Wednesday, September 28, 2022

For the Record: Critical Press Theory

Press room of the Chicago Criminal Courts Building as depicted in the original Broadway staging (by George S. Kaufman) of Ben Hecht's and Charles MacArthur's The Front Page, 1928, via Wikipedia.

Meanwhile, the stupid argument about Ms. Haberman (now being roasted for failing to report in The Times that Trump had told her he had some presidential documents at Mar-a-Lago and saving it for her book instead) finally ended up going someplace interesting:

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Narratology: The Former President is Rubber and the Rest of Us Are Glue


Jordan writes in comments, in response to some material I won't repost here that I was saving for a sequel to the "Minions" post:

Apologies for being thick-headed but I just want to make sure I get this. You're saying

1) Trump has his narcissistic injury of believing that the "deep state" (or whatever Nixonian fantasy he has of the forces aligned against him) wanted to prevent his election by inventing "Russia, Russia, Russia";

2) The main goal of his first term therefore was to vanquish and punish his enemies; to "win" (beyond merely getting elected anyway; to really show everyone);

3) To this end he directed investigations into the FBI and Congress;

4) Upon leaving office he took the documents — the evidence of his investigation into his enemies' investigation — because (and here's where I get confused):

4a) Trump believed the documents did exonerate him (they proved that "Russia, Russia, Russia" was a hoax and a vendetta);

4b) Trump believed the documents did not exonerate him;

4c) Trump started with #4a and switched to #4b (or the other way around) so that, like Lindell, the material that he first believed he was empowered by — that would let him "win" — was revealed as material that would sink him;

4d) Some alternative combination of elements that is less rational;

5) So now, he has no choice but to keep stonewalling while helplessly watching the walls close in, retreating into the feral stance he gets into when he's really cornered (the stance from which he orders his followers to get violent).

Is this basically it? If so, there's still the deeper mystery of why Trump believes that "Russia, Russia, Russia" is a hoax — if he does in fact "believe" this — or if it's more that he knows he did it all, committed all the crimes, but so does everyone on the international stage, so his being singled out (merely because he was running for President) was nevertheless a vendetta...meaning, like a mafioso, he knows he's guilty but still believes that those investigating him are being unfair. Right?

Close. I think you're making it a lot more complicated than necessary. Let me take it starting from where you finish:

Friday, September 23, 2022

Literary Corner: Make a Federal Case of It


Matthew Broderick as Professor Harold Hill tries out The Think System.

NY vs. Trump and his spawn and their businesses seems to me to have pretty much everything I could have wanted: over 200 specific acts of fraud committed in the valuations of Trump properties for his annual financial statements between 2011 and 2021 (yes, including during the presidency), generally in order to get better credit terms, some of them just spectacularly off, the demand for $250 million in damages, plus wiping all their New York businesses—should the state win its case, Trumps will be forbidden to operate a business in the state for the next five years—and federal criminal referrals in New York's Southern District and the Internal Revenue Service.

That last especially cheers me, because the publicity over the past year or so has been so dominated by Trump's overvaluing his properties to get loans, and hardly anybody has been talking about how he undervalues them in order to cheat on his taxes. But it turns out AG Letitia James wasn't ignoring it at all; in fact she was making a federal case of it, which is what it's supposed to be. Whether IRS is going to prosecute them or not (he's been fighting them for something like the past 12 years to stop them from collecting a $70-million refund he didn't deserve) I don't know, but the case needs to be out there.

Meanwhile, in another federal case, I'm intrigued by the lyricism and haunting ambiguity of Trump's answer to a a TV question from Sean Hannity ("What was your process to declassify?"):

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

For the Record: Lankford on Pronouns


Oklahoma senator James Lankford's speech at the Family Research Council's Pray Vote Stand Summit in Atlanta offered what sounded like rhetorical gruel, warm but a little watery, almost David Brooks:

“Our Constitution, put together by our founders – I believe God led in that -- put together a structure and a system that has made us the most prosperous, most moral nation in the history of the world – when we follow it,” said the senator.

On top of reminding the audience about how many lawmakers do not follow the Constitution, he also stated, “One thing that we have lost. What is the first word in the Constitution? ‘We’ – hang on – actually, I work for ‘we’ [the people]. Because this selfish attitude has become more and more prevalent that the whole world is about me. And the power of our Constitution began with this very simple principle of ‘we.’”

Promotion of the speech on Twitter got me a little exercised, and some analysis made it look, in fact, kind of sinister:

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Democracy for Efficiency

Mudslide blocking a road in Cayey, Puerto Rico, on Sunday. Photo by AP via Wisconsin Public Radio.

Really interesting radio thing, on a study from 2018

Akey, Pat and Dobridge, Christine and Heimer, Rawley and Lewellen, Stefan, Pushing Boundaries: Political Redistricting and Consumer Credit (March 2018). Available at SSRN: or

in which researchers found that abusive partisan redistricting—gerrymandering—has economic effects, and pernicious ones: it makes it harder for people in the gerrymandered district to access credit.

Really, you ask? Yes, really; not across the board, those who are well off can always get a loan, but for those around the margin, without much of a credit history, there's a real empirical difference in whether your legislators are in safe, gerrymandered seats or competitive ones where they have a good chance of losing the next election. That's likely to be the reason:

Saturday, September 17, 2022

For the Record: Del Rio


Screenshot from El Paso Times.


And also very Trumpy in its complete arbritrariness, since some people did indeed make it into the courtry and had a chance to tell their story to a judge, and you could never tell why some did and most didn't—it felt completely random to tha Haitians And let's pause to note how extremely bad the situation in Haiti was at that point, just a few months after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, with a nonfunctioning parliament and an unelected prime minister governing by decree and the

loss of government control over strategic areas to the hands of dangerous armed gangs, widely believed to be financed by politicians and to have police officers on their payroll. Violence has worsened an already severe humanitarian crisis.

Well, of course, here we are in the US of A, where the governor of Florida seems able to commandeer the assistance of federal officials in the Department of Homeland Security and facilities at Lackland Air Force Base in his project of kidnapping 50 people in Texas—people whose asylum applications are already under consideration and who are thus not just legally in the US but officially under federal protection—maybe we've got a bit of a Haiti-style problem of our own. 

Becuase, angry as I might have been with Biden on this issue, he did try to get rid of the Title 42 idiocy and the "Remain in Mexico" imposture, and was repeatedly stopped by federal courts whose judges seem themselves to have lost interest in the rule of law. It's only now, a year after Del Rio, that he seems to have acquired some ability to have the law obeyed, and we've learned recently that there are now a million new asylum seekers in the country awaiting hearings (which, under the current situation, will be some seven years from now for most of them, during which they won't even it's a hit-or-miss proposition whether they'll even be able to get temporary working papers [see Redhand in comments], even as employers all over the country complain about a desperate shortage of workers, which is contributing the the inflation they all care so passionately about... Faugh.

Friday, September 16, 2022

For the Record: Punk'D by Ron DeSantis

That George Wallace–era prank Texas governor Greg Abbot has been playing and Florida governor Ron DeSantis has attempted to emulate rreally isn't any funnier than it was in 1962

if you recognize how frightened and bewildered the people they're using must feel, but that obviously doesn't bother DeSantis

But it's re-raising a bunch of issues that haven't gotten the attention they really deserve; just summarizing:

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Pretty Nice Girl

One thing I really wish people would try to do in the discussion of the late Mrs. von Battenberg, as somebody was calling her, is leave the Empire out of it, as in the current explosion of love for it, from Mr. Stephen Miller

the British Empire has been such a benevolent force for good in the world, and its unraveling was a historic tragedy with empires like China, for example, filling that void. If you look all around the world today, what is the legacy of this empire? The rule of law, self-government, natural rights, property rights, an independent justice system? Basically, everything Joe Biden is trying to destroy right now is something that was wonderful the British Empire had. 

