Archive: June, 2023
We are living in a pivotal period of history. I mean, sure, every period of history is pivotal; that's what the butterfly effect is all about. But these first decades of the 21st century in America—arguably, you could go back another couple of decades to mark the start of the era—will be remembered and chronicled by scholars and given some sort of appellation like "The Great Collapse," or "The Regressive Age" or maybe more whimsically "The Tuning Fork," depending on how things play out from here.
Assuming there are scholars left to chronicle it, that also depends on the next few years.
Maybe it was an inevitability. Human beings on the whole are resistant to change and a significant portion of them tend to be reactionary. A significant potion of that portion tend to be cruel. And right now a lot of them feel threatened.
In this country, these people have flocked to form the modern Republican party. The so-called GOP has become a welcoming haven for those who not only believe in unchecked greed and self-interest over the needs of the many, but those who indulge in the basest of bigoted and prejudicial fears as a worldview. Whether by design or perfect storm of happenstance, its leadership has taken to manipulating the fears and anxieties of the ignorant to build a base of support among people they would exploit for power, spreading their ideology of myopic selfishness to impressionable rubes from coast to coast.
This wouldn't be that big a deal if their numbers were small. Every era has its cranks. But this group of greedy bigoted zealots proved large enough to amass a lot of power, and in the United States that power is perhaps most potently wielded by the Supreme Court.
Our current Supreme Court is comprised of three brilliant jurists who take their duty to preserve and interpret the Constitution of the United States with a reverence for its ideals and the goal of justice for all; and six lawless, willfully ignorant terrorist sympathizers motivated by personal power and preserving/expanding oppressive practices that support unequal justice. All of the latter six were placed on the court thanks to appointments by Republican presidents who were either complicit in the criminal Iran-Contra scandal (George H.W. Bush), unjustly placed in office by prior Supreme Court malfeasance (George W. Bush), or achieved the office backed by Russian influence (&#*@face VonClownstick). All three also engaged in varying degrees of electioneering and voter suppression as they felt their only routes to victory necessitated cheating. (Unsurprisingly, these six "justices" are all corrupt as hell to boot, happily accepting bribes and influence by fat cats with business before the court.)
The illegitimate majority of the court has pursued its ideological agenda with great fervor and promises to do even more to dismantle fundamental progress toward liberty and justice for all every chance it gets. Last year we had the overturning of Roe v. Wade, leading to medical catastrophes nationwide and a permission for states to treat women as disposable incubators without personal agency (or, as Justices Sotomayor, Kagan, and Breyer said in their dissent, the Court declared that "from the very moment of fertilization, a woman has no rights to speak of. A State can force her to bring a pregnancy to term, even at the steepest personal and familial costs. An abortion restriction, the majority holds, is permissible whenever rational, the lowest level of scrutiny known to the law. And because, as the Court has often stated, protecting fetal life is rational, States will feel free to enact all manner of restrictions").
We've also seen a gutting of the Voting Rights Act, with Justice Kagan writing in her dissent in Brnovich v. DNC that "the Court has (yet again) rewritten—in order to weaken—a statute that stands as a monument to America’s greatness, and protects against its basest impulses. What is tragic is that the Court has damaged a statute designed to bring about 'the end of discrimination in voting.'" We've seen the nullification of a state requiring licenses to carry a concealed weapon (Justice Breyer in dissent: "The Court today restricts the ability of legislatures to fulfill that role [of regulating under the 2nd Amendment]. It does so without knowing how New York’s law is administered in practice, how much discretion licensing officers in New York possess, or whether the proper cause standard differs across counties.") We saw the Court suppress voting in 2020, when mitigations surrounding COVID were necessary. We saw it continue to block campaign finance laws, legalizing a workaround to the limits on campaign donations in FEC v. Ted Cruz for Senate. We saw it erode the wall between church and state in several ways, around and aside from the Roe v. Wade issue, and prop up the concept of forced arbitration, leading to companies requiring customers to sign away their rights to sue before engaging in business in favor of a private entity having ultimate power over a dispute.
