A delusional raging narcissist-in-chief with teenage resentment

Donald Trump

If indeed the spat between Donald Trump and William Barr is all an act, then either Republican senators have been taken in by it, or they’re in on it.[1] I can’t say I know which it is. But I think Jon Allsop’s analysis from a few days ago[2] isn’t out of date yet.

I think if pressed, I would have to guess that Trump just really is insane—I’ve been calling him a delusional raging narcissist-in-chief for a while. His current behavior reminds me of a teenaged boy who has figured out his parents can’t stop him from doing something and so he does it to spite them. And for him to have this understanding with Barr that Barr can protest and Trump can continue raging but Barr somehow preserves his credibility and that of the Department of Justice[3] just requires a lot more sophistication than I think Trump is capable of.

Burgess Everett and Marianne Levine, “Republicans plead with Trump to leave Barr alone,” Politico, February 19, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/02/19/republican-senate-barr-trump-116034


  1. [1]Burgess Everett and Marianne Levine, “Republicans plead with Trump to leave Barr alone,” Politico, February 19, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/02/19/republican-senate-barr-trump-116034
  2. [2]Jon Allsop, “Angry Barr and whether the press is getting played,” Columbia Journalism Review, February 14, 2020, https://www.cjr.org/the_media_today/william_barr_roger_stone_trump.php
  3. [3]Jon Allsop, “Angry Barr and whether the press is getting played,” Columbia Journalism Review, February 14, 2020, https://www.cjr.org/the_media_today/william_barr_roger_stone_trump.php

The impeachment own-goal

Donald Trump

Adam Serwer blasts the acquittal of Donald Trump in the Senate impeachment trial, the fealty that Trump demands and receives, and the implicit endorsement of Trump’s authoritarianism.[1] What resounds without him even saying it is that Nancy Pelosi scored an own-goal, one I must confess I did not foresee, in bringing the impeachment in the first place, that is, if you believe she wanted Trump successfully impeached in the first place.

I also think here of the transition from the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire. It’s surely an imprecise analogy to say the least, as the U.S. already has an empire vast beyond Roman emperors’ wildest fantasies, effectively enlarged through institutions such as NATO, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund, as well as through other “alliances.” But it may be time for me to dredge up the story of—if memory serves and if he has not been unduly lionized—Cicero.

Adam Serwer, “The First Days of the Trump Regime,” Atlantic, February 19, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/02/trump-regime/606682/


  1. [1]Adam Serwer, “The First Days of the Trump Regime,” Atlantic, February 19, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/02/trump-regime/606682/

Barack Obama failed to unite the country. He thinks he can unite Democrats.

Barack Obama

A while ago, I wrote,

Cornel West cites what “may have been our last [and lost] chance to break from our neoliberal soulcraft,” Barack Obama’s failure “to break with the Wall Street priorities and bail out Main Street,” the lack of “accountability of US torturers of innocent Muslims and the [lack of] transparency of US drone strikes killing innocent civilians,” his silence on stop-and-frisk, his demonization of whistle blowers, and his response to Black Lives Matter and to Israeli attacks on Palestine “with words about the difficult plight of police officers, department investigations (with no police going to jail) and the additional $225m in financial support of the Israeli army. Obama said not a mumbling word about the dead Palestinian children but he did call Baltimore black youth ‘criminals and thugs’.”[1]

Yet the mainstream media and academia failed to highlight these painful truths linked to Obama. Instead, most well-paid pundits on TV and radio celebrated the Obama brand. And most black spokespeople shamelessly defended Obama’s silences and crimes in the name of racial symbolism and their own careerism. How hypocritical to see them now speak truth to white power when most went mute in the face of black power. Their moral authority is weak and their newfound militancy is shallow.[2]