(it actually gave all its colonies in Asia and Africa versions of the Internal Security Act that enabled countless dictators from Singapore to Pakistan and Burma and Ghana to Grenada and Sri Lanka to erect dictatorships under cover of law, and its failure over a century to provide Hong Kong with self-government is the chief reason Hong Kong doesn't have it now, and it didn't have any interest in "natural rights", including whatever awful thing you may mean when you use the term, and it's clear you're only using the moment to make absurd false accusations against President Biden, even as horrible new evidence emerges about how Trump and Barr worked to bend US Attorneys to their desire to persecute their percieved enemies)

to his eminence Mr. Cleese

Monday, September 12, 2022

Shamelessness Is Their Superpower

In which the old Emperor shows more of a sense of shame than you'll ever see from Chris Christie, or Marquito Rubio, or the entire Roberts court.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

 A New Jersey Memory of 9/11 During Another American Crisis

Ignatian Solidarity Network blog post by Jack Raslowsky crediting David on the Lake 

Somehow, I cannot allow this sad 21st anniversary of 9/11 to pass unmentioned in this space, despite the pressing internally-created crisis of democracy in which our country now finds itself. The present pushes 9/11 into the background as if it were an incident from ancient history.  But, there is a common thread that I will discuss.

In part, I plagiarize this from a comment I made on this anniversary over at Mock Paper Scissors, in Tengrain's annual reposting of an iconic editorial, "The Falling Man," from a forgotten opinion writer, whose words shouldn't be lost.  

So, here I jump, with some amendments and additions:

I have the painful feeling that this fateful date is itself “falling into history” as we confront internal threats to our democracy even worse than the physical attacks on 9/11. It’s hard to focus on the past when we are engaged in a major fight now, one no less deadly than that on 9/11.

To me, 1/6 must join the pantheon of dates to remember in American history. It is as momentous as Apr 12, 1861, when Fort Sumter was shelled, Dec 7, 1941, and 9/11 itself. Memorial plaques should be placed where each person in the Capitol died, with contemporary photographs, so that tourists and visitors see that bloody recent history and what we are now fighting to preserve.

One thing cannot be doubted: the pernicious causal thread running through all of this is the GOP. It is that Party that deserves to die and that cannot be trusted to hold the reins of power again. However, the battlefield cannot be conflict with an armed mob. It must be a sound defeat at the ballot box to cut down another armed insurrection at its roots.

I don’t want anybody to think that I dismiss the significance of 9/11. My old office in North Jersey and my home there two decades ago were within sight of the smoke pyres from the WTC. I saw the smoke pillars with my own eyes for days afterward.

In February 2001 I went with my future Russian wife to a romantic dinner at the Windows on the World Restaurant in the North Tower.

By Scan of Windows on the World stationery, 
Fair use,

By User:Raphael.concorde, CC BY-SA 3.0, 
It was my way of telling her that I wanted us to be a couple from there on out–and we are. In recognition of that fact, I asked our waiter to take a picture of us together at the table. He did, as I’m sure he did for many other couples, and we still have it.  (I would post it but she remains ever shy about such things.  Just accept, please, that it's "a keeper.")
You cannot imagine how many times I have thought of that moment and the fact that the entire staff of the restaurant working on the morning of 9/11 died that day. As the Wiki article states: “All of the staff members who were present in the restaurant on the day of the attacks perished.”

I’ll never know if our waiter was one of them.

So, yeah, that place is gone, disappeared into thin air, and the toxic dust and death of that day, but not the memory of it. 9/11 is personal to me.

The misrule of the GOP over the last two decades, from the Bush '43 intelligence failure and negligence that facilitated 9/11; to the normalization of torture as a State sanctioned activity by Dick Cheney; the damage to the Senate and the Supreme Court's legitimacy through Moscow Mitch's perversion of the judicial nomination process; right through to the literally countless crimes of Trump and the "MAGA Republicans" (fascists), well, this anniversary and its memory reinforce my belief that this country is worth fighting for and its democratic form of government strengthened and reformed.

