Category Archives: Law/Justice

We Are So Afraid

Teaching cops to see themselves as the last line of defense against a roiling mob of lawbreakers intent on raping and pillaging across the land has, shall we say, consequences: 

The most important thing for a police officer is to be sure they “go home at the end of the day,” they tell themselves repeatedly, including in police trainings on use of force. “It’s better to be judged by twelve than carried by six,” is a common refrain every police officer has heard repeatedly throughout their careers. Officers and their union representatives have said it to me dozens of times over the years.

In reality, though, the people who pick up your garbage are significantly more likely to die on the job than police officers. That doesn’t mean police don’t have difficult jobs, that they aren’t subject to lesser assaults, or that they are never justified in using force. But in terms of going home to their families at night, construction workers, truck drivers, farmers, and fishermen all have more dangerous occupations.

Much of this exaggerated fear stems from how officers are trained. Amber Guyger had received deescalation training as mandated under Texas’ “Sandra Bland Act,” but she said she never considered following it over the course of her encounter with Botham Jean. And Dean had just completed 40 hours of CIT training aimed at dealing with people with mental illness; in essence, CIT courses are a version of deescalation training.

However, deescalation tactics are not typically included in the general use-of-force curriculum officers take at the academy. They’re treated as an extra, an add-on, not as a fundamental philosophy that should infuse every encounter where force is used. In addition, there is a sizable cottage industry of fear mongering cop trainers teaching officers to adopt a “warrior” mentality.

Is it just cops, though, when so much of our entertainment culture is about law enforcement? I mean, honestly, I see so many people who aren’t cops adopting the framework of “readiness” and buying “tactical” and “survival” shit for themselves, though the most they’re in danger of is missing out on a ground beef sale at the Hy-Vee.

That’s all they see all day long. That’s the conversation we’ve been having since 9/11 at least: How to prepare yourself for war. I was watching broadcast TV the other day, to catch the football game and every single promo for a TV show was about the police or military. SEAL. SWAT. Chicago PD. NCIS. SVU. Criminal Minds.

Not just cop culture but hyper-dramatized cop culture, where every moment is a life-or-death sitch, where it’s kill or be killed on the mean streets of whatever town. Nobody’s filling out paperwork or chipping in for an office cake or getting hassled about desk assignments. It’s just a parade of horrors, of us-against-the-horde life-or-death fights, and that gets inside your head, and the kind of people who who respond to those types of scenarios with FUCK YEAH LIGHT ‘EM UP are not who you want on the wall.

I think about this all the time. My neighborhood Facebook group, ordinarily less racist and paranoid than NextDoor, descended into chaos recently because a woman raised the alarm about rowdy kids in the park. Wasn’t anyone else worried, she asked, about how unsafe the park felt these days?

Were the youth shooting off firearms? Doing heroin? Torturing farm animals in ritual sacrifice to summon a flesh-eating demon from the Hellmouth?

Nope. They were swearing. Loudly.

Sixty-seven posts later, we had a thread featuring a parent opining that it was unwise to let a 12-year-old walk more than four blocks by himself here in Mayberry, that “we pay taxes” so therefore no kids should be in the public park absent everyone’s approval, that “the world” was “not like it used to be” and it was “time to move!”

Move where, no one could say, but presumably somewhere whiter and older, because that’s the only way to be safe. From the kids. Swearing.

I wanted to reach out to the 12-year-old who’s not allowed to walk anywhere by himself and offer him some drugs and a stripper in the gender(s) of his choosing. I wanted to bake the kids swearing in the park cookies and teach them some of David Simon’s dialogue, like if you’re gonna do this do it right. I wanted to tell everybody to get a fucking hobby and quit peering out your window looking for something to be upset about.

I wanted to scream that walling yourself off in your house and watching endless law enforcement shows about how the city’s going to kill you and gibbering online about not being able to control the behavior of everyone around you leads directly to exactly where you are, and you hate it here.

This supposedly smart mindset, where you’re always expecting the worst and prepared to meet it, guns blazing, doesn’t make you feel safe. It makes you fucking miserable, and miserable to your neighbors as well.

We are so goddamned scared of each other. And I understand why, when it’s direct trauma you’re responding to. You got mugged late at night on that street and you don’t want to go down it, that’s fair. I lock my doors and windows at night. I live in the city and I’m not saying anybody should be an idiot.

When our garage got broken into and some lawn stuff got stolen I called the cops with a middle-class white chick’s supreme confidence and watched them do their job with proper gratitude.

But not everything’s a crisis. Our cities are not going down the tubes because cops are too reluctant to shoot people. The parts of our cities that are in crisis are in crisis in no small part because we’re terrified of one another, all the time. We’ve convinced ourselves that the only way to deal with that terror is to knight a group of people to protect us, give them military-grade weapons and almost no training, and send them out into the streets to face what we tell them is basically The Purge.

If they’re scared, too? If they’re more scared than we are? Then where do we turn?

A.

Lock Them Up?

During a crisis there’s always the temptation to fight fire with fire, especially when the executive branch is trying to burn the government down. It’s tempting to say “lock them up” when an executive branch official under “orders” defies a congressional subpoena. But however appealing the idea is, it’s always wise to look before leaping into what could turn out to be a ring of fire.

I pride myself on my knowledge of Congress and its history. That’s why I’ve been telling people that Congress lacks the power to arrest contemnors and must rely on referrals to the Justice Department to enforce contempt citations. We all know how that would go with Bill Barr in charge. Those contempt citations would disappear into a black hole and become part of Barr’s contemptible cover-up.

It turns out I was wrong about the whole arrest power thing. Here’s how Cornell Law professor Josh Chafetz explains it in a New York Times op-ed:

The House should instead put back on the table the option of using its sergeant-at-arms to arrest contemnors — as the person in violation of the order is called — especially when an individual, like Rudy Giuliani, is not an executive branch official. Neither house of Congress has arrested anyone since 1935, but it was not uncommon before that point (and was blessed by the Supreme Court in 1927).

