Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Congressional leaders are now complicit with Trump

As of right now, neither Mitch McConnell nor Paul Ryan is willing to protect special counsel Robert Mueller.
The effort to pass legislation to protect Robert Mueller’s job as special counsel appeared to hit a dead end Tuesday as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would not allow the bill to come to the floor for a full Senate vote.

...

Earlier in the day, Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said again that legislation to protect Mueller's position was “unnecessary” because, based on “the kinds of conversations we have had," he believes that the president will not take steps to dismiss the special counsel.

McConnell was referring to a bipartisan bill that was being considered in committee. Similar legislation, also bipartisan, was pending in the House.

Both bills had bipartisan support, though whether they actually could have passed either chamber is not clear. Politico reports that McConnell's arguments for not bringing the Senate bill to the floor were that it was "not necessary" and that anyway, Trump wouldn't sign it.

Nobody has ever accused Mitch McConnell of being a stupid politician. Unprincipled and contemptible, perhaps, but not stupid. I haven't paid as much attention to Paul Ryan but I don't think you can have a twenty-year Congressional career if you're a moron.

So we can dispense with any supposition that these two men genuinely believe Dear Leader won't fire Mueller. They have seen enough of Dear Leader's behavior to know that he damned well could go off half-cocked, and if nobody in the Oval Office can talk him down when he does, Mueller (and anybody in the way, like Rod Rosenstein) would be out of a job lickety-split.

We must therefore assume that McConnell and Ryan have no objection to Mueller being fired and his team's investigation stopped in its tracks.

In short, McConnell and Ryan are complicit in Dear Leader's ongoing attempts to obstruct justice. I hope there's a law somewhere that will make them accountable when the crimes and corruption of this administration are finally revealed.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Credibility means something

Lots of people are now castigating fired FBI director James Comey for the way he handled (or mishandled) the investigation into Hillary Clinton's email use while she was Secretary of State. I frankly can't parse his explanation of why he revealed the reopening of the investigation shortly before the 2016 election, and all I can do is to echo those who say he should have followed Justice Department procedure and kept his trap shut.

Of course, the reason people are castigating Comey anew is that he's on a high-profile publicity tour in advance of his new book's publication (it goes on sale Tuesday the 17th). In his interviews he has not been kind to our Dear Leader, calling him all the nasty names the rest of us have been using for over a year. The difference, of course, is that the rest of us haven't had a chance to say these things on ABC, where Comey gave his first interview since being fired.

Some of the people criticizing Comey aren't fans of Dear Leader, either, but many of the critics are acting on behalf of the embattled current president. The latter are hoping that enough people will be confused by who the good guy is that they'll throw up their hands and cry, "A pox on both your houses!"

The thing is, a lot of people are going to notice something: while Comey has admitted publicly to screwing up, our domestic Dear Leader never has. The Donald never, ever admits he made a mistake. He taunts, he jeers, he rants, but he never, ever apologizes for anything.

And while he taunts, jeers, rants, etc., above all, our domestic Dear Leader lies. Every day. About absolutely stupid stuff and in utterly absurd ways.

So a lot of people are going to ask themselves, "Hmm ... one guy admits to screwing up sometimes, like everybody does. The other can't stop lying, and is desperate for everybody to believe he doesn't lie. Which one sounds more credible? Which one should I believe?"

Well, which one does sound more credible?

Here's where three years of attention on the national stage is going to come back to haunt our domestic Dear Leader. You can sneer at the reporters and anchors, but you can't wish away the actual footage of Trump lying.

Credibility is earned. Comey's is tarnished. But Trump's is nonexistent.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Trump is not the country

It would be too exhausting to go through every incoherent burble, distortion of the truth and outright falsehood in Dear Leader's remarks Monday (the ones that were supposed to focus on the administration's contemplated response to the reported chemical-warfare attack against Syrian civilians), but one demands close attention.

Among many other claims by our Dear Leader in his lengthy rant against the FBI (and his own Justice Department, and special prosecutor Robert Mueller, and yes, Hillary Clinton, too) for its unannounced raids on his personal lawyer Michael Cohen's office and home, he said the raids were "an attack":

It’s an attack on our country in a true sense. It’s an attack on what we all stand for.
No.

It.

Is.

Not.

If you nod approvingly at Trump's argument, you either

  • buy into the "deep-state" conspiracy against him, or
  • have as little understanding of our Constitution and our laws as he.
Conspiracy theories are seductive little beasts but they generally suggest a lot more than they actually prove. That's why I treat them with great skepticism, often shading into suspicion. If you don't, I think you're showing more credulity than wisdom.

Now, a raid on an attorney's office and the seizing of his files is a very big deal. We all know about attorney-client privilege. (You don't? Well, attorney-client privilege means that your attorney can't reveal what the two of you discussed — at least, not when she was acting as your attorney.)

Even so, the FBI got a warrant to raid Cohen's office and living quarters. The warrant allowed the bureau to seize his files, which ordinarily would be off-limits due to privilege.

That was extraordinary. However, it wasn't illegal.

If a lawyer is suspected of working with her client to commit a crime, or to cover one up, a judge can decide that the attorney-client privilege is moot — that is, that communications between the attorney and client are not protected.

Defeating attorney-client privilege requires compelling evidence. Most attorneys have the knowledge, connections and financial means to counterattack if it turns out the suspicions of criminal behavior were unfounded. Plus, most judges were attorneys themselves, and as the morbid joke goes, sharks don't bite lawyers out of professional courtesy. So no judge is going to grant a warrant to seize client files without damned good reason.

In spite of plenty of lawsuits to his name, Dear Leader doesn't know the principles of our legal system: he only knows the grubby details that he has personally encountered. More to the point, he doesn't give a damn about those principles. He has no clue that the legal system is supposed to treat everyone equally. To the contrary, his self-obsessed little mind is convinced that since he's THE PRESIDENT, the Justice Department is supposed to be his personal attack dog and legal shield.

The Justice Department exists to uphold federal law. It's not the president's stormtroops.

Has DoJ misbehaved in the past, sometimes egregiously? Yes. J. Edgar Hoover treated the FBI much the way Dear Leader would like to, and the result was decades of misconduct and decades more of mistrust by elements of the public. Note, however, that those with the greatest reason to mistrust DoJ or the FBI are black and brown people — just like those Jeff Sessions is going after with today's DoJ, in fact. Rich white men like Trump simply have never been a priority for DoJ. (A lot of them got off scot-free after the 2008 financial collapse, remember?)

No, the FBI and DoJ came after Michael Cohen because they strongly suspect he has committed major crimes — and the evidence they have convinced a judge to sign a no-knock warrant that permitted them to seize his files (and his phone, apparently).

That's not an attack on our country. It's a vindication of our laws. It's a demonstration that the system, at least for now, and in spite of Dear Leader's corrosive attacks on the rule of law, still works.

From the standpoint of the rule of law, the raids on Dear Leader's lawyer's office and home were deeply disturbing — but not because they were an "attack" on anyone, but because they suggest something quite foul is going on with Mr. Cohen. If Dear Leader is feeling attacked, perhaps it's evidence of a guilty conscience. Or, well, no, not conscience, a mental faculty our Dear Leader has convincingly demonstrated he lacks. More like consciousness of guilt.

"L'etat, c'est moi" ("I am the state") is a long-discredited sentiment attributed to one of the more despotic rulers of France. Modern democratic states don't allow their executives to hold such autocratic powers. Yet that's what Dear Leader is claiming when he calls the raids "an attack on our country". News flash, Donnie: you're not the country. Your ego is that big, but you aren't.

Nor were the raids "an attack on all we stand for". What they were was evidence that the rule of law still holds, however tenuously. That's what we stand for. What about you, Mr. President?

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Curtis Rhodes, are you really that thickheaded?

Courtesy of Vice, a piece about a Houston, TX school district superintendent, Curtis Rhodes, who is threatening to punish any of the district's students who participate in the walkouts proposed by high school students in the wake of the Marjory Stoneham Douglas High School massacre.

Piously Rhodes proclaimed that "every choice has a consequence whether it be positive or negative". The richest line, though, has to be this: "A school is a place to learn and grow educationally, emotionally and morally."

Perhaps it has escaped your notice, Mr. Rhodes, but life also is a place to learn and grow educationally, emotionally and morally. Everyday life is a great place to observe authority figures with blinders on, for instance — authority figures who are so invested in their own fiefdoms that they can't see past the ends of their own noses.

You're so bent out of shape by a "disruption" to your precious district that you can't see that the reason for the disruption is to protest the deaths of young people — just like the young people in your schools.

