Sunday, July 31, 2022

Let's Just Bury This Now

I had assumed this article was behind a paywall. It's not. So let's get the big stuff out of the way first.

a) tax dodge?

Could this whole thing have been a scheme to reduce the Trump Organization’s real estate taxes? After all, nonprofit cemeteries pay no taxes on their land.

That’s possible, experts said.

But, in this case, the savings would hardly be worth the trouble. That’s because Trump had already found a way to lower his taxes on that wooded, largely unused parcel. He had persuaded the township to declare it a farm, because some trees on the site are turned into mulch. Because of pro-farmer tax policies, Trump’s company pays just $16.31 per year in taxes on the parcel, which he bought for $461,000.

b) size?  The whole golf course?  

So Trump whittled it down to just 10 graves, enough for himself and his family members.

Which family members, exactly?

“Only the good Trumps,” Russo said, according to a video of the town land-use board. He did not elaborate.

The town approved.

The state approved, granting a cemetery license in late 2014. 


Then, with approval for the small cemetery in hand, Trump came back with a new plan, for a bigger cemetery. This time, the plan was for 284 graves. The cemetery would be run by a nonprofit organization, and Trump’s golf course would handle maintenance, grass-cutting and grave-digging.


The land use board approved unanimously, after some inconclusive quizzing (Strakhov had to be absent and didn’t vote).

Now, the Trump Organization still needs to apply for state approval for this larger, public cemetery.

Sorry, Tiffany.  You had the wrong mother.

c) Another money-making venture?

For one thing, it would be a very poor way to make money.

The cemetery business is bad in New Jersey, because the land is expensive, plots sell for cheap and cremation is stealing their customers.

You need volume to succeed. And the volume at Trump’s cemetery would be very low.

Trump’s cemetery — with people selected by a kind of membership committee — would handle just one to two burials per year, officials said. Cemetery plots in New Jersey cost, at most, a few thousand dollars each. The money, such as it was, would go to the nonprofit company. 

d) "This plan, on the surface, made little sense. "

Best guess:  a vanity project.  Trump wanted, in 2007, to build a mausoleum, for himself.

The plan was big: 19 feet high. Stone. Obelisks. Set smack in the middle of the golf course. In Bedminster — a wealthy horse-country town 43 miles west of New York City — officials had some concerns about hosting a reality TV star’s tomb. The huge structure would seem garish, out of place. And there were ongoing worries that the spot might become an “attractive nuisance,” tempting curiosity-seekers to trespass on club grounds.

That was not approved; so he offered to make it versatile. 

“We’re planning a mausoleum/chapel,” Trump said, according to a news report from the time.

That didn’t do it.

“Give me a break. Give me a break,” Holtaway, the town official, remembered thinking. “Why would anyone ever get married in a building with no windows?”

Then he decided on a cemetery of 1000 graves:

The idea, apparently, was that Trump’s golf-club members would buy the other plots, seizing the chance at eternal membership.

“It’s one thing to be buried in a typical cemetery,” said Ed Russo, a consultant who represented Trump here. “But it’s another if you’re buried alongside the fifth fairway of Trump National.” 

The vanity project continueth, IOW.

And to close the circle, that proposal for 1000 gravesites was reduced to 10, then bumped up to the 284 additional that was approved as of 2017.  But did Trump ask for state approval as well?  

So there we are.  Personally I think it a bit creepy to play golf next to a cemetery, especially if your ball goes foul and lands on a grave.

Ivana’s grave has been described as a pauper's grave, so maybe Trump gave up on the additional 284.  I don't see how it was ever going to promote Deadminster as a golf course destination, but there you are.  

This was all five years ago, but the questions linger.  Will Trump opt for Arlington? It's hard to imagine he won't.  Will he prefer a family space?  With which family?  Will he go for Florida, in the end, buried alongside Melania and their son?  Who knows?

Who cares?

I Mentioned… daughter’s comment that she would move to Europe if she were pregnant.

She has a medical condition she can live with quite comfortably, but which could make pregnancy a dangerous condition (she doesn’t know, does she? Her concerns are well grounded.). Add to that now an ethics committee could have to weigh in as she’s facing a termination of the pregnancy so she won’t die.

I’ve also known family members who lost pregnancies to miscarriage. Could they today be investigated for murder?

I could happily wish to see Samuel Alito rotting in hell.

With Enemies Like These

Future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades.

The BIG Big Lie*

So apparently Gov. Abbott IS in electoral trouble.

And the website is pretty damned good.


Watch The Donut, Not The Headline 🍩

You seem to suggest this week that you might not support Joe Biden," ABC host Jonathan Karl noted, "if he's the Democratic nominee for 2024. What's the bottom line? If Biden is nominated by your party, will you support him? Will you vote for a Republican?" 
"Everybody is worried about elections," Manchin complained. "That's the problem. It's the 2022 election, the 2024 election. I'm not getting involved. I'm not getting involved in that, Jon." 
"Whoever is my president, that's my president," he added. "And Joe Biden is my president right now."
The minute the 2020 election was over (which wasn’t until Inauguration Day), talk turned to the 2022 midterms.

Biden’s approval rating only matters for Biden’s election chances in 2024. If he’s re-elected he’s a lame duck who can’t run again, so who’s running in 2028?

Anybody else see how this has become the GOP playbook? They run to win office so they can scream about government so they can run to win office.

