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31.Oct.2023 Permanent URL to this day's entry

X marks the spot Permalink to this item

Update to that old joke about how to make a million dollars in farming (start with two), from a tech bro (who tried out a variant of it last November already): How do you make $19 billion with social media? Start with $44 billion. And, ICYMI, another name for "an inverse start-up" would be a "shutdown."

The good news is, if the employees are suffering under Melon Usk's "leadership," there is only 20% as much suffering as there used to be; "more than 80% of its employees have either quit or been laid off."

Let the hostage negotiation begin Permalink to this item

Now that the extremist-led Republicans in the House have found their way out of the self-inflicted logjam they created by booting Kevin McCarthy, wearing down the tiny and underspoken sanity caucus to accept the trump-appeaser Mike Johnson, their first act is to appease Russia (by trying to separate out funding for Ukraine from support for Israel) and attack the IRS. As Heather Cox Richardson summarizes,

"The House measure, providing aid for Israel only if Democrats agree to set aside Ukraine and Gaza and permit rich people to cheat on their taxes, will set up a fight with the Senate."

There's actually more upside in today's letter than downside, but you know how bad news grabs more attention than good news. The United Auto Workers announced a tentative deal with the 3rd of the big 3, General Motors, and other union wins are starting to divert some of the endless upward flow (it's more than a trickle) of the profits from increased productivity over the last 4 decades.

Matthew D. Taylor, on The Bulwark: Mike Johnson, Polite Extremist. "The new speaker of the House has deep ties to proponents of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), a movement that helped fuel the January 6th insurrection." After "researching the Christian theologies and Christian leaders that drove the January 6th insurrection" since it happened, his forthcoming book will

"profile a set of these Christian leaders who mobilized and galvanized Christian Trumpism, and who showed up on January 6th to do spiritual (and sometimes physical) warfare against American democracy. Many of them are mild-mannered, conservative, deeply evangelical Christians, too. And it turns out that quite a few of them have connections with Mike Johnson.

"To understand the Republican party’s internal politics today, we need to redraw some old distinctions. The most important ones to keep in mind today are not between Christians and non-Christians, nor between conservative Christians and liberal Christians, but between conservative Christians and politically extreme conservative Christians."

The latter are the ones "willing to upend democracy to see their agendas realized," in part through "an amorphous, nondenominational network called the New Apostolic Reformation." That's a new org name to me, but it certainly brings to mind Doug Wilson's decades-long crusade to create a "theocracy" rooted in Moscow, Idaho, with a belief system morphing into a misogynist, rape-friendly theology. (To bring that 15-year old treatise, and the 2021 update current, check the site The Truth About Moscow.) If any of those sources made an explicit connection between the NAR and the Moscow-based Christ Church empire, I didn't see it.

The Bulwark piece describes the signature NAR theology of the “Seven Mountain Mandate,” "a profoundly anti-democratic program for Christians to take over key positions of influence in society to transform nations into hegemonic Christian domains" championed by Jim Garlow and Mario Bramnick, two "very important evangelical advisors" to Trump, with ongoing "Global Prayer for Election Integrity" (now "World Prayer Network") calls, "and Mike Johnson has been a regular participant." Read the detail, and heed the conclusion:

"There is no contradiction in observing that Mike Johnson is both a mild-mannered, courteous, conservative evangelical Christian and a politically extreme ideologue. He has surrounded himself with some of the most dangerous, anti-democratic Christian leaders in the country—the same people who theologized the January 6th insurrection—and offered them his public support and praise."

There is plenty of (but maybe not "enough") good news, including, as another Bulwark piece outlines (and links), a great jobs report, inflation cooling, GDP growth 4.9%, and... Joe Biden's approval rate dropped 4 points, led by an 11 point drop among Democrats.

The warning lights are flashing red. Again. Brace yourselves and buck up; exhaustion is the enemy.

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

Gag him Permalink to this item

Judge Tanya S. Chutkan's reinstatement of the gag order in UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. DONALD J. TRUMP is an instructive 9 page read. Thanks to Heidi Li Feldman for tooting the free, full access link, with this summary:

"Chutkan, like other judges in #Trump trials, has repeatedly given Trump chances to comply, even after he behaves in ways that would land other criminal defendants in jail. He will no doubt continue to all but dare judges to penalize him seriously for his witness intimidation."

In footnote 1, she denied the government's request "to incorporate the Order into Defendant’s conditions of release," as in, put him in jail if he violates it. "The court hereby DENIES that request without prejudice. Even assuming that request is procedurally proper, the court concludes that granting it is not necessary to effectively enforce the Order at this time." The "without prejudice" part means they can ask again, later. She lists the factors to "guide [a] decision whether to stay an order pending appeal":

(1) whether the stay applicant has made a strong showing that he is likely to succeed on the merits;
(2) whether the applicant will be irreparably injured absent a stay;
(3) whether issuance of the stay will substantially injure the other parties interested in the proceeding; and
(4) where the public interest lies.

The 3rd and 4th factors "merge when the government is the opposing party." The defense did not come close to showing they'd be likely to succeed on the merits, or that the applicant will be irreparably harmed by following the rules for the orderly administration of justice. That everyone else has to follow.

"Contrary to Defendant’s argument, the right to a fair trial is not his alone, but belongs also to the government and the public."

Her style is appropriately detailed, and calm, but what she wrote speaks to the actual, or feigned incompetence of the defense counsel, making "claims that disregard the record," asserting that the court “cite[d] no evidence supporting its findings of risks of harassment and witness intimidation, and the prosecution provided none,” when in fact, "the court and the government pointed to evidence causally linking certain kinds of statements with those risks" several times, "and Defendant never disputed it."

"Defendant’s final claim is that the Order is unconstitutionally vague for various reasons, none of which withstand scrutiny." Things like using Merriam-Webster Online instead of Black's Law Dictionary to try to expand "interested parties" to include everyone and anyone.

P.S. My headline comes from a Firesign Theatre allusion so obscure I can't remember the rest of it. But trust me, it must be in there somewhere.

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

The universe beyond our grasp Permalink to this item

Jeanette wondered if I was done with the October 1st Book Review, and no, I wasn't. Like most weekly editions, I hadn't started it, either. There was a review of the book I'm reading (featured in the sidebar), which trended positive, but rubbed me the wrong way from the get go by caricaturing the author as "the leftist writer and activist" in the opening sentence. Excuse me?

But the "By the Book" feature (oh, hello, "expanded version" online) with Patrick Stewart, including Rebecca Clarke's capture of his infectious smile, was a delight. How does he organize his books? "By size. It's a jumble." We have considerable by-genre organization in our stacks, but mostly it's by time of arrival. He's got 7 books on his nightstand, whereas I have none, not having his habit of "Immediately on waking up I make a cup of Yorkshire Gold with a chocolate digestive and read in bed for half an hour, or more. Always a book." That sounds like a good one. The "last great book he read" was “Victory City” by Salman Rushdie, and “What an Owl Knows,” by Jennifer Ackerman is next on his list. (They could have easily fit that last Q/A in print, what the hell? Another "expanded" bit was a shoutout to "most admired writers" Maureen Dowd, Salman Rushdie, Jonathan Ames.) Stewart's "fond" memoir is fresh out (and reviewed, for a later issue), "Making It So." Says there, he's a veteran of some 60 productions with Britain’s Royal Shakespeare Company, my goodness.

The "Hammered" review of Blood in the Machine : the origins of the rebellion against big tech prompted me to check my local library, which I see has a new catalog provider, on, 2 copies, checked out, and 2 people in line in front of me.

Then Reality Bites (in print, and How Three Visionaries Expanded Our Understanding of Reality with a month-earlier date in the URL online), with three striking portraits to draw one in: Jorge Luis Borges, Immanuel Kant, Werner Heisenberg. The review starts with a character who "makes only a cameo appearance in Egginton's mind-expanding book, but his plight opens up a portal..." The earlier sentence that grabbed my attention was "his extraordinary gift was also a terrible affliction." Isn't that always the way?

The book, "challenging, ambitious, yet also elegantly written," “The Rigor of Angels,” explores nothing less than “the ultimate nature of reality” through the life and work of the three men, who "resisted the temptation to presume that there was a reality, out there, that was completely independent of our attempts to know it."

This review exposed my bad habit of wanting to always write something about interesting things I'm reading, interrupting the flow. The book at (virtual) hand is "about the tiniest of things — the position of an electron, an instant of change. It is also about the biggest of things — the cosmos, infinity, the possibility of free will."

We can imagine so much more than we can grasp; a universe filled with galaxies that we'll only ever know through bits of stale photons that reach us eons later. Even our own galaxy is populated with oh the places we'll never go.

27.Oct.2023 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Deus ex machina Permalink to this item

Among the many 50th anniversaries that now dot my personal landscape, there's one coming up on Boxing Day this year: the release of The Exorcist, the day after Christmas, 1973. I'd been out on adventure the summer after high school, "moved out" for a time to enjoy a spectacular fall on the Door peninsula between Green Bay and Lake Michigan, moved back in with my parents, and was working full time in a diecutting factory, as an interesting and remunerative thing to do before trying college. I might have gone to Mass with the folks around Christmas, but maybe not. My Confirmation didn't take, and I walked away from the one, true, holy, and apostolic church (as it claimed for itself) to find my own way, without the memorized recitation of dogma, and stuff.

But there were plenty of traces of dogma and stuff left in my young brain to make a "supernatural horror film" work some dark magic on me, even at the ripe age of getting into an R rated movie on my own. I don't remember having any particular fear of the dark as a child, but I slept with the light on in my room that night.

This week's remarkable events in the House of Representatives didn't include any priests (that I saw), or ritual casting out of demons, but there's always that free-form prayer to start the session, and somehow, the fractious and squabbling caucus of Republicans managed to come to unanimity, and apply their narrow majority to electing a new speaker. One with a portmanteau bulging with religious notions that he seems to think everyone should adhere to. Even more remarkably, he suggested his election as House speaker was ordained by God. Imagine that.

“I believe that Scripture, the Bible, is very clear: that God is the one who raises up those in authority,” Johnson said in his first speech after being elected speaker in a 220-209 vote. “He raised up each of you. All of us.”

Album cover from the Mike & Kelly Johnson podcast, Truth be Told

So now, 2nd in line to the presidency, we have a man who has "repeatedly rejected many broadly held interpretations of the separation of church and state." Religion News Services links to the September 2022 episode of the podcast "Truth Be Told" from Johnson and his wife (with his [sic] "very special guest," their son), “Separation of Church & State” and the Rights to Religious Expression in Schools. It starts with a splatter of right-wing folk extolling his virtues, one saying "I think he might be the sharpest guy in the Republican conference in the House." Also an endorsement from our orange man exemplar of morality, virtue, and religiosity. "Mike Johnson, what a job, what a great guy! What a good, good politican, because you love it and you love the people. You really are, you're a natural. Thank you very much, I appreciate you being here, Mike." The narrator's intro-wrap ends with "few couples are trusted more."

Johnson launches into "one of most important principles, and that is the subject of religion in the public square." Not that a subject is a principle, but ok. "Now, there's no doubt that most Americans remain confused about this issue, and what the laws on point actually say." He's got some rules of thumb to clear it up for the confused masses, which he'll get to eventually.

The Truth to be Told in this particular episode is the one about "the separation between church and state, and the rights to religous expression in schools." You know, like the coach having group prayers at football games.

“The founders wanted to protect the church from an encroaching state, not the other way around. The 1st Amendment, both the establishment clause and the free exercise clause, when understood together, were intended to create a shield for people of faith.”

Then came the snake in the garden. "Over the last 60, 70, 80 years radical progressives, and and leftists, and atheist organizations, have twisted the meaning of it."

Speaking of twisting, he's got religion and morality interwined in the imaginative way that those using religion as a weapon (rather than a shield) like to do. The unenumerated "principles of religion and morality," in a gloriously broad sweep, on his way to reading the minds of all our Founding Fathers to pronounce that "the seedbed of virtue is religion."

Any religion in particular? Because they didn't all share the same one, you know. Any religions excluded? Do you have to be a monotheist as (only) some of them were?

"They believed in liberty that is legitimately constrained by a common sense of morality, and a healthy fear of the Creator who granted all men [sic] our rights. See, the founders understood that all men [sic] are fallen and that power corrupts and they also knew that no amount of institutional checks and balances or decentralization of power in civil authorites would be sufficent to maintain a just government if the men [sic] in charge had no fear of eternal judgment by a power higher than their temporal institutions. So, a free society and a healthy republic depend upon religious and moral virtue, not only because they help prevent political corruption and the abuse of power, but also because those convictions in the hearts and the minds of the people [finally, thank you] make it possible to preserve their essential freedoms, by, by emphasizing responsibility, and self-sacrifice, and the dignity of hard work, and the rule of law, and things like civility, and patriotism, the value of family and community, the sanctity of every single human life, because without those virtues, being indispensably supported by (heh) religion and morality (as Washington said), every nation will ultimately fall."

His smooth, sweet, nice radio voice did indeed have a little hitch before "religion" there, a little tell of the rhetorical trick he was working, before going on about "these principles" as if he's made his point, ipso facto, presto digitata, now and forever amen. Some of Jefferson's words are chiseled in stone, you can go see them. His facile confounding of religion with morality is simply (!) beyond question, so whatever dogma strikes him as True, is thereby True for all. All men are fallen! Only fear of eternal judgment can make us behave! His God is the Eternal Judge.

Perhaps a dollop of the "keen observation" of Alexis de Tocqueville that our greatness is in our goodness, and our righteously flaming pulpits are the source of our goodness? It's famously misattributed, truth be told. Just like the "exceptionalism" that he moves onto next. "We have to defend truth on every front." Truly.

A playback error mercifully cut our time together short. The Mike and Kelly Johnson website, has been taken offline. (If the Apple Podcast doesn't work, try this webpage for the episode before it too is vaporized.)

I did also stumble upon the just two-months ago Epsiode 64: Trump's Arrest, the Republican Candidates Debate, & the Most-Watched Video of All Time. (That one from Spotify, this thing is all over. Also on

Mike had some thoughts about the "outrageous" prosecution of Trump in Georgia, and the "most-watched" video was the alternate programming against the "debate": "Donald Trump skipped the event and the granted an interview to Tucker Carlson instead..."

"This is blatant lawfare," he says. "They have weaponized the Department of Justice." In, uh, Georgia? It's a vast conspiracy. Oh, and Jim Jordan was going to have his House committee look into that Georgia prosecutor, speaking of weaponization. How did that go?

"Listen: don't make any mistake about it. I think every single one of these bogus prosecutions is overtly weaponized politial prosecutions..."

He may be right that a few hundred thousand voters in 5 or so swing states will decide yet another election next year, one hell of an indictment of our perversely twisted system for electing presidents.

He's also got the "retribution" argument, how terrible it is to have a system of justice to provide accountability for crimes, because "from this point forward" both sides will do it? Just like Lindsey Graham said, and just like Brett Kavanaugh said. And just like Jim Gym and Comer are doing their damndest to implement.

This is a man with a contortionist's ability to use "religion and morality" to cover corruption and malfeasance. (All Trump did was "question the outcome of an election," don't you know. And their clip from the Tucker Carlson interview ends with Trump saying "well I am the President.")

Johnson should make a hell of a Speaker.

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

And so, House Republicans caved to the MAGA extremists Permalink to this item

Headline from the middle of Heather Cox Richardson's letter for the day, in between the description of Mike Johnson as largely unknown backbencher in an undistinguished 4th term, "too invisible to have made many enemies," who was also "instrumental" in Trump's attempted coup? Rep. Peter Aguilar (in his nomination speech for Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries) credited him with being "the most important architect of the electoral college objections," which seems a bit overblown. (Even as it was affirmed by a Republican yelling, out of order, "Damn right!") The source was a year-ago NYT story, They Legitimized the Myth of a Stolen Election — and Reaped the Rewards (as in MONEY, honey), with my emphasis added:

"While most House Republicans had amplified Mr. Trump’s claims about the election in the aftermath of his loss, only the right flank of the caucus continued to loudly echo Mr. Trump’s fraud allegations in the days before Jan. 6, The Times found. More Republican lawmakers appeared to seek a way to placate Mr. Trump and his supporters without formally endorsing his extraordinary allegations. In formal statements justifying their votes, about three-quarters relied on the arguments of a low-profile Louisiana congressman, Representative Mike Johnson, the most important architect of the Electoral College objections."

Yet another "constitutional lawyer," what do you know, with a stint heading the Republican Study Committee, and a "hallmark" of "combining hard-line views with a gentle style." Johnson had risen as far as Deputy Whip, and by many accounts is a real nice guy. Who is 51, which seems so young now, and "spent most of his career working as an attorney for far-right religious advocacy groups," with "a brief but eventful tenure as a member of the Louisiana legislature, according to Popular Information's "what everyone should know" round-up.

Shorter: Johnson advocated for the inclusion of a Bible course in public schools, using it as a history book; is a spokesperson against no-fault divorce; was in favor of "bigotry enshrouded in religion" against LGBTQ folk; was a double-dipping anti-abortion extremist; and yes, that "key role in trying to overturn the 2020 election," deputy whipping 106 signatories on the bogus lawsuit in Texas to have the election results in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan thrown out, because Trump was a sore loser.

In early December, 2020, Johnson emailed all the House Republicans with a "Time-sensitive request from President Trump.” As styled in the original:

“President Trump called me this morning to express his great appreciation for our effort to file an amicus brief in the Texas case on behalf of concerned Members of Congress. He specifically asked me to contact all Republican Members of the House and Senate today and request that all join on to our brief. He said he will be anxiously awaiting the final list to review."

Speaker Johnson, the most inexperienced legislator (and nicest guy?) to assume the role in living memory, made his way to the gavel without making headlines loud enough to shout over the chaos, and without being listed as a defendant in any of Trump's myriad civil and criminal court cases. As Aguilar noted was the Republican caucus' requirement, he is someone "who can appease Donald Trump."

Joan McCarter, for the Daily Kos: Speaker Johnson lays out his impossible agenda.

"Never fear, Johnson said in a letter to his colleagues earlier this week: He’s got this. That display of confidence is the first tell that this inexperienced lawmaker, elected in 2016 and with no history of leadership in the conference, is in for a doozy of a ride."

He's got a whole-year calendar outlined, so there's that. Starting with all the FY24 appropriations bills that are overdue, two a week for the next four weeks (starting with THIS week), and extending beyond next August ("DO NOT break for district work period unless all 12 appropriations bills have passed the House"), to October-December ("EXPAND OUR MAJORITY").

That last goal will likely have a huge boost from the outrageous gerrymandering of North Carolina districts thanks to a partisan state supreme court, and the neutering of the governor.

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

Big boy trouble getting deeper Permalink to this item

Judge Arthur Engoron's gag order had various particulars, but it seems a shorter version might have been just behave yourself. Which is a heavy, heavy lift for a man who's made a career out of bad behavior. His strategy for showing up in court to be an intimidating presence, and then having press cons out in the hallway went a cropper when Trump complained that the judge is “a very partisan judge, with a person who’s very partisan sitting alongside of him, perhaps even much more partisan than he is.”

Learning of the comments, Engoron summoned Trump to the witness stand to explain exactly what he meant. That didn't go well. $10,000.

Good news and bad news Permalink to this item

The Republican House caucus stuck together to unanimously elect Mike Johnson of Louisiana the new Speaker of the House. It might be good that the House can function again, in some fashion. Given Johnson's bona fides as a 2020 election denier and staunch ally of Trump, the unanimity is not a signal of any return to normalcy, however. It's an endorsment of abnormalcy. I have my doubts that any legislation passed by an all- and only-Republican vote can go anywhere in the Senate, and the "Gaetz rule" is any compromise with the Democrats and you're out, right? Stand by for the next government shutdown.

"Johnson is [] an evangelical Christian, who has said “my faith informs everything I do.” He has voted for a national abortion ban and co-sponsored at least three bills that would restrict abortion on a nationwide level. The anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America has given him an A+ rating.

"Congressman Johnson has gone as far as to state he believes doctors who perform abortions should be imprisoned and forced to do hard labor."

And a climate change denier, to boot. Naturally. I remember a pithy quote from my corporate engineering days, regarding indecision. "A bad decision is better than no decision." You can find it in any number of business publications, here's a 5-year old one that's high in the search results: Making the Wrong Decision Is Better Than Making No Decision at All. The trope is based on the ability to subsequently recognize the wrong decision, and reverse it.

"Bad decisions help us accomplish more when they cause us to course correct. If you do something, that action propels you forward. If that something is wrong, then you learn, correct, and move forward."

"Forward" is doing a lot of work there. A bad decision propels you. Is the second bad decision then better than none? The third? We're a lot of bad decisions deep at this point.

Photo from the Corrals trail in the Boise foothills

Call the question Permalink to this item

Felonious Hair Füror's defenses keep unraveling in court, where truth matters a little more than it does out in the wild. Wars in Ukraine and the middle east continue their wholesale killing, and the US House of Representatives is still casting about for a leader. As I write, another quorum call is in overtime, with 6 NVs still on the loose. The party of broken government continues to make good on that promise (building on a broken party) and supporting autocracy in the main. After yet another "leader" is stood up and batted down for insufficent fealty to the former guy, the Republicans gave a half-hearted nod to Representative Mike Johnson of Louisiana, "self-described Christian and staunch Trump ally," who will most likely lose momentarily. Here's a new idea, reported in Heather Cox Richardson's latest daily:

"House minority leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) has offered a bipartisan deal in which Democrats would help Republicans elect a speaker. In exchange for their help, Democrats have said they want a candidate who is not an election denier and who agrees to hold up-or-down votes for bills that have broad support across the parties. Such a deal would mean some security for future elections. It would also mean that a measure funding Ukraine, which is popular across Congress but which the extremists oppose, would get a hearing.

"So would funding the government."

Elise Stefanik's nomination speech starts with a little gratuitous religiosity, and—literally—magical thinking. "Trust is where the magic happens," she says. Mike Johnson is "a friend to all, and an enemy to none." It went downhill from there, blaming "incompetence and negligence" on the opposition. It's a despicable anti-Biden campaign speech, which rouses the caucus to stand and clap on "weaponization" and "shredding the Constitution."

It was awful. Pete Aguilar begins for the Democratic side by noting that Speaker Pro tempore Patrick McHenry has a bit more of a smile on his face this morning (both sides can stand and clap for that). And that we've come 'round to Groundhog Day, trying to find "who can appease Donald Trump."

Update #2:
Some not responding to the call of the teller, but they get through the Cs without any "Others" votes. Are we finally going to have a new Speaker?

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

Still in search of a Speaker Permalink to this item

The main item in Will Bunch's newsletter today is What mattered was how Samantha Woll lived, and it's worth reading for that.

His invited his readers to suggest "a registered Republican — currently in Congress or not — that you would find acceptable for the job" of Speaker of the House. I was moved to suggest our representative, ID-02's Rep. Mike Simpson, despite our long disagreements, the absence of him being mentioned in any news (I've seen), and the fact that I suspect he's unwilling to take on one of the worst jobs in the world.

In his "Ask me anything" postscript, he quotes Marcy Wheeler wondering if a vote to certify the 2020 election will be treated as disqualifying for a candidate for speaker?" and answers that based on

"the eight or so candidates who are still in the running as I write this on Tuesday morning[,] the answer is an unequivocal “yes.” Most of the undistinguished back-benchers seeking to replace the ousted Rep. Kevin McCarthy voted not to certify the 2020 ballots cast by me and my family and friends here in Pennsylvania, while a couple of others (including most prominent hopeful, Rep. Tom Emmer) signed legal briefs supporting Donald Trump’s Big Lie of election fraud. What passes for a moderate today — like Pennsylvania’s Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick or Nebraska Rep. Don Bacon — isn’t running. Eight years of strongman fealty to Trump has left the party devoid of free thinkers. There are no real leaders in today’s Republican Party."

His emphasis the first 3 times, mine on the punchline. And here just past the 50th anniversary of the "Saturday Night Massacre," this kicker (emphasis in the original):

"In 2023, a man who staged a coup attempt that was more violent and dangerous than anything that Nixon could have dreamed of, and who rode out two impeachments and hopes to do the same with 91 felony counts, is a frontrunner to return to the White House. And Donald Trump is openly boasting he will use the Justice Department to clear himself, free his supporters, and get revenge on his political enemies. The real moral of 1973′s “Saturday Night Massacre” is how naïve we were about the threats to democracy, and how we didn’t do enough to prevent it from happening again. What may be the greatest constitutional crisis in American history is the one that’s just around the corner."

Domino theory Permalink to this item

Entertaining inside baseball about "who will flip next" in the Georgia case, from Joyce Vance and four of her former prosecutor friends: Thank U, Next. From Paul Butler, former DC prosecutor focusing on public corruption, now a law professor at Georgetown:

"Mark Meadows does not want to go on trial at the same time as Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani. Of course nobody wants to go on trial at the same time as Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani. But unlike some other members of the Georgia 19-18-17, Meadows sometimes has flashes of good judgment and maybe even civic mindedness, as when he turned over documents to the January 6 House committee, and reportedly agreed to an interview with Jack Smith."

Katie Phang and Vance both mentioned Jenna Ellis, who turned out to be the correct answer. Ellis is pleading guilty to one count of aiding and abetting false statements and writings, for five years probation, $5,000 restitution, 100 hours of community service, and a letter of apology, and of course "agree[ing] to cooperate with prosecutors testify truthfully against the remaining defendants in the case."

She told the court she looked back on "the whole experience with deep remorse," and has become "an outspoken critic of her former friend [sic] in recent month, The Guardian reports.

“I simply can’t support him for elected office again,” Ellis said. “Why I have chosen to distance is because of that frankly malignant narcissistic tendency to simply say that he’s never done anything wrong.”

Bryan Tyler Cohen's video has Ellis' tearful allocution, which I hope is as heartfelt as she makes it seem. The FULL HEARING is on YouTube too; 23 minutes. Long list of things she must and must not do, waivers, commitment to cooperate. No social media while the related cases run. No firearms while she's on probation. The defense wants a note that "this is not a crime of moral turpitude." That's a delicate little dance that will quite generously allow Ellis to keep her license to practice law. Her allocution starts at 14:50. She regrets being Donald Trump's lawyer, as have so many before her, and has experienced "deep remorse." She'll gets a little special accommodation to make her early afternoon flight out of Georgia, without getting all the normal paperwork for a convict on probation done. "We tried to get this taken care of yesterday," her attorney said.

Four down, fifteen to go.

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

After the "revolution" Permalink to this item

Robert Reich was the Secretary of Labor in 1994, after the stupid economy had wrecked George H.W. Bush's bid for a second term, and voters took another raging whack at "the system," giving the Republican Party control of the Congress for the first time in my lifetime. According to Wikipedia's take, "Clinton's push for universal healthcare was the straw that broke the camel's back."

God forbid we should have universal healthcare. On the "plus" side, there was the Contract with America, Heritage Foundation and Reagan speech ideas warmed over from a decade earlier, promising "reform," and "60% issues" legislation, things that a strong majority of the public supported. It didn't matter that almost none of the reforms actually made their way to legislation. Electing Republicans was the main thing.

Data graphic seen at the 2023 Frank Church conference

The year before, 30 years ago last month, "Bill Clinton hosted the now iconic handshake between Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO leader Yasser Arafat after they signed the Israeli-PLO peace accord," if you can imagine that. Reich describes that and more in his Thirty years later blog post, about a reunion with his members of his team.

He mentions (and links to a recording of) the speech he gave to the Democratic Leadership Council in Nov. 1994, with his prescient forecast of what might be coming as our middle class was eroded by global economic and technological forces. The punchline is at 18:50 (of 40 min.), with my emphasis added:

“My friends, we are on the way to becoming a two-tiered society composed of a few winners and a larger group of Americans left behind, whose anger and disillusionment are easily manipulated. Once unbottled, mass resentment can poison the very fabric of society — the moral integrity of society — replacing ambition with envy, replacing tolerance with hate. Today the targets of that rage are immigrants and welfare mothers and government officials and gays, and an ill-defined counterculture. But as the middle class continues to erode, who will be the targets tomorrow?”

It was a hell of a speech, at an inflection point in history.

The slow grind of justice Permalink to this item

One of the many newsletters coming at my email had the date for the trial in the "Mar-a-Lago case (classified documents)," currently set for May 20, 2024. I had to take a moment to remind myself that it was a year ago August that the FBI executed a search warrant and found an absurdly mismanaged trove of information stolen from us. "[C]lassified information — including material at the top-secret level — was kept in boxes and containers at the home and commingled among newspapers, magazines, clothing and other personal items."

This July, NPR updated us with "what to know about this complex case"; with that date, the photo montage out of the indictment, a Columbia Law School professor opining that the trial date was "an appropriate and reasonable effort to balance the legitimate needs of the defendants against the need to move the case forward as expeditiously as possible," and speculation about what all could still go wrong.

The inexperienced Trump-appointed judge, for example. (But hey, she's a member of the Federalist Society.) Eileen Cannon "doesn't have any experience in criminal cases involving classified information. She hasn't actually presided over a lengthy jury trial. They've all been short."

In the meantime, Judge Cannon is not the only fish in the sea. Hello, Fani Willis! As Andrea Junker tooted,

"The fact that two former Trump attorneys have now confirmed — via guilty pleas — that Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election included criminal acts should be a much bigger story."

It did at least give Jay Kuo the opportunity to use a headline that was on his fingertips (no spoiler for those taking the jump), above his five reasons for the greater legal peril the former guy and his top lieutenants are in. Shorter outline, exerpted from his introduction to his detail:

  1. The person considered the key architect to the fake elector scheme just admitted that it was illegal.
  2. With his plea Chesebro has switched from being an attorney who might have provided a legal shield for Trump and his co-defendants to a devastating witness for the prosecution with a lot of insider information.
  3. Chesebro’s plea comes with receipts; a trove of emails, texts and other communications, and his video proffer to lock in his testimony. Willis is now armed with much more than before, and so is Jack Smith.
  4. Trump’s “advice of counsel” defense is now massively complicated. It’s hard to rely upon “advice of counsel” when your counsel has admitted that the advice was 1) not even fully of a legal nature, and 2) likely to go nowhere in court.
  5. The plea puts Willis in a much better place with the case because she doesn’t have to show her hand, while adding enormous pressure on the remaining defendants to seek plea deals. It also makes possible a full trial of the other defendants in 2024.

20.Oct.2023 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Three strikes and you're out Permalink to this item

At the old ball game, or the House of Representatives, one would think. Jim Gym had already lost before I tuned in this morning, now with 25 defectors on the Republican side. Reading backwards through the NYT's live feed-for-all, I see Kevin McCarthy drew the short straw and nominated Jordan for the 3rd time, extolling him as "an effective legislator," prompting laughter and jeers from the other side of the aisle. Good lord. The strategy of "wear[ing] down the oppostion by forcing a series of votes" is not winning friends or influencing people (in favor, anyway). "Thousands of menacing calls, pressure from a marquee Fox News show and even death threats" aren't working either. What Catie Edmondson observed:

"Republicans are getting increasingly frustrated and punchy with each other as we limp into a third week without a speaker. After heated confrontations yesterday in the closed-door conference meeting, the prospect of a potential long weekend of votes is only making lawmakers grumpier."

And even more pathetic, from Robert Jimison:

"The eight Republicans led by Matt Gaetz of Florida, left, who voted to oust Kevin McCarthy as speaker have sent a letter to their colleagues saying they are willing to accept some form of punishment if that will move holdouts to vote in favor of Jim Jordan."

Yesterday, David French's column considered the meaning of "courage," and its present absence in the House.

"What is Jim Jordan good at, exactly? He’s a Donald Trump apologist, a performative pugilist and a Fox News fixture."
–David French

"The Republican base admires Jordan because it thinks he is tough. It perceives him as a man of courage and strength. He is not. Instead, he is a symbol of the way in which Trumpist Republicans have corrupted the concept of courage itself.

"To understand what courage is supposed to be, I turn to a definition from C.S. Lewis: “Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means, at the point of highest reality.” It’s a beautiful formulation, one that encompasses both the moral and physical realms and declares that courage is inseparable from virtue."

It's an amazing essay on "the profound moral rot" and toxicity of "turn[ing] vice into virtue and derid[ing] the very idea of character in politics."

Caveat Kraken Permalink to this item

While the House was running around with its head cut off, and the wars in the Middle East and Ukraine have the world's attention, and oh, a presidential address last night to surely rally all rings of our domestic political circus (ha ha), what else?

Joyce Vance details Donald Trump's Bad Day, and more coming. It should get to a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, soon. Sidney Powell, considering the possibility of 5 to 20 in the Georgia state prison decided to make a deal, for probation, a modest fine and maybe she even gets to keep her law license? It's hard for me to fathom a new client coming her way after her 15 minutes of fame, and six counts of CONSPIRACY TO COMMIT INTENTIONAL INTERFERENCE WITH PERFORMANCE OF ELECTION DUTIES but you never know. Vance's caveat about how big a deal the "and testify truthfully" part of the deal may be:

"Not all cooperators are what they appear to be. Recall that Paul Manafort said he was cooperating before it suddenly became apparent he was not. Mark Meadows turned out thousands of text messages to January 6 investigators in the House before he decided to stop cooperating. If Powell fulfills her obligation to testify fully and truthfully, well, safe to say there are a lot of people, but most definitely Trump, sweating it out tonight. Her cooperation certainly puts pressure on other co-defendants who don’t want to be the last person standing when the music goes off."

It's not a complete pig in a poke anyway: "She appears to have given a taped interview to prosecutors in advance of her plea," Vance tells us. Who's next then? Kenneth Chesebro is first on the calendar, and appearing to be teed up.


Meanwhile, up in the District of Columbia, the prosecution for UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. DONALD J. TRUMP clapped back with a 54-page filing skewering the Kraken-caliber notion that "overturning the election was just part of the job, for which I enjoy absolute immunity." The Table of Authorities is a history lesson all by itself, going back to the 1807 case of United States v. Burr, six cases with Nixon in the caption (including both Nixon v US, and US v Nixon), Clinton v. Jones, and five Trump cases already.

"In staking his claim, [Trump] purports [] to draw a parallel between his fraudulent efforts to overturn the results of an election that he lost and the likes of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and George Washington’s Farewell Address."

"These things are not alike," it continues, pithily, before reminding the court that those efforts included (with citations elided):

"a conspiracy to defraud the United States [in which] the defendant, then a candidate seeking re-election to the presidency, conspired with, among others, several individuals outside the Executive Branch to “overturn the legitimate results of the 2020 presidential election by using knowingly false claims of election fraud to obstruct the federal government function by which those results are collected, counted, and certified” "in five ways: using deceit toward state officials to subvert the legitimate election results in those states; using deceit to organize fraudulent slates of electors in seven targeted states, and cause them to send false certificates to Congress; leveraging the Department of Justice to use deceit to get state officials to replace the legitimate electoral slate with electors who would cast their votes for the defendant; attempting to enlist the Vice President to fraudulently alter the election results during the certification proceeding on January 6, 2021, and directing supporters to the Capitol to obstruct the proceeding; and exploiting the violence and chaos that transpired at the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021.

All that in just the first count of the indictment. From the first paragraph of the Argument:

"An individual who has served as President of the United States but is no longer in office may face investigation, indictment, trial, and, if convicted, punishment for conduct committed during the presidency. No court has ever alluded to the existence of absolute criminal immunity for former presidents, and legal principles, historical evidence, and policy rationales demonstrate that once out of office, a former president is subject to federal criminal prosecution like other citizens. ... Indeed, a contrary rule would violate the fundamental principle that no one in this country, not even the president, is above the law."

The filing also notes (p. 14, and footnote 6) that

"At least 31 of the 43 Senators who voted to acquit [in Trump's 2nd impeachment] explained that their decision to do so rested in whole or in part on their agreement with the defendant’s jurisdictional argument, underscoring that the defendant’s claimed immunity from prosecution would create a yawning impunity gap: a president who leaves office before the House and Senate can consider impeachment would escape accountability altogether."

The footnote names the 31 senators who gave Feb. 13, 2021 statements (Barrasso, Blunt, Boozman, Braun, Cornyn, Cramer, Crapo, Daines, Ernst, Fisher, Grassley, Hoeven, Hyde-Smith, Inhofe, Kennedy, Lankford, Lee, Lummis, McConnell, Moore, Moran, Portman, Risch, Rounds, Rubio, Shelby, Sullivan, Thune, Tillis, Tuberville, and Wicker), and quotes three of them in the text: Mitch McConnell, Thom Tillis, and Idaho's Mike Crapo (ellipsis in the original, and with my emphasis added):

“Both by text and by precedent, the Constitution does not allow impeaching private citizens—even those who formerly occupied federal office. Private citizens are subject to accountability for their actions under our legal justice system.... The violent, despicable acts of January 6th have shaken our republic to its core and must not go unpunished..”

Politico's take that got me started: Trump’s claim of immunity from prosecution defies American history, special counsel argues.

Before the morning was over in the Central time zone, Kenneth Chesebro pled guilty too (NYT gift link). Three down, sixteen to go. That's going to save a lot of time and trouble in Georgia, especially for the prospective jurors who just had their calendars cleared.

19.Oct.2023 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Slow news day Permalink to this item

While attending the 39th annual Frank Church Conference this morning, I checked to see if Jim "Gym" Jordan had lost a 3rd vote for Speaker of the House, and was surprised to see that he dropped back and punted instead. Sent kudos to Idaho's Rep. Mike Simpson for his leadership in that, without any idea of what would come next.

It's sad and stupid that there is no possibility of a coalition of the reasonable majorities of both sides. (Five Republicans could join the united Democratic caucus and give Hakeem Jeffries a stint with the gavel.) Instead, we have the firmly not-extremist members of the GOP still holding firmly not-Jordan, thanks in part to a barrage of cowardly threats by phone.

And then... Jordan is going to untap out, and take another dose of losing, tomorrow. Huh. The NYT story kind of illustrates the core problem, with a mob of a dozen reporters hanging on sleaze-bag Matt Gaetz' every word out in the corridor.

Kenny Holston/The New York Times

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

Groundhog Day Permalink to this item

They're going to do the same thing over again tomorrow, really? Could be a lot of cycles before Jim Jordan finds true love and manages to break out into a new day. Meanwhile in the "turmoil over House Speaker" roundup, Catie Edmondson reports that "we’ve heard today from holdouts who have said the nasty rhetoric flooding their offices from Jordan’s supporters has only strengthened their resolve."

In search of a leader Permalink to this item

Here's the tally of the 20 Republicans who voted "not Jordan" yesterday, with a headline surmising that it's unclear if they ever will support Jordan. I hope it's true, and I'm glad to see our representative, Mike Simpson, on the list. I was a bit hesitant to call and give him an attaboy, and urge him to stand strong, given how seldom we've agreed on anything. But after reading about Nebraska Rep. Don Bacon's wife getting texted threats, I figured I should speak up, called the DC office, got right through to a staffer who did not ask for any identifying information (it's possible they know me by caller ID). She heard me out for a "thank you" for yesterday's vote, and urging the Congressman to hold out for a better candidate.

Francis Chung photo via AP Images

"I don't know who that is, but it's not Jim Jordan."

She chuckled, thanked me for calling "and for being so polite" so you can imagine how her morning has been going. That second Mediaite story includes the no-surprise admission that cable TV pundit and trump humper Sean Hannity understands his job as a party functionary:

"Fox News host [sic] Sean Hannity upset several House Republicans this month after he used his producers to aggressively whip them into voting for Jordan.

"After it was reported that House Republicans were “growing increasingly irritated” by Hannity’s pressure campaign, Hannity lashed out at “sensitive little snowflakes in Congress” on his show and said, “I offer no apologies for doing my job and seeking answers from those elected public servants.”

What's remarkable about the moment is that the devolution of the Republican Party is not yet complete. Former Speaker John Boehner called Jordan a "legislative terrorist" back in the day. That seems slightly generous for someone who has never had any legislation of his passed into law. And what Pete Aguilar said yesterday:

"If the goal is to continue a 30-year march to hollow out our democratic institutions, weaken our democracy, and embolden extremists, there's a candidate for you. If the goal is to continue taking marching orders from a twice-impeached former president with more than 90 pending felony charges, then there is a candidate for you."

The "30-year march" is a nod to Newt Gingrich, eh. There is another way forward.

"There is still a path forward for both Democrats and Republicans to come together to elect a speaker who can unite us behind a common purpose. Keeping the government open on a bipartisan compromise that won more than 300 votes just four months ago in this chamber, taking up an up-or-down vote on help so Israel can defeat Hamas and Ukraine can defeat Putin, and reassuring the American people that their legislators have their backs. It's that simple, Mr. Speaker, and we can do it today. Let's work together. Let's elect a speaker who will reach out a hand of bipartisanship and deliver for the American people. That is why, once again, Mr. Speaker Pro Tem., I'm proud to nominate Hakeem Jeffries for speaker."

While the House works to assemble itself into a second defeat of Jim Jordan (hopefully), C-SPAN is taking calls from Republican, Independent, and Democratic phone lines. "Republican" callers are pushing for Jordan, sounding a bit scripted, and breezily casting aspersions on campaign donations taken by the Republican resistance.