This is all true, but I would add that after Obama inherited wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where we’re still involved, and won the Nobel Peace Prize,[3] “the United States dropped 26,171 bombs in seven countries” in 2016[4] and that Obama’s much ballyhooed accomplishment on climate change is, to be generous, an ineffective non-binding half-measure.[5] I would amplify that Obama clearly cared not one whit for ordinary people, except when he wanted their votes, as he declared in 2009 that “[w]e all know that there are limits to what government can and should do [for the unemployed], even during such difficult times,”[6] allowed what should have been a bailout for homeowners blindsided by the crash in real estate values to become a bailout for bankers instead,[7] and used the promise of health care to bail out health insurance companies and pharmaceutical firms that didn’t even need a bailout.[8] Similarly, his disdain for the left,[9] which I guess just wasn’t neoconservative, neoliberal, or corrupt enough for him, should have been a caution about supporting Hillary Clinton.[10]

Barack Obama failed to unite the country. Jim Geraghty of the mostly neoconservative National Review suggests that Obama thinks he’s going to unite the Democrats:[11]

With each week and Sanders’s continued rise, I’ve been thinking about this report from Ryan Lizza, writing in Politico, back on November 26: “There is one potential exception: Back when [Bernie] Sanders seemed like more of a threat than he does now, [Barack] Obama said privately that if Bernie were running away with the nomination, Obama would speak up to stop him. (Asked about that, a spokesperson for Obama pointed out that Obama recently said he would support and campaign for whoever the Democratic nominee is.)”

It’s now mid-February, and the results of the latest national poll from Marist/NPR/PBS are: Bernie Sanders 31 percent, Michael Bloomberg 19 percent, Joe Biden 15 percent, Elizabeth Warren 12 percent, Amy Klobuchar 9 percent, Pete Buttigieg 8 percent. (How odd is it that the current leader in delegates is running sixth nationally?) If Sanders isn’t running away with the nomination, he’s starting to get close. If Obama’s going to object to Sanders, now is the time to do it. But according to the [Gabriel] Debenedetti report, he’s not going to. [emphasis added by Jim Geraghty][12]

I am by no means alone among progressives in speaking harshly of Barack Obama. He certainly did himself no favors when he let it slip that he would speak up against Bernie Sanders.[13] And with Nancy Pelosi’s impeachment of Donald Trump being, as I put it, “[t]he stupidest impeachment ever, historically notable first for all the offenses it failed to charge Donald Trump with,[14] second for its utterly predictable futility, and third for its transparent (and apparently failed) attempt to protect Joe Biden.[15][16] so-called “centrists,” including Obama, have absolutely zero credibility with progressives. If Obama wants to see just how far his star has fallen, he should just press on as he apparently intends.

To be fair, few progressives have quite my memory. Mostly they just remember 2016,[17] they’ve seen the shenanigans in Iowa,[18] and are pretty sure the Democratic National Committee is up to its old tricks. They’ve taken note of the narrow focus of Pelosi’s impeachment,[19] and seen Donald Trump’s response to it.[20] They’ve figured out that Obama is indeed just what he says he is, a so-called “centrist,” which, as they understand quite well, in real terms, means maybe just a little left of Attila the Hun. And progressives now range anywhere from pissed to furious.

These so-called “centrists,” Obama especially included, underestimate that anger.

Jim Geraghty, “When Is Obama Going to Speak Up?” National Review, February 18, 2020, https://www.nationalreview.com/the-morning-jolt/when-is-obama-going-to-speak-up/


Donald Trump

Philip Bump, “Trump is making it very clear how seriously he objects to official corruption,” Washington Post, February 18, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/02/18/trump-is-making-it-very-clear-how-seriously-he-objects-official-corruption/


