequiousness of leading Republicans, all of whom have publicly invested in the personality cult surrounding the former host of “Celebrity Apprentice.” Apparently convinced that the country cannot survive without the leadership of the man who had the wisdom to fire Gary Busey in the boardroom, and later defend murderous white supremacists, the GOP have exposed themselves as lacking any of the principles — “family values”; belief in small, honest government; fiscal conservatism, patriotic loyalty to the laws and institutions of the United States — they previously boasted about.

House impeachment, and subsequent Senate removal, in any rational Congress would have taken all of four minutes, allowing the electorate to prepare for the alarming reality of President Mike Pence.

Instead, curious citizens are subjected to the monstrosity of Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, whose previous high-water mark was disregarding accusations of sexual abuse in the Ohio State locker room when he was an assistant wrestling coach, doing his best impersonation of a serious human being as he shouts about “process” in his shirtsleeves. Barring any bombshell, it looks as if the entire Trump fiasco will result in a repetition of the Bill Clinton episode — impeachment in the House, acquittal in the Senate.

That is not the only reason that the entire proceeding feels anticlimactic. It is deeply unsatisfying because it is focused on what is likely the least of Trump’s misdeeds.

At least 25 women have accused Trump of sexual assault – most of them alleging that he forcibly grabbed their genitals, which is precisely what he has bragged about doing on an open mic. Sexual predation and harassment are conspicuously absent from the congressional hearings on Trump, along with media dissection of his presidency. Occasionally, a pundit will casually reference the accusations as if they were nothing more than an unfortunate, but pedestrian reality of national politics. Rep. Katie Hill, a freshman Democrat, resigned over a consensual affair with a staffer, yet Trump faces no political consequences for, according to his credible accusers, a lifetime of assaulting women.

Defenders of the government’s inadequacy in the pursuit of justice might protest that none of Trump’s accusers have alleged any criminal behavior during his presidency. It seems odd that chronology would have any relevance — what if there was evidence that Trump murdered 25 women in the 1990s and 2000s? Would Congress have to ignore it? — but operating only within the confines of Trump’s term in office is equally devastating to not only his lack of leadership and character, but also to an impeachment that, while just and necessary, resembles the prosecution of Al Capone for tax evasion.

The last living Nuremberg prosecutor, Ben Ferencz, called Trump’s family separation policy at the border — ripping children out of their parents’ arms, locking them in cages, leaving them vulnerable to abuse — a “crime against humanity.” Explaining that it was “painful” for him to watch the news of the Trump administration’s cruel treatment of families seeking asylum, Ferencz said, “We list crimes against humanity in the Statute of the International Criminal Court. We have ‘other inhumane acts designed to cause great suffering.’ What could cause more great suffering than what they did in the name of immigration law?”

Ferencz’s outrage barely elicited coverage in the American press, and provoked a pathetically meek political response. The United Nations definition of “genocide,” formed in response to the Nazi holocaust of Jews and other minorities, extends far beyond murder. It also includes “forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

Genocide is not on the impeachment agenda.

What is on the itinerary, apparently, is a commitment to displaying many American failures of policy and cultural imagination without comment. EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland’s testimony that Trump orchestrated the bribery campaign against Ukraine was damning, but with the exceptions of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, no one appears compelled to discuss why ambassadorial posts are always on sale to the highest donor — a bipartisan tradition that Republicans, as is their wont, elevate to unexplored heights of irresponsibility.

Everyone of conscience should feel grateful to Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman for helping to expose Trump as a criminal who wields presidential power for personal gain, but is it necessary and healthy to celebrate militarism while papering over unjust war?

Yes, Vindman is a lieutenant colonel in the Army. The “service” for which everyone is calling him a “hero” was contributing to one of the most reckless and immoral annihilations of human life in modern history — the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Meanwhile, in recent weeks Trump has pardoned three accused war criminals.

If by some miracle, the Senate actually convicts President Trump and removes him from office, Americans should applaud in the morning, but go back to protesting by the afternoon. The words that French journalist Claude Julien wrote following Richard Nixon’s resignation still ring true: “The elimination of Mr. Richard Nixon leaves intact all the mechanisms and all the false values which permitted the Watergate scandal.”

Be Nice — Annie Lowrey in The Atlantic on our epidemic of unkindness.

Take five minutes to meditate. Try to quiet the judgmental voice in your head. Call your mother. Pay for someone else’s coffee. Compliment a colleague’s work.

