Friday, August 31, 2018

The Shoe That Hasn't Dropped....Yet

Glenn Greenwald and Alan Dershowitz, in their separate ways (oh, and a large number of GOP Congresscritters, but they're behaving as expected), have declared there is no evidence of "collusion" (read:  conspiracy) or interference in the U.S. election with/by Russia.

Unless they have seen all the evidence listed in that graphic, a list about which Ben Wittes of LawFare opined:

“What does that indicate to you?” [Katy] Tur asked Wittes. “What is the lesson for us there?”

“Well, there’s a lot more than is in that list,” Wittes replied.
Then Messrs. Dershowitz and Greenwald are talking out of their respective posteriors.  "Not proven guilty" is one thing, and in the sense of criminal charges I agree, at least as to those persons who have not already entered guilty pleas or have been tried and convicted.  "No Evidence" is a much broader statement, and it can be declared only on the basis of ignorance.

The Art of the Squeal

Pay close attention, because this gets interesting fast.

First, Trump isn't denying the comments, even as he calls their reporting "dishonest."  Indeed:  "At least Canada knows where I stand!"  Which is the problem, you see:

Trump made the remarks in an Oval Office interview with Bloomberg. He deemed them off the record, and Bloomberg accepted his request not to reveal them.

But the Star is not bound by any promises Bloomberg made to Trump. And the remarks immediately became a factor in the negotiations: Trudeau’s officials, who saw them as evidence for their previous suspicions that Trump’s team had not been bargaining in good faith, raised them at the beginning of a meeting with their U.S. counterparts on Friday morning, a U.S. source confirmed.

The Star was not able to independently confirm the remarks with 100 per cent certainty, but the Canadian government is confident they are accurate.
So, what did Trump tell Bloomberg?  And who told the Toronto Star?  Not Bloomberg:

In remarks Trump wanted to be “off the record,” Trump told Bloomberg News reporters on Thursday, according to a source, that he is not making any compromises at all in the talks with Canada — but that he cannot say this publicly because “it’s going to be so insulting they’re not going to be able to make a deal.”

“Here’s the problem. If I say no — the answer’s no. If I say no, then you’re going to put that, and it’s going to be so insulting they’re not going to be able to make a deal ... I can’t kill these people,” he said of the Canadian government.

In another remark he did not want published, Trump said, according to the source, that the possible deal with Canada would be “totally on our terms.” He suggested he was scaring the Canadians into submission by repeatedly threatening to impose tariffs.

“Off the record, Canada’s working their ass off. And every time we have a problem with a point, I just put up a picture of a Chevrolet Impala,” Trump said, according to the source. The Impala is produced at the General Motors plant in Oshawa, Ontario. 
Of course, Canada is negotiating in good faith, and they understand if they don't have something that can go to Congress today, there is no renegotiation, and in the meantime, NAFTA as it stands remains the law of the land.  And if Trump imposes tariffs on Chevy Impalas, who does that hurt besides GM?  People who want to buy Chevy Impalas, I suppose.  Or maybe people who make parts to build Chevy Impalas:

Asked if the cost of no deals was tariffs on cars, Dias admitted that “a 25% tariff would be devastating” for Canada’s auto workers but would be equally bad for American workers as well.

“U.S. workers will suffer massively.” he warned. “Why? Because 60% of all parts that go into Canadian assembled vehicles come from the United States. The number one export market for vehicles from the United States is Canada. Why Donald Trump would shoot himself in the foot and more importantly American workers doesn’t make any sense.”

This is the genius deal-maker?  He walks away with nothing, hurts American workers, and declares that a victory?  Huh?

Addendum:  it's known Trump used to do his own PR, calling reporters and pretending to be someone else giving information about Trump's exploits and accomplishments, real or imagined.  So it isn't that far-fetched that he could be the source to the Toronto Star:

Jen Psaki, former White House Communications Director under Barack Obama, said that leaks rarely happened under her position.

“It’s important to note I worked with the Bloomberg reporters for eight years in the White House, and never once did they violate anything I said off the record or anything President Barack Obama said off the record,” Psaki said.

She added, “There is no way it comes from them, and that’s what they are accused of. There is a question as to whether it was somebody [else.] The transcripts typically go around broadly. Even whether Trump himself in bizarro-land [did it.] That’s possible.”
Trump, or somebody calling at his direction, seems perfectly plausible as the source that allows Trump to send out his tweet.  Because, really, what was going to be accomplished today that could get to Congress by today?  Why not blow it up and blame the press for the calamity?  I mean, it will play well at the next rally (just not necessarily in Texas, which benefits mightily from NAFTA, so I wouldn't advise him to bring it up at the Cruz rally he says he's coming to.  Then again, maybe he should!)

The More You Know.....

Why in the world is a civil servant in the Justice Department being targeted by Trump? Ohr attracted Trump’s ire because in 2016, he reportedly passed along a version of the infamous “Steele dossier” to the FBI (which the government apparently already had—but more on that in a moment). That dossier, which contained salacious allegations about the president, was compiled by former British agent Christopher Steele, whose company was contracted by Fusion GPS, an opposition research firm co-founded by former Wall Street Journal reporter Glenn R. Simpson. Fusion GPS, in turn, was working for the Hillary Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee (its investigation of Trump had begun under a contract with a conservative website supported by GOP donor Paul Singer, but that ended when Trump clinched the nomination).

Why, indeed?  Why did Sen. Ron Johnson, in a flailing attempt to establish a "two-tiered" system of justice (one for well-connected Democrats, another for Republicans who happen to run the entire federal government), bring up Mr. Ohr's testimony before a House committee (without mentioning what Mr. Ohr said)?

I don't think it's just because of the Steele dossier:

Bruce Ohr, an official at the Department of Justice who has been publicly attacked repeatedly by President Donald Trump, told lawmakers on Capitol Hill this week that the Russian government believed that it had deeply compromising information on Trump during the 2016 election.

The Associated Press is reporting that Ohr told lawmakers this week that he first learned about Russia potentially having blackmail material on Trump when he talked with former MI6 spy Christopher Steele in July 2016.

In particular, Ohr said Steele told him that Russian intelligence agencies believed they had Trump “over a barrel” when he was running for president.
Yeah, can't have that.  Got to discredit him before this news gets out.

But we can't talk about impeachment, abuse of power, obstruction of justice, or any other crimes, because, well....reasons.

On Friday, the results of a new Washington Post-ABC News poll found 60 percent of Americans disapproved of President Trump’s approval rating.

The poll also found 53 percent of Americans have concluded Trump committed obstruction of justice in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and 49 percent of Americans believe Congress should begin impeachment proceedings against the former reality-TV personality.

“Trump has tried to discredit Mueller, discredit Sessions and defend Manafort, the Post‘s White House bureau chief, Phil Rucker noted. “But our poll found it isn’t working. 63 percent support Mueller investigation. 64 percent say Sessions shouldn’t be fired. 67 percent say case against Manafort was justified.”
I mean, it's not like we can see what Trump is doing....

“The tweets do not appear to be working: clear majorities back Mueller and Sessions, while only 45 percent of Americans approve of Trump’s handling of the economy,” concluded Washington Post national editor Steven Ginsberg.

And as if to prove the point:

Brad Parscale is the campaign manager for Trump 2020.  And, notably:

Nothin' but good times ahead!

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Remembering Joe McCarthy

Nothing even vaguely reminiscent of Tailgunner Joe in this tweet!

L'etat, c'est moi!

Me, or your lyin' ears?

More legal expertise! (Don't like the way courts work?  Change the courts! Dance, judges, dance!)

Of course it didn't!  Why, clearly, it's never on your mind at all!

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The World and the Pulpit

Let's just say I had a lot of privileges and responsibilities as a parish pastor, and I didn't necessarily handle them well.  I don't mean that to be self-deprecating or self-critical, just to move on from the question of who was to blame, me or the 2 churches I served, both briefly.

I was just listening to a local story on the radio, a man who was assaulted and whose assailants were arrested and charged with crimes.  The man who was attacked says he was attacked twice; once physically, and once after he posted about the incident (in the heat of the moment, as he said) on Facebook, a post that went viral.  And that's when he was assaulted again.

He is a gay man, with an adopted child.  I presume he mentioned this in his Facebook post.  He got death threats, angry written assaults about his fitness to be a parent, and the like.  He is still shaken by it, though it has been a year since the physical assault.  The physical wounds, he said, will eventually heal; the other wounds he thinks he'll bear much, much longer.  He is surprised at how much hate there is in Houston.

I've lived other places than Houston.  The hatred isn't just here.  The inchoate anger isn't just directed at gay men.  And it isn't just the fault of "social media" that such emotions are shared.  This is how human beings behave.  I'm not sure it's even describable as "tribalism," because we can turn it on our nearest and dearest (domestic violence).  I'm not sure what it is, but I know it's quite real.

When I was at my last church, I went to see a man who was dying.  He'd been an invalid since I came to the church, and his wife was a vocal critic of all the church did or was doing.  Her husband was one of the founding families of the church (it's an old, once in the country, church).  She eventually took a dislike to me, for reasons that were mostly her grief at losing her husband so slowly and for so long.  When I got to the hospital room, I was actually grateful to find her adult daughter there, the mother absent.  I met the daughter, chatted with her (not really my strong suit, one of those things I didn't handle well as a pastor), said a prayer for the dying man, and took my leave.

Weeks later I learned that, per the story going around, I had entered the room, ignored the daughter, stood muttering over the patient for several minutes, and then left without another word.  Pretty much the opposite of what happened, but that's not something you argue about as a minister, and besides, it was he said/she said.  Lines were drawn; before much longer, I was out.

Where did the anger come from, to drive me away?  Every family (like that one) had its own sources of anger, but were they all so angry about being old (they were all, on average, my age now; this was nearly 20 years ago, which used to seem like a long time; now it seems like last month)?  No, but many of them (not all, by any means) harbored angers they couldn't express except at the man who stood in the pulpit every Sunday morning.  I had other responsibilities, of course, but the guy in the pulpit is the public face you can jeer at, throw tomatoes at, curse at.  In some sense he (or she) is the scapegoat; just not in the sacrificial sense, because no one feels better when they put their sins on you.  They just get to ignore their responsibilities a bit longer, take out their anger on you, blame you for what ails them that they can't (or won't) identify.

We really hate our responsibilities.  I'm convinced that's the source of so much anger, even though I can't explain it more systematically than that, just now.  We hate it that we are responsible, and we put it on someone else, blame them for our burdens.  "Am I my brother's keeper?"  It's the universal cry of resentment, at least in my experience.

So now Facebook (or Twitter, or Google, what have you) is the pulpit, and we are all our own preachers.  We all dare think people want to hear what we have to say.  The primary difference is a pastor is better suited to speaking to a congregation.  We may have Twitter, but we are not all Billy Grahams, suited to speaking to anonymous crowds night after night.  As my friend who is a minister said once, when a church member was praising a TV evangelist:  "Then call him when you need a funeral."  Pastors serve people, and we learn, if we are wise, to preach to them; not to our own ambitions, egos, goals.  We have to make them the goal.  It's harder than it looks.

But we are each preachers now, and we get on Facebook and we post our feelings and tell our stories and we expect the world to reciprocate and understand and, if they don't like it, to just ignore us.  But you are the person standing above the crowd, daring to think what you have to say is worth listening to.  And the people in the crowd are throwing tomatoes; or worse.

There is a lot of inchoate anger out there.  Not even our literature gets at this. Villains have motivations, even if it is to wipe out half of sentient life in the universe.  If their anger seems unprompted, their motivations simply those of monsters (like Grendel), then it is because they bear the mark of Cain, or just because they are monsters.  But few people are really monsters; and most people are really angry.  This anger has no reason; it just is.  We try to put it into categories:  tribalism, nationalism, envy, class warfare, religious animus.  Envelopes, sleeves, boxes, that make us feel better because we think that contains it, and what is contained is what is explained.  But it's just blunt anger.  Were that many people really homophobic enough to write back to that man?  Maybe; but they latched onto that difference (a gay man with an adopted child) to express their anger because it gave them a foothold to do so.  We direct it at women, for the same reason; we might even direct it at a straight white male if we thought he was a "wimp" or otherwise didn't fit our category of "straight white male."  Any category will do, to allow us to express our anger and direct it at someone others might agree is to blame, is worthy of condemnation.  The category doesn't really matter, in the end.  It's the anger, and the excuse to express it, that matters.