  1. [1]Cornel West, “Pity the sad legacy of Barack Obama,” Guardian, January 9, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/09/barack-obama-legacy-presidency
  2. [2]Cornel West, “Pity the sad legacy of Barack Obama,” Guardian, January 9, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/09/barack-obama-legacy-presidency
  3. [3]Kathleen Hennessey, “Once Lauded as a Peacemaker, Obama’s Tenure Fraught with War,” Military.com, October 6, 2016, http://www.military.com/daily-news/2016/10/06/once-lauded-peacemaker-obama-tenure-fraught-war.html
  4. [4]Micah Zenko, “Scary Fact: America Dropped 26,171 Bombs in 7 Countries in 2016,” National Interest, January 6, 2017, http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/scary-fact-america-dropped-26171-bombs-7-countries-2016-18961
  5. [5]Kasia Anderson, “Pre-eminent Climate Scientist James Hansen Calls Paris Deal a ‘Fraud’; John Kerry Begs to Differ,” Truthdig, December 13, 2015, http://www.truthdig.com/eartotheground/item/preeminent_climate_scientist_calls_paris_deal_a_fraud_-_kerry_20151213; Marty Lederman, “The constitutionally critical, last-minute correction to the Paris climate change accord,” Balkinization, December 13, 2015, http://balkin.blogspot.com/2015/12/the-last-minute-correction-to-paris.html; Arthur Neslen and Karl Mathiesen, “Paris climate pledges ‘will only delay dangerous warming by two years’,” Guardian, June 3, 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jun/03/paris-climate-pledges-will-only-delay-dangerous-warming-by-two-years; David Roberts, “No country on Earth is taking the 2 degree climate target seriously,” Vox, October 4, 2016, http://www.vox.com/2016/10/4/13118594/2-degrees-no-more-fossil-fuels; Alissa J. Rubin and Elian Peltier, “Protesters Are in Agreement as Well: Pact Is Too Weak,” New York Times, December 12, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/13/world/europe/climate-activists-gather-in-paris-to-protest-outcome-of-conference.html
  6. [6]Barack Obama, “Remarks by the President on the Economy,” White House, November 12, 2009, http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/remarks-president-economy-jobs-forum
  7. [7]Neil Barofsky, Bailout: An Inside Account of How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street (New York: Free Press, 2012).
  8. [8]Brad Jacobson, “Obama received $20 million from healthcare industry in 2008 campaign,” Raw Story, January 12, 2010, http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2010/01/12/obama-received-20-million-healthcare-industry-money-2008/; Gaius Publius [pseud.], “Obama Got $20 Million from Healthcare Industry in 2008. Was Killing Single-Payer Part of the Deal?” Naked Capitalism, February 5, 2014, http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2014/02/gaius-publius-obama-got-20-million-healthcare-industry-2008-killing-single-payer-part-deal.html
  9. [9]Blue Texan [pseud.], “Ed Rendell Tells Democratic Base to “Get Over It” on Rachel Maddow,” Firedoglake, September 23, 2010, http://firedoglake.com/2010/09/23/early-morning-swim-ed-rendell-tells-democratic-base-to-get-over-it-on-rachel-maddow/; Blue Texan [pseud.], “Stop Whining, Liberals!” Firedoglake, September 27, 2010, http://firedoglake.com/2010/09/27/late-night-stop-whining-liberals/; Michael Falcone, “Opposite Day On The Campaign Trail?” ABC News, September 21, 2010, http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2010/09/election-2010-opposite-day-on-the-campaign-trail/; Glenn Greenwald, “Obama’s view of liberal criticisms,” Salon, September 17, 2010, http://www.salon.com/2010/09/17/obama_139/; David Neiwert, “President Obama lashes out at his liberal critics: Choice is to ‘get things done’ or feel ‘sanctimonious’,” Crooks and Liars, December 7, 2010, http://crooksandliars.com/david-neiwert/president-obama-lashes-out-his-liber; Heather Digby Parton, “‘It’s always the hippies’ fault’: Why the left treats its idealists all wrong,” Salon, February 5, 2015, http://www.salon.com/2015/02/05/its_always_the_hippies_fault_why_the_left_treats_its_idealists_all_wrong/; Greg Sargent, “Liberal blogger directly confronts David Axelrod, accuses White House of ‘hippie punching’,” Washington Post, September 23, 2010, http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2010/09/liberal_blogger_directly_confr.html; Stephen Stromberg, “Joe Biden scolds progressives — and he’s right,” Washington Post, September 16, 2010, http://voices.washingtonpost.com/postpartisan/2010/09/joe_biden_scolds_progressives.html; Sam Youngman, “White House unloads anger over criticism from ‘professional left’,” Hill, August 10, 2010, http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/113431-white-house-unloads-on-professional-left