In an age of polarization, xenophobia, inequality, downward mobility, environmental devastation, and climate apocalypse, these kinds of Chicken Soup for the Soul recommendations can feel not just minor, but obtuse. Since when has self-care been a substitute for a secure standard of living? How often are arguments about interpersonal civility a distraction from arguments about power and justice? Why celebrate generosity or worry about niceness when what we need is systemic change?

Those are the arguments I felt predisposed to make when I read about the newly inaugurated Bedari Kindness Institute at UCLA, a think tank devoted to the study and promulgation of that squishy concept. But it turns out there is a sweeping scientific case for kindness. In some ways, modern life has made us unkind. That unkindness has profound personal effects. And if we can build a kinder society, that would make life better for everyone.

Darnell Hunt, the dean of social sciences at UCLA and a scholar of media and race, told me some of the questions the institute hopes to investigate or answer: “What are the implications of kindness? Where does it come from? How can we promote it? What are the relationships between kindness and the way the brain functions? What are the relationships between kindness and the types of social environment in which we find ourselves? Is there such a thing as a kind economy? What would that look like?”

Not like what we have now. Research proves what is obvious to anyone who has been online in the past decade: For all that the internet and social media have connected the world, they have also driven people into political silos, incited violence against minority groups, eroded confidence in public institutions and scientists, and made conspiracy theorists of us all—while making us more selfish, less self-confident, and more socially isolated.

“The internet is largely a cesspool,” Daniel M. T. Fessler, an evolutionary anthropologist and the new institute’s director, told me. “It is not actually surprising that it is largely a cesspool. Because if there’s one thing that we know, it’s that anonymity invites antisociality.” It is easier to be a jerk when you are hiding behind a Twitter egg or a gaming handle, he explained.

The political situation is not helping matters, either. Americans have become more atomized by education, income, and political leanings. That polarization has meant sharply increased antipathy toward people with different beliefs. “We’re in this hyperpolarized environment where there’s very little conversation across perspectives,” Hunt said. “There’s very little agreement on what the facts are.”

There’s plenty of pressure for people to be unkind to themselves, too. Matthew C. Harris and his wife, Jennifer, seeded the Bedari Kindness Institute with a $20 million gift from their family foundation. For him, the topic is personal. “I wasn’t kind to myself, which has roots in my own childhood experiences. I was judgmental of myself, and therefore others. I was very perfectionistic,” he told me, reflecting on his business career. “I realized: This is not sustainable.”

The antidote seems to lie in media, economic, social, and political change—lower inequality, greater social cohesion, less stress among families, anti-racist government policy. But kindness, meaning “the feelings and beliefs that underlie actions intended to generate a benefit for another,” Fessler said, might figure in too. “Kindness is an end unto itself,” and one with spillover effects.

At a personal level, there’s ample evidence that being aware of your emotions and generous to yourself improves your physical and mental health, as well as your relationships with others. One study found that mindfulness practices aided the caretakers of people with dementia, for instance; another showed that they help little kids improve their executive function.

Kindness and its cousins—altruism, generosity, and so on—has societal effects as well. Fessler’s research has indicated that kindness is contagious. In one major forthcoming study, he and his colleagues showed some people a video of a person helping his neighbors, while others were shown a video of a person doing parkour. All the study participants were then given some money in return for taking part, and told they could put as much as they wanted in an envelope for charity. (The researchers could not see whether the participants put money in or how much they put in.)

People who saw the neighborly video were much more generous. “One of my research assistants said: ‘There’s something wrong with our accounting; something’s going haywire,’” Fessler told me. “She said, ‘Well, some of these envelopes have more than $5 in them.’” People who saw the first video were taking money out of their own wallets to give to charity, they figured. “I said, ‘That’s not something going wrong! That’s the experiment going right!’” It suggests that families or even whole communities could pitch themselves into a kind of virtuous cycle of generosity and do-gooding, and that people could be prompted to do good for their communities even with no expectation of their kind acts redounding to their own benefit.

Interpersonal empathy might translate into political change, Hunt added. “We see this [research] as being civically very important,” he said. “Take homelessness in L.A., for example. How do we get the electorate to become more empathetic and support policies necessary to make a meaningful intervention? That’s not something you can just do by fiat. People have to be brought along.”