People were angry with me because I was the pastor; they didn't need another reason.  Whatever I did, someone found a reason to criticize, to be angry, to wail.  As long as we think we can punish people for categorical thinking, for "hate crimes" or misogyny or even misanthropy, we are missing the point; we are trimming the tree of evil, rather than striking at its roots (I do love that metaphor, don't I?).  There is an enormous amount of unexpressed anger in, it seems, almost every person, and they are just looking for a chance to express it:  to rage, to troll, to demonize.  Social media didn't create it, nor does it really aid and abet it.  If anything, it is simply more public now, more present to those who use social media.  But this is who we are.  "Am I my brother's keeper?"  I don't even want to be my own keeper.  If there's any explanation for Trump's most rabid supporters, it may be that he gets to do what they wish they could do:  to not be a keeper of his own anger and appetites and animosities.  They admire him because he behaves the way they wish they could.  He is the opposite of the scapegoat, he is the exemplar.  They want to revel in their grievances, in their angers, and he gives them leave to do so, he models how to be free of restraints.

But, as Trump has found out, there is no such freedom:  so he rails against "fake news" and sees conspiracies in everything that doesn't bow to his whim, traitors in everyone who doesn't tell him how wonderful he is, enemies in everyone who isn't loyal to Donald Trump.  There is a lot of anger out there, and everyone seems to think it is either aberrant, or it simply needs to be shoved back into the minority of the population we can control socially, economically, or imprison.

But that's misunderstanding the anger altogether, and that's why we are surprised when it comes for us, when we become the lightning rod for destructive forces that we were sure had to be personal, but we find to be simply elemental.  The elements are powerful, but they aren't really out to get you. Elements also have physical reasons for their power.  What is the reason for so much anger?

Our Man on Their Side

The last time a Democrat won statewide office in Texas, the voter turnout was above 50%.  Democrats benefit, in other words, from voter turnout.

My mother doesn't follow Twitter.  Neither does my wife, and I only see it because they are quoted in articles I read.  Younger people than me, much younger, follow Twitter.  And if you want them to vote in November in Texas, you want your opponent to tweet things like this.

When they aren't tweeting things like this, which is already so viral I almost don't have to repeat it:

Yeah, the one where they made it clear Beto is cool.  Which is not something anyone EVER said about Ted Cruz.

Last poll I heard about had that race in a dead heat; one point difference between Cruz and O'Rourke, with a margin of error of plus/minus 4 points.  So I hope the Texas GOP keeps appealing to old voters who aren't reading their appeals, and reaching the younger voters who are.  They might yet learn the lesson of Democrats, and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Florida, Man

with regard to the comment of Ron DeSantis about his opponent:

“It’s going to get racial on the left,” Stuckey erupted without letting Hopkins finish. “I guarantee you no conservative is going to deliberately make this about race.”

If, while I'm driving today, I look down at my radio and run over a child in the street, did I to that deliberately?  If I didn't, am I then not responsible, at all, for what I did?

The question of intent is an interesting one.  It's not the dispositive one; especially in politics.

"You Have Heads, Use Them!"--Jesus of Nazareth, according to Dom Crossan

Take this discussion on luck (and personal responsibility, though I don't think he ever mentions that):

To become a better person is, at least to some degree, to consciously decide what kind of person one wants to be, what kind of life one wants to lead, and to enforce that meta-decision through day-to-day smaller decisions. They say you are what you do repeatedly; our choices become habit and habit becomes character. So forming a good character, becoming a good person, means repeatedly choosing to do the right thing until it becomes habit.

To make this more concrete, an example: For whatever reason, I hate waiting on people. I can barely stand to walk behind people on the sidewalk. Driving behind people leaves me in constant, low-level seething rage. Watching the people ahead of me in line at the store bumble through their slow transactions makes me want to claw my eyes out.

When I use system-two thinking, I understand that this instinctual reaction of mine is both irrational and uncharitable — irrational because we’re all always waiting for one another and there’s no way to avoid it; uncharitable because I expect alacrity from others than I don’t always display myself. I make others wait just as much or more than anyone, but I absolutely can’t wait for others.

To put it more bluntly, I tend to be kind of an asshole in that particular way. And I don’t want to be! It makes other people tense. It makes me miserable. It serves absolutely no purpose.

The only way to change it is to use system-two thinking to override system one — to intervene in my own anger — again and again, until a different, better reaction becomes habitual and I become, in a literal sense, a different, better person. (That project is, uh, ongoing.)

The same is true for being a good parent, saving money, making more friends, or any other long-term life goal; it often involves overriding our own instincts — many of which are grossly maladaptive.

Do people deserve moral credit for what they do with their system-two thinking? Perhaps that’s the mechanism through which meritocracy works, through which people really do get what they deserve?

And lay it alongside this discussion of "discernment" as understood by the Jesuits and Pope Francis:

What should Catholics do now? I assume you don’t think they should leave the church, and I assume you think the way the church is dealing with the crisis is unacceptable.

[Long pause] I know what I am doing, which is a word that is part of the Jesuit tradition that I came to know as a student at Fordham in the 1980s and is really at the center of Pope Francis’ approach, and it is the word discernment. In this instance, we have to call evil what it is, and call a crisis what it is, but also approach it from the point of view of discernment, and not from the point of view of the culture wars, let’s say. What does it mean for me? What does it mean for the victims? What does it mean for us as a Catholic people? What does it mean for our society if Catholic Christianity were sort of amputated from the body politic? We have to think about all those things and then try to look backward and forward at the same time.

Maybe it’s because I am nonbeliever, but you are being too cryptic for me. I don’t know exactly what you mean.

I mean: The secular lingo for this is a teachable moment. I think that’s a shallow cliché. A serious believer asks himself or herself with some regularity, “What do I believe? Why do I believe it? Do I believe that it’s the path of virtue? Is it one that I would recommend to other people? Is it one that I carry out into public life or just practice at home? Does it bind me to the past—to Saint Augustine, and St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Ignatius of Loyola? And if it does, does it bind me to those predatory priests also?” Catholicism—Judaism too—claims an essential continuity between the past and the present, and so if you claim that continuity, it makes it very hard to say, “Oh, things were done differently then. The past was the past,” which is what a lot of people are trying to do right now. If you are serious about Catholicism, I don’t think that’s an easy move to make. It’s a cop-out.
Granted, neither is an outstanding example of exposition of their topics, but I use them to tease out both topics and lay them alongside each other, where the topic that relates them is the idea of secular v. religious thought, and why we think one is superior to the other (when, in fact, they are simply different, perhaps even describing different worlds, although Wittgenstein would never allow that.  I will, though.)

