Category Archives: Law/Justice

First Draft Potpourri: Why Not Madman Across The Water?

Remember when weekends used to be relatively quiet and people could focus on sports and other leisure activities, not national politics? It wasn’t that long ago. Although in my case the change might be a good thing: my San Francisco Giants are having their worst season since the 1980’s, LSU was blown out in Starksville, Ms of all places, and Saints fans are ready to wear bags after yesterday’s thumping at the hands of the Patriots. Perhaps I should skip the sporting lamentations and get down to it

Rocket Man? One of the reasons I nicknamed Donald Trump the Insult Comedian is his propensity to nickname his enemies. He’s not that good at it: Low Energy Jeb, Lyin’ Ted, and Crooked Hillary are uninspired but serviceable. He’s no threat to me or Charlie Pierce or my friend Dakinikat at  Sky Dancing who calls Trump, Kremlin Caligula. Of course, John Hurt as Caligula was much better looking and I shudder to think of Donald dancing in drag:

The Insult Comedian decided to take his empire of shtick abroad by nicknaming his fellow lunatic leader, Kim Jong Un:

I bet the South Korean President is over the moon after that call and subsequent tweet. I wonder if they discussed the local milk people as well or whether that topic is reserved for Aussie PM Malcolm Turnbull? I’m sure Malcolm would be willing to share: he’s used to being in the middle…

Trump clearly think he’s being clever, but nicknaming a crazy man with nukes is unwise. Like the Kaiser of Chaos himself, Kim Jong Un is not known for his ability to take a joke. Remember the shitstorm over the James Franco-Seth Rogen movie The Interview? Like Trump or any other bully, Rocket Man can dish it out but not take it. I’m concerned that Trump will follow-up the Kim Jong Un dubbing by posting this infamous version of the John-Maupin hit:

I suppose we should be grateful that Trump didn’t nickname Kim Jong Un after another Elton John song even if that would have been wittier:

We don’t want Rocket Man to Burn Down The Mission, after all.

Ty Cobb Slides Into Trouble: The MSM keeps telling us that Trump mouthpiece Ty Cobb is somehow related to the baseball hall of famer of that name. They never bother to explain the consanguinity. It’s starting to feel like my father’s tales of being related to scads of prominent Greek-Americans but I digress.

It seems that Cobb the lawyer *does* have some qualities often ascribed to the Detroit Tiger great, he’s hyper aggressive and has a big mouth:

The friction escalated in recent days after Mr. Cobb was overheard by a reporter for The New York Times discussing the dispute during a lunchtime conversation at a popular Washington steakhouse. Mr. Cobb was heard talking about a White House lawyer he deemed “a McGahn spy” and saying Mr. McGahn had “a couple documents locked in a safe” that he seemed to suggest he wanted access to. He also mentioned a colleague whom he blamed for “some of these earlier leaks,” and who he said “tried to push Jared out,” meaning Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, who has been a previous source of dispute for the legal team.

 After The Times contacted the White House about the situation, Mr. McGahn privately erupted at Mr. Cobb, according to people informed about the confrontation who asked not to be named describing internal matters. John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, sharply reprimanded Mr. Cobb for his indiscretion, the people said.

Mr. Cobb sought to defuse the conflict in an interview over the weekend, praising Mr. McGahn as a superb lawyer. “He has been very helpful to me, and whenever we have differences of opinion, we have been able to work them out professionally and reach consensus,” Mr. Cobb said. “We have different roles. He has a much fuller plate. But we’re both devoted to this White House and getting as much done on behalf of the presidency as possible.”

Ty Cobb, Esquire is better known for his exuberant mustache than sharpening his spikes, but he clearly has a sharp tongue. And like the ballplayer, he feuds with his “teammates.” I love stories of disarray at the Trump White House, especially when they make it apparent that the “Kelly discipline effect” is having limited impact. Keep up the good work, y’all.

Here’s the Original Ty Cobb “sliding” into home plate. Looks more like a kick to me. Dan McGhan better watch out.

The Trump-Russia scandal seems to be heating up again. It’s time for another dose of dossier dish.

The Not-So Dodgy Dossier: The original dodgy dossier was assembled by British intelligence to help Tony Blair sell the Iraq War to a wary Labour Party and a skeptical public. Many people thought that the dossier former British spook Christopher Steele assembled about the Trump-Russia mishigas was equally dodgy. One reason for  that was the incessant, infantile focus on the so-called pee tape by the twits of twitter.

There was an excellent piece on the Steele dossier last week in Slate by former American spook John Sipher. Sipher argues that much of the dossier has already been verified and that Steele is a credible person.

Given his name, I was relieved that the Sipher piece wasn’t written in cipher. I hope Sipher’s meticulous analysis will help dampen down the golden showers chatter amongst the resistance.  Toilet humor is for lame bro comedies and elementary school kids. It should be flushed by adults.

Ron Ziegler In A Frock

I don’t think many of our readers are old enough to have had the Ron Ziegler experience. Ziegler was, of course, Tricky Dick’s press secretary. He combined ignorance and arrogance in his dealings with the White House press corps. He was never (at the risk of sounding like Poppy Bush) in the loop and said many loopy things: my personal favorite was when he declared  his previous comments about the Watergate burglary “inoperative.”

Sarah Huckabee Sanders (hereinafter Huck’s Horrible Spawn) is well on her way to becoming the most hated White House press secretary since Ziegler; even the dread Ari Fleischer had his supporters. Huck’s Horrible Spawn clearly knows nothing about what’s going on in the White House she pretends to speak for. Today she urged ESPN to fire Jemele Hill for criticizing her boss on the sacred tweeter tube. Apparently, Trump is the only one who can fire off insulting tweets. So much for free speech.

Huck’s Horrible Spawn also dusted off her non-existent law degree and proclaimed James Comey a criminal. This is simultaneously ludicrous and menacing. The White House is threatening its opponents with jail or, in the case, of Ms. Hill, loss of her livelihood. This is a classic authoritarian move, which is why I originally called this post Creeping Authoritarianism. The image of  Ron Ziegler in a frock is much funnier. And we need all the comic relief we can get in the Trump era.

There’s one good thing in Huck’s Horrible Spawn being Ron Ziegler in a Frock. Like the Z-Man she knows nothing, bupkis, zilch about the scandals that are hanging over the White House. She may not even need to lawyer up or testify before Congress about her non-existent knowledge. It’s good to be out of the loop and in over your head.

I don’t have a picture of Ron Ziegler in a frock but I found a picture of him with Elvis Presley. That will  have to do.

 

 

 

This Is Massive

While we’ve all been focused on what’s happening in Southeast Texas, Politico’s Josh Sawsey broke a momentous story last night:

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team is working with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on its investigation into Paul Manafort and his financial transactions, according to several people familiar with the matter.

The cooperation is the latest indication that the federal probe into President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman is intensifying. It also could potentially provide Mueller with additional leverage to get Manafort to cooperate in the larger investigation into Trump’s campaign, as Trump does not have pardon power over state crimes.

The two teams have shared evidence and talked frequently in recent weeks about a potential case, these people said. One of the people familiar with progress on the case said both Mueller’s and Schneiderman’s teams have collected evidence on financial crimes, including potential money laundering.

It’s no secret that federal and state authorities often engage in turf battles over investigations. I’m thrilled to learn that’s not the case in this important investigation of egregious white-collar criminality. Donald Trump is not just an asshole white nationalist, he’s a criminal who associates with other criminals from both the Italian-American and Russian mobs.

Speaking of criminal associates, I somehow missed the story from late July:

President Trump’s nominee to lead the Justice Department’s criminal division, Brian A. Benczkowski, said on Tuesday that he helped Russia’s Alfa Bank investigate whether its computer servers contacted the Trump Organization.