Maybe we should get off this merry-go-round?

Maybe Deadminster Is A Graveyard After All

Behold the power of the free market.

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Don’t Get Your Legal Advice Off The Internet

First, and I mean no offense to say this: consider the source. The first thing you learn as a lawyer is that the plain language of a statute is not the last word; it’s only the first one. “Change the facts, change the outcome.” Case law decides what the words of the statute means and how they apply. Does Trump have a cemetery plus golf course, with all the tax benefits New Jersey law allows? I have no idea. Do I think so anyway? No. Because it’s complicated. Did he file the correct paperwork to have his golf course become a cemetery? Again: I have no idea. I’m pretty sure New Jersey public health law wouldn’t allow a burial near a golf course just because someone owned that property. That doesn’t necessarily convert all contiguous property (the golf course) into a cemetery. Indeed, Trump’s tweet indicates he got permission to use only a very limited area for burial (sorry, Tiffany). Doesn’t sound like he converted Bedminster into Deadminster. But does that mean he stopped there? Well, we don’t know, do we?  Yeah, most of the conversation is putting the cart before the horse. Ivanka is buried there because it was already a cemetery; it didn’t become one when the grave was opened. More likely than not, but I don’t know New Jersey law; by which I mean statutes and case law. Trump’s tweet supports that, so I’m going to assume Trump didn’t remove Deadminster from the tax rolls when Ivanka died. I don’t see the state allowing only 10 burial sites and then declaring all contiguous property a cemetery, just without graves or crypts or columbariums. Unless Trump’s tweet is just bullshit, New Jersey law probably provides for a state agency to promulgate regulations pursuant to statutes regarding establishing and operating cemeteries. That could be how Trump was restricted to 10 plots. Or it could be something else entirely; other statutes, case law, even state constitutional provisions.

It’s complicated. And it’s never what you think it is from Twitter; or some news articles. Journalists are honestly the worst at understanding legal matters. Twitter isn’t any better.

The Class Divide In America 🇺🇸

Is based on money. 💵 

And the second coming of Jesus Christ with a bonus re-enactment if the Sermon on the Mount isn’t worth that price. If you think Bruce is worth that, you really have more money than you deserve.

At the other end of the scale, this is a waste of money, too:
I’ve been delighted with reports of professional golfers (golf is a profession? Who licenses it?) being harassed off the tees. Mostly these guys live in a bubble of fans and hushed TV announcers no where near the course. They are playing LIV for the money, which is not good enough for the public. I hope the golfers get an earful and realize their reputations are vulnerable after all.

My Mother Had A Mocking Phrase For It

"You don’t have to tell everything you know!”, she’d say when the family was hotly engaged in telling on each other (for entertainment, not embarrassment/mean spirited, purposes).

As ever, in humor wisdom.

In no way do I mean this poor woman was responsible for her own death. She was murdered, plain and simple. 

But the internet is a weapon as much as it is a therapeutic tool. We really need to set about figuring that out, for all our sakes.

She didn’t deserve to die. We should all recognize our responsibility to learn responsible use of these new systems of communication. Some things just don’t need to be communicated here.

Tell your friends; but don’t tell the world. The world is not your friend.


Go And Please The World

Would Republicans hesitate for a New York second to support an extreme left wing candidate in a Democratic primary so they had a better shot in November?

All I read in Twitter is never Trumpers complaining about how Democrats don’t fight hard enough. They especially complain that Democrats bring a knife (ideas; policies;  proposals) to a gun fight.

And yet…

Republicans should stand up to Trump. But especially in politics, the enemy of my enemy is a very fair-weather friend.

You Mean Back When Bill Buckley Was Subtler About It?

And Strom Thurmond kept his black girlfriend hidden from view, the better to assert his racist bona fides? Yes, we all remember how unconnected to racism Jesse Helms was; oh, and George H.Willie Horton Bush. Or Ronnie Reagan announcing his run just outside Philadelphia, Mississippi, and railing against "welfare queens" and promoting "states' rights."

I believe in states' rights. I believe in people doing as much as they can for themselves at the community level and at the private level, and I believe we've distorted the balance of our government today by giving powers that were never intended in the Constitution to that federal establishment.
Which was always a euphemism for being against the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and Brown v. Board; just to name three.  Here, let's hear what William Raspberry had to say about Reagan's announcement:

It was bitter symbolism for black Americans (though surely not just for black Americans). Countless observers have noted that Reagan took the Republican Party from virtual irrelevance to the ascendancy it now enjoys. The essence of that transformation, we shouldn't forget, is the party's successful wooing of the race-exploiting Southern Democrats formerly known as Dixiecrats. And Reagan's Philadelphia appearance was an important bouquet in that courtship.
 Yeah, it was all so much better before Trump came along.


There’s Twitter speculation Trump is trying to claim Bedminster (hereinafter “Deadminster”) as a cemetery. Because: I’m pretty sure George knows it doesn’t work that way, or every backyard in Jersey that contains one pet grave is now enjoying tax and debt exemptions (no, that’s not why it doesn’t work that way, but it’s the shortest route to an explanation.). This is the better take: So is this: These are so bad they belong in "Bad Legal Takes": It just really doesn’t work that way.

Remember Iran/Contra?