What Paul Elie is getting at in that second selection, and what Isaac Chotiner is missing (partly because Elie is not explicit about it) is the issue of responsibility.  I learned, in seminary, that responsibility is the heaviest burden of all.  If we take it seriously, it can crush us to the ground.  "Am I my brother's keeper?" is, first and foremost, an attempt to shift that burden, to get the burden of responsibility off our shoulders.  Because if you take seriously your place in the community of humanity, you are your brother's keeper; and then again, you aren't.  It's not a simple either/or, and that's what makes the burden so heavy, and so difficult to shift.  When Elie challenges the notion of a "teachable moment," he's pushing aside the deflection (who is taught, and who is learning?  Usually not you, ultimately.) and going straight to the core:  "What is my responsibility here?"  Keep that question in mind and re-read his questions, the ones a "serious believer" asks.  The very concept of discernment is to discern your place, and your responsibility, in the situation; because our first attempt is always to determine how we are not responsible, or at best can escape responsibility.  And if we are not responsible, then luck is indeed akin to a religious awakening, because we are awake to our lack of responsibility (the opposite of what Roberts is criticizing in his essay, but then he takes the idea of luck as one that dissolves the benefits most successful people think accrue to their personal efforts.).  Roberts makes the argument this way:

It’s not difficult to see why many people take offense when reminded of their luck, especially those who have received the most. Allowing for luck can dent our self-conception. It can diminish our sense of control. It opens up all kinds of uncomfortable questions about obligations to other, less fortunate people.

Nonetheless, this is a battle that cannot be bypassed. There can be no ceasefire. Individually, coming to terms with luck is the secular equivalent of religious awakening, the first step in building any coherent universalist moral perspective. Socially, acknowledging the role of luck lays a moral foundation for humane economic, housing, and carceral policy.

Building a more compassionate society means reminding ourselves of luck, and of the gratitude and obligations it entails, against inevitable resistance.
He makes a number of leaps there, trying to get us to a Rawlsian awareness of initial conditions that will make us see we are all in the same boat and the fact that some are more equal than others is not a product of our own efforts alone.  Luck can, indeed, diminish our sense of control; but it doesn't necessarily lead to "uncomfortable questions about obligations to other, less fortunate people."  It can just lead to thinking we aren't as powerful as we think we are, but at least we're still not that guy!

There but for the grace of God, right?

Coming to terms with luck is not really "the first step in building any coherent universalist moral perspective," either.  The moral perspective of Donald Trump and Stuart Varney ("On Fox Business, Stuart Varney sputtered at [Robert] Frank: 'Do you know how insulting that was, when I read that?' ” What Varney read was Frank's book arguing luck has more to do with success than personal effort.  Most of us, as Gov. Miz Anne used to say of George H.W., were born on third base and think we hit a triple.  We just don't like to admit it.) doesn't, by it's opposite, lead to actual concern for humanity.  That "luck plays a large role in every human success and failure, which ought to be a rather banal and uncontroversial point," doesn't mean luck is the universal engine of human society.  In Chaucer's day, for example (the General Prologue is a wonderful catalogue of 14th century English society), society was stacked like a pyramid (later imagined as a Great Chain of Being, just before the Industrial Revolution starting breaking up the links of that chain).  Those above were what Brits today would call members of the "Lucky Sperm Club" (hey, they recognize the place of luck in success!); those below stayed where they were born.  Kylie Jenner wasn't even a vague possibility (you'll have to read the essay to get that reference, but it's in the first paragraphs).  Building a more compassionate society means reminding ourselves that the first will be last, and the last first, and the race is to the bottom, where the last of all will be first and servant of all.

You knew I was gonna get there eventually, right?

So we're back to this idea of discernment.  Simply placing luck in the center and using that as the lodestone that guides you in the right direction really won't do much, if only because focussing on luck doesn't really force us to focus on who we are and how we are responsible not just for what we do, but for what we think.  If there is a "cost of discipleship," more and more I think it has nothing to do with fealty to a certain interpretation of scripture, or more severely that "when Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die."  That seems to me the very opposite of the Gospel message; Christ calls us to live.  Christ calls us to life.  But that call creates responsibility; the grave responsibility of humility.

There is a story of a desert father who listens to the other monks in the community discuss the moral failings of a member of the community.  The Father leaves the circle and returns with a heavy sack on his back, a tiny sack hanging in front of his eyes.  He walks around the circle with this apparatus until someone finally asks him what it means.  "These are my sins," he says of the sack on his back, and these are the sins of my brother, pointing to the tiny sack.  The circle quickly broke up, as the others were reminded of their responsibilities.  Lucky thing he thought of that, huh?

There is an essential continuity between us all, past and present, near and far.  To discern that is to discern your responsibility in that continuity, in that community.  You don't rise above it or fall below it; you simply live your part in it.  Do you live it well, for yourself and others?  Or do you live it poorly, thinking only of yourself and your "luck," or your "skill," "perseverance," "hard work," what you will?  Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort worked hard, persevered, used their skills to make money beyond the dreams of Midas; were they lucky?  Did their luck run out?  Were there skills misapplied?  Perhaps, but in their world being charged with crimes was unheard of, much less being convicted.  Were they unlucky because of the publicity brought to them by Donald Trump?  Or were they bad people, and the bill eventually came due?

What do we discern from this?  And how responsible are we, for letting, or for putting, a man like Donald Trump, who associates with such people, in the White House?  Or is it simply a matter of bad habits, and we can think our way into better habits?  And what would those be, besides not getting angry in traffic?

Say What?

(The Definitive Version)

So, there's government action, and there's actions by private parties. The former can be unconstitutional where the latter cannot.

“We hold that portions of the @realDonaldTrump account ― the ‘interactive space’ where Twitter users may directly engage with the content of the President’s tweets ― are properly analyzed under the ‘public forum’ doctrines set forth by the Supreme Court,” Buchwald said in her ruling.

That was in May; Judge Buchwald ruled that Trump couldn't block Twitter followers from his account.  Tuesday, Trump finally unblocked 7 followers.  This prompted joy in Twitterland, because Trump plays for Mudville:

And no, not everyone is rejoicing:

But those who are, are exercising their Constitutional rights:
And the difference is, these people are not the President of the United States.  Their Twitter feeds are not public fora as set forth by the Supreme Court.  Which is the difference between Google and Facebook deciding who can use their platforms, and for what purpose; and the use of such platforms by government officials, who can turn their sites and feeds into a public forum.  Trump is the one "treading on very troubled territory," not Google, or Facebook, or even private Twitter users.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Yeah, Probably

Then again, Trump gets advice from Hannity, Loud Obbs, and even Diamond and Silk.

Is this better, or worse, than that?

