Friday, June 30, 2023

Mayor Hate Strikes Again

The day before the US Supreme Court more or less outlawed racial discrimination in college admissions, New York City mayor Eric Adams responded

to a woman who had interjected during his comments at a community conversation town hall in Manhattan. The woman had interrupted his remarks and accused the mayor of raising New York City rent and supporting increases.

"If you are going to ask a question, don't point at me and don't be disrespectful to me," Adams told the woman. "I'm the mayor of the city. Treat me with the respect I deserve to be treated. I'm speaking to you as an adult. Don't stand in front like you treating someone that's on the plantation that you own. Give me the respect I deserve and engage in the conversation up here in Washington Heights."

Don't stand in front like you treating someone that's on the plantation that you own.  That wouldn't be the mayor of the largest city in the most powerful nation on earth playing the race card, which can be a subtle ploy. This is something far worse. Of course, context is important. The New York Post report continued 

"Treat me with the same level of respect I treat you," Adams continued. "So, don't be pointing at me, don't be disrespectful to me. Speak with me as an adult because I'm a grown man. I walked into this room as a grown man, and I'll walk out of this room as a grown man. I answered your question."

Following his response to the woman, audience members and city officials briefly applauded Adams.

A politician's town hall is usually attended overwhelmingly by his or her supporters and even more thoroughly dominated by those supporters. It is very rarely a cross-section of the community so it would be unfair to accuse the residents of that part of Manhattan as worshipping an elected official who would be so brazenly, publicly bigoted. The reporter added

The mayor's fierce comments came moments after his initial response to the woman. He noted that he owns a three-family home in Brooklyn but has never increased the rent on his tenants. Adams also sidestepped blame for rent increases, saying the New York City Rent Guidelines Board makes those decisions.

 That's nice- if true- but Adams was at the meeting in his capacity as mayor and his impact upon New Yorkers is far, far less as a landlord than as a public official. And as a public official, he accused someone, who may have been a constituent and whom he probably knows little about, of parroting a slaveholder.  

Treat me with the same level of respect I treat you, Adams stated with little awareness of the irony encased in his obvious hypocrisy.  "So don't be pointing at me, says the tough guy with a security detail, to am 84-year-old woman who is several yards from him, is clearly smaller than he is, and who sat down promptly after she asked her question. 

Perhaps it's not surprising. As we've learned from the example of Donald Trump, biased individuals can be snowflakes, too, only with them it's shrouded in a veneer of belligerent machismo.  

This is the same emperor- uh, er, mayor- who in February of 2022 stated "God told me 'Eric, you're going to be mayor.'" A year later, Adams claimed "when I walk, I walk with God. When I talk with God" and a week later, "God said 'I'm going to take the most broken person and I'm going to elevate him to the place of being the mayor of the most powerful city on the globe.'"

This guy has a god complex. Worse yet, he may be captive to the belief that he really has been chosen by God. Now his intolerance has led him to condemn a woman because of the color of her skin. It is an untenable combination.

Hatred toward a person because of her race is wrong. That shouldn't have to be mentioned. But someone should tell Eric Adams, and the betting here is that no one will. Questioning God is not allowed.

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Politics vs. the Law

Donald Trump is playing a different game than these fellows are.

 Meeting with visitors at his golf resort in Bedminster, NJ after he left the presidency in 2021

“Isn’t it amazing?” Trump says as he shuffles through what he calls “a big pile of papers,” which he can be heard handling on the recording.

“This thing just came up,” Mr. Trump says, adding: “This was him. This was the Defense Department and him.”

“Wow,” a woman in the room can be heard saying, followed by a rustling of papers.

“Let’s see here,” Mr. Trump says, adding, “Look.” There is a brief pause, during which he appears to show people in the room something, and they start to laugh.

“This totally wins my case, you know,” he says, adding that the papers were “highly confidential, secret. This is secret information.”

“Isn’t that incredible?” Mr. Trump says later, adding, “This was done by the military and given to me.”

Then he appears to lean into a suggestion for the book writers. “I think we can probably, right?” Mr. Trump says. A woman responds, “I don’t know, we’ll have to see, you know, we’ll have to try to figure out a —”

“Declassify it,” Mr. Trump says. “See, as president I could have declassified it, but now I can’t.”

“Now we have a problem,” the woman says, laughing.

“It’s so cool,” Mr. Trump says, eventually calling out for someone to bring in Coca-Cola to drink.

It may not matter whether Mr. Trump's attorneys can present this believably to a jury.

A political science professor at Stanford University cautions

Judge Aileen M. Cannon has myriad tactics at her disposal to delay, disrupt and derail the proceedings. She can influence jury selection, undercutting chances of a unanimous guilty verdict. Even if the jury reaches that conclusion, it is the judge who sets the sentence. This could be a slap on the wrist.

Moreover, the case might not get to the jury. Politico explains

Like all federal judges, Cannon has the discretion to grant Trump an acquittal on any of the 37 counts he faces — or on all of them — at the conclusion of the government’s case or after any defense Trump’s lawyers may put on. Such a ruling — under Rule 29 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure — would amount to the judge’s declaration that the government failed to prove a key element or elements of its case and that no reasonable jury could find the former president guilty based on the evidence presented.

