The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Wednesday evening roundup

Happy Wednesday! Here's what I'm reading before my 8pm meeting, now that my 6:30pm meeting just ended:

And finally, the New Yorker's Tom Papa introduces you to "asshole cat behaviors."

The walls close in a little

The New York Attorney General's office has tightened the screws on the Trump Organization:

"We have informed the Trump Organization that our investigation into the organization is no longer purely civil in nature. We are now actively investigating the Trump Organization in a criminal capacity, along with the Manhattan DA. We have no additional comment at this time," Fabien Levy, a spokesperson for the office, said in a statement.

James' years-long probe into Trump's charitable foundation led to its dissolution in 2018. More recently, her investigation into whether Trump's business had inflated the value of its assets for the purposes of tax breaks and loans came to a head in October when Eric Trump, the president's son and an executive at his business, sat for a pre-election deposition.

Aaron Blake speculates on what this could mean:

Perhaps the most significant consensus among former New York state prosecutors I reached out to is that it makes some kind of criminal charges appear more likely than previously known. That doesn’t mean those charges will definitely come or implicate the former president personally. But it’s the kind of statement that James’s office would have known full well would land with some force — and potentially create an expectation about where all this will lead.

Tax fraud would seem to potentially come into play here, given the extensive New York Times investigation into tax schemes Trump engaged in as far back as the 1990s — schemes the Times went as far as to say included “instances of outright fraud.” But the report also noted that much of what it described happened too long ago for criminal charges to be brought.

It’s also fair to ask why this statement was made public. Prosecutors generally don’t disclose such things and will wait for actual charges to be brought before publicly commenting. But in a high-profile case such as this, the former prosecutors say, it was potentially only a matter of time before such a phase of the investigation would be known publicly. The attorney general’s office notified the Trump Organization of the new phase last month, The Washington Post’s Shayna Jacobs and David A. Fahrenthold report.

I've consistently said I don't expect to see the XPOTUS behind bars, nor do I want that outcome. I think it sets a scary precedent for any democracy to jail a former head of government for anything short of violent crime. Don Junior, Jared, and Melania, however, should spend some time in Danbury. The New York AG and New York County DA may well send them to Queensboro instead.

"Don't call me stupid"

I read the news today, oh boy. And one of the stories reminded me of this movie:

See if you can guess which one.

Finally, Chicago managed 58 hours of above-freezing temperatures (from 1pm Monday until 11pm yesterday) leaving us with only 15 cm of snow on the ground and a chance it'll all be gone by this time tomorrow. The forecast calls for daytime highs above freezing every day through next week, possibly hitting 10°C over the weekend. Spring!

New York, 10 years ago

Shortly after upgrading from my old Canon 20D to a new Canon 7D, I flew to New York for business. My company let me fly in on Saturday instead of Sunday as the lower airfare offset the extra hotel day, enabling me to spend Saturday afternoon and evening getting to know the new camera. You can see some of the results here. This morning, I revised the treatment of one of the photos I posted that evening:


1/30 s, f/3.5, ISO 6400, 18mm

I think the Mark II could do even better. Whenever I'm able to travel to New York again, I'll re-shoot the scene.

Evening roundup

With only 18 hours to go in the worst presidency in American history—no, really this time—I have a few articles to read, only two of which (directly) concern the STBXPOTUS.

Finally, after seven weeks of back-and-forth with Microsoft engineers, I've helped them clarify some code and documentation that will enable me to release a .NET 5.0 version of the Inner Drive Extensible Architecture™—the IDEA™—by this time tomorrow.

Reactionary right-wing corruption under scrutiny

New York Attorney General Letitia James has filed suit to dissolve the National Rifle Association:

The lawsuit sets up a legal confrontation that could take years to play out and will leave the 148-year-old N.R.A. — long the nation’s most influential gun-rights lobby but recently hobbled by financial woes and infighting — fighting for its survival. The attorney general’s office previously presided over the dissolution of President Trump’s scandal-marred charitable foundation, but the N.R.A., with more than five million members, is a far larger organization that is expected to put up a more prolonged fight.

The lawsuit was swiftly followed by two others: The N.R.A. filed a suit against Ms. James’s office in federal court in Albany, claiming her action was politically motivated and violated the organization’s First Amendment rights. In addition, Karl Racine, the attorney general of Washington, D.C., filed suit against the N.R.A. and its charitable foundation, which is based in the city. Mr. Racine is seeking changes to the foundation and alleges that the N.R.A. misused millions of dollars of the foundation’s funds.

The suit accuses the N.R.A. and the executives of “violating numerous state and federal laws” by enriching themselves, as well as their friends, families and allies, and taking improper actions that cost the organization $64 million over three years. The attorney general has regulatory authority over the N.R.A. because it is chartered as a nonprofit in New York. She is also seeking to oust Mr. LaPierre and Mr. Frazer, and to bar all four men from ever serving on nonprofit boards in New York again.

The lawsuit, which was filed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, is a civil action, and outlined a number of alleged tax violations. Ms. James said during a news conference that she was referring the matter to the Internal Revenue Service in addition to taking her own action, and did not rule out making a future criminal referral.

Never forget: the purpose of authoritarianism is theft. And very few organizations the size of the NRA represent authoritarianism so obviously. Never mind what they say; watch what they do. (Hey, Mr LaPierre, where were all your members when actual jack-booted government agents came to Portland and DC?)

