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30.July.2023 Permanent URL to this day's entry

About $40.2 million in legal spending Permalink to this item

Photo of sunflowers and Neighorhood Watch sign

That's what "people familiar with the filing" say Save America, former guy's political action committee, has spent in the first have of 2023 to try to defend him from the reticulating barrage of civil and legal complaints against him. Not just on FG himself, but "dozens of people," "almost anyone drawn into the investigations who requests help from the former president and his advisers." Or, as Trump spox Steven Cheung put it, “to protect these innocent people from financial ruin and prevent their lives from being completely destroyed” by what he called “unlawful harassment” from investigators.

Out of the goodness of his heart, ha ha, and in the interests of coordinating his self-defense. Stan Woodward defending the group, but he lost one of the key players, IT guy Yuscil Taveras, who is apparently "Trump Employee 4," asked to delete Mar-a-Lago security camera footage, by Carlos "Never saw nothing" De Oliveira, our most recent indictee. Marcy Wheeler digs deeper.

"Critically, Woodward was representing Yuscil Taveras, whose recent testimony is one of the things that made it possible to add Carlos De Oliveira (represented by a different Trump paid lawyer) to the indictment and include the Keystone Cops effort to delete footage. That created a conflict between Nauta’s interests and Taveras’, and someone — presumably Chief Judge James Boasberg — appointed a conflict counsel for Taveras, which is what led to Taveras becoming dramatically more forthcoming. ...

"Taveras has not only provided damaging testimony about Nauta, De Oliveira, and Trump, but he likely can explain who from Trump Organization in New York participated in the still uncharged successful efforts to delete surveillance footage, who might be able to give someone the rights to do that. ...

"It’s not just that Trump is spending more on lawyers than he is taking in. But he’s spending on lawyers whose conflicts make this entire scheme a fragile game of jenga.

"One that may have started to fall apart."

28.July.2023 Permanent URL to this day's entry

And a superseding indictment Permalink to this item

Add former valet, now Mal-a-Lardo property manager Carlos De Oliveira to the trumpian FAFO list of indictees, as the classified documents scandal continues to metastasize in the "obstruction of justice" lane. USA v. DJT and Waltine Nauta is now USA v. DJT, Nauta and De Oliveira. Jump to page 27 (of 60), and the section titled The Attempt to Delete Security Camera Footage above paragraph #74 for the new stuff, in which "DE OLIVEIRA told Trump Employee 4 that their conversation should reamin between the two of them" [84.a.] but whoops, looks like TE4 didn't accept the omertà. DE OLIVEIRA told Trump Employee 4 that "the boss" wanted the server with the surveillance camera footage "deleted." [84.c.] We're all having a hard time believing this can be real. Ruth Marcus:

"If the allegations in the latest indictment of Donald Trump hold up, the former president is a common criminal — and an uncommonly stupid one.

"Everyone knows, as the Watergate scandal drove home: The coverup is always worse than the crime. Everyone, that is, but Trump. ...

"The alleged conduct — yes, even after all these years of watching Trump flagrantly flout norms — is nothing short of jaw-dropping: Trump allegedly conspired with others to destroy evidence."

Marcy Wheeler takes us for a deeper dive, in her emptywheel blog. Carlos De Oliveira’s Uncharged Suspected Obstruction Happened on Aileen Cannon’s Watch. It was Aug. 8, 2022 when the FBI seized the documents the gang were trying to hide.

[Wheeler] "There was no overt act that post-dates August 8 in the first indictment. There is in the superseding indictment. There’s this key paragraph, which describes that on August 26, 2022, after Trump confirmed De Oliveira’s loyalty, Trump called him and told him he would get him an attorney:

[Superseding indictment ppg. 91] "Just over two weeks after the FBI discovered classified documents in the Storage Room and TRUMP’s office, on August 26, 2022, NAUTA called Trump Employee 5 and said words to the effect of, “someone just wants to make sure Carlos is good.” In response, Trump Employee 5 told NAUTA that DE OLIVEIRA was loyal and that DE OLIVEIRA would not do anything to affect his relationship with TRUMP. That same day, at NAUTA’s request, Trump Employee 5 confirmed in a Signal chat group with NAUTA and the PAC Representative that DE OLIVEIRA was loyal. That same day, TRUMP called DE OLIVEIRA and told DE OLIVEIRA that TRUMP would get DE OLIVEIRA an attorney."

That's a couple of months before a Mar-a-Lago employee "accidentally" drained the swimming pool and flooded the computer server room. The cover-up keeps getting deeper and deeper.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Permalink to this item

It's easy to get in the habit of seconding Heather Cox Richardson's daily Letters from an American, because she's so good at doing the rundown, and I usually read it in the morning when I'm not yet overwhelmed by the daily news cycle. But when the blog headline pops out of her text, what can I do?

"The House left for its August recess today without passing 11 of the 12 appropriations bills necessary to fund the government after September, setting up the conditions for a government shutdown this fall if they cannot pass the bills and negotiate with the Senate in the short time frame they’ve left. Far-right Republicans don’t much care, apparently. Representative Bob Good (R-VA) told reporters this week, “We should not fear a government shutdown... Most of what we do up here is bad anyway.”

The ugly non-secret is that his supposed accusation is projection, as ever. The extremists insist that what everyone else is doing is bad, and they are the only righteous. Add some whipped Dunning-Kruger topping on their [vulgarism] sundae.

It's all too easy to focus on the negative, as I just demostrated. The good news (not to be confused with the Bob Good news) is that positive economic stats keeping rolling in. Q2 GDP +2.4% (annualized), inflation down to 2.6% "and well below projections," US manufacturing being slowing revived. Business investment up 7.7% in real annualized terms seems a very positive sign.