There are some major problems with the superficially appealing notion of Congress resorting to its power of inherent contempt. Let me list the defects:

First, any power that has not been exercised in 84 years is suspect. It opens the door to valid-sounding criticism of the majority. Just because Congress has this power doesn’t mean they should set the dial on the Wayback Machine to 1935 and dust it off. The mere thought makes me sneeze. Achoo.

Second, they do not have facilities to house contemnors (my new favorite word) and the US Marshal Service is unlikely to be willing to transport people to the nearest federal slammer. Their big boss is the Attorney General who is the Contemnor-in-Chief’s henchman.

That means that contemnors would have to be held in empty offices, the mail room, or subway tunnels. This would look ad-hoc and improvised as well as opening the door to valid-sounding criticism of the majority that could undermine the growing popularity of the impeachment inquiry. Why create martyrs? Especially when the other side is adept at playing the victim card. It’s one of the few things they do well.

Third, invoking inherent contempt gets us bogged down in another procedural argument that will lead to litigation. Political junkies, lawyers, and Senators may like procedural arguments but the public hates them. Procedural arguments are not only boring, they’re losers. We should stick to the substantive arguments in favor of impeachment and removal instead of discussing process. Hell, I’m a political junkie and my eyes glaze over when process is the subject of the day.

As emotionally satisfying as it would be to see Don McGahn, Rudy Giuliani, Hope Hicks, and other miscreants frogmarched to the pokey, it’s a loser in the court of public opinion and impeachment is a political process. Just because the Insult Comedian lacks impulse control does not mean his opponents should follow suit.

Adam Schiff’s big picture strategy of folding contempt of Congress into the articles of impeachment is a wise one. We already have the smoking gun: the White House memo describing the Trump-Zelensky call. Getting bogged down in procedural arguments will slow things down and make the fog of scandal even denser. There’s already too much denseness in Washington as is.

My answer to the rhetorical question posed in the title is a resounding NO. Democrats should be the smart party, let the Republicans be the stupid party. They’ve earned the title.

The last word goes to Crowded House:

 

Adventures In Trumper Lawyering

I started this post earlier this week but there’s a new example of crazy Trumper lawyering every day. I gotta give them credit for creativity as well as chutzpah for making some uh, inventive, arguments. The client is driving the train and it’s Ozzy Osbourne’s Crazy Train; either that Casey Jones is at the wheel. Driving that train, high on cocaine…

ALL ABOARD THE LEGAL CRAZY TRAIN.

The Trump v. Vance case led off the week. The Insult Comedian’s lawyers were suing to prevent Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance Jr. from obtaining the holy grail of Trumpistan: the tax returns. The case should have been filed in state court since it involved an issue of state law, which is where the judge tried to bounce it back to before Team Trump appealed in federal court. I had a great conflicts of law professor, that’s why I remember this stuff. Hats off to the late Luther Love McDougal.

The craziest argument in this case is that a sitting president CANNOT BE INVESTIGATED. Judge Victor Marrero (not to be confused with the Louisiana town) wrote an opinion that was a giant fuck you to Team Trump:

The president asserts an extraordinary claim in the dispute now before this court.  He contends that the person who serves as president while in office enjoys absolute immunity from criminal process of any kind.

Bared to its core, the proposition the president advances reduces to the very notion that the founders rejected at the inception of the republic and that the Supreme Court has since unequivocally repudiated that a constitutional domain exists in this country in which not only the president, but derivatively, relatives, and persons and business entities associated with him are in fact above the law.  This court finds aspects of such a doctrine repugnant to the nation`s governmental structure and constitutional values.

Repugnant? That’s some strong stuff for a federal judge. Repugnant arguments result in indignant opinions.

You’ve all heard about the White House counsel Pat Cipollone’s nutty letter to the House leadership denouncing the impeachment inquiry. It read more like a campaign screed than a legal opinion. The effective bottom line of this remarkable document is that the constitution is unconstitutional. I shit you not: the impeachment inquiry is unconstitutional even though it’s in the document itself. So much for originalism.

The next lunatic argument comes from the Department of Justice. You know, the place where Bill Barr orchestrates the Trump cover up. DOJ lawyers argued that the 1974 Watergate grand jury case was wrongly decided. They did everything but invoke the Nixon-Barr doctrine:

On Thursday, two of Rudy Giuliani’s criminal associates were indicted by the Southern District of New York. The crazy came from one of their lawyers: former Trump mouthpiece, John Dowd. He claimed executive privilege before Congress because of their work with Rudy in Ukraine. Seriously?

You cannot make this shit up:

Only days ago Dowd told congressional investigators that his clients would not cooperate in their impeachment inquiry. But beyond that blanket resistance he said that there were specific issues which would make any discussion of cooperation take a long time untangle. The key one was attorney/client privilege. With the client being the President of the United States.

<SNIP>

Dowd explained that Parnas and Fruman worked with Rudy Giuliani on his representation of President Trump and thus were shielded (at least on some topics) by the Attorney/Client privilege between Giuliani (Attorney) and Donald Trump (client).

Oops, it wasn’t executive privilege, it was derivative attorney-client privilege. Is this like when Paul Drake (not the cat) worked as a shamus for Perry Mason? Does Hamilton Burger know about this? How about Lieutenants Tragg, Anderson, or Drumm?

My mind is still reeling from the legal crazy of the week. I mentioned two rock songs at the top of the post: Ozzy Osbourne and Warren Zevon & David Lindley get the last word.

 

Crazy Rudy’s Daffy Dossier

Rudy Giuliani has always been an asshole but not long ago he was a well-respected asshole. He was US Attorney for the Southern District of New York when the office decimated the top ranks of the Five Families. He was a two-term NYC Mayor who was dubbed “America’s Mayor” after 9/11. He was even the pre-season frontrunner for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. In 2019, he’s become a punchline even in his hometown:

New York is a tough town even if it’s “the town so nice, they named it twice.”

I’m uncertain if it’s the Trump effect, lingering bitterness over Hillary Clinton winning the Senate seat that he coveted in 2000, or if he’s simply gone bat shit crazy. The result is the same: Rudolph Giuliani has become a laughingstock except in those quarters where “owning the libs” is as important as life itself. He’s become the Pagliacci of our national politics, a sad clown beating on a drum for the Insult Comedian.

