Tuesday, April 30, 2019

I remember this in 1972

Nixon was re-elected in '72. John Mitchell was his campaign manager, no longer the AG. He was convicted of his crimes in 1975. Nixon had resigned a year earlier.

I remember how anxious we were to remove Nixon and punish, especially, Mitchell. Nixon had won by the biggest landslide in U.S. history. Two years later he was gone in disgrace. I even remember people who held foreign countries in disdain claiming those foreign countries thought America was mad, because Nixon was so effective in foreign policy. If that sounds like Neal Gorsuch, it's because history rhymes, more and more.

So when I read something like this:
I remember the sense of impatience. But I am old, and now I know how long these things take. The investigation of Nixon moved like a glacier. It now seems like it moved at lightning speed. Congress just returned from recess. Is it coincidence Mueller's letter shows up in WaPo and NYT today? Yeah, I don't think so, either.<
William Barr should be impeached and removed from office, and then disbarred. I have no use for him as a lawyer. But I also reflect on the wisdom of Sweeney Todd: "You are young. Life has been kind to you. You will learn."

It's charming the way some people believe in the awesome power of the System. It's also maddeningly naive.  Watergate took forever. Watergate was over in the blink of an eye. And six years later, we had Reagan. In the end, did we permanently change anything?

Old age and wisdom suck like that. Or maybe it's just my cynicism.

So they took out loans...

...for beer and diapers?

Fitzgerald was right; the rich are different.

STILL Fighting the Last War

By way of explanation:
Begun, the conspiracy has...

Monday, April 29, 2019

Pray God...

...there are no state dinners between now and November, 2020.

(And why does he insult our athletes so?)

Since I posted....

....that, I really should post this.

Just Another Morning in America

Yes, yes he is.
Yeah, apparently that didn't go so well; maybe because Trump doesn't seem to have anything better to do?
Damned pesky rule of law!
I hate the unions, but I love union workers!
You scared, bro?  You sound scared.
You really sound scared.
I'm guessing the fear of the unions and Biden is connected?
Well, at least he's reduced to trying to rely on Barr's discredited summary:
"WAAAH!!! They were mean to me!"
I'm not so sure authoritarianism is being normalized:
He said that at a rally of 10,000 people.  Kamala Harris drew 22,000 to her campaign kickoff rally, however, and Beto O'Rourke had anywhere from 18,000 to 26,000 at three rallies in Texas (depending on who you ask).  Sanders drew drew over 37,000 in one weekend in three locations; maybe we should be more attentive to what these three said, since more people seem to be listening?

I think Trump's complete idleness and the emptiness of the Office of the President is by far the bigger concern.

More Spoilers Than You Can Shake A Stick At!

You have been warned!

I have no real clue who reads this blog, aside from a handful (as in fingers on one) of people.  It isn't that large a crowd anyway, but it dropped off so significantly this weekend I assumed many of you were watching "Avengers:  Endgame," as I was.  If you were, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.  (If you weren't, or won't be, then I suspect you won't be much interested in this.)  I read articles obsessively about it beforehand, and watched endless YouTube videos on what would happen and why, mostly because they popped up on my phone and I found I could link my TeeVee to my phone, so the fun of that proved irresistible.  Otherwise, I would have resisted.  None of those theories proved to have any insight into the final chapter of what Marvel Studios is apparently calling the "Infinity Saga."  Not that the title makes any sense, since the "saga" clearly came to an end (a nice narrative touch, I must add).  What was interesting was what did make it into the final chapter, and how much everyone seems to have overlooked it.

There are lots of articles out there, from the hopeless whinging about "plot holes" (when you don't know what to say, "plot holes" sounds like clever insight.  Here's a hint:  it's neither clever nor insightful, and about as useful a term as "perjury trap," something else that means "I don't know what I'm talking about but I think this makes me look like I do."  It doesn't, either.) to complaints about the death of Scarlett Johanson's character because: second wave feminism, or something.  I wanted to riposte all such arguments, but by today I realized I was just arguing with everyone on the internet (who are WRONG!), and that was a bootless endeavor.  So, theories abound, and rather than point out the flaws in everyone else's (which doesn't prove mine sound), I decided to cut to the chase and leave out what would have been lengthy discussions about Thor's story arc or why timey-wimey time travel narratives, and get straight to the point.  A point to which, it turns out, there is no straight line.

But here's the thesis:  the resolution to 21 MCU films turns out not to be a plot-driven climax where James Bond wins because he is James Bond and the bad guy must lose (because the plot dictates it), but actually a character-driven saga in which character, not superpowers, prevail.  (Pardon the odd James Bond reference, but those movies are my "go to" for explaining plot-driven stories to my students.  The reason most people love "Casino Royale" is because it is more about Bond's character than just about good guys win, bad guys lose.  But I digress....)

To do this right, we need to take some of the major characters in turn, starting with Thor.

These two final Avengers movies are a palimpsest at best, a single long story at least.  Word was the original plan was to put the "snap" off until the second film, which gives you some idea how closely related they are.  I assume you've read this far because you know at least these two films and are interested in the topic; if I'm wrong, you'll be disappointed because I'm not going to explain how our heroes come to the beginning of "Endgame," I'm going to assume you know.  There's only so much once can do in the space of a blog post.