That's fairly uncommon. Of course, most judges don't preside over a trial in which the defendant, if pleased with the judge, may have the opportunity within a few years to nominate her for the United States Supreme Court. And if that judge is fairly young and a member of the Federalist Society, she would be quite appealing if the defendant becomes President.

A mere one juror holding out would be enough for the jury to reach a not guilty verdict or a mistrial. If Trump nevertheless is convicted, Judge Cannon can choose not to impose a prison sentence. If she did the right thing- and remember, this is a member of the Federalist Society we're counting on- and imposes a period of incarceration, Trump still might not set foot inside a prison.

The Department of Homeland Security would like a word with the Bureau of Prisons. Under Section 3056 of Title 18-2 of the United States Code, an ex-President is entitled to Secret Service protection for the rest of his life.  That would be difficult (though not impossible) in a federal prison. Moreover, the defense might argue that Trump's well-being and safety would be jeopardized if he is in the general population.  He might even be subject to the sort of sex he never has been interested in.

Electronic monitoring would be an option- assuming that the defendant is convicted and sentenced to prison.

Nonetheless, by then, a Republican might be President.  Only two GOP candidates- Asa Hutchinson and Will Hurd- have said they would not as President pardon Trump, and they have about as much chance of being nominated by the GOP as does Bernie Sanders. Less, maybe.

If Trump is elected, he would issue a pardon for himself. This would be an act of dubious legality. However, in a country in which the Justice Department has determined (from whole cloth) that a sitting President can be charged with no offense, it's likely a court would intercede to prevent an incumbent from serving prison time- or being penalized in any way, probably.

And Trump may already be pardoned. Though conceding it is "a highly speculative option," a law professor warns

it’s possible that Trump could try to pardon himself with a “pocket pardon.” That is, Trump may have issued himself a self-pardon while he was president and squirreled it away in a desk drawer or storage closet for use in rebuffing possible federal charges down the line.

Even a re-elected President Biden might decide to pardon his predecessor. Presumably, he would be chastened by the nearly undeniable reality that President Ford's pardon of an ex-President Nixon was a mistake. However, this is a country that at one time elected as President Donald J. Trump. And it's one in which the liberal party, while rebelling against mass incarceration, nominated for President its one aspirant who was an architect of that criminal justice approach.  So nothing can be counted out.

Donald Trump understands what George Conway apparently doesn't. If the law is against him, politics can still save him. It can save him by favoritism of Judge Cannon, an unreasonable juror (a Trump supporter unreasonable? impossible!) or by a Republican President who realizes that failure to pardon the GOP hero might lead to a torrent of abuse or worse from other Republicans.

Admittedly, Trump has only contempt for rules, the country, the Constitution, or other human beings and rational, responsible jurors would understand that, even if it is explained to them. However, Donald Trump well understands that political considerations are his best chance, and a decent one, for avoiding a well-deserved fate.

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Keep It Serious

What do President Joseph R. Biden and New York City Pride demonstrators have in common? 


The PRIDE flag was displayed as prominently as the American flag and both movements evidently are unconcerned about provoking a backlash:

Just a guess here, but that might not be good politics.  Undoubtedly meant as a joke, it does provide fodder for endless clips on Fox News. 

The last sentence of the second tweet below gives a glimpse into the connection with Joe Biden:

Perhaps members of the LGBTQIA++  community shouldn't be telling jokes in full public view, video likely to follow at a more strategic time.  (Fox News showed plenty of clips before last fall's election of violence from the black lives protest of 24+ months earlier.) Nor should others. In a major upset, in the tweet below, propaganda outfit RNC Research is taking nothing out of context.

The remark comes quickly, at :08 of the gathering with India's Prime Minister Modi and others.


This was presumably meant in jest. (It had everyone rolling on the carpet.)  As we've all noticed, Donald Trump and other Republicans periodically say something offensive, are called on it, and then claim to have been joking.

Joe Biden is no Donald Trump. However, his remark was so out of context and lacking in cleverness that it only can be presumed to have been a joke. With some exceptions- and these two occasions were not that- comedy should be left to comedians. The best remedy for the President and for LGBTQIA++ activists is not to try to be jocular or humorous, witty or whimsical. Just play it straight. Well, sort of.

Monday, June 26, 2023

A Test

To give Nikki Haley a little credit, she does not share the fondness for Russia which many of her GOP colleagues have. However, like any Republican running for President, she is required to display particular hostility toward mainland China.

The main problem with Haley's remarks is that she offers no solution, which is not coincidental but may be later remedied. But missing is something even The Guardian, the left-leaning, European-based publication, recognized when explaining

TikTok is once again fending off claims that its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, would share user data from its popular video-sharing app with the Chinese government, or push propaganda and misinformation on its behalf.

China’s foreign ministry on Wednesday accused the US itself of spreading disinformation about TikTok’s potential security risks following a report in the Wall Street Journal that the committee on foreign investment in the US – part of the treasury department – was threatening a US ban on the app unless its Chinese owners divest their stake....

Both the FBI and the Federal Communications Commission have warned that ByteDance could share TikTok user data – such as browsing history, location and biometric identifiers – with China’s authoritarian government.

A law implemented by China in 2017 requires companies to give the government any personal data relevant to the country’s national security. There’s no evidence that TikTok has turned over such data, but fears abound due to the vast amount of user data it, like other social media companies, collects.