That brings us to Rudy’s latest misadventure. There was a whole lotta hype on Tuesday and Wednesday about the State Department Inspector General’s request for an urgent meeting with relevant Congressional committees. It was widely speculated that the IG had gone rogue.

Instead, the IG turned over what is best described as a propaganda dossier in support of the discredited notion that the real 2016 scandal was Ukraine helping the Democrats. The mystery of where the hell this fakakta thing came from was solved when the artist formerly known as Mayor Combover took “credit.” Crazy Rudy strikes again.

I must give Team Trump credit for originality. They’ve spread the fog of scandal to Foggy Bottom. Watergate never touched Nixon’s national security team because he kept them away from the White House Horrors. President* Pennywise lacks Tricky’s gift for deviousness: he’s a spoiled brat used to getting his own way. Just ask the President of Finland.

In recent days, the Insult Comedian seems bound and determined to take his obsequious Veep, Mike Liar Liar Pence On Fire, down with him. Publicly criticizing and implicating the man who can pardon you strikes me as stupid even for Donald Trump. It’s what happens when you lack either long-term plans or impulse control.

Back to Rudy Giuliani. I enjoy kicking him around, but I feel sorry for him. He used to be a man to be reckoned with instead of a national joke. He’s lawyered up but I still expect him to testify on Capitol Hill. Rudy never met a camera or microphone he didn’t love. He’s never turned down a chance to be on teevee and he’s not about to start now.

I referred to the packet in question as a daffy dossier for a reason. Both Trump and Giuliani are Toons. The problem is that they’re both Daffy Duck when one of them needs to be Bugs Bunny. Someone needs to stay in control of their emotions, especially when Porky Pig Pompeo is in charge at Foggy Bottom. Bill Barr probably thinks he’s Bugs when instead he’s Elmer Fudd hunting for wascally wabbits in Italy. Suffering succotash, what a mess.

I resisted the temptation to post a clown song as the last word. Instead, a song that’s about who Rudy used to be before he threw it all away to become Donald Trump’s patsy:

The Latest Trump Dignity Wraith

I watched the first 2 1/2 hours of Admiral Maguire’s testimony. It was a sad spectacle to watch a man with such a distinguished service record jump on hand grenades to protect a president* who would stab him in the back without any hesitation.

Like so many others in this administration, Maguire confuses his oath to protect the constitution with an oath to protect President* Pennywise. Maguire is just the latest in a long line of Trump dignity wraiths. His testimony was not only cringe inducing, it was in clear violation of the first rule of holes: when you’re in one, stop digging.

The notion that you should clear a complaint with persons mentioned in it defies logic. Trump and Barr are discussed in the whistleblower’s complaint yet they had a say in its release. Unbe-fucking-lievable. Why didn’t Maguire run it by Rudy Giuliani while he was at it?

The high point of the hearing was when Illinois Democrat Mike Quiqley set up a devastating inquiry about Rudy by discussing how arduous the security clearance process is. The artist formerly known as Mayor Combover does not have a security clearance but seems privy to all sorts of secrets, which he, in turn, blabs about on television.

I must admit that the Republicans on this committee are not as stupid as House Judiciary Committee GOPers. There’s no Gym Jordan or Louis Gohmert Piles on the Intelligence Committee. Of course, Devin Nunes claimed that Democrats are hunting for “nude pictures” of Trump. Nobody other than the Insult Comedian himself wants to see such pictures. I’m certain he would find them “perfect and beautiful” like his phone conversation with the hapless Ukrainian president.

Finally, committee Republicans made a big deal over Democrats “destroying” Maguire’s reputation. If that happened this morning, it was political suicide, not murder. Anyone who gets involved with Trump gets slimed; even retired Navy Seals with impeccable records. Maguire is just the latest Trump dignity wraith. He won’t be the last.

If the Admiral wishes to escape the well-deserved obloquy heaped on past Trump dignity wraiths, I have some unsolicited advice: Retire, Maguire.

Impeachment: Where Are We Going, Where Have We Been?

The post title is a paraphrase of a short story title. Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? was written by Joyce Carol Oates in 1966 and tells the story of a young woman who is seduced and devastated by the devil incarnate, Arnold Friend. Sound familiar? Arnold Friend is Donald Trump. Donald Trump is Arnold Friend. Believe me.

The situation is as fluid as mercury in an outmoded thermometer and may have shifted as I wrote this post. It’s what happens when you have a president* who changes his story every few hours. It’s why nothing he says should ever be believed. If he says it’s raining, you need to step outside and splash about in a puddle.

Here’s how I summed up the state of play yesterday afternoon:

As First Draft readers know, I’ve been for impeachment forever BUT I’m aware of the perils and pitfalls of the path we find ourselves on. It’s not a time for high-fiving and spiking the ball. This is some serious, solemn shit, y’all.

Nancy Smash’s announcement is the culmination of months of investigation that was thwarted by Trump regime stonewalling. The process was already under way but the dam broke this week and it’s another self-inflicted wound by an incompetent and idiotic president*. That’s why I call him the Kaiser of Chaos.

I have thought all along that if we reached this point the House leadership wanted to be dragged along kicking and screaming. Speaker Pelosi has been leery of risking the majority on impeachment as she was willing to do to pass the ACA in 2010. While I’ve disagreed, I understand her motives: this will not result in the removal of President* Pennywise. I’m alarmed that many people do not seem to understand this.

WaPo foreign policy columnist David Ignatius has a succinct explanation for why this move was imperative:

Why is this more than just another Trump vs. Democrats mud fight? Because the Ukraine issue is about compromising U.S. national security — and direct pledges to allies — for the president’s personal political gain. That’s what’s so outrageous about Trump’s alleged push to get dirt on his potential 2020 rival, former vice president Joe Biden, in a July 25 phone call with newly elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Not for the first time, Trump was putting himself above his country.

Trump isn’t even bothering to deny the basics. He confirmed Tuesday that he had held up delivery of a promised $391 million in military aid for the Ukrainians in mid-July, before his call to Zelensky. Trump claimed he wanted to pressure “Europe and other nations to contribute to Ukraine.” Trump had suggested Sunday that in the July call he had urged Zelensky to investigate Biden’s son’s work for a Ukrainian gas company.