Yas has been quoting Lincoln a lot lately.  So I think it's safe for me to use some Lincoln quotes addressed to New Jerseyans of his time to reinforce the need for us to fight at the ballot box to preserve the best of what we have and to make it better still.

...I am exceedingly anxious that this Union, the Constitution, and the liberties of the people shall be perpetuated in accordance with the original idea for which that struggle was made, and I shall be most happy indeed if I shall be an humble instrument in the hands of the Almighty, and of this, his almost chosen people, for perpetuating the object of that great struggle.
--February 21, 1861 Address to the New Jersey Senate

The man does not live who is more devoted to peace than I am. None who would do more to preserve it. But it may be necessary to put the foot down firmly.
--February 21, 1861 Address at the New Jersey General Assembly

 It is necessary for us to put our feet down firmly now.

Thursday, September 8, 2022

Joe Did What? Annals of Rhetoric

Charleston Mercury, February 16, 1861. Mr. Bret Stephens was not available to complain about how unkind and divisive Lincoln had been, so they had to do it themselves. Reminds me of Biden how they complain that Lincoln doesn't feed the press often enough and that he's an 'indecent old man".

The other day, I was comparing Biden's September 1 speech to President Franklin D. Roosevelt's 1941 State of the Union, and the Four Freedoms peroration. Today, Mr. Bret Stephens, stealing a David Brooks lede ("With Malice Toward Quite a Few"), decides to up the ante:

Abraham Lincoln’s first Inaugural Address was a 3,600-word olive branch to a South on the eve of the Civil War. His second promised malice toward none after the war left 620,000 dead. Americans have long revered both speeches because they offered a measure of redemption, and a means of reconciliation, to those who deserved it least.

Joe Biden’s speech in Philadelphia last week bears no resemblance to either address, except that, in his own inaugural, he staked his presidency on ending “this uncivil war that pits red against blue.” So much for that. Like the predecessor he denounces, Biden has decided the best way to seek partisan advantage is to treat tens of millions of Americans as the enemy within.

(First sentence in the second paragraph is screaming for an editor: an expression in Biden's inaugural address is not a feature of last week's speech—at some point in composing the sentence he decided it was about all of Biden's speeches, but was too lazy to reread the first seven words.)

Noteworthy, as Erik Loomis says, that Stephens is now agreeing that the Republican Party is the Confederacy. I mean, why else would he be urging Biden to treat the former the way Lincoln treated the latter? 

Monday, September 5, 2022

Labor Day

Sunday, September 4, 2022

For the Record: The Turley Bonds of Earth


Minions. I

Drawing by Drew Sheneman, New Jersey Star-Ledger.

OK, let's start with attorney Michael Ellis, b.1984, Dartmouth and Yale Law (where he was president of the local Federalist Society), did a little stuff with the country-club type of Republicans (W and the Mittster) here and there on the way, and after his clerkship started working in Congress, first for Rep. Mike Rogers, then for Rep. Devin Nunes. 

So after the 2016 election he got a job with the new Trump administration—in fact, two jobs, it seems, one as deputy legal advisor to the National Security Council and the other as senior associate counsel to the president, where he played a central role in one of the more startling dramas of the early Trump administration, in March 2017, when Rep. Nunes went to the White House to warn the president about some evidence he'd found that some of his 2016 campaign staffers might have been subjected to problematic surveillance during the campaign, only then it turned out that Nunes had gotten the material he was delivering to the White House from the White House.

From that same Mike Ellis, to be precise, who got it from another young staffer, Ezra Cohen-Watnick (b.1986), a protégé of General Mike Flynn, under whom he had served at the Defense Intelligence Agency in the Obama administration before Flynn got himself fired in 2014 and was now staying on at the National Security Council after Flynn got himself fired from that gig in February.

