Category Archives: Law/Justice

The Spirit Of ’73: The Unraveling

Two Flags by Jasper Johns.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Watergate was my formative political experience. I lived through it and experienced the drip, drip, drip of daily revelations. Part of my teenage rebellion was arguing with my father about Watergate. He was a Nixon delegate in 1972 and didn’t buy any of it until, that is, the summer of 1974. He met Barry Goldwater Jr at some function. Goldwater told Lou that John Dean was a close friend of his and that he believed his story. Lou’s belief in Nixon was badly shaken although he continued to tell me not to be gleeful over his downfall. I continued dancing on Tricky Dick’s political grave. I have the same plan with the Insult Comedian.

Something fundamentally changed with the Comey memo revelation. The Trump-Russia scandal reached critical mass on that day followed by the appointment of former FBI director Robert Mueller as Special Counsel yesterday.  When I heard the news, I couldn’t resist saying “I told you so” on Social Media. The Cardinal rule of American politics is NEVER MESS WITH THE FBI. Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon all wanted to fire J Edgar Hoover. Harry Truman despised Hoover. None of them fired him because, in LBJ’s memorable phrase, they preferred him inside the tent pissing out to outside the tent pissing in. NEVER MESS WITH THE FBI.

Messing with the FBI was Nixon’s undoing. The infamous “smoking gun” tape involved his attempt to get acting FBI director and Nixon sycophant L. Patrick Gray to kill the investigation. Gray tried but, in the end, messing with the FBI destroyed his reputation. He was one of many Nixon dignity wraiths. Sound familiar?

I was a “who was Deep Throat” buff until Mark Felt revealed his identity in 2005. He was on my short list along with Alexander Haig. Haig was my number one candidate because Woodward and Bernstein wrote so glowingly about him in The Final Days. That’s Woodward’s typical modus operandi with anonymous sources but he didn’t do that with Felt. The lesson of Deep Throat: NEVER MESS WITH THE FBI.

The timing of the Mueller appointment is no accident. Rod Rosenstein is testifying on Capitol Hill today. It’s also an attempt to scrub some of the tarnish off his reputation. It’s what happens when you become one of Trump’s dignity wraiths. It reminds me of a line from the super trashy movie The Oscar: “You lay down with pigs, you come up smelling like garbage.” That’s the fate of Trump’s dignity wraiths.

It’s time for his staff to lawyer up and/or resign. Trump destroys everything he touches. I like what Never Trump conservative Rick Wilson had to say about this:

Every day you get up, slide into the seat of your Prius or Tahoe (and if you’re senior enough, exchange a few polite words with your driver) and start checking Twitter. Whatever it is that you’re feeling, it doesn’t feel anything like Morning in America. It feels like some faraway kleptocracy where the center hasn’t held, the airfield and radio station have fallen to the rebels, and the Maximum Leader is holed up in his secret bunker waiting for the other shoe to drop.

<SNIP>

Sticking with Trump to the bitter end and pretending the unfolding chaos is just “fake news” won’t save your reputation as the walls close in. It won’t ease the judgment of history. It won’t do anything to polish up your future Wikipedia entry.

Cutting ties with a man who is destructive to our values, profoundly divisive, contemptuous of the rule of law and incontrovertibly unfit to serve in the highest office in the land just might. Do it now.

Shorter Rick Wilson: don’t be a dignity wraith, jump in a lifeboat and paddle like hell to the shore. Congressional Republicans would be well-advised to do likewise but they’re slow learners. It will take time for them to come around. They won’t do it out of patriotism or principle but because they’re staring into their political graves. Even Mitch McConnell will betray Trump eventually. He’s the most cynical man in public life and would sell his grandmother to maintain his slender majority. But it will take time. It’s what happens when you mess with the FBI.

The good news is that this sort of scandal consumes Washington and the worst parts of Trump’s agenda are in serious jeopardy. Here’s Rick Wilson again:

…your president botched Trumpcare 1.0 and contributed little as House Speaker Paul Ryan managed to ram public-relations nightmare, Trumpcare 2.0, through the House at the cost of much political blood and treasure. Instead, Trump’s fumbles have left many members of Congress ducking town hall meetings like they’re in the Witness Protection Program. The DOA tax bill and the rest of Trump’s agenda are deader and more pungent than six-day-old fish.

Senate Democrats need to keep the pressure up. For one thing, they should fight anyone Trump appoints to head the FBI. The administration’s* flirtation with Joe Lieberman only shows how out of touch they are. He’s unpopular with Senate Democrats and loathed by the rank and file. This can only be explained as an attempt to buy off Little Lindsey and Senator Walnuts.

As for the president* himself, Trump’s Razor is still in effect. Bigly. When there’s a problem, he only makes it worse with whiny, outlandish tweets and inappropriate public comments. The Coast Guard’s commencement ceremony is not a place for political comments such as this:

Never, ever, ever give up. Things will work out just fine. Look at the way I’ve been treated lately, especially by the media. No politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly. You can’t let them get you down. You can’t let the critics and the naysayers get in the way of your dreams. I guess that’s why we won.

I guess he forgot that his proposed budget cut the Coast Guard by 14%. The Insult Comedian is not a details man. The Trumpian toddler tantrum continued on twitter this morning. This is what some internet smart ass had to say about it:

Trump is not only the whiner-in-chief, he’s the arsonist-in-chief. I think David Bowie put it best in the song below, “He’s putting out fire with gasoline.”

Trump has the power to fire Mueller and is stupid enough to do so. But the reaction to that would make the Comey firing look like a weenie roast. Mueller is one of the few genuinely non-partisan figures in public life. He’s been appointed to high office by Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama. Bobby Three Sticks survived the Bush years with his reputation intact, in part, because of his opposition to torture.

It’s time to circle back to the post title. Because of my Watergate fixation, I am usually the first person to tell people NOT to compare a given scandal to it. The events of the last two weeks have led me to invoke the Spirit of ’73, which was when people stood up to a criminal enterprise operating out of the White House.

While it’s true that Trump cannot be indicted while in office, the pressure from the Mueller investigation and others will make it difficult, if not impossible, for him to finish his term. Another question posed by the unraveling is: what happens to his sanctimonious Veep? He appears to be implicated in the Flynn cover up. He may need to pardon himself as well as his master.

The unraveling will take time and patience but Trump sealed his eventual fate by firing Comey. Repeat after me: NEVER MESS WITH THE FBI.

Let’s give Tom Petty the last word:

Don Donaldo Il Comico Insulto Rivisitato

L to R: Big Paul Castellano, Fat Tony Salerno, Roy Cohn, & Don Donaldo. 

In addition to Nixon comparisons, there have been mob movie analogies used to describe both the Comey firing and a witness intimidation tweet before Sally Yates testified. Let’s revisit them before going on and on and on:

The Insult Comedian uses air quotes like a teenybopper: often and badly.

Back to the mob movie analogies. They’ve been flying thick and fast on cable news. The most obvious one keeps getting thrown out there: The Godfather. It’s a flawed analogy because Trump is  too crude to be either Vito or Michael Corleone or the elegant Don Barzini who was played by one of my favorite film noir actors, Richard Conte. Trump reminds me more of one of the crude Jersey or Brooklyn hoods in The Sopranos. He’s more like a badly dressed Johnny Sack than anyone in The Godfather. His childhood story, however, is reminiscent of noted dumbass and wise guy spawn Jackie Aprile Jr. It’s also a bit like AJ Soprano: a conspiracy theory loving slacker with a brilliant sister. Trump’s sister is a highly regarded retired federal judge whereas he’s an active moron.

I doubt that a mob movie analogy is required at all. Trump has extensive ties to the real, as opposed to reel, mob. I wrote about it last June in a post entitled Don Donaldo Il Comico Insulto, which was, in turn, inspired by a Politico Magazine piece by David Cay Johnston. I also recycled the featured image from that post, showing the gangsters and mouthpieces the young real estate developer associated with. And Fred Trump had his own ties to the Five Families. Somehow people disregarded this and Trump won the electoral college with an assist from Russian intelligence and voter suppression laws. And he wonders why people question his legitimacy. He’s as legitimate as an earlier Oval One, Rutherford B. Hayes aka Rutherfraud or His Fraudulency.

