The European Union insists on an Irish backstop. Boris Johnson insists he won’t tolerate one.

Brexit

Boris Johnson does not have a majority for “no deal.”[1] But we knew that already. This is largely the same parliament that didn’t have a majority for any option.[2] The changes that have occurred and are occurring can only make Johnson’s life more difficult.[3]

In a column this Sunday, Johnson embraced the legacy of the American moon landing. If astronauts “could use hand-knit computer codes to make a frictionless reentry to the Earth’s atmosphere,” he wrote, “we can solve the problem of frictionless trade at the Northern Ireland border.”[4]

There is exactly one way that analogy works: “You can’t BS your way into space.”[5] And you can’t bullshit your way to a deal with the European Union either:[6]

Now, under a Johnson government, Britain could crash out of the E.U. without a divorce deal in place this Halloween, unleashing untold horrors on the British economy. Westminster watchers puzzle over the profound impediments still facing Johnson in Parliament, the sharpening of knives by rivals within his own party and the probable humiliating concessions he may have to make to get European counterparts to consider renegotiating Britain’s terms of withdrawal.[7]

But as it has been, the legal default is “no deal”[8] and Johnson has indicated his government will be preparing for it while sticking to his magical thinking that there are alternatives to the Irish backstop.[9]

And indeed, utterly unsurprisingly, Michael Barnier, the European Union’s chief negotiator has already vetoed Johnson’s plan. That doesn’t seem to have clarified matters for the true believers who continue to cling to their delusions, but it should for a lot of other folks in Parliament and for British subjects who will bear the predicted recession that follows from “no deal.” It certainly seems to have for Scottish politicians who are now looking to a second referendum on independence.[10]

Rajeev Syal, “‘Summer’s day massacre’ may spell backbench trouble for Boris Johnson,” Guardian, July 24, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/jul/24/philip-hammond-quits-johnson-fully-aligned-chancellor-gauke-stewart

Anna Mikhailova et al, “Michel Barnier rejects Boris Johnson’s ‘unacceptable’ Brexit plan,” Telegraph, July 25, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/07/25/boris-johnson-new-prime-minister-cabinet-parliament-brexit-latest/


James Comey

My dissertation defense was not like that at all. It’s interesting to me that, I guess, many are. Academia is a weird place but the Human Science program I did my Ph.D. in was about honest scholarship and I remain profoundly grateful to Joann McAllister (erstwhile department chair and a member of my committee), Bob McAndrews (my advisor and committee chair), and other professors in that program, now still being “taught out,” but well on its way to being defunct, for their honesty and their brilliance. (My comments here would be incomplete without a similar acknowledgment of Marc Pilisuk, not of the Human Science program, but the third member of my committee, also brilliant, also honest, and to whom I am also profoundly grateful. I honestly cannot imagine having a better committee than the one I had.)

All in all, [Robert] Mueller’s low-key performance probably didn’t give either the majority or the minority what they might have hoped for. But the incomplete nature of his testimony was, in a way, the point. At the hearings’ end, [Adam] Schiff closed by noting the many things Mueller had not done: he had not told Congress whether he would have indicted the president in the absence of the OLC memo; he had not said whether the president should be impeached; he had not spoken to the findings of any counterintelligence investigation or of any investigation into corrupt financial dealings within the administration. In each instance, Schiff said, Mueller had acted properly; the responsibility was not the former special counsel’s, but that of Congress. Schiff’s remarks were a kind of mustering call for the House, an acknowledgement to Mueller that the former special counsel’s role was over and that he had successfully passed the baton to the legislative branch.[11]

The consensus following Robert Mueller’s testimony is that it changed very little and that his performance was, well,[12] as Jill Wine-Banks put it, “not made for TV.”[13] The latter is a disappointment but the former was to be expected:

There has been discussion about an appearance before Congress. Any testimony from this office would not go beyond our report. It contains our findings and analysis, and the reasons for the decisions we made. We chose those words carefully, and the work speaks for itself.