So, we know Thor acquired a battle axe, having lost his fabled hammer, and he hurled it at Thanos and speared him despite Thanos using the combined power of the six infinity stones to repel the weapon.  This should make Thor the strongest being in the universe, as the Hulk ("Stongest Avenger") couldn't defeat Thanos even without the latter using the power of the stones.  I'll digress from the action of the films here a moment to make a point I want to place at the center of this analysis.  All the theories and stories I saw before "Endgame" premiered, speculated on what powerful Marvel character would appear to enact Thanos' doom by being more powerful than Thanos.  Immediate speculation fell on Captain Marvel; but as time passed, some wondered if Adam Warlock (foreshadowed in the second "Guardians of the Galaxy" film; yes, I'm that big an MCU nerd) would appear, because he defeated Thanos in the comic books with superior power.  Some even thought other powerful characters from the comics would debut, sufficient to overcome the might of the villain.  Oddly, almost no one expected Thor to reprise his feat at the end of "Infinity War," and most mentions of it went with Thanos' last words to Thor, with the axe in his chest:  "You should have gone for the head."

Precisely what Thor does, as soon as the Avengers who remain find  the planet Thanos is on, and get there.  Thor swings his battle axe again, cleaves Thanos' head from his shoulders, and when the shocked team members ask him what he has done, he says "I went for the head."  (one review of the movie actually passed over this scene, complaining nothing happened in the first 30 minutes of the film).  Why does Thor commit such a cold-blooded murder?  Thanos is wounded, his right side clearly damaged and withered.  It seems Thanos used the power of the Infinity Stones to destroy the Infinity Stones (something Wanda tried to do with the Mind Stone at the end of "Infinity War."  Everything in these two movies is a prelude to something else.), and so reversing the "snap" became impossible.  Angry at this turn of events, still seething that he didn't stop Thanos on the battlefield earlier, Thor releases his emotions in one fell swoop (literally).  And five years later, as the movie jumps forward in time to the next plot point, the return of Ant Man from the Quantum Realm (don't think about it too hard, it's a comic book movie), Thor has become a drunken wastrel, still appalled at himself for being capable of such a needless and unjustified act of murder (the narrative doesn't dwell on that plain fact; Thor does it for the story.   Show, don't tell, although that point is lost on some.).  Thor the character, the heroic leader of Asgard after Ragnarok (the movie and the mythical end of Asgard), is reduced to a broken wreck (not unlike Valkyrie in "Ragnarok," despairing over the death of all her comrades at the hands of Hela, the villain of that movie).  At the end of "Ragnarok" Thor doesn't defeat Hela by his superior power, but by his superior character:  he allows the destruction of Asgard, which defeats her.  He literally destroys the village in order to save it, because "the village" is the people, not the place.  The place is lost, the people live on, and appear in "Endgame" where Valkyrie leads them, as Thor keeps himself in a drunken stupor.  Probably one of the best parts of "Endgame" is the point that lessons of character are seldom learned once and for all; more likely we take one step forward, and two steps back, until the lessons finally start to take hold.

Thor recovers his sense of self by the end of "Endgame," and that sets up a story as yet untold.  So we leave him there; his part in this thesis will become apparent, soon.

Mark Ruffalo has said these movies ("Ragnarok," "Infinity War," and "Endgame") mark a three-story arc for the Hulk.  That arc is actually four stories, as it goes back to "Age of Ultron," where Black Widow makes it clear she is attracted to Banner; and Banner makes it clear he wants nothing to do with a relationship, romantic or otherwise, because of his affliction (i.e., being the Hulk, too).  He flees earth at the end of "Ultron," ignoring Natasha's pleas to return.  He finally returns in "Infinity War," and we never see him explain to Natasha where he was, or why.  By the opening of "Endgame" it's clear Natasha is no longer carrying any torch for Bruce, and equally clear Bruce isn't worrying about Natasha's feelings (if he ever did).  He has solved his problem, five years after the movie starts, by managing to combine his personality/brains with Hulk's brawn.  When we first see "Professor Hulk," Banner delights in his transformation, and is extremely taken with himself over it. His personality, it turns out, is neither really all that heroic, nor all that admirable.  What Natasha saw in him we'll never know. When he isn't trying to solve the problems of time travel (he doesn't), he's self-satisfied and completely wrapped up in the joy of being Bruce Banner.  He uses the Hulk's brute strength once, and makes a sacrifice that pre-figures the final sacrifice of the movie, when he uses the recovered Infinity Stones (how is a plot point of the movie) to reverse the "snap" from the end of the last movie.  This succeeds, but it leaves Professor Hulk with a withered, and quite useless, arm.  Such sacrifice is almost enough to redeem the character of Banner; who isn't a bad guy, but isn't the noble hero of the group, by a long shot.