Concerns around TikTok were heightened in December when ByteDance said it fired four employees who accessed data on two journalists from BuzzFeed News and the Financial Times while attempting to track down the source of a leaked report about the company. Just last week, the director of the FBI, Christopher Wray, told the Senate intelligence committee that TikTok “screams” of national security concerns and that China could also manipulate the algorithm to spread misinformation.

 “This is a tool that is ultimately within the control of the Chinese government, and to me, it screams out with national security concerns,” Wray said.

The Biden Administration's record is mixed, as

In 2020, then president Donald Trump and his administration sought to force ByteDance to sell off its US assets and ban TikTok from app stores. Courts blocked the effort, and President Joe Biden rescinded Trump’s orders but directed an in-depth study of the issue. A planned sale of TikTok’s US assets was also shelved as the Biden administration negotiated a deal with the app that would address some of the national security concerns.

In Congress, US senators Richard Blumenthal and Jerry Moran, a Democrat and a Republican, respectively, wrote a letter in February to the treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, urging the committee on foreign investment panel, which she chairs, to “swiftly conclude its investigation and impose strict structural restrictions” between TikTok’s US operations and ByteDance, including potentially separating the companies.

At the same time, lawmakers have introduced measures that would expand the Biden administration’s authority to enact a national ban on TikTok. The White House has already backed a Senate proposal that has bipartisan support.

A policy checking the power of the mainland Chinese government is incomplete and possibly all smoke and mirrors without banning TikTok in the USA or requiring its sale to an entity not under control of Beijing. Given the popularity of the platform among young people- many of whom vote- politicians such as Nikki Haley find it safer to complain about all manner of things China than TikTok.  With most Republican presidential candidates unable to muster courage to criticize Donald Trump, taking on TikTok would be a positive step.

Sunday, June 25, 2023

A Quirk of Human Nature

During the Republican National Convention in 1988, George Herbert Walker Bush was facing a tight race for President against Michael Dukakis. Therefore, encouraged by Karl Rove, he declared

And my opponent won’t rule out raising taxes. But I will. And the Congress will push me to raise taxes, and I’ll say no, and they’ll push, and I’ll say no, and they’ll push again. And I’ll say to them: Read my lips. No new taxes.

Bad policy, great politics, and Bush went on to defeat Dukakis- and later to raise taxes. As Time magazine reminisced 

Before his first year in office was complete, he had signed into law a “stealth budget” that, while leaving the income tax alone, raised various fees and levies. In 1990, David Letterman was joking that Bush’s catchphrase should be updated to “Read my lips: I was lying”; sure enough, it was clear that the original promise had to go.

The following year, I was talking to a friend of mine, a moderate who was a big supporter of President George Herbert Walker Bush. He was not a fan of paying higher taxes, and I asked him how he still could be a supporter of Bush, who appeared to have lied about something so important. 

I can remember his response only roughly because I didn't realize how telling it was, and it was over thirty years ago. He stated in essence "But that he promised that made it clear that he wanted to lower taxes."

He wanted to lower taxes, it was reasoned, and by voicing his intent demonstrated that he wanted to help taxpayers. We currently have a prominent politician and ex-actor who strategically makes ridiculous and outlandish claims (even more than his rivals).



Donald Trump tells evangelical activists that he's being prosecuted- and he means persecuted. The man who once declared "I am the Chosen One" also says that he is being indicted for you.

This is not unintentional and it is not stupid, but rather impressive strategy. When Trump was to be nominated, he selected for his running mate Mike Pence, who was not only a favorite of such Christians but an evangelical himself. Trump's strength among these voters grew and solidified but reportedly has slipped in the past couple of years. The ex-President, still the favorite for the GOP nomination, nevertheless hears footsteps, and not only from Ron DeSantis. Tim Scott is at least somewhat of a threat and Trump needs to shore up his support among religious conservatives.

Most of those voters don't buy the idea of Donald Trump, he of the "Two Corinthians," who says "I drink my little wine (and) and have my little cracker" at communion is one of them. Most suspect, if not believe, that he's not the believer that they are.

Nonetheless, he pretends to be, even claiming the Bible as his favorite book. And in pretending to be, he is obviously trying to appeal to them. He clearly values their support and is essentially asking for their vote. Claiming he was "indicted for you," he is trying to forge a bond with those individuals, and they sense it.

Running against Bill Clinton for the 1992 Democratic nomination for President, former Massachusetts senator Paul Tsongas spoke disparagingly of the former Arkansas governor as "the pander bear" and "someone who will say anything to get elected." As it turned out, voters felt positively about the "I feel your pain" guy precisely because he did pander to them.

It sent the message that Bill Clinton understood that voters were important enough that he would try to appeal to them.  When Donald Trump says "I was indicted for you," some Republicans believe him and some don't. However, most of them appreciate a politician who will take on their burdens for them. And if a few find that it reminds them of their savior and redeemer, even better.

Friday, June 23, 2023

God's Conversation with Lindsey Graham

The apostle Paul would like a word with Lindsey Graham. About sexuality and closets, sure; but more importantly, this:

The problem arises upon reading First Corinthians (or as Donald Trump would say, “One Corinthians”). The money quote is in verse 11 of chapter 2 but for fairness and context, herewith verses 6 through 11, from the English Standard Version:

 6 Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. 7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But, as it is written,

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,

    nor the heart of man imagined,

what God has prepared for those who love him”—

10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.

Instead of bragging "God is with us," the Closet King could have cited Scripture on behalf of his advocacy of forced birth. However, Lindsey Graham may not be the best guy to start quoting biblical passages. In Romans 2:26-28, the apostle Paul remarked

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.

There is Jude 1:7, in which Jesus’ brother Jude (Hey, Jude!) reportedly stated

Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

The New Testament was a little rough on homosexuality, though not as much as was the Old Testament’s Moses, who in Deuteronomy declared “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” In Leviticus, he laid out the remedy, maintaining “if a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.”

Fortunately, we’re a little more enlightened now and do not impose the death penalty upon individuals of one sex having intercourse with someone of another sex. Progress!

We make up our own minds, some people being informed by Scripture and some not, some claiming dishonestly that they are being informed by Scripture.  At this year’s Faith and Freedom Conference, the senior Senator from South Carolina was wise enough not to quote either Testament and arrogant enough to claim he knows the mind of God. The Bible says what the Bible says, and can be evaluated; suggesting we know the mind of God is frowned upon in that very same book.

Of course, I am not boldly asserting that Lindsey Graham is not a practicing heterosexual, for none of us (or almost none of us) knows of his behavior behind closed doors. And when the Senator acknowledges that he does not know what God wants us to do about reproductive freedom, our own speculation about him will be less relevant. The holding of breath is not recommended.

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Coordination and Obstruction

House of Representatives member from California regurgitating the lie that will not die:

To Kiley's credit, he spoke in this video for well over a minute and never once invoked the term "hoax." However, he did refer to a "discredited idea of collusion" and claims that Special Counsel Robert Mueller "disproved the idea" that "there was collusion," collusion being a "long discredited idea."

Legally, Kiley is wrong because Mueller never addressed the notion of "collusion," which is not addressed in the criminal code. Instead, the Republican ex-Marine considered the possibility of collusion and as MSNBC legal contributors and former federal prosecutors Barbara McQuade and Joyce White Vance noted in June of 2019 

Mueller spent almost 200 pages describing “numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump Campaign.” He found that “a Russian entity carried out a social media campaign that favored presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and disparaged presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.” He also found that “a Russian intelligence service conducted computer-intrusion operations” against the Clinton campaign and then released stolen documents.

While Mueller was unable to establish a conspiracy between members of the Trump campaign and the Russians involved in this activity, he made it clear that “[a] statement that the investigation did not establish particular facts does not mean there was no evidence of those facts.” In fact, Mueller also wrote that the “investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts.”

According to the Mueller report, nine significant members of the Trump campaign had contact with Russians and "on multiple occasions, members and surrogates of the Trump campaign promoted — typically by linking, retweeting, or similar methods of reposting — pro-Trump or anti-Clinton content published by the IRA" (i.e., Russian Internet Research Agency; also, Irish Republican Army but not in this instance). Somehow, this was done without a conspiracy- or rather, without inspiring confidence that a guilt could be proven beyond reasonable doubt. McQuade/White explain

To find conspiracy, a prosecutor must establish beyond a reasonable doubt the elements of the crime: an agreement between at least two people, to commit a criminal offense and an overt act in furtherance of that agreement. One of the underlying criminal offenses that Mueller reviewed for conspiracy was campaign-finance violations. Mueller found that Trump campaign members Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner met with Russian nationals in Trump Tower in New York June 2016 for the purpose of receiving disparaging information about Clinton as part of “Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” according to an email message arranging the meeting. This meeting did not amount to a criminal offense, in part, because Mueller was unable to establish “willfulness,” that is, that the participants knew that their conduct was illegal. Mueller was also unable to conclude that the information was a “thing of value” that exceeded $25,000, the requirement for campaign finance to be a felony, as opposed to a civil violation of law. But the fact that the conduct did not technically amount to conspiracy does not mean that it was acceptable. Trump campaign members welcomed foreign influence into our election and then compromised themselves with the Russian government by covering it up.


Mueller found other contacts with Russia, such as the sharing of polling data about Midwestern states where Trump later won upset victories, conversations with the Russian ambassador to influence Russia’s response to sanctions imposed by the U.S. government in response to election interference, and communications with Wikileaks after it had received emails stolen by Russia. While none of these acts amounted to the crime of conspiracy, all could be described as “collusion.”

 It's difficult to prove conspiracy beyond a reasonable doubt when obvious acts of obstruction take place. Mueller found ten instances in which Donald Trump may have obstructed justice and

at least four acts by Trump in which all elements of the obstruction statute were satisfied – attempting to fire Mueller, directing White House counsel Don McGahn to lie and create a false document about efforts to fire Mueller, attempting to limit the investigation to future elections and attempting to prevent Manafort from cooperating with the government. As Mueller stated, “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” Mueller declined to make a “traditional prosecution decision” about obstruction of justice. Because he was bound by the Department of Justice policy that a sitting president cannot be charged with a crime, he did not even attempt to reach a legal conclusion about the facts. Instead, he undertook to “preserve the evidence when memories were fresh and documentary materials were available,” because a president can be charged after he leaves office. In fact, out of an abundance of fairness, Mueller thought that it would be improper to even accuse Trump of committing a crime so as not to “preempt constitutional processes for addressing presidential misconduct,” meaning impeachment.

In his testimony in May of 2019, Mueller was determined to say as little as possible, and he was very successful. Nonetheless, he did concede “If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.”  Attorney General Bill Barr was the first and Representative Kevin Kline only the latest in the Republican Party to try to convince Americans that what is clearly there is not there. It has been a master class in gaslighting. 


Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Dormant Bench

The frequently controversial, but never quiet or unassuming, Stephen A. Smith is to ESPN beyond what Tucker Carlson was at Fox News or Rachel Maddow is at MSNBC. He is the personality at the sports network.

Smith voted for Joe Biden against Donald Trump in 2020 but recently cut a video slamming the likelihood of a rematch between the two gentlemen.  As a follow-up, he can be seen on the video below remarking (beginning at 3:42) in his classic style

I didn't sit up; there and say vote Republican or conservative. I simply said "excuse me, we got a whole bunch of younger, brilliant minds both on the male and female side. Gender is not relevant here- who are capable of doing the job."

Gender should not be relevant, but it is. When Kamala Harris (whom Smith clearly is unimpressed by) was presented for approval by delegates to the Democratic National Convention by Joe Biden to be his running mate, she was lauded as making history because she'd be the first female vice-president (also the first black and Asian-American V.P., but stay with me). Smith continued

If you're the Democrats, that's the best that you can do? You got everybody salivating and clamoring to support a dude that's going to be 82 years old? That's the best you can do? Don't be mad at me, be mad at you- for not making sure you had a slew of viable candidates where you wouldn't have to depend on this man and run him into the ground.

"Run him into the ground." One never accuses, and can never accuse, Steven A., as he often is referred to (see paragraph 1), of mincing words. But he is correct that the Party as of this date has no other viable candidate (apologies- no, not really- to Gavin Newsom),  for whatever reason. Mr. Smith doesn't, and won't say why, and that's understandable, given that no political pundit will explain it, either.

Stating a critical truth, Smith comments

It's your fault- it ain't mine. Discover, cultivate, and position somebody younger- dare I say sharper- to be in a position where you can ingratiate them with the American people so you can win an election, potentially against a 78-year-old.

Ironically, the probability of facing off against another old guy is the incumbent's ace-in-the-hole in holding off challengers. There is considerable concern that Joe Biden would have difficulty countering the argument- largely implied- of any GOP nominee other than Trump; that it's time for a new, younger generation of leadership. Biden beat Trump once already, and the sense is that he has what it takes to beat that particular opponent. This would not be as much a problem if his opponent were the almost equally aged Donald Trump.

Yet, as a longtime sports guy, Smith knows how a home-and-home series usually turns out. Team X at home plays Team Y. Whomever wins that game, usually loses the game if soon after the first, Team Y hosts Team X.  A split, thus, is more common than one team winning both games. The election in 2020 can be seen as the incumbent (as in the home team) playing the challenger, and in that case the challenger won. If it's Biden v. Trump in 2024, the roles would be reversed. The outcome could be, also.

"Don't be mad at me, be mad at you" and "it's your fault, it ain't mine," Smith argues. It is the Democratic Party's fault or, more precisely, the fault of Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

It was Joe Biden who was determined to put a woman on the ticket, and only slightly less determined that it be a black woman.  Perhaps intentionally, more likely not, Biden selected a woman who has no business being a heartbeat from the presidency, a realization most of the country has come to.  Probably inadvertently, Biden thereby bought himself an insurance policy against Democrats urging his replacement on the 2024 ticket. The most obvious replacement, the presidential nominee-in-waiting, is the vice-president, whomever that might be. Much to the consternation of a whole lot of Democrats, that is Kamala Harris.

That doesn't necessarily prevent a Democrat from challenging the incumbent for the top job. But in this case, it would come with a prominent warning label.  Though not a shoo-in, as V.P., Harris is the closest thing the Party has to being the default candidate for President. Arguably, it would be her race to lose.

When Harris was selected, there was little attention to whether she was the most qualified individual to serve as vice-president or to take over the top job if it became necessary.  That was refreshing given that the vice president has virtually no constitutional duty and nearly all will enter the position with some relevant governmental experience.  

Harris' selection was lauded, celebrated- even venerated- because she'd be the first female, black, and Asian-American vice president, with a reasonable chance of being the the first black or Asian-American, and second black, to become President. History!

Any challenger to Biden will have to overcome the charge that he (less likely, she) is standing in the way of history being made. The opportunity to make history in that way means a lot to the professional and managerial class with an outsize influence in the Democratic Party.  It matters also to some, though less than assumed, to women, Asian-Americans, and blacks in the Democratic street.

It means more to the black power brokers in the Party. It's not for nothing- and not only for his deceased spouse- that Jim Clyburn made an extraordinarily important endorsement of Joe Biden prior to the 2020 Democratic primary in South Carolina. There, it was expected that a majority of voters would be African-American, and they were. There, the ex-Vice President and ex-Senator from Delaware,  rejected in the earlier states, cruised to victory. One domino after another fell, he was nominated and elected.

Good luck to any Democrat currently holding office who is willing to stand up to all that. California governor Newsom, in a relatively invulnerable position in a heavily Democratic state, has allowed his name to be bandied about but has shown little inclination to run. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Marianne Williamson have nothing to lose.

So, no, the Democrats have not discovered, cultivated, and positioned someone to give him or her an opportunity to be a viable candidate in 2024. It is not by accident. It is because if they did so, it would be interpreted as a slap in the face of their vice-president and, she being a woman "of color," that is not to be done. Therefore, if President Biden loses re-election, it is not only his fault, in the conventional sense, and to the credit of his Republican opponent, that he will have been defeated. It was also the intended or unintended consequence of his decision of a running mate.


Monday, June 19, 2023

One Small Step for Federal Law Enforcement

This is completely unnecessary and an attempt to whitewash an attempted coup.

The department’s decision to formally close the case followed the results of a preliminary inquiry that determined in February that charges were not warranted....

In conducting their investigation, prosecutors inspected videos posted on social media, evidence from the scene of the shooting, Ms. Babbitt’s autopsy and statements from the lieutenant, who has not been named, the Justice Department said. Officials determined there was “insufficient evidence” to warrant a criminal prosecution....

The investigation into her shooting involved civil rights prosecutors who opened an excessive force inquiry. In its statement on Wednesday, the Justice Department said that inquiry had not produced evidence that the police lieutenant had willfully deprived Ms. Babbitt of her civil rights.

Later that day the officer was interviewed by NBC, which reported

In the chaotic minutes before he shot and killed Ashli Babbitt during the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, Lt. Michael Byrd focused his attention on the glass doors leading into the lobby of the House of Representatives chamber.

About 60 to 80 House members and staffers were holed up inside, and it was Byrd’s job to protect them.

As rioters rampaged through the Capitol, Byrd and a few other officers of the U.S. Capitol Police set up a wall of furniture outside the doors.

“Once we barricaded the doors, we were essentially trapped where we were,” Byrd said in an exclusive interview with NBC News’ Lester Holt, speaking publicly for the first time since the riot. “There was no way to retreat. No other way to get out.

“If they get through that door, they’re into the House chamber and upon the members of Congress,” added Byrd, who gave NBC News permission to use his name after authorities had declined to release it.

Byrd’s connection to what was going on outside and inside the building was his police radio. For several minutes, it crackled with a cascade of alarming messages.

There were shouts of officers down. Screams from his colleagues under attack by rioters with chemical agents. A report that an officer’s fingertips were blown off.

“It was literally broadcast over the air,” Byrd said. “I said, ‘OK, this is getting serious.’”

Soon a horde of demonstrators arrived. Byrd, a 28-year veteran of the Capitol Police, took a defensive posture with his gun drawn as rioters smashed the glass doors.

He said he yelled repeatedly for them to get back. But the mob kept pressing forward, and then a lone rioter tried to climb through one of the doors.

What happened next was captured on video: Byrd fired one shot, striking Babbitt in the shoulder.

Babbitt, 35, an Air Force veteran and ardent supporter of former President Donald Trump, fell to the ground; she died from her injuries later.

According to a Texas Monthly story published exactly one year after the insurrection, Texan Nehls and four other Republican members disregarded a directive from police to leave the House chamber, and joined four other Republican members who "made (a) decision to stay and seek to hold that hallowed ground."

In contrast to Nehls, one of them, Oklahoma's Markwayne Mullin, has stated that Byrd "was the last person in the world who ever wanted to use force like that and he wasn't prone to do that. I know for a fact because after it happened, he came over. He was physically and emotionally distraught. I actually have him a hug and said 'Sir, you did what you had to do.'

Yet, as The times noted, Babbitt's " death became a rallying cry for the far right, which described Babbitt as a martyr. Trump himself declared that she had been murdered and suggested, falsely, that the officer who shot her worked for a high-ranking Democrat."

A rallying cry and source of demagoguery, indeed. Yet, Byrd proceeded with caution. As the video indicates, other officers, confronted by overwhelming numbers of individuals clearly determined to breach the chamber, stood aside.  With one- not multiple- shot, Byrd brought down the individual who decided to enter through the broken window to enter the restricted area. Had she made it through, dozens probably would have followed and innumerable members of the House threatened with violence, even death.

In stark contrast to Nehls, one of the Representatives who tried to deter the rioters, Oklahoma's Markwayne Mullin, has stated that Byrd "was the last person in the world who ever wanted to use force like that and he wasn't prone to do that. I know for a fact because after it happened, he came over. He was physically and emotionally distraught. I actually have him a hug and said 'Sir, you did what you had to do.'

Personal expression of support and a hug are nice. However, Lt. Byrd deserves much more. A Presidential Medal of Freedom should be awarded by Joe Biden. It would be highly controversial but the bully pulpit offers the President of the USA a unique, unparalleled opportunity to do what's right.



Sunday, June 18, 2023

Merely a Posture of Madness

It's a notion that will not die  A few months ago on one of his regular appearances on Morning Joe, Donnie Deutch ended a righteous rant by asserting "we know Trump is insane. We know he has lost his mind, we know he's just continually, continually shriveling away.

"Crazy" and "insane" are not diagnoses to be tossed around lightly. And in the case of Donald Trump, we have no hard evidence he is either of these things. Even now that he has been indicted, he may be a) acquitted; by jury; b) beneficiary of dismissal of his indictment by a relatively, young Federalist Society judge who has already proven her fondness for the defendant and probably wouldn't mind becoming a Supreme Court appointee if he is elected; d) convicted and placed onto electronic monitoring, possibly at Mar-a-Lago; e) convicted and placed on probation; f) convicted and pardoned by the next President.