This holiday season, there are so many ways to bring yourself and your community along—among them little things like taking five minutes to meditate, calling your mother, and paying for someone else’s coffee. Maybe kindness is not a distraction from or orthogonal to change. Maybe it is a pathway to it.

Doonesbury — Remember the wall.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Snowflakes Down South

Trump is expected to show up at the game between Alabama and LSU on Saturday, so the student government is taking all the necessary precautions to insure that the Dear Leader is met with fawning adoration.  Y’see, it’s perfectly okay to mock liberals and the “politically correct,” but when it comes to expressing your negative feelings about Trump, well, oh my, get the smelling salts and fainting couch, Melanie.

The Student Government Association at the University of Alabama is warning groups that protesting President Trump during the Tide’s Saturday game vs. LSU could result in loss of reserved seating for the remainder of the season.

A letter from Jason Rothfarb, vice president of Student Affairs, said additional security will be in Bryant Denny’s student section during the Saturday afternoon football game. President Trump is expected to be in the audience.

Disruptive protests against the president will have consequences, Rothfarb wrote.

“Any organizations that engage in disruptive behavior during the game will be removed from block seating instantly for the remainder of the season,” he wrote.

After the expected push-back from folks who believe in the First Amendment, a follow-up statement was issued.

Jason Rothfarb, vice president for Student Affairs for University of Alabama SGA, issued a follow-up statement regarding his previous email related to disruptions during the Alabama/LSU football game. The email was published via social media:

“Some have misinterpreted my comment regarding “disruptive behavior.” As with other games this season, Organization’s Block Seating locations will be clearly marked, but at certain times, other students can and should have access to open seats. By disruptive behavior, we are asking students to be respectful to all students and staff and avoid altercations.

My email has nothing do with anyone’s First Amendment rights and I am sorry for any confusion. Please express yourself and especially your pride for the Tide.”

Rothfarb’s comments come after a letter was sent to block seat groups warning that “Any organizations that engage in disruptive behavior during the game will be removed from block seating instantly for the remainder of the season.”

It’s been a while since I’ve been to a college football game, but it wasn’t exactly like watching Wimbledon no matter who was in the stands.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

He’ll Get His

I watched some of Corey Lewandowski’s sideshow yesterday on Capitol Hill.  My first thought was that he’s mastered the art of being a smug douche and was performing for an audience of one.  That point was proved by glowing praise tweets from Trump.  He’s got a great career coming as a pundit on some cable show running on Sinclair channels after he gets his ass handed to him in his run for the Senate.

But my second thought was that I’ve seen his kind of snotty behavior and disrespect for what he perceives as enemy interrogation before; specifically when John Ehrlichman testified before the Senate Watergate Committee in July 1973 and his combative, sneering attitude.  Watching him joust with Senate Majority Counsel Sam Dash made my blood boil back then, and I remember thinking that somehow, some way, the universe and karma will get their due.

They did.  Ehrlichman was convicted of conspiracy and other Watergate related crimes, went to jail, and spent his post-jail time and the rest of his life trying to make a buck off his experience and parlay his bitterness about not being pardoned by Reagan into a living until he died in 1999.  He wrote a lot of books and sold a made-for-TV movie.  That seems to be the way this sort of career ends up.

As for Mr. Lewandowski, he will exploit his Trumpian period by punditry and grifting, making appearances at the alt-right versions of Comic Con, signing books and autographing old MAGA hats, later to be sold on E-bay for $5.99.  Maybe, like Ehrlichman, he’ll grow a beard, become contemplative in his old age, and live in a hogan outside of Santa Fe.  Whatever.  He’ll get his.  Karma always delivers.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Happy Friday

It’s an in-between day… some people are taking the day off, some are not. I’m happy to report that there was no earthquake or storm-drenched speeches here in Palmetto Bay, and surprisingly few noise-makers or sounds of artillery.

Enjoy the day whether you’re working or not.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Round One: Justice 1, Trump 0

Via the Washington Post:

Trump on Monday lost an early round of his court fight with Democrats after a federal judge ruled the president’s accounting firm must turn over his financial records to Congress as lawmakers seek to assert their oversight authority.

Trump called the 41-page ruling from U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta of the District of Columbia “crazy” and said he would appeal, adding: “We think it’s totally the wrong decision by, obviously, an Obama-appointed judge.”

Lawyers for the president are fighting document and witness subpoenas on multiple fronts, and Mehta’s ruling came hours after former White House counsel Donald McGahn was directed not to appear before a congressional committee seeking testimony about his conversations with Trump.