Mo(u)rning in America

So it's morning, time for Trump to sound off on all that threatens America:

"Left wing media," as it has done since my childhood, includes the New York Times (notoriously socialist) and WaPo (the commies who brought down Nixon).  But don't take my word for it, because lorry nose, Trump didn't do his own research:

As Gertz concludes, with a stab at the media which I am growing more and more sympathetic to:

Sheryl Attkisson, who claimed the FBI and other government agencies hacked her computer at CBS (no evidence for this was ever found), creates a "media bias chart" which PJ Media (notoriously fair and balanced) picks up which Loud Obbs broadcasts which Diamond and Silk cluck about which Donald Trump bellows.

And all for the want of a nail; or a functioning President.

Twitter makes my life easier.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Enough About John McCain

Let's talk about me.
Like his previous tweet about the "big story" of FBI malfeasance for which I could find no support, I don't know where he's getting the idea his approval rating is "52% overall."  As of day 584 at Five Thirty-Eight, his aggregate disapproval is 53.4%, his approval at 41.9%.  Even Rasmussen (for August 21-23) shows a disapproval of 53%.

He must be getting his news from the pictures in the White House.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

The (Spoiled) Children's Hour

Funny, I'm listening to "Intelligence Squared," a debate on the question "Social Media is good for democracy."  And the first response on Twitter to Barack Obama's post is this:

Is that kind of hyperbole "good" for democracy?  Is it, even, new to democracy?  (No.)  Then again, is this good for democracy?

“Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Chief of Staff John F. Kelly and other White House aides advocated for an official statement,” The Post said Sunday. They’d hoped to honor the decorated Vietnam War POW for his years of service to the nation in the Senate and call him a “hero.”

But according to current and former White House aides, “Trump told aides he wanted to post a brief tweet instead, and the statement praising McCain’s life was not released.”

The original plan was to release a statement that was drafted before McCain passed. Sanders and other edited the final version so that it would be ready.

The White House press poll emailed the text of the tweet and no other statement has been emailed to press.
I'm not posting anything praising the life of John McCain because I'm not a hypocrite.  I remember him as an ideologue before the GOP ate the monkey brains, as Charlie Pierce puts it; a hard right-winger who became a centrist because of Senators like Ted Cruz and Mike Lee (although McCain showed up in a list of the 15 Most Conservative Senators in 2013).  A "maverick" because he played that role to reporters, not because he was stalwart about his principles.  He's praised for his rebuke of a supporter demonizing Obama in 2008; but it ain't that simple.  His most "maverick" vote was to snuff Trump's attempt to kill Obamacare, and I think he did that more out of animus to Trump than sympathy for the Affordable Care Act.*

But that's my opinion, and I mention it just to be honest.  I don't despise the man, and now he is dead, and honors that accrue to his name are due for recognition.  The White House, however, won't even go that far.

That's all they've had to say.

“It’s atrocious,” said Mark Corallo, who once served as a spokesperson for Trump’s legal team. “At a time like this, you would expect more of an American president when you’re talking about the passing of a true American hero.”

I agree, and have no problem praising John McCain as a true American hero, flaws and all.  Donald Trump, on the other hand, can't even let the man's name pass his lips.   We berate 5 year olds for such behavior.

At this point, Trump is pretty much on par with the Westboro Baptist Church, except nobody's heard from them in some time, and nobody misses them.  And by the way, I got that picture from responses in Trump's twitter feed.  Maybe social media can be good for democracy....

(Yeah, it's that bad)

*I've had a bellyful of "both-siderism" tributes that declare we need 90 more Senators like John McCain.  90 more conservative senators, they always mean, because the "right" thing to do was to agree with the way McCain voted (most of the time), not with his maverick-y posturing before he voted.  Feh.  We could do with quite a bit less ideology, but when you can point out the 15 Democratic Senators who are as hard left as Cruz, Lee, Hatch, Cornyn, and Rubio are hard-right (to pick just 5), I'll start to believe the problem is on both sides of the aisle.  Until then, all you've got is Bernie Sanders, and he's really not as defiant as Mike Lee or Rand Paul.

The Snakes of Ireland

I know I'm at risk of being the Papal Apologizer, but this is particularly ugly:

In a detailed 11-page bombshell statement given to conservative Roman Catholic media outlets during the Pope’s visit to Ireland, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano accused a long list of current and past Vatican and U.S. Church officials of covering up the case of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who resigned last month in disgrace.

Archbishop Vigano was papal nuncio (ambassador) to the U.S., so you'd think this was particularly damning, especially since:

Vigano said he had told Francis in June 2013, just after he was elected pope by his fellow cardinals, about the accusations against McCarrick.

Vigano, the papal envoy in Washington from 2011 to 2016, also said he had informed top Vatican officials as early as 2006 that McCarrick was suspected of abusing adult seminarians while he was a bishop in two New Jersey dioceses between 1981 and 2001. He said he never received a response to his 2006 memo.

And, as no less than Reuters says:

The statement was the latest blow to the credibility of the U.S. Church. 

Well, maybe; but not quite in the way Reuters means it.  A little counterpoint, courtesy of Vox:

An arch-conservative known for his opposition to LGBTQ issues, Viganò was removed from his office in 2016 after brokering a secret meeting, without the pope’s consent, between Francis and Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk whose refusal to sign same-sex marriage licenses briefly made her a hero in conservative circles.

His letter, at times, conflates consensual homosexual behavior — itself prohibited by the Catholic Church — with abuse (at one point, Viganò says that “the homosexual networks present in the Church must be eradicated”). His letter reflects what Massimo Faggioli, a professor at Villanova University and a commentator on Catholic issues, previously characterized as an increased willingness on the part of conservative, anti-Francis Catholics to see the latest developments in the sex abuse scandal as an opportunity to advocate for a changing of the guard. In demanding church leaders up to the pope himself resign, Viganò and other Catholic conservatives are using the scandal as an “opportunity to reform the Church from abuses as a counter-revolution ... against the Church of Vatican II itself,” Faggioli told Vox in an email, referencing a 1962-1965 council many conservatives see as pushing the Vatican in a discomfitingly liberal direction.
You can stop with the first clause of the first sentence, and get the idea a grain or two of salt is required for this story.  Vigano was removed from his office in 2016 by....well, Francis, supposedly.  2 years later, Vigano uses the occasion of the Pennsylvania report to release a statement while the Pope is in Ireland  (which has its own abuse scandals it is rightly angered over) to slip a shiv in the Pope's robes and demand his resignation post-haste.

Sure, this is how things are done when your only interest is justice and faithfulness to the witness of Christ.  Right?

Vigano wrote that he told Francis: “Holy Father, I don’t know if you know Cardinal McCarrick, but if you ask the Congregation of Bishops, there is a dossier this thick about him. He corrupted generations of seminarians and priests and Pope Benedict ordered him to withdraw to a life of prayer and penance.”