Friday, September 2, 2022

Joe Did What? Annals of Rhetoric


I guess this is Stephen Miller... 

("slowly but passionately" is classic Miller, with its literary sound unmatched by any actual meaning, and so is the grammatical bear trap of "as powerfully as mere words can get"—get powerfully what?—where the cliché according to which words are "mere" distracts the reader with wondering what other kind of object means things better than words do)

... but it's taking off all over MAGA Twitter, generally in a form like "that's all it means, and if you object to that you must be a communist," which begs the question of what "again" means, and what it's doing in the phrase, with its implication that America stopped being great at some point and the greatness needs to be restored, but that's really a kind of dumb argument in any case. I don't see how there can be some adequate empirical definition of national greatness that you could apply to measure how American moved in and out of greatness the way you can measure how it moves in and out of, say, economic recession, and I don't see the point of arguing about it if we can't even know what it means.

A more useful retort, I thought, might be to say that "woke" just means having one's eyes opened, and why are you so insistent on keeping them closed? Maybe there's a begged question there as well—opened to what?—but the answer to that is easy: opened to injustice. If you disagree with that, if you think we should all just sleep through injustice, then you're weird, in my opinion.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Literary Corner: Herschel Walker


My Bike is Not Bent

by Herschel Walker

My bike is not bent
so anyone can ride my bike
like he seems to have Chuck Schumer and Joe
Biden riding his bike

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Biden's Base

This bit is about the Biden college debt forgiveness program,though it takes its time wandering over there:

That is, to the extent Democrats seem richer to Catherine Rampell, it's because she can't remember there are any Black ones. Although she's also completely wrong either way, as Bouie points out.

It's the same pattern you see in the commonplace picture of American Christians as consisting of a deeply rightwing majority dominating a rump of liberals in what used to be called the mainline churches. It's based on ignoring the existence of a large Black church overwhelmingly committed to the social gospel; when you count those, most Christians are actually on the left. This is still truer since 2020, when the number of (conservative) white evangelicals dipped, at 14%, below the number of (liberal) white mainliners, at 16%. Add to the latter the 7% of the population who are (liberal) Black Protestants, and divide the total 22% Catholics (white, Hispanic, and other "of color") between the two (more Catholics identify as Democrats than Republicans but it's not a huge number), and you get a total of something over 34% of Americans on the relative Christian left compared to something under 25% on the Christian right—far more, with the Christians "of color" making the main difference.  

You read it here first.

Via PRRI Research.

With Democrats and Republicans, I'm not going to try to do the real numbers, but the argument would go like this: 

For the Record: Help Me Ronna


And below the fold, Pooh-Bah, the early Trump administration's Lord High Everything Else, makes an appearance:

Saturday, August 27, 2022

The Village Lawyer


The Village Lawyer, by Pieter Breughel the Younger, 1624, Web Gallery of Art:, via Wikimedia Common.

Emptywheel gives a pretty clear legal account of the foreground lies the key passages from the memo Bully Barr commissioned from his office to "advise" him not to charge Trump with obstruction of justice (i.e., the advice he'd ordered up from them)

To our knowledge, the Special Counsel's investigation of potential obstruction is not similar to any reported case that the Department has previously charged under the obstruction-of- justice statutes. The Report identifies no obstruction case that the Department has pursued under remotely similar circumstances, and we have not identified any either. Of course, any investigation concerning the President would be exceptional, but the President is hardly the only public official who could be subject to investigation. The Department has investigated the potential misuse of official authority, including the obstruction of official proceedings. in a host of different circumstances. 
The Special Counsel's obstruction theory would not only be novel, but, based on his own analysis, it would also be unusual because Volume I of the Special Counsel's Report is conclusive: that the evidence developed “was not sufficient to charge that any member of the Trump Campaign [including the President] conspired or coordinated with representatives of the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election.” Given that conclusion, the evidence does not establish a crime or criminal conspiracy involving the President toward which any obstruction or attempted obstruction by the President was directed. It would be rare for federal prosecutors to bring an obstruction prosecution that did not itself arise out of a proceeding related to a separate crime. Moreover, much of the President's potentially obstructive conduct amounted to attempts to modify the process under which the Special Counsel investigation progressed, rather than efforts to impair or intentionally alter evidence (documentary or testimonial) that would negatively impact the Special Counsel's ability to obtain and develop evidence.

Volume I couldn't be "conclusive" on all the possible Vol. I cases, she explains, because the investigation of at least one of Trump's associates, Roger Stone, over his evident involvement in the Russian hack of the Democratic emails. was still going on at the time. And yet...

Tuesday, August 23, 2022


Sorry to keep harping on this, but I can't seem to focus on anything else, and there are some dumb stories circulating because people aren't paying attention to the timeline (my favorite version of which is the one posted by CNN). And some interesting new stuff is just coming out.

First, the original issue was internal to the National Archives and Records Administration, starting not long after Biden's inauguration, and what tipped them off is kind of endearing: as they were sorting through the Trump administration presidential records doing librarian things, cataloguing and indexing, they were eagerly awaiting just what you or I would: the famous stuff, like the love letters from Kim Jong Un or the weather map Trump had tried to doctor with his Sharpie in the hope of convincing people that he had been right to warn Alabamans to prepare for a storm that was not coming to Alabama.

Only none of it showed up. It was missing. 

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Ain't Gonna Clap For Maggie's Form No More

Lithograph by Andy Warhol, via Piazzart.

Folks, I think I'm breaking up with Maggie Haberman, at long last, though not for the reasons you might expect, after today's "Mar-a-Lago Memo", in which she puzzles over the question of why Trump was so unwilling to give the White House documents back when the National Archives, and eventually the FBI, demanded them. 

Was it because he found them so darn exciting?

White House aides described how excited he was to show off all the material he had access to, including letters from the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, which he routinely waved at visitors, alarming his advisers.

Was it because he figures he's the Emperor, and all that stuff naturally belongs to him?

“From my own experiences with him, which is bolstered by those around him who are speaking in his defense, his actions seem to fit the pattern that as ‘king,’ he and the state are one and the same,” said Mark S. Zaid, a lawyer who frequently handles cases related to national security and security clearances...

LOL, "those who are speaking in his defense" should have a pretty fair idea.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

One Cheer for Liz Cheney


Via NBC News.

Not quite, though. Before the 2020 election she voted against impeaching a criminal president, and afterwards she voted for it.

It occurred to me to wonder if that could be the characteristic Republican switch where they come to understand a more or less "liberal" concept when they become personally involved—"I'm against abortion" until somebody you're close to needs one. Like Mrs. Reagan turning in favor of stem cell research when her husband was dying of Alzheimer's disease.

The 2020 impeachment of Trump put the mobster president on trial for a crime against Ukrainians, shaking down President Zelenskyy in an offer-he-can't-refuse scheme in which he wouldn't deliver the congressionally-mandated Javelin missiles until Zelenskyy helped him make an anti-Biden ad. The 2021 impeachment was over a crime against congressmembers, when he unleashed his thug militia on the Capitol building in an effort to stop the joint session from taking a vote.

Did the penny suddenly drop for Cheney when the Trump mob started trashing her own personal workplace? That Trumpism is organized crime?

It did for a lot of them, of course, not least minority leader Kevin McCarthy, who was talking tough on January 7, not only in public but also among his colleagues, bragging to them about how he was going to get the president to resign, but quickly folded like the proverbial cheap suit he fundamentally is.

But Cheney couldn't get it out of her mind. So respect to her for having more balls than Kevin, as it were, but as ever when you're comparing anybody to the vast majority of Republicans, you're setting a pretty low bar.

