Category Archives: Commentary

Republican House Members Baying at the Moon

I have just finished reading the entire 235-page transcript of the Executive Session Committee on the Judiciary, Joint with the Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, U.S. House of Representatives, December 7, 2018 in which the Republican majority questioned James Comey, former Director of the FBI about the same set of issues related to his public statements during the runup to the 2016 election and to his explanation of why former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was not charged with criminal conduct related to her misuse of emails.

Suffice to say, the Republicans failed yet again to lay a glove on Comey, and I say that recognizing that many people, myself included, disagree strongly with his decision to tell the world, on the eve of the election, that the FBI had reopened its investigation of Clinton because of the discovery of a trove of her emails on the laptop of Anthony Weiner, husband of Clinton aide, Huma Abedin

After all the questioning and posturing, only two things emerged that are even interesting at this point in time.

One was the effort by Rep. Trey Gowdy, to compare unfavorably the treatment of Clinton regarding whether she had simply “made a mistake” and the treatment of President Trump and General Michael Flynn on the question whether on the question of his potential attempt at obstruction of justice by asking Comey to drop the Flynn matter. Recall that Comey immediately prepared a memo about Trump’s demand and shared it with senior people at the FBI.

In classic fashion for the Republicans, Gowdy suggested that a statement by former President Obama had stated, while in office, that “the target of an investigation that was ongoing simply made a mistake and lacked the requisite criminal intent.” Gowdy demanded to know whether Comey didn’t think that Obama’s statement was “potentially obstruction of justice.”

“Mr. Comey. I didn’t see it as — through the lens of obstruction of justice. I saw it as threatening our ability to credibly complete the investigation.

Mr. Gowdy. In what way?

Mr. Comey. The President of the United States offering a view on a matter or a case that’s under investigation, when that President is of the same party as the subject of the investigation and working for her election, would tend to cast doubt in reasonable people’s minds about whether the investigation had been conducted and completed fairly, competently, and independently…. It concerns me whenever the Chief Executive comments on pending criminal investigations, something we see a lot today, which is why it concerned me when President Obama did it.

Mr. Gowdy. Well, it concerns me too, Director Comey. I’m also concerned that people treat similarly situated people the same. And did you make a memo after President Obama said she made a mistake and lacked the requisite criminal intent?

Mr. Comey. He said that on FOX News.

Mr. Gowdy. Right.

Mr. Comey. I did not make a memo about the FOX News broadcast.

BOOM!

The second instance occurred when Jim Jordan made much about the fact that James Baker, then General Counsel of the FBI, had testified earlier that it was a unique circumstance that anyone would approach him directly with evidence of someone’s wrongdoing that the discloser claimed would warrant an FBI investigation. What Jordan did not do was acknowledge that Baker had in fact returned alter to clarify that he did remember another case, a completely different matter, in which precisely that had occurred. It was left to the Democrats (Ms.  Sachsman Grooms in this case, she being Deputy Staff Director for Rep. Elijah Cummings of MD) to ask what amounted to redirect questions to fully develop the record that the Republicans were trying to create with partial information from a prior hearing.

Overall, despite all the sturm und drang from the Republicans, it was the same old same old. This is not part of an investigation designed to get at the truth about some threat to the country. It is an entirely partisan attempt to buttress the President against the ugly truth that he tried to obstruct justice by directly asking the Director of the FBI to drop a criminal investigation involving the National Security Advisor that Trump had appointed. The hearing will resume on December 17.

Trey Gowdy, soon to retire from the House, has little time left to restore himself to the good graces of the President who tolerance for independent thought is below zero. Read the history of Trump-Gowdy here: “Trump allies gang up on Gowdy,” https://politi.co/2Lgl1SZ  It’s pretty amusing. We can expect more “fireworks” from the Republicans in the next round with Comey who must be getting pretty tired of answering the same stupid questions over and over. But that’s what the President’s sycophants do. They have nothing else.

Racism at Ground Level

My wife and I emerged from a Broadway show into a cold downpour. The weather folks had predicted it and this time they were right. We had coats and umbrellas, of course, but the wind was strong and puddles were everywhere among the thousands of people on the street in Times Square, many of them without any apparent protection against either the cold or the rain. Tourists? New Yorkers who simply won’t yield to reality? No way to know and we really didn’t care.