Congressional Democrats have vowed to fight for evidence of potential misconduct by Trump and those close to him, and the president’s legal team is broadly resisting those efforts. How those fights play out in court in the months ahead could impact the 2020 presidential race.

In his decision, Mehta flatly rejected arguments from the president’s lawyers that the House Oversight Committee’s demands for the records from Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA, were overly broad and served no legitimate legislative function.

“It is simply not fathomable,” the judge wrote, “that a Constitution that grants Congress the power to remove a President for reasons including criminal behavior would deny Congress the power to investigate him for unlawful conduct — past or present — even without formally opening an impeachment inquiry.”

Trump has argued those congressional inquiries are politically motivated attacks on the authority of the presidency, while Democrats insist the subpoenas are essential to ensuring no president is above the law.

And for an added dollop of karma, the chief judge on the circuit where all the battles between the White House and Congress will play out is Merrick Garland.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Talk About Presidential Harassment

Aw, poor baby:

Never happened before?  Really?

It was not true in 2011, when Donald J. Trump mischievously began to question President Obama’s birthplace aloud in television interviews. “I’m starting to think that he was not born here,” he said at the time.

It was not true in 2012, when he took to Twitter to declare that “an ‘extremely credible source’” had called his office to inform him that Mr. Obama’s birth certificate was “a fraud.”

It was not true in 2014, when Mr. Trump invited hackers to “please hack Obama’s college records (destroyed?) and check ‘place of birth.’”

It was never true, any of it. Mr. Obama’s citizenship was never in question. No credible evidence ever suggested otherwise.

Yet it took Mr. Trump five years of dodging, winking and joking to surrender to reality, finally, on Friday, after a remarkable campaign of relentless deception that tried to undermine the legitimacy of the nation’s first black president.

Or this?

Donald Trump, who in recent days has accused Bill Clinton of rape and suggested he and Hillary Clinton may have had a role in the death of one of their close friends, plans to focus next on the Whitewater real estate scandal, POLITICO has learned.

Trump campaign adviser Michael Caputo on Wednesday morning emailed a researcher at the Republican National Committee asking him to “work up information on HRC/Whitewater as soon as possible. This is for immediate use and for the afternoon talking points process.”

The first one was outright and blatant racism, the second was basically small potatoes compared to the real estate scamming and corruption that Trump has bragged about since he was a kid.  So, like all bullies, he can dish it out but of course can’t take it.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

The Big Parade

One of the first lies told by the Trump folks after he was sworn in was that his inauguration was the biggest and the bestest EVER and that more people watched it, saw it, and were there to make history.  So there.

Well, that may have been bullshit (and it was proven so in minutes), but there were some other things going on that made it unique.

Via ABC News (note: auto-start video):

Prosecutors in New York’s Southern District have subpoenaed documents from President Donald Trump’s inauguration committee, sources with direct knowledge told ABC News, indicating that even as the special counsel probe appears to be nearing an end, another investigation that could hamstring the president and his lawyers is widening.

The subpoena from the Southern District, which came from its public corruption section, is the latest activity focusing on Trump’s political fundraising both before and immediately after the 2016 election.

“We have just received a subpoena for documents. While we are still reviewing the subpoena, it is our intention to cooperate with the inquiry,” a spokesperson for the inauguration told ABC News.

Prosecutors are seeking documents and records related to the committee’s donors to the massive inauguration fund, according to sources familiar with the request. Prosecutors also are seeking information on attendees to the events surrounding the inauguration, including benefits to top-level donors such as photo opportunities with Trump, sources said.

Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney, has been interviewed extensively by prosecutors in the Southern District office. Longtime family accountant and Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg has agreed to cooperate, though the extent of his help is unknown.

The Trump family business also has been in contact with prosecutors, but sources familiar with those discussions would not spell out the specific topics covered.

Those involved in discussions surrounding the inaugural fund, a nonprofit tasked with organizing festivities surrounding the president’s swearing-in, declined to detail specific questions from investigators. Trump’s inaugural fund raised $107 million — the most in modern history.

“This is why I’ve been saying for months that the Southern District of New York investigation presents a much more serious threat to the administration, potentially, than what Bob Mueller is doing,” said former federal prosecutor and ABC News contributor Gov. Chris Christie.

A spokesperson for the Southern District of New York declined to comment.

