Snapshot of how a top criminal uses noncriminals

“Oh, the honor system, of course, of course, we’re on the honor system, on my honor. I’m on my honor, absolutely. You have my word, 100%. I swear to you on the grave of my sainted mother, on my sacred honor.”

On September 29, Trump went to his scheduled debate with Democratic candidate Joe Biden, arriving too late for testing. Chris Wallace of the Fox News Channel, who was the moderator at the debate, later said the event was relying on the “honor system.” Trump railed and snarled at Biden, who was close enough to him to have been in danger. Trump’s contingent refused to wear masks despite rules at the venue to do so. At least 11 people tested positive after the debate.

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This honorable gentleman’s assurance was given after a man famous for his punctuality contrived to arrive at a live debate hosted by a FOX moderator too late for mandatory testing, three days after the first (undisclosed) positive test for the strongman who thought wearing a mask made him look vulnerable, weak, who’d made a strong branding decision to be the tough guy, like Bolsonaro in Brazil, as opposed to the wimpy and unmanly mask-wearing Pence, who he’d soon blame for betraying him and send a mob down to threaten, chase, perhaps rough up, or maybe actually hang. The strong contrast to weak, old Biden with his comically gigantic mask.

The tough guy assuring the others “on his honor” that this time he was actually not lying, that he’d never tested positive for Covid in recent weeks (let alone three days earlier) must have been thinking what easy marks, what pathetic losers noncriminals are… as he concealed his recent positive test for a disease that had ravaged the world, one he’d dismissed as a hoax as America led the world in Covid deaths, one he swore on his honor that he’d tested negative for (still his story).

That massive Covid disruption was not his fault in any way, whatever those exaggerated, fake death tolls supposedly were, he’d totally delegated that, to his dimwit alter-ego, his son-in-law the Covid Czar (rewarding his glorious work making peace in the Middle East, fixing the federal bureaudcracy and ending the Oxycodone overdose crisis). Pence was also assigned Covid Czar, with equal responsibility for the outcome, but with less power than Kushner and a much better guy to send an angry mob after than the husband of his cherished daughter.

Of course, by refusing to wear a mask while bellowing at Biden he was probably hoping to spew enough active Covid to infect and kill the old man he hated and had vowed he could only lose to in a rigged election. He gave the people who prepped him for the “honor system” debate Covid. Loyal Chris Christie got a serious enough case of the deadly disease to need heroic, very expensive emergency treatment at a hospital, and hospitalization, extraordinary measures necessary to save his life. Measures unavailable to virtually any of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who died of the pandemic and continue to die of it.

But really, when you’re at the top of the food chain, the apex predator, the only question is, how many more times with this stupid “honor system” bullshit? Isn’t it enough, already, with the make believe about honor systems, not lying, even if it helps you, being nice just so somebody else can fuck you? Nobody has honor, let’s face it, why insult people’s intelligence? You’re a mark that’s going to get strongly played if you believe in that honor bullshit, take my word for that, loser.

Now, did you take care of that thing we talked about?

Parent and child

I recently spent two years, every day, writing about my troubled, troubling father. Many of the sessions were spent in a kind of dialogue with the skeleton of my dead father. We had some excellent and revealing chats, picking up where he left off the last night of his life. Most days our talk seemed genuinely like an actual conversation with a wiser version of the droll, insightful person I’d been raised by, reflecting the realizations he’d had right before his death. The skeleton was humbled by his death, and looking for reconciliation.

I did this every day for two solid years, thinking about the project when I was not writing, imagining my father’s earlier life, trying to get to the bottom of how damaged my father was and the often subtle, but in many ways disabling, harm he inflicted on my sister and me. It was a great project and I actually learned a lot, whether or not I eventually rewrite the pages into a marketable book. The most amazing and unexpected outcome is that now I can see everything from his point of view, though I still disagree with most of the harmful things he did.

The other day I suddenly realized that some of the best men I’ve ever known have struggled (though much more successfully than my father) to be good fathers, some of the best women struggle with being unfailingly good mothers. Children who have wonderful parents and enviable childhoods sometimes grow up to be tormented, anxious, selfish, insecure, vain, perplexed. This point likely seems too obvious to make, perhaps, to anyone who has raised a child, who lives as a parent, but to me, having no children, it was a long time dawning on me what difficult, sometimes thankless work it is to always strive to be generous, to do one’s best, and still experience that sharper than a serpent’s tooth-inflicted pain that comes from an ungrateful, angry or oblivious child. We all have better days and worse days, and there is no real training on how to be a parent or how to be a child.

