Rolling Down

Chuck & I are heartbroken to hear about the shooting at Covenant School in Nashville. My office is in contact with federal, state, & local officials, & we stand ready to assist. Thank you to the first responders working on site. Please join us in prayer for those affected.

Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee

Therefore thus says the Lord: “I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”

Amos 5

This week’s featured post is “I am radicalizing against guns“. A lot of people seem to be, and I suspect the prayers of pro-gun politicians like Blackburn are being received in an Amos-like fashion.

As I mentioned in the teaser, today’s posts are running late because I’m in Arizona, three hours behind my usual schedule.

And if you’re wondering what I did with my week off, I was reflecting on two decades of blogging.

This week everybody was talking about the Trump indictment

Thursday, after the Manhattan grand jury announced a month-long hiatus, we discovered that it had voted to indict Trump.

You’re probably wondering why I’m not writing a featured post about this, but at the moment there’s not much to know. The indictment is sealed until the arraignment, which is scheduled for tomorrow. At the moment, I don’t even know for sure what the charges are, much less what evidence the grand jury may have assembled to support them.

So any reaction is still premature. I have been hoping for the justice system to hold Trump accountable for what seem to me to be crimes, but it’s still possible that when I have a chance to read the actual charges and the evidence they’re based on, I’ll be disappointed and think this isn’t a good case. Similarly, an open-minded person inclined to support Trump might be surprised to see how clear the evidence against him is.

In other words, none of us know enough yet to announce a definite judgment.

That’s why it was incredibly irresponsible for Governor DeSantis to tweet:

Florida will not assist in an extradition request given the questionable circumstances at issue with this Soros-backed Manhattan prosecutor and his political agenda.

Recall that Article IV of the Constitution says this:

A Person charged in any State with Treason, Felony, or other Crime, who shall flee from Justice, and be found in another State, shall on Demand of the executive Authority of the State from which he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the State having Jurisdiction of the Crime.

So without knowing the exact charges or what evidence supports them, DeSantis has announced his willingness to violate the Constitution on Trump’s behalf. In case it should come to that, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in 1987 that federal courts have the power to enforce extraditions, so even DeSantis’ lawlessness couldn’t shield Trump forever.

At the moment, Trump’s lawyers are saying he will come to his arraignment voluntarily. We’ll see. Trump’s lawyers often do not speak for him, and he often does not follow their advice. I have trouble picturing him meekly walking in for fingerprints and a mug shot; it looks too much like a defeat. He’s got to be planning a way to spin this in his favor, at least in his own mind.

About all the references to George Soros being made not just by Trump, but by DeSantis, Rick Scott, Matt Gaetz, and countless other Republicans taking their talking points from Trump: Soros is this generation’s version of the Rothschilds, the rich puppetmaster imagined to be behind some world-spanning Jewish conspiracy. He’s the #1 Elder of Zion.

Soros particularly comes up when people of color are doing something white supremacists don’t like. The logic works like this: Obviously non-Whites can’t be smart enough to think up a strategy for themselves, so Jews must be putting them up to it. That’s why Soros was blamed for the Hispanic migrant caravans Republicans ran against in 2018, and why a gunman massacred Jews in a synagogue in Pittsburgh in response. Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg and Georgia DA Fani Willis are black, so they must be puppets of Soros.

Soros did indeed contribute to Color of Change, a national organization trying to get the racism out of our justice system. Color of Change in turn has supported reform candidates in local district attorney races across the country, Alvin Bragg being one. But a Democrat getting contributions from Soros (directly or indirectly) is no more sinister than a Republican getting contributions from the Koch network. How often do you hear Ron DeSantis identified as “the Koch-backed governor of Florida”?

I’ll give one piece of advice to people who discuss this case in person or on social media: Trump wants this conversation to be about anything other than whether he broke the law. He wants us talking about whether this helps or hurts his campaign, about Hillary Clinton or Hunter Biden, about whether one of his other crimes should have been indicted first, about George Soros, about Alvin Bragg or Fani Willis or Jack Smith, or about anything other than whether Trump broke the law.

Here are the questions worth discussing: Did he break the law? Is he entitled to do that because of who he is? Refuse to be distracted.

Another red herring is to talk about how “unprecedented” this all is. Rachel Maddow has been all over this question, pointing out that American politicians get indicted all the time. We’ve indicted a sitting vice president, at least one presidential candidate, governors, congressmen, and countless lesser officials.

So yes, Trump is the first former president to face indictment. But his indictment fits into the well-established American pattern of crooked politicians being held accountable for their actions. It’s like when a college basketball team gets its first 7-footer. Sure, they had a 6-11 guy two years ago, but seven feet! It’s unprecedented!