This week we got more.
Affirmative action policy in college admissions was struck down, with a decision that seeks to gaslight the public into thinking it's an anti-discriminatory move rather then the legally baseless permission to be racist that it really is. Or, as Sotomayor put it in her dissent, "the Court's opinion is not grounded in law or fact and contravenes the vision of equality embodied in the Fourteenth Amendment." Justice Jackson, in a lengthy explanation of history that the majority chooses to ignore, attempts to expose the gaslighting and notes, "It is no small irony that the judgment the majority hands down today will forestall the end of race-based disparities in this country, making the colorblind world the majority wistfully touts much more difficult to accomplish."
Today's civil rights injustice by the Roberts Court involved a case that had no business even being heard by the Supreme Court, in which the majority decided that it is OK for a business to refuse service to gay customers. There is some logic to the idea here—that being that this is not about public accommodation like a hotel or a restaurant, but a service-for-hire business much like my own, and a private business should be able to choose its clients without interference—but this case was entirely hypothetical. There was no injury redress was sought for, there was not an instance of a business forced to provide a service to someone they didn't want to serve. It was a case brought solely as a "well, what if gay people wanted me to do work for them and I didn't want to do it?" argument. Why did the Court even take this up? The litigant would never have been faced with this hypothetical problem in real life. I cannot imagine someone going to her and saying, "hey, would you design a website for our wedding?" and being told, "ew, you're a gay, I hate you," and then insisting that she provide the service anyway. I mean, even if she were forced to comply, what kind of result would you get? No, they'd go somewhere else and possibly spread the word that this person doesn't deserve anyone's business. It was a case taken up purely to give the illegitimate majority of the Court an excuse to allow for some more oppression in society, more impetus for other businesses to engage in bigoted behavior aligned with their personal ideologies. (Just for the heck of it, I will say here to any gay people who want a website for their wedding or any other purpose, my rates are reasonable and I have no problem accepting your business.)
We also got a decision from the Court striking down the Biden Administration's student loan forgiveness program, another decision finding for a plantiff with no standing to bring a case. The state of Missouri was the suing party, not the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority, which is the entity that would see financial consequences of the debt relief program, and as Kagan pointed out, they did not file suit. Whether the law underpinning the relief program—the post-9/11 "HEROES Act"—pertained or not I don't know enough about to have an opinion on. Maybe it is iffy, maybe not, but the Roberts Court is evidently happy to take any opportunity to force its ideology on the nation whether it has a proper right to or not.
It used to be that Republicans railed against the very idea of "activist judges." Now they're all about them—so long as the judges and Justices perform their activism in fulfillment of regressive, fear-based greed and bigotry.
It is imperative that we as a society stop enabling the modern Republican party and their quest to destroy American democracy, the value of equal protection under the law, and the concept of a middle class.
The Leftover Way
In my side gig as a rec-league softball umpire, I see many kinds of people out for some fun on the diamond. The basic traits can be measured on a pair of scales—on the X axis you have skills, with excellent players on one side and folks who have never picked up a bat before on the other; the Y axis has attitude, with breezy and easy-going ranging to overly competitive and obnoxiously macho. The spectrum is wide on both axes, and most teams are a jumbled mixture.
Over the years I've been doing this I've seen several teams repeatedly, and naturally have developed favorites. I always enjoy it when I draw a shift with, say, Bat Attitude or the Barking Gekkos or the Reinforcers. And there are, of course, individuals on other teams I always like to see. But the cream of the crop, at least from the standpoint of umpiring, are The Leftovers. I did a game with them last night after not seeing them for three or four weeks, it was a blast.
The Leftovers are a rare breed in rec-league softball in that while the players on the X axis remains varied, the Y axis has everyone on the breezy fun side at all times. (Even when, say, the pitcher complains about my strike zone, he does it in a joking way that's purely banter.) As it turns out, that was by design—Neal, the team captain, formed his team using what we might call The Leftover Way.
