The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

The indictment

I've just read the indictment against the XPOTUS and his "body man" Walt Nauta. Wow. As a FBI agent in The West Wing once remarked, "In 13 years with the Bureau I've discovered that there's no amount of money, manpower or knowledge than can equal the person you're looking for being stupid." And wow, was the XPOTUS stupid.

I'm not a practicing lawyer but I can read an indictment. If the US Attorneys can prove any of these facts—and I have no doubt they will—he's going to get convicted of a felony. Oddly, under our Constitution, he can still run for a second term if that happens, though he won't be able to vote for himself in Florida. But as Josh Marshall points out, the larger issues just distract from the utterly banal issues:

I wanted to share one thought.

That is the sheer ordinariness of the whole story. That may seem like a odd thing to say: ex-President facing multiple federal felony indictments for the first time ever, the bizarre details of this antic clown’s Florida Villa-cum-Hotel stuffed with banker’s boxes of classified documents, the bathroom chandelier, the power glitz jammed together with gaudy dime store aesthetic. But we grant Trump too much by lavishing, wearying too much in the purported weightiness of the moment. It’s very normal. Yes, powerful people get away with a lot. But if you commit crimes repeatedly and brazenly you’re very likely to get charged with one or more crimes, particularly if you’re in the public spotlight.

We hear endlessly how everyone not thoroughly in Trump’s thrall wants to ‘move on’ from the man. The first and most important part of that is shaking free of the reality distortion field that surrounds the man, as much for his foes as his followers. He’s hit with charges with evidence of his guilt that is clear and overwhelming and he jumps to the front to declare no one ever thought this could happen or be possible. He didn’t do it … but of course he was perfectly entitled to do it, even though he chose not to. Remember, he could have but chose not to. Got it? He attacks, defames. People get caught up in the frenzy of his seeming invulnerability and transgressive nature, the entertainment and the confusion. They’re wondering what he’ll do next. They’re baffled and suddenly the obvious ceases to be obvious.

Don’t be baffled. You may be thinking somehow there’s no way he’ll actually get convicted of anything. You’re wrong. He probably will. Maybe not. That happens too. That’s normal. It’s all normal.

I lived in New York in the late '80s and late '90s, and we always thought that the XPOTUS would never survive first contact with law enforcement. It took a while, but eventually his narcissism, unaccountability, and yes, his tiny little hands mind would eventually lead us here.

One more thing. John Scalzi called out all the remaining XPOTUS supporters to "get off the train," but hit on the reason they won't: "no one who is still on the Trump train at this point in 2023 is there for logical or rational reasons, you’re probably...stuck too far down in the grift to ever admit you’re the chump." But wow, the national security implications of this indictment alone should have every rational person in the country running from this guy.

Corruption, War, and Crabs

Just a few stories I came across at lunchtime:

  • In an act that looks a lot like the USSR's scorched-earth retreat in 1941, Ukraine accuses Russia of blowing up the Kakhovka Dam on the Dnieper River, which could have distressing follow-on effects over the next few months.
  • A former Chicago cop faces multiple counts of perjury and forgery after, among other things, claiming his girlfriend stole his car to get out of 44 separate speeding tickets.
  • James Fallows explains what probably happened to the Citation jet that crashed in rural Virginia over the weekend after two F-16s scrambled to intercept it over Washington.
  • Molly White explains the SEC's case against Binance.

And finally, giant-sized coconut crabs may have stashed away the remains of lost pilot Emelia Earhart, and scientists think they know where.

Wednesday afternoon potpourri

On this day in 2000, during that more-innocent time, Beverly Hills 90210 came to an end. (And not a day too soon.) As I contemplate the void in American culture its departure left, I will read these articles:

Finally, a new genetic study suggests that "modern humans descended from at least two populations that coexisted in Africa for a million years before merging in several independent events across the continent." Cool.

That CNN town hall...

I did not watch the CNN town hall with the XPOTUS on Wednesday night. I do feel bad for the journalists who had to, starting with the Post's fact-checker Glenn Kessler:

For more than an hour, former president Donald Trump sent forth a torrent of false and misleading claims during a CNN town hall. Here’s a roundup of some of the more notable ones, arranged by subject matter.

“I took in hundreds of billions of dollars in taxes from China.”

Through the end of his presidency, Trump-imposed tariffs garnered about $75 billion on products from China. But tariffs — essentially a tax — are generally paid by importers, such as U.S. companies, who in turn pass on most or all of the costs to consumers or producers who use Chinese materials in their products. So, ultimately, Americans footed the bill for Trump’s tariffs, not the Chinese. Moreover, the China tariff revenue was reduced by $28 billion in payments the government made to farmers who lost business because China stopped buying U.S. soybeans, hogs, cotton and other products in response.

“I had every right to under the Presidential Records Act. You have the Presidential Records Act. I was there and I took what I took and it gets declassified … it says you talk, you negotiate, you make a deal. It’s not criminal, by the way.”

As Collins noted, this is not what the PRA says. Under the PRA, a president has a lot of leeway to deem something a presidential paper while he is president. But the possibility of such give-and-take ended when the clock struck noon on Jan. 20, 2021. “Upon the conclusion of a President’s term of office, or if a President serves consecutive terms upon the conclusion of the last term, the Archivist of the United States shall assume responsibility for the custody, control, and preservation of, and access to, the Presidential records of that President,” the law says.

Pages and pages of this follow. That poor reporter. Tom Nichols sees a silver lining:

Watching Trump for any extended period of time is enervating and deeply uncomfortable. The man is a quivering bag of weird verbal and physical tics. And when he gets rolling, listening to a Trump speech is like standing nearby while someone throws a match into a box of cheap bottle rockets: When the fusillade of annoying noise, misfires, duds, and smoke is over, all that’s left is a general stink in the air.

This discomfort is exactly my point: If you want to stop Donald Trump from returning to power, putting him on TV is the way to go. But doing so requires either that you hand him a microphone and let him immolate himself, or that you sit him down with a reporter who will not let up on calling out his lies and fantasies until he melts down.

Last night, however, CNN chose one of the worst possible options. Instead of a candidate interview, CNN Chairman Chris Licht apparently thought it would be a great idea to cast Trump in a remake of The Jerry Springer Show, complete with vulgar jokes, hooting fans, and a mild-mannered host—in this case, the CNN correspondent Kaitlan Collins—stuck with the thankless of job of trying to intervene in the shouting and angry finger-pointing. Instead of an important one-on-one interview with a dangerous and malevolent demagogue, CNN presented another episode of Trump’s ongoing reality show.

The Economist's Lexington agrees:

And so american politics came to this: the day after a jury concluded in a civil case that Donald Trump had committed sexual abuse and then defamed his victim, he preened on national television as the front-runner for the presidential nomination of the party of family values and law and order, of American greatness and American pride. Mr Trump’s gall should not surprise anyone, of course, not after his success for seven years in defining Republican values down. Yet what a degrading spectacle it was.

But, unfiltered by his aides, Mr Trump damaged himself in the town hall for purposes of a general-election campaign. Mr Biden was fundraising off the event as it ended (“Do you want four more years of that?” he asked on Twitter) and within half an hour his team released an ad interleaving Mr Trump’s musings about the beauty of January 6th with images of violence that day. Should Mr Trump win the nomination, his boasts about overturning abortion rights would haunt him, along with many other remarks, some of which may also enhance his growing legal jeopardy.

The Times expands on that last point:

Mr. Trump described for Ms. Collins how he had apparently taken materials from the White House not only on purpose, but in plain view of the public.

“When we left Washington, we had the boxes lined up on the sidewalk outside for everybody,” he said. “People are taking pictures of them. Everybody knew we were taking those boxes.”

Mr. Trump’s attempts to play down or explain away his handling of the documents came at a moment when Mr. Smith’s office was increasingly homing in on the key question of whether the former president sought to hide some of the documents in his possession after the Justice Department issued a subpoena last May demanding their return.

Finally, James Fallows indicts CNN for its complicity in this nonsense:

—The least cynical explanation for why CNN offered Trump this opportunity is that they are trying to ingratiate themselves with Trump and his GOP. Perhaps a “re-centered” CNN could occupy the space opened by chaos at Fox?