The report is my testimony. I would not provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before Congress.[14]

An interesting legal argument for impeachment to emerge from the hearings is that Donald Trump would run out the statute of limitations on an obstruction of justice charge simply by remaining in office if re-elected next year.[15]

Interesting but ultimately meaningless: Barack Obama demonstrated what the neoliberal party will do with executive branch criminality under a previous administration: Refuse to prosecute.[16] The neoliberals will chant their mantra about healing a deeply divided country while human beings continue to suffer from the crimes committed against them, then embrace and extend that criminality.[17] And we’ll all be supposed to sing Kumbaya.

One thing we won’t do is sing Kumbaya. It won’t work that way. It never does. But if there’s one thing neoliberals never do, it’s learn. Because learning would require them to abandon their oh so precious ideologies. And in this case, the precedent that would follow from such learning might expose one of their own should a subsequent Republican administration find that a neoliberal president was criminal, which they all are, but generally not in ways that any Republican would ever prosecute under any circumstances.

Another bit to emerge is that Mueller believes Russia is working to interfere in U.S. elections again in 2020[18] and that other countries are developing the capabilities to interfere in U.S. elections.[19] Given the U.S. record in other countries, including Palestine with Hamas, Guatemala with a coup, what we’ve been trying to do in Venezuela for years, and many, many more, to be so disturbed about this is nothing short of absolute hypocrisy.

It’s the political science theory of realism at work, in which countries act not according to any high-minded principle but rather in their own interest. It’s an ugly and flawed theory, but many politicians, including Donald Trump, around the world take it as their lodestar: Other countries will interfere in U.S. elections, just as the U.S. does in theirs.

Finally, we should note that Mueller’s condemnation of Wikileaks, and Trump’s embrace of the organization while a candidate,[20] was in part for exposing how Hillary Clinton had co-opted the Democratic National Committee, sinking Bernie Sanders’ bid for the 2016 nomination.[21] Neoliberals really don’t want a full accounting.

Scott R. Anderson et al., “Mueller’s Testimony: The Baton Passes to Congress,” Lawfare, July 24, 2019, https://www.lawfareblog.com/muellers-testimony-baton-passes-congress

Politico, “‘A New Legal Argument for Impeachment,’” July 24, 2019, https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2019/07/24/mueller-testimony-legal-experts-analysis-227419


Migration

Maria Sacchetti and Spencer S. Hsu, “Federal judge in California halts Trump’s latest asylum ban,” Washington Post, July 24, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/legal-issues/federal-judge-allows-trump-administration-rule-restricting-asylum-access-to-continue/2019/07/24/eec83cfe-adba-11e9-8e77-03b30bc29f64_story.html


Lunch shaming

It turns out there’s a federal program to pay for those school lunches in poor enough districts. The Pennsylvania school district that sent those threatening letters and then initially refused donations to cover lunch debts[22]  qualifies.[23]

The problem here for me is that I don’t care nearly so much about what somebody does after they’ve been shamed as I do about what they do before being shamed. There is no apology, no reparation, no restitution, and no explanation that makes what the Wyoming Valley West School District did acceptable or in any way excusable. These people should never be allowed any control over any children again anywhere. I still want their heads.

Susan Scutti, “Pennsylvania school lunch debt furor ends with an apology and an announcement: free lunch for all,” CNN, July 25, 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/25/us/pennsylvania-lunch-debt-furor-apology/index.html