26.July.2023 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The final frontier Permalink to this item

"The City on the Edge of Forever" was the 28th (!) and penultimate episode of the first season of ST:TOS. IYKYK. (IYDK, there's Wikipedia. The backstory is kind of amazing, btw.) Harlan Ellison (and others) wrote it, Gene Roddenberry had the final rewrite. It had the usual (it seems usual in long hindsight) combination of sci fi and deus ex machina plot elements; if you can do time travel, there are no holds barred. Unless of course you want to come back to the same world you were in when you started. (Spoiler alert? You can watch the end of the episode on YouTube.)

Many critics say it was the best episode of the whole franchise. I'm not enough of a student of that to have an opinion, but here we are 56 years later, and it's still on my mind, including that last thing the Guardian says at the end...

It comes to mind with some long-overdue housecleaning, and disposition of stuff and nonsense from our not-quite 40 years in one house. In the fall of our first year in Boise, I took my first graduate class, via the Stanford Instructional Television Network (SITN). Lectures were transmitted by VHS tape recordings, sent through the mail, and an on-site tutor guided students (there were three of us, IIRC) through the material and homework.

I might have saved all the homework, but haven't come across that lately. What we did come across today was my 73 pages of handwritten lecture notes, taken near enough to the peak of my note-taking dilligence. Numerical solutions of linear systems was a bit of an esoteric subject 40 years ago, but I slogged through it and passed the tests. Not sure I ever used any of what I learned, and it's definitely Greek to me now.

Saved a few pixels as a souvenir, and binned the rest.

Photo of one page of class notes from ME200A, 1983

So committed to the bit Permalink to this item

I'm old enough to remember when a presidential candidate, speaking at a press conference seven years ago tomorrow, encouraged Russia to commit a cybercrime against Hillary Clinton. When we thought he was a fairly harmless joke. There ought to be a law. There is a law, actually, as Fred Wertheimer and Norman Eisen pointed out more than 3 years ago.

He also said he didn't think "it's safe to have Hillary Clinton briefed on national security." Ironically. Well before he overrode our intelligence agencies' denial of a security clearance to his compromised son-in-law. And got impeached for soliciting another foreign leader to help with his 2020 campaign. And before he stole classified documents on his way out the door.

What's new? Here he is, under a horse's ass and flanked by flags, begging "Congress if you will, please investigate the political witch-hunts against me currently being brought by the corrupt DOJ and FBI, who are totally after control..."

The projection is always pitch-perfect, but the energy is starting to slip. He needs an extra breath to finish a whole sentence. Please clap.

In other witch hunt news, the Republican Party's attempts to expand Hunter Biden's well-documented problems into some kind of "epic corruption" that could hold a candle to the former guy's crime family are ongoing. Yesterday, Congress was answering Trump's call by seeking to interfere ("politically," it must be said) with the plea deal. "Tainted by political interfence," claimed the House Ways and Means chairman, granted immunity from irony (apparently).

And now a(nother Trump-appointed) judge has put the deal on hold after prosecutors and Biden's defense laywers found a sticking point:

"The hearing appeared to be going smoothly before Judge Noreika questioned whether the agreement meant that Mr. Biden would be immune from prosecution for other possible crimes — including violations related to representing foreign governments — in perpetuity. When a top prosecutor in the case said it would not, Chris Clark, Mr. Biden’s lead lawyer, initially hesitated and then said the government’s position would make the agreement “null and void.”

We're talking immunity for past crimes in perpetuity, not an all-purpose get out of jail free card, right? What good would a deal that could evaporate be?

But speaking of foreign agents, I'm not sure we've smoked out all of those from the Trump administration yet. That might turn out to be kind of important.

And here, this could help (gift NYT link): How to Know When a Prosecution Is Political, by Jesse Wegman. Which includes this:

"In May, Protect Democracy published a very useful report... laying out several factors that help the public assess whether a prosecution is political." Here's Protect Democracy's page on the subject: How to tell whether a government investigation or prosecution is “weaponized.” And here's the full report, a 30-page PDF titled Investigating and Prosecuting Political Leaders in a Democracy; How to assess the difference between the rule of law and abuses of power. Part of Wegman's take from it, my emphasis:

"First, what is the case about? Is there straightforward evidence of criminal behavior by a politician? ...

"Second, what are top law-enforcement officials saying? Is the president respecting due process, or is he demanding investigations or prosecutions of specific people? Is he keeping his distance from the case, or is he publicly attacking prosecutors, judges and jurors? Is the attorney general staying quiet, or is he offering public opinions on the guilt of the accused?

"Third, is the Justice Department following its internal procedures and guidelines for walling off political interference? Most of these guidelines arose in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal, during which President Richard Nixon ordered the department to go after his political enemies and later obstructed the investigation into his own behavior. Until recently, the guidelines were observed by presidents and attorneys general of both parties."

"Until recently" is doing a lot of (Bill cough Barr and Donald cough, cough Trump) work in that.

25.July.2023 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Idaho GOP in disarray Permalink to this item

Front page of today's Idaho Press has a blockbuster from David Pace of the Idaho Falls Post Register. Both paywalled, sorry, but here's the one we paid for: Prominent east Idaho Republican says his resignation from state RNC role was coerced.

Not exactly a shock that Dot Moon, Bryan Smith, Chris Troupis, and the other extremists working to shape the Idaho Republican party into a branch of the John Birch Society, but the details of how they've forced out long-time National Committeeman Damond Watkins are still pretty sordid. Try this on for size:

When asked about what happened in the June 24 conversation, [party chair Dorothy Moon] said, “I’m not going to share with you.… When he resigned, he did not want the report out. He goes, ‘I’m going to resign’ because he knew that the report was very damning.… Some of this isn’t anybody’s business. It’s a private club.”