It would be ironic on a Greek tragedy/O. Henry level if the thing that finally brings Trump down is the crime and corruption behind the big event that celebrated his entry into office, and the next parade that we get to watch for him is his cronies being marched into court in those bright orange outfits.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

In Charge

After Tuesday’s meeting in which Nancy Pelosi basically ran the table, why would there be any doubt from anyone — Democrat or Republican — that she has the power and the smarts to be the leader of her party and Speaker of the House?

In contrast to Trump, she knows how to lead, she knows what she’s doing, and most importantly, she knows how to negotiate.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi clinched the votes for a second stint as House speaker on Wednesday after agreeing to serve no more than four years in a deal with a group of Democratic rebels — a significant concession to their demands for generational change.

The group of insurgents wanted new blood in the top Democratic ranks and maneuvered for months to deny Pelosi (D-Calif.) the votes she would need. After weeks of behind-the-scenes negotiating, Pelosi backed off her resistance to setting a date for her departure but avoided becoming an immediate lame duck.

“Over the summer, I made it clear that I see myself as a bridge to the next generation of leaders, a recognition of my continuing responsibility to mentor and advance new members into positions of power and responsibility in the House Democratic Caucus,” Pelosi said in a statement.

Almost immediately, seven Democratic holdouts said they would back Pelosi. Their support would be enough to secure the House majority that she needs for her election to speaker on Jan. 3 — 218 votes if all members are present and voting for an individual.

That’s true leadership and confidence in your abilities and knowing when to leave.

And the way things are going with Trump, by 2022, she might be in the middle of her first term as president.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Today In Karma

Via the Washington Post:

Ivanka Trump sent hundreds of emails last year to White House aides, Cabinet officials and her assistants using a personal account, many of them in violation of federal records rules, according to people familiar with a White House examination of her correspondence.

White House ethics officials learned of Trump’s repeated use of personal email when reviewing emails gathered last fall by five Cabinet agencies to respond to a public records lawsuit. That review revealed that throughout much of 2017, she often discussed or relayed official White House business using a private email account with a domain that she shares with her husband, Jared Kushner.

The discovery alarmed some advisers to President Trump, who feared that his daughter’s prac­tices bore similarities to the personal email use of Hillary Clinton, an issue he made a focus of his 2016 campaign. He attacked his Democratic challenger as untrustworthy and dubbed her “Crooked Hillary” for using a personal email account as secretary of state.

Some aides were startled by the volume of Ivanka Trump’s personal emails — and taken aback by her response when questioned about the practice. She said she was not familiar with some details of the rules, according to people with knowledge of her reaction.

The White House referred requests for comment to Ivanka Trump’s attorney and ethics counsel, Abbe Lowell.

Go ahead and say it.  You know you want to.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Karma In The Person Of Ruth Buffalo

Via the New York Times:

In the end, the Native American tribes of North Dakota could not save their preferred candidate, Senator Heidi Heitkamp, from a double-digit loss.

But galvanized by anger over the state’s voter ID law and aided by the intensive efforts of tribal leaders and advocacy groups, they turned out for last week’s election in numbers unprecedented even for a presidential election, much less a midterm.

In Sioux County, where the Standing Rock Indian Reservation is, turnout was up 105 percent from the last midterm elections in 2014 and 17 percent from the 2016 presidential election, according to data from the North Dakota secretary of state’s office. In Rolette County, home to the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, it was up 62 percent from 2014 and 33 percent from 2016. In Benson County, home to the Spirit Lake Nation, it was up 52 percent from 2014 and 10 percent from 2016.

One of the most striking results of the night, though, came far from the reservations: in a normally Republican district in the Fargo area, where Ruth Buffalo became the first Native American Democratic woman elected to the North Dakota Legislature. She did it by unseating State Representative Randy Boehning, the primary sponsor of the very voter ID law Native Americans had feared would disenfranchise them.

For all the symbolic resonance of her victory, Ms. Buffalo, a public health professional with three master’s degrees, campaigned entirely on local issues — and her win underscored how partisan divisions can be scrambled when the national hot buttons are removed from the conversation.

“Ruth ran not as necessarily a Native American woman, but as a woman in Fargo who wanted to talk about issues that were affecting her community,” said Scott McNeil, executive director of the North Dakota Democratic-Nonpartisan League Party. Mr. Boehning did not respond to a request for comment.

This is how you take over: by beating them at their own game.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

BTYFO, Joe

It’s a little mean to pile on Joe Scarborough when he finally, at long last, gets it.

