Sunday, January 17, 2021

Pardons Я Us


Brother Johann Tetzel on the ass, right, dispensing indulgences to the wealthy in a German broadside poster, $32.83 from Amazon (the poster, not the indulgence). 

In the couple of months after the 2000 election, some scandal emerged over the flurry of last-minute pardons issued by outgoing president Bill Clinton, starting with the news that Democratic superdonor and Friend of Bill Ron Burkle had been agitating for a pardon for the junk-bond fraudster Mike Milken, and climaxing with the one given to the tax cheat and sanctions-violating commodities trader Marc Rich, who'd been evading justice living in Switzerland for the previous 17 years, in which the deputy attorney general—a guy you may have heard of called Eric Holder—and the president himself had shown extremely poor judgment at best (Rich's ex-wife Denise was a big-time donor to the Clinton Presidential Library, for one thing, and there's a 200-year-old rule that it's improper to pardon fugitives), allowing themselves to be manipulated by the lobbying of Rich's lawyers including Jack Quinn, who, having been White House counsel from 1995 to 1997, wasn't allowed to lobby for anybody at all until 2002. Also, Clinton issued some 31 pardons and commutations that hadn't gone through the normal processing, because the applications had arrived so late, and First Brothers Hugh Rodham and Roger Clinton had been taking some serious money to lobby the president themselves. Nevertheless Milken didn't get his pardon, and the applications the First Brothers had worked on weren't successful either, and Clinton went on to a very successful post-presidency, Holder eventually became attorney general, and even Quinn (whose Wikipedia bio doesn't even mention Rich) is now a legal analyst at CNN.

All of which seems extremely different from today's news reported by Michael Schmidt and Kenneth Vogel in The Times that there's a regular pardons market in the outgoing Trump administration:

Literary Cornyn


So I wrote a poem

Paul Klee, Error on Green, 1930, via

Friday, January 15, 2021

For the Record: Biden's Proposal

You wouldn't fuss about moving the Overton window if it was a big enough window. You wouldn't even want to. Photo via.

Incredibly impressed with myself over this tribute from my favorite moderately famous economics professor.

That started with a quick Twitter version of an argument I feel like I've been making forever, attached in this case to the Biden Covid relief proposal-package, which is pretty amazing:

Well, sort of. Lovestoneite measures and Whiggish men and women, more like, in my case, but it's the same principle, where you might talk about widening the Overton window instead of moving it.

But I do feel tremendously justified by the radical character of this Biden package, with its demands for

Wednesday, January 13, 2021



Photo by Win McNamee/Getty, via Center for American Progress, December 1980.

A year or so ago Rectification Central was exercised about the meaning of the word "perfect" as in 

“It was a warm, friendly conversation,” he said, referring to his conversation with Zelensky. “There was no quid pro quo. There was nothing. It was a perfect conversation.”

In what sense was it "perfect"? Without fault or flaw? Is a quid pro quo an "imperfection" that you should avoid, if conversational perfection is your aim? If you're an artist of conversation, would perfection be the standard you aim at? Perfection in some particular aspect, or overall? Who says something like that, about a phone call, and what do they have in mind?

Anyway this morning somebody on NPR—I think it was my girl Nina Totenberg—gave me the clue to what Trump actually meant, by comparing it with the incitement speech Trump gave to the Capitol rioters before their rampage on 6 January, as he described it 

So if you read my speech --
and many people have done it,
and I've seen it both in the papers
and in the media, on television --
it's been analyzed, and people thought
that what I said was totally appropriate.
And if you look at what other people have said --
politicians at a high level -- about the riots
during the summer, the horrible riots in
Portland and Seattle, in various other --
other places, that was a real problem --
what they said. But they've analyzed
my speech and words and my final
paragraph, final sentence and everybody,
to the T, thought it was totally appropriate.