Before the movie came out, I raised the point with my daughter that the soul stone required a mortal sacrifice in "Infinity War," so who were the Avengers going to sacrifice?  Turns out a self-sacrifice was sufficient, and Black Widow insists it will be her.  She and Clint Barton travel to the planet where the soul stone is held, unaware of this fatal wrinkle (as Thanos and Gamora were previously), but unlike Thanos, they deliberate for some time over what to do.  Natasha knows recovery of the stones will return Barton's family (all turned to dust), and it would be a cruel joke to return to them to explain how they were recovered by his sacrifice.  She, we learn, didn't even know who her father was; she has no family to be lost to, and in the end, she prevails and makes the fall that wins the stone for our heroes.  It is a sacrifice based on character which will be repeated in the story.

In the climactic battle, when Thanos has unleashed his armies including new weapons as well as those familiar from the first Avengers movie, and an army of heroes has been delivered by a deus ex machina (what other way is there to say it?),Tony Stark asks Dr. Strange if this battle is the 1 time the good guys win that Strange saw in the earlier movie (out of 14 million plus possible outcomes).  Strange says he can't say, because it might change the outcome.  In the course of the battle, every hero, including Captain Marvel and Captain America with Thor's hammer, goes up against Thanos, but can't defeat him trading power for power.  Tony then sees Dr. Strange across the battlefield (what eyes he has!), and Strange holds up one finger, indicating this is their only chance.  Tony understands, and just as Thanos lifts the glove with the stones on it, the same one Hulk used earlier and Thanos says he will now use to eliminate all life in the universe (so he can start over and be in charge), Tony struggles with the glove and manages to slip all the stones off onto his armor.  He then snaps his fingers and eliminates Thanos and all his forces, making the universe safe for democracy; or something like that.  Had Tony known beforehand, would he have done it?  Would he have hesitated, waiting for some other savior to win the day by power, not character, and so lost the war?

If the power of the stones left Thanos limping at the end of "Infinity War" and withered him the second time around, and left Hulk permanently injured, it is deadly to Tony; but he expected that.  It is not, in the end, his technology or strength of arm or superior power that saves the day; it is the strength of his character, his recognition that the "shield" he wanted to put over the world (that idea is reprised in the opening of the film) will never work, and only sacrifice, at the right time in the right way, will.  He wins by losing everything.  Tony has tried to avoid this battle;  he has married Pepper and has a young girl to raise, he wanted nothing to do with seeking a new way to undo the end of the last film.  But in the end he sacrifices all that to save everyone, including his wife and child.  It was, as Dr. Strange said in his last words in "Infinity War," the only way.

Power does not triumph here.  Captain Marvel cannot defeat Thanos in a battle of power; neither can Captain America, nor the combined forces of the good guys in the MCU.  Only character, only sacrifice, only the power of powerlessness (the stones are powerful, Tony is not powerful enough, he is powerless against them), wins. Sacrifice is not power; it is the very opposite of it.

In the end, character prevails over power.  It is not power that wins the victory:  not for Thor, or Bruce Banner, or Black Widow (often discussed as the least powerful of all the superheroes in these movies), or Captain America, or Iron Man.  It is, finally, their character that matters. and their character that truly wins.  Not because character is power, but precisely because it isn't.

It's an interesting lesson from a comic book movie.

The Yoda Defense

John Earnest, 19, was charged on Sunday afternoon with one count of murder in the first degree and three counts of attempted murder in the first degree, according to records posted on the website of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.

Lori Gilbert-Kaye, 60, was killed in the Saturday morning attack and three people, including an 8-year-old girl, were injured.

But according to Lindsay Graham, we "don't care" about the three wounded people, because Earnest didn't manage to murder them, right?

Except the law is not Yoda; "endeavoring" to obstruct is enough to run afoul of the statute.  Oddly, Graham admits Trump tried to obstruct justice.  He just gives Trump a "King's X," because....reasons.  Or maybe it should be labelled the Nixon defense:  "If the President does it, it's not illegal."

Yeah, that one doesn't work in court, either.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

When will they ever learn?

They really should leave AOC alone.

The attack on the term "Easter worshippers" is a sign they are absolutely out if ideas and desperately stroking their basest supporters so they will continue to have any at all.

Well, that and continuing to attack AOC, because having an enemy is all Trump understands. Trying to actually do something, rather than criticize someone, is beyond his cognizance.

It would be horrifying, except....

...no one is paying any attention to him.

Have you heard about this in the news? CNN, CBS, MSNBC, NPR, anybody?  Maggie Haberman didn't note any major publication reporting on it. If not for Rupar's Twitter feed, I wouldn't know about it.

There's something to be said for not spreading this noxious bullshit; then again , this is the POTUS. His staff shouldn't ignore him either, but their excuse is avoiding criminal liability themselves. When the press is ignoring the POTUS because his statements are insane, what does that say about the state of the Presidency?

Or the state of journalism? This does seem rather anodyne, even for the Grey Lady:

So what is the state of play?

Friday, April 26, 2019

"It's not a lie, if you think it's true!"--George Costanza

(besides, what greater punishment can he inflict?)

Corrections Gleefully Recognized

Well, apparently Congress CAN send the Sergeant at Arms out to arrest people.

“Yes, absolutely,” [Rep. David] Cicilline [D-RI] replied. “First of all Chris, Congress cannot allow the president to prevent us from conducting our oversight.”

“There are three things Congress can do if witnesses refuse to comply with a lawfully issued subpoena,” he explained.