And what a club! Watkins' account of what happened:

He said he was led outside to the back of the building where Troupis was holding a report titled, “The Investigative Report.”

He said the committee members had met in secret and they were going to release this committee report to the entire central committee. He said they had boxes of the reports ready to distribute to the central committee. He said they told him, “We’ve got you dead [to] rights.”

“What do you mean?” Watkins asked.

Watkins said they told him they had a recording of him speaking at his church in North Carolina, “thank(ing) the ward out there for allowing my family to plant our roots into that ward.” ...

He said he asked for a copy of the report but that Moon refused.

“She says, ‘No, you can have a copy when everybody else gets a copy in 20 minutes — clock’s ticking.’”

The Post Register requested a copy of the investigative report, but Moon refused to provide it.

The national party chair, Ronna McDaniel, now in her 4th term, did not actually cover herself in glory either. She was called to settle the fight and opted to go with Watkins' duress-texted "I resign" as final. No takebacks!

24.July.2023 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Right in the middle of the 2024 election Permalink to this item

I hope Robert Reich is correct that "most of us oppose authoritarianism [and] reject fascism." We seem poised to find out, in The Final Battle. (His title from Trump's own campaign branding, rolled out in Waco, Texas, on March 25, 30 years after the Branch Dividians' final battle.)

"The pustule of Trump has been growing since 2016, and the authoritarian impulses underlying this infection have been allowed to fester for decades. Folks, it is finally time to lance this boil. ..."

Snippet of WaPo's calendar

Between now and November 2024, the calendar is filling up. The Washington Post provides an early look at the campaign calendar and Trump's court dates. They're going to be busy keeping that up to date. So far, there's the E. Jean Carroll defamation civil trial scheduled on the day of the Iowa caucus, the NY falsified business records criminal trial in late March, and the classified documents criminal trial starting "sometime in the two weeks beginning May 20." And of course, the two additional indictments that haven't come down yet, for the January 6th insurrection, and the case out of Georgia. Busy, busy, busy. Is that Comic sans used to annotate the calendar? Perfect.

Tony Stark tooted some unsolicited legal advice for the former guy: "If [his] schedule is full because of all his criminal trials, then maybe he shouldn’t have committed all the crimes he did in the first place."

23.July.23 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The monkey trap Permalink to this item

There's a lot happening behind the scenes. Had to look to see when my last entry was; 5 days ago? Tuesday? Seems a blur. I've been reading, finished Serhii Ploky's latest book, The Russo-Ukrainian War, and started another that might be too dense for me right now: The Big Myth: How American Business Taught Us to Loathe Government and Love the Free Market, by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway.

“The magic of the marketplace” goes back a long way. In their telling, to the National Association of Manufacturers (supporting child labor and opposing workers compensation insurance), and the National Electric Light Association (and its propaganda campaign in favor of unregulated private electric power, when electrification was still in process). That's chapter 1 and part of ch. 2 so far.

And lots of bookmarks. My Firefox stack from pages loaded but not read stretches to infinity, more or less. I'm sure I'll never catch up. Now Mastodon provides me another way to collect bookmarks, for posts that seem worthy of remembering, or commenting upon. Today, for the first time, I'm going to use some (that I bookmarked today). It started with a comment:

"I remember learning about this in a law and economics and psychology class I took back in law school, 15 years ago. The point of the paper was that once you made a choice, your brain rewired your preferences to prefer that choice. Even people with retrograde amnesia who were not aware that they had made the choice retained the preference for the chosen piece of art."

Then a link to Lakoff and Duran: FrameLab, on the implosion of the DeSantis campaign, "going broke, stalling in the polls and laying off staff." Why a wannabe dictator's campaign fails spells it out in the subhead: "Florida man violates major rule of 'strict father' Trump Republican politics." Here it is, in a toot:

18.July.2023 Permanent URL to this day's entry

We are warned – again Permalink to this item

The headline for this story couldn't possibly scream loudly enough, and Trump and Allies Forge Plans to Increase Presidential Power in 2025 seems way too sanguine under the circumstances. This isn't like Donald Rumsfeld and Richard B. "Dick" Cheney chortling of the "unitary executive" while toadies in the Attorney General's office write memos in support of torture. This is beyond their wildest dreams.

“I have an Article 2, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president.” – Donald J. Trump, 2019

Given the well-documented (if not–yet–well-prosecuted) insurrection, instigated and led by the former guy in the closing days of his term in 2021, the warning is not idle imagining. What I tooted yesterday evening when I saw that story:

Not to put too fine a point on it, if Trump gets back into the White House, it'll be full-on fascism.

What my favorite daily historian said in her July 17, 2023 Letter from an American is that Trump and his allies "are planning to create a dictatorship if voters return him to power in 2024."

They plan to take control over independent government agencies and get rid of the nonpartisan civil service, purging all but Trump loyalists from the U.S. intelligence agencies, the State Department, and the Defense Department. They plan to start “impounding funds,” that is, ignoring programs Congress has funded if those programs aren’t in line with Trump’s policies.

“What we’re trying to do is identify the pockets of independence and seize them,” said Russell T. Vought, who ran Trump’s Office of Management and Budget and who now advises the right-wing House Freedom Caucus. They envision a “president” who cannot be checked by the Congress or the courts.