The call was made the day after Robert Mueller’s public testimony before Congress dampened enthusiasm for impeachment. Trump felt bulletproof so he overplayed his hand. It’s what he’s done his entire life. That coupled with his fatal inability to STFU made impeachment inevitable.

Impeachment was at death’s door until Trump reanimated it like a bizarro world Victor Frankenstein. It’s called pulling defeat from the jaws of victory. Thanks, Donald.

The administration is making a show of turning over documents to the intelligence committees. Does anyone trust this White House to turn over an honest transcript of the call? I would hope not. Besides, according to the whistleblower, the call is not the only reason for this crisis.

I think the process will move faster than most others do. The articles of impeachment almost write themselves. It will be interesting to see if cracks develop among Republican members of Congress. At some point, the politician’s instinct for self-preservation is bound to kick in. Of course, I’ve been saying that for years. Stay tuned.

Finally, there is no legal requirement for the House to send impeachment to the Senate, which will not remove Trump from office. I’d let it sit there like a loaded gun without a Senate trial or vote. Ending the process in the House would have the virtue of denying the Insult Comedian a victory lap. That would drive Trump nuts; make that nuttier.

Just Another Whistle Stop

The whistleblower story is unspooling like a horror movie replete with twists, turns, and drama. I was involved in a social media discussion wherein we speculated which country President* Pennywise had been indiscreet with. The answer was depressing: there are a wide range of plausible possibilities from Russia to Saudi Arabia to Israel to North Korea to Pakistan and on and on and on.

Ukraine seems to be top of the pops BUT it appears inappropriate promises were made to other leaders. None of this is surprising because of the transactional nature of the Trump regime. While we’re not surprised, we should never lose our capacity for horror and outrage. This administration is like a dead teenager/slasher movie: the bodies just keep on dropping.

Somehow Bill Barr and the DOJ are in the mix despite the fact that they have no legal role in the whistleblower process whatsoever. Barr seems to regard himself as a human shield to protect the Insult Comedian. It’s not his actual job but he’s moonlighting as Trump’s personal lawyer. Repeat after me: While we’re not surprised, we should never lose our capacity for horror and outrage.

The problem with dealing with the Trump scandals is that there are so many of them. It makes it hard to focus on any of them although threatening a foreign head of state to benefit your campaign ranks up there with Kremlingate.

The manifold scandals and their amorphous nature is why I adopted the rubric: The Fog Of Scandal. The chaotic nature of this presidency* is why one of my nicknames for Trump is the Kaiser of Chaos. Chaos and anarchy are spreading like a particularly virulent disease in our body politic. The only way to excise them is at the ballot box. His wings could be clipped by impeachment but amputation by Moscow Mitch’s senate is never gonna happen.

Trump’s lackeys have followed his lifelong pattern of delay by litigation and stonewalling. They’re experts at kicking the can down the road, which is why each scandal is just another whistle stop.

The last word goes to The Band:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Boulevard Of Broken Dreams

Nighthawks by Edward Hopper.

I survived jury duty. I even got a diploma of sorts. I’m uncertain if it’s for good behavior; more like bored behavior. I was called upstairs for voir dire on the last day. I tweeted about it after graduation:

Canny is Leon Cannizzaro, Orleans Parish District Attorney. Here’s what I said about him in the Bayou Brief in 2017:

He’s a notoriously hardline, tough on crime District Attorney with the demeanor of an irritable undertaker and the strange uncharm of a grim Dickensian authority figure such as Mr. Murdstone. I had dealings with Canny when he was a criminal court judge and I was lawyering. He was arrogant, biased, rude, and dismissive. His success in electoral politics has always been a mystery to me but some people confuse assholery with strength. The Current Occupant of the White House is the best example I can think of. At least Canny has better hair.

Well, they asked for full disclosure…

People have been asking me if I planned to write at length about the 50th Anniversary of Woodstock. The answer is no. Why? Too many people focus on things other than the music and mud. Too many get bogged down in generational politics; one of the dullest subjects on the planet. It’s dull because it’s cliche laden: not all Baby Boomers sold out, not all Gen-Xers are slackers, and not all Millennials are twitter obsessed airheads. More importantly, not all members of the greatest generation were all that great. I often thought that my late father’s motto could have been, “We won the war so we don’t have to listen.” That concludes my rant about generational stereotypes.

This week’s theme song was written in 1933 by Al Dubin and Harry Warren. It was featured in the 1934 movie Moulin Rouge and sung by blond bombshell Constance Bennett. Ooh la la.

We have three versions of this torchy torch song for your listening pleasure: Constance Bennett,Tony Bennett, and Diana Krall. Ooh la la.

Constance and Tony are not related. His real name is, of course, Anthony Benedetto.

It’s time for a trip to Disambiguation City with a song written for the 2004 American Idiot album by the boys in Green Day. Same title, different song. Ooh la la.

Now that I’ve shattered your dreams, let’s jump to the break. Ooh la la.

Continue reading

Binder Full Of Leaks?

One of the more bizarre moments of Muellerpalooza was an exchange between Utah’s Chris Stewart and Bobby Three Sticks:

During former special counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony on Wednesday, Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) boldly claimed to have a list of leaks about the investigation that originated in Mueller’s office.

Lifting a binder during the House Intelligence Committee’s hearing, Stewart declared, “I’m holding here in my hand a binder of 25 examples of leaks that occurred from the special counsel’s office.”

“All of these have one thing in common, they were designed to weaken or to embarrass the President,” he added. The congressman later amplified his comments on Twitter.

Reporters who’ve spent months covering Mueller and his team — and who’ve noted their reputation for not leaking — were baffled.

Stewart’s claims turned out to be specious. They were the sort of rumors that only Fox News viewers and or tin-foil hat wearing Alex Jones types are familiar with. No, Team Mueller did not leak the story about Roger Stone’s arrest to demon CNN. They had Casa Rog staked out.

A binder full of leaks sounds messy, doesn’t it?

I wonder if Stewart conferred with Utah Senator Willard Mittbot Romney about his choice of words? Who among us can forget the Binders Full Of Women moment during the 2012 debates? Not me. It launched a thousand memes, after all:

I was so intent on getting my instant analysis post online the other day that I neglected to suggest a theme song for Judiciary Committee GOPers. Bob Dylan gets the last word:

 

Final Thoughts About Muellerpalooza

I decided to write a followup to yesterday’s instant analysis post in order to flesh out my thoughts about Muellerpalooza. When I say instant analysis, I mean it. I wrote the post in under 35 minutes with as little reference as possible to what others are saying and thinking. Shorter Adrastos: I try to avoid punditry pollution at all costs. Hence what amounts to a sequel. I’m uncertain if there’s method in my madness or madness in my method. I’ll let you be the judge of that.

On a human level, I feel badly for Bob Mueller this morning. The expectations for both the investigation and the man himself were impossibly high. People hoped he would somehow save us from Trump. That was not his job: he’s a professional prosecutor not a resistance messiah. It was preposterous, indeed delusional, to expect a nearly 75 year old man to be something or someone that he is not. He did what he said he would do.

Upon diving into the pundit pool, I was struck by the age-ism of much of the commentary. Yes, Mueller looked old, tired, and querelous but his performance was hindered by the restrictions placed on him by the DOJ and the format of the hearings. He was repeatedly roasted by Republicans for his inability to answer certain questions when their attorney general is the one who tied his hands. Bill Barr is good at cover-ups in a way that Tricky Dick was not.

Other than Chairman Nadler, Judiciary Committee Democrats were there to be on teevee, not to get at the truth. I had hoped that professional staff would ask most of the questions. They asked none.

The Intelligence Committee hearing was better because members knew the facts and Mueller was both more alert and responsive to their inquiries. Committee Democrats did much less grandstanding and asked fewer questions that they knew would not be answered. They kept it snappy, which was why the second act was better.

Much of the criticism of Mueller involved the dread word optics. Many pundits were upset that Mueller was button-downed and reserved as opposed to flashy. It’s who he is. Many of the same pundits decry politicians for their lack of authenticity. Bob Mueller is a work horse, not a show horse. Anyone who expected impassioned speeches or a Perry Mason moment was kidding themselves.

Too much of the discourse over the Mueller Report has dwelled in cloud cuckoo land. There are villains aplenty but federal prosecutors are not comic book super heroes. Team Mueller’s job was to produce a report within the onerous constraints placed on them by the Justice Department. They did their job to the best of their ability and produced a report that many of their critics have not and will never read. Bob Mueller was never going to go rogue. It’s not who he is.

The discussion of impeachment has been equally fantastic in the original meaning of the word. I am firmly on the record as favoring impeachment but I understand the political calculations of House Democratic leaders, which have little to do with gumption or guts. In 2010, Speaker Pelosi decided that the ACA was worth losing the majority over. In 2019, she does not think that impeachment is worth losing the majority over. I disagree but her calculation is based on cold-blooded logic, not a lack of intestinal fortitude. Repeat after me: real life is NOT like a comic book movie.

Finally, Democrats should never have expected Robert Mueller to save us. That was not his job. He came out of semi-retirement at the age of 73 to serve his country again. We have to save ourselves.

The last word goes to the Beach Boys:

Repeat after me: real life is NOT like a comic book movie.

Instant Analysis: Muellerpalooza

It’s been a long day. The morning show got off to a promising start with Chairman Nadler’s strong opening but the rest of it was muddled. Judiciary Committee Republicans are deeply stupid. In fact, they’re as stupid as Louie Gohmert Piles and Gym Jordan. The latter still insists on not wearing his suit coat. I suspect he thinks he’s dazzling us with his pecs. He is not.

Morning Muellerpalooza was a snoozer. The witness looked tired and out of practice. He reminded me of a once great pitcher who has lost his fastball and is trying to get by on guile and control.  I’m uncertain if his frequent refrain of “can you repeat the question?” is a delaying tactic or a sign that he needs a hearing aid. The man is nearly 75, after all.

Here’s how I summed up Muller’s style on the Tweeter Tube:

Solicitors do the office work whereas barristers try cases. Mueller is not a trial lawyer, he’s a grind who didn’t grind enough this time around. There were times when he looked uncertain about the facts of his case. Holy bad staff work, Batman.

For those of us who have read the report, there was little new in the morning but things were better in the afternoon session chaired by Adam Schiff. He’s one of the best communicators on the current political scene. As much as I hate to say it, Intelligence Committee GOPers are not as stupid as their Judiciary counterparts. It made things less painful.

As to the substance, Mueller confirmed that:

  • DOJ rules against indicting a president made a huge difference to his case.
  • Trump’s written answers were not entirely truthful. The reason they did not subpoena him was two-fold: time constraints and the fact that they had sufficient evidence.
  • Russian interference in our electoral process is what really matters. Bobby Three Sticks was actually animated when discussing it.
  • He does NOT take politics into consideration when hiring people. For Mueller, it’s about competence, not ideology. Holy crap, I just quoted Dukakis. A 1988 flashback is invariably a bad trip, man.

The hearings were neither a triumph nor a disaster. The “optics” weren’t great but the fact that Mueller stayed above the fray was a major plus as was his insistence that this investigation is not a witch hunt. The only pointy hats I saw in the room were worn by GOPers.

I’m uncertain where we go from here politically. All I know for sure is that I need a nap after arising so early.

Trumper Incitement Speech

Just when we thought things couldn’t get any uglier, the Insult Comedian doubled down on his egregious bigotry. He briefly stepped back from the brink after Republican blowback over his remarks about “The Squad,” but he cannot help himself and was soon back to inciting the red-hatted hordes. It’s just the latest offensive language offensive by the party of Trump.

Trump’s latest racist comments led me to me ponder two legendary Supreme Court cases. In the first case, Schenck v. United State, Oliver Wendell Holmes (surely the best name in SCOTUS history) enunciated the “clear and present danger test.” 50 years later the Supremes limited that test in the case of a Klansman named Clarence Brandenburg, not to be confused with Clarence the goofball angel in It’s A Wonderful Life. In Brandenbeurg v. Ohio case, the Court held:

… that speech advocating illegal conduct is protected under the First Amendment unless the speech is likely to incite “imminent lawless action.”

