The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

The best Attorney General we have

Bill Barr's beliefs about executive power have engendered a bit of pushback. Former Deputy Attorney General Donald Ayer says Barr should resign:

[P]erhaps the most outrageous and alarming ideas that Barr advances come in his attacks on the judiciary, which occupy fully a third of his speech. In his mind, it seems, the courts are the principal culprit in constraining the extraordinarily broad powers that the president is constitutionally entitled to exercise. His discussion ignores a pillar of our legal system since almost the very beginning—Chief Justice John Marshall’s magisterial pronouncement in the early days of our republic that “it is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is.”

Barr yearns for a day when the president can bully everyone else in government, and leave them no ability to seek relief in court.

The benefit of the doubt that many were ready to extend to Barr a year ago—as among the best of a bad lot of nominees who had previously served in high office without disgrace—has now run out. He has told us in great detail who he is, what he believes, and where he would like to take us. For whatever twisted reasons, he believes that the president should be above the law, and he has as his foil in pursuit of that goal a president who, uniquely in our history, actually aspires to that status. And Barr has acted repeatedly on those beliefs in ways that are more damaging at every turn. Presently he is moving forward with active misuse of the criminal sanction, as one more tool of the president’s personal interests.

Bill Barr’s America is not a place that anyone, including Trump voters, should want to go. It is a banana republic where all are subject to the whims of a dictatorial president and his henchmen. To prevent that, we need a public uprising demanding that Bill Barr resign immediately, or failing that, be impeached.

And while Barr may represent the curdled cream of the kakistocracy now running the executive branch, Max Boot worries that no one cares enough:

I don’t see massive marches in the streets. I don’t see people flooding their members of Congress with calls and emails. I don’t see the outrage that is warranted — and necessary. I see passivity, resignation and acquiescence from a distracted electorate that has come to accept Trump’s aberrant behavior as the norm.

A recent Gallup poll found that Trump’s approval rating among Republicans — the supposed law-and-order party — is at a record-high 94 percent. His support in the country as a whole is only 43.4 percent in the FiveThirtyEight average, but he is still well positioned to win reelection, because most people seem to care a lot more about the strength of the stock market than about the strength of our democracy. This is how democracies die — not in darkness but in full view of a public that couldn’t care less.

On the other hand, we have an election in 260 days. I think the public had enough long ago, and contra Boot, want to turf these guys out through the ballot. If Trump wins re-election, however, let's see about those boots in the street.

Working from home is still working

While I do get to sign off a bit earlier today, I might not read all of these articles until tomorrow:

Finally, despite today's near-record low temperatures in Chicago, we expect a 12°C increase from earlier this morning until tomorrow afternoon. Hey, if this is the only day all winter that even flirts with -18°C, I'm happy.

Two-tiered justice in the US

Veteran crime and justice reporter Rodney Balko outlines the pernicious effects of reducing Roger Stone's sentence while continuing to throw the book at ordinary people:

So we get righteous fury over the FBI’s mistakes in obtaining wiretaps for former foreign policy adviser Carter Page, even as Republicans vote to reauthorize the law that allowed those taps and reject proposed reforms. We get President Trump bashing the federal law enforcement apparatus even as he praises countries whose governments execute people accused of selling drugs. We get angry denunciations of the “jackboots” who arrested Roger Stone and raided Michael Cohen’s office and residence (though they were both treated far better than, say, your average suspected pot dealer), while Trump encourages police brutality against everyday suspects and Attorney General William P. Barr declares that people who criticize law enforcement for brutality against black people aren’t worthy of police protection. And now we have Stone, and Barr’s decision to rescind the seven-to-nine-year sentencing recommendation filed by the federal prosecutors working on the case.

There’s no better example of the Trump administration’s embrace of tiered justice than the one pointed out by Nancy LeTourneau at Washington Monthly. On the very day that Barr intervened to rescind the Justice Department’s sentencing recommendation for Stone, he also gave a speech to a conference of county sheriffs in which he attacked progressive, reform-minded district attorneys for their refusal to prosecute certain types of crimes. He argued that those decisions jeopardize investigations of more serious crimes that “depend heavily on obtaining information from members of the community.”

Barr was accusing progressive DAs of undermining criminal investigations by enabling witness intimidation. One of the crimes for which Stone was convicted: undermining a criminal investigation by threatening a witness.

Meanwhile, the president continues raging against the people who still have the power to thwart his whims, even as Congress passes a war-powers resolution that has no chance of curbing the president's adventures in Iran.

Shaking my head, for the next 265 days

Some headlines this morning:

Happy Wednesday!

Boy, he sure learned his lesson

In just one more example of the president slipping his leash, thanks to the Republican trolls in the Senate giving him permission to do so, the Justice Department said it found prosecutors recommendations for Roger Stone's sentence "shocking." Three Assistant US Attorneys immediately quit the case:

Jonathan Kravis, one of the prosecutors, wrote in a court filing he had resigned as an assistant U.S. attorney, leaving government entirely. Aaron S.J. Zelinsky, a former member of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team, said he was quitting his special assignment to the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office to prosecute Stone, though a spokeswoman said he will remain an assistant U.S. attorney in Baltimore.

Adam Jed, also a former member of Mueller’s team, asked a judge’s permission to leave the case like the others, though gave no indication of resigning his job.

None provided a reason for their decisions.

Uh huh. Thanks, WaPo. ("Three people left their office in haste this afternoon after their work area became engulfed in flames. None provided a reason for their decisions.")

Greg Sargent says the president's strategy is "designed to get you to surrender:"

In the end, many of President Trump’s ugliest degradations — the nonstop lying, the constant efforts to undermine faith in our political system, the relentless delegitimization of the opposition — often seem to converge in some sense on a single, overarching goal:

To get you to give up.

To give up on what, exactly? On the prospects for accountability for Trump, via mediating institutions such as the media, or via other branches of government, or even via the next election, and more broadly, on the very notion that our political system is capable of rendering outcomes that have not been thoroughly corrupted to their core.

Meanwhile:

Fun times. Fun times. At least we can take some comfort in Japanese railway station psychology.

Calm down, folks

Yes, the Democratic Party had a bad week. But those of us paying attention knew we would.

Now, I couldn't have predicted the unconscionable fuck-up (no other word for it) perpetrated on the national party by its Iowa subsidiary. In future, I hope Iowa's quirky, exclusionary method of selecting delegates either goes away entirely or gets moved so late in the year that no one cares anymore. Or simply that no one cares anymore, full stop. The idiots running the IDP deserve nothing better for at least two election cycles.

But despite this week's stumbles, I believe that our party will take both houses of Congress and the White House in November. The revulsion that people feel throughout the country at the President and the Republican trolls supporting him bodes well for a correction back to previous norms. And I think that at least three of the five "moderate" Republican trolls in the Senate who voted for acquittal will get turfed out of office. Plus, we are well on our way to winning even more state legislatures, which brings the possibility of undoing the damage that radical Republican trolls have done to the states in the last 10 years. (Not to mention, the census and reapportionment.)

Of course I could be wrong; no one knows the future. I'm just not losing sleep over it.

I'm not buying into the punditry's rending of garments. We still have to select about 99% of our delegates for the July convention; we know the President will loose what remaining shackles he had on his behavior, increasing the center's revulsion of him; and we also know that people have built up antibodies against the massive disinformation campaign that Republican trolls have run since 2015. We also have strong evidence that Monday's "lower-than-expected" turnout (actually about the same as 2016) and lack of a clear winner came not from voter indifference in general, but from voters being generally OK with all of the Democratic candidates.

That disinformation campaign will get much, much worse over the next seven months, of course. Our job is to sit tight, refute the bullshit that needs refuting, and pull a Reagan on the rest of the crap ("There you go again."). People know most of what the President and other Republican trolls say is utter nonsense. Let's not lose our minds over it.

In other words: you know the problem with mud-wrestling with a pig? You both get covered in shit, but the pig likes it. So let it be with those guys.

And let's not get all bent out of shape about one Rasmussen poll that shows the President's approval rating is 49% and "going up." It's not. The actual poll of polls shows a squiggle around 43% consistently since September. Since January 2017, Trump has had less approval from voters than any other president who got re-elected. Consistently.

We had a bad week. So what. We've got 39 more to go before November 3rd.

So, David Brooks: chill out. Monica Bauerlein: keep cool. EJ Dionne: rock on.

We have the facts, and we have the law. We don't need to pound the table—or worse, hide under it.

In other news...

The week keeps getting more fun:

For the next 9 months, I'm considering changing the official style of this blog to refer to "Republican trolls" whenever the party comes up. Because at this point, they're really the party of nihilistic trolls. And we have actual problems that need solving.

Three strikes against impeachment

Welp, the Senate has acquitted President Trump almost entirely along party lines, as everyone knew it would. Only Mitt Romney (R-UT) crossed the aisle to vote for conviction. Here's a roundup of the news in the last few hours:

About yesterday:

  • The Washington Post has an annotated SOTU.
  • Alexandra Petri clutched every pearl she owned, "and also the pearls of strangers, and some oysters that may contain pearls in the future" after Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) ripped up her copy of the SOTU.
  • NBC called the address Trump's "victory lap." Oh no, NBC; he's got more lapping in him.

In other news:

And it's snowing.

My Facebook live-posting last night

You'll just have to imagine the context for all of these comments I posted on my Facebook feed last night. At least I put them in chronological order:

  • Watching the State of the Union with the sound off, and PBS closed captions. And a big martini.—at Agami Contemporary Sushi.
  • I don't know if I can do this. I thought without the sound my skin wouldn't crawl as much. But the words could have come from the Politburo. And Mike Pence is so creepy.
  • OK, I need a non-trivial truthful statement. Just one. Please.
  • If all these groups have record employment, how come everyone feels poor? Maybe because having 3 jobs doesn't feel great?
  • Yeah, you kicked 7 of those 10 million off food stamps. Not a win.
  • Juan F'ing Guaidó? Wow. Talk about a stopped clock being right twice a day. Except Trump actually prefers Maduro, so...
  • Watching him without hearing him, you get a real sense of the insincerity. Go back and watch when everyone was applauding Guaidó. What a weird affect Trump had.
  • "Failing government school?" STFU you illiterate dullard.
  • Interesting how he's only using the stage-left (Republican side) teleprompter.
  • "We will never let socialism destroy American healthcare!" Obviously, because you're happy with capitalism doing it first.
  • Free healthcare to illegal aliens, oh my! (SOTU live vomiting post #2)
  • And there goes the Medal of Freedom. Which Melania just happened to have in her pocket. To place on a man who has done more to destroy political comity in this country than anyone else. I really didn't think anything about this SOTU could shock me. I was wrong.
  • Second martini delivered. Thank you, sir.
  • OMG. He's pulling a Willie Horton in the SOTU.
  • OMG. He's pulling a second... Third... How many Willie Hortons can one bring into one speech? We get it: you hate brown people. Move on.
  • What's this weird shoulder thing he's doing?
  • 187 Federal judges. Remember that. 187. About a quarter of them.
  • Wow. That was an epic take-down of the Establishment Clause.
  • Emotional frisson right now: watching SOTU with closed captions and Agami's sound system is playing "Shake It Off."
  • WTF "our warfighters?"
  • Wow. You brought SFC Williams home from a deployment so you could turn the SOTU into a reality-television special. Of course you did.
  • "The beautiful, beautiful, Alamo." There's no basement in the President's knowledge!

At this point, two martinis in, I stopped posting. At least I didn't start sobbing.

More ridiculousness in the world

Did someone get trapped in a closed time loop on Sunday? Did I? Because this week just brought all kinds of insanity:

Well, one of those is good news...