The investigation started in Reagan’s second term. By the end of GHW’s first term, the special prosecutor was issuing indictments, which Poppy cut off with pardons on his way to retirement.

5 years, basically, between discovery and indictment. The DOJ seems to be moving a lot faster this time.

And although Merrick Garland really hasn’t said more than he did before, suddenly everybody is content.  Well, almost everybody:
I’m not sure how much of this information we the public are entitled to. And now, as those questions indicate, we have to be reassured DOJ can actually do the job, that Trump hasn’t overwhelmed them: I suppose this is still “pressure” on Garland, but it’s starting to resemble Monty Python’s Spanish Inquisition bringing out the comfy chair to force a confession.

And it all sounds too much like “reassure us that you will get convictions.” Which is really just the flip side of “LOCK HER UP!”

Sometimes the differences that divide us aren’t differences at all.

Friday, July 29, 2022

Same As It Ever Was

I had just assumed this was the plan, from a cursory reading of the 12th amendment (which was clearly all Trump’s advisors had made).Nobody ever said they were smart, so it’s hardly surprising they were dumb enough to put it in writing. After all, they assumed they would prevail and when they did, who was going to read these e-mails? Once the election is settled it’s settled, right?

Yes, I know what I’m saying.

And of course that part of the plan would be preceded by throwing it to the courts for Son of Bush v Gore:
Which, again, comes under the heading of: never put your conspiracy in writing. It’s also really the only surprise. Clearly these guys thought they were invisible and bulletproof because they were going to win, one way or the other, and then there would be no conspiracy. At least not one that would be investigated.

And I Think Of My Daughter…

...and I want to punch someone.

I am so tired of the male gaze being normative and ruling in all situations.

Many years ago, before my daughter was a gleam in my eye, my wife had reason to go to a car dealership to look at a car. She was in another town, so I wasn’t with her. The salesman said her husband needed to be there, since he was the one buying the car. She was in our hometown so she went to my father’s office to regain her composure. He called the dealership and ripped the sales manager a new one.

Over 30 years later, my daughter still gets the same treatment from car salesman.

Yes, I’m a late ‘60’s white male. But I think of my daughter. She doesn’t deserve to be treated that way, either.

Return To Never Was

I remember 1969,  when you couldn’t escape news about the moon landing. The whole world was watching that night in July. Literally, the whole world.

 I remember every space flight from Alan Shephard on; you couldn’t escape news about any of them. The Kennedy assassination in ‘63. I even saw Ruby shoot Oswald. I was 8, but you couldn’t escape it.

I was 18 in ‘73, and I remember a lot of people not watching the Watergate hearings. John Dean happened on the evening news, not live in our living rooms. The hearings were during the week, not pre-empting prime time TeeVee. They were also long, complex affairs, with questions primarily from lawyers: legal counsel for the Dems and the Republicans. It was a sign of how serious the hearings were. There wasn’t a lot of grandstanding, except from Gordon Liddy, Nixon’s version of Bannon. And the narrative was very hard to ferret out. 

Dean, tapes, gaps in tapes, Haldemann/Ehrlichmann; CREEP; Ellsberg’s psychiatrist, a cast of seeming thousands. Even if you didn’t try to avoid it, you found it hard to follow.

And a lot of people didn’t try. The Nixon tapes were published, in the middle of it. They were a bestseller. I had a copy, long lost now. It achieved the definition of a classic: a book everyone praises and no one reads. I never finished it.

So don’t treat it as a nostalgic time we could all go back to “if only.”  “Same as it ever was,” is much more accurate.

Meanwhile, We Bring You “Rats In A Barrel,” Already In Progress

And GOP Senators who don’t want to give Biden a win, are leading the way:

But it’s still Dems who are in disarray.

“We’re The Supreme Court, Bitches!”

The scorpions have spilled out of the bottle.
Religious liberty is under attack in many places because it is dangerous to those who want to hold complete power," Alito said. "It also probably grows out of something dark and deep in the human DNA -- a tendency to distrust and dislike people who are not like ourselves," he added.
One wonders if Alito recognizes those words include him. In Christian doctrine we call that recognition “humility.” In Christianity, it is a key basis for religious liberty.
If over time, the court loses all connection with the public and with public sentiment, that is a dangerous thing for a democracy," liberal Justice Elena Kagan told an audience in Montana last week, when asked generally about what a court can do to increase public confidence. 
"I think people are rightly suspicious if one justice leaves the court or dies and another justice takes his or her place and all of a sudden the law changes," Kagan added. "It's like: what's going on here? That doesn't seem like law."
No, it doesn’t seem like the law at all. Besides, how many Justices does Congress have? P.S. There is no leak investigation. If there was, what could be done? Sacrifice a clerk? Fire a staff member? Even if the Senate gains three Democrats, would this be an impeachable offense for which Manchin and Sinema would remove a Justice? Signs point to “No.”

Violating the idea of the postscript, but this deserves the last word:

Thursday, July 28, 2022

More Snappy Answers To Stupid Questions

Actually the same answer will do: “Three guesses, first two don’t count.” Pretty much the unstated issue with that Axios story: early front-runners fail, for a variety of reasons. Thinking it’s yours to lose is the most common reason. So, the question: “What’s wrong with this picture?” And the answer:  (see above). The modern version is appositive: “If it’s not a smoking gun, is it evidence?” Our court system requires less reasonable doubt than our national narratives do. For example: What evidence must be provided to prove this? Why can’t we just agree Trump is less manly than a purse poodle? 🐩  I had just assumed this was the plan, from a cursory reading of the 12th amendment (which was clearly all Trump’s advisors had made).  Nobody ever said they were smart, so it’s hardly surprising they were dumb enough to put it in writing. After all, they assumed they would prevail and when they did, who was going to read these e-mails? Once the election is settled it’s settled, right?

