Category Archives: Law/Justice

The Mueller Road Map

Fog of Scandal meme

I’ve focused on Volume 2 of the Mueller Report thus far. As expected, it’s a road map for Congress and/or future prosecutors to Trump’s obstruction of justice crimes. Bill Barr has lied about pretty much everything in the report: Team Mueller’s decision NOT to charge is driven by the DOJ’s shitty policy that bars a sitting president from indictment. Barr said that it was not.

The evidence is even more overwhelming than expected but Bobby Three Sticks is a small c conservative prosecutor who was unlikely to go against the dreadful no indictment policy. Anyone else would have been indicted by now. Repeat after me: Donald Trump is a criminal.

I have a few random observations. I’ll bite the bullet and use bullet points:

  • The report is well and clearly written. You don’t have to be a lapsed lawyer like me to understand it. There *is* legalese but you can skim through it.
  • I was pleasantly surprised by the minimal redactions to Volume 2. Most of them involve our old pal Roger Stone who, absent a pardon, is royally fucked.
  • Most White House “insider” news stories have been accurate. Of course, given that Don McGahn was the source of many NYT stories as well as of the Report that’s no surprise.
  • Speaking of McGahn. It won’t be long until Trump starts calling him Traitor Don or better still McTraitor. He’s the source of many of the most damning stories about Trump’s misconduct in office. He also takes notes, which according to Trump good lawyers like Roy Cohn do not. Only mob lawyers do not take notes. That’s why they’re called mouthpieces.
  • Trump is convinced that the Attorney General is supposed to be a fixer for the president* He goes on and on about Bobby Kennedy and Eric Holder. While it’s true that RFK *was* JFK’s fixer, it’s simply not true about Holder. Obama didn’t need a fixer to get him out of tight legal scrapes: he’s an honest man. Trump cannot fathom such a person.
  • Trump’s attorney generals are reminiscent of Nixon’s first two, Mitchell and Kleindeinst; both of whom went to jail. Barr, however, is more dangerous than Sessions: he’s smart and competent whereas Jeff Beau is a dipshit and dumbass.
  • Like any good piece of narrative history, Team Mueller has woven together known facts into a compelling narrative. It’s all in one place now and the effect is devastating. Thanks. Bob.

I use the term road map quite deliberately. It’s what Team Jaworski gave Congress during Watergate. It’s the raw material to thoroughly investigate the Trump regime. It’s up to the House to decide what to do with it.

Impeachment is an unappetizing prospect. Barr’s version of the four corners basketball stall has delayed things considerably. It’s apparent that one reason Team Mueller did not try to subpoena testimony from the Insult Comedian is time. The clock is ticking as we approach election day.

There’s a defensible political argument to be made that the voters should decide Trump’s fate; impeachment is merely an invitation for the Senate to remove a president from office, which has never happened and is unlikely to occur this time around. BUT we can’t let this president* get away with his crimes, if we do we’re inviting future presidents to think that they’re above the law. The next criminal president might not be an incompetent fool. Impunity cannot be rewarded.

One more thing on the politics of impeachment. There’s a myth that Republicans suffered politically for the Clinton impeachment. They only suffered for one cycle: they elected a president in 2000 and re-took the Senate in 2002. That’s suffering?

There are no good options for House Democrats but they cannot let this evil fucker get away with the crimes he’s committed in office. Here’s my slogan for 2019: I is for Impeachment.

The 24 Minute Spin Cycle

The cover-up in plain sight continues. Bill Barr spun, equivocated, and explained away Trump’s conduct in a presser lasting from 9:32 to 9:56. He praised the regime’s “transparency” and threw a pity party for the president* Make that HIS president*

Rod Rosenstein stood behind Barr during the 24 minute spin cycle. He looked stiff and deadpan even for him. I’m not sure if it rose to the level of a hostage video but it was close. It’s hard to tell. Rosenstein is  one of those lawyers who looks as if he just stepped out of a coffin. I did, however, see him flinch a few times.

I’m not the only one saying this but Barr acted like Trump’s defense counsel today. He mentioned exonerating information and ducked questions as to what Mueller thought about his own report. He also parroted the Trump party line saying NO COLLUSION no fewer than 6 times. Repeat after me: collusion is a media/political word, not a legal term of art.

Nobody should be surprised that Barr has turned into Sarah Huckabee Sanders, only without the frock. Calling a press conference before the release of the redacted report is both unprecedented and sinister. I’m currently downloading a PDF, which is 139 MB. There are 20 minutes and counting until I get my hands (eyes) on it. I plan to read it before issuing my instant analysis here.

The last word goes to Scout Prime:

Tweet Of The Day: Pulitzer Prize Edition

The Advocate has won its first Pulitzer Prize. It’s not the first time a New Orleans newspaper has won a Pulitzer: the Times-Picayune won for its Hurricane Katrina/Federal Flood coverage. That was, of course, before that paper was hollowed out by its masters and transformed into the Zombie-Picayune.

Many former Picayune people are now with the Advocate. One of whom is my friend Gordon Russell who is the managing editor for investigations, and one of the winners of the Pulitzer Prize for local reporting. They won for a series about Louisiana’s non-unanimous jury system. It was reporting that made a difference as the voters abolished that Jim Crow relic last fall.

