As the House Judiciary Committee goes through the unfortunately necessary step of having expert witnesses state the obvious, other things caught my attention over the course of the morning:
Finally, two CTA employees were fired after one of them discovered an exploitable security hole in bus-tracking software, and the other tested it. The one who discovered it has sued under a Federal whistle-blower statute. Firing someone for discovering a potentially-catastrophic software design error is really dumb, people.
After conversations with knowledgeable friends on both sides of center, I wonder which of these scenarios in all seriousness is most likely. Note that these scenarios are not mutually exclusive:
A. President Trump wins re-election.
B. President Trump leaves office before the 2021 inauguration.
C. President Trump loses re-election but refuses to concede.
D. One or more members of President Trump's immediate family flees to exile in Russia before the end of 2022.
E. A flag or general officer openly defies an order from President Trump...
1. and is acquitted at court-martial; or
2. is not sent to court-martial.
F. A senior officer (O-4 to O-6, i.e., Major through Colonel or Lt Commander through Captain) openly defies an order from President Trump...
1. and is acquitted at court-martial; or
2. is not sent to court-martial.
G. One or more members of President Trump's immediate family is convicted of state crimes related to Trump's companies.
All of these are troubling scenarios. All of them are possible.
Not to mention, Scenario F2 has already happened, but people outside the military may not understand the problem. Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman unambiguously violated a direct order from the president when he testified before Congress last month. But the order was unambiguously illegal. If the Army were to follow proper procedures, Vindman should go to court-marshal and he should be acquitted. He hasn't been because the Army has no way of starting those proceedings without looking like it's taking a political position. But what if...?
There are many other situations that could come up before Trump leaves office, but I think these are the most likely.
Thoughtful comments about these possibilities are encouraged.
I hate taking sick days, I really do. Fortunately, the Internet never takes one:
I'm now going to try to do a couple of hours of work, but really, I just want to go back to sleep.
Historian Waitman Wade Beorn, who served in Iraq after graduating from West Point, is deeply disturbed by President Trump's intervention into the Eddie Gallagher case:
History warns us that leaders who condone war crimes find themselves in command of criminal militaries. Lessons from the past about war crimes and transgressive military cultures are not just academic: My research shows that subordinates generally read their superiors’ intent with accuracy, for better and for worse. By demonstrating his willingness to intercede in the minutiae of military justice and disciplinary procedures, the president tells those who step over ethical boundaries that they can appeal to a sympathetic ear in the Oval Office. This is exceptionally dangerous. Our military demands that its members be able to recognize and refuse unlawful orders and relies on them to uphold codes of honorable behavior. But this presidential short-circuit can critically undermine this ethos. Military judges and juries may well question their own decisions, wondering whether the president will intervene and pillory them instead of the guilty. The effects of a malfunctioning moral compass extend past our borders. Allies and host nations will be more hesitant to work with the United States if they cannot count on us to effectively punish those who cross ethical boundaries. This can imperil our troops overseas and threaten our strategic safety.
Most importantly, Trump’s actions create a chilling effect for those in uniform who take risks to report bad apples like Gallagher. What are the incentives for risking a career and enduring the stress of reporting a comrade if the president of the United States and his troll army line up in opposition? Why would someone go through all that if they think that all their efforts will be nullified in the end? How many Gallaghers, Behennas, Lorances, and Golsteyns will escape justice now? Even before Trump’s meddling, the Navy SEALs who turned in Gallagher were told by their commanding officer to “stop talking about it” and that doing so would ruin their careers. Ironically, that officer, Commander Robert Breisch, told those SEALs that they risked losing their tridents. Gallagher himself called them “traitors” and obliquely suggested that they might meet retribution from other SEALs.
In addition to describing the moral rot, Beorn also points out how Gallagher and others profit from their disgusting behavior. Because in Trumpland, everything ultimately comes down to money.
Alexandra Petri has a suggestion:
Unsure what to get your family for the holidays this year?
Have you considered something that Devin Nunes is clearly enjoying, that even Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delights in, that Donald Trump made for his own amusement in the 1980s and has since gotten to share with more and more people as demand increased?
It’s Your Own Set of Facts!
From the people who brought you Alternative Facts, but also, somehow, from Russia, Your Own Set of Facts will transform the way you interact with the news, medical professionals and everyone around you.
Sadly, she's not wrong.
As Gordon Sondland throws the president under the bus (probably because (a) he's under oath and (b) the president would do it to him soon enough), there are actually a lot of other things going on in the world:
More work to do now.
So far in this election cycle, I've given money to only one candidate: Elizabeth Warren. I believe she's best qualified of everyone running to become president in January 2021, and I also agree with most of her policy proposals. And I like that she's not afraid to show her anger.
That said, the adjective "angry" applied to a woman can signal something else. Joe Biden disappointed me greatly when he employed it to introduce a whiff of sexism, which I expect to become an absolute miasma before the Iowa Caucuses. And I'm bloody sick of it.
The Atlantic is too:
The profound irony of Biden’s “angry, unyielding” accusation is that Warren herself is the first to admit to her own anger. A foundation of her campaign is that there is nothing wrong with being angry—and that, to the contrary, if you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention. In an email to supporters late last week, Warren rejected the premise of Biden’s accusation, writing, as she has before: “I’m angry and I own it.”
But what Biden and his advisers seem to know all too well is that once an idea builds—once it becomes the stuff of sound bites and headlines and Overton-sanctioned debate—it becomes extremely difficult to counter. To tell someone “Don’t think of an elephant,” the linguist and philosopher George Lakoff has suggested, is meaningfully identical to telling that person to think of an elephant. Biases are powerful things. So, in politics as in other fields, are emotions.
Anger may be an ethic of the moment. But anger, flung as an accusation at Warren, is not about economic disparity or racial injustice or environmental catastrophe. It is about the familiar standbys: “likability.” “Electability.” “Charisma.” Anger, rendered as a criticism, summons those ideas—without explicitly invoking them. It summons history, too. It is a targeted missile, seeking the spaces in the American mind that still assume there is something unseemly about an angry woman. It is attempting to tap into the dark and ugly history in which the anger displayed by a woman is assumed to compromise her—to render her unattractive precisely because the anger makes her uncontrollable.
Exactly. Maybe, as a Gen-X, cis-gendered, straight, educated, 40-something, white American man of some privilege, I have a piece missing that I actually couldn't care less about the sex of a politician when evaluating her policies or ambition. Or maybe other people in my demographic—specifically other people more than about 10 years older than I am—need to either get over themselves or just stop voting.
So yeah, apparently we have to deal with all this crap again, because people would rather get bent out of shape that a woman has the audacity to run for president than to get rid of the senile man-child currently holding that office.
I found myself actually shocked at one piece of testimony in yesterday's impeachment hearing:
A U.S. ambassador’s cellphone call to President Trump from a restaurant in the capital of Ukraine this summer was a stunning breach of security, exposing the conversation to surveillance by foreign intelligence services, including Russia’s, former U.S. officials said.
The call — in which Trump’s remarks were overheard by a U.S. Embassy staffer in Kyiv — was disclosed Wednesday by the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, William B. Taylor Jr.
“The security ramifications are insane — using an open cellphone to communicate with the president of the United States,” said Larry Pfeiffer, a former senior director of the White House Situation Room and a former chief of staff to the CIA director. “In a country that is so wired with Russian intelligence, you can almost take it to the bank that the Russians were listening in on the call.”
Republicans, who used to bang the drum on security issues so loudly you could barely make out the words they were actually saying, do not seem to have noticed this event. Which shocks me even more.
And it's not even lunchtime yet:
- A storm has left Venice flooded under 187 cm of water, the second highest flood since records began in 1923. Four of the five largest floods in Venice history have occurred in the last 20 years; the record flood (193 cm) occurred in 1966.
- As our third impeachment inquiry in 50 years begins public hearings, Josh Marshall explains what the Democrats have to prove.
- Yoni Appelbaum wonders if the country can hold together. He's not optimistic.
- Via Bruce Schneier, the NTSB has released a report on the autonomous car accident in 2018 that killed Elaine Herzberg. A notable detail: "Police investigators later established that the driver had likely been streaming a television show on her personal smartphone."
- Chicago Tribune restaurant critic Phil Vettel lists his 50 favorite restaurants in the area. I have a mission.
And you should see Sir Rod Stewart's model railroad. Jaw-dropping.
Uber, the ride-sharing company that pretends it isn't a ride-sharing company, has started a massive PR campaign against the city of Chicago because Mayor Lori Lightfoot wants them to pay for the damage they're causing to the commons.
Let's unpack all of that.
Lightfoot has proposed a $3 tax on ride-sharing trips into the Loop, Near North, Lincoln Park, and other affluent areas, and a smaller tax on trips out of the center city, because trips in and out of those areas cause several kinds of damage to the city's infrastructure. This is the definition of "negative externalities." In fact, Uber's and Lyft's pricing model has caused the following problems:
- A glut of cars on the road during rush hour, with all the emissions and traffic they cause;
- Reduced public-transit ridership and revenue, which disproportionately harms less-affluent users;
- The destruction of the regulated taxi industry in Chicago, including thousands of bankruptcies due to taxi medallions losing more than two-thirds their value since 2014; and
- The enrichment of Uber's officers and shareholders on the backs of underpaid Uber drivers.
Lightfoot's tax will increase the cost of a trip from Lincoln Park to Chicago by $3. If that pushes people to use public transit instead, we win. If people pay the tax, we win. If Uber's board take home less money, that's a neutral result we can all cheer anyway.
Compared with the way London, for example, has dealt with the environmental damage of cars in the central city, Uber's getting off easy in Chicago.
But of course, having gotten very rich through exploitation of other people, they don't see i that way. (Why are billionaires so whiny these days? Even Carnegie built libraries.)
Because we don't have Satanic mills employing thousands of 9-year-old orphans any more, it's hard to see the direct similarities between companies like Uber and companies like those portrayed in Dickens novels. But guess what? They're fundamentally the same. And Lightfoot's tax is only the first, modest step in Chicago government making life better for everyone in the city in the aggregate. The people complaining the most about the Uber tax are the people to whom $3 hardly matters. You can tell because $3 is more than the price of a CTA ride, and less than the current cost of an Uber ride.
If some Uber shareholders have to suffer a little so that people on the South and West Sides can get to work more reliably, I'm OK with that.