I grew up a St. Louis Cardinals fan, my formative baseball years being molded by Whitey Herzog and the hit-and-run, and for a time I was steeped in Cardinals lore. They have a thing they call "the Cardinal Way," which is mostly about player development in the minors and emphasizing things like defensive positioning and fundamentals, but also about being good community members and teammates. (It's also a term that occasionally gets used sarcastically as a pejorative during times of budget-cutting or when personnel are moved for off-the-field reasons, like when Herzog was ordered to trade Keith Hernandez because of all the cocaine. Keith cleaned up, but he was dealt to the Mets anyway for violating the Cardinal Way in the eyes of ownership.)
The Leftover Way has been articulated in an article published last month in the local weekly paper known as The Stranger. Writer Nathalie Graham joined the team for one game for the piece and you can read her account here. Neal runs an Instagram account for the team that has highlight reels, stats, and occasional good-natured questioning of my calls. You can see that stuff here.
I have to be an unbiased arbiter when I'm umpiring, but there is truly no better team to root for than The Leftovers.
As for my softball playing endeavors, I will be on the field late this afternoon/early evening in Ballard for the Smiling Potatoes of Death (or "SPuDs"). The Spuddies are objectively bad, but we try to make it fun anyway. It's our own attempt at the Leftover Way.1 Comment
Last night I went to the Mariner game with my friend Dave. Dave is from Chicago, so every year when my group does its season ticket draft, I try to snag a game against the White Sox for him and me to go to. It's cool under those circumstances, because whatever happens, one of us will be going home happy.
It was a good time, mostly—I had some issues on the way down that hindered things a little, but overall it was a fun evening getting to talk and visit with Dave as well as watch the Mariners bungle their way into a skin-of-their-teeth victory (3-2 final after a solo homer in the 7th).
Frist issue was traffic. I was intending to pick Dave up a good hour-plus before game time, which normally would allow plenty of time to get to the ballpark area and park, but some stuff must have been going on as the freeway was backed up for miles and reportedly alternate routes were similarly clogged. It was all I could do to meet Dave at a rail station and take the train down in order to get there on time. The train was packed tight and I was dressed for rainy-evening chill, so by the time the train arrived at Stadium Station I was pretty badly overheated and a little nauseous. I needed a couple of minutes in the fresh air once we got off before I could resume hurrying to the ballpark. Then we had e-ticket issues with our phones while at the gate. I hate being late to games, so things were adding up, but nothing we could do about it really, and we still got up to the concourse at 7:12 for the 7:10 first-pitch. Success, we thought! But, thanks to the new pitch-clock rule and Rob Manfred's jihad against fun time, we'd already missed two-thirds of an inning.
"What?" Dave asked, rhetorically. "We missed two batters already? Seriously?" Stupid Manfred.
Then we had to ascend to my season seats in section 327, so we missed a couple more batters, but hey, we got there and it was mercifully not one of these ridiculous two-hours-and-done games like I'd had the misfortune to attend a couple times already this year. By the time I'd gotten to sit down, shed some of my layers to vent heat, ingested some soft drink refreshment and some chowder that Dave thoughtfully gifted me, I was feeling better and able to enjoy the Mariners' apparent futility as they left more and more runners stranded on base. By the middle innings Chicago was ahead 2-1 and they only had three hits; Seattle had six hits and had left 10 aboard. Thus:
Fortunes reversed by the end, but I have no "after" photo. Oh well.
Anyway, I've a pet peeve with some ballplayers in recent years that one of the White Sox players was participating in, and that's certain players who are "Juniors" wearing their surname plus "Jr." on their backs. It's totally unimportant, of course. But it's grammatically wrong and thus irks my English major nerddom.
Players traditionally have their surname above their number on the back of their jerseys. "SMITH / 12," that sort of thing. The custom the last few years is for guys with names like "Joe Smith, Jr." to wear "SMITH JR. / 12." Now, I would understand this if it was to make a distinction from, say, Joe Smith senior. So far as I know, though, such a circumstance has only existed once in the Major Leagues, and for a rather brief period, when Ken Griffey, Sr., and Ken Griffey, Jr., were simultaneously Seattle Mariners, but they simply each wore "Griffey" above their number 30 and 24, respectively. But in any other circumstance it's just weird.