Our first plan was to go to the closest subway station and take the train to Columbus Circle, from which it is just over a long block walk to our apartment. As fate would have it, both of the nearby stations were locked shut, due, we later learned, to “track improvements.”

Nothing for it but to walk the 10 or so blocks to our building and we set out. But just two blocks later, a taxi with top light on pulled up to the stoplight right in front of us. The diminutive driver signaled us into the cab and away we went. Sort of. Traffic was, of course, in total gridlock with a lot of angry horn honking and jockeying for position among the yellow cabs and the other cars that, for whatever unimaginable reason, had chosen to drive into the Times Square area that evening. This is to be expected. In every rainstorm since the automobile arrived in New York, there has been gridlock, horn honking and jockeying for position. Everyone knows it’s going to happen.

We slowly made our way across town toward 8th Avenue which would take us directly to Columbus Circle. Then, while still on West 51st Street our driver and the driver of a larger van-style car came side by side of each other. Looks were exchanged and then our driver lowered his window and began shouting at the other driver who returned the favor with his middle finger. Our driver said something about how the other guy should learn to drive “like a gentleman, you Pakistani m*****f***r!” Fortunately, that was the end of the exchange. I suspect that if it had not been raining so hard, these two men might have faced off in the street, while their passengers were ignored in favor of settling the racial score that had erupted between them. I don’t know if the other driver was working a ride-hailing service like Uber or was just out in the evening for other reasons. I have seen serious words exchanged by NY cabbies with Uber drivers before, but never in these circumstances. In this case it was hard to understand how our driver could tell anything about the other one through the downpour but he was clear enough about what he thought.

Had it not been raining, we would have left the cab with the fare unpaid. But it was and we didn’t. The drive, however, got only a nominal tip, for picking us up in the first place. This is not the experience anyone should have in a public conveyance. I well understand some of the bad blood between the taxis and the ride-hailing services, but even today many of the New York cabs are neither clean nor comfortable and the cabbies often seem to pride themselves on being surly. This episode was a sad reminder of the hostilities and tensions that stain our world.

Occam’s Razor – Trump Explained

The thinking segment of the American population, myself included, continues to wonder, often involuntarily, what forces could produce a person as unworthy as Donald Trump and then elect him to the most powerful political leadership position on earth. With each passing day, the conundrum grows as his conduct becomes even more horrific and dishonest than the day before than the day before ….

The principle of Occam’s Razor says, in its simplest form, that of two alternative explanations for something, it is usually the simpler one that is correct. More accurately, it is Ockham’s razor, named after a philosopher whose adulthood was spent in the 14th Century. The concept has other names, such as the law of economy.

In any case, if you apply that principle, Donald Trump is easy to understand.

Trump is a rich, over-privileged man who has always had his way by bullying, threatening and lying, using his wealth (handed to him by Daddy & later ill-gotten) to file lawsuits, abuse the bankruptcy laws to thwart paying off creditors and generally demanding and getting whatever he wanted. He is accustomed to being catered to by employees desperate to keep their jobs even at the expense of their dignity and by women seeking the “benefits” of being around a rich guy who lavished them with gifts in return from whatever they were willing to provide, including, most recently, their silence so that his campaign to be president would not face the inconvenience of revealed extramarital affairs.

Now, most people in Trump’s shoes conduct their perfidy in private, because obscurity serves to protect them from exposure for the type of people they really are. The recent spate of disclosures in the #metoo movement show how that has worked in the past. Hopefully, no more. But Trump has never shied away from public display of his crassness, witness his gold apartment in New York, or making excuses for his numerous business failures. He simply lies about them, denies everything and moves on to the next misadventure funded by his money and other people’s money who were foolish enough to ignore the evidence of his incompetence.

Trump is the perfect example, I suggest, of the Occam’s razor principle, which is exemplified perfectly in a quotation attributed to Coco Chanel: “There are people who have money and people who are rich.” Trump is the former.

In the normal course of human events, it is rare to come across someone who is openly a serial liar, racist, homophobe, nativist and the more we see of Trump, the more people wonder: how can this be true, that one person could so publicly display his duplicity, lack of morality, aversion to kindness hostility toward people less fortunate than himself and on and on. People seem to believe there is more to the man; there simply must be. No one can be this shallow and empty a soul and still have friends and still be respected by people who, superficially at least, are themselves respectable.

I suggest again that the search for a complex solution to these questions is hopeless and pointless. Trump is exactly what he appears to be and there is zero chance that he will change. The life forces that produced this person are not likely to suddenly produce a revelation in which Trump will come to understand how horrible a person he is. He will simply deny everything and carry on as before. If imprisoned ultimately for his crimes against the country and against humanity, he will be led away in chains proclaiming that the American system of justice was rigged against him, that he is in fact the greatest victim of all time. Look at me! Look at me!

Much has been made of Trump’s appetite for cheap hamburgers and of his apparent inability to spell or use complete English sentences in his speech. Again, this is finding complexity when a simpler and more obvious explanation exists. Trump’s malapropisms and misspelled/misused words in his tweet tantrums are, I suggest, deliberate acts to draw attention to him and away from both his “policies” and his treasonous guilt. The more Trump gets people guffawing over his style mistakes, the less they will focus on his misconduct and incompetence.

Granted, this strategy is only partially successful. Trump’s substantive failings get plenty of attention in the Twitterverse and in the political media, but that attention is a fraction of what it might be if he were not, metaphorically, dressed in a clown suit, squeezing his nose while making honking sounds and all the other distractions on which he trades.

In the end, it’s not going to work. Robert Mueller’s investigation seems itself to be an example of Occam’s razor at work. Mueller’s team is sifting through mountains of evidence to get at simple truths that state, yes, he is guilty. Stated metaphorically, when there is this much smoke, one of two explanations is true: there is fire or there is not. Bet on “not” at your peril and keep your day job.

Amazon & Pop-Secret Redux

You may recall that I recently wrote about Amazon’s delivery of a roll of industrial “contact paper” in lieu of the 6-pack of Pop-Secret Popcorn that I had ordered. Amazon had informed me, in the way that Amazon does, that I could not return the roll of paper but that it would re-send the popcorn I had originally ordered.

Well … the box came, it seemed a bit heavy, but, again, I was prepared to accept that popcorn weighed more than I expected. And, again, I opened the outer box and, again, nestled inside was the Pop-Secret-branded box containing … wait for it … another roll of industrial contact paper identical to the previous one. To quote Dave Barry, I am not making this up. I promise.

Here is the replacement popcorn:

It turns out that Amazon’s website is not programmed to deal with a repeat failure of this nature. Trying to communicate locked me into an endless loop. The site “believed” I was trying to return the popcorn that it had recorded as being delivered and rejected the return of a food product. So even though the Online Returns Center said you could return a “wrong item,” in fact you can’t in these circumstances. The computer thinks you received replacement popcorn and that, as the saying goes, is the end of that.

Well, not quite. I contacted the always reliable American Express on whose card the popcorn had been charged. An astonished but cooperative agent credited the popcorn charge back to my account. Eventually, I assume Amazon’s computers will “discover” that they haven’t been paid for the popcorn and inquire of me about it. Or not. To paraphrase Melania, I really don’t care.

But, I still want the popcorn. We love popcorn. Rightly or wrongly, we believe it’s a “good for you” snack. We eat a lot of popcorn. Sometimes we eat too much popcorn. Sometimes other do. In fairness to Amazon, it does seem clear now that the problem is not with Amazon but with Pop-Secret itself. So, I sent this message to Pop-Secret using the sense of humor for which I have become unjustly famous:

Houston, we have a problem. You should first read the part of this related to Amazon: https://shiningseausa.com/2018/11/23/black-friday-american-commerce-amazon-best-buy-cvs-whole-foods/   Amazon rejected my attempt to return the item & said it was shipping a new order of popcorn. That replacement order arrived 2 days ago. See attached photos. Clearly, there is a breakdown in the “food chain” somewhere. Since the inner boxes in the shipment bear your logo and are sealed when they arrive, it seems likely that the problem rests with you, not Amazon, though one would hope they’d wonder why the contents of a popcorn order shift around inside the box and weighs a lot more than popcorn. In any case, Amazon has no mechanism for returning or even addressing a 2nd delivery of the wrong product so I had no choice but to dispute the original charge. Maybe that will get their attention. Meanwhile, all we wanted was a reliable supply of your delicious popcorn for the holidays; our local market often runs out. We are frustrated and no longer amused by this strange business. I cannot begin to explain how rolls of industrial tape get into sealed Pop-Secret branded boxes. Perhaps you know. So that’s the story. Bizarre but true. Look forward to hearing from you.