One fellow was unscripted, summarized his "let's just get it done" message with "Jesus is coming, we gotta get ready." "I don't care who it is," let's just get organized.

Update #2:
Michelle Cottle: Jim Jordan is a lousy strongman (NYT gift link). "Oops, they did it again. On Tuesday the House Republican gong show once again failed to choose a new speaker of the House." But it's not just humor, there's this essential nut of it: "A healthy democracy needs its participants to accept a basic will-of-the-majority model." The alternative is dark. One Republican caller emphasized the word STRONG at least a dozen times in her pitch for Jordan. But as Cottle noted,

"As a community slides ever deeper into chaos and dysfunction, it becomes less suitable for democratic leadership and more primed for domination by a political strongman. ...

"Mr. Jordan clearly fancies himself more of a Trumpian strongman. He has never been a leader or a serious legislator but is, rather, a career pugilist who seems developmentally stuck in his glory days as a high school and college wrestler. When nominating him on the House floor Tuesday, Elise Stefanik (one of the more painful cautionary tales about the corrosiveness of Trumpism) felt compelled to cite his mad skills “on the wrestling mat.” Seriously? The guy is pushing 60, and we’re still yammering about his teenage takedowns? And not to be indelicate, but do Republicans really want people thinking all that hard about Mr. Jordan’s wrestling baggage?"

Update #3: NOT JORDAN
Missed who the first defector was, Bacon? Buchanan votes for Donalds, that's a new defector. Buck votes for Emmer again. Chavez-DeRemer of Oregon was among the 20. Today?

She casts her vote for McCarthy, and Jordan has lost the vote, again, before we've finished the Cs in the roll call. A general murmur arises... Handicappers were predicting he'd lose by a wider margin, and that looks to be happening.

Update #4:
Mike Simpson voted for Scalise again, the 20th not-Jordan.

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

There is no catch-up; there is only letting go Permalink to this item

Just a thought flitting across my mind this morning as I try (and fail) to catch up with email, and news that I mostly set aside while we took a 5-day weekend to visit family up north. In this vein, a selection of things caught up and let go.

And of course, there needs to be something on the lighter side. (Well, this definitely has lighter moments, but it's a more in a gallows humor vein.)

That aired yesterday, before the House Republicans take another whack at trying to organize themselves and elect a new speaker, after Steve Scalise caved to the scattercluck and withdrew. Jim Jordan, seriously? Just after lunchtime, they assembled a quorum (which only needs a majority), with 389 voting "present" as "time" "ran out" (and no gavel whacked). 390, 391, 392, 393, 394... The C-Span feed needs the "time remaining" to go red and start counting up. It ticks over 400 at 12:23 EDT. Ten laggards (7R, 3D) at 12:27. At 12:35, four laggards to come. Presumably, the (3) Republican laggards are being browbeaten in some back room. The room is buzzing with nothing (formally) happening.

I don't know enough US history to know if Jordan is the most unworthy candidate for Speaker ever, but maybe? At any rate, the next vote will be the first public one on whether the caucus can suppress its better judgment in favor of code will be shirt and tie with no coat. From historian Heather Cox Richardson:

In 2017, former Republican House speaker John Boehner told journalist Tim Alberta: “Jordan was a terrorist as a legislator going back to his days in the Ohio House and Senate…. A terrorist. A legislative terrorist.” In 2021, he clarified: “I just never saw a guy who spent more time tearing things apart—never building anything, never putting anything together.”

At 12:41 pm, McHenry declares 432 present, and recognizes Rep. Elise Stefanik to nominate Jordan, who caps a phrase from the Book of Ester, because... Moses watches over the chamber? "Such a time as this," for her to make an absurd reprise of an American carnage speech. Having the Republicans in charge of the House has really sent us downhill, eh.

"Jim Jordan will be 'we the people's' speaker for just a time as this," she says, mangling syntax along with history. Brings up "on the wrestling mat," and lights up a chorus of boos from across the aisle.

Rep. Pete Aguilar's nomination Hakeem Jeffries cites the dangers of "extremism, and partisanship" that have brought us to our sorry state today; running the risk of rewarding the very people—the very person!– who sought to undermine democracy. Jeffries' "character and conviction" versus the Jordan alternative to those virtues.

Just before 1pm, they being the roll call. At 1:08pm, there are four "OTHERS" tallied, and Jordan will have lost at least one round. (Unless someone wants to change their vote. A minute later, 5 OTHERS and the murmuring in the chamber picks up.

Muted a while, tuned back in just in time to hear our Congressman, Mike Simpson, vote for Scalise. OTHERS up to 15. Good. After one more round of picking up the members who didn't answer the first call, the final tally has 20 OTHERS, and Democrat Jeffries outpolling the "majority" choice, 212-200.

11.Oct.2023 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Leaderless Permalink to this item

There's no chance for someone out here in the cheap seats to sort through the factions of the House Republicans. The big picture seems to be a group of Trumpers, a lot of scared-of-Trump-ers, and the sizeable rump of nihilists who succeeded in driving the clown car into the ditch, and ejecting Kevin McCarthy from the speakership. Today's 113-99-8-3 in-caucus poll for Steve "not as racist as David Duke" Scalise, over Jim "Gym" Jordan, "Other," and "None of the above" glosses over the divisions. Mercifully, perhaps, they didn't start another round of hostage negotiations, and are apparently mulling over "what next?" before going public.

Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado seems to be a party of one, voting "present" today, and insisting he'll only vote for a guy (or gal) who publicly supports the actual 2020 election results, as opposed to the performative/make-believe ones. Haven't heard much from Idaho's two congressman, but here's a nomination for our ID-02 man, Mike Simpson. Lucky for Mike that's not going to happen either.

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

What next? Permalink to this item

Timothy Snyder's wise consideration of Terror and counter-terror, in a reflection on Hamas and Israel, and our own experience of, and after 9/11.

"Terror can be a weapon of the weak, designed to get the strong to use their strength against themselves. Terrorists know what they are going to do, and have an idea what will follow. They mean to create an emotional situation where self-destructive action seems like the urgent and only choice."

Smoke and fire Permalink to this item

I'm old enough to remember when a certain presidential candidate said he knew more about offense and defense and ISIS than the generals. (He said he knew more about most everything than anybody.) Brilliant guy. He said "I alone can fix it."

That's the whack context for reconsidering that infamous session (just after he fired FBI director James Comey) with the Russians in the Oval Office back in May, 2017, after which it was reported that Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian foreign minister and ambassador.

Thom Hartmann's got a follow-up question in his blog today: Did Hamas Somehow Get Inside Information About Israel’s Defenses from a Trump Leak?

"While nobody knew then (and nobody but Trump and the Russians know now) exactly what top-secret information we got from Israel that was shared with the Russians in that meeting, it was clearly a shocking revelation that caught our and Israel’s intelligence communities by surprise."

What the Washington Post's source said 6 years ago: "Trump ‘revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies.’" Hartmann adds (with a link to a Jan. 2019 NYT story about subsequent phone calls):

"It’s important to note, though, that it was only one of literally dozens of secret, private meetings Trump had with Russian officials, Russian-aligned people at the White House and Mar-a-Largo, and at least 19 phone calls with Putin, for many of which there are no existing records."

9.Oct.2023 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Meanwhile, in software news Permalink to this item

Saw the story from Ars Technica about severe vulnerabilities in WS_FTP Server that are being actively exploited by ransomeware hackers, "about as critical as vulnerabilities come." The name seemed disturbingly familiar. It's been some uncounted years since I switched to CoreFTP, maybe because I needed sftp and the older program didn't do that?. Digging a bit further, I see I switched to Core in 2004, so "several computers ago."

Before I found that, I saw some of the "several times a week" programs in my now 22-year old list of most-used home software are still going strong. Quite a few items have aged off that list (Netscape and MSIEv5.5, ha ha), but interesting to see how much I'm still using. The successor to vim, gvim, still "all the time." For browsing, I no longer hesitate about updating to the latest Firefox, currently at v115.3.1 esr.

The True Disbeliever Permalink to this item

The conversation at a friendly tennis get-together over the weekend included some politics, prompted by my soliciting signatures for Idaho's Open Primary initiative. So far, everyone I've talked to is easily in favor of that. One friend mentioned the news that I'd blogged about on Saturday (below), and another fellow (let's call him "Mark") who I know only from tennis took the general topic as a springboard to launch into a diatribe about Joe Biden. His age, you know, and about how "you just know" he must've got some money from his son, how "he's been in there so long, you know he's crooked," and about how terrible things were in the country, and the two others of us left in the conversation were What Are You Talking About man? I don't have an elevator speech handy, but I brought up the economy ("oh he inherited that," unironically), was thinking about our standing in the world, and so on.

"Mark" didn't have any evidence of being a trumper; didn't say anything positive about the most immediate alternative, happily, casually derided both major parties, in his everything, all at once kind of rant. He did respond to my point about the economy by mentioning his "stock portfolio," and how he wasn't happy with the last couple years. But absolutely no indication of a possibility of dialogue. No fact the two of us could bring up was even vaguely considered. A Mind Made Up, based on what sources, I'm left to imagine, because the conversation was so obviously going nowhere, I had no incentive to continue.

Cover image of book

I'm several chapters into Naomi Klein's new book, Doppelganger: A Trip Into the Mirror World, and my first thought leaving the scene of the rant was that I'd just had a first-hand dip into the alternate reality that the "Other Naomi" and her new best friend, Steve Bannon, have been flooding into the political realm. You don't actually have to convince people if you confuse them enough. So many people are talking about Hunter Biden, you know? You know?!

Checking on the NYT best sellers list (not something I do much at all), I see that Cassidy Hutchinson's "Enough" is at the top, followed by the 13th book in Bill O'Reilly's "Killing" series ("the Witches," this time, 1692-93, in Salem), Mark R. Levin's "The Democrat [sic] Party Hates America" and Heather Cox Richardson's "Democracy Awakening," which I'd be reading if I hadn't bought Klein first, and weren't reading HCR's daily, daily. Walter Isaacson's gushing "Elon Musk," and 4 nonpolitical books round out the top 10.

"Mark" doesn't strike me as a reader. I should've asked if he watches Fox News; feels like the answer is "yes." Or perhaps he works with people who do, and cheerily confirm his biases. I'm a little curious about what all has influenced him, and capped his epistemic bubble so firmly. Probably not curious enough to pursue it with him, but maybe? Poke at it a little, "I'm just wondering, where do you get your 'news', learn about what's happening in the world?"