(The theme in the middle section there is the official bothsides line with which the Republicans have approached the achievement, according to which the looting that took place on the edges of the Black Lives Matter marches in Minneapolis and New York in the first days after the murder of George Floyd and the occasional trash fires around the federal courthouse in Portland. were exactly the same as the murderous assault on the Capitol building—"you got to go to the streets and be as violent as Antifa and BLM," said Louie Gohmert on 1 January—though if you don't recall Governor Kate Brown advising anti-fascist agitators to march down to the courthouse, telling them "if you don't fight like hell you don't have a country any more," I think your memory is accurate.)

Whoever it was said it was "a perfect speech", the way the Zelenskyy call was "a perfect conversation", and I realized he meant he thought it was unindictable—that he'd delivered his illicit message with such perfect subtlety that the cops would never be able to finger him for it, with the majesty of Don Vito and his perfect quid pro quo message

That he'd committed the perfect crime. He hoped.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Bad Mood


Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre, Ballroom, American Hotel, Detroit. Via

Not to excuse them, but they're stupid, and they're psychopaths. They're bad children.

These are the people who beat up so many cops and broke such a lot of furniture and came so close to murdering the speaker of the House and the vice president and who knows who else. Overprivileged white toddlers who can't imagine being in trouble, some of whom were apparently shocked at the way it seemed to get out of hand. And then there was Jake:

Sunday, January 10, 2021

For the Record: Unite the Country


Not really sure it's sunk in for anybody else that Pence could be in a legitimately tetchy mood about this:

Saturday, January 9, 2021


Unidentified Nigerian bank. Photo via WEE Tracker.


Dear Mr David Yastreblyansky

I am Dr. Omatayo Barron, the Nigerian cousin of John Barron, who has served as a communications assistant, ghostwriter, and speechwriter for the American billionaire Donald Trump since 1979. Because of the confidential nature of his work, it has never been publicly acknowledged and, in order to avoid inconvenient questions, his compensation has always been paid through a Nigerian subsidiary, Trump Tower Lagos LLC, for direct deposit in the Lagos National Savings and Trust Association, where he has over the years accumulated a small fortune of some $20,000,000, meanwhile in the course of the Trump presidency his existence has necessarily become a closely guarded official secret, the breaching of which is subject to legal sanction under the Espionage Act.

Now Mr Trump's unexpected loss in the 2020 election has placed John in a serious dilemma; as the appointment of his (fictional) identity comes to an abrupt end, so does the identity itself! This has raised almost insuperable difficulties in his ability to access his Nigerian bank account. But curiously enough you, Sir, are in a position to help, because by an almost incredible coincidence the name under which his cheques have been deposited is identical to yours, Mr David Yastreblyansky. All my cousin needs is to process an electronic transfer of the funds in the Lagos bank to your chequing account, and the money is repatriated! In gratitude, he would be prepared to offer you a transfer fee amounting to 25 percent of the total, or approximately $5,000,000.

If agreeable to this simple plan, please transmit to me your Social Security number, bank routing number, and chequing account number. And permit me to say on John Barron's behalf how impressed we both are by your kindness, unparalleled discretion, and sophisticated financial savvy.

Yours most faithfully

Dr Omatayo Barron

Friday, January 8, 2021

So We'll Walk Up the Avenue


The Feast of the Epiphany started off with a bang just a little while after midnight when it became inescapably evident that not just Reverend Raphael Warnock but also Jon Ossoff were going to be elected to the Senate, though the networks weren't calling it yet, and I went to bed in a fog of sleepy triumph, only to wake up around 3:30 with an appalled sense of how high the stakes had just gotten: in the sense that we—I mean Democrats, speaking for myself—have just lost our biggest excuse for not getting our agenda done, but it hasn't gotten practically easier almost at all.

I'll get back to that eventually, but it got completely overshadowed by the other big epiphany of the day, that afternoon, with the two thousand participants or so in the Million-MAGA March, after Trump gave them the signal they were waiting for: