Sunday, February 16, 2020


I'll never forget the look of shock and horror on the young ADA's face when the grand jury I was serving on failed to endorse just one count of a multi-count indictment against a drunk who had seriously annoyed some local cops.  It was the only charge we failed to endorse among the dozens of cases brought before us that month.

I wish I could have seen the expression on William Barr's face when his prosecutors told him they couldn't win an indictment of Andrew McCabe after nearly two years of  trying — but I guess I'll have to be satisfied by his tortured efforts to explain how Our President's tweets make his job {punishing Tr*mp's enemies and rewarding his friends) "impossible."  If he was trying to salvage a scrap of self-respect, his effort was singularly unsuccessful.

"I'm not going to be bullied by anyone," the AG proclaimed.  Perhaps.  Maybe it doesn't count as bullying when you've already rolled over and played dead.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

The Romney Vote

It wasn't Mitt Romney, Republican Senator, who voted to find Tr*mp guilty of abuse of power yesterday: it was Mitt Romney, Elder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Romney is serious about his role as a Mormon leader, and felt duty-bound to make a moral decision.  While "situation ethics" overwhelmed American Evangelicals as they transformed their religious movement into a political force, Mormons seem more inclined to stick with first principles.

Clearly, the LDS Church is conservative, despite some of the "socialistic" aspects of its theology; and has been reliably Republican at least since Ezra Taft Benson served in the Eisenhower administration. Nevertheless, Mormons remember their long history as outsiders in America, forced to flee from the East Coast to the Midwest to the deserts of Utah and Nevada.  Other politically conservative Christian denominations still refuse to accept them as "real" Christians – so their integration into the American mainstream remains incomplete.  Mormons remain a "minority group" in the USofA.

While Romney's vote to impeach may do him some political damage in Utah, it's hard to imagine Mormon Utah failing to re-elect him to the Senate in 2023.  Still – despite the fact that his political peril is far less than what other prodigal Republican would have encountered – his decision to vote for impeachment was courageous and worthy of admiration.

Friday, January 31, 2020

About that impeachment...

Ask ten random people why Bill Clinton was impeached, and at least nine of them will say "the blowjob."  Not many will remember that the actual impeachable offense was lying under oath. — and if he'd lied about something less newsworthy than his sleazy sexual predation, Republicans may not have made the effort.  The public was asked to make a moral judgement – but most of the public seemed willing to let him go on with his presidency.

Clearly, Clinton was guilty of abuse of power – not necessarily his political powers, just the usual power of an executive over an intern.  Democrats should have forced him to resign, but #MeToo wouldn't arrive for another eight years.  Although I'd like to believe today's Democrats would behave differently, somehow I doubt they would.

Tr*mp's abuse of power, especially his obstruction of Congress, goes far beyond anything Clinton attempted twenty-two years ago; but the Republican response follows the same pattern established by Democrats in 1998, and the outcome of his "trial" is sure to be the same.  Whether or not Tr*mp's overall moral degeneracy exceeds Clinton's is unclear: politicians necessarily are more circumspect than playboy real estate tycoons.

Meanwhile, plenty of Americans – Democrats as well as Republicans – are thinking, "They all do it."  In future administrations, that assessment very well may prove to be true.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Warren v. Sanders

When, at their private meeting, Elizabeth Warren told Bernie Sanders that she was entering the Democratic primary, his first thought had to be "She'll split the progressive vote, and Biden will get the nomination.  How do I talk her out of this?"

One obvious albeit ill-considered argument: "I don't think a female candidate can beat Trump."  Maybe it slipped out before he had a chance to reconsider: I seriously doubt that Sanders actually believes it.  Almost a year later, it must be hard for him even to believe he said it — but, be that as it may, his denial at the debate did amount to calling Warren a liar.  (I winced.)

I was hoping for something more like this:  "I don't remember saying anything like that, but if I did, I apologize — I certainly don't believe a woman can't be elected."  Then, he could have gone on about Clinton's victory in the 2016 popular vote, et al.

Hopefully, the progressive wing of the party can get its act together in short order, because failure to do so only empowers the Democratic establishment.  Americans wanted change in 2016, and they still want it in 2020. Frankly, I have strong misgivings about Biden (much less Buttigieg) defeating Tr*mp in November.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020


Qassim Suleimani
The Suleimani assassination would have made sense had there been reliable intelligence that it would set off a destabilizing power struggle within the Iranian government; but reliable intelligence, in either sense of the word, is not characteristic of the Tr*mp Administration.  The action's chief impact has been to put a damper on resistance to Iranian influence in Iraq.  While many attribute the killing to Our President's shoot-from-the-crotch strategic incompetence, one still wonders: How does it benefit Putin?

Mark Galli
Back in the 90s, liberals were broadly accused of practicing situation ethics: choosing to violate basic moral codes for the sake of some "greater good."  Currently, that philosophy's main adherents are conservative Christians, most of whom were outraged when Mark Galli's editorial in Christianity Today identified Tr*mp as "a near perfect example of a human being who is morally lost and confused."

Carlos Ghosn
Given the 99.9% conviction rate in Japanese courts, nobody can be surprised that somebody with the wealth and influence of Carlos Ghosn would find a way to jump bail.  Was Ghosn under-reporting his income, as charged?  Probably: it's what the super-rich do.  Does that explain why he was indicted?  Highly unlikely.

Elizabeth Warren
Clearly, the drop in contributions to the Warren campaign was a direct outcome of her waffling on "Medicare for All":  the left wing of the Democratic Party is in no mood for compromise.  Granted, some sort of compromise will be required to get any such program through Congress, but facing up to reality is never a winning strategy in electoral politics.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Speleunking the Wine Cave

If you were a gay multimillionaire hoping to change America's stereotype of gay men, could you find a better avatar than Pete Buttigieg?  He's articulate and intelligent (Harvard, Oxford), a decorated veteran of the war in Afghanistan, and good-looking – but not at all effeminate.  He's comfortably out, and happily married.  Who could ask for more?

It's safe to assume that a lot of the early money that turned a small-city mayor into a viable presidential candidate came from wealthy gays; and entirely understandable that they wouldn't be comfortable with press coverage of his fund-raising events.  Democrats being Democrats, none of his opponents is willing to say that his sexuality detracts from his "electability" — but a "wine cave" sounds like exactly the sort of place a cabal of mega-rich gays would like to hang out and be gay together.  The coding is subtle, but clear.

Personally, I have a different problem with Mayor Pete: it's hard for me to trust someone who seems to have prepared a list of accomplishments prerequisite to political power while still in high school, and then carefully checked off each item, one by one.  It makes me wonder if that person has any higher objective than power itself.  I'm not at all clear regarding why Pete Buttigieg wants to be President of the United States; and it bothers me.

It was inevitable that one of his opponents, however subtly, would have to inject sexuality into the primary debates.  I'm just sorry it turned out to be Elizabeth Warren.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Quick takes

• I can't help thinking that if the Inspector General investigated ten random FISA applications, he'd probably find the number of problems he found in the Carter Page application is about average.  The problem is that the FISA court is secret, so FBI agents can cut corners without much chance of getting caught.  Most of the fruits of FISA warrants remain secret, even after they're executed; and secrecy always invites abuse.

• The impeachment proceeding is just the latest manifestation of an epistemological crisis: apparently, Pat Moynihan was wrong, and you can have your own facts.  For godfather of the current crisis, I nominate Rupert Murdoch, who brought the spirit of British tabloid journalism to American television.  It's hard to stay involved in the ongoing "drama" in Congress when everybody's already guessed the ending.

• I'm curious to see how the Liberal Democrats fare in tomorrow's British election, with their straightforward, unequivocal support for remaining in the EU.  It wasn't that long ago that the LibDems propped up a Conservative minority government.  Might they do the same for Labour?