After a brief silence, Pop-Secret responded:

We are sorry to hear about your experience with Pop Secret and we really appreciate you letting us know about it. We will pass this information and your comments along to our Quality Assurance Team, and also keep a record of it. [Somehow, I didn’t find this reassuring.]

Unfortunately, we are unable to explain why you rec’d the item you did through Amazon. [Very not reassuring] I will have the Sales & Marketing staff review and follow up with Amazon as best they can into this matter. [Really not reassuring]

We are sending a few free product coupons your way believing that you will have a great experience with our product next time. [Nothing like belief in the face of hard contrary evidence to make one feel right again] Thanks, again, for letting us know about this. You can expect the coupons to arrive shortly. [Shortly, eh] .… Please let us know if you have any further concerns or comments.

Unable to leave bad enough alone, I did have “further concerns or comments:”

You understand, I trust, that this happened twice, spaced a couple of weeks apart. My first reaction, as evidenced by my blog post, was that this was an Amazon problem, but when it happened a second time, in exactly the same way, I concluded it most likely was a problem that originated at Pop-Secret. I doubt, for example, that Amazon actually packages your 6-pack product into Pop-Secret branded boxes. That activity must occur where your product originates. Amazon then takes your branded boxes and puts them in Amazon boxes for shipment to its customers.

I appreciate the offer of coupons but I would like to know how the investigation ends. I plan to write about this again in my blog and want to be fair, and accurate.

Four days have passed and no reply. Now, we all know from past experience that, rightly or wrongly, I have a problem with being ignored. Sooo, I am recounting this saga here, fairly and accurately, as promised.

What happens next, the human mind may never imagine. Perhaps the promised coupons will arrive and they won’t say “good only on Amazon.com.” Maybe nothing will happen. Meanwhile, find something more useful to do with your time.

Black Friday & American Commerce at Work (herein of Amazon, Best Buy, CVS & Whole Foods)

Black Friday is here and America is ready for a shoppingpalooza to end all paloozas. It seems like a good time to remind everyone, with full expectation of being ignored, about how the American shopping experience can sometimes go wrong.

First, Amazon. The funny (in a perverse way) part. I have written twice about Amazon’s practice of waste in its inappropriate packaging choices. https://bit.ly/2PQ7VTp and https://bit.ly/2DVS4fR That part is not funny. Anyway, I was slightly surprised by the weight of the package that arrived supposedly containing a precious order of Nature’s great food: popcorn. But I had ordered a box of six boxes of six packs each, so it was, I thought, possible that popcorn could weigh that much. The item is depicted here:

Delicious! Since I had foolishly consumed our supply some days before, I was delighted to receive this package.

So, you can imagine my surprise when I opened the outer shipping box, and saw inside a box bearing the brand name of PopSecret wedged tightly into the outer box. Yes! Amazon is doing better! So, I slit open the top of the inner PopSecret-labeled box and saw this:

As best I can tell, this product is: Oracal 631 Matte Vinyl Roll 12 Inches by 150 feet – Black by Oracal

I would have understood if Amazon had shipped the wrong brand of popcorn or maybe even if it had sent another food product altogether. But Vinyl Tape instead of popcorn? Is this stuff arrayed on the shelves together? Does no one check these things before they ship?

We will never know the answer to those compelling questions. But we do know is that Amazon knows a bad move when it sees one and, as I have experienced in past product mix-ups, it advised me to just keep vinyl tape and it would ship the popcorn at no extra charge. Of course, the estimated delivery date is a week from the arrival of the tape, making a slight mockery of the Prime delivery for which I pay an annual fee. And the product listing for the popcorn now shows “Currently Unavailable,” so we could be cruising toward a losing situation. Time will tell. Meanwhile, I have laid in a supply of popcorn from the local market.

Moving on to something more concerning, I recently visited the local Best Buy on Broadway in New York City. Its website showed it had a software package for photo editing that I wanted to buy. And, I wanted to buy it right now! After reviewing the package for compatibility issues. So, I walked the half mile or so to the store, asked the young man on the phone at the information booth in front whether the software was downstairs. He nodded yes and continued his conversation.