Chris Hayes made another good point Friday night: Long before he went into politics, Trump was known in New York as a businessman who lived on the edge of the law. He’s constantly been in and out of court, going back to when he and his father were accused of refusing to rent apartments to Black people in the 1970s. His corrupt foundation had to be shut down. He paid a $25 million settlement to Trump University students to avoid a fraud trial. If New Yorkers in the 1990s had looked into the future and seen a headline saying “Trump indicted for falsifying business records”, no one would have been shocked.

Of course, the people who think indicting a presidential candidate makes us a “third world country” are the same ones who wanted to lock up Hillary Clinton for some crime they could never quite specify.

Trump is being indicted because a grand jury of American citizens has become convinced that he probably violated laws that existed long before he allegedly broke them, laws that countless others have been convicted under. He’ll have every opportunity to challenge the basis of his indictment in higher courts. If he goes to trial, he’ll he have the same opportunity to stimulate a trial jury’s reasonable doubts that every other defendant gets.

That’s the American system of justice working the way it’s supposed to. Contrary to Trump’s claims, placing a powerful politician above the law is what failed states do.

A federal judge ruled against Mike Pence: He’ll have to testify to Jack Smith’s grand jury unless a higher court intervenes. The judge allowed none of Trump’s executive privilege claims and just a fraction of Pence’s appeal to the speech-and-debate clause of the Constitution: Pence won’t have to testify about his actions on January 6 itself, when he was acting as president of the Senate. All other questions he’ll have to answer.

I continue to be amazed that Pence thinks he can thread the needle between the Trump base and Americans who believe in the rule of law. He should testify to Smith as a matter of duty, even if some legal loophole might allow him not to. And it’s ludicrous that he might refuse to testify about events he has already described in his book.

To Trump and his base, Pence’s struggles to avoid testifying will count for nothing if his testimony does eventually hurt Trump. Trump expects loyal underlings to lie for him or go to jail for him, not to tell the truth reluctantly.

For some reason, a billionaire needs your money. Grifters gotta grift, I guess.

If you’re doing well because all the things I’ve done have brought you wealth and prosperity .. it would be really great if you can contribute.

and the Nashville school shooting

That’s the topic of the featured post. Past school shootings sometimes led to a moment of hopefulness: Maybe now everyone will see that we have to do something.

I’ve lost that hopefulness and seen it replaced by anger and determination: Some people will never see, and we have to defeat them.

and the budget

We’re still steaming toward a national crisis in June or July.

Speaker McCarthy wants to “negotiate” about the debt ceiling without putting forward a budget proposal — just “cut spending” without taking responsibility for what gets cut. That’s a ridiculous suggestion, and President Biden has treated it with the lack of respect it deserves.

McCarthy is clearly playing to the Republican base rather than trying to reach a solution. Witness what he said Thursday:

I would bring lunch to the White House, I would make it soft food if that’s what he wants. It doesn’t matter. Whatever it takes to meet.

Yeah, that’s how you talk to somebody you want to make a deal with.

I’ve already said what I think about the debt ceiling: It shouldn’t exist at all. No other countries have these kinds of self-induced crises. If Congress passes a budget with a deficit, that in itself should authorize the government to borrow.

If Republicans are serious about cutting spending, the place to do that is in the budget resolution that authorizes next year’s spending. Whether we’re going to pay the bills incurred in the current year’s budget shouldn’t be up for debate.

A new poll verifies a longstanding fact: Americans generally think the federal government spends too much, but specific budget cuts are almost all unpopular. Lots of people seem to imagine there are piles of money being spent on nothing in particular, so cuts could be made without compromising any worthwhile policy goal. In reality, though, once you get past health care, defense, pensions, and paying interest on the existing debt, there’s really not much left to cut.

and you also might be interested in …

The other thing happening tomorrow is Wisconsin’s election of a supreme court judge. The winner is expected to be the deciding vote on a lot of hot-button issues, like whether one of the most gerrymandered legislatures in the country will have to return to democracy.

The Dominion Voting Systems lawsuit against Fox News will be going to trial this month. Jury selection starts April 13. Both sides made pretrial motions to have the case decided in their favor. Both motions were denied, but Dominion did win one important ruling: The jury won’t be deciding whether the charges that Dominion tried to rig the 2020 election are true. The judge has already ruled that they are false. The jury will only be deciding whether Fox’ false statements fit the legal definition of defamation. The judge also dismissed several possible Fox defenses, which it will not be allowed to argue to the jury.

A federal judge — Trump-appointed no less — has blocked the Tennessee law banning drag performances in public venues where children might be present. This is a temporary restraining order pending a trial, and not a final judgment. But it does indicate which way the judge is leaning.

It’s hard to say how much bias is in these accounts, but Ukrainian soldiers seem confident that they have stopped the Russian offensive with little gain, and their own counter-offensive is about to begin.