The tweet in question shows the paper’s New Orleans newsroom exploding with joy upon learning the news:

Congratulations to everyone at the Advocate for proving that local newspapers still matter. Well done, y’all.

Repeat after me: Not Everything Sucks.

The Bland Bespectacled Bomb Thrower

Attorney General Bill Barr is so ordinary looking that he’d never stand out in a crowd. As a witness, he speaks softly and occasionally mumbles his responses. As a public speaker, he’s as charismatic as Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State Warren Christopher who looked as if he stepped out of a coffin.  Barr is as dull as a lawyer can be until you closely examine his words: then you realize that he’s a bland bespectacled bomb thrower.

In front of House Judiciary Committee, Barr stuck to the basics of his cover-up line, which involves deflection, misdirection, and kicking the can down the road for as long as possible. In the friendly confines of Lindsey Graham’s committee, Barr sounded like a spokesman for the Freedom Caucus. I almost expected him to morph into Jim Jordan just like Bruce Banner transforms into the Hulk. Barr smash.

Given Barr’s background in intelligence, he knows how inflammatory the word spying is. He crawfished on the usage later but his work was done. The Attorney General of the United States has given the green light to wingnut conspiracy nuts everywhere. I think former Clinton-Gore-Biden-Obama aide Ron Klain put it best:

Klain is a Democratic utility infielder: he was also Chief Counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee and Attorney General Janet Reno’s Chief of Staff, so he knows the DOJ and how it’s supposed to work. This isn’t it.

Not only does Barr sound like a conspiracy buff, he sounds like a spokesman for the Trump re-election campaign. Their goal is to confuse the issues surrounding the Trump scandals and to discredit the Mueller Report when Barr finally gets around to releasing even a redacted version.

Barr’s testimony was all about placating the president* and the red hat set. There was no spying, only an authorized FBI counterintelligence probe.

The bland bespectacled bomb thrower is a throwback Attorney General. Before Watergate, it was not unusual for campaign managers to become Attorney Generals. On the good side, there were Robert Kennedy and Herbert Brownell who was Ike’s top legal eagle and the leading advocate of Civil Rights in that administration. On the dark side, there were Tricky Dick’s law partner John Mitchell and Harding’s venal AG, Harry Daugherty. That’s why I don’t want to hear that Barr’s conduct is unprecedented. It doesn’t make it any better but it’s not.

I like how never Trump Republican and all-around smart ass, Rick Wilson, described Barr:

William Barr’s tone was calm, but his agenda was clear: His job is to protect Donald Trump, no matter the prerogatives of Congress or any consideration of the rule of law. Bill Barr is not the attorney general of the United States. He is the Roy Cohn whom The Donald has craved since become president; an attorney general who sees his duty as serving Trump.

<SNIP>

Barr exudes just enough of the comforting style of the Washington insider to quiet the fears of many in the House and Senate. He comes across as pedestrian and legalistic, bordering on dull, but he’s the most dangerous man in America.

That’s why I called Barr a bland bespectacled bomb thrower. He’s there to help the Kaiser of Chaos foment, uh, chaos, not to the serve the public interest. Repeat after me: this is horrible but not unprecedented.

In other scandal news, the cover-up has spread to the Treasury Department. Mnuchin the Moocher is dragging his heels on turning over Trump’s taxes. He’s not supposed to have a role in this: it’s up to the IRS commissioner. The Moocher has tried kicking the can over to the DOJ but they don’t have a role in this either. The law is clear as it uses the mandatory shall, not might or maybe. The Moocher’s inaction could even put him in legal jeopardy. He should be careful: he’d look shitty in an orange jump suit.

I keep hoping that we’ll wake up and discover that the Trump regime was just a bad dream. Unfortunately, life isn’t like the series finale of St. Elsewhere. The nightmare is real.

Not Everything Sucks

Some people are making newspapers for people in prison: 

It was the publication of that essay that led to me walking through the office doors of The Marshall Project two months later—having finally won parole—to talk with their staff about my experiences. That conversation led to me joining their team and to the creation of News Inside—a collection of TMP’s award-winning journalism that relates directly to incarcerated lives. In the past month, we began distributing the pilot edition of this print publication to prisons and jails; to date it is circulating in 30 facilities in 19 states.

I wanted to share our rich articles with my information-poor former community, particularly those who believe study is a chance for redemption, who sacrifice sleep and risk a misbehavior report to pore over textbooks under shaded lamps after lights-out, who struggle to find resources to expand their minds.

A.

Cover-Up In Plain Sight

We’ve entered a new phase in the war of the Trump scandals. Previously, it was like a series of air strikes. This week, it’s akin to hand-to-hand, house-by-house combat: think the Red Army in Berlin at the end of World War II. House committees have issued subpoenas for the Mueller Report, Trump’s taxes, and financial records. The House has not only crossed “the red line” they’ve hurdled it like Evel Knievel in his heyday. That may sound overly dramatic but I don’t think I jumped the shark. Team Trump, however, may have done so.