Yes, I know what I’m saying.

And of course that part of the plan would be preceded by throwing it to the courts for Son of Bush v Gore:
Which, again, comes under the heading of: never put your conspiracy in writing. It’s also really the only surprise. Clearly these guys thought they were invisible and bulletproof because they were going to win, one way or the other, and then there would be no conspiracy. At least not one that would be investigated.

It doesn't hurt to have some evidence in the court of public opinion, but: come on!  At this point the whole magilla should be visible to a blind man.

Ah, Memories


My father had a '59 Chevy Impala.  In my memory, it looked like this, although it was yellow, or closer to yellow-green.  And it had Chevy hubcaps, not mag wheels.  Close enough, anyway.  Sadly he got rid of it before I could drive, because I wanted it for my first car.

It was a boat.  And the tail fins were already badly out of fashion.  But it was "space age," and I loved it passionately.

"The Law In Its Majesty...."

Here's the heart of the quoted argument: "Half the country" is a bit generous, but let's overlook that. The argument is not really about wealth (although name a poor prominent politician.) It's about politics. And the argument is basically: "Only banana republics bring criminal charges against former chief executives (Presidents, Prime Ministers, etc.).

To which I would respond:  France.  And Italy.  Just off the top of my head.  Britain and Germany have parliamentary systems where the Prime Minister is chosen by the party, and is answerable to the party.  Which is why even Boris Johnson couldn't pull a Trump (try though he did) and survive a major scandal or fight to hold his office.  France and Italy have better systems for picking leadership than America, too.  But they haven't shied from prosecuting their former executives, and no one has declared them backwards countries acting for illegitimate political purposes (Oh, I'm sure some of their citizenry did, but that storm passed without serious consequences.). European countries have prosecuted former executives, and yet no one considers their governments to be "banana republics" (a racist term anyway, as those examples indicate.  Lee doesn't use it, so let's not ascribe it to him.).  Yes, Virginia, countries can indict former Presidents for crimes beyond the "high crimes and misdemeanors" of impeachment.

Which, taking Lee at face value (i.e., considering his argument as one would if faced with a motion for summary judgment seeking to dismiss it), would make his argument equally apply to impeachment.  It might as well, as we have never removed a sitting President via impeachment (or the 25th Amendment) and likely never will.  By that example and Lee's (rather paltry and seriously strained argument taken in toto), no President can ever be challenged for how he operates his office; even at the state level. (Lee doesn't mention the Georgia investigation, but how it is different from any DOJ investigation of Trump is a matter for him to propound.)  Besides, there's the counterpoint to his statement about what "the other half" will think of a prosecution of Trump; the inverse of that argument, as it were.

"[T]his sets the precedent that it’s ok for presidents to violate federal (and state) laws, to even arouse a mob to charge the Capitol and threaten the lives of Congress members [Josh Hawley clearly felt threatened.  A gallows is seldom erected as a sign of peace and seeking dialogue.  The crowd only dispersed because Trump told them to.] because there will be no consequences."  And much as I hate to admit it, isn't one purpose of a criminal justice system to impose consequences for behavior deemed dangerous or destructive to society, of which a portion is the body politic?

Does "politics" constitute a "Get Out Of Jail Free" card, available only to sitting and former Presidents?  Even Robert Mueller, who stuck so strictly to DOJ guidelines about criminal investigations/prosecutions of sitting Presidents, didn't seem to think so.  Some crimes deserve the punishment of law, even if 100% of the citizenry don't agree (is crime now to be subject to plebiscite?).  Is it truly "political" to say a President plotting to undermine the legal electoral process at both the state and federal level, and organizing and directing a mob to storm the Capitol as part of that plotting, should face criminal investigation and charges if any are found to be warranted?  Only in the sense that prosecuting OJ Simpson was "political."  Only in the sense that every major prosecution of a public figure or political office holder is "political."  Elected prosecuting attorneys always consider the political optics of high-profile prosecutions.  That doesn't mean the prosecutions are only justified if over 50% of their voters think it is.  The very idea that we base prosecutions of public figures on polls is itself an absurdity and undermines the rule of law, which Mr. Lee seems to think is only a matter of politics, anyway.  But given the fact that any poll at any one time is unlikely to accurately reflect anything but the responses of the people actually questioned in that poll, makes the idea of criminal justice resting on majority approval an obscenity anyway.

Not to mention Mr. Nolan's point, which also deserves consideration in this discussion.  And if you're really worried about politics and appearances, there is the problem of the company you keep:

Who Blinks First?

Curb your enthusiasm.

But an RNC official told ABC News that as soon as Trump would announce he is running for president, the payments would stop because the party has a "neutrality policy" that prohibits it from taking sides in the presidential primary.

"I'm not telling anybody to run or not to run in 2024," she added. However she has since reaffirmed that Trump "still leads the party."


This isn't the first time that legal bills have been seen as possible leverage over Trump.