It's been forever since I read Eric Hoffer's classic, but I went looking in the Wikipedia entry for The True Believer for clues. "All mass movements are competitive" and perceive the supply of converts as zero-sum... and in Part 4, "Beginning and End," my emphasis added to the part that resonates with my Saturday encounter:

"The book also explores the behavior of mass movements once they become established as social institutions (or leave the "active phase"). With their collapse of a communal framework, people can no longer defeat their abiding feelings of insecurity and uncertainty by belonging to a compact whole. If the isolated individual lacks opportunities for personal advancement, development of talents, and action (such as those found on a frontier), he will seek substitutes. The substitutes would be pride instead of self-confidence, memberships in a collective whole like a mass movement, absolute certainty instead of understanding."

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

Local GOP in disarray too Permalink to this item

Two front page stories in the Idaho Press today: Four major departures from Idaho Attorney General's Office announced, and Six Ada County Republican Party officers resign.

Raúl Labrador, who promised to be "a different kind of attorney general," and make the office a partisan tool, rather than one serving the people of the state, is taking the resignations of the Chief Deputy AG, the Solicitor General (with that shiny new title created just for him), the Chief of Staff, the Chief of the Civil and Constitutional Defense, and the Communication Director as a brag point.

“I hired some of the most talented people in the state of Idaho,” Labrador said in an interview Friday, “and they are very successful, highly ambitious and they’re very coveted.”

I'm old enough to remember when greed was one of the seven deadly sins, but ok.

"[T]he Idaho Press reported that more than 20 staff members left after Labrador defeated longtime incumbent Lawrence Wasden in the 2022 primary election.

"After the transition, other employees have left, including six of eight deputy attorneys general assigned to the Department of Health and Welfare, the Idaho Capital Sun reported in May."

One of the "difficulties" out of Labrador's office came from his attempt to sabotage the Idahoans for Open Primaries initiative. Our Supreme Court rules that Labrador acted "without a reasonable basis in law in this matter," and ordered the state to pay $80k for attorney fees to the prevailing party.

The party news is that six Ada County Republican Central Committee officers resigned Thursday, citing the state GOP’s “current political climate and direction” as the reason for their departure.

The (non-"legacy media") Idaho Dispatch ran the press release verbatim, it appears (albeit salted with advertisements that my script blocker spiked), with "five core reasons" for the mass exodus.

"First, the IDGOP no longer trusts the 575,000 registered Republican voters’ ability to choose candidates in primary and general elections and instead is moving towards the vetting and endorsement of candidates by small groups of party insiders.

"Second, current IDGOP policies will inhibit the growth of the Republican party because, in some instances, newly registered Republicans must endure a purity waiting period to participate in voting in Party elections.

"Third, instead of allowing voters to reject candidates during re-election at the ballot box, the central committees of the IDGOP can now bring Federal, State Constitutional, Legislative, and County officials into “tribunals” where Party members can censure candidates and even strip candidates of all Party support for five years.

"Fourth, the IDGOP has become a Party of dues even though dues are widely rejected in Republican State Parties throughout the United States. Ada County’s $64,000 in assessed dues denies Ada’s candidates valuable campaign resources in Idaho’s largest battleground county. In addition, the IDGOP has not, and refuses to provide, any transparency on how dues money is spent.

"Fifth, the state party no longer embraces grassroots voters and candidates but has created a new oligarchy that values control, “purity testing,” and bullying tactics that are un-Republican. The energy of the Party is more about infighting than collaboration – more about beating each other than beating Democrats."

It continues, at length, with a message from the chairman, Victor Miller, extolling the county party's successes, and decrying the state party's "purity tests," and its dues-sucking. "The Party expects the Counties to pay $250,000 in dues to the State Party, but counties have not been told what they are paying for– there is no financial transparency at the IDGOP level." There is considerable contention, the inside details of which are laid out in a long list.

"Everything we have mentioned is entirely unacceptable, unethical, bullying, and often hypocritical behavior. But the State Party has come to this: if you are “for the cause,” rule-breaking is permitted. Accountability for those “supporting the cause” will never occur, and some members are never expected to live up to the standards they set for others."

A better way forward Permalink to this item

Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries reaches across the aisle with an opinion piece in the Washington Post (gift link): A bipartisan coalition is the way forward for the House, "to accomplish two objectives: encourage bipartisan governance and undermine the ability of extremists to hold Congress hostage."

Our Jerusalem artichoke flower

Just yesterday, I was thinking about coalitions as a way out of the sorry mess that the House MAGA extremists have brought us to, decapitating their puppet leader after he had the temerity (or was it just dumb luck?) to avert a government shutdown on October 1 (and reset the crisis date to mid-November).

Bipartisan governance is what wasn't happening under McCarthy, who "publicly declared more than five hours before the motion to vacate was brought up for a vote that he would not work with House Democrats as a bipartisan coalition partner." (Which is to say, avoiding the October 1 shutdown wasn't actually the plan, but more of an accident.)

"The rules" need revision if we're going to get anything done, with two sides lined up in favor of function vs. dysfunction. Dear leader is in favor of the latter, to help him dodge accountability in every dimension, now through the 2024 election. He hopes to win, but failing that, will attempt to steal it in a repeat of the 2020 insurrection, then pardon his way out of the legal cesspool he's dug for himself. It's a crazy idea, of course. We need a plan B. Leader Jeffries:

"The details would be subject to negotiation, though the principles are no secret: The House should be restructured to promote governance by consensus and facilitate up-or-down votes on bills that have strong bipartisan support. ...

"At this point, we simply need Republican partners willing to break with MAGA extremism, reform the highly partisan House rules that were adopted at the beginning of this Congress and join us in finding common ground for the people."

H/t to Heather Cox Richardson for featuring the proposal in her latest Letter.

I see The Atlantic is flirting with the gift link idea, but theirs are time-limited, expiring in 14 days. Not intended for durable blogging then, as I would want. But if you can get in, Russell Berman's report on his conversation with Rep. Tom Cole makes an interesting postscript. "We Put Sharp Knives in the Hands of Children."

Cole is "chair of the Rules Committee and a 22-year veteran of the House, [and] was a McCarthy loyalist to the end," now lamenting the loss of "our best player," as in the GOP's "best fundraiser, candidate recruiter, and campaign strategist."

This is going to cost us candidates,” Cole said, and “God knows how much money.

So much for an adult in the room, giving away the actual playbook. It's about money, honey, not governance.

6.Oct.2023 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The unitary con Permalink to this item

Digging into the court case Joyce Vance highlighted in her blog post, and the Kraken-krazy level motion to let's just call the whole thing off for UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. DONALD J. TRUMP, because... PRESIDENTIAL IMMUNITY. Just to be clear, which case is this now? D.C. District Court Docket no. 1:23-cr-00257-TSC, comprising criminal charges of

That is, the election fraud, insurrection, and attempted coup. The one with unnamed "co-conspirators" who we know to be Trump lawyers (loosely speaking) Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Sidney Powell, Jeffrey Clark, Kenneth Chesebro, and a "political consultant," probably Boris Epshteyn.

The rather breathtaking motion claims that the offenses charged were somehow "not just within the “outer perimeter” of the president's job, but at the heart of his official responsibilities. In short, that the president is above the law in doing whatever the hell he feels is necessary to stay in office after losing an election.

The claim is that Trump was just trying "to ensure election integrity, and to advocate for the same," and that since his actions were "within the ambit of his office, he is absolutely immune from prosecution."

It's batshit insane IMHO, but IANAL, so here's Joyce Vance's take, on what is a delaying tactic in the endless procession of such:

"If this is Trump’s legal team’s best shot, it’s likely to be a swing and a miss, at least in the district court. Trump filed a motion to dismiss the criminal prosecution based on “presidential immunity.” It’s not a frivolous argument, but it’s a flawed one. Leaving the merits of the argument aside for the moment, Trump’s lawyers’ endgame here is to posture the motion so they can take an appeal in advance of trial, an “interlocutory” appeal, if Judge Chutkan denies their motion. That would delay the trial during the time the appeal took. So, unless the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Supreme Court are prepared to move extremely fast, this motion could mean the trial wouldn’t occur before the Republican nominating convention or even before the election itself. The best we can hope for if this happens is that the courts, appreciating the significance of the moment, will act speedily."

She refers to the underlying goal of autocratic power as a "core conservative ideological principle," with some generosity. The fevered dreams of Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Bill Barr for a "unitary executive" have come a long way, baby, and Trump is hoping for one more step to finish the job. They are the polar opposite of "conservative," unless you run that back to before the revolution and pledge allegiance to the king. Nevertheless, it worked to flush the Mueller investigation, thanks to Bill Barr's canny preemption, and then the Republicans in the Senate breezily quashed two impeachments to bring it a step closer. Ultimately, Vance concludes,

"No matter how Trump’s lawyers try to dress up their argument, at bottom, it is that a president is above the law."

Will that, finally, be a bridge too far? Trump has managed to cheat the law for essentially his whole life, leveraging the base and basest of human duplicity. It remains to be seen whether the current barrage of attempted accountability, across multiple jurisdictions can stanch the hemorrhaging of the last shreds of decency from the the cuckolded Republican Party.

The Outer Limits Permalink to this item

It's Heather Cox Richardson's Oct. 5 opening; Joyce Vance has it swimming after myriad details of legal maneuvers in Trump's active civil and criminal cases: The ABC News Report of his casual treason, sharing "potentially sensitive information about U.S. nuclear submarines" with an Australian billionaire.

That's not the worst of the news, really. bounced between the two bloggers, a tweet from Aaron Fritschner... who is the deputy chief of staff for Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA). (As close as I'll get to Twitter is to point to this interesting Fritschner thread captured by ThreadReaderApp, answering the question "why didn't the Dems step up and vote to keep McCarthy as Speaker?" Shorter: "there were Democrats who were imho willing to help McCarthy if he had given them a reason. He didn't.") What he tweeted, imaged in Vance's blog, my emphasis:

"One thing Kevin McCarthy and Jim Jordan have in common—both had calls with Donald Trump during the most violent moments of the January 6th attack, and both refused to tell the American people or investigators what Trump said on theose calls to the point of defying subpoenas."