You know the worm has turned when the previously tight-lipped members of Team Mueller talk to the media. Both the WaPo and Failing New York Times have published reports of their consternation over the 4 page epistle from Trump’s handpicked Attorney General. They’re outraged that 22 months of hard work has been reduced to spin by Bill Barr. Here’s the lede of the NYT piece:

Some of Robert S. Mueller III’s investigators have told associates that Attorney General William P. Barr failed to adequately portray the findings of their inquiry and that they were more troubling for President Trump than Mr. Barr indicated, according to government officials and others familiar with their simmering frustrations.

The WaPo’s sources were less tentative but expressed the same frustration. It’s good to see that both papers have moved away from their initial acceptance of Barr’s “conclusions” but neither is willing to use the term cover-up. That’s what this is. It’s no less pernicious because it’s happening in plain sight. It’s worse.

Covering-up is what Bill Barr does. Beneath the owlish exterior and thick glasses, lurks a lawyer with extreme views on executive power. He’ll never be straightforward enough to quote Tricky Dick’s aphorism but he surely agrees with it:

This is not Bill Barr’s first cover-up rodeo. He was behind the mass Iran-Contra pardons issued in the waning days of Poppy Bush’s administration. It was so blatant that even former Nixon aide and conservative NYT columnist William Safire objected, calling Barr the “Cover-up General.” Safire, of course, moved on to the Clinton scandals and Barr returned to the private sector before emerging like a seedy Icarus to attempt to rescue the tawdry Trump regime.

Team Trump has vowed to fight against any and all encroachments on their executive powers. It will delay their day of reckoning but they’re more likely than not to lose court battles. Just wait until they claim that Trump’s tax forms and those of his nefarious web of LLCs are covered by executive privilege. That will get laughed out of any courtroom in the land.

The question that everyone should ask about the Mueller Report is a simple yet profound one. If it “totally exonerates” the Insult Comedian, why is he opposed to its release? To put it in terms that the president* would understand: no exoneration, no exoneration, no exoneration.

Adam Schiff Is Okay

Controlled public anger is the best kind of public anger. It connotes passion, principle, and, well, control. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff is ordinarily a cool customer, which is what made yesterday’s display of controlled rage even more impressive.

Here’s why Schiff lost his shit: nine Republicans demanded Schiff resign as Chairman of a committee that Devin Nunes made a laughingstock during the last Congress. They were doing the Insult Comedian’s bidding, which inspired Schiff to launch into what will surely be known as the “You may think it’s okay but I don’t” speech:

Schiff’s controlled tirade will go down  as one of the great moments in Congressional hearing history in the “shame on you” category. It’s right up there with  Joseph Welch’s “Have you no sense of decency” moment during the Army-McCarthy hearings in 1954.

Adam Schiff is okay.

Quote Of The Day: Nancy Smash Edition

I’ve long been convinced that Speaker Pelosi is a pistol, She spoke out yesterday on the Barr epistle, you know the book report that the Insult Comedian calls “total exoneration.”

“We have to see the report. We cannot make a judgment on the basis of an interpretation by a man who was hired for his job because he believes the president is above the law and he wrote a 19-page memo to demonstrate that.”

The battle is joined; even most Republicans want to see the entire Mueller Report. Some wingnuts think it will discredit the “deep state” others think it will “totally exonerate” the Kaiser of Chaos. That’s a mighty big word for Donald to use. One of his lawyers may have steered him in that direction but the use of total is totally Trumpian.

Never Give A Sucker An Even Break

Yesterday’s headlines were appalling. To read them one might think that the full Mueller Report had been published instead of a letter by a partisan Attorney General determined to carry water for his president*. I don’t know about you but I feel like W.C, Fields in the poster above. The Barr letter felt like a brick to the head. Ouch.

For the moment, the MSM seems to have fallen for the Barr gambit. The Insult Comedian’s laughable claim  of “total exoneration” is being accepted at face value by a press corps that knows that he’s a liar. One would have hoped that they’d learned something after years of exposure to Trumpian mendacity but he’s an experienced flim-flam man.

Team Trump is engaged in its own version of March madness. They’re in a full-court press to suppress the publication of the full Mueller Report. If it “totally exonerates” Trump, what are they afraid of? The truth, that’s what they’re afraid of. Just because criminal conspiracy may not have been proven, that does not mean that ethical and political offenses were not committed. They clearly were. At the very least, Team Trump turned a blind eye to Russian interference in the 2016 election. They could have reported the approaches to the FBI but did not.

As to Barr’s decision to make a determination on the obstruction of justice issue, the MSM’s reaction has been simultaneously supine and confused. Just because a cover-up occurred in broad daylight does not make it less offensive. One would hope that the MSM’s herd instinct would not kick in at this crucial point but the best that can be hoped for is that an all out stampede can be averted.

Too many people placed too many eggs in the Mueller probe basket. I was guilty of it myself at times. Criminal conspiracy is damned difficult to prove. Last Sunday was easily the best day for Donald Trump in months. Now is not the time to give up, it’s time for the House to engage in its own full court press to obtain the full report. Stop the madness.