I knew a young mother, who’d been raised by difficult, immature parents, who decided to be the opposite of the way she saw her own mother. During her pregnancy she fell under the influence of a group of women called the La Leche League. According to her, their theory is that babies never manipulate a parent, they only ask for what they truly need. A child who is breast fed whenever they ask, and given every bit of affection and attention they seek, will grow up to be strong, confident and self-motivated. She breast fed her first child until the baby was three or so, then weaned her when the little brother arrived. He nursed until he was able to say things like “mom, I need to nurse now, if that’s OK with you.” It was a great bonding experience for the mother, and I have read that the oxytosin released during breast feeding can be quite addictive. What’s not to love about perfect love?

This young mother was fond of pointing to how wonderful her children were, the proof that she had learned mighty lessons from her own childhood and become the kind of 100% nurturing mother she never felt she’d had. “The proof is in the pudding,” she would say with a proud smile, pointing at her perfect children, who had never wanted for unconditional love and were clearly both amazing children as a result. I lost track of the family after a while, but the last I heard, the daughter is, according to the mother, a fearless genius and the son, also a genius, is a very insightful young man and something of a saint.

This young mother once spent the day with her husband and two year-old daughter, visiting old friends of mine. The next time I saw my friends I asked how they’d gotten along (I’d introduced them). They told me it had been an extremely long couple of hours, that they’d found the young parents’ zealous belief that they’d created the perfect child hard to bear. “Parents are one factor, one factor in dozens, as to how your child turns out, parenting doesn’t have that kind of one-on-one correlation with how the kid turns out in the end,” my friend told me. “To think otherwise is a kind of madness bordering on megalomania,” the other friend added.

I think of this now in connection to my own father, and his often problematic parenting. He was one factor among many in how I turned out, though he always loomed as a supremely difficult one. A parent who is often angry, and takes out their frustrations on their child, tends to be a large factor in how the kid grows up to see the world. Just as I am sometimes unable to disentangle myself from the abuse I suffered at his hands, in his life, and the reason he often lashed out at his own children like an injured two year-old, is that he had actually been a deeply injured two year-old.

One of the first things he told me when I returned to his hospital room around 1 a.m. that last night of his life, in that weak, croaking voice dying men often seem to have, was “my life was basically over by the time I was two.” I knew the bones of his story. I had learned them from a witness, an older first cousin, my father’s references to his harrowing childhood were always oblique, opaque.

His mother, a tiny, bitter, deeply religious woman with an unquenchable temper, living in a viscerally unhappy arranged marriage to a very poor man, used to whip her tiny son across the face, from the time he could stand. Picture that, and how much worse it is for a baby than verbal abuse, neglect, icy silence in the face of expressed concerns, or sarcastic dismissal.

Each of my father’s techniques for keeping his children, and his own demons, at bay were less atrocious than taking the rough, heavy cord of an old fashioned steam iron, and whipping your tender young child in the face, from his earliest memory. I finally concluded he did better than he’d experienced, though he admitted late in his life that verbal abuse is as damaging as physical abuse.

Over the years I sometimes thought beatings would have been preferable, since at age fifteen or so, skinny as I was, I would have started fighting back (he already showed fear of me by that age) and soon been able to kick the shit out of him if he lifted a hand against my sister or me. But that is a surmise I rarely think about.

What I think about more and more is how to take the lessons of my troubling childhood and lay them out clearly for others, in the name of becoming more forgiving, of oneself and the people you love who have hurt you. To explain simply, for the possible benefit of any reader who has been struck by the sharper than a serpent’s tooth cruelty of an unfairly angry parent, how I went from hardening my heart against an asshole father, to learning about and understanding the humiliating abuse he’d suffered in a truly hellish childhood, to opening myself, as he was dying, to simply listen to his deep regrets, and encourage him to say the things he felt it so important to say that he used his last breaths to say them.

Nonpartisan 6-3 Federalist Society Supreme Court

The Federalist Society’s reactionary 6-3 majority gets ready to deliver on some of their radical ideologically-driven promises, after demonstrating their zeal a few times already when they had a 5-4 majority (see examples below). Taking no chances on any of these jurists being “compromisers” of their deeply held, often religiously fervent, beliefs, the 6-3 majority was carefully vetted to avoid what happened when some Republican appointees wound up being amenable to compromise in recent decades. As Ruth Marcus wrote in the Washington Post the other day (all quotes are from that essay, linked below):

. . .[O]ver time, and under the tutelage of the conservative Federalist Society, Republican presidents, beginning with George W. Bush and intensifying with Trump, became better at picking reliably conservative justices. There were to be no more David Souters, who turned out to be a solid liberal vote; no more Sandra Day O’Connors, whose background as an Arizona state legislator often inclined her to compromise; no more Anthony M. Kennedys, the pale-pastel conservative named to the court after Ronald Reagan’s first choice, Robert H. Bork, was resoundingly defeated.