To make a long story shorter, I walked around each floor of the store twice. No photo editing software to be seen. I did see one, yes, one other customer who was engrossed in playing with one of the electronic devices. I saw at least six Best Buy employees moving around the store, some of them speaking into walkie-talkies. I thought I would trick one of them into asking if I needed help by spending some time with the most expensive cameras. I showed serious interest, looking through view finders and manipulating the dials. No takers. Bottom line: I walked around the store acting like a confused consumer looking for something specific and not one of the employees asked if they could help me find something. I left.

I don’t know where the management was. Maybe one of the Best Buy people I saw was the management. In any case Best Buy, which is in direct competition with Amazon and many others for mostly commodity-type products, is running a losing operation based on this admittedly small sample size of its performance. Maybe I have it backwards though; the store was empty because everyone but me knows how bad the service is. Time will tell.

Now to get serious for a moment. A good while back, I wrote a post about a service failure related to a product branded by CVS Pharmacies  https://bit.ly/2DTcAgY

That little essay concluded with this:

“One thing is certainly true. I will not be ignored. And, thus, we are here, using the only tool at my disposal to try to shame CVS into responding to my documented complaint about a product sold under its brand. This is not the end of this saga but the beginning. I intend to file complaints in the near future with the Better Business Bureau and such other consumer protection agencies in New York City as I can find. CVS, this could all have been avoided if you had just acted responsibly.”

Not being one to make idle threats, I did what I had said and, finally, the sleeping giant awakened. Recall that I first contacted CVS in June 2018 about the damage caused by its product that had melted against the bathroom wall. My complaints to the Better Business Bureau and the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs apparently got their attention. A CVS message to the BBB took the issue back to Medline Industries that handles such things.

After the usual form apologies and assurances about how seriously they take the quality of their products and “value others input,” Medline, in October,  told me this was the first such complaint and that “the issue is considered to be isolated.” Then,

“It is likely that the issue occurred due to harsh conditions such as high heat and humidity in the storage area. All sanitary napkins, diapers and most food products are printed using the same technology that is used for this product and under normal conditions this issue does not occur. It is our recommendation that packages such as this should be kept in a drawer or cabinet where the exposure of the product to harsh conditions is minimal.”

My English translation of the Medline message:

“We don’t deny the problem occurred, but it’s your own fault because of the “likely … harsh conditions” in your bathroom (high heat and humidity) which are not “normal conditions” for a bathroom so you need to seal the product in a heat and humidity proof drawer or cabinet which we are sure, without investigation, you can readily find to protect this product that cost less than $3.00. While we would have to recognize there is no warning about “harsh conditions” on the package, you are surely aware of the famous old saying, “buyer beware,” so take ownership of your trust, however misplaced, in our branded products and go have yourself a lovely day in the harsh conditions in your bathroom.”

Oh, yes, CVS did not refund the price of the product, presumably because the whole thing was my fault for maintaining “harsh conditions” in my bathroom. Nothing more to say, except that this decision has cost and will continue to cost CVS a vastly larger, though in the scheme of its business, an insignificant loss, in diverted business to its competitor at … Amazon.

To end on a more positive note, in keeping with the season, we recently ordered, in person at the local Whole Foods store, a cake for an event. We wrote on a note the message that was to be iced on the cake. It was not a hugely expensive cake but it was a nice one for our small group. We were told to pick it up at 10 am on the date of the event. We arrived on time and were met with “what cake?”

It took all of two seconds for the assistant manager, who happened to be in the bakery section that day, to direct the staff to prepare the cake immediately, with the prescribed icing and “there will be no charge.”

THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is how it is done. It’s called customer service. No arguments, no excuses, just fixed it. Done and done.

Have a happy holiday weekend. Shop until you drop, if you must. Keep your guard up and stay safe.

Real News Roundup of Important Stories – No.1

The volume of astonishing stories coming out of, mainly, Washington DC is so large that it is impossible to keep up with thoughtful posts about each of them. This is frustrating because, of course, I have a lot of opinions to share, which is a main reason I write this blog at all.

I have therefore decided to publish periodic roundups of the most compelling stories in summary form. I have a large file of old stories and will just go through them in reverse order, newest first and so on. Of course, that symmetry will shortly and repeatedly be broken by the avalanche of new extraordinary tales. The items to be covered in this series are usually ones that don’t require a lot of comment or analysis.

