Category Archives: Law/Justice

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.

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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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Alabama Goddam

Photo via @ALostrich.

The Alabama lege has gone there by passing a bill that effectively bans safe, legal abortion. It confirms the asterisk placed on the state motto in the featured image above.

The Guardian nailed it with this brilliant headline: These 25 Republicans-All White Men-Just Voted To Ban Abortion In Alabama.

Governor Kay Ivey hasn’t announced whether or not she’ll sign the bill BUT she’s a blue-haired right-winger from central casting so she’s expected to do so. That will be the day that stars really fall on Alabama.

Anti-choicers have been “praying” for this ever since Roe v. Wade was handed down in 1973. It’s why they support Donald Trump who has pledged to only appoint judges who will strike Roe down. Unfortunately, it’s the only promise he’s kept.  Thanks, Mitch.

I’m usually cautiously optimistic that Chief Justice Roberts will land on the side of precedent since he’s a genuine judicial conservative as well as an institutionalist. Unfortunately, institutionalism is on the run in the Trump era. Besides, the Chief’s record on abortion rights issues is clear: he’s apt to be just as eager to reverse Roe as his wingnuttier colleagues.

Justice Stephen Breyer issued a warning last week about the current court’s willingness to disregard precedent. Here’s an excerpt from a piece by Slate’s fine legal writer Mark Joseph Stern:

In dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer acknowledged as much. Overruling precedent typically requires a “special justification,” Breyer wrote, but “the majority does not find one.” Instead, it merely decides that Hall “was wrongly decided” and should go. “The law has not changed significantly since this Court decided Hall,” Breyer pointed out, “nor has our understanding of state sovereign immunity evolved to undermine Hall.” All that has changed is the composition of the court. He added:

“To overrule a sound decision like Hall is to encourage litigants to seek to overrule other cases; it is to make it more difficult for lawyers to refrain from challenging settled law; and it is to cause the public to become increasingly uncertain about which cases the Court will overrule and which cases are here to stay.”

It is “dangerous,” Breyer concluded, “to overrule a decision only because five Members” of the court disagree with it. “Today’s decision can only cause one to wonder which cases the Court will overrule next.” And if there were any doubt which cases Breyer was alluding to in this dark denouement, he cited the portion of Planned Parenthood v. Casey that explained why Roe should be upheld. The justice has hoisted a red flag, alerting the country that the court’s conservative majority is preparing an assault on the right to abortion access.

Justice Breyer rarely writes such scathing dissents: he’s usually the soul of moderation and courtesy. That’s why we need to take him seriously. Shit meet fan.

I am not eager for the Alabama law to reach the Supreme Court but that’s its likely destination absent an unlikely veto by the Governor. We’re on our own now.

Case Closed?

The Turtle got up on his hind legs in the Senate yesterday and declared the Trump scandals over. He even had the gall to use the phrase “case closed” as if that would work. In 1993, Gerald Posner published a book about the Kennedy assassination. His theory was that the Warren Commission got it right and that Oswald acted alone. The title was Case Closed. If it was meant to cut-off discussion of that horrible day in Dallas, it did not work. We’re still arguing about it. McConnell’s statement will have the same effect or lack thereof.

Nixon tried the same gambit during Watergate. He declared the scandal over and done with multiple times. It did not work. Scandals have a life of their own and need to die of natural causes, pronouncements do not work.

The ineffectiveness of McConnell’s statement was shown by subsequent events of yesterday. The Michael Cohen-Jerry Fallwell Junior link resurfaced in a Reuters story. It implied that the former Fixer’s suppression of some “racy” Falwell Junior pictures *may* have had something to do with the second-generation bible-thumper’s endorsement of Trump. I don’t know about you but the last thing I want to see are racy Fallwell Junior pictures. Ugh.