Future justices would have judicial paper trails to provide assurance of their conservative bona fides on everything from explosive social issues to government regulation, a topic important to legal conservatives and their financial backers. And so the post-Rehnquist years produced the Roberts court, adding not only the chief justice but also Samuel A. Alito Jr. and, with Trump’s election and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) stage-managing, three new conservative justices: Neil M. Gorsuch, Brett M. Kavanaugh and Barrett.

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Even Before McConnell audaciously rammed through a sixth hardcore conservative, a member of a Christian religious cult, for good measure, (a Harvard law professor cited in the article correctly refers to these hardcore “conservatives” as reactionaries, partisan resisters of social change intent on turning the clock back at any price):

The conservative majority notched steady victories. It let federal executions resume for the first time in 17 years. And its decisions dramatically moved the law on religion, simultaneously carving out greater protections for religious freedom and lowering the barrier of separation between church and state. Religious institutions received exemptions from having to comply with anti-discrimination laws, even as states were required to provide equal benefits to religious and secular private schools. In other words, churches could discriminate but could not be discriminated against.

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The Biden administration, after McConnell orchestrated the reactionary 6-3 majority (and recall, the blocked Merrick Garland nomination would have made the court 5-4 the other way), meanwhile waits for a team of legal experts, appointed in April, to issue a report confirming that it is constitutionally permissible to add justices to the Supreme Court (though apparently Biden has no will to do that [1]). The U.S. Constitution gives no set number and there have been different numbers of justices at different times in our history.

Ruth Marcus gives detailed examples of the “nonpartisan” court in action, from an excellent and chilling essay called The Rule of Six: A newly radicalized Supreme Court is poised to reshape the nation recently published in the Washington Post (graciously gifted to you by the supremely generous Jeff Bezos) about what these highly partisan culture warriors are preparing to do, in this term and for as long as they live.

My only problem with Marcus’s essay is her conclusion that rebalancing the court by adding nonpartisan justices is a “remedy worse than the disease.” Her position is that the left (one could say representative democracy itself) has simply been outplayed by canny partisans like Mitch McConnell and Leonard Leo (longtime VP of the Federalist Society who led the well-funded campaigns to support the Supreme Court nominations of John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett) who have delivered a solid, carefully vetted, ideologically-driven 6-3 reactionary majority that is now immune to the compromise that rules a 5-4 court.

Marcus seems to urge us all to resignedly strap in for the next thirty years or so as this band of zealous partisans rewrites the Constitution, brazenly, sometimes wildly, for a few generations of unchallengeable right-wing rule. We who are not enthusiastic Trumpists will have to content ourselves with excoriating dissents from the three judge’s powerless to alter any decisions, no matter how wrongly decided.

Here are a few examples from from a long essay, analyzing several grievous decisions by this new 6-3 court, well worth reading.

Months later, with Joe Biden in office, the partisan tinge to the majority’s decision-making became clearer. Having stepped in time and again on behalf of the Trump administration, the court rebuffed a Biden administration request that seemed at least as worthy of emergency intervention. It involved the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols, better known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy, under which tens of thousands of asylum-seekers had been required to wait across the border, often in squalid and dangerous conditions, as they awaited hearings.

The policy had been put on hold during the pandemic; the Biden administration, on taking office, suspended and ultimately terminated the program. In August, a Trump-appointed district judge in Texas took the extraordinary step of ordering the administration to start it back up. The appeals court declined to intervene. So Biden’s acting solicitor general, Brian H. Fletcher, turned to the justices with an urgent request, arguing that the injunction “imposes a severe and unwarranted burden on Executive authority over immigration policy and foreign affairs.”

The justices had seen this issue before, actually. When immigration rights groups challenged the legality of the Remain in Mexico policy and a different district court judge blocked it from taking effect, the Trump administration raced to the high court seeking a stay. Then, the court, over Sotomayor’s objection, granted the request.

Somehow, when the Biden administration asked for a similar accommodation, none was forthcoming. The trial court order remained in place, over the objections of the three liberal justices. If anything, the interference with presidential prerogative and international relations — ordering a new administration to resume its predecessor’s policy — seemed more severe than when the Trump administration won its stay. It was hard to see what was different here, except that one petitioner was named Trump and the other Biden.

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Here’s another unsettlingly juicy paragraph from the same essay:

The other conservative justices fumed about what they viewed as the court’s disregard for religious rights [during the pandemic], and over the following months their anger only grew, expressed in acerbic dissents. Then Barrett arrived — and with her, a dramatic change in the law, on Nov. 25, 2020, just a month after the Senate voted to confirm her. At issue this time was an executive order issued by New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, imposing strict limits on attendance at religious services in areas of high covid spread.

Now, the conservatives had a new justice on their team and little patience for deference to state officials who seemed to favor acupuncture clinics and laundromats over churches and synagogues. “Even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten,” the five-justice majority wrote in an unsigned opinion. “The restrictions at issue here, by effectively barring many from attending religious services, strike at the very heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty.”

The case was striking for the public display of hostilities between Gorsuch and Roberts, an unusual glimpse into the tensions that simmered within the conservative camp as well as the internal sniping about Gorsuch, who had arrived at the court without the deferential demeanor of a junior justice.

In a sneering concurring opinion, Gorsuch took aim at the chief justice’s concurrence in the California case a few months before. “Mistaken from the start,” Gorsuch wrote, and it got uglier from there. The “judicial impulse to stay out of the way in times of crisis … may be understandable or even admirable,” he lectured, but “we may not shelter in place when the Constitution is under attack. Things never go well when we do.”

The chief’s response was subtler but no less acidic, remarkable to those accustomed to Roberts’s generally even, above-the-fray temperament. Gorsuch had taken Roberts to task for having “reached back 100 years” to find a supportive precedent, the court’s 1905 decision in Jacobson v. Massachusetts upholding fines for failing to obtain smallpox vaccine.

In reply, Roberts wrote that Gorsuch was the one who was overreacting to a perfectly logical citation. “While Jacobson occupies three pages of today’s concurrence, it warranted exactly one sentence” in the California case, Roberts wrote. “What did that one sentence say? Only that ‘[o]ur Constitution principally entrusts [t]he safety and the health of the people to the politically accountable officials of the States to guard and protect.’ It is not clear which part of this lone quotation today’s concurrence finds so discomfiting.” This was the judicial equivalent of asking, “What’s your problem, dude?”

Even more than the tensions between the two men, however, the case underscored two new realities on the court. First, Roberts was no longer the pivotal player. He had been outvoted.

Second, this new majority wasn’t about to let prudence get in the way of exercising power. Roberts had voted to leave the New York restrictions in place even though, he said, they “do seem unduly restrictive.” Cuomo had redrawn the affected areas, he noted, so that the churches and synagogues that brought the caseweren’t any longer subject to attendance caps. Therefore, Roberts reasoned, the court had no need to issue “an order telling the Governor not to do what he’s not doing.”

The new majority wasn’t buying it. “The applicants remain under a constant threat,” they said. After all, why put off deciding something until tomorrow if you’ve got the votes today?

And one last, especially chilling and consequential ruling about facially discriminatory state election laws that are “merely” partisan and not provably, intentionally racist (foreshadowing the fate of anything that Congress might theoretically achieve, Manchin, Sinema and 9 Republicans permitting, with the stalled Freedom To Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act):

But if one case from the 2020 term epitomized the brazenness of the new majority, and signaled more to come, it was Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, decided on the last day of the term. This time, in a case about voting rights, the conservatives were united, with Roberts fully on board.

Since his service as a young lawyer in the Reagan administration, Roberts had been a long-time antagonist of a broad reading of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which he saw as an affront to states’ rights and an unnecessary artifact of what he views as a bygone era of explicit discrimination.

In 2013, Roberts wrote the 5-to-4 majority opinion in Shelby County v. Holdereviscerating Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, the critical mechanism that required jurisdictions with a history of voting discrimination to obtain advance approval for voting changes — known as “pre-clearance” — from the Justice Department. For decades, this provision safeguarded the votes of millions of minorities — and drove Republicans in the South and other covered areas to distraction. In Shelby County, Roberts led the charge to neuter the law.

“Our country has changed” since the Voting Rights Act was passed, Roberts proclaimed, with arguably excessive optimism. In any event, he assured anyone who might be concerned, “Our decision in no way affects the permanent, nationwide ban on racial discrimination in voting found in” Section 2.

That would wait for Brnovich. Section 2 allows after-the-fact challenges to changes in voting procedures. In a 1980 decision,the court held that Section 2 applied only to intentional discrimination, not to practices that have the effect of disadvantaging minority voters.

In the aftermath of the 1980 ruling, Congress — yes, it was a different era — passed a new, strengthened version of Section 2 designed to make clear the law barred practices with discriminatory effects, whatever the motive. The new Section 2 prohibited any voting practice that “results in a denial or abridgment of the right … to vote on account of race or color.”

For years, that provision had taken a back seat to Section 5, because pre-clearance wassuch a powerful tool. But in the grim aftermath of Shelby County, voting rights advocates sought to expand the use of Section 2.Advertisement

Brnovich was the high court’s first take on this effort — and it did not go well. The case involved two Arizona voting rules: The first was a state policy that disqualified an entire ballot that wascast in the wrong precinct — even if some parts of the ballot, say for candidates for statewide or federal office, were still valid. The second was a law that made it a crime for most third parties to collect and deliver ballots to election officials — what Republicans pejoratively term “ballot harvesting.”

It was easy to see — if you cared to look — how both rules had a discriminatory impact on minority voters, in particular on Arizona’s population of Native American voters. As Kagan outlined in a scorching dissent, Arizona is a national leader in tossing otherwise valid votes cast in the wrong precinct; in 2012, it accounted for almost 1 in 3 of such discarded ballots, 11 times the rate of the nearest contender, Washington state.

And the Arizona rule clearly operates to disadvantage minority voters. In 2016, Hispanic, Black and Native American voters were twice as likely as Whites to have their ballots discarded. Alito’s majority opinion sniffed that this was no big deal — only a sliver of minority voters’ ballots (around 1 percent) was affected. Kagan: “A rule that throws out, each and every election, thousands of votes cast by minority citizens is a rule that can affect election outcomes. If you were a minority vote suppressor in Arizona or elsewhere, you would want that rule in your bag of tricks.”

The ballot collection rule was even more discriminatory. Most Arizonans vote by mail. But access to mail is severely limited for the state’s Native American voters. Just 18 percent of Native Americans in rural counties have home delivery, compared with 86 percent of White voters in those same counties. Getting to a mailbox or post office can mean a drive of up to two hours. Between a quarter and half of Native American households in these communities lack a car, according to evidence before the court. So relying on third parties to collect and deliver ballots was a regular practice for Native American voters — until Arizona, seizing on the opportunities created by Shelby County and the end of pre-clearance review — made it illegal to do so. Never mind the absence of evidence that the practice resulted in fraudulent votes.

In his opinion for the six-justice majority, Alito grappled with almost none of this. As Kagan pointed out, “Except in a pair of footnotes responding to this dissent, the term ‘Native American’ appears once (count it, once) in the majority’s five-page discussion of Arizona’s ballot-collection ban.”

Yet what was particularly astonishing was the majority’s disregard of its own supposed principles, such as careful adherence to statutory text. Alito didn’t merely ignore Section 2 — he engaged in a total rewrite. He invented new tests, all designed to shrink the reach of the law — a law Congress had already revised to make clear its intent to provide broad coverage crystal clear.

How big was “the burden imposed by a challenged voting rule”? Did the state’s “entire system of voting” provide enough other opportunities to cast a ballot? What about “the strong and entirely legitimate state interest in preventing election fraud”? None of this was in the law.Advertisement

Kagan’s dissent pulsated with fury, justifiably so, over the majority’s blithe abandonment of its professed commitment to textualism. “The language of Section 2 is as broad as broad can be,” she noted.“But the majority today lessens the law — cuts Section 2 down to its own preferred size. … No matter what Congress wanted, the majority has other ideas. This Court has no right to remake Section 2.”

No right, perhaps, but all the power. Not a single conservative justice put a limiting construction on Alito’s destructive interpretation of Section 2. The only concurrence came from an even more conservative direction: Gorsuch, joined by Thomas, wrote to say it wasn’t even clear there was any right for private parties to sue under Section 2 at all.

In the uproar over Alito’s majority opinion, the Gorsuch/Thomas concurrence received little attention, but it was an especially dishonest piece of work. To support its unfounded assertion that “lower courts have treated this as an open question,” the concurrence cited a single appeals court case that merely raised the issue in passing. The case was from 1981, the yearbefore Congress rewrote the law, and in doing so made clear that it allowed private lawsuits. “It is intended that citizens have a private cause of action to enforce their rights under Section 2,” the House report on the law stated.

None of this stopped Gorsuch and Thomas. Theirs was no idle observation — it was a bring-it-on invitation for future mischief-making, part of the broader conservative drive to close off access to the federal courts. The offer was eagerly taken up by Texas not many months later, when private plaintiffs sued to challenge the state’s new voting law.

[1] Ruth Marcus, on Biden’s judicial advisory commission:

{Republican] anxiety was evident as summer turned to fall. As the first Monday in October approached, a remarkable number of justices felt compelled to speak publicly in defense of the institution. Perhaps they were rattled by the Biden administration’s commission on the Supreme Court — even though that panel wasn’t intended to do much more than head off demands from the left for radical changes such as expanding the size of the court. Perhaps the polls got to the justices as well. In July 2020, the court’s approval rating stood at 58 percent in a Gallup poll, the highest in a decade; by the end of September 2021, that had dropped to 40 percent, the lowest since Gallup started testing the question in 2000.

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Yikes

In April 2021, Nathaniel Rakich of FiveThirtyEight noted that “Of the 293 Republicans who were serving in the Senate or House on Jan. 20, 2017—the day of Trump’s inauguration—a full 132 (45 percent) are no longer in Congress or have announced their retirement or resignation.” Under pressure from the former president, the party continues to radicalize, with firebrands like Boebert, Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), and Gosar gaining influence.

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2020 Republican Platform

It’s worth remembering, I suppose, what Republicans pledged to do at the 2020 GOP convention. This was their party platform:

We will continue to enthusiastically support the president’s America First agenda and any attempt to amend the 2016 party platform will be ruled out of order.

Here’s Rupert Murdoch’s Fox article on the platform (Murdoch hired lobbyists Stone and Manafort, back in the day).

The one time self-proclaimed Party of Ideas is now the party of one idea: enthusiastic loyalty to a dangerous, vindictive, lying maniac. What could go wrong?

Contempt of Congress

We sometimes hear that the Republican House voted to hold Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over documents relating to a botched operation to get illegal guns off the street. Fast and furious was the stupid name of the bungled operation. The Democratic House also voted to hold Trump’s AG Bill Barr in contempt of Congress. Neither of these AGs were ultimately prosecuted, since the DOJ has a policy against bringing charges against a sitting AG (of course they do…). Even though Barr advised Trump to assert a blanket protective executive privilege (that doesn’t actually exist in the law) that allowed him, as the court cases an appeals slowly proceeded, to block all testimony and document production by all subpoenaed witnesses until the clock was run out (see Don McGahn) and the testimony became meaningless.

I learned that Holder had voluntarily appeared nine times in connection to the long probe into Fast and Furious. He spent hours answering questions, on nine different occasions. That’s how Republicans play — you keep the Benghazi tragedy in front of the American people in probe after probe. Contempt, clearly, can be employed for partisan ends. But what of the clear cut cases?

Trump told his January 6 co-conspirators to dummy up, refuse to obey the legal subpoenas of congress, citing the same fanciful Barr-created doctrine of absolute, perpetual protection against anything that could incriminate a (former) president. When Bannon told Congress to fuck off he had not even a fig leaf of an excuse for his refusal to appear, it was pure, undisguised contempt. Bannon’s opinion is that the Democrats in Congress are illegitimate weaklings who will only prove his point about what a spineless group they are and you can hear him hammer this point home day after day on his podcast The War Room.

The appeal of federal Judge Tanya Chutkan’s ruling that the former president may not assert executive privilege, if the sitting president does not assert it, and particularly if Congress has a compelling need for the testimony and documents, will be heard on Tuesday. Compare this quick hearing to the two year tap dance McGahn and his legal team performed to stall his testimony until it was irrelevant. Yeah, in the end he quietly admitted Trump had ordered him to obstruct justice by firing Mueller, and when he refused, to create a false document stating that Trump had not ordered him to do so, but Trump had already been robbed of his rightful reelection by the time McGahn admitted his former boss had instructed him to obstruct justice, and then lie about it, behind closed doors and not under oath.

Executive privilege may be invoked by members of the administration, the purpose of the privilege is to shield legitimate deliberations about lawful decisions the president makes every day, so there is an argument that it may apply to a then-member of the DOJ like American Eichmann Jeffrey Clark (as a defense against answering certain questions), or Tea Party extremist, Trump loyalist and January 6 co-conspirator (complete with burner phone) and Mark Meadows. Both were in the Trump administration, hard at work thinking outside the box during the Stop the Steal madness leading up to the planned, but permit-free, march to and assault on the Capitol.