Or Mr. Trump could be convicted and incarcerated in a federal prison, which would displease the Secret Service. And if an agency with major evidence about an attempted coup can wipe its employees' phones clean and face no repercussions, it is not an organization anyone wants to toy with.

So Trump's chances of not dying in prison, as he should, are pretty good. And if there is any indication that he does not believe that monetizing the presidency and, probably the post-presidency with stolen documents, is not worth the slight risk of becoming some thug's boyfriend in the federal pen, we haven't seen it. Sounds rather rational to me.

What he does have is an exaggerated sense of self, which is not uncommon and is understandable given the hundreds of millions of dollars he has made over the decades exploiting other people and the nation. And when that individual has been elected and served a stint as President of the USA, there is additional reason he may come to believe that he can walk on water- especially when it has served himself especially well politically.

But if Deutsch- as so many others- has had it wrong, Jumbo Elliot (yes, that Jumbo Elliot) has it right:

In a concept foreign to many liberals and a few progressives, Donald J. Trump is a bad guy. Whether he is a "bad seed," corrupted by nature, or instead is egomaniacal, malignant, and narcissistic by nurture, Donald J. Trump is a bad (likely even evil) man.  Usually, as probably the case with Trump, it is not by nature but by a combination of upbringing, environment, and- yes- choice.

And when someone is particularly malignant, one chooses to position oneself  in the exact opposite manner- as divine. So in 2019, President Trump approvingly retweeted a Twitter post proclaiming that Israeli Jews like him "like he's the King of Israel. They love him like his is the second coming of God." The following year (as in 1:37 of the video below), he looked skyward and stated "I am the Chosen One."


In December, 2020 one scholar explained

Despite a king-hating revolution nearly 250 years ago, U.S. television audiences never seem to get enough of the British monarchy. Maybe the American obsession with shows like The Crown and, before that, The Stuarts is an unlikely afterglow of the once-potent theory of the divine right of kings. It’s as good an explanation as any, but what is divine-right theory, anyway?

Divine right is the notion that royalty is given divine sanction to rule. In the words of England’s King James I (r. 1603–1625): “The State of MONARCHIE is the supremest thing upon earth: For Kings are not only GOD’S Lieutenants upon earth, and sit upon GOD’S throne, but even by GOD himself they are called GODS.”

Thus there is a confluence between the divine and the monarchical- and authoritarianism. A month after the presidential election he lost, Trump tweeted “A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution."

When Trump likens himself to the rock upon whom Christianity is built (sorry, Peter), advocates abrogation of the Constitution, and identifies as a king, he is easily knocked as out of control or insane. But it is neither, nor insanity.  It is instead authoritarianism with a hint of Christian dominionism, intended to keep politically conservative, evangelical Christians.  This is not psychosis or insanity. It is an allusion to Christian dominionism with an unabashed embrace of authoritarianism.   

Saturday, June 17, 2023

Did I Mention "Pathetic"?

Quick quiz:

Ron DeSantis is campaigning against

  • a) Donald J. Trump
  • b) the entire field of GOP presidential hopefuls
  • c) President Joseph R. Biden
  • d) an incumbent governor of a state other than his own


If you answered (d), you win! Yes, as the "small, pathetic man" Gavin Newsom described him, Ron DeSantis is running against the California governor, and rather feebly. Florida governor DeSantis has been busing migrants from Texas to Sacramento and in response Newsom has been sharply criticizing DeSantis. Therefore

At Thursday’s signing of the state budget in Fort Pierce, Florida, Mr DeSantis was asked about Mr Newsom telling Sean Hannity that he would debate the Florida governor in an event moderated by the Fox News host.

While he didn’t answer the question directly, Governor DeSantis said of Governor Newsom to reporters: “He has a real serious fixation on the state of Florida, I think it’s just bizarre that he does that. What I would tell him is — you know what, stop pussyfooting around. Are you going to throw your hat into the ring and challenge Joe [Biden]?”

Those are bold words from a guy who is ignoring the problems of his own state in order to address the problems of another state, Texas. And

Further laying into Mr Newsom, the Florida governor said his California counterpart is facing “huge problems” in his state and has “overseen a massive exodus” due to it being “mismanaged and ill-governed”.

Are you going to get in and do it, or are you going to sit on the sidelines and chirp?” he added, goading Mr Newsom. “So why don’t you throw your hat into the ring, and then we’ll go ahead and talk about what’s happening.”

That's safe; also, feeble.  DeSantis wants to goad the California governor into trying to topple Joe Biden's bid to be re-nominated, which- at least at this stage- would be extremely divisive and very likely futile. It would endanger Newsom's standing in the Democratic Party because not only would it be nearly doomed to failure but, were Biden to be defeated in the general election, the governor probably would be blamed for putting the Republican into the White House.

Instead, DeSantis could accept Newsom's offer- and try to set the terms of debate himself.  Newsom issued the challenge while interviewed by Hannity,. Therefore, the Florida governor might recommend Hannity himself as the moderator with the faceoff taking place in Iowa, the first state to hold a primary or caucus and GOP-dominated state. The audience might tilt Republican, which certainly didn't hurt Donald Trump in his townhall hosted by CNN.