Vigano wrote he was surprised to find that McCarrick started travelling on missions on behalf of the church soon thereafter, including to China. McCarrick was also one of the Vatican’s intermediaries in the U.S.-Cuba talks in 2014.

Vigano’s claim that McCarrick had been ordered by Benedict to stay out of public ministry and retire to a lifetime of prayer is somewhat disputed, given that McCarrick enjoyed a fairly public retirement. Vigano provides no evidence that such sanctions were imposed by Benedict in any official capacity, saying only that he was told they were.
It's worth noting McCarrick resigned as a cardinal after a U.S. church investigation found charges of sexual abuse to be based on credible evidence.  It undoubtedly should have been earlier, but there is that issue of "credible evidence."

Vigano is a guy who wants to undo Vatican II.  His open letter is, quite frankly, more gossip and conspiratorial speculation than a sound statement of what he personally knows:

Pope Benedict’s same dispositions were then also communicated to me by the new Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, in November 2011, in a conversation before my departure for Washington, and were included among the instructions of the same Congregation to the new  Nuncio.

In turn, I repeated them to Cardinal McCarrick at my first meeting with him at the Nunciature. The Cardinal, muttering in a barely comprehensible way, admitted that he had perhaps made the mistake of sleeping in the same bed with some seminarians at his beach house, but he said this as if it had no importance. The faithful insistently wonder how it was possible for him to be appointed to Washington, and as Cardinal, and they have every right to know who knew, and who covered up his grave misdeeds. It is therefore my duty to reveal what I know about this, beginning with the Roman Curia.

Cardinal Angelo Sodano was Secretary of State until September 2006: all information was communicated to him. In November 2000, Nunzio Montalvo sent him his report, passing on to him the aforementioned letter from Father Boniface Ramsey in which he denounced the serious abuses committed  by McCarrick.

It is known that Sodano tried to cover up the Father Maciel scandal to the end. He even removed the  Nuncio in Mexico City, Justo Mullor, who refused to be an accomplice in his scheme to cover Maciel, and in his place appointed Sandri, then-Nuncio to Venezuela, who was willing to collaborate in the cover-up. Sodano even went so far as to issue a statement to the Vatican press office in which a falsehood was affirmed, that is, that Pope Benedict had decided that the Maciel case should be considered closed.  Benedict reacted, despite Sodano’s strenuous defense, and Maciel was found guilty and irrevocably condemned.

Was McCarrick’s appointment to Washington and as Cardinal the work of Sodano, when John Paul II was already very ill? We are not given to know. However, it is legitimate to think so, but I do not think he was the only one responsible for this. McCarrick frequently went to Rome and made friends everywhere, at all levels of the Curia. If Sodano had protected Maciel, as seems certain, there is no reason why he wouldn’t have done so for McCarrick, who according to many had the financial means to influence decisions. His nomination to Washington was opposed by then-Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re. At the Nunciature in Washington there is a note, written in his hand, in which Cardinal Re disassociates himself from the appointment and states that McCarrick was 14th on the list for Washington
Sounds like somebody lost the political fight somewhere in there, and is still nursing a grudge over it.  Yes, there are rumors of McCormick taking seminarians to his bed; yes, this is an ugly period in the church, and must blame much fall on many people.  But Vigano rather clearly wants the blame to fall on Francis, the sooner to be rid of this meddlesome Pope.  After listing off all the cardinals and other high church officials who, he claims, knew about McCarrick (and perhaps they did), Vigano tips his hand:

As far as the Roman Curia is concerned, for the moment I will stop here, even if the names of other  prelates in the Vatican are well known, even some very close to Pope Francis, such as Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio and Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, who belong to the homosexual current in favor of subverting Catholic doctrine on homosexuality, a current already denounced in 1986 by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then-Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in the Letter to the  Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons.  Cardinals Edwin Frederick O’Brien and Renato Raffaele Martino also belong to the same current, albeit with a different ideology.  Others belonging to this current even reside at the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

This is where Vigano begins to sound like the anti-Papists of my childhood, who told me how the priests raped the nuns and buried the resulting infants (after abortions, of course!) behind the convent walls.  Granted, the stories of abuse lend some credence to that hysteria, but they don't make it any more credible than what Vigano alleges, nor any more credible than his allegations.  There's a lot of breathlessness around this horror:  The Daily Beast columnist who seems to wish the entire church hierarchy would burst into flames claimed the Pope was "silent" when the Vatican didn't respond to the grand jury report the day it was issued, then reviled the Pope's response, then predicted dire events surrounding his trip to Ireland where he couldn't "hide" from the ongoing revelations.  Given Ireland's recently revealed history of abuse from the Church and it's break with the Church, including a vote to legalize abortion, it didn't seem Francis was hiding at all to go there.  But while there were demonstrations, cathedrals weren't burned, the Pope wasn't assassinated, and the priests were driven out of the country like snakes.  Now this story, written to maximally inflame the furor and point expectantly toward a Pope resigning in disgrace, seems to have more to do with Vatican politics than Papal responsibilities.

I appreciate the problems of the Pope's position:  maximum responsibility without the authority to simply sweep away all who are guilty or appear to be guilty or are thought guilty in a headline, a headline forgotten days later.  It is well to remember there are those in the church who are not interested in justice so much as power, who want to use whatever crisis arises as a chance to kill the king, so to speak, and to retrench and even re-write (and undo) Church history.

The worst part is what a disservice this does to the victims, whose claims are lost in the clamor, whose need for help is ignored in the rush to seize power, whose wounds are not tended by the shepherds of the sheep, whose misery is used merely as another tool by selfish and arrogant men; the same kind of men who harmed them in the first place.

John McCain, R.I.P.

The paens to John McCain, on NPR and "Meet The Press," include the story of his then-flailing Presidential campaign, when McCain flew Southwest and carried his own bags!!!!


No disrespect to the late Senator or his family, but: does the press realize how they sound?

No, probably not.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Too many tweets

Parse out that first sentence carefully. It still means we have a government of politics, not laws. At least, that's what Trump means.
And Trump makes it clear he thinks one Senator speaks for 100. Still looks like a trap to me.

Distraction Kills

Who's going to tell him?

And the e-mails he hasn't seen are bad? Pray tell, how does he know?

Friday, August 24, 2018

Pardon Me?

Pardon me while I suspect somebody is trolling Donald Trump.

Vox and TPM and Slate and NPR all note that "key senators" are turning against Sessions and suggesting Trump ready a new candidate for A.G. to be installed in late November.  But John Cornyn and Ben Sasse have publicly declared that a bad idea.