Team Trump’s spin is as predictable as it is dastardly. The bad news is that it’s working so far. The good news is that they’ve already overplayed their hand with threats of retaliation. It’s what they do. Nuance and subtlety are not characteristics of Trumpism.

The entire Trump regime is a shell game and Bill Barr is the latest in a long line of con artists. They’ve been down for a while but they’re pushing hard right now because they believe in the adage attributed to PT Barnum: never give a sucker an even break. They’ve played millions of voters for fools and now they’re working on the MSM, which should know better. But as long as people like Chuck Todd occupy positions of influence, the shell game will continue.

It’s time for the suckers to fight back and never give the Trumpers an even break. They confuse fairness with weakness. Don’t give them an opening. Be relentless.

Barr Letter Reading List

It’s peak pollen season in New Orleans. There was also a 5-alarm fire a few miles away. The result is horrible air quality, a death grip sinus headache and red, red eyes. I’ve already medicated, which is why I’m keeping this short.

I have a new Fog of Scandal meme, a Magritte-like image, The Man and the Sea by Giuseppe Maiorana, I love the image of umbrellas dropping in the fog. Substitute shoes for umbrellas, you can catch my drift if you can see it amid the fog of scandal.

I may not have words of wisdom for you but these folks do:

David Corn reminds us that even if there was no finding of criminal conspiracy there were many strands of co-operation between Team Trump and Russian intelligence.

Franklin Foer points out the accomplishments of  the Mueller probe.

Mark Joseph Stern says I told you so about Bill Barr.

Jed Shugerman wonders why the Barr letter quoted nary a complete sentence from the Mueller Report.

The man who wrote the DOJ special counsel guidelines, Neal Katyal, calls for the immediate release of the full report.

Former Obama White House counsel, Robert Bauer, is concerned that this result will make Trump even more brazen. Me too.

Bob Bauer gets the last word with this passage from his NYT piece:

But the Mueller report marked a low point for more substantive norms of presidential conduct. It shows that a demagogic president like Donald Trump can devalue or even depart radically from key norms, just short of committing chargeable crimes, so long as he operates mostly and brazenly in full public view. For a demagogue, shamelessness is its own reward.

Such a president can have openly, actively encouraged and welcomed foreign government support for his political campaigns, and his campaign can reinforce the point in direct communications with that government’s representatives.

Instant Analysis: The Barr Redaction Of The Mueller Report

Criminal investigations are a blunt instrument. Team Mueller was looking for a criminal conspiracy, not co-operation or collusion. There’s circumstantial evidence of the latter BUT proving criminal conspiracy is a bitch. In such an important case, federal prosecutors like to have enough evidence to convict before pressing charges. I think the case has been made politically but Mueller’s remit to was prove criminal conspiracy with the Russians, not collusion or co-operation. The evidentiary standard for criminal conspiracy is a high one: beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the defense lawyer’s mantra and credo.

As to the obstruction of justice investigation, this is where William Barr had his way There’s obviously more to the story since the AG waffled, hedged, or whatever the hell you want to call it. It’s time for Congress to focus on obtaining the unredacted Mueller report, which is manifestly in the public interest. They also need to hold hearings on the “sitting president can’t be indicted” doctrine, which is enforced only by a DOJ memo written in the 1970’s. Do we want ANY president to be above the law based only on a memo?

I’m not surprised by these results BUT I admit to having fantasies of a stronger conclusion. Trump will have to die a political death of a thousand cuts instead of by a single blow. Remember: there are 15+ ongoing investigations and Trump has already been an unindicted co-conspirator in the Michael Cohen hush money case. To quote  Keith Reid’s lyrics to an old Procol Harum song, STILL THERE’LL BE MORE.

The Barr Redaction of the Mueller Report is the end of the beginning, not the beginning of the end. The Trumpers are already spinning the hell out of the Barr Letter. Let them prematurely spike the ball and overplay their hand. It’s what they do. This is a setback, not a disaster.

STILL THERE’LL BE MORE.

Procol Harum gets the last word with this savage ode to revenge:

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: Hand Of Kindness

Still Life with Onions by Paul Cezanne

March is the cruelest month in New Orleans for allergy sufferers like me. The weather has been sunny and cool; perfect for outdoor activity. The rub is the oak pollen that can be found everywhere. It coats cars, sidewalks, and any surface it can light on. It makes me feel itchy and my nose run like a broken faucet. The most dramatic symptom involves my eyes, which resemble red gravy in sockets if such a thing is possible.

Enough bitching about my allergies. This week’s theme song was written by Richard Thompson and was the title track of his 1983 solo album. It was his first record after breaking up personally and professionally with Linda Thompson. It’s one of his finest albums featuring some of his best songs and that’s saying a lot.

We have two versions of Hand Of Kindness for your listening pleasure. The studio original and a live version from Cropredy circa beats the hell outta me.

Now that I’ve extended the hand of kindness, it’s time to jump to the break. Given the RT album cover, we may have to do so at the Chelsea Embankment. Splash.

Continue reading

Only The Shadow-Banner Knows

I didn’t think it was possible but Devin Nunes is making a “serious” attempt to out crazy the Insult Comedian. It wasn’t enough for Nunes to sell his soul to Trump, he’s now acting as if he wants to be the GOP’s bull goose loony after the lunatic-in-chief leaves the stage.