According to the book "Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show," by ABC News Chief Washington Correspondent Jonathan Karl, in the final days of Trump's presidency, Trump told McDaniel he was leaving the GOP and creating his own political party -- only to back down after McDaniel made it clear to Trump that the party would stop paying his legal bills for his post-election challenges and take other steps that would cost him financially.

According to the RNC's most recent financial disclosure to the Federal Elections Commission, from October 2021 through June of this year, the RNC paid at least $1.73 million to three law firms representing Trump, including firms that are defending him in investigations into his personal family business in New York. Last month alone, the RNC paid $50,000 to a law firm representing Trump in June.

The latest tally tops the $1.6 million maximum figure that the Republican Party's executive committee reportedly voted to cover for Trump's personal legal bills during an RNC meeting last year, a figure that The Washington Post, which first reported on the agreement in December, wrote could increase further with the party executive committee's approval.

The RNC reported payments to law firms representing Trump as recently as mid-June, indicating the party leadership's unfettered support for the former president and heightening critics' concerns about the party's neutrality ahead of the 2024 presidential primary season.

Follow the money:

"The RNC needs Trump or Trump surrogates or Trump's likeness to raise money, and Trump wants them to continue paying his bills and be as pro-Trump as possible," Eberhart said. "So neither is in a hurry to cut the umbilical cord."

The RNC has continued to fundraise off of Trump's name in its emails to supporters, touting a so-called "Trump Life Membership," boosting his social media platform, and, most recently, promoting Trump's first visit to Washington, D.C., since January of last year. Other potential 2024 presidential candidates and key party figures like former Vice President Mike Pence and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis have not received the same spotlight as Trump, experts say.


Eberhart said "it's an open secret" within the Republican Party that "nobody wants Trump to announce his candidacy until after the midterms."

"Everyone thinks it'll scramble the midterms and we could potentially destroy the advantage we have" if Trump would announce too early, Eberhart said. "It makes Trump more relevant and gives the Dems potentially a way to reset the race."

But will the RNC give up the money?  Decisions, decisions....

Meanwhile, and not coincidentally: 

Back to the primary question: who blinks first?

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

The Handmaid's Tale


Comments welcome:

As another father with daughters, the conversations have already changed and I care. This is a conversation a two weeks ago that started in Target as I was helping our third daughter shop for items she needs for her first year at a college in Ohio. We were in the pharmacy section getting shampoo, band-aids and other items, when we went down the aisle that had condoms. "I don't know what you and your boyfriend use for birth control, but I am happy to pay for these now if you need them." The response was she was a bit too embarrassed to have me buy them now, but a few minutes later she said "I am glad I got my IUD before I go to Ohio because I don't think I would be able to get one there." This was followed by "My friends are worried about their apps for tracking their periods and we are trying to find out which ones are secure." My reply was, "Even if they are secure, if the company is subpoenaed by the government they will release your data. I am not sure I would trust any app at this point". "By the way, if you or any of your friends ever suspect you are pregnant, don't use a credit card to buy a pregnancy test. That can be tracked. Pay cash." There were a few moments of silence, followed by, "I never thought of that."

This is the post Dobbs world. We can't even enjoy the fun of getting ready for college, instead we have to worry about avoiding the criminal powers of the state of Ohio.

Now let's get rid of Griswold and Obergefell and anything else (except inter-racial marriage!) based on "privacy."  I mean, the word isn't in the Constitution!  How dare we put it there!

Remember when “privacy" meant what you put on-line?  Even as we all jumped on social media to set up accounts revealing everything about us to perfect strangers?  Seems almost quaint, now.

And a reminder:  Marbury v Madison wasn't about the appointment made by a preceding Administration.  It was about the law extending the power of the Supreme Court.  

But the power which was actually exercised in this case was a very limited power.  Two points should be carefully noted.  In the first place, the law which the decision annulled was one particularly relating to the judicial department and its powers much like the law which was questioned in Hayburn's case.  In this instance, however, the law conferred upon one of the federal courts, namely, the Supreme Court, a distinctly judicial power.  In fact it increased the power fo the Supreme Court.  What was really decided, in Marbury v. Madison, was that the Supreme Court had received certain powers from the Constitution itself, which Congress would not be permitted by that court either to increase or to diminish.  One might very well agree with that contention without attributing to the Supreme Court a general right of reviewing the acts of Congress in matters of general legislation.  From the claim that the judicial department is a co-equal branch of the government, and that its purely judicial powers and jurisdiction, in so far as they are expressly given by the Constitution, cannot be encroached upon by Congress, which is all that the case actually decided,  it is a far cry to the claim that the Supreme Court is the sole interpreter of the Constitution and that its interpretation is binding on the legislative department in all matters of legislation.  In the second place, there is a wide difference, particularly in political matters, between the refusal to exercise a power which one's opponent believes to exist - which is all that those who did not agree with Marshall could say - and the actual exercise of a power which that opponent believes not to exist.  To the opponent the first may be unnecessary modesty or weakness or, at the very worst, neglect of duty;  but the second is usurpation.   

Whatever you think of judicial review, that's a good summary of the holding in Marbury:

The Court found that Madison’s refusal to deliver the commission was illegal, but did not order Madison to hand over Marbury’s commission via writ of mandamus. Instead, the Court held that the provision of the Judiciary Act of 1789 enabling Marbury to bring his claim to the Supreme Court was itself unconstitutional, since it purported to extend the Court’s original jurisdiction beyond that which Article III, Section 2, established. 