“One is refer to the Department of Justice for prosecution because that’s a crime,” he noted. “We don’t have a lot confidence Mr. Barr will do that.”

“The second is start a civil proceeding and get a citation from the court that would judge that person in contempt and do it that way,” he continued.

“But there’s a third method which we can do right away. Since 1821, the Supreme Court has recognized the inherent right of Congress to hold individuals in contempt and to imprison them,” Cicilline explained.

“Congress has the responsibility — and I would say the obligation — to hold individuals in contempt who do not comply with a lawful subpoena, who do not produce documents, and we ought to be prepared to imprison them because we have that inherent right,” he explained.

“I love you congressman, but let me ask you this, how do you do it?” Matthews asked. “The Sergeant of Arms in the House to go pick up the Secretary of the Treasury, break past his Secret Service agents and grab him and take him to Capitol Hill and put him in some calaboose?”

“Chris, that’s exactly what happened in 1935, they put the person in custody for 10 days,” Cicilline replied. “Congress has to be serious about this.”

“We have three ways to make sure the witnesses comply and we have to use them,” he added.

And can we see that third option live on TeeVee, please?  Me some too, please, yes?

Maybe that's something Congress needs to do once every 85 years or so.

And about Trump's open refusal to cooperate with Congress:

We still have the distinction between impeachment (which is really just indictment) and removal from office (= conviction),  But public hearings alone, conducted as professionally as possible (i.e., with minimum opportunities for grandstanding), would put a great deal of this before the public.  Even if election is the only possible cure for what ails us, hearings on impeachable offenses would be a valuable part of the political discourse (why do you think people were so glad to see Nixon go, and so angry with Ford for pardoning him?  Because of Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman?)

The Quality of our National Discourse

And, because it's my blog and this afternoon I'm off to see "Avengers: Endgame," so I just don't care:

John Baron, 'Cheif' Hostage Negotiator of the United States

Cheif apologist for his own self, too: Not very good at it, though. And he continues not to think about impeachment:

Talk Is Cheap

That's why Trump likes it.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Life is not a TeeVee Show

Let's see:  18 hours ago (Google tells me), WaPo published this headline:

The article says Cummings is scheduling a vote on the matter for the committee (House Oversight).  

I guess they should do that in 24 hours, so we have something to talk about on Twitter tomorrow morning?  You know, "political" Twitter where a handful of people think they are the whole world?

I remember those people from Clinton days, where the fora were places like "Table Talk" at Salon.  Then bloggers arose, and Obama treated them to a day at the White House, and suddenly DailyKos was going to rule the world!

Whatever happened to that?

Got to say I'm more and more in favor of impeachment hearings, with counsel (not Representatives who are lawyers) leading the questioning, much as was done in Watergate.  It wasn't always riveting viewing, but it underscored the seriousness of the matters in question.

Three or four committees trying to pick the carcass of the Trump administration and firing off subpoenas from all quarters and grandstanding for C-SPAN (because the majors won't cover that circus; not for long, if at all) sounds like ruination to me.  The House should move on that; but they don't have to do it by the end of the week.

Deliberation and determination go a long way to making it look like a legitimate effort, rather than a partisan political one.  Although pursuing impeachment per se, should not be the goal (IIRC, Watergate hearings began as a Congressional investigation, and slowly moved toward impeachment based on evidence uncovered.)  To cite Rick Wilson approvingly this time:

There's no reason not to use the Watergate model again.  What began as "What fresh hell is this?" ended with "This cannot stand!"

And then the GOP Senators pushed Nixon out of the window.

If the House goes straight to impeachment hearings, a la the Gingrich Congress, and McConnell calls their bluff by holding the trial, it will be Clinton redux, or even the recall of Scott Walker, a failed effort that left Walker invisible and bulletproof; and re-elected.

So, deliberation and determination are the course to follow.

On the other hand, not everything is about the Mueller report:

So there are going to be a lot of contempt of Congress motions to consider.


You see, there were good people on both sides in WWII.  But immigration issues?  Only good people on 1 side.

Everybody knows that.

More Songs about Courts and Laws

Told ya so.  (Although please to note Congress can only enforce subpoenas by going to court.  So there's no rapid response team to this, no sending out the Sergeant-at-Arms or some such.  The Capitol Police don't enforce subpoenas.  Viz:

Either house of Congress can vote to hold in contempt a witness who refuses to provide testimony or produce requested documents pursuant to a congressionally authorized subpoena. As set out in 2 U.S.C. § 194, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia has the “duty [] to bring the matter before the grand jury for its action.” Contempt of Congress, which is a federal misdemeanor, is punishable by a maximum $100,000 fine and a maximum one-year sentence in federal prison. But if the executive branch is not inclined to prosecute a contemnor (the contemnor is a person or entity who is guilty of contempt before a judicial or legislative body), Congress will have a difficult time implementing such a penalty.  Congress can also file a lawsuit asking a judge to order the witness to provide the information, raising the additional possibility of imprisonment for contempt of court.