  10. [10]David Benfell, “Barack Obama’s legacy,” Irregular Bullshit, January 10, 2017, https://disunitedstates.com/2017/01/10/barack-obamas-legacy-daily-bullshit-january-9-10-2017-early/
  11. [11]Jim Geraghty, “When Is Obama Going to Speak Up?” National Review, February 18, 2020, https://www.nationalreview.com/the-morning-jolt/when-is-obama-going-to-speak-up/
  12. [12]Jim Geraghty, “When Is Obama Going to Speak Up?” National Review, February 18, 2020, https://www.nationalreview.com/the-morning-jolt/when-is-obama-going-to-speak-up/
  13. [13]Justine Coleman, “Obama privately said he would speak up to stop Sanders: report,” Hill, November 26, 2019, https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/472090-obama-privately-said-he-would-speak-up-to-stop-sanders-report; Ryan Lizza, “Waiting for Obama,” Politico, November 26, 2019, https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2019/11/26/barack-obama-2020-democrats-candidates-biden-073025
  14. [14]David Benfell, “The whiteness of impeachment,” Not Housebroken, December 15, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/15/the-whiteness-of-impeachment/; Democracy Now, “Law Professor: Trump Could Also Have Been Impeached for War Crimes, Assassinations and Corruption,” January 24, 2020, https://www.democracynow.org/2020/1/24/donald_trump_senate_impeachment_trial
  15. [15]David Benfell, “It’s still a smoke-filled room,” Not Housebroken, December 6, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/06/its-still-a-smoke-filled-room/; David Benfell, “How the neoliberal (usually known as Democratic) party may well lose in 2020,” Not Housebroken, December 7, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/07/how-the-neoliberal-usually-known-as-democratic-party-may-well-lose-in-2020/; David Benfell, “The whiteness of impeachment,” Not Housebroken, December 15, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/15/the-whiteness-of-impeachment/; David Benfell, “The least violent solution,” Not Housebroken, December 16, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/16/the-least-violent-solution/; David Benfell, “The sham (pick your partisan flavor) is on,” Not Housebroken, December 19, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/19/the-sham-pick-your-partisan-flavor-is-on/; David Benfell, “The asterisk,” Not Housebroken, December 21, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/21/the-asterisk/
  16. [16]David Benfell, “One farce down, one to go,” Irregular Bullshit, February 5, 2020, https://disunitedstates.com/2020/02/05/one-farce-down-one-to-go/
  17. [17]Donna Brazile, “Inside Hillary Clinton’s Secret Takeover of the DNC,” Politico, November 2, 2017, https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/11/02/clinton-brazile-hacks-2016-215774
  18. [18]David Benfell, “Neoliberal hubris and the Iowa fiasco,” Not Housebroken, February 5, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/02/05/neoliberal-hubris-and-the-iowa-fiasco/
  19. [19]David Benfell, “The whiteness of impeachment,” Not Housebroken, December 15, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/15/the-whiteness-of-impeachment/; Democracy Now, “Law Professor: Trump Could Also Have Been Impeached for War Crimes, Assassinations and Corruption,” January 24, 2020, https://www.democracynow.org/2020/1/24/donald_trump_senate_impeachment_trial
  20. [20]Philip Bump, “Trump is making it very clear how seriously he objects to official corruption,” Washington Post, February 18, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/02/18/trump-is-making-it-very-clear-how-seriously-he-objects-official-corruption/; Seung Min Kim, “These Republicans said they hope Trump has learned a lesson from impeachment. He said he hasn’t,” Washington Post, February 5, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/these-republicans-said-they-hope-trump-has-learned-a-lesson-from-impeachment-he-said-he-hasnt/2020/02/04/fa68c18c-478e-11ea-ab15-b5df3261b710_story.html