Ron DeSantis is using Florida to try out the conversion. A 6 week abortion ban; banning classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity; preventing recognition of transgender individuals; easing the way to death sentences, and carrying guns without training or permits; banning colleges and businesses from conversations about race; suppressing opposition voters. "After rounding up migrants and sending them to other states, DeSantis recently has called for using “deadly force” on migrants crossing unlawfully."

As HCR describes, there are plenty—too many—non-extremist Republicans who are keeping their heads down, and apparently not willing to speak up against authoritarianism.

"A piece by Alexander Bolton in The Hill today said that Republican senators are “worried” by the MAGAs, but they have been notably silent in public at a time when every elected leader should be speaking out against this plot. Their silence suggests they are on board with it, as Trump apparently hoped to establish."

17.July.2023 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Spoiler alert Permalink to this item

After the intemperate racket smash in the 5th set, while he was still shaking out his right hand from the American ash net post's resistance, the supposed GOAT-apparent had the whisper of a chance to recover. Carlos Alcaraz was up 3-2, and Novak Djokovic hit a deep shot that skipped on the baseline enough to gain love-15. Alcaraz missed his first serve, and then hit a 121 mph second serve that drew yet another forehand error from the reigning champion. There was 15-30, as well, but that was leveled. Djokovic starting pantomiming his displeasure with the wind affecting the flight of the ball after his next two errors.

At 40-30, a poorly-behaved fan whistled a little into the quiet of tennis' high temple, just at the beginning of the 20-year-old's service motion, and there was no interruption in its smooth flow; he Alcaraz hit his spot just inside both lines of the ad corner for another ace, and 4-2.

In the next game, another fan (I'm guessing) did that little whistle during Djokovic's serve at 30-all. (A much larger target, what with the 17 ball bounce habit.) It changed his bouncy rhythm, but he won the point with a good serve, and the next with a forcing 2nd shot.

Just before that, ESPN commentator Chris Fowler tossed out a little factoid, 4½ hours into the match: "Alcaraz was a 10 year old the last time Djokovic lost on this court."

Spain's king was in the royal box, along with the British prince, and his princeling. What a scene! Alcaraz hit a cold drop shot winner on his second shot at 4-3, 30-love, and then another ace to make it 5-3. Djokovic served up an easy hold, leaving the challenger (and no. 1 seed) to serve it out.

Fowler and John McEnroe sat with the players through the changeover break, vocalizing the mental storms going on behind the calm faces. Good first serve, winning idea for a drop shot, but into the net. The second point gets into a sort baseline rally before Alcaraz tries another drop shot, also not a winner, but it was in, and the lob that followed Djokovic's get was a winner. The next rally looks about to end with a beautiful passing shot from Djokovic, but no; a stab drop volley winner makes it. Djokovic levels to 30-all on a short point, then can't keep his next return in play. Championship point. Done and dusted with a deep forehand.

The ceremonial climb up to his player's box was facilitated by two burly security guys in suits. Tradition evolves in tennis' high church. "Djokovic will no doubt be graceful," Fowler forecasts. Finally. He donates his smashed racket to a Serbian fan in the front row.

Her Royal Highness, the Princess of Wales enters, and starts by chatting with the ball kids, shaking hands up one side of the two rows, on her way to present the trophies. (How'd you like to be on the wrong side for that?!) Chair umpire Fergus Murphy doffed his driving cap in deference to the princess.

Our emcee (who is she?) introduces the runner-up for his comments. He is gracious, about the "trouble" he's having with this upstart. Remembers his many victories of the past. "Maybe I should have lost couple of the finals I won, so, you know, this is even-steven. Heh heh."

"I lost to a better player," he said. And a very poignant moment in the end, when he acknowledged his son, still smiling up there in his player box, clapping for his dad. Setting a complicated example.

And for Carlos? "It's a dream come true." He celebrates the work he and his team put in for this moment. And the inspiration from his coach and great player, Juan Carlos Ferrero.

As for playing in front of his king? "When I played in France, you were just twice—times that I won, I hope you are coming more."

During the posing for pictures, the McEnroe brothers and Fowler lean into hagiography, singling out Djokovic's moments of good behavior, ignoring the interminably slow play, the nasty interactions with fans, the Code violations, the trash talk for his young challengers.

Even ESPN's switcher is on it, showing Djokovic's quiet loser walk through the gallery windows while Alcaraz is still showing the winner's trophy around Centre Court. But in the end, the new champion is the story.

15.July.2023 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Can't you smell that smell? Permalink to this item

Seems like it's Supreme Court month on the blog, but for so many good reasons. That book by Thom Hartmann that I finished last month swam into the papers on my desk, and then resurfaced a couple of days ago. Senior Judge Michael Ponsor, on the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts has taken the stain on the high court's integrity personally: Does the Supreme Court Realize How Bad It Smells? What can you say beyond "wow"? With the links in the original:

"The recent descriptions of the behavior of some of our justices and particularly their attempts to defend their conduct have not just raised my eyebrows; they’ve raised the whole top of my head. Lavish, no-cost vacations? Hypertechnical arguments about how a free private airplane flight is a kind of facility? A justice’s spouse prominently involved in advocating on issues before the court without the justice’s recusal? Repeated omissions in mandatory financial disclosure statements brushed under the rug as inadvertent? A justice’s taxpayer-financed staff reportedly helping to promote her books? Private school tuition for a justice’s family member covered by a wealthy benefactor? Wow.

It's a rarified group, to say the least. By Ponsor's tally, the core of the federal judiciary is just 1,399 judges ("roughly 540 magistrate judges, 670 district judges, 180 appeals court judges and nine Supreme Court justices"). Forget about the 1% or the 0.1%, this is the 0.0004%. And its top 1% (rounding generously) has largely abandoned ordinary (let alone judicial) ethics. It's not a good look. Or smell.

"To me, this feels personal. For the country, it feels ominous. What in the world has happened to the Supreme Court’s nose?"

13.July.2023 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Something old, something new Permalink to this item

Today's flashback musical background is Monte Montgomery's "When Will I?" which I first knew from the virtuoso (and fabuloso) live track on the 2003 Mirror album. He and his group performed it on Austin City Limits in 1999, so it's been kicking around a while. Since end of the last millennium (of the so-called Common Era). If you can't get enough of that (I apparently can't), here he was, live at the Teatro Olimpico di Vicenza a decade ago.

It's not a spoiler (trust me), but the rest of the question in the song title is "When will I look back at life, and laugh?" Coming right up.

Not everyone gets to watch a century tick over, even fewer a full-on millennium. At the same time, our last one had more witnesses than ever before. As for our planetary time scale, who has been around for the ticking over a geoloic epoch? That last go-round was the Holocene, twelve millennia old, going back to the rise of humankind since the last ice age. (If we are at—or past!—the end of that epoch, it "would become the shortest completed epoch in history, just thousandths the length of the next shortest epoch.") (Quoted from the longer, more detailed 2016 Science News article than the one at the next link.)

We've had a couple decades to get used to the idea of the Anthropocene epoch, but come to find out, the International Commission on Stratigraphy hasn't made it official... until now? Some aren't keen on putting a firm date on it, but this here, we have a nomination for a place that could mark the beginning of epoch in which humans have become the dominant driver of Earth’s climate and environment. Crawford Lake, Ontario, Canada.

Among the locations, Crawford Lake’s muddy layers have trapped one of the most precise histories of human activity. Each summer, the water’s pH and warm temperatures cause mineral crystals to form near the top of the water. The crystals fall to the lake’s bottom like snow, where they lay undisturbed. “You get these lovely stripes,” Turner says. “And you can resolve what year [they’re from] pretty much by counting backwards from the surface layer, like a tree ring.”

The layers capture a sharp rise in radioactivity and other evidence of human activity starting in the early 1950s (SN: 9/25/16).

In the not-too distant future, if there's anyone left to write and read history, the rise of industrial warfare (fighting over energy resources, in many cases) in the last century and bleeding into this one, will look like a remarkably insane diversion for a species that likes to style itself as uniquely "intelligent."

March 2023 photo of volcanic ash exposed in a road cut

12.July.2023 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Crime-iny Permalink to this item

My two spam filters are fighting over the scraps these days, and the downstream one has slim pickings of late. After the mosquito franchise seller (who promised his latest pitch was "one last time," ha ha), there's a NATIONAL PETITION from freedomsagenda to Drop all criminal charges against President [sic] Donald J. Trump, with a lede to Sign the petition RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW.

This in the realm of "give us your email address you hapless, credulous rube" sort of petition, and yes, highly spammy. Whatever happened to the party of "law and order" and strong-on-defense national security?

The hijacked Republicans are now following a guy whose lawyers want his criminal trail postponed indefinitely, because he's going to be busy running for election (so that he can write his own GET OUT OF JAIL FREE card, naturally). Somehow, the crimes for which he's been indicted are just a political "witch hunt," so they don't count. Weird.

Heather Cox Richardson's latest daily connects the dots between that and Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL)'s affection for white nationalism, and his hold on 250 senior military appointments, rather like the stunt senate majority leader Mitch McConnell pulled to stack the Supreme Court back in the day, except that it's for the military now. (The same military that didn't back the Jan. 6, 2021 coup, as it happens.)

And then James Comer (also from Kentucky, that's weird too) said he had "a very credible witness on Biden family corruption," who turned out to be a Chinese operative. (Allegedly.)

"Damian Williams, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said [Gal] Luft “subverted foreign agent registration laws in the United States to seek to promote Chinese policies by acting through a former high-ranking U.S. government official; he acted as a broker in deals for dangerous weapons and Iranian oil; and he told multiple lies about his crimes to law enforcement.” ...

"Luft also allegedly worked with a former Chinese government official to plant into Trump’s 2016 campaign someone who would push pro-Chinese policies and who then, for pay, funneled information to the Chinese. That person, who is not named in the indictment, was later under consideration for Secretary of Defense, Secretary of Homeland Security, or Director of National Intelligence. ...

"[T]he sealed indictment was handed down on November 1, 2022, before he became a Republican witness. So he was charged first, arrested in Cyprus in February on related charges, and then became Comer’s star witness."

And then he jumped bail in April and has gone "missing." It'll make for a great conspiracy theory, and/or House theater, but not so much about supposed Biden family corruption.

10.July.2023 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Green water Permalink to this item

I remember the time I drove down by Brownlee Reservoir in the summer of 2012, along the stagnant arm that had turned a fully other-worldly green. I assume it's a regular thing on the Snake River between Idaho and Washington.

Brownlee Res., July 2012

That thought came back to me while viewing and reading the New York Times interactive about the plight of Florida's Lake Okeechobee. [Gift link to the NYT]

"Toxic algal blooms ["caused mostly by phosphorus-based agricultural fertilizers"] now regularly infest much of [Lake Okeechobee's] 730-square-mile surface during the summer, producing fumes and waterborne poisons potent enough to kill pets that splash in the contaminated waters, or send their owners to the doctor from inhaling the toxins."

Pretty sure that's worse than Brownlee gets. Lots fewer people anywhere near it to say, one way or the other. One plan to try to fix Okeechobee involves "building a new lake from scratch to contain and decontaminate [the] discharges." Draining the swamp 100 years ago created "rich farmland" and "one of the most important sugar-cane-producing regions in the world." The "Herbert Hoover Dike" features in the story.