A more important, albeit less salacious, development was the latest story in the New York Times series that I call Donald Trump Is A Criminal. The Times obtained copies of Trump’s federal tax work sheets from 1985 to 1994. The Eighties were ostensibly the Insult Comedian’s glory days as a tycoon. One might instead call them his gory days as he suffered $1 billion in losses. Our friend Scout Prime immediately dubbed him the biggest loser. He’s either the worst businessman ever or a monumental tax cheat; perhaps even both.

I’m not going to publish the First Flim-Flam Man’s attempt to spin the story. Suffice it to say that it’s as credible as the rest of his twitter feed. If his story is true: why not publicly release the tax returns sought by the House?

It’s self-quote time:

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.

The shoes keep dropping despite the Insult Comedian’s lame attempts to explain away everything. That’s why this case will never be closed.

The last word goes to Randy Newman with a song about the kind of glitzy Eighties capitalism that the Kaiser of Chaos claims to embody:

It’s Trump’s money that matters.  Repeat after me: Donald Trump is a criminal.

Saturday Odds & Sods: What’s Going On

Jazz Fest is in its second weekend. I used to love this event, but it’s like an ex-girlfriend who I still like but am not always eager to see.  It’s become just another pop/roots rock/kinda sorta jazz festival in the last decade, which has made me lukewarm about attending. I broke up with Jazz Fest a few years ago and have an awkward relationship with it. I still may go this weekend but the thrill is gone, y’all.

In other New Orleans news, a water main broke a few miles from Adrastos World HQ. We had no water pressure for a few hours and are still under a boil water advisory. The pipe was laid in 1905. I should make a crude joke at this point but I try to ignore my inner Beavis and Butthead.

This week we celebrate the music of Marvin Gaye who would have turned 80 on April 2nd, which was the day that the USPS issued the Marvin Gaye stamp. I remember the dark day in 1984 when I heard about Marvin’s death at the hands of his father. It was April Fool’s day so I wondered briefly if the news was a cruel hoax. It was not. I even shed a few tears. I rarely cry but I wept that day. Rage, jealousy, and firearms are a toxic combination. For Marvin, they were fatal.

This week’s theme song was the title track of Marvin’s best album.  We have two versions of What’s Going On for your listening pleasure: Marvin’s original followed by a swell 1986 cover by Cyndi Lauper who really rocks Marvin’s composition.

Now that we’ve seen what’s going on, let’s jump to the break with our eyes wide open. I’ll skip the obvious Kubrick joke.

Continue reading

Barr’s Testimony In A Wingnut Shell

I only watched bits and bobs of the Barr hearing. I have a hard time sitting through GOP crazy as expressed by old white dudes. Chuck Grassley is looking more like Abe Simpson every day.

Barr lied, dodged questions, and offered absurd defenses of his lord and master. I like what Comey said about Barr’s dignity wraith-hood in an op-ed written before the hearing:

But more often, proximity to an amoral leader reveals something depressing. I think that’s at least part of what we’ve seen with Bill Barr and Rod Rosenstein. Accomplished people lacking inner strength can’t resist the compromises necessary to survive Mr. Trump and that adds up to something they will never recover from. It takes character like Mr. Mattis’s to avoid the damage, because Mr. Trump eats your soul in small bites.

I’m not sure if Barr ever had a soul but Comey has a way with language. It certainly explains how people pleaser Lindsey Graham went from McCain wingman to Trump toady.

TPM has the wall-to-wall coverage that I’m disinterested in providing. One more thing: the Mueller letter may be written in “snitty” legalese but it’s a big fucking deal. It probably was written by a staff member as Barr so dismissively stated BUT that’s SOP. I wonder if the first draft bore this salutation: Dear Fuckhead. I understand that Bobby Three Sticks is big on busting balls in private.

I originally planned for this post to be strictly a sight gag but I had a few jokes up my sleeve. Here’s Barr’s Testimony In A Wingnut Shell:

 

 

Massive Resistance

Massive resistance to desegregation was a thing after the Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision. The Supremes erred by using Felix (The Hot Dog Man) Frankfurter’s phrase that desegregation should be implemented “with all deliberate speed.” What followed was deliberate delay, not speedy progress.