‘A house built by slaves’

White House

I think a difficulty Ta-Nehisi Coates faces in making his case for reparations[1] may be that, at the remove of the 21st century, we—whites at least—tend to think of slavery as something that happened on southern plantations a long time ago. It’s difficult now to imagine just how intrinsic slavery was to the early U.S. economy and even its way of life.[2] This Washington Post story[3] begins to peel back that delusion with what Michelle Obama called “a house built by slaves.”[4]

As I review this draft, I see the words “white house” and think of two nearby towns that passengers flagged for me as particularly white supremacist, at least in their police forces.[5] I don’t name them because as an Uber and Lyft driver, I frankly depend on those and other police to overlook my own inevitable transgressions of traffic law.

It is very apparent to me that the grace—in my case, a daily average of 137 miles of grace in a very difficult driving situation[6]—police here extend to me and other whites is not something they extend to Blacks. I understand all too well also that my income depends in part on people who are, accordingly, afraid to drive while Black,[7] while I struggle to make a living in the only career option that is available to me, even with a Ph.D.[8]

I can comfort myself with the recognition that ethics can only apply where there is choice. It is still a very uncomfortable position.

Joe Heim, “The enslaved people who built and staffed the White House: An afterthought no more,” Washington Post, February 17, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/the-enslaved-people-who-built-and-staffed-the-white-house-an-afterthought-no-more/2020/02/17/5e5393ea-483c-11ea-8124-0ca81effcdfb_story.html


Judiciary

The Washington Post has more[9] on the Federal Judges Association calling an emergency meeting about Donald Trump’s and William Barr’s interference in line prosecutorial decisions.[10] This is the unfortunate the money line: “[Cynthia M.] Rufe’s comments gave no hint of what the association could or would do in response.”[11]

Fred Barbash, “Federal judges reportedly call emergency meeting in wake of Stone case intervention,” Washington Post, February 18, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/02/18/judges-meeting-trump/


Pittsburgh

The wind must have been very favorable (judging from the water, perhaps nonexistent) the day this photograph was taken.

As I understand it, those are not the current Fort Pitt (to right) and Fort Duquesne (to left) Bridges. I’m not sure if there was really a park there then, but there is now and it’s at least somewhat larger, with a fountain. The current bridges come into downtown a little farther back.


  1. [1]Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The Case for Reparations,” Atlantic, June 2014, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/06/the-case-for-reparations/361631/
  2. [2]Sven Beckert, “Slavery and Capitalism,” Chronicle of Higher Education, December 12, 2014, https://www.chronicle.com/article/SlaveryCapitalism/150787/
  3. [3]Joe Heim, “The enslaved people who built and staffed the White House: An afterthought no more,” Washington Post, February 17, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/the-enslaved-people-who-built-and-staffed-the-white-house-an-afterthought-no-more/2020/02/17/5e5393ea-483c-11ea-8124-0ca81effcdfb_story.html
  4. [4]Michelle Obama, quoted in Joe Heim, “The enslaved people who built and staffed the White House: An afterthought no more,” Washington Post, February 17, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/the-enslaved-people-who-built-and-staffed-the-white-house-an-afterthought-no-more/2020/02/17/5e5393ea-483c-11ea-8124-0ca81effcdfb_story.html
  5. [5]David Benfell, “The place where I live,” Not Housebroken, December 26, 2020,
  6. [6]David Benfell, “Pittsburgh driving for the uninitiated,” Irregular Bullshit, n.d., https://disunitedstates.com/pittsburgh-driving-for-the-uninitiated/
  7. [7]David Benfell, “Hey cops! Do you know what year it is?” Not Housebroken, August 27, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/08/27/hey-cops-do-you-know-what-year-it-is/; David Benfell, “The binary between ‘Black’ and ‘Blue’ Lives,” Not Housebroken, January 3, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/01/03/the-binary-between-black-and-blue-lives/; David Benfell “To a Pennsylvania House Minority Leader: When cops profile you, they don’t actually need an offense,” Not Housebroken, January 16, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/01/16/to-a-pennsylvania-house-minority-leader-when-cops-profile-you-they-dont-actually-need-an-offense/
  8. [8]David Benfell, “About my job hunt,” Not Housebroken, n.d., https://disunitedstates.org/about-my-job-hunt/
  9. [9]Fred Barbash, “Federal judges reportedly call emergency meeting in wake of Stone case intervention,” Washington Post, February 18, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/02/18/judges-meeting-trump/
  10. [10]Kevin Johnson, “Federal judges’ association calls emergency meeting after DOJ intervenes in case of Trump ally Roger Stone,” USA Today, February 17, 2020, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2020/02/17/roger-stone-sentence-judges-worried-political-interference/4788155002/
  11. [11]Fred Barbash, “Federal judges reportedly call emergency meeting in wake of Stone case intervention,” Washington Post, February 18, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/02/18/judges-meeting-trump/