Also, plans for "a 37-foot-high wall" around the new lake. $4 billion more engineering ought to patch things right up?

Ms. Samples, of the Friends of the Everglades: “Florida has this century-long history of trying to out-engineer Mother Nature and having it backfire, and it really feels like we’re repeating the mistakes of our past.”

There may be some new mistakes to be made.

Update, from my brother:
"The Everglades (Pahayokee - 'river of grass') is not technically a swamp, but a very wide, very shallow, very slow flowing river. When I visited in 1980-81, the water was clear. The rainy season in FL is summer and fall. Winter and spring are the dry season. During the dry season, gators hang out in "gator holes" - deeper holes in the otherwise shallow river. In the spring of 1981 there were fires in the glades. Most of south FL used to be glades, but real estate development involved (no doubt it's still going on) dredging and filling and digging canals, in which the water was typically brown and opaque."

7.July.2023 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Truth or consequences Permalink to this item

Latest trumped-up trope in spam is "clearing Trump's name," which makes me think of that Scottish play, and damned spots. (Spoiler alert: they don't wash out.) I'm not sure the cuckolded House and its toady leader are serious about "expunging," but VAN DREW FOR CONGRESS is trying to fundraise on that message. Jeff Van Drew, says he's currently a member, with a NJ PO Box address.

Mouse out the house

Meanwhile, Kellyanne Conway's momentary dalliance with integrity vanished like mist over the moor, unless the NRSC is just working her celebrity? The subject line caught my eye: "Your response represents every Republican in your state." Could I really? (Probably not.) Somehow, I'm on their list as a "loyal grassroots suppoerter." The rile-line in red (meat):

"The chaos and ineptitude of Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and their cronies in the Senate have devastated our once GREAT country."

Then of course Chuck Schumer and Adam Schiff blah blah blah. (Other spams have other boogiemen: George Soros, of course, Hakeem Jeffries, Merrick Garland, wut.)

"I don’t think I can stress to you just how important this is. We have ALL felt the horrible effects of the Biden-Harris “agenda,” and this may be our LAST CHANCE to correct it."

Horrible effects, what's that now? She does not elaborate. (She doesn't need to elaborate, because everybody knows, eh.) Not to swim against the tide of cognitive dissonance, but 2017-2021 gave us one hell of a dose of "chaos and ineptitude" that history will not forget. Could Joe and Kamala top that? Let's check the news.

Payroll processing firm ADP reported that private sector jobs jumped by almost half a million in June. (The Labor Department's subsequent report said 209,000; in any case the news spooked the market yesterday because it means the Fed might raise interest rates more to cool things down. Unemployment is too low, at 3.6%, go figure.) More than 13 million jobs, give or take, since Biden was elected.

For their part, the RNC tweeted out Independence Day greetings under a Liberian flag. Josh Hawley came up with a fake Patrick Henry quote supporting christian nationalism that was actually from the April 1956 issue of a virulently antisemitic white nationalist magazine, The Virginian. And a Trump-appointed district court judge issued an injunction "to protect free speech by forcing people [in the government] to stop communication" with social media companies about swampy content, "accept[ing] right-wing allegations at face value, meaning he cites as a mark against the administration something that, in fact, didn’t happen." H/t to Heather Cox Richardson for the link to this Philip Bump piece, with a WaPo gift link for you: A deeply ironic reinforcement of right-wing misinformation. "[A] right-wing argument about “censorship” on platforms like Facebook and Twitter found a remarkably credulous ally." Likely to be tossed on appeal? You be the judge.

"There’s theoretical poetry to the whole thing, a federal judge ruling on Independence Day that the government had engaged in an “Orwellian” suppression of speech. One envisions fictional President Bill Pullman using the moment to reassert the government’s commitment to the foundational freedom embodied in the First Amendment."

In our "real" world, this (from HCR's daily, link above):

"Harvard constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe called the injunction “blatantly unconstitutional” and noted: “Censoring a broad swath of vital communications between government and social media platforms in the name of combating censorship makes a mockery of the first amendment.” Tribe joined law professor Leah Litman to eviscerate the “breathtaking scope” of the order.

"The Department of Justice appealed the order today. It will go to the right-wing Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals."

Update: Krugman's newsletter for the 4th of July contrasts Biden Versus the Bad News Bros, worth considering in light of the "chaos and ineptitude" gaslighting. (Gift NYT link)

Who are you going to believe? America’s highly professional statistical agencies? The National Federation of Independent Business? States' data on claims for unemployment insurance? Or a "billionaire" who's always begging for donations? Ezra Klein describes the effective (and outrageously false) trope that the former guy was "a businessman savant who would wield his mastery of the deal in service of the American people."

“My whole life I’ve been greedy, greedy, greedy,” Trump said. “I’ve grabbed all the money I could get. I’m so greedy. But now I want to be greedy for the United States.”

So, ah, send money? What Trump actually delivered was "incoherence." "Infrastructure weeks came and went. Tax cuts were tilted toward the rich." [That part was coherenet enough.] "There was no strategy to restore America’s manufacturing prowess or rebuild bargaining power for workers without college degrees." But it was boom times, before Covid hit and helped cure the infection at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

4.July.2023 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Freedom from education (is an emergency) Permalink to this item

Three out of five members of a school district in Idaho's far right far north have their hearts set on having Branden Durst be their superintendent, for reasons I have yet to see spelled out. They just like the cut of his jib? His jib was cut "Democrat" for two and a half terms in the Idaho legislature (two in the House, half of one in the Senate). Things got a little sketchy back in 2013 when news broke that he was living part time in Washington State. But, ah, "at least 50 percent of the time" in Boise? He blamed "the current state of Idaho's education system," according to the KTVB report. Also, his inability to find "meaningful employment" around Boise. Life became so unfair to him that he became a Republican extremist.