First up, the incumbent Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate from Mississippi has just “joked” that it would be a good idea to make it harder for liberal college students in Mississippi to vote. https://wapo.st/2BaULYa This har-har knee-slapper follows on the heels of her remark a few days ago that if the host of her political event invited her to a public hanging, she’d be in the front row. Lady just doesn’t know when to keep her racist mouth shut. Har-har.

Meanwhile, Betsy DeVos, the know-nothing Secretary of Education has nothing better to do regarding the national education system than worry about the rights of young college men accused of sexual assault. According to reports, her new plan would narrow the definition of sexual harassment and mandate investigations of sexual assault only if the conduct happened on campus or other institutional sites and was reported to campus officials. The accused’s representative would be allowed to cross-examine the accuser. According to USAToday https://bit.ly/2OMsXwX , the new rules would create three categories of potentially actionable harassment. The new one is:

Unwelcome conduct on the basis of sex that is so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to the school’s education program or activity.

In addition, quid pro quo harassment, such as a school employee conditioning an educational benefit on a person’s sexual conduct and outright sexual assault. I am waiting for someone to define “so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive.” Maybe it’s in the proposed rule somewhere. Among the “supportive measures” available are “academic course adjustments, counseling, no-contact orders, dorm room reassignment … and class schedule changes for either the accused or the accuser.” If so, this means that the victim of sexual harassment could be forced to take those steps to avoid further contact with the, in this case presumed guilty, harasser. Curious way to treat a victim of sexual harassment. Maybe more about this another day.

About a week ago, white nationalists held a “rally” outside Ward, Arkansas. Photographs of the handiwork of these upstanding “Americans” may be seen here if you have the stomach for it – you could easily confuse these with photos from Nazi Germany but these are homegrown boys: https://reut.rs/2K1KGzG Nothing to add here. The photos say it all. Except that Donald Trump and the Republican Party are fairly chargeable with inviting these things to publicly assert themselves.

In other developments stemming from the Republican Party’s devotion to the United States, our country joined with Russia, China and North Korea in refusing to sign on to a cybersecurity agreement created at the Paris Peace Forum last week. https://bit.ly/2qPfIC3 The pact was signed by more than 50 countries, 150 technology companies (including Facebook, Google, Microsoft, IBM, and HP) and 90 charitable and university parties.

According to Shareblue Media [https://bit.ly/2qPfIC3],

The cybersecurity pact — which calls for countries to work together to promote human rights on the internet, thwart malicious activities such as theft of intellectual property and trade secrets, and develop better methods to prevent foreign election interference — was supported by most modern democratic nations including Japan, Canada, and the countries of the European Union. [emphasis added]

According to the original source, The American Independent,

With the Trump administration continuing to make inexplicable decisions that benefit Russia with no apparent gains for the U.S., it’s not hard to see why so many people believe that Putin has a hold on Trump.

Unfortunately for the American people, that also means Putin has a hold on Trump’s decision-making — and despite what Trump may claim, there’s nothing “America First” about America retreating.

Last, for today, is this beauty, too good to pass up. As reported by Newsweek [https://bit.ly/2TgPOUP], Leavenworth County (Kansas) commissioner Louis Klemp “is facing calls to apologize after telling a black woman that he is part of the “master race” during a routine public planning meeting.” This is not made up. The cited report had the video that includes this statement:

“I don’t want you to feel like I’m picking on you. Because we are part of the master race,” he said in the meeting. “You know you have a gap in your teeth we’re the master race, don’t ever forget that.”

The video has been replaced but you can see it at https://bit.ly/2K8SmQA Putting aside that someone would actually say this, the amazing thing to me is that there are merely calls for him to apologize. Nothing in the article indicates that a demand has been made for his resignation. He, of course, now claims he was just joking. Har-har.

Three Things to Know About the Acting Attorney General

By now, everyone awake knows that Trump fired Jeff Sessions. Standing alone, no loss in my opinion. I have expressed my views of Sessions in earlier posts in this blog.

But there is the major issue of how this relates to Trump’s determination to abort the Mueller investigation. If successful at doing that, Trump might well immunize himself from the laws of the United States and, in effect, become the dictator he wants to be. That catastrophic constitutional crisis-in-the-making will play out however it plays out. It is far from clear that Trump’s ploy to replace Sessions with Matt Whitaker is going to work because the constitutionality of Whitaker’s status as Acting AG has been challenged by legal authorities on all sides of the political spectrum.