I skipped earlier mob movies because both Edward G. Robinson and Jimmy Cagney played smart gangsters. But the Trump administration* as a whole is beginning to resemble Cagney’s “doomed gangster” classic, The Roaring Twenties. I only hope it doesn’t end like White Heat:

 

Easy Comey, Easy Go Redux

Longtime readers are aware of my fondness for cartoon imagery. On Monday, I gave you the Le Pew meets Le Pen post. Hearing the news that the president* had fired James Comey conjured up images of Wile E. Coyote lighting a bomb and it blowing up in his face. Meep, meep. It also allowed me to recycle a classic post title. Heckuva job, Donald.

As the Insult Comedian himself would put it:  it’s so very, very, very nice of him to fire Comey because he was so very mean to Crooked Hillary.  You know, the action that helped elect Trump. I did such a tremendous spit take when I heard that whopper that Della and Oscar ran for cover even though it interrupted their nightly food bowl vigil. Sorry, y’all. Talk about failing the smell test. That excuse was stinkier than a post-Katrina fridge. I somehow think it had more to do with the Russia investigation and the bad news on that front that emerged out of the Yates-Clapper hearing.

I know a cover up when I see one. This is a cover up. The good news for the Republic is that Trump never has a plan, he’s always winging it. If the preternaturally devious Tricky Dick couldn’t run a cover up, what chance does a clownishly inept president* with cotton candy piss hair have? He also has an administration* full of guys like Jonah on Veep. Not even his little buddy Jared can save the skipper from himself:

Hat Tip: Michael Tisserand.

Like Athenae, I’m skeptical that Congressional Republicans will dump Trump in the short term. The most cynical politician in recent memory, Mitch McConnell, has already defended the firing and rejected calls for an independent counsel. Mike Huckabee’s horrid spawn, Sarah, wants the country to move on and Kellyanne resurfaced from exile to praise her master. Astonishingly, the administration* didn’t anticipate the firestorm. I think they consulted with Jonad and he told them not to sweat it.

There have been many comparisons to the Saturday Night Massacre of Watergate infamy. It’s an inexact one with a major exception: both presidents fired someone investigating misconduct by their campaigns and administrations. The comparisons inspired some, uh, inspired trolling:

No, Tricky impulsively fired the AG, Deputy AG, and the Watergate Special Prosecutor. The impact will EVENTUALLY be similar. The wheels of the legal system grind slowly, but I think that some sort of special counsel is inevitable. It’s the only way the DOJ and FBI can regain their tattered credibility. The White House doesn’t have to worry about that. It never had any to begin with.

As to Comey himself, he deserved to be fired but not at this time and in this manner. Timing is everything and firing him in the wake of the Yates-Clapper hearing makes the Insult Comedian look guiltier than a bank robber caught in the act. It’s particularly funny that a man who made his name firing people to their faces on teevee didn’t have the guts to call Comey and use his own catchphrase: “You’re fired.”

It will be fascinating to see this play out. Given Trump’s eerie ability to make a bad situation worse, he may hire a political hack to replace Comey. How about a certain former US Attorney and New York Mayor? Now that would be hilarious.

I have some unsolicited advice for the president* put the fucking phone down and stop tweeting. It’s obvious that the Insult Comedian never learned the first rule of holes: when you’re in one, stop digging.

Programming note: I haven’t written my Americans recap yet. It will go up later this evening or tomorrow morning. I’ve been too busy pondering real Russian spies to write about fictional ones.

I’ll give Stevie Wonder the last word with his 1974 Nixon/Watergate song. It feels quite relevant in 2017:

 

The Fog Of History: Lost Cause Fest Update

Pro tip: the first T is silent.

There hasn’t been any progress on removing the white supremacy monuments since I last wrote about it on May 2. The Lost Causers continue to hang out at the remaining monuments, which are now surrounded with police barricades to help keep the peace.

There was a pro-removal march from Congo Square to Lee Circle on Sunday. I didn’t attend because I don’t agree with all of the aims of march organizers, Take ‘Em Down NOLA. I take a more nuanced position on future monument and street name issues. I am, however, delighted to report that there were no incidents of major violence on Sunday; just a bit of pushing , shoving, and punching. There were reports that heavily armed wingnuts might be descending on New Orleans, but if they showed, they kept their powder dry as it were. NOPD announced sterner measures and enforced them. The protest and counter-protest went off without a hitch. Let’s score one for Mayor Landrieu and Chief Harrison.

There was a brief flurry of activity surrounding the PGT Beauregard  statue at City Park. A pro-monuments group tried to obtain a temporary restraining order claiming that the statue is owned by the park, not the city. The TRO was denied but a hearing is scheduled some time this week Given the fact that the City Council voted to declare the four monuments “public nuisances,” this latest gambit is apt to fail. I won’t even dignify the law moving through the state lege with a comment. In and of itself, it’s a public nuisance. Retroactive laws are disfavored both in Louisiana Civil Law and American public law, so it should have no effect on the current controversy.

The Beauregard statue has always been the toughest case of the four scheduled to be removed. Gen. Beauregard supported racial equality and healing in post-bellum Louisiana. Whether or not he wore bellum bottoms is beside the point…

There’s an interesting piece at New Orleans Magazine’s web site by its editor, Errol Laborde. He wants to leave the Beauregard monument be. I don’t agree with him but he makes an intelligent, historically based argument. Unfortunately, nuance and this issue do not go together, which is a pity. History tends to be foggy, not black and white.

Very few people on the “let ’em stay” side have attempted to make a sophisticated argument like the one advanced by Laborde. More typical are the neo-Confederate, neo-Nazi hillbilly types who rant about heritage and against political correctness.  Then there’s this remarkable comment that popped up on WWL-TV News:

“We love our history,” said Melissa Wainwright. “We love the African-Americans. We love jazz. If it weren’t for slavery, as bad as it was, would we have jazz in New Orleans?”

Local Italo-Americans were also involved in birthing jazz and many of the early jazzers such as Jelly Roll Morton were descendants of free people of color. So, yeah, we would have had jazz without human bondage.

I glanced at Ms. Wainwright’s FB page and it’s full of right-wing conspiracy buffery and praise for the dread Milo Yiannopoulos. My least favorite ethnic Greek is her favorite gay. So it goes.

I’ve mentioned Michael Tisserand before as George Herriman’s biographer. He’s also the former editor of Gambit Weekly as well as an arm-chair philosopher or is that parader? He wrote an excellent op-ed piece for the NYT wherein he made an oft neglected point:

In the late 1980s, when I was visiting New Orleans, the city I now call home, I stopped in a neighborhood drugstore and met a charming and talkative pharmacist. As he rang up my purchase, he placed a thin newspaper in my bag. “You might like to read this,” he said.

Later, I opened the bag and saw the journal of the National Association for the Advancement of White People, filled with stories lauding the organization’s founder, David Duke.

I recall the initial shock but also a sense of recognition. It was just one of countless “just between us” exchanges that I had already been offered in my lifetime. A white-on-white “just between us” moment might take the form of a pointed comment or just a knowing glance. Once it came to me in the middle of a handshake.

They are not limited to the South, but I have come to know them well in the 30 years that I’ve now lived in New Orleans.

I’ve had many of those moments myself. It’s as awkward as hell. It’s gotten to the point where I no longer bite my tongue unless it’s going to waste too much time. People like that druggist aren’t going to be convinced by the likes of me or Michael Tisserand. It’s like trying to talk sense to a Trumper. Of course, they’re all Trumpers now.

Finally, I mentioned having a more nuanced position on future monuments controversies. I first stated it in a 2015 post, The Fog Of History: The Jacksonian Straw Man. I think that each park, school, statue, street name, or whatever needs to be asessed individually. We need to look at why they were named for a specific person and what that person’s local ties were. Intent is everything. All four of the monuments in dispute right now were erected to either honor the Confederacy or to advance the cause of white supremacy. That is why I favor their removal.

The Andrew Jackson statue at Jackson Square is a harder case. It was erected to honor his role in the Battle of New Orleans, not his slave ownership, rabid racism or overrated presidency. It’s definitely not a pro-Confederate monument. Union Gen. Benjamin Butler added a plaque during the Civil War that proclaims: “The Union must and shall be preserved.” I think the statue should stay but if folks want to add more information explaining Jackson’s role in our history, that’s fine with me. Intent and context are everything.

I realize that this is an issue where nuance went to die, but the simplistic solutions offered by people on both extremes will lead to endless controversy when there are other vital local issues that need to be addressed. I neither want to honor white supremacy nor witness a rewriting of history like that in the Soviet Union where St. Petersburg became Petrograd and then Leningrad before reverting to St. Petersburg. I give that a very low grad indeed…

The most important thing right now is that the three monuments be removed as soon as possible. The City Council has spoken. It’s time for Davis, Lee, and Beauregard to come down. It’s past time for the right-wing “outside agitators” to go home and bother people in their own communities.

Tear them down now, Mr. Mayor. Stop the madness.

Remember the 32

I was working the newsroom this week, when my wife sent me a photo with the caption, “Who are these people?” It turned out to be a “Save the Date” card from two of my former students who found love while finishing off their degrees here.

The editor in chief of the paper poked her head over my shoulder and asked what was up.

“I just got a Save the Date card from Ashley and Isaac,” I explained.

She had a blank stare on her face.

“You were here when Isaac was the managing editor, weren’t you?”

Again, a total blank stare. It was at that point it dawned on me that although the kid I was speaking with was 22 and ready to graduate, even she wasn’t old enough to remember a kid who was practically running the newsroom two years earlier.

I often joke that I have “grad-nesia,” an illness that blurs the lines among generations of students to the point where I swear someone just graduated last year while they’ve actually been out of school for half a decade. The truth, however, is a bit more complicated, in that the institutional memory of college institutions is tiny at best. “Back in the day,” for most of my staff was about 18 months ago. “A long time ago,” was two years.

Something that happened 10 years ago? It has the same social relevance of the Tea Pot Dome Scandal or the Bull Moose Party. Even if that event shook the entire nation to its core.

Sunday marks the 10th anniversary of the Virginia Tech massacre. Student Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 students and faculty on campus while wounding another 17 over a three-hour time period before ending his own life. Even in that time of nascent social media, the pure insanity of the event exploded through digital channels and traditional media in a way that kept everyone in the country linked into the devastation.

I had a personal interest in that shooting, as I was pretty close with the general manager of the student newspaper out there. I also knew the editorial adviser. Our student media listserv was flying with questions and concerns for those folks. Both of them were named “Kelly” (one guy, one gal) which led to some “which one?” questions as we all tried to reach them. I finally got a hold of female Kelly and she told me she was safe, things were crazy and her staff was working, so she was probably going to be off the grid for quite some time. At that point, I was able to breathe again.

As my staff watched from safety 1,000 miles away, none of us knew what to do. Our EIC suggested we send pizza, so we did. It was a typical college-kid move, but we weren’t the only ones to think, “Hey, maybe they’re hungry.” Professional and collegiate news staffs from all over the country did similar things to the point where the staff of the Collegian had to ask, “Hey, guys, we appreciate this, but could you stop now?”

The student paper did some incredible work over that amount of time, including obituaries for each of the 32 victims of the shootings. I remember watching male Kelly give a speech on this less than a year later at a journalism convention. He explained that most of his staff was comprised of cub reporters and non-journalism folk. The university didn’t have a journalism feeder program, so this was truly an extra-curricular endeavor for most of them. If the newsroom he had was anything like some of the ones I’ve worked with, you had a handful of kids who had a passion for journalism, a group of folks who were told at one point they were good writers so they showed up to write and a bunch of students who came for the access to sporting events and concerts and to write columns about what they thought was important.

None of them was ready for this. Nor should they have been.

The thing that I remember most about Kelly’s speech was that he talked about gathering his staff and explaining how the newspaper was going to handle the situation on obituaries. The first question a kid raised is the most obvious one: “Nobody is going to want to talk to us. How are we supposed to do this?”

Kelly’s answer is one I use to this day: You might be right. People might not want to talk to you, but you don’t have the right to take that choice away from them. You approach them respectfully and you offer them the chance to speak. If they decline, you express gratitude and you leave. But don’t take away their chance because you’re afraid.

In the end, those obituaries were stocked with sources and stories that captured the essence of 32 people who never made it past April 16, 2007 and propelled the paper to a Pacemaker Award and national prominence.

I have to admit that 10 years have put this story to the back of my mind as well. The year after the Virginia Tech shooting, the Northern Illinois Shooting happened and that one struck a little closer to home. I had interviewed there for a job at one point and many years before, my grandfather had been in the police department in DeKalb, the city surrounding the university. After that, we seemed to be stockpiling shootings and disasters to the point that “Virginia Tech” became less of a euphemism than it once had been.

I also have to admit, it’s easy for things on a university campus to wash away quickly. My first year in Indiana, we had a student get shot and killed by a cop. The name of Michael McKinney was everywhere for more than a year. We covered that story from the shooting through the civil suit and there wasn’t a student alive on that campus who didn’t know that story.

Fast forward to the fifth-year anniversary of the shooting and I told my editor we needed to do the anniversary story on the McKinney shooting.

I got the same blank look my EIC gave me just this week: “Who?”

As far as most schools are concerned, the short-attention-span theater is a blessing in disguise. When horrific things happen in some cities and towns, family members still live there and those moments of pain become imbued in the fabric of the society. Events of agony live on from generation to generation. In the case of colleges, four years can wash away pretty much everyone in the student base who knew what happened. The memories fade to rumor and history.

In the case of the Virginia Tech Shooting, the students there are refusing to let the memory of those 32 people go unnoticed this year. Several cadets are asking that the new residence hall be named for Matthew LaPorte, a sophomore ROTC member who gave is own life to save countless others when the shooter broke through LaPorte’s classroom barricade. The staff of the newspaper published a special edition titled “We Remember 32,” which is complete with a set of 32 stories of the 32 people who died that day. An online version is available here as well.

It’s hard to remember and easy to forget.

But some things need, even if painful, need to be commemorated.

The Gorsuch Filibuster

I’m usually a big picture guy. I prefer not to get caught up in the emotions of the moment. It’s one of the things I respected and admired most about former President Obama. He wasn’t always right in his calculations but they were rational and reasonable. It’s why so many of us called him No Drama Obama. It was just as reassuring to have him in the White House as it is unnerving to have a 70-year-old toddler in his place.

That brings me to the Gorsuch nomination and how it should be dealt with. I have been known to be swayed in the past by arguments such as the ones posited yesterday in a NYT article. Those days, however, are long gone. I think Senate Democrats should filibuster the hell out of  Gorsuch regardless of whether it provokes the so-called nuclear option. Democrats tried being reasonable with the Garland nomination and that distinguished jurist was treated like a bum by Senate GOPers.  This is a stolen Supreme Court seat and those efforts should not be rewarded. Does anyone think they’ll respect us for being reasonable? They never have before.

Politically speaking, the Democratic base is the most engaged it has been since 2006 and 2008. In fact, it may be the most engaged it has been in my lifetime. Failure to filibuster would be deflating and perhaps even disheartening for the grass-roots activists who are energized by the egregious malakatude of the current administration*. Besides, their continued engagement is imperative if Republicans make another run at passing an even worse version of Trumpcare.

Furthermore, Gorsuch is a smug prick who declined to meet with four Democratic Senators who just happen to be women of color. One of whom, California’s Kamala Harris is a former San Francisco District Attorney and California Attorney General. That makes her a legal as well as a political superstar. She. of all people, should have been given the courtesy of a meeting with Gorsuch. I guess the Trumpers consider her, as an African-American woman, to be a two-time loser unworthy of professional courtesy. So much for Gorsuch’s gee whiz facade. He’s just another Republican asshole beneath all the gollies and goshes.

I am proud of Senator Schumer and the 40 Democratic Senators who plan to filibuster this goshdarn lousy nomination. It’s payback for Judge Garland and all the lies told by Republican Senators about what happened in 2016. It’s time to take a stand and, in a slogan used by former New Orleans Mayor Dutch Morial, keep the drive alive.

INSTANT UPDATE: Josh Marshall argues that the Supreme Court filibuster was effectively abolished in 2005. It’s another reason to stand firm on the Gorsuch nomination by golly.

Fuck Penn State and All Its Works

There’s no proof of the thing we’re only talking about because there was TONS OF PROOF: 

Penn State trustee Albert L. Lord said he is “running out of sympathy” for the “so-called” victims of former Nittany Lions assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, according to an email sent to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Lord, a former CEO of student loan company Sallie Mae, also defended Graham Spanier, the dismissed Penn State president who was convicted of one count of child endangerment last week for his handling of complaints about Sandusky.

“Running out of sympathy for 35 yr old, so-called victims with 7 digit net worth,” Lord said in the email sent Saturday. “Do not understand why they were so prominent in trial. As you learned, Graham Spanier never knew Sandusky abused anyone.”

Do you know how hard it is to prove criminal negligence? A career prosecutor I knew explained it to me once, fed up with my bitching that he should be throwing every rape-enabling bishop in jail. You basically have to have a letter signed by the person in charge saying we acknowledge the criminal in question was raping kids, we knew there was a likely chance he’d rape more kids if we did nothing, and we just didn’t care that much.

WHICH IS WHAT GRAHAM SPANIER WROTE: 

The emails were between then-PSU Prez Graham Spanier and two other officials who already are charged with perjury in the case, former athletic Tim Curley and former senior VP Gary Schultz.

NBC reported the PSU brass decided it would be “humane” not to tell law enforcement about a 2001 incident involving Sandusky’s alleged sexual abuse of a boy in a football locker room shower.

Actual convictions on charges like this are incredibly rare. You have to be incredibly bad at incredibly awful things for people to forgo the usual “well, I don’t know how I would have acted in that case if it was my friend” bullshit and head straight to “Oh my GOD, what were you thinking?” This is like seeing a fire start, realizing it’s going to burn down your house, shrugging and going out for 10-cent-wing night.

And this trustee jackhole doesn’t have sympathy? Good thing that’s not now the legal system works. Your sympathy doesn’t mean jack shit, you ambulatory butthole. The law don’t care. The law says KIDS WHO GOT RAPED come before clueless fucks like you every time.

A.

The Scandal Drip

As a serious Watergate buff, I usually shy away from comparing scandals to it. BUT the drip drip drip of the Russia scandal is eerily familiar; down to the competition between the NYT and WaPo. The drip drip drip is slowly turning into a flood. It’s like leaving your faucets dripping to avoid frozen pipes and finding them on full blast in the morning.

The Michael Flynn immunity story has dominated this evening. It means that he’s in serious trouble for as the man himself said on Meet The Press last September:

“When you are given immunity, that means that you have probably committed a crime.”

Neither the House nor the Senate should give Flynn immunity. It might be okay for a prosecutor but this is a trap. Oliver North got that deal and walked; leaving his colleagues at the NSC to take the fall for Iran-Contra. Not a happy precedent. That is why a special prosecutor is necessary. We don’t want Devin Nunes and House Republicans pulling a stunt that means immunity for Flynn is in. It should be ruled out, especially since it looks more and more like Nunes is an active participant in the cover up.

The scariest thing about this moment in time is HOW MANY Trump administration* scandals there are. There’s the Kushner building sale scheme; Carl Icahn’s sleazy self-dealing; the Pruitt perjury scandal to name a few. And, of course, the way the Trump family is profiting from his election. At any other time one of these would be THE BIG SCANDAL but none of them calls into question the legitimacy of the 2016 election. Russia is, to paraphrase Ken Kesey, the bull goose loony of administration* scandals.

I’m not quite sure how this will play out but I am glad that the Senate Intelligence Committee seems ready to conduct a thorough investigation of the Russia scandal. Devin Nunes is the latest in a long line of people who have been damaged by their relationship with Donald Trump. The Insult Comedian is a user and destroyer. Trump asserts dominance over what Josh Marshall calls his “dignity wraiths” and then discards them when they’re no longer of use.

General Flynn knows what it’s like to be one of Trump’s dignity wraiths. They’ve been setting him as the patsy for this scandal since he was shoved off the Titanic, Lusitania, or whatever sinking ship image works for you. It’s still going to be a slow process but Flynn is just the first rat bastard to flee the sinking ship that is the Trump administration*.

Whatever happens, Vladimir Putin has won. Putin and other Russian nationalists were humiliated by the fall of the Soviet Union. Putin wants America to feel his pain. He has embarrassed our country and played many of its citizens-on both the right and left-for suckers. The best we can do is to slap a bandage on the wound and carry on.

As the risk of sounding melodramatic, March 30, 2017 marks the day when the scandal drip, drip, drip turned into a flood. It’s going to be a bumpy ride but we’ll get through it. We’re not a Banana Republic even if we’re governed by a bunch of thieving, lying Banana Republicans.

Quote Of The Day: Goodness Gracious, Golly Gee, Gosh Gorsuch

I’m on the record as a Dahlia Lithwick fan. She outdid herself the other day in a piece about the Gorsuch confirmation hearings, by golly:

There is no good way out of this tangle for Judge Gorsuch. For at least some of us in the room, the two straight days of performative big-hearted Westernness is beginning to chafe. No amount of references to midcentury paddle-wielding nuns and boyish mutton-busting extravaganzas can cover for refusing to answer even the most basic questions about doctrine or precedent. And even though Gorsuch is extremely affable and warm, one can’t escape the growing sense that the nominee we are watching today was hatched in an underground Federalist Society lab, with spare body parts stolen from Atticus Finch, Richie Cunningham, and Snoopy. And at some point you want to gently remind him that 1950s television called and it wants its vocabulary back.

I can’t find the quote but Gore Vidal once lamented that right-wingers spoke like maiden aunts in 1930’s B-movies. I guess we should be relieved that they’ve moved forward in time to 1950’s teevee by golly.

I’ve only watched bits and pieces of the Gorsuch hearings. He’s following the 2005 Roberts script by being affable and saying absolutely nothing. It was annoying in 2005 but infuriating in 2017. The Garland nomination changed everything. Gorsuch’s protestations that he’s an non-political judge ring hollow as the GOP’s humbug threatens to smother the Capital in noxious fumes of hypocrisy.

As Gorsuch himself would surely say, this whole thing is a gosh darn shame.

Quotes Of The Day: Muslim Ban Edition

Things are not going well for the revised Trump Muslim travel ban. Two federal judges have ruled against it thus far. The opinion by Judge Derrick K. Watson in Hawaii was particularly scathing:

The illogic of the Government’s contentions is palpable. The notion that one can demonstrate animus toward any group of people only by targeting all of them at once is fundamentally flawed. … It is undisputed, using the primary source upon which the Government itself relies, that these six countries have overwhelmingly Muslim populations that range from 90.7% to 99.8%. It would therefore be no paradigmatic leap to conclude that targeting these countries likewise targets Islam. Certainly, it would be inappropriate to conclude, as the Government does, that it does not.

It’s no surprise that Trumper bragging is one reason that the ban has lost in court. Ignoring Kellyanne Conway’s admonitions,  Judge Watson took the president’s* words literally in his ruling. Here are a few more choice excerpts:

The Government appropriately cautions that, in determining purpose, courts should not look into the ‘veiled psyche’ and ‘secret motives’ of government decision-makers and may not undertake a ‘judicial psychoanalysis of a drafter’s heart of hearts’.

The Government need not fear. The remarkable facts at issue here require no such impermissible inquiry.

For instance, there is nothing ‘veiled’ about this press release: ‘Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.’

Nor is there anything ‘secret’ about the Executive’s motive specific to the issuance of the Executive Order:

Rudolph Giuliani explained on television how the Executive Order came to be. He said: “When [Mr. Trump] first announced it, he said, ‘Muslim ban.’ He called me up. He said, ‘Put a commission together. Show me the right way to do it legally.’”

<SNIP>

In an interview on January 25, 2017, Mr. Trump discussed his plans to implement ‘extreme vetting’ of people seeking entry into the United States. He remarked: ‘[N]o, it’s not the Muslim ban. But it’s countries that have tremendous terror. . . . [I]t’s countries that people are going to come in and cause us tremendous problems.’ …

When signing the first Executive Order [No. 13,769], President Trump read the title, looked up, and said: ‘We all know what that means.’ President Trump said he was ‘establishing a new vetting measure to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States of America’, and that: ‘We don’t want them here.’

Words matter to thinking people like Judge Watson. In Philip Roth’s memorable phrase, the Insult Comedian may speak “jerkish” but his gibberish translated into English has gotten him into trouble. The Muslim ban word salad was overdressed and too vinegary even if the Brown House describes it as “watered down.”

I begin to wonder if they even care if the ban goes into effect: they’ve made their propaganda points and placated their feral, unneutered base. If they want it to happen, the Trump-Bannon regime would be well-advised to heed this message from our country’s past:

This is a preliminary victory but I, for one, am thrilled that Trumpian braggadocio sank this particular ship. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Trumper incompetence may yet save the Republic. Keep up the bad work, y’all.

UPDATE: Trump continues to shoot off his mouth:

“Remember this, I wasn’t thrilled that the lawyers all said, ‘Oh, let’s tailor it.’ This is a watered-down version of the first one,” he told the crowd. “This is a watered down version, and let me tell you something. I think we ought to go back to the first one and go all the way, which is what I wanted to do in the first place.”

Trump vowed to defend his order.

“This ruling makes us look weak. Which by the way, we no longer are, believe me. Just look at our borders. We are going to fight this terrible rule,” he said at the rally.

Thanks, Donald.

1040 Blues: From Sizzle To Fizzle

I’m uncertain how to best characterize the Rachel Maddow-David Cay Johnston 2005 tax form story. It was hyped as a bombshell but was greeted as if it were a dud or damp squib. I missed the build-up on social media so I’m sort of in the middle: we learned a few things but it didn’t live up to the advance hype about tax forms plural. The most interesting thing was Johnston’s speculation that Donald may have leaked the form itself. Otherwise it was all sizzle and no steak; not even a overcooked Trumpian steak with ketchup slathered all over it.

The main reason people are so disappointed is that they’re hoping for a magic, nay a silver bullet to slay the monster. This is real life, not fantasy fiction. The Insult Comedian’s downfall won’t be caused by an hour-long cable news program. It’s not “fake news” but it’s not a major breakthrough either. If Trump is brought down by his cartoon villain corruption, it will be by the accumulated weight of his criminality, not by one year’s 1040. As Slate’s Willa Paskin put it, Rachel “had the goods but oversold them.” Believe me.

Since we all have the 1040 Blues, I’ll give Robert Cray the last word:

Power Before Country

Comatose 2017

Krewe of Comatose float. Photograph © by Ride Hamilton.

It’s not original to think that the 21st Century Republican party *always* puts power before country. It’s Athenae’s pet hobby-horse. She wrote quite eloquently about it just yesterday. It’s time for me to climb on back of said rocking horse and join in. I’ll try not to break it. That would be too much like Henry Drummond’s Golden Dancer story in Inherit The Wind for my taste, and I try not to be overly derivative.

What am I on about? Read and learn:

I was seven years old, and a very fine judge of rocking horses. Golden Dancer had a bright red mane, blue eyes, and she was gold all over, with purple spots. When the sun hit her stirrups, she was a dazzling sight to see. But she was a week’s wages for my father. So Golden Dancer and I always had a plate-glass window between us. But—let’s see, it wasn’t Christmas; must’ve been my birthday—I woke up in the morning and there was Golden Dancer at the foot of my bed! Ma had skimped on the groceries, and my father’d worked nights for a month. I jumped into the saddle and started to rock— And it broke! It split in two! The wood was rotten, the whole thing was put together with spit and sealing wax! All shine, and no substance! Whenever you see something bright, shining, perfect-seeming—all gold, with purple spots—look behind the paint! And if it’s a lie—show it up for what it really is!

That’s how Republicans *should* have reacted to the Trump phenomenon from the git-go. The Trump “movement” is all shine and no substance, much like the Insult Comedian’s taste for gaudy, glitzy, goldleafy decor. I shuddered when I heard that the Trumps might redecorate the White House living quarters. It’s the people’s house and the thought of any of it resembling Trump Tower is nauseating. In the immortal words of Garth Algar: “I think I’m gonna hurl.” Holy crap, I’ve gone from Spencer Tracy and Fredric March to Mike Myers and Dana Carvey. And I’m okay with that. 2017 is the 25th anniversary of Wayne’s World, after all. Excellent. Party time.

Where the hell was I? Oh yeah, the rottenness beneath the surface shine of conservative ideology. They’ve made a deal with the devil to get tax cuts for the 1% and to take away people’s health care among other horrors. It’s being done in the name of freedom but it’s really just selfishness. In that way, Donald Trump epitomizes what has happened to the GOP since the Reaganite wave election in 1980. Who’s more selfish than the Insult Comedian? If you know anyone, please keep them away from me.

In the wake of the Out like Flynn moment, there was a fleeting notion that Congressional Republicans might conduct a proper inquiry of the improper Russian connection. That moment has already passed because they realize this fiasco is apt to land at Donald’s doorstep. He was warned weeks ago that Flynn was susceptible to blackmail and nothing happened until Monday night. Why? I believe Trump (aka Putin’s Pawn) knew of, and initiated, Flynn’s contacts with Putin’s people. Flynn is not the only senior administration* official who has been compromised by the Russians: every word spoken, and action taken, by Trump indicates that he is susceptible to KGB-style blackmail. As Josh Marshall put it this morning: Flynn doesn’t matter. This is about Trump.

I’m not sure where this is headed. Events have been Russian by at a break neck pace. Flynn resigned while I was publishing my post about him, which had my head spinning like Linda Blair’s in The Exorcist. It’s certain that Trump administration* is headed for the rocks, it’s only a question of how extensive the damage is and who will be forced to jump overboard along with Flynn. It’s irrelevant whether he was pushed or jumped. The scariest thing about this week’s events is that Bannon is piloting the ship. The B3 Brownshirts are trying  to turn the White House into the Brown House. They’ve even unleashed Bannon’s creature Stephen Miller on the media. Unlike the rocker, he’s no Joker. Maurice would kick the little bastard in the balls.

There’s been a lot of discussion about prosecuting Flynn and other Trumpers for violations of the Logan Act. I, for one, am leery of that idea. The statute has been on the books since 1799 and it has only been invoked twice with no convictions. It was passed by a Federalist Congress and signed by President John Adams. It was aimed at the Jeffersonian Republicans who sided with the more radical factions of the French Revolution. In short, it was designed as political payback. It was mentioned by pro-Roosevelt forces during the isolationist America First moment but was never used. Wise choice.

Dusting off a 218-year-old statute to go after the Trumpers is a bad idea as far as this lapsed lawyer is concerned. It is a very frail reed and could easily be ruled unconstitutional if tested in the courts. That means anyone convicted under the law would walk and the GOPers would scream political persecution. The potential for backfire outweighs any positives.

The Logan Act is much like Golden Dancer in Henry Drummond’s story. A conviction obtained under it would be like Henry’s rocking horse: “The wood was rotten, the whole thing was put together with spit and sealing wax! All shine, and no substance!”

There’s an understandable temptation to fight fire with fire and sink to the Republicans level. I’m all for the resistance but we lose if we become carbon copies of them. Unlike our enemies, I believe in putting country before power.

I’ll give Spencer Tracy as the Clarence Darrow-like Henry Drummond the last word:

 

Defending a Nazi Won’t Get You Into Free Speech Heaven

Angus Johnston, who you should be reading if you are not:

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Here’s why I’m not defending them.

I don’t care about them.

And I think most of the people who do, with the exception of true, TRUE civil libertarians like the fucking saints at the ACLU, are just showing off.

Here’s my problem with wanking all day on Twitter about if we should punch Nazis or not, if Milo should be allowed to yell incoherently and incite mobs to attack trans students on university campuses and whatever: I almost never see the “defend to the death your right to say it” absolutism being preached by anybody who’s not a straight white comfortable dude.

I would respect the argument that we should let Milo yell his yelling if that argument came from a trans student in actual physical danger from Milo’s idiot army. I would respect the argument that we shouldn’t punch Nazis if the argument came from someone who the Nazi thought was subhuman. If people who are gay, trans, Muslim, minority, poor, want to tell me that they will get in the street to support the right of total assholes to exhort others to exterminate them, then hand me a damn sign and show me where the pro-Nazi protest is.

What I will not listen to is one more person with zero skin in the game deploring the tone in the room.

Because that’s always what it comes down to, from the Internet Constitutional Lawyers who scold everyone else for applauding a protest that shut someone down. Some airy, detached examination of “the real issue” which is, naturally, the speaker’s making himself sound superior to those who get all uncouth and het up about their impending deaths in gas chambers.

It’s not that I don’t see the opportunity for academic debate, mind. Or for study. It’s that I don’t actually give a fuck right now about being scolded, not by people who are not in any kind of danger.

“Well, what would you say if it was YOUR campus homophobe protest that was being shut down, HUH? HUH!?” I would say the grown-ups are talking right now, hie your whitebread ass head to some sophomore college coffeehouse and see if the kids there will tolerate your snide shit because no one here cares.

A.

Let Me Make This Easy for You, Democrats

No.

Really? Still? We’re still doing this? It’s 2017. We’re fully more than a decade past the time when Democrats, eager to take the high road and do the right thing and be patriotic and put country before party, sucked George W. Bush’s strap-on and were rewarded for their decency by having the war hero they nominated for president derided as a commie faggot peace-freak appeaser. We jus spent eight years in which a Democratic president gave weekly speeches about nonexistent well-meaning Republicans who just disagreed on policy while they howled outside his windows burning him in effigy. And we’re still gonna do the right thing?

WHY?

I mean it, God, why? So rich fucks like Richard Blumenthal can look at themselves in the mirror and talk to their reflections about how they tried, or something? So they can feel good about themselves? So they can say they did the “right thing” as defined by some centrist think tank as its members hump the status quo like their lives depend on it? So they don’t ruffle any feathers on the half-plucked chicken we’ve placed in the executive branch? So that maybe next time they’ll get a freebie? How stupid are these people?

Let me explain this for everybody, the fucking club of the most of them, that just got here on the last bus out of Idiotville. Let me tell you what will happen if Democrats hold hearings and confirm this guy. Let’s imagine they do that, and somehow we all survive the next four years and come out alive, and it’s a Democratic president in that chair the next time. And maybe Ruth Bader Ginsberg or one of the other 400-year-old people decides to pack it in. Let me lay out for you what happens next.

In payment for Democrats being so nice and good, and voting to confirm this suit filled with cockroaches to the highest court in the land, Republicans will make the next Democratic nominee into the biggest screaming pinko terrorist butt-buddy to ever walk the earth. They will portray that person, most likely a semi-conservative career prosecutor or the like, as a grave threat to the Republic and come up with endless rationales for delaying and finally denying his or her confirmation, and after they do that they’ll take victory laps at CPAC so the frog-fuckers who vote for them can shower them with praise for saving the land.

That will be your reward, Democrats, for “doing the right thing” by Republicans. Would that any of you were half as interested in doing the right thing by your constituents, or by America. Would that you felt as strongly about doing the right thing for us. Would that that kept you up at night.

Schmucks.

A.

Bannon’s B3 Brownshirts & The Chaos Principle

It’s official: Donald Trump had the worst first week of any President* in American history. It was so bad that I debated with a friend as to whether he was already the worst ever. I still think it’s too early to tell since Buchanan and W are responsible for wars and economic calamity. Trump hasn’t passed Andrew Johnson either BUT he’s building a strong case for worst ever and he’s only been at it for 10 days. I don’t think our cause benefits from hyperbole and overstatement. You can only fight lies with the truth and delusion with reality.

I admitted the other day to knowing very little about higher maths. I have, however, heard of the Chaos Principle:

Chaos is the science of surprises, of the nonlinear and the unpredictable. It teaches us to expect the unexpected. While most traditional science deals with supposedly predictable phenomena like gravity, electricity, or chemical reactions, Chaos Theory deals with nonlinear things that are effectively impossible to predict or control, like turbulence, weather, the stock market, our brain states, and so on.

It looks like Steve Bannon and his B3 Brownshirts are inspired by the Chaos Principle, at least by analogy. Team Trump is trying to inject so much chaos and confusion into our polity that repression will be required to maintain order. I seriously doubt if the Insult Comedian himself has such a plan: all he ever does is wing it without thought to the implications. Bannon, however, has emerged as first among equals in the West Wing. He’s capable of complex, devious, and downright evil thought. Bannon has Trump’s ear and the Dear Leader Wannabe seems to agree with the last person he spoke to.

In short, Bannon and his fellow white nationalists want to create the circumstances in which a right-wing revolution is possible. Those circumstances do not currently exist. Bitching about the government is as American as apple pie, it doesn’t amount to instant homegrown fascism. That is definitely a long-term threat but we have the mechanisms to stop it: people power and lawyers, lawyers, lawyers. Political courage on the part of elected officials seems to be in short supply but the longer this constitutional crisis lasts the bolder they will become. Talk of collaboration with the Trumpers has become much less common since they came to power.

The good news is that Team Trump’s Muslim ban was issued without co-ordination with the agencies obliged to enforce it and they didn’t even run it by their own lawyers. That makes it eminently susceptible to legal challenge. It was, apparently, pulled out of Rudy Noun Verb 9/11’s ass:

I’ll tell you the whole history of it. So when he first announced it he said, “Muslim ban.” He called me up and said, “Put a commission together, show me the right way to do it legally.” I put a commission together with Judge Mukasey, with Congressman McCaul, Pete King, a whole group of other very expert lawyers on this. And what we did was we focused on, instead of religion, danger. The areas of the world that create danger for us. Which is a factual basis. Not a religious basis. Perfectly legal, perfectly sensible, and that’s what the ban is based on. It’s not based on religion. It’s based on places where there are substantial evidence that people are sending terrorists into our country.

That is, of course, nonsense. The order discriminates against people because of their religion, and all the lies in the world won’t change that. The fact that an exception was made for Christians from the affected countries is proof of discriminatory intent as is Giuliani’s need to brag about his role in the ban. He’s really turning into his master. Giuliani’s success in masterminding the Comey coup has gone to his head, and he was already a raging egomaniac. This is terrific evidence for the legal eagles to pounce on. Thanks, Rudy. I can imagine Justice Anthony Kennedy’s head spinning as I write this. I am as likely to vote Republican as he is to uphold this executive order if it reaches SCOTUS.

This policy is based on Islamophobic fantasies, not reality. That’s a recurring theme for Team Trump’s Bannon wing. In addition to the Chaos Principle, they believe in what one might call the Goebbels corollary: the bigger the lie, the more believable it is. This is propaganda, not spin. The MSM is finally showing signs of coming to grips with that. It’s a pity that they didn’t do so during the late campaign. The MSM and the “Clinton is just as bad as Trump” crowd bear a lot of responsibility for the mess we find ourselves in. I hope the Steiners and Busters enjoyed the events of this weekend. They have a share of the blame. I may “Nazi punch” the next purity troll who tells me their vote didn’t matter because they were in a red state or some other lame excuse. Every vote in every election matters.

The Trumpers have clearly overreached. The order placing Steve Bannon on the National Security Council is the best example I can think of. That body has been moribund for many years BUT excluding the Director of National Intelligence and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff sends a dangerous signal that Steve Bannon is running the show. It doesn’t get much worse than that but the order’s impact is symbolic for now. For now. That’s always the rub with this crowd.

One thing I’ve noticed about Bannon and his B3 Brownshirts is that they admire Soviet-style tactics. They’ve done some things that Stalin would have applauded such as placing what amounts to “political commissars” at cabinet departments and agencies. This sort of convergence of the far left and extreme right doesn’t surprise me at all.  This creeping Sovietism/Putinism is also reflected by their Holocaust remembrance day proclamation. It’s the first time an American administration has referred to the Holocaust without mentioning Jews. They’re pandering to the Holocaust denialists and minimizers. What’s next? An invitation for Davids Irving and Duke to visit the White House? Nothing would surprise me in the Chaos Principle era.

The one piece of advice I have for the nascent anti-Trump movement is to pace yourselves. The world is a complicated place and it cannot be changed in a day. This is going to be a long, hard slog and burn-out is a risk. Make sure to do whatever it is you do for fun It’s a lesson that New Orleanians learned during the post-Katrina/Federal Flood era. We were widely criticized for having Carnival in 2006. We knew better. It was necessary for our collective mental health. We continued rebuilding and pressuring the local, state, federal government for assistance but we took time out to enjoy life. It’s something that we can teach the rest of the country. There *is* a constitutional crisis now but stopping it won’t be helped by freaking out. Instead of freaking out: become better informed about American political history, and organize, organize, organize.

Vive les Maquis.

Welcome Back To Dizneylandrieu

Dizneylandrieu

It’s the time of year when I turn my attention to the zany, madcap antics of the satirical parade Krewe du Vieux. KdV is an umbrella organization made up of sub-krewes who design and execute our own floats and costumes. You may recall that I belong to the Krewe of Spank. In 2014, Spank’s theme was Welcome to Dizneylandrieu. It was our masterpiece wherein we mocked our pompous Mayor for encouraging the gentrification sweeping New Orleans post-Katrina. We called him Mitchey Mayor and marched as Mitchketeers. It’s a small fucking world, after all. Long before our take on the Gentrified Kingdom, locals bridled at attempts to transform the French Quarter-indeed the city itself-into Disneyland on the Bayou. Here we go again.

This time the theme is “security” in response to sporadic violent crimes in the tourist belt. Mayor Landrieu has announced a sweeping plan that could transform parts of the city into a 21st surveillance state:

An unprecedented number of electronic eyes will soon be deployed throughout New Orleans, watching over 20 different neighborhoods, tracking vehicles to assist police as they search for suspects and scanning French Quarter revelers to look for hidden weapons.

The massive security deployment, part of a $40 million crime-prevention plan unveiled Monday, includes pumping public and private video feeds into a centralized New Orleans Police Department command center that will be monitored around the clock.

“Here’s the first thing I want everyone to know: When you go on Bourbon Street now, everything you do will be seen,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said.

The proposal, drafted in the wake of a shooting on Bourbon Street on Thanksgiving weekend that left one person dead and nine wounded, also calls for efforts to tamp down on the atmosphere of street partying and entertainment that often overtakes areas of the Quarter into the early morning hours.

While no closing times will be imposed, bars across the city will be required to keep their doors closed after 3 a.m. to discourage patrons from spilling outside, and an early morning spraying of Bourbon Street will further discourage revelry there.

Here we go again. This scheme is an overreaction to bad press every time some jerk with a gun and no impulse control loses their shit after getting shitfaced drunk. That’s almost always the nature of crime in the Quarter.  It’s the hardest type of crime to predict, deter, or prevent. In lieu of any meaningful attempts to deal with gun violence, there will be 24-hour surveillance of people getting hammered and doing stupid shit on Bourbon Street.

There’s so much drunken malakatude on Bourbon Street that separating the dangerous assholes from garden variety assholes is a job best performed by foot patrols. The city is already full of “crime cameras” that do not work, why are we to believe that this will be any different? It’s called throwing money at a problem to counter bad publicity. $40 million is a lot of scratch, y’all.

The Mayor attempted to defuse criticism of this misbegotten scheme by extending the surveillance net to other “hot spots” around the city. That’s unlikely to work. Plans like this come down the pike every so often, and city government is all talk and no enforcement. It’s another in a long series of publicity stunts aimed at making white people feel safe in a majority African-American city. Short-term solutions rarely solve long-term problems, but what really matters is that tourists feel safer. #Sarcasm. In short, it’s an expensive PR stunt as opposed to a serious crime prevention proposal.

For many locals, the most controversial part of the plan is the bit about bars having to shut their doors at 3 AM. There are several bars within a 2 block radius of Adrastos World HQ, they keep their doors open all night, and we hear nary a peep. 24-hour bars may sound odd to some of you, but it’s part of the city’s culture. The only reason they should have to shut their doors is if they’re bothering the neighbors. Besides, there’s no longer smoking in bars (something I support) so smokers are going to spill on to the sidewalk in any event. Is the city planning to send inspectors out in the wee hours to enforce this scheme? I am dubious.

Here’s the deal: I’m not much of a bar person nowadays. I have poor hearing so I have difficulty following conversation in a loud barroom. That doesn’t mean that I don’t understand the vibrant bar culture of New Orleans. The Mayor apparently does not. He’s beginning to remind me of H.L. Mencken’s line about puritanism: “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”

You cannot save a city by denying its very essence and turning it into a sanitized version of itself. Welcome back to Mitchey Mayor’s Gentrified Kingdom:

Gentrified Kingdom

 

The Son-In-Law Also Rises

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Hemingway week here at First Draft continues. If you haven’t read A’s great piece refuting Trump’s ridiculous claim to be the “Hemingway of Twitter” make sure you do so. On with the show, this is it:

As a Greek-American, I know a great deal about nepotism and cronyism. Both have long, uh, greased the wheels of commerce both in the old country and here in ‘Merica. Nepotism is one reason the wheels (there’s that image again) came off the Greek economy a few years ago. It’s not always a bad thing (the Karamanlis, Papandreou, and Venizelos dynasties produced some good leaders) but that’s only if the nepotee is competent and knowledgeable. That’s an open question when it comes to Trump-in-law Jared Kushner.

We know that Kushner did a decent job as the Insult Comedian’s campaign manager/enforcer. That doesn’t mean he’s qualified for a job at the White House since, like most Trumpers, he has no governmental or policy experience. Then there’s the pesky matter of the federal anti-nepotism law passed in response to JFK appointing his kid brother Attorney General. In that instance, Bobby *was* qualified: the bigger problem was having an AG who was a campaign manager. There’s no sign that Kushner has RFK’s moxie and intelligence. He does, however, seem to have the requisite ruthlessness and sharp elbows of RFK.

That brings me to the point of this post. There’s a must read article at NYMAG.com by Andrew Rice about Kushner and his background, power, and influence. His plan is to be one of the last people Trump speaks to when a decision is nigh:

Trump doesn’t really appear to listen to anyone, but he likes to hear a lot of advice. “We have no formal chain of command around here,” Trump said at a December boardroom audience with Jeff Bezos, Sheryl Sandberg, and other tech-industry leaders. Yet everyone knew who had played the biggest role in arranging the meeting: Kushner, who sat with his back to the cameras, directly facing the president-elect

Team Trump has come up with a novel argument to ward off the anti-nepotism law:

Trump is relying on an interpretation of the law itself, backed by a court opinion from 1993, as well as a separate provision of federal law from 1978 that allows the president to appoint White House staff “without regard to any other provision of law” dealing with employment.

But several law professors and ethicists interviewed Monday by The Associated Press were not so certain.

A “murky legal landscape” was the description given by Norman Eisen, who served as President Barack Obama’s government ethics lawyer.

If that strategy fails, Kushner’s plan is to defy the law with support from his doting father-in-law. The question arises: why does Kushner need a title and a West Wing office? History is replete with examples of outside advisers with outsize influence on past Oval Ones. Wilson had Col. House. FDR had Felix Frankfurter and a small army of other outside advisers. JFK, of course, had his father until the latter’s stroke. LBJ had Abe Fortas even after he was appointed to the Supreme Court. Fortas had an office in the West Wing that nominally belonged to someone else but he was the big macher in the Johnson White House. More recently, Bill Clinton had Vernon Jordan and Barack Obama didn’t stop listening to David Axelrod after he left his job at the White House. There’s ample precedent for this and no need to stir things up. Of course, that’s the Trumpers specialty: shit stirring.

Kushner’s lust for power isn’t the only thing that makes the incoming regime resemble an old school South American dictatorship. The Insult Comedian has appointed four Generals to senior roles, which is rather reminiscent of the right-wing populist dictator Trump most resembles: Juan Peron. We may all be singing Don’t Cry For Me Argentina before this is all over.

Trump is setting the stage for the most openly corrupt administration in American history. His holdings will not be placed in a blind trust, he will not release his tax forms, and his adult male spawn will run his empire. Past administrations at least had the good sense to hide their grifting. Instead the Trumpers will be transparently corrupt and damn proud of it. So much for the much ballyhooed populist uprising. Welcome to the new gilded age.

There are some people in Rice’s article who express hope that Kushner will be a moderating influence on his father-in-law. Given his close relationship with Steve Bannon that sounds like whistling past the graveyard. The only thing that will stop Trump is resistance and relentless ridicule. The Donald does not like being needled. That’s why resisting his legitimacy is so important. Our goal should be to turn him into the Jake Barnes of Presidents: a eunuch tweeting impotently to a world that no longer pays attention.

Vive les Maquis.

 

The Word Of The Day Is Salacious

Unless you live under a rock in an isolated part of Siberia, you’ve heard about the raw intelligence file posted by BuzzFeed. Many reputable news organizations, including Mother Jones, refused to publish it because it’s unverifiable. Slate’s Will Oremus describes how it finally came out after months of teasing:

The dossier was not new. Buzz Feed and multiple other news organizations had obtained it well before Tuesday and had been investigating its various claims. Mother Jones wrote about it prior to the election, on Oct. 31, and published a handful of quotes from it. Key figures in Congress had also seen it and even publicly alluded to it, and the Guardian reported on Tuesday that Sen. John McCain had passed it to FBI Director James Comey last month. But no one had published its entire, stunning contents before Tuesday—partly because, as my colleague Joshua Keating put it, “nothing in the memos has been confirmed, and even their provenance is murky.”

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Smith didn’t address why BuzzFeed waited until now to publish the document, and he declined to comment further for this article. But the move came almost immediately after CNN reported Tuesday that top U.S. intelligence officials had shown Trump and President Obama a two-page synopsis of the dossier. The synopsis was presented as an unofficial appendage to the classified security briefings they gave Obama and Trump about Russian interference in the presidential election, CNN reported. Sources also told CNN that the “Gang of Eight” Congressional leaders had been provided a synopsis of the dossier as well.

In short, the timing was driven by media momentum. It turns out that our old friend FBI Director James Comey has been sitting on the information. He apparently only publicizes unverifiable information about Hillary Clinton.

Twitter was agog last night over the ickiest part of the dossier: Trump’s use of golden showers as a soggy revenge mechanism.  While amusing that was NOT the most important passage of the dossier:

In terms of specifics, Source A confided that the Kremlin had been feeding TRUMP and his team valuable intelligence on his opponents, including Democratic presidential candidate Hillary CLINTON, for several years [see more below]. This was confirmed by Source a close associate of TRUMP who had organized and managed his recent trips to Moscow, and who reported, also in Tune 2016, that this Russian intelligence had been “very helpful”. The Kremlln’s cultivation operation on TRUMP also had comprised offering him various lucrative real estate development business  deals in Russia, especially in relation to the ongoing 2018 World Cup soccer tournament, However, so far, for reasons unknown, TRUMP had not taken up any of these.

However, there were other aspects to TRUMP’s engagement with the Russian authorities. One which had borne fruit for them was to exploit personal obsessions and sexual perversion in order to obtain suitable ‘kompromat’ [compromising material] on him. According to Source D, where s/he had been present, (perverted) conduct in Moscow included hiring the presidential suite of the Ritz Carlton Hotel, where he knew President and OBAMA {whom he hated] had stayed on one other official trips to Russia, and defiling the bed where they had slept by employing a number of prostitutes to perform a ‘golden showers’ (urination) show in front of him. The hotel was known to be under FSE control with microphones and concealed cameras in all the main rooms to record anything they wanted to.

I don’t do terlet humor: it’s low-hanging fruit for low-brows. The jokes missed the ominous point of the memo: that the KGB’s successor agency, the FSE, has allegedly been blackmailing Trump because he was stupid and arrogant enough to have hookers pee on a bed the Obamas slept in. Both claims are plausible if disgusting. Trump *is* stupid and arrogant and blackmail has long been used by Russian intelligence as a means of gaining leverage over people. Anyone who has read John LeCarre or watched The Americans knows that. Of course, Trump doesn’t read books and is incapable of sitting still long enough to marvel over Philip’s wigs on the FX show.

I never thought I’d be writing about a President-elect, and peeing Russian hookers. This is the level to which Trump has dragged our national dialogue. I am, however, worried that the publication of the dossier will backfire and make people feel sorry for Trump. He deserves only scorn, not sympathy.

Last night I tweeted this out:

The NYT called the dossier salacious hence the post title. As of this writing, Trump’s first full-blown post-election press conference is still on. I’m skipping it. I’d rather read about it than watch it on the electric teevee machine. Why? After reading the raw intelligence file, I feel like I need delousing. I don’t want to go through that more than once.

Malaka Of The Week: James Woods

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Some actors who play villains are as sweet as pie off-stage. The late Robert Ryan, who played some of the vilest villains of the 40’s and ’50’s, was a kind, gentle, and liberal man. James Woods is none of those things. And that is why he is malaka of the week.

James Woods loves Twitter as much as his Führer, Donald Trump. He’s a glowering presence online and loves picking fights with all and sundry, especially people to his left politically. It’s a large group: Woods is the wingnut’s wingnut.

Befitting an actor who played Roy Cohn, HR Haldeman, and Rudy Noun Verb 9/11, he’s a bully with a glass jaw:

When “Abe List,” an anonymous Twitter user, called James Woods a “cocaine addict” on the social-media service back in July of 2015, he probably didn’t realize that he was starting a legal fight with the Hollywood star that would follow him not only to the grave but beyond it. But apparently he underestimated Woods’s obsessive desire for vengeance.

First, Woods famously responded to List’s ridicule by suing the tweeter for defamation, seeking $10 million in damages against “John Doe,” as he was named in the suit. Doe’s lawyer, Ken White (who writes about legal and free-speech issues under the pen name Popehat on his website and on Twitter), filed an anti-SLAPP motion seeking the case’s dismissal, arguing that “cocaine addict” was “a constitutionally protected political insult” in a Twitter context and shouldn’t be viewed as a statement of fact — especially given that Woods had used similarly inflammatory language to insult others on the social-media platform. The judge denied that motion in February, meaning the case could continue. Doe appealed that decision, but subsequently died, causing White to withdraw the appeal.

On Twitter, Woods celebrated. “The slime who libeled me just dropped his appeal contesting my victorious SLAPP motion,” he tweeted. Then, after someone replied noting that Woods had been “victorious” because his adversary had died, Woods tweeted (and later deleted), “Learn this. Libel me, I’ll sue you. If you die, I’ll follow you to the bowels of Hell. Get it?” He also expressed a hope that Doe died “screaming my name.”

He meant it! Woods decided not to let Doe’s death slow down the lawsuit, and at a deposition in mid-November, White refused to give up his client’s name, so Woods pressed yet further, filing a motion to compel him to. Now, reports The Hollywood Reporter, the presiding judge has ruled on that motion — White will have to reveal Doe’s identity. That is: the name of his client, who is dead, who was sued for $10 million for tweeting something mean at a celebrity. Woods’s lawyers had also sought sanctions against White for refusing to give up his client’s identity, but that attempt was rebuffed.

That’s right, James Woods is still suing the dead guy. And I thought I was a grudge holder. I’m a piker next to a man who once played a left-wing, albeit assholish, lawyer in True Believer. Woods made up for that momentary lapse by playing Trump buddies Cohn and Giuliani. Cohn was Trump’s mentor until diagnosed with full-blown AIDS whereupon the Donald dumped him. More recently, he discarded Rudy after the past malaka of the week helped him win the crucial FBI Manhattan field office vote. As I’ve said before, easy Comey, easy go.

We’re not out of the Malaka Woods quite yet. I visualize Woods sitting in a recliner as he simultaneously tweets nasty shit and fondles a taser. He’s suing the dead guy for the same reason he’s on social media: to take sadistic pleasure out of someone else’s pain. It makes one pine for the good old days when all he could do was insult waiters, bully stage hands, and leer at women he deems worthy of notice. He’s taken his ugliness to the internet for all to witness. Actors *are* exhibitionists, after all.

Life is a movie to James Woods. He’s the hiss-provoking villain preying on the so-called politically correct masses one tweet at a time. The Insult Comedian’s electoral college victory has only made him more insufferable. Thanks, Donald. And that is why James Woods is malaka of the week.

Joey No Socks Meets Don Donaldo, Il Comico Insulto

There’s a new Trump story for the MSM to ignore and/or explain away. The Insult Comedian spent New Years Eve with a guy named Joey No Socks Cinque:

Cinque can be seen in a video obtained by the Palm Beach Daily News, cheering loudly as a tuxedo-clad Trump runs through a number of campaign promises before the hundreds of guests attending the New Year’s Eve bash the President-elect threw at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida on Saturday.

“The taxes are coming down, regulations are coming off, we’re going to get rid of Obamacare,” Trump can be heard saying as an exuberant Cinque stands next to him, pumping his fists into the air.

Cinque’s Sunday appearance with Trump might raise some eyebrows.

Beyond a 1989 felony conviction for possessing nearly $100,000 worth of stolen artwork, Cinque “used to be friends with John Gotti,” according to a New York Magazine profile from 1995.

Cinque was also “shot three times and left for dead” in a 1980 incident that authorities described as “a hit,” according to the profile.

This is the company kept by the man who lost the popular vote. Of course, nobody should be shocked that Trump hangs out with wise guys or their associates. I wrote about that very subject last June in a post called Don Donaldo, Il Comico Insulto. I decided it was high time to revive the Italianate form of the nickname since Trump is poised to become America’s very own Berlusconi.

At least Cinque has a cool nickname: Joey No Socks is a new one on me. It evokes Joe Pantoliano’s childhood nickname, Joey Pants. He, of course, played Ralphie in The Sopranos. Cinque has also been called-get ready for it-the Preppy Don. Maybe that’s why Trump hangs out with him…

The real reason Trump likes Joey No Socks is that he runs a group that gives fake awards to rich egomaniacs. It’s something called the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences. I wonder what science is involved? Chemistry or scammery? Probably the latter. Here’s a picture of Don Donaldo and his sockless felon pal from 2013:

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Imagine if the Clintons were seen bringing in the New Year with a guy described in his Wikipedia entry as a “small-time mobster, a scam artist, and an art fence.” It would be the lead story on Fox News and the respectable MSM would be all over it like a cheap suit worn by James Comey. I’m hearing crickets so far. The MSM is too busy giving Trump credit for the Congressional ethics walk back to be bothered. A new motto for the respectables: if Trump tweets it, it must be true.  #SARCASM

One oddity of this story is that Joey No Socks shares a name with the leader of the Amistad Revolt, Joseph Cinqué. The only difference in spelling is l’accent grave. There’s another difference, one of them led a slave revolt whereas the other is slavishly revolting.

When I first heard about the Trump-Cinque connection, I misheard the latter’s nickname as Joey No Shoes. That’s why I’m giving Frank Zappa the last word:

That concludes this edition of Life Imitates The Sopranos.