Marshall expanded that a writ of mandamus was the proper way to seek a remedy, but concluded the Court could not issue it. Marshall reasoned that the Judiciary Act of 1789 conflicted with the Constitution. Congress did not have power to modify the Constitution through regular legislation because Supremacy Clause places the Constitution before the laws. 

In so holding, Marshall established the principle of judicial review, i.e., the power to declare a law unconstitutional. 

Whether "judicial review" is found in the Constitution (those words aren't!) is a matter for another day.  Presumably Marbury is traditional enough it cannot be lightly overruled.  Although judicial review is not the same as saying the Court can interpret the constitution, because that power doesn't necessarily extend to the power to declare a law unconstitutional.  Marbury, after all, holds that the Supreme Court can't issue a writ of mandamus, and Congress can't give it the authority to.  Interpreting the Constution to find a right of privacy (or not), is one thing.  Deciding Congress can't establish one by law (judicial review) is quite another.

And, of course, the power to extend the jurisdiction of the court is also the power to limit it.  I can see, in a cursory review, the Court negating any such attempt, using Marbury as precedent.  Be careful what you wish for.

But the reminder is:  messing with any of this is messing with individual lives.  Somehow I don't think Kavanaugh was considering that when he went out the backdoor of the steak house to avoid two people standing outside the front window.

A personal addendum:  my daughter tells me that, at this point, if she has children, she's moving to Europe to do it.  Will she?  Won't she?  I did not challenge her determination.  Her husband was born in Norway, to American parents (the father was there on business for an oil company), so he's good with it, even encourages her.  They are that disgusted with the state of Ob/Gyn care in America after Dobbs, with the risks to doctors that create bigger risks to patients.  I can't say as I blame her.

The Internet Is Making Us All Stupider

If you control the definitions, you control the conversation. Except you can't slice the baloney so thinly it only has one side, especially with a legal scalpel. "Abortion" is not defined in law as "elective surgery to terminate a pregnancy." Because lawmakers fear the tricksy womenses who will fool the doctor into performing elective surgery as a medical procedure.

Of course, allowing it for the health of the mother is not a loophole, because the only alternative is to prove that in court; on behalf of the mother, the doctor, the medical care staff and facility, and all persons with knowledge of what some would prefer be a crime.  And no, this is not a solution:
It's just crackpottery from the other direction. How many ob/gyn's want to roll the dice that everytime they treat an ectopic pregnancy they'll get a jury that will nullify the law? If that isn't a "let's you and him fight" solution, I don't know what is.

Lavern Spicer is a candidate for the 24th district in Florida.  Her website literally asks "Lavern Who?"  I'm just guessing she has no idea what pronouns are, but she knows they're bad because...reasons.  Maybe she means to define "pronouns" the way Alexandra DeSanctis Marr wants to define "abortion."*  In a way absolutely no one else uses the words.

*She writes for the National Review.  I should have known. It's an argument worthy of Bill Buckley, just without the vocabulary flourishes.

Anyone Who Wasn't Clear On That Almost From Git-Go....

...please to be shutting your pie hole now. Why in the name of all that's rational would any of the dissenters leak that opinion? It didn't change in substance, and didn't change anything favorable to the dissent to reveal it early. The obvious purpose was to whip Roberts, at least, back into line. And since Roberts finally joined the majority, why isn't he pursuing the leaker? Hmmmm? I mean aside from the fact he has no authority to do anything about the leak, especially since it obviously came from a Justice (the only people who couldn't lose their jobs over it).  Remember when McConnell was demanding the fullest punishment available under law for the leaker?   Did anyone really believe McConnell would lead the charge to impeach and remove the first Supreme Court Justice in history? Remember when former AG Bill Barr harrumphed for a special grand jury to investigate? Funny how all of that faded away, too.

Honestly, the whole announcement and pursuit of the investigation was a red herring that just made matters worse.  Or maybe just made clear how bad matters are on the court.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

In A Nutshell…

We have ended an entire line of medical care for women. Imagine if we did this based on race (I know, but blatantly). But because it’s women it’s okay because, you know: only women can bear children, therefor they should. Say the men.

Again, if it was “Say the white men,” imagine the conversation.

I say this as the father of a daughter who might need that care. Who knows what the future holds?

What it doesn’t hold right now is equal protection under the law. Which the Supreme Court has declared is perfectly constitutional. Anybody else see the problem now?

Mike Pence, Hero

"So where we begin with the Freedom Agenda is a very simple commitment to secure the sanctity of life at the center of American law once again!" the former vice president exclaimed. "I stand before you today with a grateful heart that after nearly 50 years of lives of incalculable value lost to our nation, 50 years of heartbreak, 50 years of praying and fasting and working and volunteering and caring."

"Last month at long last with the support of three Supreme Court justices appointed during the Trump-Pence administration, we sent Roe v. Wade to the ash heap of history where it belongs," he added.

10 year old girls and women impregnated by rape or incest, or suffering medical issues while pregnant for which the standard of care IS abortion, suck it up! God wants you to be vessels for children, especially male children. And wants you to die pregnant, if that's what it takes!

And every life is sacred, at least until it's born.  Then you're on your own, kid!