I’m referring, of course, to Nunes’ fakakata suit against Twitter, never-Trump Republican consultant Liz Mair, and two Twitter trolls who make fun of poor poor pitiful Devin. They’ve apparently hurt Nunes’ feelings, which is enough to file suit in the parallel universe inhabited by wingnuts.

The lawsuit is partially based on a Republican conspiracy theory that they’re being “shadow-banned” by Twitter. I’m not going to bother trying to explain this crazy theory as it’s inexplicable but Jonathan Chait gives it a go. It’s also not a basis for litigation or anything other than an episode of InfoWars. To paraphrase (butcher, actually) the introduction of the old radio show: Only the Shadow-Banner knows what evil lurks in the heart of the tweeter tube.

It’s amazing what wusses fake tough guys like Trump and Nunes are. If you can’t take a punch, get out of the ring, don’t sue people, corporations, and phantoms who only exist on the tweeter tube. Suing Devin Nunes’ cow is udderly ridiculous. I’ll leave it to that feed to milk the bovine jokes after this musical interlude:

To some extent, this is an attempt by Nunes to make like Peter Thiel and try to sue Twitter into the ground. But why? Trump is not only the Kaiser of Chaos, he’s the King of Twitter. The platform allows him to run wild, lie, and share his paranoid fantasies with the world. Last weekend was particularly fertile as there were 50+ presidential* tweets. Unhinged thy name is Trumpy.

I suspect that Nunes’ real motivation is an unintentionally hilarious attempt to erode the libel laws as they apply to people in the public eye such as, say, wingnut congresscritters and batshit crazy Oval Ones. To the limited extent that he understands it, Trump is a known critic of the Sullivan case and at least one current supreme, Clarence Thomas, thinks it should be limited. I think their influence should be limited instead.

I selected the vintage Shadow Magazine cover because the armed chick vaguely resembles Liz Mair, who also rocks a Louise Brooks-style hairdo, and the Shadow looks a bit like Nunes. Of course, the Shadow was a hero and Nunes is yet another cartoon villain in an era full of them. The good news is that his suit isn’t going anywhere. The bad news is that it hasn’t already been laughed out of court.

The last word goes to Frank and Sammy with Me and my Shadow:

Post Mayhem Rituals

There are things that happen after every mass shooting. Right thinking people deplore the violence and call for changes to gun laws. If the incident involves a minority religious community, the outcry is even more fervent and leads to shows of inter-faith solidarity and unity. These are positive post mayhem mass shooting rituals, and they’re happening in the aftermath of the New Zealand mosque attack.

As to negative post mayhem rituals, right-wingers sent their “thoughts and prayers” to the victims but refuse to acknowledge any role their pro-gun, Islamophobic ideology might have played. When Barack Obama was president, they insisted that he use the T word (terrorism) to describe every incident in which white people were hurt. He did so whenever it was appropriate, but Obama liked to think things through as opposed to the daily flow of diarrhea spewed by the Current Occupant.

These right-wing post mayhem rituals are writ large in President* Trump’s refusal to condemn white supremacy. He usually claims ignorance despite his conspicuous cable news consumption. His response to the Christchurch massacre is similar to his reaction to Charlottesville. While it’s true that white supremacists who shoot up mosques are a small group, that’s precisely why it should be easy to condemn them. Trump will not because he sees them as part of his base, which should be worshiped and deferred to at all times. This is, of course, crazy but so are they.

My post mayhem ritual is to write a post deploring the violence and urging people not to be comfortably numb. I did so after the 2015 San Berardino massacre and the 2017 Vegas concert bloodbath. I wish I didn’t feel compelled to write but I do. I wish to retain my capacity for outrage in the face of repetitive violence.

These sort of attacks are even more shocking when they occur in countries we don’t associate with gun violence such as Norway and New Zealand. But white supremacists are everywhere and the Norwegian butcher, Anders Breivik, has become a demonic hero to many.

I applaud the response of Kiwi Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to the mosque massacre. She’s proposing common sense gun control reforms, which will ban the sale of semi-automatic weapons. But the mosque murderer was able to buy his weapons legally, which he could not have done in his native Australia, which is why he exported his crime to New Zealand. Score one for the Aussies.

BUT white supremacist thinking is widespread in Australia and has gone mainstream there in recent years. Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott is a noted xenophobe and has whipped up Islamophobic and anti-immigrant sentiment nearly non-stop since being ousted from the top job. That’s why it’s no surprise that this happened:

Good on the egg teen and boo to the racist senator. We have more than a few of the latter and need more of the former.

One answer to mass shootings are tighter gun control laws BUT New Zealand’s laws were already restrictive and it happened there. We need to stop othering people who look, act, and pray differently than ourselves. It won’t be easy with leaders like Trump, Abbott, and Orban whipping up hatred but nothing worthwhile is easy. It beats the hell out of being comfortably numb.

The last word goes to Pink Floyd with a song that the band described as part of “the violence sequence” as it was written for Michelangelo Antonioni’s movie Zabriskie Point. The director rejected the song as “beautiful but too sad.” We need more beauty and less sadness in the world, y’all:

 

The Fog Of Scandal: The Massage Is The Message

Backlash is a funny thing; funny strange, not funny ha-ha. It’s not surprising that there’s been a backlash to the election of the first African American president; it was predictable and began early on with the advent of the Tea Party.

The election* of Donald Trump perfected the racist backlash to the Obama presidency. In that instance, history repeated itself: there was an anti-Civil Rights backlash in the 1966 and 1968 elections. It is largely forgotten that Richard Nixon had been a moderate on Civil Rights before that consummate opportunist became the personification of the Southern Strategy. Tricky saw an opportunity to flip the solid South in the GOP’s direction and he took it. The party of Abraham Lincoln and Jackie Robinson became the party of Strom Thurmond and Curt Schilling.

There’s an odder form of backlash going on today. Barack Obama’s administration was one of the cleanest and least corrupt in American history whereas the Trump administration is in contention for the most corrupt. The competition is stiff but the Trumpers are equal to the task. The Insult Comedian is easily the most personally corrupt Oval One in American history: Grant and Harding were largely bystanders to the wholesale theft perpetrated by their minions and Nixon was a piker compared to Trump. Repeat after me: Donald Trump is a criminal.

Just when you hoped that there wouldn’t be any scandals to fog up the political scene even more, a new one breaks. The massage parlor access scandal at least has the virtue of being unintentionally hilarious. Given the way Mar-a-Lago operates, a pay for play scandal was inevitable. Club members pay for access to the club and its owner who just happens to be the deeply corrupt Current Occupant. What could possibly go wrong?

It turns out that Cindy Yang has ties to the Chinese government as well as to the GOP. It’s *almost* a relief that this scandal involves Chinese crooks instead of Russians. It’s good to change-up criminal associates in order to achieve maximum grift in a state known for its grifters: Florida. The Yang-Kraft-Trump connection sounds like the plot of a Carl Hiassen novel instead of something happening in the real world. You cannot make this shit up, y’all.

If the Cindy Yang pay for play scandal isn’t enough to rub you the wrong way, there’s a looming scandal involving president* Trump and the CEO of Boeing:

With more countries grounding Boeing jets and with lawmakers, aviation workers and consumers calling on the United States to do the same, the head of the aerospace giant on Tuesday made a personal appeal to President Trump.

Boeing’s chief executive, Dennis A. Muilenburg, called from Chicago and expressed to Mr. Trump his confidence in the safety of the 737 Max 8 jets, according to two people briefed on the conversation. Two of the planes flown by overseas carriers have crashed in recent months in similar accidents.

This phone conversation has the potential to kill people. Instead of leading the world in aviation safety, the United States is being held hostage by the First Criminal and one of his cronies. This goes beyond comic ineptitude to serious malfeasance. What else would you expect from a guy who wanted to appoint his personal pilot to head the FAA? He knows the best people, the best people. Believe me.

Personal relationships are always important in politics and government but Team Trump has taken it to a whole new level. The president* who “promised” to drain the swamp has become a swamp thing of historic proportions. The “promise” itself was a lie by the the most prolific liar in our political history. The massage has always been the message for Donald Trump. His whole life is a series of scams that dangle bright shiny objects in front of those dazzled by his wealth, celebrity, and power. It’s high time for the suckers to stop taking the bait.

I hope that Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao will exercise her authority to ground the potentially lethal Boeing planes but I am not optimistic. Her husband, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, is one of the foremost Trump dignity wraiths in the country. Why would she be any different?

The last word goes to Frank Sinatra with a song that could be retitled Come Fly With Me Except In A Boeing 737 Max 8:

The Big Picture

There was outrage and shock over the light sentence given to Paul Manafort by Judge TS Ellis last week. I was unhappy with the 47 month sentence but not shocked because I followed the trial closely. Judge Ellis was biased against the prosecution and in favor of Manafort throughout the trial. Several times during the trial, Ellis expressed the opinion that Manafort was a stand-in for Trump so the expressions of shock were either themselves shocking or naive. The light sentence was predictable. Not desirable but predictable.

Judge Ellis is the personification of a federal judge who has served too long. He’s been on senior status since 2007 and has served a total of 32 years. Federal judges tend to have a high opinion of themselves and their legal acumen. Ellis may be an extreme example but the system is pockmarked with high-handed judges who act like demigods in their courtrooms.

I’m inclined to agree with former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti:

The 47-month sentence imposed on former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has drawn widespread criticism that Judge T.S. Ellis’s decision to give Manafort a sentence far below the 19.5 to 24.5-year guidelines range was motivated by Manafort’s race and class or by partisan bias. In fact, his flawed decision is a consequence of the vast discretion given to federal judges to issue sentences without real fear of being overturned.

What you might not know is that federal law permitted Judge Ellis to give Manafort a sentence of anywhere between 0 to 80 years in prison. And as long as Ellis did not go above the 24.5-year maximum called for by the sentencing guidelines, an appellate court would almost certainly not reverse his sentence, given the very deferential standard of review.

Some compared Manfort’s 47 month sentence to the 13 year book thrown at my former Congressman Dollar Bill Jefferson by Judge Ellis. One flaw in that reasoning is that was not a tax case but a bribery case. Besides, Dollar Bill’s sentence was reduced to 5 years after a plea bargain in 2017. As I said on the tweeter tube:

Dollar Bill is a corrupt piece of shit who deserved all the jail time he got as I pointed out in a piece I wrote for the Bayou Brief.

The reason I’m more sanguine than many about the Manafort sentence is that I’m a big picture guy. Ellis’ sentence is just the first bite out of the sentencing apple. The DC judge, Amy Berman Jackson, has already taken a hard-line with Manafort by revoking his bail for violating his plea deal with Team Mueller. I expect she’ll throw a heftier book at Manafort with that sentence running consecutively with Ellis’ 47 months, which could be a total of 14+years.

In addition to being a big picture guy, I’m not a fan of hot takes. It’s easier to spout off on social media than it is to think things through before responding to the events of the day. It’s why I’m not a fan of epic “tweet threads.” I’d rather read a coherent discussion of an issue than 25 often disjointed tweets on the same subject. That’s why I’m a blogger, not a tweeter.

In other big picture news, people are obsessing about the 2020 campaign and why certain candidates should or should not run. I think it’s up to the voters to sort things out. Lack of interest is why Mike Bloomberg and Sherrod Brown dropped out, which is a good thing in both cases. Bloomberg will spend his megabucks on issues and Brown will hold on to  a senate seat that would surely tumble to the GOP. The Ohio senator may still end up on the ticket if the nominee is looking for balance: a Harris-Brown ticket could be formidable.

Here’s the deal. I think that Trump and the Republicans will be so consumed with scandal that the Democratic nominee will be a heavy favorite to win the election. For that reason, I think that the ability to govern is just as important as electability, which is why I’m reluctant to support anyone at this point in time. The next Democratic president is going to have an even bigger mess to clean up than the one inherited by Barack Obama, which is why competence and experience are just as important as ideology in 2020.

I’ve seen confident predictions that the Democratic nominee will not be a white man. It’s too soon to tell: who thought an obscure one-term Georgia Governor would be the 1976 nominee? I’d like to make history again BUT we’re the big tent party and need to assemble a coalition that appeals to moderates and independents as well as to the left. Once again, the voters will winnow down the candidates. Whatever happens, the Democratic nominee will be far superior to Trump or anyone else the GOP puts forward.

Former Veep Joe Biden seems to be edging closer to a decision as to whether or not to run. If Biden were 10 years younger, he’d be a prohibitive favorite for the nomination. In his case, experience and likability could trump (pun intended, it always is) ideology. Joey the shark will have to explain some of his past positions but is viewed with personal affection by most Democrats. He’ll also have to rein in his tendency to praise *everyone* including Republicans if he runs. It’s what happens when you’re an epic schmoozer.

I may be a self-proclaimed big picture guy but I’m out of the prediction business. I hope that Trump will be out of office before January 2021 BUT things have been so crazy for the last three years that I hesitate to dust off my crystal ball. All I’m certain of is that it’s going to be interesting on both the legal and political fronts for the foreseeable future.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Rocky Road

Charing Cross Bridge by Andre Derain

Carnival was alternately exhausting and exhilarating. I love it but I’m always glad when it’s over, especially when the weather is cold and wet. This year was physically difficult for me as I was in pain for the last week of the season. I ended up on the disabled list and stayed home on Mardi Gras day but I don’t regret not resting on Lundi Gras as you can see from this tweet:

Proteus is one of the “old line” krewes and their den is around the corner from Adrastos World Headquarters. They were indeed as drunk as plutocratic skunks. Watching them set up to roll is one of the pleasures of life inside the parade box. Where else can you watch three fake kings-Proteus, Comus, and Rex-toast one another on the street?

This week’s first theme song was written by Nick Lowe and Bad Company drummer Simon Kirke for Nick’s 1990 Party Of One album, which reunited him with his musical partner in crime, Dave Edmunds.

It’s disambiguation time: a different tune with the same title. Our other theme song was written by Steve Tilston but I first heard it done by Fairport Convention. We have two versions for your listening pleasure: Fairport live followed by the songwriter.

Now that we’ve traveled down several rocky roads, it’s time to jump to the break.

Continue reading

Lost In The News

Transitioning out of the Mardi Gras bubble is always difficult. But there’s so much going on right now that I don’t quite know where to begin. I think a potpourri post full of quick one liners and, hopefully, pertinent observations is the best way to shake off the rust. Of course rust never sleeps so who knows if that will work? Only the Shadow or Neil Young know for sure. Hey, hey, my, my.

Stale News In Brief: I watched the Cohen hearing from gavel to gavel but had company that night for the Nyx parade so I couldn’t share any thoughts and/or pithy observations. I’ve been somewhat pithed about this momentary lapse of reason, which is why I’m writing about it a week later. Better late than never.

I had assumed that Cohen was a punk and a brain-dead doofus. I was right about the former but wrong about the latter. He was well-prepared, penitent, and surprisingly sharp in a street wise Lawn Guyland kinda way.

Cohen’s performance is proof positive that exposure to Donald Trump cuts people’s IQ’s in half. It’s one reason why the Kaiser of Chaos needs to go before we become a country of mouth-breathing morons who overuse the word very. Believe me.

Speaking of dumbassery, the performance of Oversight Committee GOPers was appalling. They’re the dumbest collection of congresscritters it has ever been my displeasure to observe. They were poorly prepared and dumber than a proverbial bag of rocks.

It *is* true that Cohen was a lying sack of shit in his days as Trump’s fixer. But that means that some of the shit leaked onto the president* for whom Cohen was lying. Gym Jordan and his gang of morons didn’t see it that way. Jordan makes Trey Gowdy look like Perry Mason as a cross-examiner. Oy, just oy.

The country saw Congressman Clay Higgins and learned what we in the Gret Stet of Louisiana have known all along: he’s a poser and a nitwit. He kept asking the same question over and over even though it had been “asked and answered” as the criminal law objection goes.

Higgins is a demagogue and dumbfuck of epic proportions. Additionally, his district director is an accused pimp.  It’s a pity that his name isn’t Willie. Jerod Prunty the Pimp doesn’t  have the same ring to it:

Investigation Mania: House Democrats are gearing up to get to the bottom of the plethora of Trump related scandals. The good news is that they can walk and chew gum at the same time as they’re passing a plethora of progressive legislation as well. It will all, of course, die in the Senate but it forces them to take unpopular stands against popular legislation such as gun background checks, which I believe even the ghost of Charlton Heston favors:

An interesting tidbit in the news is Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff hiring former SDNY prosecutor Daniel Goldman to spearhead his Russia investigation. Cable news viewers know him better as a telegenic teevee lawyer on MSNBC. The president* is bound to fear him because he’s been on the tube, which could have been a factor in Schiff making this hire. Goldman is also stone cold brilliant and knows his way around Russian mobsters and oligarchs. Watch out, Trumpy.

The Big Rebuke: There are enough votes in the Senate to shoot down the Insult Comedian’s fake emergency order. As of this writing, it’s not a veto proof majority BUT the fog of scandal continues to envelop the Trump regime. That, in turn, could lead more Senatorial rats to flee the USS Trump as it sinks in a sea of scandal. Holy mixed metaphor, Batman. Is it a fog or a sea of scandal? Actually, it’s both, which is a rare example of both-siderism on my part.

John Dean On Cohen: As a Watergate junkie, I would be remiss in not mentioning John Dean’s NYT op-ed article on the impact of being a star witness on the witness:

Mr. Cohen should understand that if Mr. Trump is removed from office, or defeated in 2020, in part because of his testimony, he will be reminded of it for the rest of his life. He will be blamed by Republicans but appreciated by Democrats. If he achieves anything short of discovering the cure for cancer, he will always live in this pigeonhole. How do I know this? I am still dealing with it.

Just as Mr. Nixon had his admirers and apologists, so it is with Mr. Trump. Some of these people will forever be rewriting history, and they will try to rewrite it at Mr. Cohen’s expense. They will put words in his mouth that he never spoke. They will place him at events at which he wasn’t present and locations where he has never been. Some have tried rewriting my life, and they will rewrite his, too.

Can I get a witness?

The last word goes to the late Marvin Gaye whose image will adorn a stamp to be released on April 2nd:

Quote Of The Day: Ode To Manafort Edition

If there was ever a convicted felon in deep shit and sinking fast, it’s Paul Manafort. Here’s one of his lawyers’ arguments from his sentencing memo:

“[Manafort has spent] a lifetime promoting American democratic values and assisting emerging democracies to adopt reforms necessary to become a part of Western society.”

Holy spit take provoking quote, Batman.

I’d never confused Manafort with Captain America before. I always thought he was a corrupt piece of shit instead of a democracy promoting hero. Who knew? Nobody.

I have some sympathy for his lawyers. They gotta argue something and their client has made it impossible for them to make any plausible arguments. Hence the “my guy wasn’t charged with collusion” defense.

What’s happened to Manafort should be a cautionary tale for his old pal Roger Stone. But he’s an attention junkie so he’s unlikely to learn anything. You need to listen to learn and Rog never shuts his big fat bazoo.

Quote Of The Day: The Case Of The Unfit President*

Former FBI honcho Andrew McCabe has been ubiquitous of late. His description  of his encounters with the Insult Comedian are either bone-chilling or blood-curdling. Pick your metaphor.

Today’s quote comes from McCabe’s new tome, The Threat:

People do not appreciate how far we have fallen from normal standards of presidential accountability. Today we have a president who is willing not only to comment prejudicially on criminal prosecutions but to comment on ones that potentially affect him. He does both of these things almost daily. He is not just sounding a dog whistle. He is lobbying for a result. The president has stepped over bright ethical and moral lines wherever he has encountered them. Every day brings a new low, with the president exposing himself as a deliberate liar who will say whatever he pleases to get whatever he wants. If he were “on the box” at Quantico, he would break the machine.

The desire to distract attention from the McCabe book was clearly a factor in Trump’s manufactured “national emergency.” Oy just oy.