DeSantis had little to lose.  If Republican primary voters want an unceasingly negative, hatred-driven, Ivy-League educated "populist," they can support Donald Trump- which they already do. If DeSantis waits for a fight between Chris Christie and Trump to throw a wrench into the latter's glide path to the nomination, he might find Tim Scott or another foe being the prime beneficiary.

Alternatively, the Florida governor could be a little bold and accept Newsom's invitation. At the worst, he would be humiliated in debate and sink a candidacy which already is flailing. However, he could prepare a few applause lines which would be good for a campaign ad and in the process, impress Republican voters by displaying a penchant for combat.

Ron DeSantis evidently has chosen the safer route to avoid confrontation.  That's because he is a small, pathetic man.


Thursday, June 15, 2023

Taking Ownership

This is an easy one. The New York Post on June 6, 2023 reported

A top Oregon Republican faced calls for her resignation after her son was photographed giving a Nazi salute in front of a World War II German fight plane during a school field trip.

The unidentified teen, a student at Crook County High School in Prineville, was captured making the apparent Hitler salute while standing next to the swastika-emblazoned plane at the Erickson Aircraft Collection in Madras, Oreg. last week, The Bend Bulletin reported.

The offensive image, which was shared online, prompted the Central Oregon Diversity Project to call for the unnamed teen’s mom, GOP state Rep. Vikki Breese-Iverson, to step down from her Salem post as minority leader of the Oregon House of Representatives.

The local activist group — which is dedicated to providing solidarity and opportunity to Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian and all people of color – also alleged that school district officials “avoided handing down discipline.”

The Diversity Project said it has “reason to believe that the student wasn’t disciplined because of his mother and ‘who’ she is.”

That remains to be seen, and of course is not what the Central Oregon Diversity Project is primarily interested in. Instead

It also called for the Oregon Legislature and Gov. Tina Kotek, a Democrat, to hold the caucus leader accountable.

“We have a problem with the way Vikki Breese Iverson [sic] has and is conducting herself. We feel that if she can’t handle the scope of parenting her child who is nearing adulthood and was caught perpetuating Nazi symbolism, then she is also not fit to fill her elected position,” said Josie Stanfield, a Central Oregon Diversity Project board member.

That "child" is not a six-year-old, instead nearing adulthood and is largely responsible for his own actions. If parents were held responsible for everything obnoxious or irresponsible done by their son or daughter in high school, there would hardly be a parent anywhere who would be unscathed. Nearly all would be in trouble.... frequently.  And

“No person should feel comfortable having a person like that representing Oregon as the Minority Leader of the Oregon House of Representatives. We will be working further to hold Vikki Breese Iverson [sic] accountable to her role in office, and her only way out of that accountability is to make the choice to resign,” Stanfield added, according to the news outlet.

No crime has been committed by the State Representative (nor by her son). Save illegal or truly egregious behavior, the people's representative should be held accountable- by the voters. Additionally

Breese-Iverson has posted an apology on Facebook “to anyone impacted by this image.”

“Out of extremely poor judgement and without considering the impact this photo would have, he posed in front of the aircraft,” she wrote, The Oregonian reported.

“My husband and I have been in contact with the school administration about enforcing adequate consequences for his actions, both at school and at home. In no way do my husband or I condone these actions, and we apologize to anyone impacted by this image,” she added.

In her post, the lawmaker added an image of her son’s handwritten apology, in which he wrote that posing for the snap that a friend captured “was a dumb mistake.

“I really get that now. Doing something bad in the moment without thinking can cause harm,” he wrote.

“I apologized to anyone that was offended and accepted the punishment handed down to me by the school and my parents,” the boy added, according to the Bend Bulletin.

The Central Oregon Diversity Project noted that Breese-Iverson has blocked people from viewing her Facebook page where she made the apology, which a federal court has ruled is unconstitutional behavior for elected officials who use the social media platform as a public forum, advocates pointed out.

The Oregon House Republican Caucus provided the Facebook statement on behalf of the pol, who did not respond to the Bulletin.

Nonetheless, the post has appeared in social media and is probably a secret to very few individuals in the district of Breece-Iverson.  The apology the legislator posted is closer to an actual apology than most apologies offered by public figures, let alone ones who didn't commit the transgression themselves.


According to its Facebook page, the Central Oregon Diversity Project was founded by two "strong Black femme" and "is dedicated to providing mutual aid, connection, solidarity, and opportunity to BILAPOC navigating life in Central Oregon."  Here, it is doing no such thing. It seeks to ruin an individual not for an act, but for speech; not for the individual's speech, but for her son's speech; not to punish an individual for refusing to concede error, but an individual who has acknowledged error.

Ezekiel (18:19-20) wrote

Yet you say, ‘Why should not the son suffer for the iniquity of the father?’ When the son has done what is just and right, and has been careful to observe all my statutes, he shall surely live. The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.

The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. As it applies to the father and the son, so should it apply to the mother and her son.  Moreover, when the latter two act as decisively as they have, they should be applauded, not in the one case hounded from office. Vikki Breese Iverson is showing the strength of character more elected officials should have.


On a Positive Note, It's What He Believes

During the War of 1812, Master Commandant Oliver Perry wrote to Major General William Henry Harrison " we have met the enemy and they ...