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.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Learning From Republicans: Concern Trolling


Splendid concern trolling from old faith-based Bushist Michael Gerson in today's Washington Post, under the headline:

What might help Democrats’ prospects? A focus on workers’ dignity.

The headline alone is a near perfect example of how it works: building a series of idiotic false assumptions

  • Democrats need Michael Gerson's help
  • Michael Gerson in the pure goodness of his heart wants to give it to us—Christians are just like that
  • Democrats don't care about the dignity of workers (in spite of the almost compulsive regularity with which it recurs, say, in the speeches of President Biden, generally with reference to the right of workers to organize, something Republicans are not known to be very hot on—if not as often as the less specific "dignity of work")
  • No wonder they're in trouble!

To create out of nothing the impression that Democrats really deserve to lose, because our contempt for workers is such that we won't even consider Gerson's well-meant advice.

The column itself purports to be about an Aspen Institute conversation Gerson witnessed between two more or less Democratic eminences, Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado and the political philosopher Michael Sandel, which wasn't just about Democrats but about what Sandel would call the neoliberal world order, which many Democrats, notably President Bill Clinton, and most Republicans have favored, and some Democrats have thought to oppose—Sandel has repeatedly singled out President Joe Biden for praise on this score