The White Sox guy in question is Luis Robert, Jr. His surname is not "Robert Jr," it's "Robert." He's Luis Junior. The Tampa Bay club had a pair of brothers a while back, Melvin Upton, Jr., and Justin Upton. They each just wore "Upton," like the Griffeys did, but under today's common usage, Melvin would be wearing "Upton Jr." and Justin merely "Upton." (Only Melvin is older, so Justin is actually junior to Melvin, just to make it weirder.) It's everywhere. Houston manager Dusty Baker, known throughout his long career as simply "Dusty Baker," now wears "Baker Jr." on his back. You've got "Acuña Jr.," "Guerrero Jr.," "Tatis Jr.," "Witt Jr.," "Sousa Jr.," and on and on. Guerrero and Tatis are each not only juniors, but second-generation big-leaguers following their dads, so you might be able to sway me with a case for them; but on the other hand, Guerrero's teammates Bo Bichette and Cavin Biggio are also big-league sons of big-leaguers, and there's no distinction there, so on second thought, no, you wouldn't sway me. Now, if these guys wanted to wear their first names—only done by two players that I can think of, Ichiro Suzuki and Chili Davis—then appending "Jr." would make sense if one was, in fact, a junior. "Vlad Jr. / 27." It could work.
Like I said, totally unimportant. I just had to get that off my chest. :)
Sadly, on the way home from the game I lost my scorebook. We think I must have tucked it under my arm while waiting for the train and with my various layers impeding my ability to feel it there it dropped to the platform without either of us noticing. I didn't realize it was missing until we were halfway to the Capitol Hill stop. Oh, well, not a big deal—though it did have my record of games I'd been to over the past couple of seasons, including the playoff game last year—but I really liked the pen that was clipped to it. I'll need to make a special trip to get a replacement, it's not the sort that can be found at a drug store or something.No Comments yet
Throughout the term of former President VonClownstick and beyond, there have been countless times when someone in media or just on the street—on TV news, in print, on a blog, at a bus stop, wherever—has referred to something about the former president's behavior as "shocking," or some variation thereof. I have never been one of those people. Nothing that man has done has surprised me.
Which is not to say there weren't other surprises. I recall a Thanksgiving Day 2016 conversation wherein I was one-hundred percent certain that Trump wouldn't finish out his term, he would undoubtedly be impeached or removed via the 25th Amendment. There was no way he wouldn't commit multiple crimes and graft and be so overtly dangerous that Congress or the cabinet wouldn't act. Well, I was half right on that, but the shocking surprise for me was that the entire Republican party had abandoned even a concerted pretense at ethics and adherence to small-d democratic principles. I mean, sure, there were well-known examples, but everyone?!
Yeah, pretty much. And the cabinet did not act, it was purged of non-corrupt members. Congress did, but failed to convict because of Republicans either on the take or being blackmailed or just being amoral chaos agents who, to borrow a line from Alfred Pennyworth, just want to watch the world burn. And so VonClownstick did finish his term, to the great detriment of the nation.
That was a surprise. That was shocking.
But nothing, not one word, in the indictment of Trump and Waltine Nauta issued by special counsel Jack Smith diverged from expectations. Shocking? Please. This account is of standard, everyday Trump behavior.
I'm not surprised at the sheer volume of stolen documents. Or at the sloppy, haphazard way they were stored at Trump's tacky beach club. Or that Trump was recorded confessing to crimes. Or that he demonstrated a breadth of hypocrisy that is best measured in parsecs. All that is completely consistent with his prior behavior. No one should find it surprising or shocking. Even the red-hatted dupes and marks that make up his fanbase, who are so manipulable that they will swallow any lie he tells them, should be used to this crap.
The indictment is still a critical piece of work, of course. Just because it doesn't surprise doesn't mean it isn't profoundly disturbing.