Well, Mike Pence's god wants that.  I don't believe the God of Abraham does.  Nor that the God of Abraham particularly wants to be seen as in charge of U.S. law.

What needs to end up on the ash heap of history is the notion that ideas and things matter more than people.  Once we get that trinitarian sequence in the proper cardinal order, then perhaps nations will flock to our holy mountain.

You And What Army?

This from the guy who promised to “go medieval” in the Justice Department and complained about witnesses he couldn’t call not testifying at his trial? This from the guy who sat out his own criminal trial because he had no defense? This from the guy no one would know was talking if Twitter didn’t keep posting his rants? Is there a term like “Streisand effect” for this? Or are we not that self-aware?

And that wasn’t a TeeVee trial. Bannon hasn’t been sentenced yet, so he can’t violate his probation. He’s not on probation.

This stuff really isn’t that hard.

People v. Ideas v. Things

When you put ideas above people, you turn them into things. (A ten-year old girl cannot consent to sexual intercourse. Likewise she cannot consent to carrying a child to term, an eventuality that would likely lead to her death in childbirth. The law preserves a child’s humanity better than this discussion does. And that is not praise for the law.) But still a grave danger to democracy, right? Like Steve Bannon? If you think this is new and dangerous and never before seen in U.S. politics, then you are very young indeed. If you think this is a significant danger to democracy, MTG is just Steve Bannon without a podcast or a criminal conviction. I’d take it back to William Bradford at least (Rhode Island, any one?). Everything new is old again.

Monday, July 25, 2022

Nobody’s Paying Attention

I’m completely open to the argument one poll questioned one set of respondents and the second poll questioned a different set of respondents who’d have answered that way anyway. Correlation and causation are arguably poorly distinguished because the distinction is based on arguments drawn from statistics, not from double-blind studies.

Still, it’s more fun to follow along with the narrative. Because it’s what I want to be true.

Reputation Is In The Eye Of The Beholder 👁

After all, Bannon is a talented propagandist. With Trump's help, he was able to remake the GOP in the image of the site he used to run, Breitbart.

Which came first:  the monkey-brain eating (credit Charlie Pierce) GOP prion disease that infected the whole party?  Or Steve Bannon taking over Breitbart,  a website I can guarantee the majority of Americans have hever heard of (when they've all heard of Sean Hannity)?

Trump didn't start anything in the GOP, he is the apotheosis of a process the party let slip with Newt Gingrich (although maybe we should go back to Ronald Reagan, who after all set the template of the caretaker Presidency that W. then emulated.  It was Reagan's administration where Cheney and Rumsfeld came of age, after all.  And Poppy's admin. was just for more years of the same.  Gingrich came to power because the right wing was pissed that Clinton cut off their access to the Oval Office; that's all.  Whole sight, people.)  And Steve Bannon was never a propagandist, although he seems to fancy himself a power behind the throne, never the guy on the throne.  He was (and is) a legend in his own mind who scared people who had no clue how government actually works and thought he might actually lead the revolution from behind the microphone on a podcast that probably has an audience of tens; or hundreds.

As if.

The fight in America right now is between people below the age of 50 and people above (roughly).  We are deep into this phenomenon of people living past 65 (the retirement age was set when most people didn't live much past 60.  Watch a "Twilight Zone" episode from merely 60 years ago.  "Old" people in those episodes always look like they have one foot in the grave, or their old and doddering and easily discombobulated, and they're never identified as being as old as 70.  Being in their '60's is plenty old enough to be "over the hill" and bound for the knacker's shop any day.  I'm just surprised somebody on the intertoobs hasn't devoted a website to the portrayals of "old age" in TV shows that would never be allowed today.).  This simple fact of life we now take for granted (my grandfathers didn't make it to 70; this was not considered unusual.  My father lived to be 90 mostly because of heart surgeries and modern medicines.  I expect to outlive my father's life span, easily.).  But it means "old people" are still around and still voicing their opinions and some of those opinions are, well...hidebound.

Which is not to say all Boomers were hippies in the '60's and yuppies in the '70's and Reaganites in the '80's.  There actually weren't ever that many politically liberal boomers; and I'm not sure Millenials are uniformly progressives, either.  But they grew up with Roe and accept gay marriage without qualm and can't begin to fathom state control of contraceptives.  Of course the people screaming for that are, at best, middle aged, so we can't blame everything on a neat division into age cohorts.  Or maybe none of this means anything.

After all, the young college kids who escaped the draft (college deferments) were more strenuously against the war than their parents were.  And more interested in civil rights, which meant upsetting the social applecart far more than gay marriage does today (mostly because civil rights went far beyond the Loving decision, which nobody carps about even today).  So it's probably more reasonable to say that fight is what it's always been over:  racism.  Nothing else really riles people up in America than the question of race, and the way we face that is to deny it's ever about race, which just proves that's exactly what it's about.

Denial is not a river in Egypt.

And Steve Bannon is not a threat to anyone, except Steve Bannon.

So when he started to paint a picture of how he would use this trial to champion his cause, much as Hitler used his trial for treason to build up his public image, smart people were reasonably worried. Salon's own Heather "Digby" Parton even wrote at the time that "being indicted for defying Congress is the best thing that ever happened to him" and that Bannon may "turn any trial into a spectacle in order to foment more chaos."