I never believed what liberals said about us all along. I never believed there was this undercurrent in the Republican party of racism, nativism, anti-semitism. We spent our entire lives telling people it wasn’t true. I’ll be damned, I’m 55 years old. Bingo, they had us exactly right. They had the party exactly right. What are we to do now?

‘Bout time you found out, Joe.  Granted, at the age of 55 you weren’t really around to remember Nixon and Agnew and the Southern Strategy in all it’s George Wallace-emulating glory.  You came of age when it was all bundled up in the cozy and gauzy quilt of Ronald Reagan’s morning in America for white Christians, and so you don’t remember the distinction between the Southern Democrats of Strom Thurmond and the rest of the party when they split in the 1950’s and ’60’s over where a six-year-old black girl should go to school or where her father could go to the bathroom or stay the night while traveling.  Your Republican party happily picked up the torch from the cross-burning and ran with it, and fifty years later passed it on to a maniac.

Where were you, Joe?  You ran for Congress from a district in the Florida panhandle where the only distinction between there and Selma was the color of the license plates and the remnants of the old way of life are still visible in the two sets of bathrooms in the old courthouse in downtown Miami.  But you fell for the smaller government/more freedom line and smugly thought that the folks who bought your tactics of being scared of black people voting and women controlling their bodies could be controlled and mollified every election cycle.  It never occurred to you that they would one day find someone who could actually exploit them beyond the sop of cutting taxes and hating gays?

Yeah, it’s easy to pile on to Joe and any other Republican who is finding out to their horror that their party is just as mean and nasty as a lot more people than just “liberals” have been saying about them since the days of Joe McCarthy and Barry Goldwater.  But it’s about time, and it’s probably too late.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Small Blessings

Sometime scrolling through a news feed can be frustrating.  Trying to find something interesting to read that doesn’t have me reaching for a second dose of BP meds is difficult enough with idiots and racists running the government, but the sheer stupidity and hypocrisy of a lot of what passes for news as we ramp up to the midterm elections makes it even harder to find something to laugh at, which is why I chose that little piece of Chico and Harpo Marx tickling the ivories for ALNM last night.

This morning it wasn’t a whole lot better: Trump would rather do Nuremberg 2.0 in Pennsylvania than stay in D.C. to monitor hurricane relief, even though we know that’s just for optics because there’s not a lot he could do even if he was competent; that’s what FEMA is for.  Hillary Clinton said it’s time for the Democrats to take the gloves off and the right-wing Orcosphere goes nuts, but that’s their setting anyway anytime she says please pass the butter.  A stringer reporter disappears in Turkey at the hands of the Saudis and suddenly the White House doesn’t even know how to get in touch with the perps.  The Supreme Court is already showing their complete disdain for Native American voters in North Dakota; they can’t be real voters if they don’t have a street address like real Americans do in all the cul-de-sacs in Maryland where teens really know how to par-tay (right, Brett?).

So now what?  The mid-terms are in a few weeks, and so now we have to switch to the cable pundits wondering just how the Democrats will blow their lead just like they did in 2016.  It’s enough to make me turn off the TV and start Googling cheap retirement in the Caribbean.  But you have to balance it out.  There’s good stuff to be had, even if it’s small or seems trivial.  The Miami Metro Rail ran on time yesterday.  (Karma alert: the trains were messed up this morning.) My friends up in the panhandle checked in safe after the hurricane passed.  My friend Christopher got a great write-up in the New York Times about his play opening next month on Broadway.  Someone shot a Youtube of the Miami International Auto Show and included nice things to say about Memory Lane and my car.

So while the news may be depressing, aggravating, annoying, and laugh-so-that-we-may-not-weep, sometimes we just have to remember that there are small blessings, too, and it does put it all in perspective.  For a little while, at least.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Comic Timing

It occurs to me that Neil Simon would find it funny that his passing and the tributes to him have to elbow their way on the stage because of the death of John McCain.

“What am I, chopped liver?”

 

Monday, July 9, 2018

What Goes Around

Not that I’m in favor of public humiliation of politicians in restaurant parking lots, I would remind those who are aghast at the rudeness and think it demeans the decorum of discourse of two things:

1. The people who are doing it probably took their cue from the raucous protesters at town halls in 2010 against Obamacare and Obama in general, and it worked for them quite well.

2. Karma is a heartless bitch.