That you would go out of your way to view the walkouts as "a political protest" and not as a cry of anguish by young people who see themselves in the dead students from Parkland, FL is solid evidence that you have no aptitude for your job as a district superintendent. You don't understand the students in your charge, not one little bit.

What the hell is wrong with you, Curtis Rhodes?

Friday, February 16, 2018

If you don't support more gun control ...

In the wake of shootings like the one two days ago at a Florida high school, the standard response of Republican lawmakers to calls for stricter gun control is to assert that (1) mental health is really the issue, (2) the gun control laws on the books are enough but they aren't being enforced vigorously enough, and/or (3) such shootings are the price of a meaningful Second Amendment.

If you embrace #3 in spite of the possibility of your own or other loved ones' kids dying, I don't know what to say.

Reasons #1 and #2, though, are possible to answer objectively. Or at least, we could answer them objectively if Congress didn't forbid the government to do research into gun violence!

Yes, that little provision got tucked into legislation a while back at the behest of, who else, the National Rifle Association. It's a restriction that makes abso-fucking-lutely no sense unless you are the nuttiest of gun nuts, and it's way, way, way past time for us to stop letting those nuts dictate the terms of our gun laws.

So how about we stop threatening the Centers for Disease Control with loss of funding for merely investigating gun violence as a public health issue?

It's nothing short of abject cowardice to forbid this research.

Enough with abject cowardice. Tell your Congressional representative to end this stupidity.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Setting fires

Dear Leader called Congressional Democrats treasonous.

Not because they were "levying War" against the U.S., as the Constitution defines treason.

Not because they were working with an enemy foreign power, which is also how the Constitution defines treason.

No, he accused Congressional Democrats of treason for failing to applaud his State of the Union address.

It's tempting to focus on his unbelievable childishness. He comes off like a five-year-old whining that Mommy and Daddy weren't paying attention.

However, that's the merest distraction. The issue, of course, is that he accused fellow Americans of treason.

Their actual "crime"?

Failing to adore him.

Let that sink in for a moment.

His defenders will paint his remarks, at a putatively official presidential visit to Ohio that looked a lot like a campaign stop, as mere bluster. They will say that he was riffing on a remark from the crowd, just playing to the audience for laughs.

They are wrong. He was smiling, yes, but at the thought of jailing his political enemies. For Dear Leader, being his political enemy is treasonous.

But suppose for a moment they're right, that it was all a joke. Here's the problem: you don't joke about treason.

Repeat: you do not joke about treason.

Not when you're the president of the United States.

The president does not have the same license to joke on such matters as ordinary citizens. From the man in charge of the Department of Justice, such remarks read less as jokes than as threats. Especially when that same mouth has repeatedly pronounced his belief that the only loyalty he honors is to him — not the Constitution, or the nation.

If Dear Leader wants to make such jokes, let him leave office. He can then make all the jokes he wants.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

"Just a conversation" — not

Dear Leader, in a one-on-one meeting with then-acting FBI director Andrew McCabe, asked McCabe whom he had voted for in the 2016 presidential election.

That's a highly disturbing revelation, though a lot of us might have lost our capacity to be disturbed by anything Dear Leader does any more. His question was a not terribly deft way of probing McCabe's loyalty, which Dear Leader insists must be to him.

It's worth remembering that McCabe's oath of office requires him to pledge his loyalty to the Constitution, not a person.

Dear Leader, of course, cannot be expected to know or to care about such niceties as the rule of law and love of country before personal loyalty: he is an ignoramus whose self-absorption is as all-consuming as a black hole. However, we can and must insist that other, less abnormally egotistical and less egregiously ignorant people are held to account for enabling his megalomania.

This would include Republican National Committee chair Ronna Romney McDaniel, who dismissed Dear Leader's question:

"I think it's just a conversation," Ronna McDaniel told CNN's "New Day." "I don't think it intends, you know, all of these terrible things that people are trying to put forward."
There is only one response to McDaniel: bullshit.

She knows good and goddamned well exactly what Dear Leader meant and how utterly wrong it was to ask that question.

Ronna, you are enabling Trump's grotesque abuse of his office by defending him in this instance. How far are you willing to go? How much antidemocratic, authoritarian conduct will you tolerate from him? How much will you help him corrode not just his administration but the public's confidence in our government?

This wasn't conversation. This was another step on the path to authoritarianism. And you, Ronna Romney McDaniel, are smoothing that path.

Can you look yourself in the mirror, Ronna?