I should add one other thing, because practically everybody is in love with this narrative of Cheney as being perfectly in lockstep with the ideological side of Trumpism, tax cuts and deregulation, votes with his wishes 93% of the time, etc., that it's not entirely true. She is not merely her father's daughter, she's his disciple, and even his co-author, in the 2016 Exceptional: Why the World Needs a Powerful America—an advocate, like so many NeverTrumpers from Kristol to Goldberg, of hard American power who still doesn't think the Iraq War was a mistake and who was enraged both with Trump and with Biden over the hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan a year ago this week. Like a lot of journalists, too, as I have sometimes noticed. I wonder if that's connected in any way to the current journalistic crushing on Liz Cheney, reminiscent of that on Captain John McCain back in the day.  

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Family Matters: Try 2

I have this feeling yesterday's post was too hypertextual to read comfortably and that nobody in fact really read it in the way I meant them to do, so I'm trying again in more conventional prose.

Bassin's Café, Pennsylvania Ave., before and after torching,1978. Via WETA's Washington history website. Boundary Stones.

Or, more accurately, the only family that's gone into Washington, DC since Salvatore Cottone finally got sent to prison in 1990. Because, really, what kind of family "goes into" a city and there are so few of them that you might be tempted to say yours is the only honest one? That's what you'd say about a Mafia family, of which most cities most of the time have just one, like Chicago or New Orleans (you'd be lying about the honesty, I guess, or maybe meaning that yours are buona gente, unlike those filthy pervert Russians), or fewer, like Washington up until the mid-1970s, when Salvatore Cottone opened a couple of pizzerias there and put his brother Giuseppe in charge of the cocaine and heroin dealership.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Narratology: Family Matters

Bassin's Café, Pennsylvania Ave., before and after torching,1978. Via WETA's Washington history website.  Boundary Stones.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Narratology: Twelve More Boxes

Emptywheel's got a convenient list of documents the FBI might have been seeking in Palm Beach:

  • The transcript of the “perfect phone call” with Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other documents pertaining to his first impeachment
  • Notes on his meetings with other foreign leaders, especially Vladimir Putin and Saudi royals, including Trump’s July 16, 2018 meeting with Putin in Helsinki
  • Information surrounding the Jamal Khashoggi execution (and other materials that make Jared Kushner’s current ties to Mohammed bin Salman suspect)
  • Policy discussions surrounding Qatar, which tie to other influence peddling investigations (for which Barrack asked specifically)
  • Intelligence reports on Russian influence operations
  • Details pertaining to security efforts in the lead-up to and during January 6
  • Intelligence reports adjacent to Trump’s false claims of election fraud (for example, pertaining to Venezuelan spying)
  • Highly sensitive NSA documents pertaining to a specific foreign country that Mike Ellis was trying to hoard as boxes were being packed in January 2021

I wouldn't have been able to do such a good job, but I'm embarrassed I didn't try to do it at all. It brings into excellent focus an idea that has been trying to worm itself through my brain since last May or so—that the "highly classified" material concealed in the basement storage room at Mar-a-Lago includes direct evidence of Trump committing crimes, like above all the records—memcons—of those Trump-Putin phone calls, of which Politico wrote, back in February 2021,

Memcons, including Trump’s calls with Putin, are considered presidential records, and were not expunged before the 45th president left office, one former Trump White House official said. They were transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration at the end of Trump’s term, as is customary.

“Of course we didn’t delete anything and they would be in NARA and accessible,” the official said.

Except, as we know now, stuff that the archivists were expecting to find turned out not to be in NARA and accessible at all, which is how it was discovered that Trump had stolen it and was keeping it in Florida.