In 37 charges against Trump (and three against Nauta), the indictment shows the former President of the United States (!) treated the nation's security as a triviality; that he neither understood nor respected the duties of and laws pertaining to the job of President; reiterated his lack of concern for, if not outright contempt of, military service members; that he has no compunctions at all about committing fraud; behaves like a wannabe mob boss; and clings to delusions. Again, profoundly disturbing, not surprising.
Aside from the preponderance of evidence that he's guilty on all counts—yes, presumed innocent legally speaking until trial, but I can't fathom what kind of defense would have any credibility—here are my main takeaways from this indictment:
- Based on what is stated therein, approximately 34 boxes of stolen documents—from the photographs these appear to be banker's boxes, each of which could contain reams and reams of documentation—are unaccounted for. These are presumably either still in Trump's possession or have been disseminated elsewhere, which would constitute yet another serious crime.
- Trump himself curated what each box contains, chose a relative few that could be "discovered" by authorities and even then asked his lawyer to essentially double-check his work and remove anything especially incriminating or treasonous. On the other hand, he chose enough material for 30+ banker's boxes to continue concealing from authorities.
- Implied by the exchange between Nauta and either Melania or Ivanka (presumably Melania), Trump chose an unspecified number of documents to remove to his New Jersey property. These remain unaccounted for as far as is publicly known.
- Of the documents that were recovered, many are marked with classifications requiring them to be observed only in a SCIF (sensitive compartmented information facility), implying perhaps a greater effort required to remove them from the White House? Not sure how that works, but it's curious.
- A number of the recovered documents are marked ORCON, meaning the release and dissemination of the information is controlled by the originator of the intelligence, presumably a foreign nation. So there's stuff here the US government couldn't even release if it wanted to unilaterally.
- Since Trump curated what would be recovered and what would not, and chose items included in the above to be found, it's all the more curious what he chose to continue concealing. Since Trump's sense of what is and isn't important is unique to him, can we presume the unrecovered docs include stuff he thinks can be sold or he thinks is good dirt to keep for leverage against others in his petty feuds or debt crises?
- In trying to convince his attorney to commit crime with him and/or for him, he told a story he has told many times before alleging that Hillary Clinton's attorney destroyed evidence for her, which is why "she didn't get into any trouble." This, of course, referring to the email scandal Trump made into a mantra when he ran against Clinton in 2016, but the fact that he continues to say these things in private reinforces my long-held belief that Trump is so narcissistic and incapable of any sort of empathy that he really does believe that everyone thinks like he does. That his view of politics and corruption is the norm. He's not just making shit up when he says Hillary's lawyer destroyed evidence to keep her out of the pokey, he assumes that because that's how he does things. He assumes everyone in a power position has a corrupt lawyer in the mold of Roy Cohn that does their bidding, just like he did back in the day. He also doesn't get it when some of his current lawyers act with relative ethics and refuse to commit fraud for him because everyone else has their own Roy Cohn, why aren't any of you doing that? All he has in that vein is Giuliani. When he tries to manufacture a scandal about Hunter Biden, for example, in his mind the logic goes (a) there is, of course, a scandal to be found, because everyone is a criminal just like me, so naturally Hunter is dirty because everyone with any sort of power (or connections to power) is dirty, that's why we have power; (b) if dirt can't be found it's not because there isn't any, but because the target is really good at covering it up; and (c) if dirt really can't be found, manufacturing some is fine, because to prove it's made-up the target would have to reveal the real dirt, which of course really does exist because, hey, you wouldn't believe the amount of dirt I've covered up in my day and everyone is like me. This is also why Trump persists in his "everything is so unfair" bullshit—he believes every president keeps government documents, so why is he the only one going through investigations and prosecutions? The idea that no one else gets indicted for this because no one else would actually commit the crime doesn't compute. That would require comprehension that his worldview isn't the norm.
- I know this is just repeating what John, John, and Tommy said in the Pod Save America clip I posted the other day, but some of the transcribed exchanges in this thing are golden:
TRUMP to ATTORNEY 1, in response to the subpoena to produce and return all government docs: "I don't want anybody looking, I don't want anybody looking through my boxes, I really don't, I don't want you looking through my boxes." ... "What happens if we just don't respond [to the subpoena] or don't play ball with [the grand jury]?" ... “Wouldn't it be better if we just told them we don't have anything?”And, of course, the cherry on top of the entire indictment:
TRUMP to book author and staffer, in a conversation at his New Jersey property: “You know, [General Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs] said, 'he wanted to attack [Iran],' and—”
STAFFER: “You did.”
EMPLOYEE 1, trying to find space to move boxes of stolen documents to: “There is still a little room in the shower ... there's some other stuff in there that are [sic] not papers. Could that go into storage?”
EMPLOYEE 2: "Yes—anything that is not the 'beautiful mind' paper boxes can definitely go into storage." (This refers to the Ron Howard film "A Beautiful Mind," about mathematician John Nash, who suffered from delusions and schizophrenia.)
TRUMP, brandishing classified document to author and staffer: "This is secret information. Look, look at this."
This guy cannot be convicted soon enough.1 Comment
This is secret information, look at this
Well. Quite the news day, isn't it. I was working last night—at the umpire gig, training a new guy for three games—and didn't catch up on the indictment news until the wee hours of the morning; then, as is my custom, I was up very late and slept in quite late today and since waking have been catching up on the news around the unsealing of the indictment of former president VonClownstick.
I've printed out the whole thing and am going through it, no doubt I will have more to post afterward. Meantime, here are some bits said by others I've come across around the interwebs (including Twitter, which I went to today for stuff related to this news but which I generally no longer peruse or patronize; I do wish the folks I had enjoyed following there eventually make the move to Spoutible).
"Again and again, though, the indictment … recontextualizes [the alleged actions] relative to Donald Trump doing the only things that he ever does. Breaking laws in an oafish, overt, seemingly arbitrary way is absolutely Some Donald Trump Shit. But what Trump was doing with all those secret and confidential documents, the indictment reveals, was also Some Donald Trump Shit. While he is certainly one of the most bribe-able individuals of his generation and unquestionably unbound by any higher or finer concerns whatsoever, and while that would not really be the sort of person you'd want having a bunch of sensitive documents in their possession, it is equally salient that Trump is fundamentally an absolutely whopping bitch whose deepest personal desire and abiding life's passion has always been showing off in weird ways and pursuing vinegary personal feuds."
Also, to no one's surprise, Republicans by and large are losing their minds over this and pretending all of this is nothing more than a political hit job. Projection has become the default trait of the modern Republican. Dan Bongino compared President Biden to Pol Pot, Idi Amin, and Hitler for "arresting [a] political opponent" (even though no conviction, let alone sentence, has yet occurred, even though Jack Smith is a non-political special counsel, even though the lack of due process in Pot's Cambodia, Amin's Uganda, and Nazi Germany makes his comparison worthless). Kevin McCarthy, with a straight face and without intending irony, said, "I, and every American who believes in the rule of law, stand with President Trump against this grave injustice. House Republicans will hold this brazen weaponization of power accountable." Ron DeSantis said “[The] weaponization of federal law enforcement represents a mortal threat to a free society," Nikki Haley said that "the American people are exhausted by … vendetta politics," Thom Tillis called it "sad" that "Democrats are presuming guilt for sheer political gain," Steve Scalise claimed that "Joe Biden is weaponizing his Department of Justice against his own political rival." All of this from people who joined in with the crowd shouting "LOCK HER UP" about Hillary Clinton, called for suppression of journalists, and supported unwarranted political hitjobs and baseless accusations and investigations of Democrats Mark Warner, Nancy Pelosi, Adam Schiff, Eric Swallwell, Elijah Cummings, and others, not to mention nonpartisans Anthony Fauci, Andy McCabe, Robert Mueller, the entire FBI, and basically anyone else that spoke out against the treasonous and criminal behavior of Donald J. Trump, his family, and/or his businesses. The 21st Century GOP: Hypocrisy on parade.
As I delve into this long document, I give you some highlights as presented by the guys from Pod Save America. Enjoy.
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