Sorry.  You want to see just how slow this can go, read the article about Obama's assertion of executive privilege, that took 42 months to resolve against him.  By then Congress had changed and was no longer interested.  OTOH, Trump has waived executive privilege for everything Congress is looking for right now.  Still, the courts won't move all that fast, which is why hearings should begin and get this stuff before the public,. That is what Trump fears most.)

"The Dogs! Go back to the dogs!"

We don't have a President.  We have a fucking half-assed failed celebrity who thinks he's a toastmaster.

Morning Fun With Twitter

Well, that and the record of the conversation comes from the wholly invalid report which wholly exonerates Trump. From testimony given under oath; something Trump's lawyers knew better than to let him do. Meanwhile, back on the campaign trail:

Obviously part of a conspiracy by the DNC and disgruntled Hillary supporters, right?

And if you think I'm kidding:
20 candidates means there's gonna be a lot of this.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

History Doesn't Repeat Itself; But It Does Rhyme

All the more reason to follow Elizabeth DeVega's advice.

The Problem with Conspiracies (and Theories)

If we're going to talk about conspiracy theories, we have to talk about "Othello" (although there's something odd about a discussion of conspiracy theories in the U.S. that never mentions anything newer than "Pizzagate."  Q Anon, anyone?  Or is that the conspiracy, to ignore the conspiracy elephant in the room?!).

Iago is, for my money, Shakespeare's greatest villain, because he is Shakespeare's purest villain.  In his monologue (he is speaking to Roderigo, it's not a soliloquy) in Act 1, Iago brings his self-description down to as pure a distillation as he can:  "I am not what I am."  It's the negation of the voice of God to Moses from the burning bush, and it identifies Iago with the Father of Lies.  But it also identifies Iago's greatest threat, to Othello and to established order:  he is not to be trusted.  Period.

Think of the Elizabethan age, where Catholics are suddenly enemies to the crown (Stephen Greenblatt's biography of Shakespeare conjectures that Shakespeare pere was RC, and had to hide it to keep his minor functionary government position; and to keep his head).  Elizabeth is best on all sides with challenges to her authority, over the nation, the church, matters of national security, etc.  The theaters were shut down because they were gathering places where people might conspire; Marlowe died, some think, because he was a spy for the Crown (whether this is historically accurate is irrelevant; the era was rife with suspicion).  Many people were "disappeared" before we learned the term from the Spanish language; and they reappeared as heads sans bodies on London bridge.  You weren't tried but you were convicted.  The British learned a great deal from the Romans (their legal system still echoes Rome's, despite the common law jurisprudence; and "Circus" still designates roundabouts, not entertainments); one lesson they deeply learned was how to maintain the Pax Romana.  The brutal rule that crucified Jesus of Nazareth taught the British monarchs how to maintain their power, too.

But the other side of that system is trust:  if no one could be trusted, if the entire system was made up of Iagos, each looking out only for their own interests, each telling you what you wanted to hear or, more importantly, what they wanted you to hear, the social as well as governmental order of society would collapse.  Iago represents that extreme:  he lies to Roderigo, the better to use him for Iago's schemes (Iago stabs Roderigo to death in Act 5); he lies to Othello, to Cassio, to Desdemona, to his own wife.  Nothing Iago says can be relied on, and Iago counts on that.  He destroys the lives of Othello and Desdemona, almost destroy's Cassio's life (and almost takes it, through Roderigo), murders Roderigo and his own wife to protect himself, and nearly undoes the Duke's rule in Cyprus into the bargain.  He promotes what we might call a conspiracy theory, that Cassio is sleeping with Desdemona to cuckold Othello, with details that are as realistic as Q Anon or Pizzagate (where the famous basement of the pizza parlor doesn't exist).  As Iago spins Othello tighter and tighter into frenzy, he convinces his commander that Cassio is naked with Desdemona every moment Othello is apart from both of them.  It is a physical impossibility, as the action of the play in Cyprus, from Act 2 to Act 5, takes place in 48 hours or a little more; there aren't enough nights for all the love play Iago describes, much less enough opportunity.  It's pure fabulism but poor Othello, who "loved not wisely but too well" accepts it all as gospel.  And Iago, if he could, would snatch Desdemona for himself, and bring down the government in Cyprus to achieve his ends.  If he were left standing as he plans, the sole survivor of the military hierarchy for the Duke in Cyprus, the mind reels at what chaos he would engender.

Iago's power is lies; but the power of his lies is the distrust he sows with them.  Shakespeare's theme is plain.  It's a theme he plays out in Hamlet, MacBeth, Lear, even "A Midsummer Night's Dream":  there is a right ordering of society, an ordering based on authority (the king must accept responsibility for his crown and rule; the authority of the king is not challenged lightly, if at all; even wives must accept the authority of their husbands (Oberon and Titania), but all relationships:  between ruler and ruled, between parents and children, between friends and lovers, husbands and wives, are based on trust.  Without trust, even the simplest personal relationship are impossible.  Without trust, the entire social order sways and threatens collapse.