"He's a quintessential Boy Scout ..." Cornyn said. "And I know this is a difficult position for him to be in but I think it would be bad for the country, it would be bad for the president, it would be bad for the Department of Justice for him to be forced out under these circumstances. So I hope he stays the course and I hope cooler heads prevail."
But the narrative is that Sessions has lost the Senate, and so it's a done deal.  And that's the funny part:  it's the narrative that matters, not the reality.  If Trump fires Sessions, where are the 51 Senators who will approve a new A.G.?  Especially one who will immediately fire Mueller and Rosenstein and half the DOJ and all the FBI and open up all those investigations of Hillary that Trump is demanding?

Or are Graham and Grassley hoping Trump fires Sessions and that leaves Rosenstein in charge?  And Trump is screwed even harder because he so clearly tried to stop Mueller?

“The pardons — I don’t agree with it,” said barber shop owner Aldo Sartorio, who said that the president pardoning Manafort could make him change his mind about backing him in 2020.

“The president better watch about the pardons,” concurred Aldo’s relative, Peter Sartorio. “With the pardons, if he does that, it looks like it was set up by him with the last couple of tweets that he had, where he sticks up for… Manafort, thinks he’s a great guy. He’s kind of sending a message that, ‘If you stick with me, I’ll pardon you.'”
Pardoning Manafort is not the gold-clad winner Trump might expect it to be, and not just on the political front.  If Trump pardons Manafort, Mueller can still compel Manafort to testify. The idea of a non-pardoned witness is that prosecution tends to focus the mind, and immunity is what keeps the 5th Amendment away. But someone with a pardon can't use the 5th Amendment. They can be subpoenaed and threatened with perjury or obstruction of justice if they lie or dissemble, as well as contempt if they simply refuse.

A pardon is not a Get Out Of Jail Free In Perpetuity card.  It's not a Get out of Jail Free card at all. It can't be held for whatever the future brings.  It can only be retrospective, never prospective.  Besides,  Trump's pardon of Manafort could be a criminal act (obstruction, or other crimes). As Josh Marshall points out, Clinton was investigated for pardoning Marc Rich. The facts don't have to fit the Manafort case, the example is enough. The pardon power is essentially without limit, but it's use is not absolutely without consequence.

And if Manafort faces state criminal charges, there's nothing Trump can do for him then.  So a pardon reminds people of what Trump did, while Manafort remains in the news.  In fact, pardoning Manafort or even firing Sessions won't do much at all for Trump's fortunes, as again the indispensable Josh Marshall points out (pardon the length):

That has changed pretty dramatically. Mueller referred the Cohen matter to the Southern District of New York early on, recognizing that at least these issues were outside the scope of his inquiry. That has led into the Trump Organization itself, with the company’s decades-long CFO given immunity in the Cohen investigation. SDNY also gave immunity to the guy who runs The National Enquirer. With that, we find that the Enquirer appears to have run a sort of wide-ranging extortion operation in which it would bury damaging stories about Trump and other celebrities either for money or to ensure their cooperation on other fronts. Maybe they managed that without managing to run afoul of any laws. But I tend to doubt it.

That’s not all. The Public Integrity Section at Main Justice is undertaking a major investigation into Elliott Broidy, the big GOP fundraiser and until recently Deputy Finance Chair of the RNC. Broidy is being investigated for trying to sell access to the Trump White House and DOJ to interests in Malaysia and China. Broidy’s name should be familiar. Michael Cohen set up a hush agreement for him too. Broidy is also at the center of the Saudi/UAE part of the Russia scandal. He’s like the Kevin Bacon of Trump corruption, albeit much less dashing.

The point is this inquiry isn’t part of the Mueller investigation or the Manhattan US Attorney’s office. It’s out of Public Integrity – the main arm through which the DOJ deals with public corruption. Just this morning we learned that the Manhattan District Attorney (that’s state, not federal) is considering pursuing criminal charges against the Trump Organization tied to the misreporting of the Cohen hush money reimbursement. We can even go a bit further afield from Trump and his family to note that the case of Maria Butina, NRA favorite and accused Russian intelligence operative, is being handled out of the Counterintelligence Division, again separate from the Mueller probe. This doesn’t even get into what’s going on at the New York State Attorney General’s office.

The point I’m trying to make is that there’s no longer just one investigation. There’s not two. There are multiple, distinct investigations tied to President Trump and, critically, they are being run either by different jurisdictions or entirely different parts of the Justice Department. There are plenty of paths to the President’s and his family’s undoing even if he manages, through whatever means, to decapitate the Special Counsel Investigation.

Firing Sessions to get to Mueller won't stop the investigations, and probably won't win hearts and minds, either.  And if he fires Sessions and can't replace him easily, that story lives in the headlines for weeks and weeks and weeks and weeks.   Are Graham and Grassley really that ignorant of these facts?

I think not.

It was one year ago today....

Sorry, but sometimes Orwell is proven right again, and it takes all your effort to see what is right in front of your nose:

Yes, the fact that these companies are asking the taxpayers of the world they're ruining to pay for protecting them against the consequences of the world they're ruining is good for a rueful laugh and a quick-tempered reference to roosting chickens.

But, last year, I drove up the path of Hurricane Harvey, from the Gulf of Mexico to Houston, and I saw small towns and their small business in sticks and splinters. I saw people living in tents because their roofs were somewhere in the next county. And the fact remains that these companies go out of their way to put their facilities in some of the country's poorest neighborhoods. So, yeah, this is a wall we should build. Hell, it's infrastructure week anyway.

What is Mr. Pierce talking about?  This:

The plan is focused on a stretch of coastline that runs from the Louisiana border to industrial enclaves south of Houston that are home to one of the world's largest concentrations of petrochemical facilities, including most of Texas' 30 refineries, which represent 30 percent of the nation's refining capacity. Texas is seeking at least $12 billion for the full coastal spine, with nearly all of it coming from public funds. Last month, the government fast-tracked an initial $3.9 billion for three separate, smaller storm barrier projects that would specifically protect oil facilities.

You won't have heard it, but I did:  a podcast from Houston Public Media about hurricanes and Texas, going back to the storm of 1900 that wiped Galveston off Galveston Island, to Hurricane Harvey, which nearly washed Houston away, and did wipe out some towns on the Texas coast (which remain ignored by many because "not-Houston", that's why.)  Turns out Hurricane Ike, from about 10 years ago, almost unleashed a disaster on Texas the likes of which the country has never seen.  Ike was predicted to track straight up the Texas ship channel, "home to one of the world's largest concentrations of petrochemical facilities."  Yup, that area.  It turned north at the last minute, to the everlasting salvation of Houston, the Gulf Coast, and the nation in general.  Had it gone up the ship channel, the damage would have been unimaginable, and not just to the immediate area, but to the Gulf Coast waters.  There's been discussion of this "full coastal spine" ever since, because it was only the grace of God that saved Houston and the Gulf that day.