When it comes to the First Amendment, I’m down with the late Justice Hugo Black who was a free speech absolutist. BUT just because incitement speech can be legal does not make it socially or politically acceptable. We cannot ban it unless it directly provokes violence BUT we can attack it at its source: the Trump regime and the GOP.

We’re seeing the effects of the Current Occupant’s vicious and racist attacks spring to life among his supporters. Rhetorical bombs are being tossed across the country.

Across the Big Muddy from Adrastos World HQ, a veteran Gretna police officer showed classic internet courage by first posting, then removing a Facebook thingamabob about Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez:

The Times-Picayune reported this weekend that police officer Charlie Rispoli had posted a threatening message about Ocasio-Cortez, who used to work as a bartender, on his Facebook page.

“This vile idiot needs a round…and I don’t mean the kind she used to serve,” Rispoli wrote in a caption above a fake article headlined with “Ocasio-Cortez On the Budget: ‘We Pay Soldiers Too Much’”

The cop seemed livid about the article, even though the site Taters Gonna Tate describes itself as a “satire” website and Ocasio-Cortez has never said that soldiers get paid “too much.”

A Trumper falling for a “fake news” article? Imagine that. Of course, anyone who has fallen for the Insult Comedian’s shtick is a fool and/or a poltroon.

Meanwhile, this happened in the Land of Lincoln:

Internet courage was also displayed by this group: they removed this offensive image as well as its even more offensive caption, “Political jihad is their game. If you don’t agree with their socialist ideology, you’re racist.”

That is, of course, Geoffrey Hughes’ character, Onslow, from Keeping Up Appearances, not one of the Illinois GOP honchos. But now that I think of it, all you have to do is add a Bears or Cubs hat and Bob’s your uncle. Your uncle, not mine.

They justified the racist image with this gobble-de-gook:

State Republican Chairman Tim Schneider responded to what he called the “bigoted rhetoric” in a statement, according to the Tribune.

“My intense disagreement with the socialist policies and anti-Semitic language of these four congresswoman has absolutely nothing to do with their race or religion,” he said. “I urge everyone who opposes them to keep the rhetoric focused on policy and ideology.”

Instead of gobble-de-gook, one might call this an Illini lie. Schneider is a German-sounding name, perhaps he should go back to Germany. Of course, German law takes a dim view of incitement speech for obvious reasons. Been there, done that.

The current political environment is ugly and getting uglier by the nano-second. Trump and his supporters will stop at nothing to keep him in office. I am genuinely concerned that this will result in even more politically inspired violence than we’ve already seen.

Like Pontius Pilate, Trump will wash his hands of any responsibility the next time someone gets hurt, especially if it’s one of The Squad. I have no sympathy for that devil, y’all.

And I was ’round when Jesus Christ
Had his moment of doubt and pain
Made damn sure that Pilate
Washed his hands and sealed his fate

Trump and his followers are stirring the pot with their incitement speech. At the risk of sounding like an entry in the dictionary of political cliches, they will eventually reap the whirlwind and pay for their actions in the fall of 2020. But it will take hard work and persistence. And Boris Badenov and ilk may help Team Trump just as they did in 2016:

Repeat after me: Republicans lost the popular vote in the mid-terms by 9 points. Their only hope for victory is to depress Democratic turnout by hook or crook and pray for protection from the electoral college.  Never forget: massive turnout by the people Trump is trying to otherize is the cure to what ails the country.

Since bomb throwing is the metaphor of the day, the last word goes to 10cc:

UPDATE: The Gretna, Louisiana cop mentioned above was fired.

Summertime Blues

I usually bitch and moan about the heat on Saturdays. There’s an exception to every rule: the heat has been inescapable and oppressive the last few days. It’s been as hot as I can ever recall since I moved to New Orleans in the Eighties. Our air dish keeps the house nice and cool when it’s 90 but struggles in the heat of the day when it’s over 95. We’re forced to huddle in cooler/smaller enclaves such as the study and guest room when it’s this hot. Cower might be a better word than huddle. It’s too damn hot, y’all.

The heat has got me down but so has the news. It’s the summer of child abuse stories. Notorious super-perv Jeffrey Epstein has been arrested by the feds for assorted disgusting malefactions including child trafficking. He supposedly has bipartisan buddies: the feds should follow the facts and disregard who ends up in the bulls-eye. Let the chips fall, y’all.

A worse example of child abuse is the ongoing babies in cages scandal perpetrated by the Trump regime. The reason it’s worse is that cruelty is the point of this despicable exercise. The regime claims that it’s not that bad, that it’s all fake news, but it’s said with a wink by liars.

I’m not much on soccer but the victory of the American women in the World Cup was uplifting as was this chant:

One could call it beautiful noise for the beautiful game.

The last word goes to Eddie Cochran and the Who:

Eat That Question

Unlike other Trump regime scandals, the census controversy is neither sexy nor scary. What it is is IMPORTANT. The census determines government spending, political boundaries, and so much more.

The census is one of the specific items mentioned in the constitution: Article 1, Section 2 to be exact. The language is clear: “all persons” shall be counted. Team Trump has tried to change that to “all citizens” but they’ve taken a beating in court. They’re also under a printing deadline so the census can be ready for its decennial appearance on the national stage.

It appears that the Trump regime has surrendered on this point but the Insult Comedian continues to claim that some delay is feasible. It’s a muddle but that’s the story of this misbegotten presidency*.

My hunch is that they’ve caved and that the purpose of Trump’s twitter frenzy is to look tough and cover his ass. But I’ve been wrong before and I will be again. Such is the pundit’s lot. Besides, these fuckers lie incessantly so you never know what evil shit they’re up to.  .

It seems to be Zappa day here at First Draft. Here’s the song title that inspired the post title:

The Fog Of Scandal: Perpetual Crisis Care

The 24-7 news cycle has been frantic for quite some time but in the Trump era it’s like a hyperactive child in need of medication. The child in question is, of course, the Insult Comedian.

After losing to Jack Kennedy, Richard Nixon wrote a pretty good, albeit self-serving, book called Six Crises. The Current Occupant has more like Sixty Crises some of which are so repetitive that the people and the media are becoming numb to them. It’s the presidency, in E’s memorable phrase, as Novocaine For The Soul.

This political numbness must be resisted at all costs: it’s okay not to be SURPRISED by presidential* antics but we should be SHOCKED by all the crazy the Trump regime throws our way. We conclude this opening sermonette with a musical interlude: a Fall Out Boy song whose protagonist sounds eerily like Trumpberius.

This is a black, black ski mask song
So put all of your anger on
In the truly gruesome do we trust
I will always land on you like a sucker punch
Singing I am your worst, I am your worst nightmare
I am your worst, I am your worst nightmare

Indeed you are, Donald, indeed you are.

Two of the major crises du jour are the internment camps on the border, especially the one at Clint, Texas, and the slagging match with Iran that could result in another stupid war in the Middle East. Trump relies on his gut when it comes to foreign policy, and *my* gut tells me that he’s bluffing in his face-off with Iran. BUT the chance for miscalculation is great when his senior advisers, Bolton and Pompeo, are salivating over the prospect of regime change in Iran. We’ve seen that movie before. It didn’t play well in Iraq and the Islamic Republic of Iran is a more formidable foe than the decadent dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. Stay tuned.

As to the migrant concentration camps, only a hardcore, heartless racist could fail to be moved by accounts of children living in their own filth without soap or toothbrushes. Since my eyesight and hearing are crappy, I have an acute sense of smell and the stench coming from children who have no soap with which to bathe is a notion that haunts me.  It’s slow motion torture, which is a stain on our national honor. It’s a rotten lead up to Independence Day.

There’s been a lively discussion in the corners of social media that I frequent about what issue we should focus on. We need to multi-task because the Trump regime will always trump up something to distract us. Diversion is the only thing they do well. Remember the Maddow Doctrine:

There’s one Trump crisis that the MSM is particularly numb to: We have a president* who is a serial sexual assaulter who sees women as prey, not people. The Gray Lady primly did not publish a story about E. Jean Carroll’s credible rape allegations for days after they broke. The depressing consensus among the Cult of the Savvy and GOP bigwigs seems to be that the voters knew about Trump’s rapey ways and elected him anyway. The NYT has admitted error and Trump has, predictably, said she was not hot enough for him to lust after. In a word: gross. Donald Trump is a pussy, he should grab himself.

If you haven’t read Dahlia Lithwick’s brilliant piece about the Carroll allegations, make sure you do. Dahlia points out that Carroll did it on her own terms in a way that none of Trump’s manifold manhandled accusers have done:

I understand why so many people think the media’s failure here is the result of boredom. One reality of the Trump era is how profoundly boring it is—we watch the same dramas unfold, again and again; we debunk the same lies, again and again; and we issue the same warnings, again and again. But I don’t think that what happened here is the result of boredom so much as an almost perfect journalistic incapacity for telling any story it hasn’t told a thousand times before. Maybe we’re not bored. Maybe we’re just boring.

Because E. Jean Carroll flipped the script. Having watched, and watched, and watched the #MeToo stories play out over the past several years, she decided she wasn’t going to do it as it had been done. She was going to tell her own story on her own terms, publishing it in her own book. Because, as she wrote in the excerpt published in New York magazine last Friday:

“Why haven’t I “come forward” before now?

Receiving death threats, being driven from my home, being dismissed, being dragged through the mud, and joining the 15 women who’ve come forward with credible stories about how the man grabbed, badgered, belittled, mauled, molested, and assaulted them, only to see the man turn it around, deny, threaten, and attack them, never sounded like much fun. Also, I am a coward.”

She’s the opposite of a coward. E. Jean Carroll is my new hero. It takes guts to deal with a traumatic episode with wit and humor; two qualities her rapist notably lacks. All he knows how to do is attack, belittle, degrade, and divert attention from his crimes.

The last word goes to Eels:

Repeat after me: Donald Trump is a criminal.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Right Place, Wrong Time

Swing Landscape by Stuart Davis.

I finished this post before hearing the terrible news about Our Della Street. I usually apply another layer of polish before publishing but I wasn’t feeling it. If it’s disjointed, so be it. Apologies to our late night Odds & Sods readers, I wanted my Della tribute to be at the top until 8-ish. She would have insisted.

Back to our regularly scheduled programming:

A wee cool front hit New Orleans this week. It’s still hot but not as muggy. It’s nice to step outside without breaking into an insta-sweat. It’s a minor triumph but we’ll take what we can get. It will be gone just in time for the weekend. So it goes.

The big local story comes from St. Tammany Parish. It used to be country but morphed into white flight suburbia in the late 20th Century. It’s the most Republican parish in the Gret Stet and its residents are wont to lecture us depraved city folk about morals and crime. They should knock it off. Former St. Tammany Sheriff Jack Strain was arrested this week on rape and incest charges. He spent several nights in the jail he ran for 20 years. Schadenfreude thy name is Adrastos.

I still have the late Dr. John on my mind so this week’s theme song is his biggest hit: Right Place, Wrong Time. He wrote it for his 1973 album In The Right Place, which was something of a New Orleans musical summit meeting. It was produced by Allen Toussaint and The Meters were Mac’s backing band on the album.

We have two versions for your listening pleasure: the original studio recording and a 1996 teevee performance with Eric Clapton.

I’m desitively confused by this song. I actually called it Right Time, Wrong Place when discussing Our Mac with my barber the other day. Mac’s penchant for malaprops seems to be contagious even for a man of my edumaction. Let’s jump to the break before I get even more tongue twisted.

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Louisiana Goddam

I was hoping not to have to write this post but the Gret Stet lege has joined with Georgia, Alabama, and Missouri to pass a so-called “fetal heartbeat” bill. Compounding the horror is the failure to include exceptions for rape and incest. It’s the latest frontal assault on Roe vs. Wade since the Kavanaugh appointment.

Making matters worse is that a Democratic Governor who I voted for and support on other issues, John Bel Edwards, signed the bill into law. I am disappointed but not shocked as he never hid his views. I had hoped, however, that his anti-abortion views were not this extreme.  I wish he had at least given lip service to the aforementioned exceptions. That’s what happened when Gov. Kathleen Blanco signed anti-choice legislation back in 2006. There was even a Gret Stet miracle in 1990 when Gov. Buddy Roemer vetoed an anti-abortion bill. There are no miracles in 2019.

Here’s what the Governor said about his decision:

I strongly disagree that this is a common garden variety disagreement. The fundamental issue is respect for women and their right to control their own destiny. It’s a dark day in the Gret Stet of Louisiana.

Louisiana liberals are on the horns of a dilemma. Here’s my personal plan: I will vote for Edwards but it will be a clothespin vote. I will not actively support Edwards and will not argue with people who cannot support him because of this dreadful bill. I completely understand why they feel that way and respect their views.

Unfortunately, Edwards is the best we can do in deep red Louisiana. Any Republican will be much, much worse. The lesser of two evils rule is depressingly in effect.

Goddam Louisiana, goddam.

Courage

Speaker Pelosi has forgotten more about politics than most people will ever know. She’s right to think that impeachment is tricky. It’s unpopular now BUT, like everything else in this mercurial era, that’s subject to change. Public opinion is fluid, not static except for the hardcore rump of Trumpers, which is around 25% of the electorate. Speaker Pelosi is a political genius but even geniuses can be wrong. She *is* wrong about impeachment. It is not just a legal imperative, it is a political one. I think inaction will be more politically damaging in the long run than defending the rule of law against a lawless and illegitimate administration.

Yesterday’s statement by the ultimate G-Man, Robert Mueller, confirmed that the vast majority of the country, let alone members of Congress, have not, and will not, read the report. Despite attempts to make it user friendly, it’s long and detailed and chock full of legal phrases baffling to lay people. That’s not a criticism, it’s a fact. Most people need to see the teevee show, not read a 448 page book. Mueller’s statement was more in the nature of a preview of coming attractions, not the main event.

Mueller said yesterday that he would only testify publicly about the contents of the report itself. That’s fine. Repeat after me: most people have not and will never read the full report. Mueller doesn’t want to testify. Life is full of chores we’d rather not do: I could live without changing the cat box but I do it. I fear the wrath of Della Street and Paul Drake. Who wouldn’t?

If his appearance cannot be negotiated, Jerry Nadler and Adam Schiff need to subpoena the  Special Counsel. Unlike the Insult Comedian’s lawless minions, he will comply. It’s time for Bobby Three Sticks to eat his veggies. He can have dessert later.

I disagree with those who say that political considerations should play no role in the impeachment decision. It is an inherently political process. Those calculations increasingly argue FOR, not against, impeachment. Yes, I know, the Senate will not convict as of this writing and the majority is threatening to go straight to a vote and not hold a trial. BUT Democrats are losing the messaging war to Republicans and, worse, look weak. Nancy Smash is not weak but perception is everything in politics. She cannot afford to look weak in these perilous times for our democracy. The president* is terrified of impeachment, when he’s scared, he makes mistakes.

The ground is shifting. The mere fact of Freedom Caucus member Justin Amash’s advocacy of impeachment has made House Democrats look feckless and I give a feck about that. Amash has made cogent arguments in favor of impeachment, which has made the Speaker’s temporizing look weak. He’s obviously read the full report, which is why he came out for impeachment; much like his political antonym, Elizabeth Warren. Repeat after me: most people have not and will never read the full report. They need the teevee show.

At the risk of being repetitive, Nancy Pelosi is not weak but perception is everything in politics. I agree that there are risks involved but life is full of risks and impeachment is the only option we have to establish that the Current Occupant is NOT above the law. If he’s impeached and acquitted by the Senate, he’ll brag about it but he’ll have the scarlet letter I seared on his orange forehead. If he’s not impeached, he’ll brag about winning a showdown with Speaker Pelosi. He’s going to brag either way but in one scenario, Democrats look weak,  in the other they’ve stood up for the rule of law.

Perilous times require courage from our leaders. We don’t elect them to do the easy things, we elect them to do the right thing. Trump cannot be allowed to get away with his crimes without facing the music. Nothing scares him more than the possibility of live, televised hearings into his brazen misconduct. Hence the massive resistance to all requests from Congress. If a formal impeachment inquiry is opened, the House will have more legal power to make the Trump regime comply. All it takes is courage. The future of the Republic not only requires courage, it demands it.

Courage.

Saturday Odds & Sods: I Want You Back

Rayograph by Man Ray.

This is the week Mother Nature flicked the celestial switch to turn on the steam bath that is summer in New Orleans. It hit 90 degrees for the first time in 2019. The cats slowed down, and your humble blogger started sweating like Bogie in the greenhouse scene in The Big Sleep. This sort of heat is why people in more sensible countries such as Spain and Greece take siestas. Did I just call the Greeks sensible? There’s a first time for everything.

The big local story was the death of writer, raconteur, and local character Ronnie Virgets at the age of 77. His prose style was unique as was his voice, which landed him on local teevee and radio. Ronnie was a man about town so I ran into him from time-to-time over the years. The last time was at the Krewe du Vieux captain’s dinner. Ronnie was our king in 1996. I told him how much I missed his Razoo column in the Gambit. His reply: “I ran out of shit to say.” It was said with a wink so I didn’t believe it for a second. Our mutual friend, Clancy DuBos, wrote a lovely tribute to Ronnie in which he compared him to both Damon Runyon and Jimmy Breslin. Yeah, you right, Clancy. They broke the mold when they made Ronnie Virgets.

Motown May continues with this week’s theme song. I Want You Back was written in 1969 by “The Corporation” aka Berry Gordy, Freddie Perren, Alphonso Mizell, and Deke Richards. The song was originally intended for Gladys Knight & the Pips but ended up being the Jackson 5’s first hit. Let me address the monster in the room: Michael Jackson did monstrous things as an adult but he was an abused child in 1969. Besides, my favorite thing about I Want You back is the production, especially the guitar riff that propels the song.

We have two versions for your entertainment. The Jackson 5 original and a cool cover by Graham Parker:

I hope you’ll still want me back after we jump to the break. If you don’t, who can blame you?

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