There’s still legal wrangling to do, but it sure looks like Disney has outmaneuvered Governor DeSantis. In order to punish the corporation for opposing his Don’t-Say-Gay law, DeSantis appointed a new board to oversee the special governing district around Disney World in Orlando, which for decades has made Disney more-or-less its own local government. The governor has done a lot of crowing about how he is bringing the “woke corporation” to heel.

But one of the old board’s last acts was to give almost all of its power back to Disney. So DeSantis’ new appointees are essentially powerless.

I’m no great fan of Disney, or of corporations wielding governmental power in general. But what DeSantis tried to do should make any real conservative squirm. Using the power of the state to punish corporations who speak out against the governor’s policies is Putinesque. It’s what dictators do.

Fortunately, though, it looks like DeSantis might not be smart enough to achieve dictatorial power. “Authoritarianism is hard” comments MSNBC’s Ja’han Jones.

Speaking of unsuccessful attempts to achieve dictatorial power, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears to have yielded to massive public protests and a general strike: His attempt to seize control of the judicial branch of Israel’s government is on hold.

It seems unlikely that he’s given up the goal of unchecked power, though, so Israelis will have to remain watchful.

I meant to mention this weeks ago, but this New Yorker interview with Masha Gessen is well worth your time.

Gessen is my go-to source on Vladimir Putin and contemporary Russia. Gessen also has a lot of insight into authoritarianism in general, and the signs of it in various countries.

What I didn’t know about them is that they identify as trans. Gessen was raised as a girl and has even given birth. But their inner experience has always been different.

I remember, at the age of five, going to sleep in my dyetski sad, my Russian preschool, and hoping that I would wake up a boy. A real boy. I had people address me by a boy’s name. My parents, fortunately, were incredibly game. They were totally fine with it.

Gessen now lives as trans in New York.

I believe the road to tolerance and understanding goes through listening to people’s stories. It’s one thing to hear a theoretical explanation, and another to imagine the lives of specific individuals. If the person you’re hearing about is someone you already know and admire for some other reason — as Gessen is to me — the impact is even greater.

Ordinarily, when an important bloc of voters trends against a party, leadership thinks about how to appeal to them, or at least to send the message that we’re not your enemies. Think, for example, about all the discussions Democrats have had about their problem with rural voters or the white working class.

But Republicans don’t roll that way. Young people have been voting against them, and it’s obvious why: Young voters worry about climate change and student debt. They grew up fearing school shootings, so they want gun control. They’re more open to gender diversity and favor LGBTQ rights. They’re the most racially diverse generation in US history, so they’re revolted when politicians wink and nod at white supremacists. There are all kinds of issues where the GOP could make a policy gesture, something that would tell young voters, “We’re not as bad as you think.”

Instead, Republicans ask the question “How can we stop young people from voting?

and let’s close with something natural

A beaver’s gotta do what a beaver’s gotta do. Here, an orphaned beaver raised by humans tries to dam up the hallway with Christmas detritus.

Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  • DAVID MILLS  On April 3, 2023 at 1:55 pm


    Your work always 


    div>lifts my spirit and gives me hope th

  • Wade Scholine  On April 3, 2023 at 4:34 pm

    I continue to be amazed that Pence thinks he can thread the needle between the Trump base and Americans who believe in the rule of law. He should testify to Smith as a matter of duty, even if some legal loophole might allow him not to.

    I’m pretty sure that I heard that in Indiana politics, his nickname was “Mike Dense.” I have heard that he is not the most intellectually-prepared person to have served as backup President.

    Deep Throat’s “these are not very bright guys, and things got out of control” summary was never more apt.

  • George Washington, Jr.  On April 4, 2023 at 6:59 am

    Trump played DeSantis like a fiddle. Right after DeSantis stuck his neck out in a pathetic attempt to appeal to Trump’s supporters, Trump announced that he’d be surrendering himself voluntarily, making an extradition unnecessary. He then released a barrage of anti-DeSantis ads. It should be obvious by now that DeSantis is in way over his head.

  • Shoyga  On April 4, 2023 at 11:44 am

    “Of course, the people who think indicting a presidential candidate makes us a “third world country” are the same ones who wanted to lock up Hillary Clinton for some crime they could never quite specify.”

    As so often is true, Doug: refreshingly mendacious.

    Jim Comey, the entirely apolitical former czar of the FBI, seems to have been able to specify a crime in this case, and many of us who recognize that we have indeed become a banana republic agree to that point. Comey just blew off recommending charges because, even though he is and was then completely and totally without political motive, he just didn’t think she really meant anything by it.

    • weeklysift  On April 6, 2023 at 8:30 am

      I had looked into Hillary’s email problems in some detail about a month before Comey made his statement, and came to the same conclusion he did: There was nothing chargeable there.

      • Shoyga  On April 10, 2023 at 10:32 am

        That conclusion isn’t where your mendacity is located. Your mendacity is located in the clearly dishonest “…some crime they could never quite specify.”


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