Iago's power never spreads so far because he is isolated on Cyprus (as are Othello and Desdemona and Cassio and Roderigo), but also because he is not isolated; he is ultimately a tiny minority in the body politic of the Duchy of Venice.  Emissaries from Venice expose Iago, and while Othello takes responsibility for his actions, Iago is to be held responsible for his.  By the same token, conspiracy theories may seem to run rampant today, but how many people are truly inspired to go to the pizza parlor and demand access to a basement that isn't there?  How many people are going to rise up and make the predictions of "Q" (I still say the name comes from "ST:NG", not the security clearance levels of the DOE) come true?  How many more than that are going to give up on "Q" altogether, as reports said some were after Mueller's report didn't lead to mass arrests Q has been promising?

The problem with conspiracy theories is their destructive nature, but that nature is not necessarily criminal; and, as the Mueller report should have made clear, criminal is not the sine qua non of behavior standards.  Conspiracy theories destroy simple bonds of trust, of reliance, of faith, that we much have in each other.  I have never carried a gun or even owned one, because I don't care for hunting, on the one hand; and because I don't think my fellow citizens, whatever their socio-economic status, are slathering beasts waiting to beat and rob and rape me the moment they know I carry no more dangerous a weapon than a Swiss Army knife.  I trust them to be as civilized as I am, and in that trust I have not lost faith, yet.  Conspiracy theories whisper to us to lose that trust.

Fortunately, even in the worst of times, even with the POTUS promoting them, ideas of conspiracies afoot seldom find that many adherents.  The example of the Holocaust is the exception, that proves the rule.  Especially the rule about how much of the world, v. the minority that champion them, hate conspiracy theories, and will denounce the worst of them into the ages.

Just Say "No"

The context is a speech that's supposed to be about the crisis of opioid addiction.

Follow the tweet back to the thread. It sure seems like Trump is a little puzzled he's not getting spontaneous chants of "Lock her up!  Lock her up!"  The best part is probably when he starts talking about dogs, and there's some polite applause, so he keeps talking about dogs.

He knows how to play to his audience; kinda; sorta.

This, too, can be explained

Turns out Obama has 106 million followers on Twitter.  Trump only has 60 million.  All you need to know, really.

“Well, the subpoena is ridiculous,” he said. “We have been the most transparent president and administration in the history of our country, by far,” he added.

“We just went through the Mueller witch hunt where you had really 18 angry democrats that hate President Trump. They hate him with a passion. They were contributors in many cases to Hillary Clinton. Hate him with a passion.”

“I say it’s enough…. We’re fighting all the subpoenas.”

Why is Trump speaking of himself in the third person?  Because he can't stand the thought of being "hated with a passion"?

Grandpa's got the phone again!

Wait, wut?
So, which is it?*
Shouldn't you update that slogan, too?  It's been 2 years now.
But the substance of the call, that part's true?
“The president called up the friend of our show Bob Costa overnight on an unrelated topic,” Jackson said, “and Bob smartly asked him about all of these subpoenas that House Democrats are issuing against the Trump administration, and the president made the argument to the Post, ‘Hey, I cooperated plenty with Robert Mueller, what do I have to cooperate with Congress for?”
Though I'm guessing people who agree with the idea of "ARMED SOLDIERS" at the Border (who can't legally use those arms) also think this is a necessary piece of interior decoration.

And oh, once again:  fantasy land.

It was unclear what incident Mr. Trump was referring to when he said Mexican soldiers "pulled guns." But Newsweek reported last week, citing an serious incident report, that members of the Mexican military briefly held two U.S. Army soldiers at gunpoint earlier this month, believing the soldiers had crossed into Mexican territory. CBS News has not confirmed the alleged encounter. 

Every word, including "and" and "the"....

Which sent me looking to AOC's Twitter feed, to see if she'd responded to Trump.  There I found this:
It really is a matter of who your enemies are, sometimes.

Yeah, it really doesn't work that way....

So, here's a good general analysis of the Constitutional provisions for impeachment of a sitting President; although actually, the thrust of the analysis is on removal, not impeachment.

First:  grounds for impeachment.
... the operative legal standard to apply to an impeachment of a sitting President is "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors." There is substantial difference of opinion over the interpretation of these words.
The interpretations run broadly into four categories.   First is the idea that Congress alone can decide what a "high crime and misdemeanor" is.  Legal scholars don't like this, because it means the President serves at the pleasure of Congress.  I have to point out, though, the history of Bush v. Gore, where the Supreme Court entered into a political issue (who won the count in Florida?) and put their thumb on the scales.  They clearly thought this was a one-off opinion (they declared it to be so), and just as clearly thought they were doing everybody a favor.  The public reaction to that opinion led the Court to not do something so bold or paternalistic again.  There is a history of the Court finding out it has gotten too far away from public opinion.  Reversing a removal of a President from office because the Court's majority doesn't like the way the House framed the Articles of Impeachment would probably be a bridge too far for many observers, and represent a Constitutional crisis on its own (and call into question the legitimacy of the Judiciary).  So while the analysis is dismissive of this interpretation because legal scholars find it discomfiting, I wouldn't discard it quite so readily.

The second category is that the President must have committed an indictable crime (a point made, obliquely, by Kellyanne Conway this morning; this White House is scared to death of the prospect of impeachment).  But the word "misdemeanor," say others, means an indictable crime is not required.  This argument centers on the debates over the language of this article.  "Corruption" was rejected, as was "maladministration," and finally "misdemeanors" was approved, although that was not a term of criminal law at the time.