Team Trump is following its own path of massive resistance in regard to Congressional subpoenas. The Insult Comedian has bragged that he runs the “most transparent administration in history” when, as always, the opposite is true. Projection thy name is Trumpy.

The Trump regime specializes in lies, cover-ups, and delay. They’ve made an art of kicking the can down the road in an audacious attempt to delay the president’s* day of reckoning. I halfway expect Rudy to use the phrase “with all deliberate speed,” he’s surely heard of it. Trump just as surely has not. Nothing exists if it doesn’t involve him.

The law is on the side of the House oversight committees but not only is the law an ass, it’s a slow ass. It’s one of the few things Trump knows: litigation is tantamount to delay. It’s why he *always* threatens to sue whenever things go against him. The good news is that Congress has deep pockets but the process is inherently slow. In fact, it moves “with all deliberate speed.”

 

Quote Of The Day: Impeachment Edition

I’d like to thank Lawrence O’Donnell for reminding us of the eloquence of a Republican member of the House Judiciary Committee who stood up for the rule of law and against a president of his own party in 1974. The father of the current Governor of Maryland, Lawrence Hogan Sr. was a FBI agent before entering politics. He was the only Republican to vote for *all* three articles of impeachment filed against Richard Nixon.

Here’s the QOTD:

Now, I`m a Republican. Party loyalty and personal affection and precedence of the past must fall, I think, before the arbiter of men`s action – the law itself. No man, not even the president of the United States, is above the law.

It isn`t easy for me to align myself against the president to whom I gave my enthusiastic support in three presidential campaigns, on whose side I`ve stood in many legislative battles, whose accomplishments in foreign and domestic affairs I`ve consistently applauded.

But it`s impossible for me to condone or ignore the long train of abuses to which he has subjected the presidency and the people of this country. The constitution and my own oath of office demand that I bear true faith and allegiance to the principles of law and justice upon which this nation was founded. And I cannot in good conscience turn away from the evidence of evil that is to me so clear and compelling.

My friend from New Jersey, Mr. Sandman, said last night he wants to see direct proof and some of my other friends on the side of the aisle said the same thing. But I submit what they`re looking for is an arrow to the heart. And we do not find any evidence an arrow to the heart. We find a virus that creeps up on you slowly and gradually until its obviousness is so overwhelming to you.

We have to step back and we have to look at the whole picture. And when you look at the whole mosaic of the evidence that`s come before us, to me, it`s overwhelming beyond a reasonable doubt.

<SNIP>

He consistently tried to cover up the evidence and obstruct justice, and as much as it pains me to say it, he should be impeached and removed from office.

It is, of course, difficult to imagine a current House or Senate Republican quoting Larry Hogan Sr. let alone matching his anguished eloquence. The rule of law *should* be more important than the Current Occupant of the White House whoever they may be. This president* is reckless and lawless and the 115th Congress needs to stand up and be counted like the 93rd Congress and members such as Larry Hogan the elder.

Impeachment is not easy. It’s not supposed to be easy.  It’s a political action that may be politically unwise. Many of the arguments against it are compelling, I find myself nodding in agreement when Josh Marshall argues against it, but then I recall my reaction to reading Volume 2 of the Mueller Road Map. We can’t let this president* get away with thumbing his nose at the constitution and the rule of law. The example that would set for the future is dire.

Not only has the MSM let the GOP off easy on impeachment, the “cult of the savvy” is calling Elizabeth Warren’s stand in favor of impeachment a gambit or a tactic. It was a sincere reaction to the disgusting details laid out in the Mueller Report. It was the same reaction I had. Sometimes you have to do the right thing regardless of whether or not it’s easy or expedient. As JFK said in his legendary 1962 Moon speech: “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

The last word goes to the late Congressman Larry Hogan. The caption is wrong, it was a statement, not testimony but the words ring just as true in 2019 as they did in 1974:

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: