"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"...doesn't philosophy amount to the sum of all thinkable and unthinkable errors, ceaselessly repeated?"--Jean-Luc Marion

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Sunday, February 23, 2020

And when he does not win their votes...

It will prove to him again that “they” are ungrateful no matter what he (thinks he) has done for them.

It’s sad,really, how stunted his life is. Who would trade places with him?

The End Is Near?

Not what I’m worried about just now.
Not sure of the time frame there, but that’s a shit ton of money to wave away and who is he going to tax to get it? And then canceling student debt and paying for school in all 50 states. Pardon me if it seems...unrealistic.
Sure, why not? How hard could it be? Add that to the $30 trillion?

I know we have to get rid of Trump. By must we jump out of the frying pan into the fire?

Yesterday All the Past

Thomas More opposed Henry VIII because Thomas More preferred his version of God to Henry's.  Hard not to be sympathetic to More these days, but that doesn't mean More was right; or that arguments over whose God is in charge are any less relevant today than they were in the 16th century.  Listen:

“We believe in things like, what did you do to the least of them?” Dawkins-Haigler explained. “You fed the hungry, you clothed the naked, you went to see those who are in prison.”

“You do not have to be a socialist to be a Christian!” Jeffress shot back. “Socialism is antithetical to Christianity and if they nominate Bernie Sanders, they are not going to be able to attract any faith voters.”

“I totally disagree,” Dawkins-Haigler retorted. “People would have said that Jesus was more of a socialist than anybody we’re talking about today.”
The remarks stopped Fox News host Pete Hegseth cold.

“Why was Jesus a socialist?” he exclaimed.

“Because Jesus did not sit with the establishment, he overturned tables of the tax collectors, he sat with people who were lepers,” Dawkins-Haigler explained. “He made sure he healed people who people thought should not have been healed.”

“So we have to be very careful how we use this language and try to take ownership of who God is,” she added.

“That’s a big claim,” Hegseth interrupted again, giving the floor to Jeffress.

“No! Jesus was not a socialist!” Jeffress opined. “He said render unto Ceasar the things that are Ceasar’s and to God the things that are God’s. He was compassionate. Church is to be compassionate, but you don’t have to believe in socialism, which is nothing but communism light and is absolutely is opposed to everything that is Christian.”

I'm pretty sure Hegseth was saying this is " a big claim":

“Because Jesus did not sit with the establishment, he overturned tables of the tax collectors, he sat with people who were lepers,” Dawkins-Haigler explained. “He made sure he healed people who people thought should not have been healed.”

Except that it's perfectly in keeping with the picture of Jesus presented in the synoptic gospels.  In context, Hegseth seems to be saying "We have to be very careful how we use this language and try to take ownership of who God is" is "a big claim."  But that's the same claim that consumed Henry VIII and Thomas More.  They fought over the ownership of who God is.  And Robert Jeffress ignores that challenge and lays claim to God as a God entirely in Jeffress' image:

“No! Jesus was not a socialist!” Jeffress opined. “He said render unto Ceasar the things that are Ceasar’s and to God the things that are God’s. He was compassionate. Church is to be compassionate, but you don’t have to believe in socialism, which is nothing but communism light and is absolutely is opposed to everything that is Christian.”

I could say Jeffress couldn't define "socialist" if you gave him a dictionary and a head start.  Then again, neither can Bernie (who often argues for Danish socialism as a model for America; but Denmark's government denies it is socialist, but is rather capitalist with extensive social programs.  How many angels can dance on the head of this pin?).  But that "Render to Caesar" citation is not the Pauline instruction to follow the rule of government (especially when government will lop your head off at a moment's notice, a practice only belatedly abandoned for the rule of law, the latter which is a very Hebraic concept of society and social order); rather, it is a response to a trap about what the coin said:  "divi filius," or Caesar is son of god.  There is also the question of idolatry:

A coin of Julius Caesar shows his spirit descending cometlike to takes it place among the eternal deities. A coin of Augustus Caesar calls him divi filius, son of a divine one, son of a god, son of the aforesaid comet. A coin of Tiberius Caesar hails him as pontifex maximuis, supreme bridge builder between earth and heaven, high priest of an imperial people. A silver denarius was a day's pay for a laborer and, if a day laborer meant somebody who worked every day rather than somebody who looked for work every day, it would have been a very good salary. Imagine this situation: If, after three days of hard work, a day laborer held those silver denarii in his hand, how would he, could he, should he distinguish between politics and religion in the Roman Empire?....Rome, and Rome alone, had built a kingdom and only it could approve how to build an underkingdom, a minirealm, a subordinate rule.

John Dominic Cross and Jonathan Reed, Excavating Jesus, revised & updated (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2001), pp. 178-79.

Capitalism is not in the least concerned with distinguishing between what is Caesar's and what is God's.  Church is to be compassionate, but that compassion is not limited to individual actions.  There is a sound historical argument to be made that Christianity, for all it's failings and alliances with evil men in power, has been the ameliorating source of much of the "progress" in Western society, the reason for what compassion and attention to the individual (there's a telling scene in "The Tudors" where Henry lays siege to the city of Boulogne, France.  As the siege drags on the soldiers starve, while in the royal tent Henry and his Dukes live as well as they would at one of the palaces.  That was not only expected it was practically required.  Why have a king if he's just like the commoners?).  Jeffress casts that aside in preference for personal piety (and who is to say what is in another person's heart?  Who can compel compassion?), but he doesn't defend Christianity.  Except in so far as he defends it against "communism [lite]," which I learned in high school is the wrong understanding of socialism.

But then we're back to that, aren't we?

It's notable Jeffress doesn't provide an alternative view of Christianity; he just upholds it as the defender of the status quo, of late modern American capitalism, where, as Bernie Sanders pointed out (he's not wrong on policy, just on how to implement it) Mike Bloomberg owns more wealth than the bottom 125 million Americans combined.  Not a percentage, an actual count of persons.  I don't know how Robert Jeffress squares that with the basiliea tou theou, where the first are last and the last first, and the first of all is last and servant of all (who does Michael Bloomberg serve?), but from this account, he'd never even try.

Compassion is for individuals; the kingdom of God is in the bye-and-bye, and this is the best of all possible worlds for him because Trump's in the White House, and all is right with the realm.  Which ain't even close to being Christian, in my book.

All Over But The Shoutin’

Saturday, February 22, 2020

There's No Business like Snow Business

“I’m returning home today from a long exile a freed political prisoner,” he told the media Wednesday from the stoop of his Chicago house. “I want to say again to the people of Illinois who twice elected me governor: I didn’t let you down. I would have let you down if I gave in to this. But resistance to tyrants is obedience to God.”

“This is the larger fight that is before all of us as Americans,” Blagojevich said on Fox News Wednesday. “Some of these same people again have tried to do at the Major League-level to a Republican president what they were able successfully to do to a Democratic governor. And they are threatening to take away from all of us our rights to choose our own leaders through free and fair elections.”

Donald Trump?  No; Rod Blagojevich.  But the former governor and felon (his sentence was commuted, not expunged) speaks the same language.  And it's a language that explains why Trump won't (never say never, but still) pardon Roger Stone; or Paul Manafort (who?); or Michael Flynn.  Because Trump needs enemies, and real "victims" of his enemies are better than imaginary ones (the "Deep State" and "Democrats" in general).  Trump's Twitter feed is full of the slightly subtler version of this:

(Yes, all of that is crap and lies; but who cares anymore?  Trump needs enemies, and Hillary is still Trump Enemy #1.)  And of course Great Leader must speak:

Enemies large and small.

But why won't he pardon Stone?  How can he, and still rail against the judges and juries and all the enemies of Trump (and so the enemies of Trump supporters and all right-thinking people.  Sort of like people who don't support Bernie)?  Trump needs enemies, and the more concrete the symbol of those enemies, the better.  Maybe he'd really like to prosecute Andrew McCabe and James Comey, but he's never made any real effort to "Lock her up!"  He needs the rally chants.  Past tense is so last week's news and today's fish wrap.  Birdcages are lined with last week's news.  Trump needs to keep that stuff fresh even if it's no more likely than the sun rising in the west tomorrow.  He's not going to prosecute Joe or Hunter Biden, either.  But if he can bring up something to accuse them of....

We have always been at war with Eastasia.  Except this is better than war.  This is the enemy that keeps on being the enemy.  Besides, where is the constituency for Paul Manafort or Michael Flynn or Roger Stone?  If Trump pardons them, doesn't that mean they were important, they served a role, they actually contributed to the Unprecedented Victory of Dear Great Leader?  Can't allow even the hint of that.  Manafort is in prison, Flynn is sporadically in the headlines, and Roger Stone only came to notice because of the sentencing hearing.  Will Trump do anything now?

And give up show business??

The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

That "lead in delegates" explains Bernie's remark at the last debate (or the one prior?  I can't keep up) that the person with the most votes should win.  Yeah, it doesn't work that way in the general election nor in the Democratic primaries.  Bernie may wind up with 3 more votes, but with fewer delegates, and though he hates the "super-delegates" because they are part of the "establishment" he's "coming for," dese are de conditions dat prevail.  And he knew what the rules were when he decided to try this again.

Aside from the question of how many Democrats lose if Bernie insists its his way or the highway.  I was thinking about LBJ again.  He grew up in Central Texas and saw dirt-poor poverty and the effects of the New Deal.  Many of his programs directly benefited those poor rural areas where he grew up.  But LBJ didn't run on grabbing the levers of power and redirecting government to be what he wanted to see.  He used governmental power to help people.  Trump ran largely to avenge himself on Obama after the White House Correspondents Dinner where he was roasted.  It's not coincidence Trump hasn't attended one yet in his Presidency.  Now, in his third year, he's decided the power of the presidency is his to use to benefit, well:  Trump.  Sanders wants to do the same thing:  he's going to turn America into Denmark (he mentioned it again as the model for America in a recent debate), whether we want to be Denmark or not (do we all have to be melancholy?).  That won't directly benefit Bernie, but he think it is his mission to impose his vision on the nation.  That's the debate in Nevada right now with the Culinary Workers Union:  will they have to give up their health insurance if Bernie gets his way?  Must everything be Bernie's way or the highway?  (Same question with "free college."  Most of those colleges that aren't private are state supported.  Does Bernie propose a takeover of state colleges and universities to put them on a federal tuition plan?)  That sounds more like Trump than any officeholder I know.

And I really don't want a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" election in November.

If you just exchange...

"Santa Claus" for "President" and "Trump," it says the same thing.  I even hear it in David Sedaris' voice when he describes the Santa Clauses at Macy's talking to the children.

Well, There Goes The Texas Vote

Objective Journamalism

It is malpractice to report malapropisms.  Apparently.

The Struggle Is Real

Remind Me...

How many primaries has he won? How many delegates does he have?

“Fake news” and the “Deep State”

Probably upsets these people.
And if Bernie is turning out the same kind of people Trump does....

Friday, February 21, 2020

“The Tudors”

I know this show hardly qualifies as history, except accidentally. But its portrayal of Henry VIII: despotic, mercurial, delusional, paranoid, so closely resembles the public behavior of Donald Trump it is eerie. Eerier still because it aired from 2007 to 2010, when no one so much as imagined Trump would run for office. So it could not have been written with Trump’s presidency in mind. But the king whose word is law is not the stabilizing figure too many seem to imagine it to be. Democracy is a mess, but absolute monarchy is a disaster.

Which makes me wonder how much history there is in this series after all.

A True An’ Lovin’ ‘And

Bernie found somebody older than himself to endorse him.

Not to mention I know who Dick Van Dyke is; but I don’t think my 28 year old daughter does. I’m sure none of my college students do.

Grand Unifying Conspiracy Theory

It’s Only Words

Next time I’m shopping for a car, I’ll be sure to ask if it includes “pre-existing.” And will there be reports about Trump admitting he’s a bullshitter?
That is a serious problem, actually.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Film Class

“Birth of a Nation” is a silent film. It would require reading. Of course Trump prefers “Gone With The Wind.”

And it just gets better

These comparisons to despotic monarchs are starting to concern me.

I’m Hen-ery the 8th, I am!

The song was funny. This is not.
But is Susan Collins concerned enough? That’s the Constitutional question.

Moi et mon droit

I hate to make these comparisons because they are usually so facile, but I've been watching "The Tudors" on Netflix (the Showtime series from years back, which focusses actually just on Henry VIII and his many wives).  Probably this series is as historically accurate as "A Man for All Seasons" or "Anne of the Thousand Days," though it's a tonic for those two hagiographies of their subjects.  Still, it seems somewhat reasonable Henry VIII was as capricious and unhinged as he is portrayed to be in the show.  Certainly the roots of concern in our Constitution with charges of treason lie in the free and easy use of the term in accusing Anne Boleyn of the crime.

I should pause and explain that, and say one more time I'm not supposing this version of events is history or truth, but it is persuasive:  Thomas Cromwell, prompted by Henry, fabricates a case against Anne which becomes positively Shakespearean.  He interrogates Mark Smeaton, the dance master to the Court, and under severe torture Smeaton, portrayed as gay in this version of history, confesses to having an affair with the queen.  Since we know Smeaton is gay, we know this isn't possibly true.  Anne's brother George is also accused of incest with the queen, as are two other purported lovers.  Of course the interrogation is a simple matter:  the accused are guilty and either confess so they can be found guilty and executed; or they deny the charges, in which case they are tortured until they confess the crimes they did not commit.  And then, of course, they are executed.  Anne is found guilty based not on her confession (she is, after all, Queen, even if only Queen consort) but on the confessions of her purported lovers.  Things turn Shakespearean when Cromwell tells Henry he has evidence she took upwards of 100 lovers to her bed (in "Othello," the titular husband of Desdemona comes to believe, thanks to Iago, that his wife has slept with Cassio more times than there are hours and days since they all arrived at Cyprus).  Obviously such an effort by Anne would keep her in bed for months on end, but no matter.  She is guilty of treason against the crown, all that matters is the manner of her death.

Ironically, and this underscores how dangerous and uncertain life must have been in the Tudor court, Thomas Wyatt, the poet, is portrayed (again:  true?  I have no idea) as Anne's lover before her marriage to Henry.  He, of all the accused, has actually had carnal knowledge of the queen; but long before she was queen.  He is imprisoned, too; but not found guilty.  Why?  As he screams out when Cromwell tells him he will be released "eventually":  "But I'm the only one who's guilty!"  I suppose since they won't find him guilty now, he's safe to confess.

I bring this up almost solely because of this:

President Trump erupted at his acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, in the Oval Office last week over what he perceived as disloyalty by Maguire’s staff, which ruined Maguire’s chances of becoming the permanent intelligence chief, according to people familiar with the matter.
Trump announced on Wednesday that he was replacing Maguire with a vocal loyalist, Richard Grenell, who is the U.S. ambassador to Germany.

Maguire had been considered a leading candidate to be nominated for the post of DNI, White House aides had said. But Trump’s opinion shifted last week when he heard from a GOP ally that the intelligence official in charge of election security, who works for Maguire, gave a classified briefing last Thursday to the House Intelligence Committee on 2020 election security.

It is unclear what the official, Shelby Pierson, specifically said at the briefing that angered Trump, but the president erroneously believed that she had given information exclusively to Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), the committee chairman, and that the information would be helpful to Democrats if it were released publicly, the people familiar with the matter said. Schiff was the lead impeachment manager, or prosecutor, during Trump’s Senate trial on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

The president was furious with Maguire and blamed him for the supposed transgression involving Pierson when the two met the next day.

“There was a dressing down” of Maguire, said one individual, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter. “That was the catalyst” that led to the sidelining of Maguire in favor of Grenell, the person said.

Henry's great friend, according to this account and others, was Thomas More.  But Thomas refused to acknowledge Henry head of the Church of England, and for that he was finally executed.  By this account, again, that tortured Henry, and was a catalyst to his split with Anne, again portrayed here as an activist for the Reformation in England More opposed.  But after More, no one in Henry's orbit is safe, including Anne, and he screams at people for no apparent cause and over the tiniest disagreement.  He bears the responsibility of the crown poorly, and constantly looks for someone to blame for his anxieties.  This version of fictionalized history is far too old to have imagined a Trump presidency, so it is in no way an allegory or even reflection of modern times.  still, it's hard not to watch and see Donald Trump on the screen, although Henry VIII was far above the power of the law, much further above than Donald Trump.  Trump can rail about Roger Stone's sentencing:

According to Trump, Stone is a “good person” despite being a “little different.” He went on to claim that Stone was “never involved” in the 2016 despite some minor consulting work, and accused the forewoman of the jury of being ideologically biased against Stone.

“It’s totally tainted when you take a look,” Trump said, referring to the forewoman and the jury. ‘How can you have a person like this? She was an anti-Trump activist — can you imagine this?”

And can even claim Stone will be "exonerated:"

“But it happened to Roger Stone, and it happened to Gen. Flynn. and it happened to — I won’t name names,” Trump continued during his Hope for Prisoners commencement address. “I know Roger but a lot of people know Roger. Everybody sort of knows Roger. And what happened to him is unbelievable. They say he lied. But other people lied, too. Just to mention [James] Comey lied. [Andrew] McCabe lied. Lisa Page lied. Her lover Strzok, Peter Strzok, lied. You don’t know who these people are? Trust me. They all lied.”

That could be the ravings of the fictional king.  The only difference is that Trump's merest word is not law; but he obviously thinks it should be.  There is, unlike 16th century England, a functioning legal system independent of the Administration.  Trump's only power of intervention is pardons and commutations:

Is Trump so stupid he doesn't know what words mean?  Or is he already turning away from the possibility of a pardon?  He hasn't pardoned Flynn, or Manafort (who still goes unmentioned in these rants), why would he start with Stone?  Is he waiting for the appeals process to run?  Or is he waiting to be re-elected, when he will be truly invisible and bulletproof?

I'm not so sure it isn't the latter.  In the portrayal of the execution of Anne, Henry accedes to her request for an executioner from Calais to perform the act.  He is delayed, and the execution postponed.  Cromwell goes to Henry to give him the news, and Henry in a rage demands anyone with an axe be found to carry out the sentence.  Cromwell reminds him the kingdom knows he's granted the Queen's wish, implying it would not do to now renege on it.  (I'm reminded watching this that execution by axe was not the neat stroke it is portrayed to be in movies.  That's why the guillotine was invented; not for proficiency, but for mercy.)  Henry rages again, but acquiesces.  Even a king can't cruelly offend his subjects.

Trump understands that, too.  It may be the only check we have on his behavior, left.


Because I'm sure Mulvaney is not desperate for more dishwashers and construction laborers and people he generally considers NOK. (I'm equally sure that's how he categorizes workers and nationalities.)

All The News That Tweets: Roger Stone Sentencing Edition

Jonathan Turley, who so far as I know has NO experience as a criminal prosecutor or defense attorney, was on NPR this morning complaining about the original sentencing recommendation of the DOJ.  It was, he claimed, too excessive.  Judge Jackson today didn't think so.

And in what could be a direct response to Professor Turley:

As I've said, never presume to know another lawyer's case better than that lawyer does.  I would also note here, for those who like the weeds of these matters, that Andrew Prokop provides tweets of the entire process of the Judge going through the sentencing guidelines and the offenses Stone was convicted on.  The tl;dr is that she ends, first, where the DOJ did, at first and, finally, in this hearing:

That she departed from that is, according to lawyers with experience in these matters on Twitter, not a surprise; nor an indication the Judge acted in any way except as a part of an independent judiciary.  And even the DOJ lawyer before the judge upheld the case made by the DOJ:

Is William Barr going to resign now?  Sure; and water is going to run uphill, too.  Still, things got interesting with Crabb, the lawyer who drew the short straw to appear in this hearing:

This is how that went:

Translated:  "I want to keep my job, Judge, and I just want to get out of here."  The Judge was wise enough to not shoot the hapless messenger.  And to her eternal credit, everything Judge Jackson said was aimed at blocking Trump from issuing a pardon, a power she doesn't have but would clearly like to, if only for this case.

But we should remember this is what judges do, and why our legal system relies on them:

Still, this is important:

Because the obvious sentiment behind it, aside from merely upholding the rule of law, is:  "Pardon this!"  Trump just found out he'd walked into a buzz saw.  Now he's waiting for FoxNews to tell him what to think. Meanwhile:

"I Know You Are, But What Am I?"

Not the defense he thinks it is.  Fairness is not letting everyone go because some people get caught by law enforcement and some don't.  More particularly, fairness is not letting everyone go because some people are guilty and some people aren't.  That's why we have a legal system.

I've been watching first "Elizabeth," the Cate Blanchett film which is one of my favorites (not for historical accuracy but because of the wonderful wheels-within-wheels nature of the narrative), and the "sequel" to that film, and then the Showtime (on Netflix) "prequel" about Henry VIII written by the same writer as the films (well, at least the second one).  I understand Henry pretty much cemented "Dieu et mon droit" into the English monarchy (the sentiment if not the motto), and in the Showtime version of history, he's pretty much a loose cannon rolling across the deck of the ship of state, firing off as it pleases him (and for the guy to go through six wives, he probably was as capricious and self-centered and emotionally stunted as the portrayal in question).  But I'm struck by how much this version of Henry, which predates Trump's presidency by almost 15 years, resembles Trump Unbound.

It's rather frightening, actually.  Henry can have people killed at a word, and too many in his circle (including Anne, though I haven't gotten that far in the series yet) were beheaded at his accusation of treason.  There was a Parliament, but not really a legal process.  Trump wishes it were that way, and to some degree he's making it so.

England righted itself over time (although Elizabeth gave way eventually to Charles, who was dethroned and beheaded, and helped provoke a civil war) and eventually laws took over for monarchs (Henry VIII insists he is, and apparently he was, answerable only to God.  Trump doesn't even think God has anything to say about it.).  But America started as a constitutional republic.  More and more I think we have nowhere to go but down.  I still don't think we will, but I'm not always as sure of that as I could be.


They should all hold hands and chant in unison:  "WE HATE DONALD TRUMP!  WE HATE DONALD TRUMP!  WE HATE DONALD TRUMP!"

Or sing "Kumbayah."  One approach will win both the primaries and the general election about as well as the other.

Let's go back to James Carville, shall we?

The real argument here is that some people think there’s a real yearning for a left-wing revolution in this country, and if we just appeal to the people who feel that, we’ll grow and excite them and we’ll win. But there’s a word a lot of people hate that I love: politics. It means building coalitions to win elections. It means sometimes having to sit back and listen to what people think and framing your message accordingly.

That’s all I care about. Right now the most important thing is getting this career criminal who’s stealing everything that isn’t nailed down out of the White House. We can’t do anything for anyone if we don’t start there and then acquire more power.
And you know what?  He's not wrong.  Not, at least, in the context of things like banning fracking.  Turns out this is what that fracking question was all about last night:

What the fuck are we doing?  Banning fracking will do what?  Get us off oil in 2025?  Stop global warming in its tracks?  Bring about the long delayed Millennium and Age of Aquarius?

D) None of the above.  All it does is piss off people employed by oil mining (there are a LOT of them, although few of them live in NYC or Vermont) and accomplishes nothing except to raise gas prices.  My commute is 30 minutes, one way, most of that on freeway at 70 mph.  What, I'm gonna walk or ride a bike because gas goes back up to $4 a gallon? No, but it makes my life a lot more expensive.  Yeah, I'm votin' for THAT guy!

I learned one indelible lesson in the pulpit:  everything really is politics. I came out of seminary dreaming of a revolution in the church (I told myself I didn't, but I lie to myself a lot).  I ran straight into the need to build coalitions.  I still see myself as an intransigent Thomas More (I've been watching movies/TV shows about the Tudors lately) too convinced of my own rightness and rectitude, and unwilling to admit I was not the Most Important Person In The Room.

Bernie has yet to learn that lesson.  AOC needs to catch on quicker.

I'm mindful of LBJ, who never ranted and raved about a revolution or the need to overturn the system and return power to the people, but who was probably the most consequential and even revolutionary president since FDR, and LBJ didn't have a Great Depression to give him a blank check.  LBJ's accomplishments are still unappreciated, but he gave us the modern world we enjoy today, from no billboards on federal highways to wildflowers along the same highways, to PBS and Medicare and even the idea that the federal government had a role to play in public education.  And still that's scratching the surface.  LBJ performed revolutionary acts by using politics, rather than despising it.  And he accomplished more by the time he was 61 than Bernie Sanders has accomplished in his whole damned life.

And LBJ never ranted in public like an old man and a deli sending back soup; although he was plenty harsh enough in his own way.

But do Democrats need to do a hate dance on Donald Trump in every debate?  Hell, no.  They could start by scrapping these stupid debates.  The Lovely Wife turned them on last night, saw Elizabeth Warren waving her arm at Michael Bloomberg (as she put it), and turned it off.  She didn't need that.  Maybe Twitter did, but the rest of us didn't.  And frankly, debates are not the place to either show off your political skills (although it's clear now Michael Bloomberg has no such skills at all) or to complain about Donald Trump.  Bloomberg is doing a better job of that in his ads.

What do Democrats need to do?  Select a candidate and then drive that candidate forward as the best replacement for Donald Trump ever, who we desperately need to replace.  Should they be doing that right now?  Eh; probably not.  November is a long way off, whatever fresh thing you say now will be as stale as old bread and stink like old fish by then.  Should they quit holding these stupid debates which are nothing but opportunities for free political advertising (the worst part is every candidate at the end of every debate reminding people they have eponymous websites where you can go to give money, please!  Me some too, please, yes?).  Debates are no place to debate the guy who isn't there.  That's what ads are for.  That's what the general campaign is for.

Do we really need a permanent campaign?  Because what's what all these "wise old men" are clamoring for.  Maybe it's because they don't have anything better to do; but the rest of us do.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020


Bill Clinton had bucket loads of charisma; just not in 1992. The most charismatic candidate that year was Ross Perot, and he was batshit crazy. Most analysts agree Clinton won partly because Perot siphoned votes from Poppy.

Obama had charisma: eventually. First, though, he was “No Drama Obama.” That was not a compliment on his charisma. Indeed, the last truly charismatic President was also the first candidate to have that label applied to him, and he was followed by LBJ, Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Shrub, and Obama. How many of those Presidents were ever considered “charismatic “? Not as many as weren’t, and fewer of them were considered so as candidates than as incumbents. It’s still true: nothing succeeds like success; and nobody is as charismatic as someone you already know to be charismatic.

(Although Lordy, these debates are tedious.)

Besides Political Twitter

Who is still paying attention to these debates? (And Bernie is shouting about “existential threats” and “moral issues” as the responses to people who would lose their jobs if he banned fracking (as if he could, too). Yeah, wild abstractions v. concrete reality of losing my job. Are you really that stupid, Senator? Or just that ineffective? (At least Sen. Warren offers new jobs for old.)

Maybe it’s good no one is paying attention. (I was watching Nova on cats. Now I’m going to wash dishes and read.)

You Were Saying?

Wait for it....

Almost there...

Yeah!  That's the stuff!


His call.  Blagojevich's call.  Whichever.

Time to consider a Constitutional amendment on the pardon power.

The Men's Hair Club For Internet Trolls

Bernie is very upset that people blame Bernie for Bernie Bros. behavior:

“I will condemn absolutely anybody, including my campaign or any other campaign, that makes vicious personal attacks against people,” said Sanders. “What our people are involved in — we are a campaign which believes in compassion, which believes in justice. So I don’t tolerate ugly attacks against anybody. But let me just say this. Talk to the people in my campaign, often the African-American women in this campaign, talk to my wife about the kind of ugly attacks that have come in to us. So right now, which is a very serious national problem, we have an internet which is essentially the Wild West. Somebody could say, ‘hey, I’m Anderson Cooper’ and zippo, say some ugly things, and right now that cannot be stopped.”

“So, yes, I want to have this campaign focus on the important issues facing the American people,” continued Sanders. “I have just said a moment ago, as I’ve said many times, I’m going to support — if I don’t win this thing, I’m going to support somebody else who wins it. All right? And I don’t want to see terrible personal attacks. We can disagree on the issues, not personal attacks. But that is not just my campaign. We’ve got millions of supporters out there. We’ve got millions and millions of supporters and I dare say, 99.9 percent are people who would never, ever do that. And I urge other candidates also to be mindful of these ugly personal attacks that have come into my campaign.”

So, he doesn't tolerate "ugly attacks against anybody."  Why not?  Because he's a victim, too!

"Talk to the people in my campaign, often the African-American women in this campaign, talk to my wife about the kind of ugly attacks that have come in to us. So right now, which is a very serious national problem, we have an internet which is essentially the Wild West. Somebody could say, ‘hey, I’m Anderson Cooper’ and zippo, say some ugly things, and right now that cannot be stopped.”

Two ways to read that last sentence:  a)  he can't do anything to stop the Bernie Bros.; b) we need laws to stop the ugly things being said on the internet.  Of course, ugly things have always been said; the internet just makes them nationally, or internationally, accessible.  It seems like a huge difference, but it's actually a small one.  What's changed is how much harder it is to hide from how nasty we all are to each other.  But that's not Bernie's concern; his concern is how nasty you are to him:

"We’ve got millions and millions of supporters and I dare say, 99.9 percent are people who would never, ever do that. And I urge other candidates also to be mindful of these ugly personal attacks that have come into my campaign.”

Quit talking about what other people are doing in my name, and focus on what other people are doing to me!

And so this morning his own campaign representative declares demands for Bernie's health records is the new birtherism, because why would be want to know?

Age is a factor here:

But questioning Bernie's health is like being a racist:

And the difference between Trump and Bernie is?

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

With Friends Like These

“Left of Lenin" is a phrase that makes sense to people older than Sen. Kennedy, among whom it is certainly a damning phrase. But he might as well say “to the left of Castro.” In fact, probably a few more people would get the reference.  In Florida, anyway.

Me? Or You're Lyin' Eyes and Gummint Statistics!

Because, just:  wow.  All those Orwell quotes I'm so tired of suddenly seem very relevant.

A Possibility

This, and this:

Could indicate political ploys (DeBartolo's pardon may be a play for votes in Ohio; Blagojevich for votes in Illinois, though more likely yet another childish slap at Obama); but it could also be "cover" for pardoning Stone.

Why not go for three, and figure the last one won't seem as significant in company?

Then again, why hasn't Trump pardoned Manafort, or Flynn?  Anything is possible, and nothing really makes sense.  Especially because you have to keep this in mind:

The former Illinois governor’s wife, Patricia Blagojevich, has repeatedly gone on Fox News to lobby the president for a pardon of her convicted husband.

But all she's getting is a commutation.  Tucker Carlson has been demanding a pardon for Stone; but all he's gotten so far is complaints about the sentencing procedure (which is actually more complicated than has been reported.  The Parole Board calculates a recommended sentence and sends that to the lawyers trying the case; all of that is submitted to the judge, along with recommendations from defense counsel; and then a mathematical formula is used to be sure the sentence is in line with other such cases in other federal courts (the "sentencing guidelines").  It's not reflective of the malice of prosecutors or the caprice of the judge.  But all of that is far too complicated for Trump to begin to understand, or even to listen to the explanation.)

I Only Want To Say....

Yeah, this is kinda the point:

I've never understood the idea that those who choose to remain the least informed are more reliable jurors than people who choose to be informed. Or that people who followed the news were less reliably able to render fair judgement than those who might be addicted to fictitious who-don-its or cop procedurals or the such.

If his lawyer didn't ask a question or make an objection - it strikes me that people have had courts uphold their death sentences on such lack of action.
Let me return to my source on this, because the explanation is clear and concise and even cites the relevant case law; and it ably supports that comment:

The law does not require judges to sideline potential jurors who have strong political beliefs. Democrats can sit in judgment on Republicans, and Republicans can sit in judgment on Democrats. The key question isn’t whether a person is partisan but rather whether they’re capable of setting aside political bias to decide questions of fact fairly and impartially. And, believe it or not, this happens all the time in the United States of America. It’s happened in my own cases.

Moreover, the jury selection process (called voir dire) provides attorneys with a limited number of peremptory challenges—which permit attorneys to strike jurors without showing cause—and ample opportunity to challenge jurors for cause. In the Stone case, the trial court struck at least 40 jurors for cause (38 in response to the defense team’s initial requests and two more after a request for reconsideration).

The voir dire process is vitally important. If the prospective juror discloses all relevant material facts in response to questions from the judge and/or opposing counsel, and the judge is still satisfied that the juror can set aside any political bias to render a fair verdict, their decision will rarely be reversed. If, however, the juror is deceptive in voir dire, then the defendant may well be denied a fair trial. In a 1984 case called McDonough Power Equipment v. Greenwood, the Supreme Court succinctly explained the standard:

We hold that to obtain a new trial in such a situation, a party must first demonstrate that a juror failed to answer honestly a material question on voir dire, and then further show that a correct response would have provided a valid basis for a challenge for cause. The motives for concealing information may vary, but only those reasons that affect a juror's impartiality can truly be said to affect the fairness of a trial.

Did Hart truthfully answer every material question on voir dire? If so, then these “revelations” aren’t revelations at all, and the likelihood that they could form the foundation of a new trial are slim to none.
So there's the legal question:  does the fact that juror Hart tweeted about Roger Stone raise a material question that was dishonestly answered on voir dire, a correct response to which would have provided a valid basis for a challenge for cause?  Being a Democrat, or even having expressed an opinion about the actions of Roger Stone at any time, would not be grounds for a challenge for cause.    "The key question [is]...whether they’re capable of setting aside political bias to decide questions of fact fairly and impartially."  That was the thrust of the voir dire of juror 126.  The bias of the juror was examined, and found immaterial to her ability to sit as a juror, and the Stone lawyers even refused to make a motion of objection to that juror.

Game over, man.  Game over.

And now Stone's lawyers complain that the judge, on a conference call with all parties in the case, says she will not postpone sentencing until she has ruled on this new motion for new trial.  But the judge points out they haven't asked her to postpone the hearing.

Game over, man.  Game over.

Is Trump going to pardon Stone on Friday, after the sentencing hearing?  I don't think so, but never say never.  Does the pardon matter?  Well, yes, in the arena of promoting respect for the law; but it won't protect Stone from having to answer questions, nor make it more likely he can be forced to answer questions.  Will voters support Trump because he pardoned Stone?

What, are you kidding?

Once More, With Feeling

Yeah, uh:  no.

Hart (identified only as Juror 1261, but identifiable by her statement that she ran for Congress and other biographical details) was questioned by the trial judge and by defense counsel. After first asking questions about Hart’s prior service on a grand jury, the judge asked a series of key questions:

THE COURT: You've also indicated a fair amount of paying attention to news and social media including about political things?


THE COURT: And when we asked what you read or heard about the defendant, you do understand that he was involved in Mr. Trump's campaign in some way?


THE COURT: Is there anything about that that affects your ability to judge him fairly and impartially sitting here right now in this courtroom?

PROSPECTIVE JUROR: Absolutely not.

THE COURT: What is it that you have read or heard about him?

PROSPECTIVE JUROR: So nothing that I can recall specifically. I do watch sometimes paying attention but sometimes in the background CNN. So I recall just hearing about him being part of the campaign and some belief or reporting around interaction with the Russian probe and interaction with him and people in the country, but I don't have a whole lot of details. I don't pay that close attention or watch C-SPAN.

THE COURT: Can you kind of wipe the slate clean and learn what you need to learn in this case from the evidence presented in the courtroom and no other source?


THE COURT: You actually have had some interest in Congress yourself?


THE COURT: Does the fact that this case involves allegations of not being truthful to Congress, is that something that you think that the nature of the allegations alone would make it hard for you to be fair?


The prosecution declined to ask Hart any questions. Then, defense counsel had its turn:

MR. BUSCHEL: Did you ever work for anyone in Congress?


MR. BUSCHEL: You've worked on campaigns for Congress people running for Congress?

PROSPECTIVE JUROR: I ran for Congress.

MR. BUSCHEL: You ran for Congress?

PROSPECTIVE JUROR: I worked on my own campaign.

MR. BUSCHEL: And you have friends who worked for other congressmen?


MR. BUSCHEL: Do you have any political aspirations now?

PROSPECTIVE JUROR: I don't know, not federal.

MR. BUSCHEL: What might they be?

PROSPECTIVE JUROR: My home state in Tennessee. No local.

MR. BUSCHEL: Just recognize that there might be some media— What are your aspirations?

PROSPECTIVE JUROR: I served, can I just say I served in political office in Memphis in a local office on the school board. So I, one day I wake up and say I run for, you know, office again in Memphis to impact education. One day I wake up and say no way in the world would I do that. So I don't have an immediate plan to run for office.

MR. BUSCHEL: The fact that you run for an office, you're affiliated with a political party. Roger Stone is affiliated with the Republican party, Donald Trump. You understand what I'm saying and getting at?


MR. BUSCHEL: How do you feel about that?

MR. KRAVIS: Objection.

THE COURT: Can you make that question a little bit more crisp? Is there anything about his affiliation with the Trump campaign and the Republican party in general that gives you any reason to pause or hesitate or think that you couldn't fairly evaluate the evidence against him?


MR. BUSCHEL: Thank you, ma'am.

THE COURT: All right, you can step out.

R. BUSCHEL: Thank you, ma'am.

THE COURT: All right, you can step out.

(Prospective juror leaves courtroom.)

THE COURT: Mr. Buschel, you have a motion?


THE COURT: Okay, let's bring in the next juror.

So let’s recap. Stone’s lawyers knew that she was generally familiar with Stone, they knew she ran for Congress, they specifically asked about political bias, and then refused to seek her removal.

Trump’s defenders online are pointing to the fact that she tweeted a few times about the Mueller investigation and even at least once about CSPAN, but that’s thin gruel for claiming a material omission (especially when they’re pointing to only a few tweets out of more than 13,000 she’s tweeted).

Let me note, first, that Mr. Kravis there is one of the four DOJ attrorneys who has withdrawn from this case, and he makes an objection which preserves any error the judge might have committed in allowing that question of the juror.  By that I mean this is a point the Appellate court could consider on any appeal.  But that salient issue here is, actually, the questionnaire of the jurors.  Was this juror (and this is the examination of the juror in question in the tweets above) asked in a questionnaire about tweets?  If so, there is no grounds for a new trial, or appeal, on this issue.  Stone's lawyers waived the issue when the judge asked "Mr. Buschel, you have a motion?" and Mr. Buschel answered "No."  Which means any error Stone's lawyers now say occurred on this point, cannot be raised on appeal.

End of discussion.

Does Napolitano (who should know better) know what the juror questionnaire asked?  He doesn't seem to.  Does he know how this juror answered that questionnaire?  Again, it doesn't appear so.  Is there any grounds for claiming this juror was biased against Roger Stone?  Not based on this examination.

QED. (Besides, a motion for a new trial is just a predicate necessary for any appeal.  The denial of it is almost automatic in all cases, and really means nothing.  But Napolitano's argument\s are unlikely to prevail on appeal, and the interference of the POTUS queers the whole matter in ways highly prejudicial to Stone.  How else to preserve the appearance of independence except to not seem to act in a way favorable to Trump's tweets? Oh, and the motion for new trial, the second in this case, was sealed.  Napolitano is just speculating as to what it says; or somebody leaked it to him.  If the latter, the court may be none too pleased.)

Monday, February 17, 2020

The Tell Is....

Trump using the words "con job."


Is this really the way to win re-election when you weren't elected in the first place?

Is It Possible Nancy Pelosi Knows What She's Doing?

The purpose of Congress is not to investigate the President ad nauseum.  And the proof is in what gets the most media attention.

The House has passed 600 bills.  They're all DOA in the GOP Senate.  Maybe the cure for that is not investigating Donald Trump again again again.  Maybe the cure for that is pointing out the problem.  Yes, the media has ignored those 600 bills ("BOOOORINGGG!") because they don't provide riveting hearings where people ask stupid questions for hours and hours and hours, and lawmakers pontificate and take off their coats and loosen their ties and roll up their sleeves and SHOUT!

Yeah, that works real well, too, doesn't it?  Whose minds were changed by the House impeachment hearings?  Frankly, I think this one tweet was more effective than all those hours of hearings I listened to, and I actually care about this stuff (making me as rare as hen's teeth among American voters):

Kind of hard to just read that and not realize how absurd Trump's conspiracy theory is; and how much it is theory, rather than connected to any reality.  And I assume someone, probably older (and more reliable!) voters still watch "60 Minutes."

What should the House do?  Well, questioning Bill Barr is a good start.  Questioning John Bolton is just going to promote his book, at this point.  Individual candidates can run against Trump (I've yet to receive a piece of Democratic campaign literature that didn't mention being against Trump.  And btw, I've been voting in Democratic primaries since 1974; only in the past two years have I started receiving campaign literature for the primaries or the general.  In the '70's it was unnecessary, Texas was a one-party state, and that party Democrats.  That soon shifted, and Democrats spent decades realizing they were no longer in control.  Especially after Beto, Democrats are empowered and inspired, in ways I haven't seen in 46 years.), but they also mention healthcare and other "kitchen table" issues (healthcare is #1 with all of them).

Take this, for example:

That assault is not an accident, nor mere happenstance.  And I believe it's happening.  But it is far too inchoate (although you can see it in the resignations of four DOJ attorneys from a criminal case they prosecuted down to sentencing) and remote for most voters, who are more concerned with their healthcare than with Bill Barr.  But do you get rid of Bill Barr by focussing on the continuing critique (which is all it is) of the actions of Donald Trump?  Or do you turn out voters with candidates who speak, from the ground to the apex (the Speaker of the House) with one voice, and that voice turned to your concerns in your home?

Maybe Pelosi knows what she's doing, huh?  As David Cay Johnston argues, Pelosi has "superglued" the GOP to Trump; and now they fall with him.  It is really more important than House Democrats win re-election, and that Senate Dem candidates unseat GOP incumbents.  You don't do that by getting people to vote against Trump, unless they also want to vote FOR Democrats down the ballot.  If Trump wins but the Democrats control the House and Senate, Trump loses.  If Democrats don't control Congress, President Democratic Nominee loses.  But if the GOP is glued to Trump, and the Democrats offer not just the other option, but a truly viable alternative, maybe viewer voters will declare a "plague on both their houses," and turnout in 2020, unlike in 2016, will take America back from the authoritarians who would destroy it in order to "save" it.