I'm sorry but "smart people" in that sentence can only be the ones who know the trial of the Chicago 7 from Aaron Sorkin's version.  Believe me, it played a lot scarier in the headlines at the time.  And it turns out (Sorkin used trial transcripts for most of the courtroom stuff), it was rather dull.  Trials usually are.  "Smart people" knew Bannon never had a snowball's chance of turning that misdemeanor trial into Hitler after the Beer Hall Putsch.  I've heard of state court trials getting out of hand, and seen some former Texas AG's preen like a peacock in the courtroom (stunts no lesser, non-celebrity, lawyer would have gotten away with), but federal trial courts are a different beast.  I saw a federal judge give a case of first impression (product liability against two defense contractors, for wrongful death of a test pilot), a case that should have taken 3 weeks (and would have, in state court), 5 days.  3 for the plaintiff, one each for each defendant.  The jury was back by Saturday evening, and the judge went back to Pecos to try a case there. You don't fuck around with federal judges.

Which anyone watching Bannon's trial had figured out before it started.  No trial judge was ever going to let Bannon "foment chaos."  And even if he had, the majority of people would be saying "Bannon who?"  The trial of the Chicago 7 fomented headlines; but it was hardly the basis for a new revolution.  Bannon's trial had only one defendant, and only one issue:  did he comply with the subpoena, or not?  One wonders why Bannon insisted on a jury in the first place.  I'm sure the jury wondered.  They were not waiting to be swayed by Bannon's pyrotechnics.  They were waiting for someone to explain why they had to waste their time.

There's a lesson in this that could be applied to the entire pantheon of Trumpist leaders: They talk a big game, but if they face real consequences, they turn out to be paper tigers.

No shit, Sherlock.  When, in his entire career, did Donald Trump not fold like a cheap suit at the first sign of real authority?  Did no one see how he behaved around Kim Jong Un?  Putin?  Orban? Trump couldn't even exercise authority.  All the talk now is how Trump will "kill" the civil service and excise thousands of federal jobs with an EO once he's back in the Oval Office.  Apparently it took people 6 years to figure out a POTUS could do that (it's dubious that he could, actually).  Trump flailed during Covid, never really using the power he had to do anything, except hold mindless press conferences where he blamed everybody else on earth, took no responsibility for his job and its powers, and told us to consider bleach and blacklight as cures.  This is the guy to be afraid of?  Why?

And Bannon never worked for him.  Bannon was canned shortly after the administration took office (although memory tells me it was before, when Bannon was injudicious enough before the 2016 election to claim some credit for Trump's campaign successes). Bannon operates a podcast nobody would have heard of if the pundits of Twitter didn't keep telling us to listen to what he just said, and to be terribly afraid of his awful power.

What fucking power?

He's not even a "mighty warrior" behind the microphone.  He's a delusional blowhard who doesn't understand how anything works.  He declines to testify in his own defense, then berates people who don't testify entirely without catching the irony, and wholly ignoring the fact the judge told him he couldn't call Pelosi and Thompson as witnesses.  Were they supposed to boldly overrule the judge and insist on subjecting themselves to Bannon's counsel's cross-examination?

That's not how this works!  That's not how any of this works!!

Bannon is not bold and powerful.  He's delusional.  If he's persuasive, one is only persuaded to pity him and regard him as quite mad.  He rants like a spoiled child who's had his playtime denied him.  He's not scary; he's pathetic.  He's not inspiring, he's repellant.  One might as well believe Mike Lindell is going to bring down the very concept of elected government as believe Steve Bannon is anything but a non-entity famous only for his brief connection to a completely failed and disgraced President who will be remembered solely as the worst mistake the American electorate ever made.

And Bannon will be remembered, if at all, as:  "Who?"

Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here

(The underlying story is that bar examiners haven’t caught on to the fact that we are unalterably technological creatures.)

Things I Am Well Past

If the next sentence is "And I alone can save thee!", then: no thanks. I'll take the abyss for $1000, Alex. "And I alone am esaped alive to tell thee!" But, wait, weren't you guys the architects and cheerleaders of this mess? Is it heroism? Or is it Memorex? What this country needs is two political parties exploding into fireballs of ideological conflagration leaving behind nothing but scorched earth because it's a long, hot summer, there's nothing on TeeVee, and "Thor" was too funny and didn't have enough butchery from Gorr the God Butcher! I mean, "Gorr" was in the name, and there wasn't any!!! What kinda suck summer is this??????!!!!!!!!????????? In, all stereotypes to the contrary, one of the most ethnically diverse states in the country, where this kind of message will go down smooth with all those "Hispanics" the GOP wants to woo. Political genius, I tells ya! Does anybody younger than Rick Wilson and to the left of MTG know what a "socialist" is or why it's bad? Ditto the still prevalent (but false as water*) claim that government spending creates inflation. That Chicago School of Econ bullshit is as valid as speaking of the "Founding Fathers" as some kind of hive-mind uber-brain. But try to fight any of those three hoary myths. Maybe you want to see that poem, first. Taking my point and running with it: perhaps we should have let the world economy collapse, instead? Then inflation wouldn't be a problem at all. I close with this, to show Rep. Cheney there's no hard feelings (but I still don't see her as the nation's savior; at best she's got more balls than the rest of the GOP.  Which can be taken as damning with faint praise.  You do you.).

*Shakespeare reference, very posh, hem-hem.