Bannon, however, had not been a member of the administration for several years, not since August 2017, prior to whipping up his audience with the Big Lie and later sitting in the war room/January 6 command center at the Willard Hotel. John Eastman was also not in the administration. Same goes for Rudy Giuliani, Bernard Kerik and several other right-wing luminaries who are poised to show their contempt of Congress, in an act of supreme loyalty to their leader.

Rule of law? Nation of laws? No privilege, not executive privilege, not attorney-client privilege may be successfully invoked to cover up planned illegal activities. There is no privilege that shields participants in a criminal conspiracy. We will see shortly what the appellate panel has to say about Trump’s latest frivolous attempt to weaponize the delay in the legal system to run out the clock, obstruct justice, and protect himself from criminal prosecution. Very exciting.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Roger Stone

With the firehose of right-wing diarrhea running full bore all the time, much of it echoed daily in the mainstream “liberal” media, it is hard to recall the recent details of how the Party of Lincoln (so hated his election forced the immediate secession of eleven US states) morphed into the Party of Trump (so loved that his violent attempt to overturn an election is just a reflection of his indomitable, winning spirit, the rascal!). The January 6 Committee, investigating the riot that Trump and his co-conspirators organized, funded, whipped up and unleashed, has recently subpoenaed one of Trump’s biggest backers and strategists, political dirty trickster Roger Fucking Stone. Who is Stone?

the review

Roger Stone, self-proclaimed political dirty trickster, is, how to put it delicately? A toxic piece of shit, I suppose is the least offensive way to describe him. He is the living incarnation of Trump’s mentor Roy Cohn, without the law license. Cohn, as cunningly evil a man as ever lived, is currently spending eternity in hell, at Satan’s right hand.

Self-proclaimed rat fucker Roger Stone continues to do what he has always done, fuck rats. He has been well-paid for this act, during his long, dirty career as agent provocateur and political scam artist. He’s come a long way from being the youngest person implicated in the Watergate cover-up. During the witch hunt of his protege Trump, when he repeatedly lied to Mueller’s investigators, he did his best to keep the boss safe. Afterward in federal court Stone continued to play the buffoon (as when he playfully trolled the judge by putting a rifle target on her face) and be as defiant as the law would allow. He was convicted of lying, threatening witnesses and obstructing justice, as a loyal friend will do in an exchange of political favors. At one point experts felt he could face up to fifty years behind bars, the DOJ asked the judge for nine years, before Barr later cut the recommended sentence by a hefty slice of years.

Here is the skinny on the man who made lobbying what it is today by the innovation of working on an electoral campaign and then selling access to and influence with those people when they are elected — a political influence machine that raked in millions during decades of political dirty tricks, with his equally amoral partner, fellow Trump-pardoned felon Paul Manafort.

A longtime friend of Donald Trump,[10][11] Stone has been variously described as a “renowned infighter”, a “seasoned practitioner of hard-edged politics”, a “mendacious windbag”, a “veteran Republican strategist”,[12][13][14][15][16] and a political fixer.[17] Over the course of the 2016 Trump presidential campaign, Stone promoted a number of falsehoods and conspiracy theories.[18][19][20][21][22] He has described his political modus operandi as “Attack, attack, attack – never defend” and “Admit nothing, deny everything, launch counterattack.”[23] Stone first suggested Trump run for president in early 1998 while he was Trump’s casino business lobbyist in Washington.[24] The Netflix documentary film Get Me Roger Stone focuses on Stone’s past and role in Trump’s presidential campaign.[25]

Stone officially left the Trump campaign on August 8, 2015. However, two associates of Stone have said he collaborated with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange during the 2016 presidential campaign to discredit Hillary Clinton. Stone and Assange have denied these claims.[26][27] Nearly three dozen search warrants were unsealed in April 2020 which revealed contacts between Stone and Assange, and that Stone orchestrated hundreds of fake Facebook accounts and bloggers to run a political influence scheme on social media.[28][29][30]

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A moment of research reveals a connection between the young Roger Stone and Roy Cohn:

Stone, the “keeper of the Nixon flame”,[51] was an adviser to the former President in his post-presidential years, serving as “Nixon’s man in Washington”.[52] Stone was a protégé of former Connecticut Governor John Davis Lodge, who introduced the young Stone to former Vice President Nixon in 1967.[53] After Stone was indicted in 2019, the Nixon Foundation released a statement distancing Stone’s ties to Nixon.[54][55][56] John Sears recruited Stone to work in Ronald Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign, coordinating the Northeast.

Stone said that Roy Cohn helped him arrange for John B. Anderson to get the nomination of the Liberal Party of New York, a move that would help split the opposition to Reagan in the state. Stone said Cohn gave him a suitcase that Stone avoided opening and that, as instructed by Cohn, he dropped off at the office of a lawyer influential in Liberal Party circles. Reagan carried the state with 46% of the vote. Speaking after the statute of limitations for bribery had expired, Stone later said, “I paid his law firm. Legal fees. I don’t know what he did for the money, but whatever it was, the Liberal party reached its right conclusion out of a matter of principle.”[4]

The reviewer of Get Me Roger Stone (linked above and recommended) is even more explicit about the connection between Cohn, Trump and Stone, going back decades:

The documentary also sketches a political family tree that could be its own movie and that has Cohn, the chief counsel to Joseph McCarthy, at its head and branches out to include Mr. Stone and Mr. Trump. Mr. Stone wasn’t yet 30 when he met Cohn in 1979. (At the time, Mr. Stone was helping to run Reagan’s presidential campaign.) Cohn served as Mr. Trump’s lawyer for years and, by many accounts, assumed the role of mentor. It was Cohn who introduced Mr. Stone to Mr. Trump; Mr. Stone decided that Mr. Trump was presidential material and, years later, has become identified as one of the president’s outside advisers.

the review

On January 25, 2019, Stone was arrested at his Fort Lauderdale, Florida, home in connection with Robert Mueller‘s Special Counsel investigation and charged in an indictment with witness tampering, obstructing an official proceeding, and five counts of making false statements.[31][32] In November 2019, a jury convicted him on all seven felony counts.[10][33][34] He was sentenced to 40 months in prison.[35][36] On July 10, 2020, days before Stone was scheduled to report to prison, Trump commuted his sentence.[10] On August 17, 2020, he dropped the appeal of his convictions.[37] Trump pardoned Stone on December 23, 2020.[10][38]

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Stone, convicted of lying under oath, obstructing justice and witness intimidation, tweeted, shortly before he was to report to prison to start serving a sentence Barr had already intervened to reduce, that he didn’t want a pardon from Trump for his criminal conviction, just a commutation of his prison sentence. Trump obliged. In the end, in an abundance of caution, two days before Christmas, Trump also pardoned his long time adviser and political dirty trickster.

Merry Christmas, Rog!

As for Stone’s work as a highly paid lobbyist:

In 1980, after their key roles in the Reagan campaign, Stone and Manafort decided to go into business together, with partner Charlie Black, creating a political consulting and lobbying firm to cash in on their relationships within the new administration. Black, Manafort & Stone (BMS), became one of Washington D.C.’s first mega-lobbying firms[57][58] and was described as instrumental to the success of Ronald Reagan’s 1984 campaign. Republican political strategist Lee Atwater joined the firm in 1985, after serving in the #2 position on Reagan-Bush 1984.

Because of BMS’s willingness to represent brutal third-world dictators like Mobutu Sese Seko in Zaire and Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines, the firm was branded “The Torturers’ Lobby“. BMS also represented a host of high-powered corporate clients, including Rupert Murdoch‘s News Corp, The Tobacco Institute and, starting in the early 1980s, Donald Trump.[59][60][61]

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The GOP’s highly moral voice of conscience in the Senate (this is a VERY relative term) Mitt Romney (now gone silent for months on end, while voting in lockstep with the GOP to thwart Biden at every step) immediately called Trump’s commutation of Stone’s reduced sentence an “act of unprecedented, historic corruption.” And so it was.

But Stone, to his credit, promptly repaid his debt to his friend the defeated president by helping to organize the January 6 Stop the Steal rally/riot, just as he had with a Stop the Steal movement in 2016, anticipating his boy Trump could well lose that election. Rat fuckers will be rat fuckers.

The elderly leaders of our democracy don’t seem to have the collective spine to challenge Trump’s clearly corrupt quid pro quo pardons in court (let’s say just Stone’s, Manafort’s and Flynn’s, for starters), but if Stone tells Congress to fuck off with their subpoena there should be no hesitation to test the unchallenged legality of the House’s power of Inherent Contempt and lock the rat fucker up in a hotel room until he testifies, under the penalty of perjury.