HCR reminds us that "Trump awarded Jordan the Medal of Freedom without a real explanation of why he deserved it." In a private ceremony. On January 11, 2021. With a statement noting that Jordan "led the effort to confront the impeachment witch hunt" in 2020. Devin Nunes managed to collect his perfidy prize before the Jan. 6 insurrection (and then quit in the middle of his final term to become CEO of Trump Media & Technology Group). Vance buries her punchline in the middle of a paragraph deep in the details:

"Until the Republican party as a whole rejects insurrection and Trumpism, they are not entitled to any legitimacy in the public square of democracy."

5.Oct.2023 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Still more news roundup Permalink to this item

Now for the regular bad news. Child care programs just lost thousands of federal dollars. Families and providers scramble to cope. The recent admissions by our most ethically challenged Supreme Court justice (in a close race) have undermined his "defense," such as it is. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Josh Hawley agreeing on something? That can't be right. The Kids Online Safety Act is a pig in a poke; "written explicitly to suppress LGBTQ+ voices." Mike Masnick, for Techdirt.

In local bad news, we have a Ada County Highway District commissioner, on record with this: “The problem is, these bicycle and pedestrian projects kind of tug at the heart strings because we say, ‘it’s safety, safety, safety,’ but the reality is that safety is a bottomless pit,” [Commissioner Dave] MicKinney said. “That is to say, we could spend all of our money on safety and nothing else and we could still never meet all the needs of that.”

And some not-so-bad news: Gaetz's speeches against McCarthy hand Democrats fresh campaign material. "Failure theater," indeed, complete with the estimable champion of dysfunction, Newt Gingrich decrying Gaetz' "destroying the House GOP's ability to govern." Everybody can see it's a long-term team effort, though.

In the New York Trump org death penalty case, the Attorney General claps back at the former guy, and his treating the court as a "fundraising stop." Letitia James told reporters on Wednesday that “the Trump show is over,” “I will not be bullied,” and, most importantly, “Justice will be served.Cold, one would assume. And talk about a cliff-hanger! The Guardian's story ends with this juicy teaser: "Trump plans to testify later in the trial."

Good night! Sleep tight!

News roundup time Permalink to this item

After having spent too much time clicking links out of Mastodon, and for a change of pace, selecting from the (mostly) non-political items.

It's time for another Apostolic Exhortation (because we didn't really do anything in response to the previous one). Laudate Deum, to all people of good will, on the climate crisis, in your choice of 8 languages. Thanks to CNN for the short take, I guess, but no link to the original? What the hell?

"I have realized that our responses have not been adequate, while the world in which we live is collapsing and may be nearing the breaking point. ... This is a global social issue and one intimately related to the dignity of human life."

Copernicus Climate Change Service data graphic

Related, in the Guardian: ‘Gobsmackingly bananas’: scientists stunned by planet’s record September heat. "The hottest September on record follows the hottest August and hottest July, with the latter being the hottest month ever recorded. The high temperatures have driven heatwaves and wildfires across the world."

The Scientific American's Folder 29 Project is "a research initiative to uncover the work of lost women of science, hidden in the archives of universities across the country," inspired by a slim folder in the back of a box at the University of California, San Diego, Library’s Special Collections & Archives. Just eight pages inside provided "a jumping-off point to flesh out a life, which raises the question: How many other unknown women in science are there, hidden away in boxes?" A Chance Discovery Uncovered the Remarkable Life of One of the First Female Oceanographers, Christine Essenbert. It's a remarkable bit of time travel, to one hundred years ago, among other things.

From one of the most alluring sites I rarely get around to reading, The Marginalian. The title (of a book aimed at younger readers) grabbed me: The Boy Whose Head Was Filled with Stars: The Inspiring Illustrated Story of How Edwin Hubble Revolutionized Our Understanding of the Universe. The story starts with another woman of science Henrietta Swan Leavitt, in 1908; "one of the women known as the Harvard Computers, who revolutionized astronomy long before they could vote." It's an amazing story, first of all, including the epiphany that what we call Andromeda is not "a swirl of gas and dust within our own galaxy," but something much, much greater.

OSIRIS-REx's sample container returned from the near-Earth asteroid Bennu produced a happy surprise at its Sept. 26 opening: "an abundance of dark, fine-grained material on the inside of the container’s lid and base surrounding the mechanism used to collect the extraterrestrial rocks and soil." A "quick-look analysis" is already underway, a week before The Big Reveal of the "actual" asteroid sample, to be done with a live NASA broadcast on October 11. (According to CNN; could not find that mentioned on anywhere.) The CNN report adds, "Meanwhile, the spacecraft that delivered the sample, now named OSIRIS-APEX, is on its way to study the near-Earth asteroid Apophis, which will come close enough to Earth in 2029 to be seen by the naked eye."

"The Media Today" in Columbia Journalism Review: Q&A: Jeff Jarvis on what the magazine was.

In his new book about magazines, Jeff Jarvis points out that the pages get their gloss from kaolin, a white-clay coating that contains very small traces of uranium and thorium. “Thus magazines are ever so slightly radioactive,” he writes, “which is appropriate, as the form is proving to have a half-life.”

Another piece in (the web version of) Scientific American (and maybe the actual magazine too?): Vaccine Scientist Warns Antiscience Conspiracies Have Become a Deadly, Organized Movement. Peter Hotez' new book: The Deadly Rise of Anti-science. (Previously, Vaccines Did Not Cause Rachel’s Autism.) Speaking of antiscience, whatever happened to Ryan Cole, the ignorant bounder appointed to Idaho's Central District Health Board, appointed with the help of our two-thirds extremist county commissioners? He's still on the CDH board, I'm sorry to say, apparently coasting through 2026, despite facing discipline for negligence and spreading false statements last January, in Washington state. I see from the May, 2023 minutes that a hearing in case M2022-207 was scheduled for Sept. 25-29, so maybe the other shoe is about ready to drop.

Finally, X marks the spot of Elon Musk's money pit. Bought for at $44B and now might be worth... $8B? With advertisers running for the hills, it's hard to imagine subscriptions bringing it back to life. (Maybe he could try turning it into a magaine.)

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

Bully Permalink to this item

Now that we've all had a good laugh and a double helping of Schadenfreude, the uncomfortable awakening is that the "jokes" aren't really funny, and they're on us. No need for me to rehash the headlines from New York (and the gag order against a former president of the United States, in at least one of his four current court proceedings) and Washington (Matt Gaetz' Lord of the Flies moment).

Founding father (of a sort), and an enslaver throughout his adult life, Patrick Henry wrapped up his speech fomenting war with Britain by asking "Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?" (Of, you know, white folks.)

"Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"

Patrick McHenry, surprise heir to the leadership of the House of Representatives, once a 29-year old rabble rouser, and now with an earned reputation for "brainy wonkishness" for low-profile, behind the scenes work (such as getting first in line to be Speaker pro tempore), said give me Nancy Pelosi's secret office! By email. "Please vacate the space tomorrow, the room will be re-keyed."

Thom Hartmann considers a question of larger importance: Is Non-Accountability for the Crimes of January 6th at the Root of Chaos in Congress? He includes links to (links to) Rolling Stone's October, 2021 reporting that named Andy Biggs, Lauren Boebert, Mo Brooks, Madison Cawthorn, Louie Gohmert, Paul Gosar, and Marjorie Taylor Greene, specifically. Only Mr. Biggs was among the eight Republicans who sank the good ship McCarthy yesterday. Boebert, Gosar, and Greene voted to keep him afloat, while Brooks has retired, Cawthorn got voted out, Gohmert quit to try and be Texas AG and lost in the primary.

U.S. Justice Dept. photo

In yesterday's "(NOT SO) TOUGH ON CRIME" segment, RS reported on the Right Wingers' Push for Alleged Felon to Become New House Speaker. Texas Rep. Troy Nehls tweeted a "nomination" of Trump for Speaker, and MTG is going along with that gag. In the more serious handicapping of the race to replace, the question that stands out is "WHO WOULD WANT THIS JOB?"

It's a days-old subject, but when it still looked like the chaos in the House would lead to a government shutdown at midnight Sunday, nonagenarian Richard Viguerie's right-wing screed mill, Conservative HQ, ran an opinion piece by "former Congressman" and felon, Steve Stockman, headlined "Government Shutdown: Political Theater of Fools," lamenting the Republicans' inadequate messaging discipline. (His "praise" for the opposition included a nod to Joseph Goebbles, in a remarkable ouroboros of gaslighting.)

After the non-shutdown, CHQ's editor George Rasley quotes "our friend Frank Gaffney" on the way to explaining "The Gaetz - McCarthy battle" as a failure of trust, in "a man who has made deals with the Biden administration and congressional Democrats. Written before the palace coup, it outlines why true "conservatives" should consider a deal to keep the federal government functioning as a crime against the movement.

The bottom line is that chaos serves the interests of saboteurs and enemies of the nation. William J. Burns and James Fallows discussed how Chaos Serves Putin's Interest, back in March, 2019. That was five years into Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but while it was below the media radar, "just" Crimea and some eastern provinces we'd never heard of, overwhelmed as it was by the chaotic regime of Donald J. Trump, just before the report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller was binned by Bill Barr, and less than a year after Trump's debacle in Helsinki.

We're a lot deeper into the authoritarian swamp escalator since then.

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

The jig is up, maybe. Finally Permalink to this item

We’ve been fooled before, but yesterday’s scenes from court in New York definitely feel like new territory. In keeping with our story so far, unfolding in public view, the partial summary judgment was pre-rendered last week, by New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron in PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, BY LETITIA JAMES, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK –v- DONALD J.TRUMP, DONALD TRUMP JR, ERIC TRUMP, ALLEN WEISSELBERG, JEFFREY MCCONNEY, THE DONALD J.TRUMP REVOCABLE TRUST, THE TRUMP ORGANIZATION, INC., TRUMP ORGANIZATION LLC, DJT HOLDINGS LLC, DJT HOLDINGS MANAGING MEMBER TRUMP ENDEAVOR 12 LLC, 401 NORTH WABASH VENTURE LLC, TRUMP OLD POST OFFICE LLC, 40 WALL STREET LLC, SEVEN SPRINGS LLC.

Image of an apple, rotten to the core

The years-long investigation was launched by NY Attorney General Letitia James, in response to “Trump fixer” Michael Cohen’s 2019 testimony to Congress. (H/t to historian Heather Cox Richardson for that reminder.) Talk about a well-earned title! Cohen is Trump Fixer Extraordinaire!