—The more cynical explanation is that for CNN’s leadership the difference between spectacle and news was meaningless. A live Trump show would draw an audience and make headlines. Which is part of the defense its new CEO, Chris Licht, reportedly offered on a staff call today.

Fallows includes a bit from his 2016 interview with primatologist Jane Goodall, which really sums up the CNN town hall and, in fact, anything that the XPOTUS does in public:

“In many ways the performances of Donald Trump remind me of male chimpanzees and their dominance rituals,” Jane Goodall, the anthropologist, told me shortly before Trump won the GOP nomination. “In order to impress rivals, males seeking to rise in the dominance hierarchy perform spectacular displays: stamping, slapping the ground, dragging branches, throwing rocks. The more vigorous and imaginative the display, the faster the individual is likely to rise in the hierarchy, and the longer he is likely to maintain that position.”

In her book My Life With the Chimpanzees, Goodall told the story of “Mike,” a chimp who maintained his dominance by kicking a series of kerosene cans ahead of him as he moved down a road, creating confusion and noise that made his rivals flee and cower. She told me she would be thinking of Mike as she watched the upcoming debates [between Trump and Hillary Clinton].

Yes. The XPOTUS has normalized chimpanzee behaviors in American politics.

So, who else is excited for the 2024 election?

Beautiful morning in Chicago

We finally have a real May-appropriate day in Chicago, with a breezy 26°C under clear skies (but 23°C closer to the Lake, where I live). Over to my right, my work computer—a 2017-era Lenovo laptop I desperately want to fling onto the railroad tracks—has had some struggles with the UI redesign I just completed, giving me a dose of frustration but also time to line up some lunchtime reading:

Finally, today marks the 30th anniversary of Aimee Mann releasing one of my favorite albums, her solo debut Whatever. She perfectly summed up the early-'90s ennui that followed the insanity of the '80s as we Gen-Xers came of age. It still sounds as fresh to me today as it did then.

Another serial grifter faces consequences

US Representative George Santos (R-NY) surrendered to Federal authorities this morning, charged with 13 counts of fraud and related offenses:

Prosecutors said the charges resulted from “fraudulent schemes and brazen misrepresentations” designed to mislead donors, enrich Mr. Santos and win a seat in Congress as a Republican from Queens.

  • The bulk of the charges relate to what prosecutors said was a 2022 scheme in which Mr. Santos solicited at least $50,000 in donations from political donors for a fake super PAC and then pocketed the money for personal expenses, including luxury goods and designer clothing.
  • As part of that arrangement, prosecutors accused Mr. Santos of committing five counts of wire fraud when the candidate and an unnamed political consultant he directed told potential donors in emails and text messages that their contributions would “exclusively” support the Republican campaign and pay for TV ads.

The charges leave some tantalizing questions unanswered. For example, prosecutors say that he falsely certified that he earned $750,000 from his company, the Devolder Organization, and that he had received between $1 million and $5 million in dividends from Devolder. In their news release, prosecutors note: “These assertions were false. Mr. Santos had not received from the Devolder Organization the reported amounts of salary or dividends.”

The Times has a posted copy of the indictment, as have other news sources.

Rep. Santos has already announced his re-election campaign. Only two of his fellow Republicans have called on him to resign.

Donald Trump is a sexual abuser

Let me repeat that: Former President Donald Trump sexually abused at least one person, not "allegedly," but "really." A jury has said so:

A verdict has been reached in the E Jean Carroll v Trump trial, according to a court spokesman. It [was] delivered at 3 p.m. today in the courtroom. The jury began deliberating today shortly before noon.

The jury has found that Carroll did not prove Trump raped her, but they did determine that he had sexually abused her. The jurors also found that Trump had defamed Carroll when he called her accusations false. They awarded her $5 million damages.

As a matter of law, a jury verdict establishes the allegations as facts. And as truth is an absolute defense against a libel accusation, that means we can all go ahead and repeat the horrible truth that the former president almost raped someone in a changing room at a department store.

This demented thug remains the head of the Republican Party.

So, if you vote for this horrible person, you're basically saying you have no objection to his conduct. You're saying it's OK that the person you voted for stuck his fingers inside someone without permission in public. You're saying that you wouldn't mind if he did it to someone else. Someone like you, or your spouse, or your parent.

We all knew what kind of person he was, but until a few minutes ago, at least Republicans had a tissue-paper-thin defense that no one had ever "proven" it. That defense has dissolved now. The Republican Party now owns this asshole completely.

If you don't like the Democratic party, and don't want to vote for us, that's fine. But please: form a new party that doesn't have people in it who endorse this man or his actions. We need a real opposition party in this country, not the right-wing looney bin that endorses sexual abuse. Because at this point, if you stay in the Republican Party, you're showing everyone where you stand on this behavior.

More guns, because freedom!

Michael Tomasky has no patience for the "leave it to God" crap the Republican Party spewed after our 199th mass shooting of the year:

We’re on pace for close to 600 shootings, and perhaps 60,000 willful, malicious, or accidental deaths (there’ve been 20,200 so far this year, according to the GVA, in the first four months and one week of 2023). That 60,000 is roughly equal to the number of Americans who died in Vietnam in nearly a decade. We’ll witness the same amount of carnage in one year. Shopping zones are war zones.

But it would seem that little girl getting her face blown off as if she lived in Stalingrad in 1943 is just God’s will. This was the verdict of the congressman who represents Allen, Republican Keith Self, who went on CNN after the shooting. He offered his prayers. The anchor interjected that some people think “prayers aren’t cutting it.” Self responded: “Well, those are people that don’t believe in an almighty God who is absolutely in control of our lives. I’m a Christian. I believe that He is.”

Governor Greg Abbott, meanwhile, offered the usual pointless bromides: “unspeakable tragedy,” “our hearts are with” the people of Allen. Well, at least, as of Sunday afternoon, he hadn’t gone out of his way to discuss anyone’s immigration status, as he did the previous week after the Cleveland, Texas, shooting, when he took pains to note the status of both the shooter and the victims.

He called this “freedom.” I wonder what that little girl’s parents think of this definition of freedom.

There’s only one logical conclusion to be drawn from all this. This is what the America gun manufacturers, the NRA, and right-wing politicians want: a country where we know that any trip to the mall involves a certain rolling of the dice. After all, that’s freedom.

Religion poisons everything, especially our debates on violent crime. And part of the Republican Party's religion is a worship of guns.

Knowing when to go

James Fallows contrasts the behavior of octogenarians US Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and President Joe Biden:

It boils down to this:

—Sometimes what helps an individual hurts a larger cause. Things have come to that point for Senator Dianne Feinstein.

—Sometimes it works the other way, and an individual’s interests are aligned with a cause. I believe that applies to Joe Biden’s announcement that he is running for a second term.

Feinstein staying on, at age 89, increases problems for her party. Biden staying on, at age 80, reduces them. Here’s why.

Roger Federer stepped away, because of injury, at a point when our mental images are still of his grace. We are fortunate that Joan Baez and Paul McCartney are performing into their 80s, that Bonnie Raitt is sweeping the Grammys in her 70s, that Robert Caro is at work on his LBJ saga as he nears age 90.

The key difference between most of the people listed above, and these two senior Democratic leaders, is being in someone else’s way. Joan Baez can keep singing, and that doesn’t hurt Billie Eilish. The next novel by Joyce Carol Oates, in her 80s, will not stop writers in their 20s or 30s from making their mark.

But political figures like Joe Biden and Dianne Feinstein are unavoidably in other people’s way.

Fallows has an upcoming post on the US Supreme Court, where reports about the corruption of Associate Justice Clarence Thomas (R-$$) just keeps getting worse.

What did I do with all my free time before the Internet?

I think I wrote software and read a lot. You know, just what I do today. Stuff like this:

This afternoon we concluded Sprint 84 with a boring deployment, which makes me happy. We've had only one moderately-exciting deployment this year, and even that one didn't take long to fix, so I'm doing something right.