The fourth category is that the offense must relate to official Presidential duties.

All of these, of course, go solely to the question of impeachment.  But the issue becomes reviewable (at least the analysis seems to agree), when (and only when) the trial in the Senate results in removal.

There are a few subtle issues, here.  First, it seems to be agreed that judicial review is not available for impeachment, only for removal from office following impeachment.  However, the rules by which the House and Senate conduct the removal process (impeachment and trial, respectively), are well within the power of each house to establish.  That seems pretty clear from the language of Art. 1, Sec. 3:

"The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments..."

I also want to add here that:

The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers;and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.
Art. 1, Sec. 2, U.S. Constitution.  Which seems to pretty much give the House the power to impeach on whatever grounds they choose, and in whatever manner they decide upon (just as the House alone can pick its "Speaker and other Officers.")  Can the Court disagree with the House's definition of "high crimes and misdemeanors"?  That would certainly interfere with the "sole power", wouldn't it?  (The analysis of possible judicial review based on Nixon, below, goes only to the obligation of the Senate to "try all Impeachments," rather than take an extraordinary step to vote for removal without any trial.  This indicates the Court would be very reluctant to interfere with any process that fits the broad outlines of Art. 1.)

That's often read as preventing judicial review of such a trial; but it clearly limits any possible judicial review to outcome, not process.  If the Senate has sole power to try impeachments, it has sole power to determine how to try impeachments, and the Courts have no final authority to review that process; only to, as below, be sure some process (v. no process) is followed.

Which makes the question of judicial review of an impeachment trial even thornier.  As I said, the Court has found itself ahead of (or behind) public opinion before, and is usually careful to circumscribe its role in political fights, especially.  The Court may side with the Administration in the Census question fight; whether it will enter into a fight between Congress and the President over how to build the border wall, is another matter (the Court certainly won't decide how Congress appropriates money, or not, for such issues).  Pay attention to the language here, dicta in the case before the Court, but part of the paucity of case law on Presidential impeachments (since no President has ever been removed from office):

"Finally, as applied to the special case of the President, the majority's argument merely points out that, were the Senate to convict the President without any kind of trial, a Constitutional crisis might well result. It hardly follows that the Court ought to refrain from upholding the Constitution in all impeachment cases. Nor does it follow that, in cases of Presidential impeachment, the Justices ought to abandon their constitutional responsibilities because the Senate has precipitated a crisis."
The argument there posits an extreme case:  removal from Presidential office without a trial.  The Senate may have sole power to try impeachments, but the argument would be the Senate must have a trial.  Being a political act, an impeachment trial would have to be perceived as fair and in accordance with at least rough notions of due process.  But could the Court review the trial procedure for compliance with Federal Rules of Procedure?  Or could it merely step into a Constitutional crisis caused by slighting the Constitution as much as possible, as in disposing of the effort of a Senate trial altogether?  The argument there turns on the Senate precipitating a crisis, not on a crisis being precipitated solely by removal of a sitting President.

That was Justice White; here is Justice Souter, in the same case:

"If the Senate were to act in a manner seriously threatening the integrity of its results...judicial interference might well be appropriate." Walter Nixon v. United States, 506 U.S. at 253.

Again, both opinions assume a worst case scenario, a case in which the Court has to preserve the integrity of the Constitution because Congress (the Senate) has flagrantly undermined that integrity.  And both depend on the actions of the Senate to prompt a judicial review.  The actions of the House, the very grounds for impeachment, are not covered by either of these arguments.

Which puts us back at the question of what constitutes "high crimes and misdemeanors."  Alan Dershowitz tried to argue the Supreme Court could intervene at what is, essentially, the indictment phase of the process; but that isn't done even in criminal cases.  If the indictment leads to an acquittal, it is proof the indictment was flawed.  If the indictment leads to a conviction, the indictment can still be challenged on appeal, and the grounds for the indictment nullified for all future similar cases.  But I can't think of a way an indictment can be challenged on appeal, any more than a denial of a motion for summary judgment (basically a dismissal) can be appealed before the final judgment is entered.  Interlocutory appeals (appeals before final judgment) are both rare and rarely granted.  The clear impetus of the analysis at FindLaw is that impeachment must result in removal from office (i.e., a final judgment) before the Court could review the impeachment, if it could review the impeachment.  And the Court seems to have understood it could not interfere in that process absent compelling Constitutional grounds, i.e., the failure of the Senate to conduct any trial at all.  It's doubtful the Court would even review the propriety of the trial (especially if the Chief Justice agreed to the conduct of it by overseeing it*), so it would seem the grounds for judicial review, even if possible, are very narrow and specific indeed.

Trump says he'll go to the Court if the House even "tries to impeach."  That's not going to work out the way he thinks it will.

*The CJ's involvement in the trial would probably also prompt a recusal, bringing the matter before a court that could rule 4-4, and so not decide at all.

And this is how you thank your hosts in advance

...for inviting you to a state visit.

What Action Movie Do These Idiots Live In?