The judge assessed some of the defendants' arguments ("raise[d] again"), in spite of "this Court and others hav[ing] made abundantly clear" that they were inadequate. "Defendants repeat the erroneous argument," Defendants' rehashed argument ... is unavailing." "Defendants glaringly misrepresent the requirements..." "Defendants erroneously claim" and "incorrectly rely" and "incorrectly posit" and "in flagrant disregard of prior orders ... repeat the untenable notion that 'disgorgement is unavailable as a matter of law.'..." They did correctly assert one thing, "that is completely irrelevant."

The court had already "twice ruled against these arguments, called them frivolous, and twice. been affirmed by the First Department." Other choice adjectives appearing in last week's judgment include "legally preposterous," "obstreperous," "bogus," "fantasy." Duly warned, and unrepentant, "each of defendants' attorneys who signed their names to the instant legal briefs" were sanctioned $7,500. (That's Michael Madaio, Clifford S. Robert, Michael Farina, Christopher M. Kise, and Armen Morian if you're keeping score at home.) It's a (small) start.

Disgorgement is now the question before the court this week. How much of the Trump crime family's ill-gotten gains will have to be coughed up? The State of New York set the starting bid at $250,000,000.

The defendants did raise some new issues. Perhaps most telling is described under the section headed The "Worthless Clause". It could also be the "you knew I was a snake when you took me in" clause. Set forth in the Statements of Financial Condition, the pertinent part quoted, generously hedged with "estimated." Excerpted further:

"Considerable judgment is necessary to interpret market data and develop the related estimates of current value. Accordingly, the estimates presented herein are not necessarily indicative of the amount that could be realized upon the disposition of the assets or payment of the related liabilities. The use of different market assumptions and/or estimation methodologies may have a material effect on the estimated current value amounts."

The court notes that "In his sworn deposition, Donald Trump spent a lot of time invoking this clause."

"Well, they call it a 'disclaimer.' They call it 'worthless clause' too, because it makes the statement 'worthless.'" Donald Trump goes on to say that "I have a clause in there that says, don't believe the statement, go out and do your own work. This statement is 'worthless.' It means nothing." Furthermore, Donald Trump implies that he did not consider it important to review the SFCs for accuracy because of the existence of this purported "worthless clause"...

And then quoting from the deposition directly, my emphasis added:

OAG: So am I understanding that you didn't particularly care about what was in the Statement of Financial Condition?

DJT: I didn't get involved in it very much. I felt it was a meaningless document, other than it was almost a list of my properties, with good faith effort of people trying to put some value down. It was a good faith effort.

The court continues, dryly:

However, defendants' reliance on these "worthless" disclaimers is worthless. The clause does not use the words "worthless" or "useless" or "ignore" or "disregard" or any similar words. It does not say, "the values herein are what I think the properties will be worth in ten or more years." Indeed, the quoted language uses the word "current" no less than five times , and the word "future" zero times.

Additionally, ... a defendant may not rely on a disclaimer for misrepresentation of facts peculiarly within the defendant's knowledge.

In a nod to our national motto, E pluribus unum, the defendants' dodgy argument to use their myriad shell companies and trusts (especially the DJT Revocable Trust) for cover from the Tolling Agreement (to extend the statute of limitations) that they entered into with the OAG limitations also fell flat.

For the OAG's motion for summary judgment on the first cause of action, they needed to prove that "(1) they were false and misleading; and (2) the defendants repeatedly or persistently used the SFCs to transact business." Done.

"[T]he documents here clearly contain fraudulent valuations that defendants used in business, satisfying OAG's burden to establish liability... Defendants respond that: the documents do not say what they say; that there is no such thing as 'objective' value; and that, essentially, the Court should not believe its own eyes."

With a footnote to Chico Marx, playing Chicolini in Duck Soup. There's a footnote to "[Trump] also seems to imply that the numbers cannot be inflated because he could find a buyer from Saudi Arabia to pay any price he suggests," also. "This statement may suggest influence buying more than savvy investing." The court proceeds to detail the fraud, in valuing the Trump Tower Triplex, Seven Springs Estate, Trump Park Avenue, 40 Wall Street, Mar-a-Lago (where the fraud was predicated on future value if they breached the agreement that limits its use and development in exchange for a property tax break), and Aberdeen (Scotland), his "US Golf Clubs" in aggregate, with their "Trump Brand Premium."

That seems to be dissipating rather abruptly. I caught the briefest snippet of the #1 defendant, railing for the media out in the lobby, complaining about the prosecutor and the court with all the verve of a washed-up vaudevillian, and it was too pathetic to watch.

I did not know, before reading it from HCR, that his decision to attend the court proceeding (which he could have skipped) was likely because

"he cited this trial as the reason he couldn’t show up for two days of depositions in his federal case against Michael Cohen. If he didn’t show up, he would be in contempt of court." [Again.] "So he is there, but his goal in all his legal cases seems to be to play to the public, where his displays of victimization and dominance have always served him. ...

"Historian Lawrence Glickman noted that the press is emphasizing Trump’s anger at the proceedings as if a defendant’s anger matters, but it is starting to feel as if bullying and bluster to get away with breaking the rules is not as effective as it used to be. Legal analyst Lisa Rubin notes that this case is a form of “corporate death penalty” that strikes at his wealth and image, both of which are central to his identity and to his political power."

There is, of course, always more (and a raft of links) from HCR, and her Oct. 2 Letter includes the unbridled opinion of his former chief of staff, retired Marine Corps General John Kelly, going on the record today with Jake Tapper of CNN, "confirming a number of the damning stories that emerged during Trump’s presidency about his denigration of wounded, captured, or killed military personnel as “suckers” and “losers,” with whom he didn’t want to be seen." With my emphasis added:

Kelly called Trump: “A person that has no idea what America stands for and has no idea what America is all about. A person who cavalierly suggests that a selfless warrior who has served his country for 40 years in peacetime and war should lose his life for treason—in expectation that someone will take action. A person who admires autocrats and murderous dictators. A person that has nothing but contempt for our democratic institutions, our Constitution, and the rule of law…. There is nothing more that can be said,” he added. “God help us.”

2.Oct.2023 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The (other) man from U.N.C.L.E. Permalink to this item

Thanks to our collective omni-memory, I see the series ran from 1964-68, prime time for "the spy-fiction craze on television," and for my pre-adolescent boyhood. Illya Kuryakin was, obviously, a "heartthrob," and the epitome of cool in my black-and-white world. Turns out, after what made him famous, he had a pretty good run, which came to an end a week ago, at age 90. He remains, naturally, in his early 30s in my memory, and the carefully constructed cipher of a secret agent.

"When anybody wrote in a script a specific about a marriage, about a son, about a child, about a job, I would take it out. Or I would quote Shelley or Keats in order to avoid the question. So in all hundred shows or whatever we did of Illya Kuryakin, there is nothing anywhere that pins him down to anything specific."

31 years ago now, Terry Gross interviewed David McCallum on Fresh Air, and it's an amazing thing to visit, and catch up on the rest of the first two-thirds of his life. I never watched NCIS, nor did I see him as Dr Daniel Westin, Julius Caesar, Judas Iscariot, Alexander the Great, Emperor Joseph II, or a subaltern in C company of the third battalion of the Gold Coast Regiment, with a silver sword, and feathers in his hat, in what is now Ghana, nor hear him as Professor Paradox. (I did see him as Lt. Commander Eric Ashley-Pitt, a.k.a. "Dispersal" in The Great Escape, rather overshadowed by Steve McQueen.)

Great interview with Terry. The NYT obit for him adds a few more details, and a link to the BBC Radio interview with him in 2009, which is just a good laugh with a youngster in his late 70s.

National forecast Permalink to this item

AccuWeather screenshot

Yesterday's forecast at our house was "let's turn on the furnace this morning" (which had to wait for us to buy some fresh batteries). Today, Monday, the no-paper day, we usually get by with a look outside, or click the National Weather Service. From the former, and emptying the compost this morning, I note it has stopped raining, everything smells wonderful, and it's not too cold. (65°F inside, without the furnace having to kick in.) Then I happened to look up the e-edition of the Boise Weekly this morning, which put Nampa on the "National Forecast" map, what do you know? Looks like a day of not-rain, followed by more rain, and then (from the NWS, not the AccuWeather eye-candy map and TMI tabulations without any local detail), back to sunny for the week. Highs in the 70s, lows in the mid-40s, just lovely for October.

Over in the midwest, on the other side of the Rockies and the big low, Madison is featured, they've still got nice weather for swimming in the lake, high in the mid-80s today. And the Facebook page for Cedar Breaks National Monument had this yesterday:

"On the first day of October, Mother Nature gave to us... the first snowfall of the year?? Yep! Overnight, temperatures dropped to below freezing and a layer of snow fell. There is a 30% chance of snow throughout the day with a high of 34°F. If you planned to go on a Fall color drive today, please be aware of potential icy road conditions up around the monument! Stay safe and stay warm, everyone!"

Cedar Breaks National Monument shared photo

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

Speakership Permalink to this item

Headline to start the month extracted from the middle of the NYT coverage, between "Government Shutdown Averted," "Stopgap Bill Passes," and how everyone voted. (Our congressman, and both senators "aye," ID-01's Russ Fulcher "nay.") Inside McCarthy’s Shutdown Turnabout That Left His Speakership at Risk, because... "The Republican speaker opted to keep the government open the only way he could — by partnering with Democrats — in a surprise reversal that left him as politically vulnerable as ever."

I mean, partnering with Democrats, the horror? Versus plan A, which was partnering with the rump of the right-wing extremists from Aderholt to Zinke, and all the crazytown in between? (With various attempts at legislation doomed to fail in the senate, is a subtext that we were too busy to mention.)

First, let's understand when the shutdown would have begun. The story says "12:01 a.m. on Sunday," which can't be right. Sunday (like every other day) begins at midnight, 12:00 a.m. And then just enjoy the verbiage.

Mr. Speaker was (and ended the day, still) "pinned against the ropes" but "bucked expectations" (a mechanical bull makes an appearance later) after "a game of chicken" and hijinks (pulling a fire alarm, really? Jamaal Bowman, caught on camera claimed it was "accident"), and finally, just a hint of fire in the belly of Kevin McCarthy. He was mad at everyone.

“If someone wants to make a motion against me, bring it. There has to be an adult in the room.”

Are nominations still open?

“He allowed the DC Uniparty to win again,” Mr. Biggs wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “Should he remain Speaker of the House?”

Should the cartoon villains get to decide the question? The point about the "uniparty" isn't exactly new, but the alternative of seditious saboteurs does not have the look of "improvement," let alone a solution.


Tom von Alten
ISSN 1534-0007