  1. [1]Rajeev Syal, “‘Summer’s day massacre’ may spell backbench trouble for Boris Johnson,” Guardian, July 24, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/jul/24/philip-hammond-quits-johnson-fully-aligned-chancellor-gauke-stewart
  2. [2]Heather Stewart, Jessica Elgot, and Rowena Mason, “Brexit: May calls for cabinet showdown as MPs reject all options,” Guardian, April 2, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/apr/01/brexit-deadlock-continues-as-mps-fail-to-find-compromise
  3. [3]Rajeev Syal, “‘Summer’s day massacre’ may spell backbench trouble for Boris Johnson,” Guardian, July 24, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/jul/24/philip-hammond-quits-johnson-fully-aligned-chancellor-gauke-stewart
  4. [4]Ishaan Tharoor, “Boris Johnson’s rise could be a preamble to his fall,” Washington Post, July 23, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2019/07/23/boris-johnsons-rise-could-be-preamble-his-fall/
  5. [5]Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, “Another NASA moonshot? Nope. You can’t BS your way to space,” ZDNet, July 19, 2019, https://www.zdnet.com/article/another-nasa-moonshote-you-cant-bs-your-way-to-space/
  6. [6]Peter Foster and James Rothwell, “Tepid Barnier welcomes Boris Johnson as EU takes ‘wait and see’ approach to Brexit talks,” Telegraph, July 23, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/07/23/tepid-barnier-welcomes-boris-johnson-eu-takes-wait-see-approach/
  7. [7]Ishaan Tharoor, “Boris Johnson’s rise could be a preamble to his fall,” Washington Post, July 23, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2019/07/23/boris-johnsons-rise-could-be-preamble-his-fall/
  8. [8]Jack Maidment, “Brexit latest news: Theresa May’s deal defeated again by
    58 votes – PM hints at general election to break deadlock,” Telegraph, March 29, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/03/29/brexit-latest-news-theresa-may-final-push-mps-prepare-vote-withdrawal/; Peter Walker, “Could parliament’s latest amendment stop no-deal Brexit?” Guardian, July 18, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/jul/18/could-parliaments-latest-amendment-stop-no-deal-brexit
  9. [9]Steven Swinford, “Boris Johnson: preparing for no-deal Brexit is top priority,” Times, July 25, 2019, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/boris-johnson-preparing-for-no-deal-brexit-is-top-priority-n8j9lffph; see also Daniel Boffey, “However you look at it, the logic of a Brexit backstop refuses to yield,” Guardian, June 24, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/jun/24/however-look-logic-brexit-backstop-refuses-to-yield-irish; British Broadcasting Corporation, “Irish deputy PM Coveney: No deal Brexit would mean customs checks in Ireland,” July 21, 2019, https://www.bbc.com/news/av/uk-politics-49062367/irish-deputy-pm-coveney-no-deal-brexit-would-mean-customs-checks-in-ireland
  10. [10]Anna Mikhailova et al, “Michel Barnier rejects Boris Johnson’s ‘unacceptable’ Brexit plan,” Telegraph, July 25, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/07/25/boris-johnson-new-prime-minister-cabinet-parliament-brexit-latest/
  11. [11]Scott R. Anderson et al., “Mueller’s Testimony: The Baton Passes to Congress,” Lawfare, July 24, 2019, https://www.lawfareblog.com/muellers-testimony-baton-passes-congress
  12. [12]Politico, “‘A New Legal Argument for Impeachment,’” July 24, 2019, https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2019/07/24/mueller-testimony-legal-experts-analysis-227419
  13. [13]Jill Wine-Banks in Politico, “‘A New Legal Argument for Impeachment,’” July 24, 2019, https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2019/07/24/mueller-testimony-legal-experts-analysis-227419
  14. [14]Department of Justice, “Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III Makes Statement on Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election,” May 29, 2019, https://www.justice.gov/opa/speech/special-counsel-robert-s-mueller-iii-makes-statement-investigation-russian-interference
  15. [15]Politico, “‘A New Legal Argument for Impeachment,’” July 24, 2019, https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2019/07/24/mueller-testimony-legal-experts-analysis-227419
  16. [16]Glenn Greenwald, “Obama’s justice department grants final immunity to Bush’s CIA torturers,” Guardian, August 31, 2012, http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/31/obama-justice-department-immunity-bush-cia-torturer; David Johnston and Charlie Savage, “Obama signals his reluctance to investigate Bush programs,” New York Times, January 2, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/12/world/americas/12iht-12inquire.19265701.html