Mr. Benczkowski had told the Senate Judiciary Committee last week that he represented Alfa Bank, which is one of Russia’s largest financial institutions and whose owners have ties to President Vladimir V. Putin.

On Tuesday, as Mr. Benczkowski came before the panel for his confirmation hearing, he acknowledged that his work for Alfa Bank directly touched on suspicions related to the bank in connection with the Trump-Russia affair.

 Is there anyone  in the Trump administration* without ties to the Russians? They seem rather hard to find. Benczkowski has not and should not be confirmed. Do they have a job lined up for Felix Sater next?

The news about the Mueller-Schneiderman compact (I know there’s nothing formal but I like how that sounds) may lead to renewed speculation that the Insult Comedian will try to fire Mueller. I don’t think that will happen: it’s apparent that one of Kelly’s conditions for taking the Chief of Staff job was that the president* keep his tiny hands off the Mueller probe. Kelly, however, is unable to prevent Trump from acting so guilty. Of course, he *is* guilty.

The last word goes to the late Paul Hester with a tune he wrote for Split Enz:

The Unpardonable Arpaio Pardon

I wanted to add my two cents worth to the Arpaio pardon discussion. Everything about it smells worse than a post-Katrina refrigerator. The president* did not allow the pardon process to unfold or even consult with the Justice Department before issuing it. I suspect someone told him that he *had* to do that, which means he did the opposite. Although there are times when he acts like a petulant toddler, part of Trump is an eternal teenager forever rebelling against authority even when he *is* the authority. I believe the proper term is arrested adolescence. Tom Petty would surely call him a rebel without a clue.

The MSM has underplayed the extent of Arpaio’s offenses against human decency and proper police conduct. He ran his jail like a medieval warlord, using various forms of torture and neglect against the prisoners. Like the Insult Comedian, he believes in “roughing up criminals” including those who are awaiting trial and thereby presumed innocent. The president* has told the world that he considers police brutality to be proper procedure. The Arpaio pardon reinforces that message as well as telling bigots that hatred is cool as long as you support Trump. It’s a new variation on the IOKIYAR theme: IOKIYAT or it’s okay if you’re a Trumper.

The most worrisome aspect of the Arpaio pardon is the precedent it sets for the Russia scandal.  It’s increasingly apparent that Trump plans to pardon his way out of legal jeopardy. The Arpaio pardon is a dress rehearsal for the main eventski. The potential of a wave of pardons will oblige Team Mueller to modify their tactics BUT it will not end the investigation. If Manafort, Kushner, and company accept pardons, they can still be compelled to testify. And they will not be able to take the Fifth because of the pardon. They will have to testify truthfully or face *other* charges because prospective pardons are flat-out illegal. Another round of pardons would add to the list of impeachable offenses, which is longer than Kevin Durant’s arms. Holy wingspan, Batman.

Acceptance of a pardon is an admission of guilt as much as the Arpaios and Nixons of the world would disagree. Russia scandal pardons would only serve to make Trump look even guiltier that does already. Bigly.

I’m uncertain if I’ve ever given Jimi Hendrix the last word but there’s no time like the present.

First Draft Potpourri: Arpaio To Play Edition

I just have a few items for a hot-steamy-n-cloudy Thursday. Of course, it’s August in New Orleans so it’s always hot-n-steamy, hot-n-nasty even:

The focus of this edition is a man who never eats humble pie. I think you know who I’m talking about: the Insult Comedian.

Arpaio To Play: To be blunt, former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is a racist piece of shit. He was finally voted out by Phoenician voters last fall. Yeah, they actually call themselves that. I guess Phoenixers was too negative and Phoenixons sounds too much like a certain former president.

Trump’s pals at CNN broke the story that the administration* is preparing the paperwork if the Lost Causer In Chief pardons his fellow racist:

An administration official said the White House has also prepared talking points to send to surrogates after he is pardoned.
One of the talking points is that Arpaio served his country for 50 years in the military, the Drug Enforcement Administration and as Arizona’s Maricopa County sheriff, and that it is not appropriate to send him to prison for “enforcing the law” and “working to keep people safe.”
Arpaio, an early Trump supporter, was found guilty last month of criminal contempt for disregarding a court order in a racial profiling case. He is scheduled to be sentenced on October 5.
Though the timing remains unclear, the President alluded that he would soon pardon Arpaio during his rally in Phoenix, Arizona, Tuesday night.
“I won’t do it tonight because I don’t want to cause any controversy,” Trump said, after Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said he would “inflame passions” if he did so. “I’ll make a prediction,” Trump added. “I think he’s going to be just fine.”

Dig the line about avoiding controversy in a speech that had the president* frothing at the mouth like a rabid dog. It’s a pity that he can’t be quarantined so he can catch up on his teevee watching.

The signal that Trump would send to the nation if he pardoned Arpaio is clear: bigotry is “beautifu”l as long you support me. Trump kept referring to Arpaio in his speech as “Sheriff Joe” as if he were Andy Taylor of teevee’s Mayberry. Arpaio is more like Judge Roy Bean. He’s a nasty piece of work who should not be pardoned so, of course, Trump will do it. It’s who and what he is.

Quote Of The Day: The Guardian  spoke to some Trumpers outside the Phoenix rally. The money quote comes from wignut Arizona State Senator, Sylvia Allen:

Trump is a breath of fresh air. He’s totally not a political person. He’s a businessman: he’s anti-left, he’s anti-PC, he’s anti-stupid.

The Insult Comedian is anti-stupid? That’s the stupidest damn thing I’ve heard in quite some time. Ms. Allen should look in the mirror if she wants to see stupid.

I’m sick of the endless pulse-taking of the baser members of Trump’s base. There’s a rock solid 25% who aren’t embarrassed by his demented antics and bigoted policies. I’m tired of hearing about the hardcore deplorables. Doesn’t the MSM owe Hillary an apology for raking her over the coals about the basket of deplorables comment? She was right and they were wrong. Chris Cillizza should be made to scrub the toilets at Hill-n-Bill’s crib; without a brush like Ken Shabby in this classic Python sketch:

Tweet Of The Day:  Speaking of the Clintons, Chelsea spoke out against mockery at the expense of Barron Trump:

The offending tweet was deleted but it echoed an article at Tucker Carlson’s joint criticizing the kid for wearing a t-shirt and shorts. How dare he dress like a tween? The nerve.

Good on ya, Chelsea. I remember when Rushbo went after you for looking like a gawky kid when you were one. Empathy is an excellent quality. It’s a pity that Barron’s father doesn’t have it but, unlike his adult siblings, the kid is a non-combatant. Leave him the fuck alone.

Trump Theme Song Time: Watching the Primal Screamer In Chief’s Phoenix pity party, it occurred to me that Warren Zevon’s Poor Poor Pitiful Me would be a great Trump theme song. The narrator is a cad much like the grubby pussygrabbing president*.

I may get around to writing some new lyrics but the chorus is easy: “Poor poor pitiful me. CNN won’t let me be. Lord have mercy on me. Woe is me.”

Guess who gets the last word?

 

 

Lost Causers Fester In Charlottesville

I’ve spent a lot of time in Charlottesville over the years. It’s a lovely college town with a population of 45K when the University of Virginia isn’t in session. Dr. A spent her formative years in Staunton 45 miles away, and studied and worked in Charlottesville. We know and love the place. We still have friends there including Parenthetical who wrote a guest post about the May warmup demonstration aka the Klanbake.

Charlottesville is not your typical “moonlight and magnolias” Southern college town. UVA alums think of their school as a Southern outpost of the Ivy League and the town is full of preppies, not bubbas. But just like ANYWHERE in America, there are bigots, xenophobes, and racists nearby. Never forget that one of the ugliest fights over school desegregation took place in liberal Boston. And the president* who gave a green light to the self-styled alt-right is from liberal New York. It may be trite to say it but racism and bigotry are an American, not Southern, problem. It’s everywhere.

About the post title. I’ve mostly used the labels Lost Causers and Lost Cause Fest to describe the anti-monument removal protesters in New Orleans. Since Richard Spencer is not tied to my city (David Dukkke must be slipping), we saw less neo-Nazi shit here but who are bigger losers in history than the Nazis? The Lost Cause label fits them and will remain affixed to their odious cause here at First Draft.

I’m a writer so words mean a great deal to me. I remain conflicted as to what exactly to call the self-styled alt right. I lean in the direct of calling them white nationalists as a way of linking them to the right-wing nationalist movements in Europe. I tend to prefer the label neo-Nazis to just plain Nazis because the latter word is tied to a specific time, place, and people. I am not, however, going to quibble over those terms: a Fascist is a Fascist is a Fascist.

It’s obvious that the right-wing extremist groups who gathered in Charlottesville hope to replicate the Nazi vs. Communist street thuggery that preceded the Nazi takeover of Germany. The anti-fa folks are playing into their hands but it’s hard to argue with someone who defends themselves. Tension in Charlottesville was exacerbated by Virginia’s status as an open carry state. While I think that’s madness, there is a way to reduce the level of thuggery at future demonstrations in open carry states. Many of the neo-Nazi, unmasked Klan types were carrying riot shields, helmets, and billy clubs or baseball bats. Those items can be proscribed in the permitting process thereby allowing the cops to remove a person possessing them from the scene of the future crime. Legislative action would be better but I’m not holding my breath.

I was at a birthday party for a good friend on Saturday night. There was much talk about Charlottesville and the Insult Comedian’s non-statement about the neo-Nazi riot. As Athenae pointed out yesterday, there aren’t MANY SIDES to this issue. It’s a choice between fundamental human decency and hate. I’d like to focus on another side of Trump’s poorly delivered and half-assed remarks:

My administration is restoring the sacred bonds of loyalty between this nation and its citizens, but our citizens must also restore the bonds of trust and loyalty between one another. We must love each other, respect each other, and cherish our history and our future together. So important. We have to respect each other. Ideally, we have to love each other.

On the surface this sound okay because he talks about love, trust, and loyalty. The key phrase is in bold face: this is whoever wrote the remarks (my money is on Miller) way of signalling to the Lost Causers that Trump is on their side. This march was allegedly about keeping a monument to Robert E. Lee and cherishing history as seen by Richard Spencer and erstwhile Gret Stet Fuhrer David Dukkke. It’s certainly how they understood his remarks as historian Rick Perlstein pointed out on his Facebook feed:

I let Rick read the Daily Stormer so we didn’t have to.

It’s telling that a president* who is willing to attack gold star families, disabled reporters, Kim Jong-un, and Chinless Mitch by name is unwilling to call out neo-Nazis and Lost Cause racists. Why? They’re part of his base. Even if Trump is forced into naming names, it will be grudging, half-hearted, and meaningless. We know where he stands. He’s one of them.

It’s time for some comic relief. One of the twitter feeds I’ve been enjoying of late is Yes, You’re Racist. This particular exchange made me laugh on a rather grim weekend:

The picture of that slack-jawed preppie moron led to this bon mot by one of my favorite people on the tweeter tube, me:

Mosley was, of course, the leader of the pre-World War II British Union of Fascists. I half way expected to see the banner of his party waved in Charlottesville last weekend:

If you see the flag at future Lost Cause Fest events, you know what it is.

The best thing I’ve read about the events in Charlottesville came from Slate’s Dahlia Lithiwck who lives there. Here’s how she finished her piece:

The Nazis may come to town, terrorize and threaten people with guns, even brutally murder a young woman. This president may fail to condemn it. But all right-thinking Americans will recoil in horror. And white supremacists will be replaced. There is no room for them here. On Saturday they were relegated to parking at the shopping mall and walking miles in the hot sun, in their sad supervillain Comic-Con outfits. Today they are already slinking back to their own homes, where they are also being replaced, by history, by moral justice, and by our children, who are growing up exactly where they belong, at home, irreplaceable, sacred, and, especially today, brave.

I should give Dahlia the last word but I want to circle back to the featured image of Captain American punching Hitler. I am not an advocate of violence but Nazi punching strikes me (pun intended, it always is) as the least bad and most understandable form of violence. People who attend a rally packing heat below their absurd tiki torches deserve mockery and the odd punch. I’ll stick to the former but I’m beyond sermonizing about the latter.

The last word is part of my continuing effort to prove that there’s a Kinks song for every situation. This song is about Captain America asking for help in a troubled time:

I remember, when you were down
And you needed a helping hand
I came to feed you
But now that I need you
You won’t give me a second glance
Now I’m calling all citizens from all over the world
This is Captain America calling
I bailed you out when you were down on your knees
So will you catch me now I’m falling

The song was written for 1979’s Low Budget album but rings truer than ever:

How We Got Here

Whet has a fantastic history lesson for all those MAH GRANDPAPPY JUST TOOK A CHICKEN TO THE DOCTOR TO PAY bleaters out there. Most likely Gramps didn’t go to the doctor at all, even if there was a spare chicken around.

A.

What They Live On

Been saying for a while that Trump isn’t complicated. He’s hit on a line — white resentment — that sells, and he’ll keep selling it until it doesn’t work anymore: 

The condemnations began soon after Trump’s speech to law enforcement officers in Brentwood, New York, Friday, aimed at bolstering local police efforts to combat a spike in violence attributed to the Marasalvatrucha, or MS-13, gang.

“When you see these towns and when you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon, you just see them thrown in, rough, I said, ‘Please don’t be too nice,'” the president told the officers assembled at Suffolk County Community College.

“Like when you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head – you know, the way you put their hand over – like, ‘Don’t hit their head’ and they’ve just killed somebody. ‘Don’t hit their head,'” he added. “I said, ‘You can take the hand away, OK?'”

That a crime wave is not caused by cops making sure a suspect doesn’t bash his head on the car hood is obvious, natch, and every police department rushed out to Twitter to be all NOT US WE’RE NOT LIKE THAT NO NO NO. Which was nice, except that there are by far more allegations of excessive force than there are of excessive kindness: 

In a statement given to People’s Law Office attorney Flint Taylor last spring, Holmes said he was taken to an Area Two interrogation room, where detectives put a plastic bag over his head. Holmes said that after he bit through the bag in order to breathe, Burge put a second bag over the first. Holmes told Taylor that he remembered hearing a crank turning and Burge saying, “You going to talk, nigger, you going to talk.”

“It feel like a thousand needles going through my body,” Holmes said. “And then after that, it just feel like, you know–it feel like something just burning me from inside, and um, I shook, I gritted, I hollered, then I passed out. . . . They put the bag back on me, took me through the same thing again. They did that I don’t know how many times. . . . I said to myself, ‘Man, he trying to kill me.’ And I thought I was dead because all I could see was blackness, and I said, ‘Man, this is it. I’m gone.’ When I looked up, they brought me back again. Burge was the one that was . . . bringing me back. Every time I come to, he be the one standing over me.

“But the point is, when you see police doing you like this here and there’s nobody there to help you, you like, ‘Man, is this real?’ You know it can’t be real. . . . But then you realize it ain’t no dream state because you started feeling this pain, just like somebody stabbing you in your heart, you know, and you fixing to die, but you won’t die. You just still there. . . . Ain’t nothing like it. It’s just like, you know, just diving in some water that’s ice-cold and it hits you at one time and it take your breath away and you get pain. It freezes you up. It’s just like somebody just cut away everything that’s inside you and there’s nothing to hold you back. . . . When they got through with me, I didn’t care what it was–if they said I killed Bob or the president or anybody, I would say, ‘Yeah, how do you want me to say this? This the way I did it? Yeah, this the way I did it.’ . . .

“When I tried to tell people that they did me like this, ain’t nobody want to listen to me. When I go to the parole board, I tell them the same thing. They look at me like, you know, ‘You got jailhouse slick.'”

Trump’s talk of empowering cops to go beat the shit out of bad guys isn’t new, of course, that’s what being the “law and order” candidate and shitting all over Chicago was always about. His natural audience is people who picture the city as a teeming mass of minority criminals ready to rise up and murder nice white families downtown for their annual matinee.

At best, he’s an old racist shithead who, like many people his age, grew up on a steady diet of crime shows set in NYC. You know what’s on TV all day if you’re not watching Fox? Law and Order. Some channel is running a marathon at all times.

His supporters watched a lot of America’s Most Wanted, and they watched a lot of NYPD Blue, and they watched and still watch hours and hours and hours of Law and Order. Twenty-four hours a day, hookers are getting strangled and dumped in alleys, and the “perps” are going free because some cop who Just Couldn’t Take It Anymore didn’t wait for a weenie judge to sign a warrant.

That’s the city to them, that place where their parents had such a nice neighborhood and You Should See It Now, it’s been ruined by Those People. Their only interaction with city police is Lenny Briscoe. And if the cops were just “unleashed” to do it like they do in the movies, well, maybe they could get something done.

“Something” being hit with a $5 million misconduct lawsuit that’s just gonna stop the cops who aren’t assholes from solving any actual problems, but that’s not the point. The point is to talk tough, not to accomplish anything.

A.

Saturday Odds & Sods: I Should’ve Known

Dog Eat Dog by Joni Mitchell.

It was a helluva week with one of the most eventful Thursdays in recent memory. We all thought the “skinny repeal” atrocity would pass. While I’m glad that John McCain voted NO, the real stars of the vote were Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski. Team Trump has done many stupid things since coming to power but threatening Murkowski takes the cake. This is one tough woman. In 2010, she lost the Republican primary to a teabagger, ran as an independent, and won. Threatening her with an open political grave was futile, she’d already been declared politically dead and came back with a vengeance. Besides, the Murkowskis are a dynasty in Alaska with a collective 36 years in the Senate between Lisa and her father Frank. Take that Ryan Zinke. Z is for zero, zed, and Zinke.

On the local front, the big news was the surprising resignation of Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand. Normand is one of the most popular elected officials in the Gret Stet of Louisiana and a genuine maverick. I’ve both praised and blasted him over the years. You may recall that he was the guy David Vitter hired a gumshoe to spy on. Normand played an important role in defeating Vitter’s goober bid in 2015. On the down side, he was named malaka of the week for one of many bombastic press conferences he gave as Sheriff. He’s becoming the afternoon man at WWL talk radio. I suspect that the station’s money was what did the talking.

The reasons for selecting an Aimee Mann tune as the Saturday post theme song for a second time will be made clear after the break. Suffice it to say that it’s a great tune with a message that fits the post quite neatly. We like things tidy here at First Draft even if  my house is a cluttered mess. Neither Oscar nor Della will lift a paw to help clean. So it goes.

We begin with the 1993 promo video followed by a live version on the Beeb.

I’ve always loved the “dot, dot, dot” harmonies. I originally thought they were singing “bop, bop, bop” but I should’ve known…better. Ponder that as we go to the break.

Continue reading

Don’t Play Trump’s Game

The Insult Comedian was a busy boy yesterday. His tweetstorm “banning” transgender people from serving in the military led to a collective freak-out among supporters of LGBQT rights. Here’s the deal: it’s just twitter. A tweet does not have the force of law; as of this writing there has been no follow-through. Zero. Nada. Zip. Bupkis. Tipota.

A tweet without an executive order is meaningless. The military is a mammoth bureaucracy that is based on order and discipline.  It cannot change course based on a whim and a tweet. Some sort of process is required to change personnel policies. That’s why former President Obama had the Pentagon go through two separate processes to allow gay and transgender folks to serve. The brass will salute an orderly process. Only an idiot would salute a disorderly tweet. Repeat after me: nothing that happens on twitter matters.

The policy “shift” came about to pander to wingnuts vexed by Trump’s mistreatment of Jeff Bo. It also has something to do with money for the president’s* stupid wall. It’s a cynical ploy that will never occur without follow through. It may happen but this administration* isn’t known for paying attention to details. Additionally, the federal courts take a dim view of anything that takes rights away from the citizenry. If an order is issued, it will surely be challenged in court. It would be the first travel ban all over again.

I understand why people were upset but freaking out every time this moron tweets something inflammatory is playing into his hands. He’s not a dictator, he just plays one on the tweeter tube. As the risk of sounding like my fake hick Senator John Neely Kennedy: tweetin’ ain’t doin’. Besides,  chicken little-ling never helps.

This whole twitter-based kerfuffle reminds me of the end of Chinatown:

Forget it, y’all. It’s twitter.

UPDATE: It’s good to be right. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says any changes must go through the chain of command. Twitter is not in the chain of command.

I told you so.

Unpardonable

Team Trump continues to be all over the place on the issue of pardons. Mooch says one thing. Jeff Sekulow says something else. The president* says something entirely different. They *do* seem to agree that the pardon power is absolute just like the Insult Comedian likes his powers. I do not agree and neither do some people who know what they’re talking about.

The self-pardon issue is a non-starter according to our old friend Larry Tribe, former GW Bush ethics lawyer  Richard Painter, and former Obama ethics counsel Norman Eisen. They cite history something with which the president* is only vaguely acquainted:

The Constitution’s pardon clause has its origins in the royal pardon granted by a sovereign to one of his or her subjects. We are aware of no precedent for a sovereign pardoning himself, then abdicating or being deposed but being immune from criminal process. If that were the rule, many a deposed king would have been spared instead of going to the chopping block.

We know of not a single instance of a self-pardon having been recognized as legitimate. Even the pope does not pardon himself. On March 28, 2014, in St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis publicly kneeled before a priest and confessed his sins for about three minutes.

The only non-Trumper thus far to claim that the president*can pardon himself is Jonathan Turley. I knew him when he taught at Tulane law school, but he’s the Slate of legal experts, a constant and consistent contrarian. Read his piece anyway but he’s more likely than not wrong. I hedge my bets because this issue has never been tested in court: no previous president ever contemplated a self-pardon as I pointed out last Friday.

I’m also dubious that the pardon power is as absolute as the Trumpers or the well-meaning knuckleheads at Vox think it is. There’s a thought-provoking piece in the NYT by two University of Chicago law professors that argue that some pardons *could* be crimes:

Yet federal obstruction statutes say that a person commits a crime when he “corruptly” impedes a court or agency proceeding. If it could be shown that President Trump pardoned his family members and close aides to cover up possible crimes, then that could be seen as acting “corruptly” and he could be charged with obstruction of justice. If, as some commentators believe, a sitting president cannot be indicted, Mr. Trump could still face prosecution after he leaves the White House.

Speaking of disputed, untested areas of the law ,one often hears that a president cannot be indicted while in office. That’s based on a finding by the Nixon Justice Department and the fact that Leon Jaworski’s office made Tricky an “unindicted co-conspirator.”  It turns out that Ken Starr’s office believed a president *could* be indicted while in office. Would that be wise? Beats the hell out of me but it’s not settled law.

In addition to Trump’s crazy interview with the Failing NYT, the reason this is arising at this point is that the Insult Comedian is *implying* that he will not allow *any* investigation into his family’s sleazy financial dealings. He, of course, does not get to choose what Bob Mueller’s office investigates. They have a broad mandate and anything they stumble into in the course of their investigation is fair game. Trump does not like that, which is why he may provoke a constitutional crisis unless Congressional Republicans make it clear that removing Mueller is a bridge too far. So far, their collective heads remain lodged up Trump’s ample ass.

In my experience, people who act this guilty usually are. Team Trump seems to think that all they have is a PR problem, which will go after squirting some Mooch juice all on it. The White House has a crime problem and all the smears in the world will not alter that. Repeat after me: Bob Mueller is a Republican who was appointed FBI director by a Republican president. He did such a good and non-partisan job in that post that he was re-appointed by a Democrat. Mueller is a straight shooter and if Team Trump are not guilty of any crimes, his office will say so. If they were genuinely not guilty, they’d let him do his job. Threats against Team Mueller are a tacit acknowledgement of guilt. If the White House had a lick of sense, they would back down and let Team Mueller do its job, but they don’t so they won’t.

In the immortal words of Bette Davis as Margo Channing:

That concludes this essay on the daily constitutional crisis.

Your Fondest Wish Comes True. THEN WHAT?

So let’s say that tomorrow Trump is indicted, impeached, frog-marched out of the White House, and his entire team including Pence and Ryan are in prison and Orrin Hatch is president.

Let’s say this happens (not a quarter of it is going to happen) and we all watch it on TV.

Then what? I mean it, then what? Like the next day what happens? We pop the champagne and assume it’s all over?

I think a lot of my fellow pale-faced liberal types are underthinking the amount of violence people of color, young people, and women are already facing because of Trump, and that’s after a VICTORY. Their whole angry worldview was validated in a national election and it’s just made them MORE angry. I didn’t think they could get more angry but they are.

These are the people arming and prepping themselves for the apocalypse, who bought an extra AR-15 just to piss those libtards off and have been stockpiling ammo since the days of that draft-dodger Bill Clinton. We all had a good time clowning on Meal Team Six back when they seized a frickin’ bird sanctuary, but put one of those assholes in a crowded room and he could mow down a movement.

Ninety percent of Trump supporters? If he’s thrown out of office they’ll be fine as long as whatever comes after him immediately gives them jobs. They’ll go to work and they’ll have less time to be pissed off. I don’t have an answer for that other 10 percent but I think we’re downplaying the threat they represent to people already feeling marginalized and targeted.

So if I seem less openly enthusiastic about the idea of impeachment or criminal proceedings against the Trump Syndicate, it isn’t because I think they’re innocent of anything. It’s because even if they’re found guilty, they won’t suffer a fraction as much as those with so much more to lose already.

A.

No, OJ, No…

I remember exactly where I was on Oct. 3, 1995 when the jury found O.J. Simpson not guilty of the murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman. A bunch of J-majors were stuffed into the broadcast lab, which was the only place that had a TV with cable in those pre-real-Internet days of news. Back then, we all wanted to know, RIGHT NOW, what was going to happen with this guy. The verdict was stunning but, for us, not in the way you saw portrayed in retro shows where people were screaming and fighting and whatever. I know it mattered in a lot of ways to a lot of people, and it must still matter to me, as I remember where I was back then.

Thursday’s similarly breathless coverage of Simpson’s parole hearing felt for me like one of those “one-hit wonder” bands you catch on a side stage at Summerfest: You recognized one or two of the people, one or two of the songs, but it really wasn’t much to write home about. I seemed to be in a minority on that point, as Tweets were flying, networks broke in to show the hearing live, video clips played on an almost constant loop and it seemed like every website on earth had a different angle on this. TV morning shows found the Goldman family and brought them out for a “hot take” on this 70-year-old parolee. Netflix was plugging its original film on “Kardashian: The Man Who Saved O.J. Simpson” in the wake of the hearing. My friend even sent me, a die-hard Cleveland fan, a snarky article on how the Browns had just signed The Juice to a 2-year, $14 million contract to anchor their backfield.

O.J. Simpson was about “the moment” for so long. The 1968 Rose Bowl, where he scored twice and rushed for 128 yards. The snowy night at Shea Stadium in 1973 where he piled up 200 yards to break the seemingly unbreakable barrier of 2000 yards in a season. The Thanksgiving Day in Detroit where he ran for 273 yards as the team’s only weapon.

In later years, he was also about “the moment” in life: The famous low-speed Freeway Chase that had every Ford executive wondering why AC couldn’t have grabbed the keys to a Bentley or something. The moment he put on that glove with all the exuberance of a man cleaning out a septic tank with his own toothbrush. The look on his face when the jury acquitted him. The years of random “pop up” moments like his book, “If I Did It…”

CNN noted that we need more “OJ moments” for a variety of reasons.

I’m more with Crash Davis on this one:

The moment’s over.

Still Worse Than Nixon

Another day, another blockbuster story about administration* criminality. Nothing they do or say surprises me even when it should. Now they’re talking about presidential* pardons including a self-pardon. I am not making this up, if I were nobody would believe me:

Trump has asked his advisers about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself in connection with the probe, according to one of those people. A second person said Trump’s lawyers have been discussing the president’s pardoning powers among themselves.

Trump’s legal team declined to comment on the issue. But one adviser said the president has simply expressed a curiosity in understanding the reach of his pardoning authority, as well as the limits of Mueller’s investigation.

“This is not in the context of, ‘I can’t wait to pardon myself,’ ” a close adviser said.

And we’re supposed to believe this? Why? I have a firm policy of believing nothing that anyone in this administration* says. And since when was Donald Trump curious about anything? Idleness many be his thing but idle curiosity is not. As you can see, all I have are questions. Answers are increasingly elusive as the Trumpers reel like drunk monkeys from constitutional crisis to constitutional crisis.

I wrote a post during the late election entitled Tweet Of The Day: Worse Than Nixon. It was about Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns, an issue that is returning to the forefront as Team Mueller digs into the Trump crime family’s seedy business dealings. The point I made last May was that even Tricky Dick released his tax forms. Today’s point is that Nixon dismissed the notion of  a self-pardon out of hand. He thought that was beneath the dignity of the office. That was Richard Fucking Nixon who resigned in disgrace. Trump is still worse than Nixon. Now he seems hell-bent on emulating Tricky and disposing of a special prosecutor. He’ll have to find someone to do it since he doesn’t have the power to fire Bobby Three Sticks himself. If it happens, it will be a bloodier and stupider version of the Saturday Night Massacre.

The word of the day is seedy. We’ve had some shady characters work in and around the White House in our history. The Harding administration comes instantly to mind. Attorney General Harry Daugherty spent his tenure at DOJ shaking down suckers and funneling the money to his bag man, Jess Smith. The seedy Interior Secretary, Albert Fall, was involved in a sordid scheme involving oil leases at the place that gave the scandal its name, Tea Pot Dome, Wyoming. Daugherty, Smith, and Fall were choirboys compared to the thieves and blackguards surrounding the Current Occupant. This is much worse: Harding was a relatively honest dupe whereas Trump is so crooked that if he swallowed a nail he’d spit up a corkscrew. Uh oh, I sound like Gret Stet senator John Neely Kennedy…

Back to the pardon power. The constitution gives a president broad discretion in granting pardons. It’s unclear if Trump can pardon himself. Those are uncharted waters because we’ve never had a president as seedy and sleazy as Trump.  It *is* clear that he has the power to pre-emptively pardon his greasy relatives and criminal associates. The Nixon pardon serves as precedent but the scope of his crimes are beginning to pale before the unfolding Trump scandals.

I discarded my crystal ball last fall after Trump’s shocking electoral college win. I’m out of the prediction business but one thing I’m certain of is that this won’t end well for anyone involved including the citizenry. It’s what happens when a criminal is elected president*

And he’s still worse than Nixon.

Your President* Speaks: The Daily Constitutional Crisis

It’s no secret that Donald Trump thrives on conflict, chaos, and crisis. It’s also no secret that normal people find the constant chaos exhausting. I’m only marginally normal but find myself waking up and wondering what shit has hit the fan over night. Some days it’s a crazy tweet, other days it’s an interview. Whenever the Insult Comedian is interviewed by the NYT’s Maggie Haberman, the bats in his belfry come flying out.

Haberman wasn’t the only Timesperson involved in the interview but she’s the one with the knack of summoning the demons. Timing is, of course, everything. Even by the standards of the Trump presidency* it’s been a crazy few weeks: things are not going well in Trump World and when that happens, shit meet fan.

This time around there is *some* method in the president’s* madness. Events in the Trump-Russia scandal are moving at warp speed while the attempt to destroy the ACA is creeping along like a slug that’s been stepped on. The White House is issuing empty threats to Senators who are less and less afraid of the Orange Menace every day. It’s not unusual for a real president to want to change the subject but they rarely move on to an even more damaging topic. Ain’t nothing real about the pouty POTUS* on display today. Pouty POTUS*? I feel a new nickname coming on: POUTUS. I’m not sure if it requires an asterisk. The dumb fucker pouts constantly.

We begin with a comment inspired by his Parisian sojourn:

Well, Napoleon finished a little bit bad. But I asked that. So I asked the president, so what about Napoleon? He said: “No, no, no. What he did was incredible. He designed Paris.” [garbled] The street grid, the way they work, you know, the spokes. He did so many things even beyond. And his one problem is he didn’t go to Russia that night because he had extracurricular activities, and they froze to death. How many times has Russia been saved by the weather?

Uh, POUTUS, it was Louis Bonaparte aka Napoleon III whose government laid out the street grid of which you speak. One would think Trump would like him since he was elected and then became Emperor/Dictator. Of course, he finished “a little bit bad” too. I bet the Insult Comedian has never heard of Napoleon’s nephew Louis. It would involve reading a book.

Next up is a comment about his unsupervised visit with Putin:

We talked about Russian adoption. Yeah. I always found that interesting. Because, you know, he ended that years ago. And I actually talked about Russian adoption with him, which is interesting because it was a part of the conversation that Don [Jr., Mr. Trump’s son] had in that meeting. As I’ve said — most other people, you know, when they call up and say, “By the way, we have information on your opponent,” I think most politicians — I was just with a lot of people, they said [inaudible], “Who wouldn’t have taken a meeting like that?” They just said——

Adoption is Putinspeak for sanctions. They talked about something substantive with only Putin’s translator present. Btw, Karl Rove said he wouldn’t have taken that meeting. That’s right, Team Trump is worse than Karl Fucking Rove.

Constitutional crisis, come on down:

TRUMP: So Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself. I then have — which, frankly, I think is very unfair to the president. How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, “Thanks, Jeff, but I can’t, you know, I’m not going to take you.” It’s extremely unfair, and that’s a mild word, to the president. So he recuses himself. I then end up with a second man, who’s a deputy.

HABERMAN: Rosenstein.

TRUMP: Who is he? And Jeff hardly knew. He’s from Baltimore.

TRUMP: Yeah, what Jeff Sessions did was he recused himself right after, right after he became attorney general. And I said, “Why didn’t you tell me this before?” I would have — then I said, “Who’s your deputy?” So his deputy he hardly knew, and that’s Rosenstein, Rod Rosenstein, who is from Baltimore. There are very few Republicans in Baltimore, if any. So, he’s from Baltimore.

There’s a lot to unpack here. First, Sessions screwed up and did the right thing by recusing himself. He was following DOJ rules. Imagine that. Second, Trump refers to himself in the third person as the president* The only recent Oval One I can recall doing that was Tricky Dick. You know, the only president to resign in disgrace.

The bit about Rosenstein is classic Trumpian projection. Trump is a New York Republican who lost his home state 59-37 and did even worse in NYC. One would have thought Rosenstein would be his political soul brother. I guess not.

Next up is the part of Your President* Speaks in which American history is misinterpreted.

And nothing was changed other than Richard Nixon came along. And when Nixon came along [inaudible] was pretty brutal, and out of courtesy, the F.B.I. started reporting to the Department of Justice. But there was nothing official, there was nothing from Congress. There was nothing — anything. But the F.B.I. person really reports directly to the president of the United States, which is interesting.

The FBI has always been part of the DOJ and its director has always reported to the Attorney General. The president has always had the appointment power. One reason Mark (Deep Throat) Felt insisted on anonymity is that he was bypassed by Nixon to replace Hoover and didn’t want to come off as a disgruntled office seeker.

It’s time for Trump to threaten the Special Counsel:

SCHMIDT: Last thing, if Mueller was looking at your finances and your family finances, unrelated to Russia — is that a red line?

HABERMAN: Would that be a breach of what his actual charge is?

TRUMP: I would say yeah. I would say yes. By the way, I would say, I don’t — I don’t — I mean, it’s possible there’s a condo or something, so, you know, I sell a lot of condo units, and somebody from Russia buys a condo, who knows? I don’t make money from Russia. In fact, I put out a letter saying that I don’t make — from one of the most highly respected law firms, accounting firms. I don’t have buildings in Russia. They said I own buildings in Russia. I don’t. They said I made money from Russia. I don’t. It’s not my thing. I don’t, I don’t do that.

He didn’t definitely say he’d fire Bobby Three Sticks but the implication is clear.  Trump wants Mueller to keep his hands off the Trump crime family. We’ve had some phony Saturday Night Massacres in the past 180 days. Firing Mueller would be the real deal.

In a normal administration, we would have awakened to the news that Jeff Sessions and Rod Rosenstein had resigned. To say that this is not a normal administration is a grotesque understatement. Normal presidents care about the appearance of impropriety and would never meet with a Russian president without a sidekick of some kind. Even the Lone Ranger would have brought Tonto along, but not Johnny Depp’s Tonto with the dead bird on his head. Hmm, maybe Trump should try that. Imagine a dead bird atop the dead nutria he has atop his head. It would be a fashion sensation, y’all.

That concludes this epic edition of Your President* Speaks. I haven’t even included Trump’s recent tweet storms. Twitter is ephemeral. The New York Times is the newspaper of record. Maggie Haberman is the Trump whisperer. The poor dear.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Miles From Nowhere

Asakusa Hongan-ji Temple by Hokusai.

It was citywide election qualifying week here in New Orleans. I’m acquainted with three of the mayoral candidates but I’m undecided. It’s still early days in the race to replace Mitch Landrieu who is term limited and cannot run a fifth time to be Mayor. He’s a persistent bugger, y’all.

One person who talked about running was reality teevee star Sidney Torres aka the Trashanova. The Trashanova is a rich malaka who often wears a man bun, which is disqualifying as far as I’m concerned. Additionally, he’s  too closely tied to former Mayor Nagin to have a chance to win. Torres declined to throw his man bun into the ring and the city heaved a collective sigh of relief. Ta-ta, Trashanova.

This week’s theme song is a three-headed beast, sort of like me before my first cup of coffee in the morning. We have two  different songs titled Miles From Nowhere and one with a substantially similar title. I like to keep you on your toes.

After all the Tea for the Tillerson jokes, I thought it was high time to post a Cat Stevens song from the album with a substantially similar title. Substantially similar appears to be the two-word phrase of the day. Cat Stevens is followed (figuratively, not literally) by the Smithereens and Dwight Yoakam, which makes this a rather high mileage post.

Speaking of keeping you on your toes, we’re skipping the break and diving right in. Splash. Hopefully, it will be the deep, not shallow, end.

Your President* Speaks: It’s a long flight from DC to Paris so Trump had a chat with the press corps. He said some crazy shit about a transparent border wall. The “idea” is to see the “bags of drugs” flying over it or some such shit. That full quote is too long and rambling for this space but here are a couple of beauts annotated by yours truly:

So I was asked to go by the President [Macron], who I get along with very well, despite a lot of fake news. You know, I actually have a very good relationship with all of the people at the G20. And he called me, he said, would you come, it’s Bastille Day — 100 years since World War I. And I said, that’s big deal, 100 years since World War I. SO we’re going to go

The president* appears to think that Bastille Day is somehow connected to the Great War. It happened in 1789 and had something to with another famous event.

The other quote has the Insult Comedian sounding like his mentor Roy Cohn:

And I think what’s happening is, as usual, the Democrats have played their card too hard on the Russia thing, because people aren’t believing it. It’s a witch hunt and they understand that. When they say “treason” — you know what treason is? That’s Julius and Ethel Rosenberg for giving the atomic bomb, okay? But what about all the congressmen, where I see the woman sitting there surrounded by — in Congress.

Actually, Roy Cohn was a coherent motherfucker. That last sentence makes no sense whatsoever.

While we’re on the subject of the Darnold, there’s *another* excerpt from Joshua Green’s new Trump-Bannon book. It’s not as fun as the Bannon-Napoleon portrait one but it’s still swell. This excerpt is at Bloomberg News and discusses Trump’s time hosting The Apprentice. Fun fact: Trump was popular with minorities until the whole birther thing, which is when his ratings tanked. Sad.

Let’s move on to a segment about Trump’s longtime personal mouthpiece.

The Marc Kasowitz Blues: Pro Publica ran an eye-opening piece about Trump’s hard-drinking, foul-mouthed lawyer. One of the main points of the article by Justin Elliot and Jesse Eisinger is that Kasowitz will have a hard time obtaining a security clearance because of his drinking problem. I’m not sure how he can adequately defend the president* without one.

Kasowitz not only has a drinking problem, he has a nasty temper, which surfaced after a segment on the Rachel Maddow Show:

Marc Kasowitz, President Trump’s personal attorney on the Russia case, threatened a stranger in a string of profanity-laden emails Wednesday night.

The man, a retired public relations professional in the western United States who asked not to be identified, read ProPublica’s story this week on Kasowitz and sent the lawyer an email with the subject line: “Resign Now.”

Kasowitz replied with series of angry messages sent between 9:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. Eastern time. One read: “I’m on you now.  You are fucking with me now Let’s see who you are Watch your back , bitch.”

 In another email, Kasowitz wrote: “Call me.  Don’t be afraid, you piece of shit.  Stand up.  If you don’t call, you’re just afraid.” And later: “I already know where you live, I’m on you.  You might as well call me. You will see me. I promise.  Bro.”

Kasowitz’s spokesman, Michael Sitrick, said Thursday he couldn’t immediately reach Kasowitz for comment.

ProPublica confirmed the man’s phone number matched his stated identity. Technical details in the emails, such as IP addresses and names of intermediate mail servers, also show the emails came from Kasowitz’s firm. In one email, Kasowitz gave the man a cell phone number that is not widely available. We confirmed Kasowitz uses that number.

The exchange began after the man saw our story featured last night on the Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC. We reported that Kasowitz is not seeking a security clearance even though the Russia case involves a significant amount of classified material.

Moral of the story: always think twice before hitting the send icon Also, isn’t Kasowitz a bit old to call someone bitch or bro? He’s 65. The AARP weeps.

It’s unclear if Trump congratulated or castigated  Kasowitz for his mob lawyer outburst. It might be time to call in John Gotti’s lawyer Bruce Cutler seen below with his favorite client and a guy who looks like Paulie Walnuts’ unkempt cousin:

Bruce Cutler and John Gotti via the NY Daily News.

The Dapper Don in a turtleneck, not a tie? The fashion gods must have wept that day.

I’m sure Trump has met Cutler. I was disappointed not to find any pictures of them together when I asked first Siri and then Mr. Google. So it goes.

While we’re on the subject of the Trump-Russia scandal, next up is a “fake news” toon.

Cartoon Of The Week: I resisted the temptation to post Hokusai’s most famous painting, The Wave, as this week’s featured image. The Guardian’s Steve Bell, however, went for it in this cartoon about Trump Junior’s problems.

Holy shit storm, Batman.

It’s time to put New Yorkers and Muscovites in the rear view mirror and move on.

Warren Zevon’s Last Waltz: I’ve made a boatload of Zevon references recently so I reckoned I should share Jon Pareles’ classic 2003 profile of WZ as he faced death.

Since the story uses WZ’s last appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman as a backdrop, here’s that episode:

Enjoy every sandwich.

It’s time to sing the blues with a master of the form.

Saturday Classic: Albums featuring guest artists were the rage in the late Eighties and early Nineties. John Lee Hooker’s The Healer was one of the best of the bunch. It featured Carlos Santana, Bonnie Raitt, Robert Cray, Canned Heat, Los Lobos, George Thorogood, and Charlie Musselwhite. Enjoy.

That’s it for this week. I wrote more about politics than the average Saturday post, but I have Russia on my mind. I must be pining for cold weather. Our closing bat-meme features real life super villains Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. Btw, Donny now claims that Vladdy was for Hillary in the late election. Oy, just oy.

The “Everybody Does It” Defense

I didn’t expect there to be a smoking gun in the Trump-Russia scandal. I certainly didn’t expect it to involve Trump Junior. I’ve always expected the Trumpers and their enablers in the Republican party to resort to the “everybody does it” defense. It’s what happens when past defenses are exposed as lies. Of course, nothing said by the Trump crime family and its lackeys is ever true. Nothing. No thing. Literally. Believe me.

The counterattacks are flying thick, fast, and unconvincing. They’re desperately trying to unearth past instances of a presidential campaign working with a HOSTILE foreign power. Good luck with that:

Moscow has, however, tried to meddle in previous American elections. The historian Michael R. Beschloss recounts in “The Crisis Years: Kennedy and Khrushchev, 1960-1963,” an account of the relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Kennedy presidency, that the Soviet ambassador in Washington secretly reached out to both John F. Kennedy and Adlai Stevenson, another Democratic presidential hopeful, during the 1960 campaign. The ambassador was rebuffed by both candidates.

Imagine that. Of course, Jack Kennedy had smart relatives involved in his campaign something the Insult Comedian is sorely lacking. Jared? Junior? Gimme a break.

Instead of listening to his lawyers and shutting his big bazoo, the idiot-in-chief has chimed in on the Tweeter Tube:

Hey, he’s not citing Fox News in support. This is some daring “thinking” on Donald’s part.

As the Trump’s tower of lies implodes, it’s time for Republican office holders to stop defending him or give up their frequent invocations of their secular saint, Ronald Reagan. Here’s the deal: I never supported or voted for Reagan but never doubted his patriotism. The current Russian kleptocracy is the successor state to the Soviet Union. Does anyone seriously think that the man who called the USSR “the evil empire” would accept oppo from a lawyer linked to the Kremlin?

Reagan may have been the leader who incubated what Charlie Pierce calls the GOP’s “prion disease,” but he was an old-fashioned patriot whose favorite president was Franklin Roosevelt. The Republicans have done a good job in the last 30+ years of making Reagan their FDR. Neither FDR nor Reagan would have colluded with a hostile power to gain political advantage. They didn’t need to do so to win elections.  Defending Trump’s perfidy means that the GOP *should* lose the right to invoke Saint Ronnie. Will they stop? Hell no, but their invocations ring hollower by the day.

The world has truly turned upside down when I praise Ronald Reagan. Trump is so horrible that he makes Reagan look good in contrast. So it goes.

The “everybody does it” defense is a feeble one. Nixon and his minions trotted it out during Watergate. It did not work.

I originally planned to play Irving Berlin’s Everybody’s Doing It Now at the end of the post until I ran into the tune below. It was the label on the record that clinched it: Carnival Records with a clown logo. The Trump crime family brought the circus to the White House. It took six months for some people to realize that they’d taken a giant dump in the Rose Garden. Some people do not have a good sense of smell but the stench is growing day-by-day.

Quote Of The Day: Dahlia Lithwick Edition

Slate’s crack legal writer Dahlia Lithwick has offered the White House press corps some unsolicited advice. She covers a Supreme Court that holds no news conferences and doesn’t allow cameras in the courtroom. She essentially advises the White House press to zip it and stop playing into the administration*’s hands by making demands that they don’t have to agree to.

Dahlia offers some semi-tongue-in-cheek tips to her White House counterparts. This is my favorite:

Sketch artists. Kudos to CNN, which has already sent in longtime SCOTUS sketch artist Bill Hennessy to draw the White House gaggle. Sketches lend a certain dashing aura of criminality and generalized thuggery to the proceedings and have the added benefit of enraging White House spokespeople, who believe they deserve better than line drawings and colored pencils.

That’s bound to result in Gum Spice pounding the podium and Spawn of Huck getting all pouty. Of course, Spicer might *want* to look like the Dapper Don instead of Melissa McCarthy in a bad suit.

The wisest piece of advice offered by Ms. Lithwick is this closing passage in which she urges nerdiness upon the WH press:

Be a nerd. Most Supreme Court correspondents know that if they want careers in television they should shift to covering the weather. For the most part, we are not creatures built of gotcha questions, Sunday morning grandstanding, or good hair. This is a press corps of nerds and wonks, and nobody has ever joined this beat to become famous. As a result, it is the kindest, most ego-free workplace I have ever known. We file our stories, eat dinner, and go home. As competing cults of personality have come to tower over the news in America, ask yourself why you aren’t a charter member of the Cult of Jess Bravin (Wall Street Journal). That guy works harder than anyone, doesn’t expect cameras to follow him around, and never believes he is the story. Unless Supreme Court justices are selling their autobiographies, you are unlikely to see them interviewed on camera, and when they do give lengthy interviews, they never say anything of substance.

This is, in short, an Oliver Twist–style press corps, accustomed to getting nothing and grateful for it. These folks learn to love the footnotes instead of the glamor. At a moment when we are stuck with a president who is solely a creature of celebrity culture, maybe a White House press corps made of anonymous dorks and dusty worker bees could be a breath of fresh air. There’s gold in them there footnotes. Life without TV cameras is still worth living. Life without a dorky, diligent press corps is not.

It’s hard to imagine the preening popinjays of teevee news with empty bowl in hand asking for “more sir.” It is, however, a helluva good image. I’ve been known to sling the odd Dickensian reference myself.  Team Trump lends itself rather well to Oliver Twist: Trump is an orange variation on Fagin, Slumlord Jared is an inartful take on the Artful Dodger, and Steve Bannon is perfect casting as the thuggish Bill Sikes. It’s bound to be a bigger hit than the show they’re staging right now, which is bombing mightily. I guess I shouldn’t say bomb with North Korean missiles in the news.

That is all.

 

Your President* Speaks: No Comey Mix Tapes Edition

The Insult Comedian is usually full of surprises. Today’s tweets merely confirm what we all knew, there are no Comey tapes.

This is shyster speak, not Trump talk. It yet again exposes him as the lyingest liar who ever lied. The second tweet is particularly weasely as it implies that he didn’t lie when he claimed to have Comey mix tapes. Wrong. I’m not sure what tunes would be on such a mix tape but here are three that work for me:

Imagine the late Warren Zevon’s reaction to the idea of president* Trump: “You’re shitting me, right?”

Trump gave a typically unhinged speech in Iowa last night. Money, adulation, and applause are what he lives for, which is why he loves these campaign-style rallies. Time for a few excerpts from Maggie Haberman’s NYT piece:

“They have phony witch hunts going against me,” Mr. Trump said nearly an hour into a speech that veered off script repeatedly. “All we do is win, win, win. We won last night.”

<snip>

He toggled back and forth between telling farm-rich Iowa that he had fought for forgotten voters and lauding the wealth of Gary D. Cohn, his top economic adviser and a former executive at Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street giant that Mr. Trump derided in commercials in 2016.

“In those particular positions, I just don’t want a poor person — does that make sense?” he said of Mr. Cohn’s job and that of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, another immensely wealthy man whom Mr. Trump lauded as a “legendary Wall Street genius.”

“Brilliant business minds” are what the economy needs, he said.

Brilliant business minds like the Goldman Sachs guys who tanked the economy back in 2008? Or are you referring to yourself, Donald? All you are is a grifter, con man, and mountebank. I think it’s high time for a revival of the last word. It fits the Insult Comedian to a T.

One version of Lawyers, Guns, and Money is simply not enough, so WZ gets the last word:

The Keepers

I approached the Netflix documentary The Keepers with some trepidation. The story is grisly to say the least: a young nun was murdered in 1969 and the perpetrator *may* have been a priest accused of sexually abusing high school girls. It sounded  depressing and like something I’d seen before. I was wrong, In the hands of director Ryan White, The Keepers is more than just a fascinating real-life whodunit, it’s a moving story of survival.

We meet some remarkable people (mostly women) as the 7-part documentary unfolds. They include Sister Cathy Cesnik’s devoted former students Gemma Hoskins and Abbie Schaub who are the most effective real life amateur detectives ever. The central figure of the film is clerical rape survivor Jean Wehner. She’s a brave, feisty woman who was given the runaround by Archdiocese of Baltimore who are still lying about the activities of the demonic priest around whom much of the action revolves: Joseph Maskell.

Because the series is set in Baltimore, comparisons to The Wire are inevitable. They’re also spot-on as Kathryn Van Arendonk points out at Vulture:

When I say that the series is like The Wire, this is a large part of what I mean: The shape of events at Archbishop Keough High School becomes clear through a multiplying, crisscrossing network of individuals with their own personal narratives, telling different pieces of the story from different vantages and wildly diverging interests. In one scene we watch Gemma Hoskins and Abbie Schaub talking about how important it is to find justice for their beloved high-school teacher. In another, we see Jean Wehner struggling to recount her memories of abuse by the school’s chaplain. In yet another, the filmmakers interview Sharon May, who blankly explains why she never brought charges against the school during her time in the district attorney’s office. The total view of what may have happened at Archbishop Keough High School in 1969 only becomes clear from a distance, as an interlocking network of many, many stories.

Ryan White and his team ran down many diverse leads; most of which are plausible but all of which cannot be true. They chose to let the viewers decide. Wise choice. Most of the leads do, however, involve Maskell and the Archdiocese that chose to cover up his crimes. The church was lying about serious issues as recently as 2016. So much for reform.

For those interested in reading more about the people we meet in The Keepers, here are two more links:

The filmmakers seem to have inspired a renewed cold case investigation led by a detective who appears to be sincerely interested in solving the case. But the problem never seemed to be with the police, it was with the Archdiocese and the Baltimore state’s attorneys office. If there was a cover-up, it’s on them and the local political system. Joseph Maskell was not worth protecting: he should have died in prison instead of a church run hospice.

I give The Keepers 4 stars, an Adrastos Grade of A, and an exuberant thumbs up. This was just the sort of documentary that Siskel and Ebert championed when they were still with us. It’s a classic and I don’t say that lightly.