This is an actual piece of furniture that you can actually purchase.  I'm trying to imagine the guy who thinks he needs to be able to grab a gun from the bookshelf on the wall so he can blaze away, two-fisted, at the bad guys who have....walked in through the front door?

So, the scenario is this?  The bloodthirsty cut-throats have battered down your door, or worse yet!  Slipped in the back door no one locks because it's a "nice neighborhood."  You've gotten up from the couch, and as they approach you nonchalantly put down your beer and say "There's a book on this shelf I think you'll want to see."  Then a quick push of the RFID remote control (don't grab the car alarm in your pocket by mistake!), the guns drop down, and in one swift motion you are armed to the teeth and BLAM!  BLAM!  BLAM BLAM!!!  Two smoking barrels and two, three....hell, why not four?  armed bad guys are dead meat who never saw it comin'.

Right?  Just like in the movies.....

How disappointed he must be that will never happen.....

Legal Skollars At Wurk

I don't know how the 5 Supremes are going to manage to avoid the Administrative Procedure Act (questions at oral argument seldom echo in the opinions, so I don't put much stock in that.  I don't read chicken entrails for a living, either.) and let Trump have his census citizenship question, as all the illuminated punditocracy seem sure they will do.  But on this question of McGahn's testimony to Congress and asserting executive privilege to stop him, that ship has sailed unless Kavanaugh and Gorsuch want to upend privilege law and can get Roberts and Alito to join them (Thomas is a lock for anything so stupid).

Privilege is settled law as one of those "use it or lose it" matters.  When McGahn gave Mueller and The Boys 30 hours of testimony, any privilege (and executive privilege is about the only one I can think of applying) was waived.  Once waived, it's gone.  Horse left barn, barn burned down; no barn to go back to.*

Which is what Rep. Nadler is getting at:

"The Committee has served a valid subpoena to Mr. McGahn. We have asked him to supply documents to the Committee by May 7 and to testify here on May 21. Our request covers the subjects described by Mr. McGahn to the Special Counsel, and described by Special Counsel Mueller to the American public in his report," Nadler said.

"As such, the moment for the White House to assert some privilege to prevent this testimony from being heard has long since passed. I suspect that President Trump and his attorneys know this to be true as a matter of law -- and that this evening's reports, if accurate, represent one more act of obstruction by an Administration desperate to prevent the public from talking about the President's behavior," Nadler said. "The Committee's subpoena stands. I look forward to Mr. McGahn's testimony."
McGahn would face contempt of Congress for refusing the subpoena, not Trump.  McGahn would put his law license on the line for refusing to cooperate with Congress on no grounds other than Trump doesn't want him to.  And I don't think Trump has standing, absent executive privilege grounds (which are gone), to keep a former employee from testifying under subpoena.

So far, the White House wants it to look like they have a leg to stand on:

“He’s not eager to testify. He’s not reluctant. He got a subpoena. It compels him to testify. But there are some countervailing legal reasons that might prevent that,” said one person close to McGahn, who requested anonymity to describe private discussions. “He doesn’t want to be in contempt of Congress nor does he want to be in contempt of his ethical obligations and legal obligations as a former White House official.”

His "ethical obligations and legal obligations" rest on complying with a legitimate subpoena, as well as not raising frivolous claims in federal court, or being party to such claims.  He pretty much waived any reason not to testify to Congress when he testified to Mueller, and most of that testimony is now in the public record.  There's nothing to prevent him from being compelled (by subpoena) to say it again in a public hearing.

Trump may try some delaying bullshit, but sooner or later he's gonna figure out he's challenging people who have lawyers on staff standing by to handle this stuff, and they get paid whether it's this lawsuit or something else.  That game of sue 'em 'till they cry "Uncle!" ain't gonna work when the one you're suing is the Federal Government.

*So the "distinction" Maggie Haberman is talking about is the difference between preserving the privilege, and waiving it.  Trump waived it with respect to McGahn.  It's gone forever, as far as McGahn's concerned.  McGahn is now in private practice.  He doesn't want to put his career at risk over this matter.

STILL not thinking about the "I" word

Okay, who wants to be first to tell him?
The only entity who can define "high crimes and misdemeanors" is Congress. I mean, this is pretty basic stuff.

But that's okay, he's not even thinking about it....

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

He's still NOT worried about impeachment!

Not in the least (and no one tell him Clinton was impeached in a stronger economy than this one).  Oh, and his complaints about Twitter? He got nuthin':
Dialogue!  That's what this country needs more of!  And he's the Dialoguer-in-Chief, right?


Being old enough to remember Trump's claims his "investigators" report on Obama would be released as soon as they got back from Hawaii, I'm hardly surprised.  But we have these (all before 9 a.m. EDT)!

To which this is the best response:
Although this isn't bad, either:

Or adults, for that matter.
Wait for it....
Such confidence!  The confidence of a man whistling past the graveyard!
Everybody remember the complete lack of criticism Bill "It's the economy, stupid" Clinton got because of the booming economy!  Why, he wasn't even impeached, was he?
Yeah, about that:
That Twitter, making it so hard to bots to sign on.
I told you to wait for it:
The penny dropped and he realized he's been in office for over 2 years.  Time to update the slogan, huh?