A few weeks ago, Bryan Clark gave his opinion on the tempest and the tinpot: Long a power seeker, Branden Durst now has his own little kingdom in North Idaho.

"The board of the West Bonner County School District made a terrible decision Wednesday night[, June 7]. Given a choice between local longtime educator and principal Susie Luckey and serial political entrepreneur Branden Durst, the board went with the career politician. Though Durst has degrees relevant to education, he has no comparable experience in the field. ... Durst has always sought the spotlight. He’s gone from Democrat to far-right Republican, Idaho senator to Washington political hopeful to school board candidate to state superintendent candidate to political hatchetman — add now to that list school superintendent.

"The unifying thread is overwhelming personal ambition.... Anyone who is familiar with his presence on social media knows that he is not a good role model for kids. He is consistently mean-spirited, insulting and sarcastic. He has a history of exploding when things don’t go his way, as when he got in former Sen. Jim Woodward’s face and issued a string of threats after Woodward didn’t vote the way Durst wanted on his version of a parental rights bill last year. Durst earned the unanimous condemnation of the Senate’s GOP leadership over that stunt."

So he's a uniter? The Republican leaders noted that the Idaho State Police intervened—twice—and then Durst stood them up when given a chance to explain himself. He took to social media instead, and earned the "egregious conduct unbecoming of anyone" award. As Clark noted, "not the things you usually look for in a candidate to lead a school district," but 3 of the 5 members of WBSD really think Durst is the guy to make change happen.

In spite of not actually meeting the qualifications to be a district superintendent; it seems you're supposed to have worked in a school for four years, first. The 3 members of the school board went ahead and declared a state of emergency last week, "in order for Durst to seek an emergency provisional certificate from the State Board of Education."

They've also approved a contract for him that will "provided legal representation for [his] wife" on the condition they can get someone else to pay for it. Say what now? There's no mention of why, exactly, she needs legal representation, or why in the world the Idaho Counties Risk Management Program would pay for a lawyer for the wife of a school district superintendent.

That perk is on top of a $110,000 salary for something short of full-time work. Other than his political misadventuring, Durst seems to have found "meaningful employment" working as an "analyst" for the dark money-funded, anti-government, anti-public education Idaho Freedom Foundation. And the contract says the superintendent, with board approval,

“may undertake consultative, speaking engagements, writing, lecturing or other professional duties and obligations that do not conflict with his duties as Superintendent.”

Enough voters in the district have signed recall petitions against two of the board members backing Durst that they'll face a recall election on August 29. Or they could just resign.

3.July.2023 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The Rogue Court, continued Permalink to this item

Thomas Zimmer brings the topic of yesterday's post (below) up to date, on his substack blog: The Rogue Court vs Modern Democracy. (Or, as a Mastodon thread, outlining key arguments.) "America can accept this Supreme Court as legitimate and its rulings as the final word—or it can have true democracy and a functioning state. But not both."

"It was a disastrous week for all those who would prefer to live in a multiracial, pluralistic democracy with a functional government able to handle the challenges of modern life.

"After some better-than-expected rulings that reignited talk of a “moderate” conservative Court exercising restraint, the reactionary majority left the worst for last. The Supreme Court ended its term with a flurry of decisions that thoroughly undermine the drive towards egalitarian democracy and the ability of the state to tackle the most urgent collective actions problems of the twenty-first century."

Zimmer goes back to the beginning, with the "(stupid) legend of the 3-3-3 court," just after Amy Coney Barrett was put on the express train to succeed RBG in October 2020, and then the 2021 term ended with "noticeable restraint." "Most serious observers" would have inferred "tactical reasons":

"Remember that the 6-3 constellation was the result of several questionable – to use a wonderfully euphemistic term – actions by Republicans. After the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg in September 2020, Republicans insisted on putting Amy Coney Barrett on the Court in record time – even though there were less than 40 days between her nomination and the presidential election in early November."

Unlike, you know, Merrick Garland. Incredibly, all that and the Federalist Society picking a full third of the justices, nominated by a president who'd lost the popular vote, "and after January 6, 2021, by a president who had attempted a self-coup that would have ended democracy and constitutional government in the United States."

"The discrepancy between the pretensions of democracy and the reality of minority dominance, between the norms of the political process and a reality in which Republicans displayed zero interest in forbearance, between the ideal of nonpartisanship the Court always claims for itself and the reality of a brutal rightwing power grab" were "so stark, so crass, so bizarre" that Something Must Be Done, right?

For a party that could reverse course from correctly identifying their candidate's psychopathy to then wink and nudge at the Russian help to get it done, and agree to a he alone can fix it "platform," don't bet on it.

The end of last year's term, not just Dobbs, but yes, the decision that "stripped half the population of reproductive freedom and the right to bodily self-determination," and decisions that "restricted the ability of blue states to regulate guns, undermined the separation of church and state, and sabotaged the state’s ability to deal with the climate emergency."

But there are straws to clutch at, as long as you focus in on the bark of some trees and ignore the forest surrounding us.

"The New York Times, for instance, was eager to laude the Court’s “moderate decision” when it rejected the independent state legislature theory – because apparently, the standard for what counts as “moderate” is now “not abolishing democracy right away based on some ludicrous ideas.”

Three days later, the NYT also chipped in Along With Conservative Triumphs, Signs of New Caution at Supreme Court. The "triumphs" including crippling the EPA, standing the 14th amendment on its head to eliminate affirmative action, and applying the supposed "doctrine" of "major questions" to reject the Biden administration student loan forgiveness program.