And please, "the world they're ruining"?  Are we all driving electric cars now?  Do we all buy goods at stores delivered by solar-powered vehicles?  Does no one use any plastic at all?  Are the oil companies forcing us to buy their products?  If you want a rueful laugh, go to the next sentence after that quote:  "But, last year, I drove up the path...." In what?  An ox-cart?  A horse-drawn wagon?  A Tesla?  Not even a hybrid, I'll warrant.  Can we all please stop acting like corporations are evil aliens from outer space that serve us no benefit and aren't a direct response to our desire to buy?  And this line is too funny:

"And the fact remains that these companies go out of their way to put their facilities in some of the country's poorest neighborhoods."

Actually, they go out of their way to build their refineries in places where people don't live; and then people move there anyway.  Harris County Judge Ed Emmett was interviewed this morning on Houston NPR about the flooding brought about by Harvey.  He pointed out that the reservoirs which were eventually opened and flooded much of West Houston (the reason for my infamous "rant") were built 30 miles outside of Houston in the '40's, when few people owned cars and 30 miles away was quite a safe distance indeed.  "Nobody was gonna live out there," as Emmett said; and then we moved the city out there and beyond it, building neighborhoods even directly behind the reservoir's perimeters.  When the reservoirs were built, they were built to drain to the Buffalo Bayou, which out there ran through farmland and today, runs from some of the more expensive real estate in Texas.  But the reservoirs weren't built in those neighborhoods; quite the reverse.

Nor were the refineries built in poor neighborhoods; the neighborhoods came to them.  If you did build a refinery near a rich neighborhood (if you could get away with it, which is unimaginable), the neighborhood would empty out in minutes.  We don't want to live near those things, so usually the people who do buy or rent there because it's all they can afford.  Refineries are built in poor neighborhoods?  No, the neighborhoods are poor because the refineries are there.  We don't want to live near them, but we do want what they produce:  gas, oil, plastics, paint, etc., etc.  Your computer is available because of a refinery, just as your car is.

Do we need the "coastal spine"?  As much as we need what the refineries provide.  And if they are flooded, it will affect us not just in availability of what those refineries make possible for modern life, but in the pollution and poisoning of air, land, and water that will result.  And that's on us, too; we want the benefits of modern industrial life, we have to take the burdens, too.  Those "roosting chickens"?  We want those eggs.

How Deep Is The Derp State?

Because now that Trump has made his motivations public and crystal clear, there's no way it's just " political considerations," right?

Thursday, August 23, 2018

How Derp Is The Deep State?

Michael Cohen pled guilty to criminal violations of federal law, in open court. A federal judge accepted that plea, the U.S.Attorney accepted that plea, Cohen's lawyer accepted that plea.

And yet, there was no crime? Because reasons? That is the argument of a woman on "1A" right now, because some FEC (former) member wrote an op-ed arguing the law is not clear. The law is clear to the judge, the lawyers, and the defendant, but what does that matter? Hail to the tweet!

This is the GOP defense. When the defense isn't: "Over there! Hillary!"

Rudy Giuliani is flushing his legal career down the toilet.  You've gotta wonder what the quid pro quo is there?

And now it is reported that David Pecker and "National Enquirer" were named in the charging documents filed against Michael Cohen, and have entered a plea agreement for immunity in exchange for cooperation. Because Pecker did precisely what Trump did: participated in the felony violation of federal law.

So how is this not a crime, again? Or is the conspiracy against Trump indeed this vast?

(I would normally provide links for all this, but I'm reduced to using my phone right now. Don't cry for me, Argentina. Life is full of minor inconveniences.)

She'd be on firmer ground relying on the tweets of President Legal-Beagle.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Truth isn't Truth. Crime isn't Crime.

Manafort was tried in a court of competent jurisdiction based on a defense that the government had failed to prove its case.  Obviously the government proved its case on 8 of 18 counts, earning a mistrial on, mostly, the conspiracy counts.  There is a reason prosecutors bring multiple charges; it's so they win on any one of them.  A jury of his peers weighed Manafort and found him wanting, and he is now a convicted felon.

Is it a witch hunt if they keep catching witches?

Manafort faces more charges, and the government could retry the 10 it failed to get convictions on.  Manafort's criminal liability is really not graded on a sliding scale; like pregnancy, you're a felon, or you aren't.

Manafort is a felon.

So Cohen is such a bad lawyer, and got such bad legal advice, that he accepted criminal liability for acts that aren't crimes?  Wow, this Deep State is powerful indeed!*

Or maybe Trump really, really doesn't have a clue:

“When is someone in team Trump going to turn to the president and say, ‘Sir, the emperor is naked and your attorney is drunk?'” [Mika] Brzezinski said. “Like, at what point is someone going to tell the president the truth: ‘The emperor has no clothes and, even worse, his attorney is a runaway beer truck.'”

*If you are curious, this is what Trump is referring to.  The case involved a fine by the FEC, not even allegations of criminal misconduct.

Better Call Saul!

The next time I'm pulled over for speeding I'll explain to the officer that everybody exceeds the speed limit, and ask him if he's ever told a lie (proving he's a known liar!), and point out that the traffic laws are a "morass of misdemeanors, felonies, crimes, non-crimes with exceptions," and that every driver on the road has "violated some technical [traffic] law."

I'm sure it will serve me well in traffic court.  Maybe I'll hire Alan Dershowitz instead; the President hasn't advised against that yet!

“The election laws are a morass of misdemeanors, felonies, crimes, non-crimes with exceptions,” he said.

Dershowitz then lashed out at Michael Cohen, saying “the only evidence that the president has done anything wrong comes from a man who is admitted to be a liar.” (Michael Cohen taped conversations with the president, which would appear to solve this perceived problem.)*

“Every campaign has violated some technical campaign law,” he said.
*and how many lies has the President told?  As of August 1, WaPo has him up to 4,229.  Sauce for the goose, dude.  Besides, we have the Stormy Daniels paperwork; there really isn't a doubt who paid her to keep quiet, or why she was paid when she was.  Or is Rudy Giuliani a liar, too?  Charlie Pierce is right:  "the best people" is never not funny.