  17. [17]David Benfell, “Obama and the Power of Prayer,” Not Housebroken, January 20, 2011, https://disunitedstates.org/?p=2015; David Benfell, “Raining on Terrell’s parade,” Not Housebroken, December 17, 2012, https://disunitedstates.org/?p=5266; David Benfell, “Oy Vey: Paleoconservatives, Neoconservatives, and Alleged Anti-Semitism,” April 1, 2014, https://parts-unknown.org/wp/2014/04/01/oy-vey-paleoconservatives-neoconservatives-and-alleged-anti-semitism/
  18. [18]Politico, “‘A New Legal Argument for Impeachment,’” July 24, 2019, https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2019/07/24/mueller-testimony-legal-experts-analysis-227419
  19. [19]Scott R. Anderson et al., “Mueller’s Testimony: The Baton Passes to Congress,” Lawfare, July 24, 2019, https://www.lawfareblog.com/muellers-testimony-baton-passes-congress
  20. [20]Scott R. Anderson et al., “Mueller’s Testimony: The Baton Passes to Congress,” Lawfare, July 24, 2019, https://www.lawfareblog.com/muellers-testimony-baton-passes-congress
  21. [21]Clare Foran, “Unity Won’t Come Easily for Democrats,” Atlantic, May 24, 2016, http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/05/bernie-sanders-hillary-clinton-democratic-party-platform/484067/; Kevin Gosztola, “Establishment Collectively Stunned To See Citizens Reject Rigged Democratic Primary,” Common Dreams, May 20, 2016, http://www.commondreams.org/views/2016/05/20/establishment-collectively-stunned-see-citizens-reject-rigged-democratic-primary; Lauren McCauley, “‘Rigged’ 2016 Election Has Voters Feeling Helpless, Unheard, and Ashamed,” Common Dreams, May 31, 2016, http://www.commondreams.org/news/2016/05/31/rigged-2016-election-has-voters-feeling-helpless-unheard-and-ashamed; Amy Sherman, “Democratic debates set to ‘maximize’ exposure, Wasserman Schultz claims, but evidence is dubious,” Politifact, January 20, 2016, http://www.politifact.com/florida/statements/2016/jan/20/debbie-wasserman-schultz/democratic-debates-maximize-exposure-debbie-wasser/; Byron Tau and Colleen McCain Nelson, “Hacked Emails Show Clinton Links With Democratic Party,” Wall Street Journal, October 12, 2016, http://www.wsj.com/articles/hacked-emails-show-clinton-links-with-democratic-party-1476315158; Ben Ptashnik and Victoria Collier, “Was the Democratic Primary Just Manipulated, or Was It Stolen?” Truthout, June 13, 2016, http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/36408-was-the-democratic-primary-just-manipulated-or-was-it-stolen; Greg Sargent, “It’s on: We’re getting four more Democratic debates,” Washington Post, February 3, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2016/02/03/its-on-looks-like-were-getting-four-more-democratic-debates/; Steven Shepard, “Democratic insiders give low marks to Wasserman Schultz,” Politico, May 27, 2016, http://www.politico.com/story/2016/05/debbie-wasserman-schultz-democratic-insiders-223631; Wall Street Journal, “Bernie Sanders Gets No Respect,” March 27, 2016, http://www.wsj.com/articles/bernie-sanders-gets-no-respect-1459117222; Katie Bo Williams, “WikiLeaks email suggests Brazile sent debate question to Clinton camp,” Hill, October 31, 2016, http://thehill.com/policy/cybersecurity/303556-emails-brazile-leaked-debate-question-to-clinton-camp; Megan R. Wilson, “DNC rolls back restrictions on lobbyist donations,” Hill, February 12, 2016, http://thehill.com/business-a-lobbying/business-a-lobbying/269266-dnc-rolls-back-restrictions-on-lobbyist-donations
  22. [22]Bobby Allyn, “Offers Pour In To Cover Pa. Students’ Meal Debt, But School Officials Not Interested,” National Public Radio, July 24, 2019, https://www.npr.org/2019/07/24/744744051/offers-pour-in-to-cover-pa-students-meal-debt-but-school-officials-not-intereste; Bobby Allyn, “Pa. School District Reverses Course And Will Now Accept Donations To Cover Lunch Debt,” National Public Radio, July 24, 2019, https://www.npr.org/2019/07/24/745046246/pa-school-district-reverses-course-and-will-now-accept-donations-to-cover-lunch-; Amir Vera, “Pennsylvania school district tells parents to pay their lunch debt, or their kids will go into foster care,” CNN, July 20, 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/20/us/pennsylvania-school-lunch-debt-trnd/index.html
  23. [23]Susan Scutti, “Pennsylvania school lunch debt furor ends with an apology and an announcement: free lunch for all,” CNN, July 25, 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/25/us/pennsylvania-lunch-debt-furor-apology/index.html

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