"The main reason why this Court has lost its legitimacy is not even the way the current majority came to be, it’s not even about all the dirty, cynical Republican machinations that got us here. The Court is illegitimate because of its actions. There is no consistent logic or principle beyond ideologically driven power politics. The idea that those who founded the United States envisioned a super-body composed of unaccountable, all-powerful rulers clad in robes, free to reign entirely outside the structure of institutions that make up the political system, is preposterous."

1.July.2023 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Our black-robed royals have spoken—too much Permalink to this item

Had some pleasant time (mostly) away from internet (and cell) connectivity last week, hiking and biking and playing in and around the Wallowas in NE Oregon. We were ahead of the mosquitoes (yay!), the manic 4th of July week crowd, and clear of any seriously cold weather. Tuesday night was a bit rainy and chilly, but that didn't last long. By the time we hit the rails out of Joseph on Thursday, it was blue skies and sunshine.

A blueberry

I did bring a little book along with me, and unlike a lot of vacations, I actually got around to some reading (thanks to the lack of 'net connection, don't you know). I'd started Thom Hartmann's 2019 The Hidden History of the Supreme Court and the Betrayal of America before I left, and finished it in the shade of tall Doug firs. It's an easy read, and horrifying content. The shorter version is that the behavior of the Supreme Court is every bit as bad as it seems, and it has been off the rails for decades, exceeding its Constitutional ambit by an absurdly wide margin.

It's hidden in plain sight. As you might have noticed with the wave of execrable decisions that just poured out at the June 30th end of its term. From its intended purpose as a final court of appeals, and the weakest of the three branches of our federal government, it has metastasized into a poisonous tool of oligarchy, working tirelessly for the interests of the 1% (mostly), and 10%, against the vast majority of the American people.

"In service of great wealth and corporate power, the Court, particularly since the Reagan years, has exacerbated both wealth inequality and poverty among the working class in the Unites States. These new dynamics are leading to social, cultural, and political instability—crises that Donald Trump exploited in his campaign in 2016.

"With the George W. Bush presidency [enabled by the outrageous SCOTUS decision that effectively declared Bush had won Florida in 2000 when he had not], the American Bar Association's ratings—previously the gold standard for judges and Supreme Court justices—were diminished in favor of ratings from the Federalist Society. With the Trump administrationi, the ABA was totally marginalized, and only justices put forward by the billionaire-funded Society were even considered for the Supreme Court.

"By putting the corporate and property rights over human and voting rights, the Supreme Court has devasted the right to unionize in the United States, destroying what little political and economic power the middle class acquired during the New Deal era of 1933-81."

Take affirmative action, for example. A Facebook post by Bishop Talbert Swan describes how "Uncle" Clarence Thomas benefited from race-based preferences throughout his entire career, culminating in his current job. The chip on his shoulder from the implication (and imposter syndrome, probably) has worn a groove in a lot of what he does. But if you needed an argument against affirmative action, here you go.

Holy Cross, Yale Law School, the Missouri Attorney General's office, Monsanto, John Danforth again, Reagan's Department of Education, and irony upon irony, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, before his spectacular, triumphal, and ashen confirmation to the Supreme Court.

And no talk of making it retroactive, to unseat Thomas, or hit the UNDO button on every case for which he's tipped the balance. Trae Crowder, Liberal Redneck, boils it down in more colorful terms, in Boo, SCOTUS, Boo:

"'s truly a shame that a party that won one popular vote in 20 damn years can stack the deck like this all because of some cosmic game of bucket kicking BINGO but here we are, and the message could not be more clear: the ethos of the Republican Party is bad for almost everyone. If you are not literally a male member of the landed gentry, they will make your life worse."

Crowder also has an ad for Ground News, which I'd never heard of, but sounds interesting. They say its' "a platform that makes it easy to compare news sources, read between the lines of media bias and break free from algorithms." It includes "Blindspot" reporting about stories that "Left" and/or "Right" media aren't covering. One such is in today's vein, "Gorsuch blasts Sotomayor's dissent in Christian web designer..." for which my first question is, the extremist judges are now going ex parte to criticize the minority, seriously? Or is it just the extremist media who are jumping on some such? The samples on the far right are The Daily Caller, The Daily Wire, The Gateway Pundit, RedState, The Western Journal, and so on. Mediaite is the only "leaning left" that's giving it the time of day. Took that jump to see that the combat is in the dueling opinions, so that's only modestly abnormal.

In CREATIVE LLC ET AL. v. ELENIS ET AL., the Supremes didn't even wait for a plaintiff who was actually harmed to consider how they might like to legislate from the bench and turn public accommodation law on its head. Lorie Smith (dba CREATIVE) wanted to have a business making custom graphics and websites for clients of any stripe, but with content that would suit herself, and her version of "biblical truth." She sought an injunction against the State of Colorado to allow her to discriminate as she saw fit. The district court said no to her, and the Tenth Circuit affirmed the decision. SCOTUS reversed, so let's hear it for more "sincerely held" religious bigotry on the web.

And remember: the SCOTUS members are at liberty to modify their opinions after the fact. Scalia loved to do that to "fix" things that he decided were wrong, or that got too much ridicule when seen in the light of day. See here from Adam Liptak in the NYT in May, 2014, and its (now stale) link to a study published in the Harvard Law Review. Current link, and citation (ending in yes, ".pdf.pdf"):
The (Non)Finality of Supreme Court Opinions, 128 Harv. L. Rev. 540 (2014)


Tom von Alten
ISSN 1534-0007