The Post has more:

James said at a news conference Thursday that she is seeking to dissolve the NRA because of the brazenness of the group’s violations of law.

“The corruption was so broad and because they have basically destroyed all the assets of the NRA,” she said. “Enough was enough … No one is above the law, not even the NRA.”

The lawsuit also claims LaPierre failed to report large sums of personal income to the IRS. James’s office said it found that the NRA chief funneled personal expenses through an outside public relations firm, allowing him to avoid reporting hundreds of thousands of dollars of personal income.

In response, the NRA said Thursday that it was filing its own lawsuit against James, alleging that the New York attorney general has violated the group’s free speech rights.

“This was a baseless, premeditated attack on our organization and the Second Amendment freedoms it fights to defend,” NRA President Carolyn Meadows said in a statement. “You could have set your watch by it: the investigation was going to reach its crescendo as we move into the 2020 election cycle."

Waaaaah. Another thing authoritarians hate: being called on their wrongdoing.

Do I think the lawsuit will succeed in dissolving the NRA? No, sadly. And anyway, gun manufacturers would simply create a new trade and propaganda association to continue making the Second Amendment a parody of itself.

But with this suit, and the deepening investigation into the Trump Organization's finances, also in New York State, I think the era of right-wing over-reach may have reached its conclusion. Don't expect them to go quietly, however.

A small clearing in the woods we're not out of

For the first time since reporting its first Covid-19 death on March 11th, New York City yesterday reported zero confirmed or probable deaths from the virus:

The milestone came Sunday in initial data from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

New York State reported five deaths statewide on Sunday but didn’t specify where those fatalities occured. The highest number of deaths statewide was reported on April 9, at 799.

New York City has reported a total of 18,670 confirmed Covid-19 deaths and 4,613 probable ones.

State and local data often conflict, and numbers can change due to delays in lab results, as some deaths initially reported as probable may be later changed to confirmed.

This comes on a day when we hit all kinds of records, none of them good. I'll take it.

What just happened in SDNY?

On Friday night, US Attorney General William Barr announced that Jeffrey Berman, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, had resigned. Minutes later, Berman said "the hell I have."

A couple of problems immediately present themselves when you think about this. First, only the president can fire a US Attorney. (President Trump finally did that last night.) Second, the highest law-enforcement official in the country, lied in writing about this. Third, the SDNY has multiple, ongoing investigations into the president's associates and businesses. Fourth, Barr's first announcement of Berman's replacement (a well-known Trump fellatist supporter) flouted the actual black-letter law giving that power to the judges of the SDNY (who, in fact, appointed Berman).

Calling this "extraordinary" doesn't do justice to the violence this dealt to the rule of law.

The Times:

The attorney general’s interventions in high-profile cases involving the onetime Trump advisers Roger J. Stone Jr. and Michael T. Flynn have prompted accusations from current and former law enforcement officials that Mr. Barr has politicized the department.

Over the last year, Mr. Berman’s office brought indictments against two close associates of the president’s current lawyer, Mr. Giuliani, and began an investigation into Mr. Giuliani himself, focusing on whether his efforts to dig up dirt in Ukraine on the president’s political rivals violated laws on lobbying for foreign entities.

Mr. Berman’s office also conducted an investigation into Mr. Trump’s inaugural committee, subpoenaing financial and other records as part of a broad inquiry into possible illegal contributions from foreigners.

David Kurtz doesn't stop at "accusations...Barr has politicized the department:"

We’re deep into the worst crisis in the history of the Justice Department, and it keeps deepening. This isn’t alarming for what it signifies or for what it suggests might happen next or because it raises vague future concerns. It’s alarming because this is the corruption and the wrongdoing and the malfeasance. Right here, right now. Not some theoretical future threat. This is the nightmare of a president run amok with a captive Justice Department. We’re there. We’re living it.

James Comey, who worked as an assistant US Attorney in SDNY early in his career, has also spoken up:

There has always been a tension — much of it healthy — between Washington and the Southern District, but the attempt to fire the current United States attorney feels very different. Geoffrey Berman’s office has apparently been handling cases very close to the president. In 136 days, there is an election that the incumbent appears likely to lose. The attorney general, surely not proceeding on his own, acts to bump the well-regarded head of the Office on a Friday night, in the middle of a pandemic. Something stinks.

The country is well-served by the independent spirit and reputation of the Southern District of New York. It has long been the place where hard cases could be done in a way Americans trusted. It was where Bill Clinton’s 11th-hour pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich could be credibly investigated. It is also the place with jurisdiction over so much of this president’s complicated life.

And it is a place that follows the facts alone to reach conclusions, without regard to politics, just as [Henry L.] Stimson wanted. Maybe that’s why William P. Barr moved to knock off Berman on a Friday night and announced President Trump’s intention to replace him with someone who has never worked there. And maybe that’s why Berman, in the finest traditions of the office, stood up.

House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler (D-NY) has opened an investigation, with a hearing already scheduled for Tuesday.

Back to your regularly-scheduled horror movie

Congratulations! You've made it to the end of April. This month has felt like one of the longest years of my life, and probably yours.

So as we head into May, here's what the last few hours of April have wrought:

Well, the only cops I've seen out in force recently were the guys who responded to a shooting and captured the two suspects a block from my home. (Yeah, that happened, and it didn't even make the paper.)