Monday, August 8, 2022

State of Society

The other day in comments I was denouncing George Mason and the Virginia Constitutional Convention in 1776 for the casuistry with which they declared that all men are equally free and endowed with rights except for those who happened to be enslaved: 

George Mason's Declaration of Rights of the State of Virginia, drafted May 1776, where the original smushing took place a few weeks before Jefferson adopted it, began by declaring "That all men are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety." 
That "enter into a state of society" clause was designed as an exemption for Virginians of African descent, who were deemed not "in a state of society". That was a diabolical piece of trickery (inherent for me but not for you, for reasons that are not intrinsic but historical), far worse than but very similar to the right to bear arms in the 1689 Bill, which was only for Protestants and not the Catholic allies of the ex-king.

Valued commenter Jeff Ryan took issue with that; surely I was overinterpreting what they meant by "state of society", and when I explained I'd gotten the interpretation from Wikipedia he wasn't too impressed with that either.

But the record of the deliberations makes it absolutely clear, as we learn from Self-evident Truths: Contesting Equal Rights from the Revolution to the Civil War, by Richard D. Brown, 2017. Some delegates to the convention, led by Robert Nicholas, complained that the original language of Mason's proposed document, claiming natural freedom for all men without exception, was too radical for a society based on slavery: it could prompt the slaves to revolt, and delegate Edmund Pendleton came up with the hedge: 

Sunday, August 7, 2022

For the Record: Last Thoughts on the Persecution of Peter Meijer

Studious fox, illumination by Master of Catherine of Cleves and Lieven van Lathem, ca. 1460, via Wikipedia.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Concern Trolling: A Sketch


What might help Republicans’ prospects? Backing individual rights over intrusive government.

(There's a connection with a previous installment)

It's looking more and more doubtful whether Republicans can pull off the traditional anti-incumbent wave in the midterm congressional elections. The FiveThirtyEight website now gives them only a 44% chance of taking the Senate, largely, they say, because of the preposterous candidates they are fielding in states they can't take for granted, including Georgia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and as of last night Arizona, where they chose yet another Peter Thiel acolyte in the anti-Semitic election denier Blake Masters; Missouri GOP voters seem to have restrained themselves and gone for the lesser of the two Erics, but former moderate Eric Schmitt has promised to "take a blowtorch to the Biden agenda" and is doing his best to seem as wild as Vance or Öz (that's the correct spelling of the name, per Wikipedia, "Mehmet Cengiz Öz, known professionally as Dr. Oz").

The House, where the craziest candidates seem to be defending safe Republican seats, looks much better for them, but even there the outlook is darkening, as the generic poll is starting to show.

New York Note

Image via NY1 television.

Ironic moment from last night's debate among the Democratic primary candidates in my idiotic new congressional district, New York's 12th, which has smashed together Manhattan's mutually hostile Upper East and Upper West Sides and forced two liberal titans, Carolyn Maloney and Jerry Nadler, to run against each other, along with a hopeful spoiler, Obama campaign veteran Suraj Patel, who claims to have "fresh ideas" but mostly says it's time for older politicians to give way to the young (Nadler is 75 and Maloney 76)—asked if Joe Biden should run for reelection in 2024, when he'll be a few weeks shy of his 82nd birthday, Patel, the 34-year-old champion of generational change, said "Yes", while the oldsters sought ways of not answering:

“It’s too early to say,” Nadler said. “It doesn't serve the purposes of the Democratic Party to deal with that until after the midterms.”

Maloney was more direct: “I don’t believe he’s running for re-election.”

Oh well. 

Personally, I think Nadler's answer was the correct one; it's stupid to be talking about the 2024 election when the one we're facing is so extremely important, and I wish people would stop doing it.

For the record, I'll be voting for the West Side's Nadler, not just because he's been my congressman ever since we moved to Manhattan a long time ago and won two impeachments of Trump, but also because on the rare occasions when he and Maloney have been in disagreement, he was on the right side, voting against the Iraq war and for the Iran nuclear deal (of Jewish congressmembers and New York City congressmembers, he's been consistently the most independent of pressure from the Israeli government), while she has a history not exactly of believing that childhood vaccines cause autism but of being friendly to the idea (she's been over it for years, though). I'll gladly vote for whoever wins the primary nevertheless.