Meanwhile, there is more to the Whittaker Walt story. Sorry, I got confused with the movie, The Russians Are Coming, in which Carl Reiner plays Walt Whittaker whose name is a challenge to the Russian submarine captain whose sub has gone aground on a Martha’s Vineyard-like island. It’s Matt Whitaker we’re concerned with here. Though I do recommend everyone rent The Russians Are Coming. It’s very funny and we could all use a laugh right now.

Back to Matt Whitaker. Here are the three things:

  1. He believes that good judges should administer “biblical justice” (New Testament only) ahead of the justice prescribed by the statutes enacted by the government; I know that sounds batsh*t crazy but here is the evidence: https://wapo.st/2PLGiKr
  2. Whitaker, who was Chief of Staff to Jeff Sessions before Trump axed Sessions and made Whitaker “acting,” believes that Marbury v. Madison was wrongly decided: https://wapo.st/2JRQsUh For those not initiated into the secret cult of law and lawyers, Marbury was decided in 1803 in an opinion written by one of the imminent jurists in American legal history, John Marshall. Here is a nice summary of the case:

“Thomas Jefferson defeated John Adams in the 1800 presidential election. Before Jefferson took office on March 4, 1801, Adams and Congress passed the Judiciary Act 1801, which created new courts, added judges, and gave the president more control over appointment of judges. The Act was essentially an attempt by Adams and his party to frustrate his successor, as he used the act to appoint 16 new circuit judges and 42 new justices of the peace. The appointees were approved by the Senate, but they were not valid until their commissions were delivered by Secretary of State James Madison.

William Marbury had been appointed Justice of the Peace in the District of Columbia, but his commission was not delivered. Marbury petitioned the Supreme Court to compel the new Secretary of State, James Madison, to deliver the documents. Marbury, joined by three other similarly situated appointees, petitioned for a writ of mandamus compelling the delivery of the commissions….

The Court [unanimously] found that Madison’s refusal to deliver the commission was illegal, but did not order Madison to hand over Marbury’s commission via writ of mandamus. Instead, the Court held that the provision of the Judiciary Act of 1789 enabling Marbury to bring his claim to the Supreme Court was itself unconstitutional, since it purported to extend the Court’s original jurisdiction beyond that which Article III, Section 2, established.

Marshall expanded that a writ of mandamus was the proper way to seek a remedy, but concluded the Court could not issue it. Marshall reasoned that the Judiciary Act of 1789 conflicted with the Constitution. Congress did not have power to modify the Constitution through regular legislation because Supremacy Clause places the Constitution before the laws.

In so holding, Marshall established the principle of judicial review, i.e., the power to declare a law unconstitutional.”

Marbury v. Madison, Oyez, 10 Nov. 2018, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1789-1850/5us137.

  1. Whitaker also believes that states can overrule federal law. https://cnn.it/2FgIFRs

That position, which harkens back to the attitude of Southern states before the Civil War, is in direct conflict with the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution that, I believe, Whitaker has sworn to uphold. Again, for the uninitiated, here is the pertinent part of the Supremacy Clause:

“This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

So, this Matt Whitaker is the man Trump picked to be Acting Attorney General of the United States.

And, if that weren’t enough, when confronted with questions about the legitimacy of the appointment, Trump claimed not to know Whitaker and that he had acted on the basis of what other (unnamed) people had said about him. The media, of course, took a deep breath and immediately found the audio tape in which Trump had declared he did know Whitaker.

You just couldn’t make this stuff up. Trump has demonstrated once again that he, and the people supporting him in the White House, are corrupt, bumbling, incompetent, dishonest and, dare I say it, just “terrible people.” That was Trump’s characterization of the media people who dared to press him for answers about all this as he had one foot on the plane to fly to Paris where he promptly humiliated himself and the United States, again.

The Republicans in Congress will almost certainly continue to play the Kids Gallery to Trump’s version of Clarabell the Clown from the Howdy Doody Show. https://bit.ly/2qECe0r For those too young to know (Howdy aired from 1947 to 1960), Clarabell did not speak. He had a squeeze- horn on his belt and used exaggerated gestures to communicate with Buffalo Bob and the Kids Gallery. Maybe that’s a partial solution to Trump: let’s get him a belt-mounted squeeze-horn and a gag. General Kelly can continue to play Buffalo Bob.