William Barr’s outburst about Donald Trump’s tweets seems not to have impressed

Updates

  1. Originally published, February 17, 7:09 pm.
  2. February 17, 7:38 pm:
    • The number of former Justice Department employees signing that petition asking William Barr to resign is now over 2,000 and the Federal Judges Association is convening an emergency meeting to consider Donald Trump’s and Barr’s interference with line prosecutors.[1]

There is a new blog post entitled, “Fiction as truth.”


William Barr

It would seem that William Barr’s outburst about Donald Trump’s tweets[2] was insufficient to impress “[m]ore than 1,100 former Justice Department employees” who called on him to resign.[3]

The real problem, of course, is constitutional: The Department of Justice is part of the executive branch. But it would be a problem anywhere in government. It’s a problem for which I lack a solution,[4] and I’m still pretty grumpy about that.

Andrew Duehren and Sadie Gurman, “Former Justice Department Employees Sign Letter Urging Barr to Resign,” Wall Street Journal, February 16, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/former-justice-department-employees-sign-letter-urging-barr-to-resign-11581877946

Kevin Johnson, “Federal judges’ association calls emergency meeting after DOJ intervenes in case of Trump ally Roger Stone,” USA Today, February 17, 2020, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2020/02/17/roger-stone-sentence-judges-worried-political-interference/4788155002/


  1. [1]Kevin Johnson, “Federal judges’ association calls emergency meeting after DOJ intervenes in case of Trump ally Roger Stone,” USA Today, February 17, 2020, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2020/02/17/roger-stone-sentence-judges-worried-political-interference/4788155002/
  2. [2]Jon Allsop, “Angry Barr and whether the press is getting played,” Columbia Journalism Review, February 14, 2020, https://www.cjr.org/the_media_today/william_barr_roger_stone_trump.php; Matt Zapotosky and John Wagner, “Trump bucks Barr’s request to stop tweeting about Justice Dept., declaring a ‘legal right’ to seek intervention in criminal cases,” Washington Post, February 14, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-appears-to-escalate-standoff-with-attorney-general-and-justice-dept-declaring-on-twitter-a-legal-right-to-influence-criminal-cases/2020/02/14/8c152c36-4f2f-11ea-bf44-f5043eb3918a_story.html
  3. [3]Andrew Duehren and Sadie Gurman, “Former Justice Department Employees Sign Letter Urging Barr to Resign,” Wall Street Journal, February 16, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/former-justice-department-employees-sign-letter-urging-barr-to-resign-11581877946
  4. [4]David Benfell, “On the difficulty of having the Department of Justice in the executive branch,” Not Housebroken, June 15, 2018, https://disunitedstates.org/2018/06/15/on-the-difficulty-of-having-the-department-of-justice-in-the-executive-branch/

A billionaire likely loser

Michael Bloomberg

It might not be cold enough in Hell for a snowball, but it’s still a pretty cold day there when I’m reading Ross Douthat (if you’re being a smartass, it was 36° here in Baldwin Borough). That said, here’s Glenn Greenwald, whom I have a little more respect for:

Greenwald is right. This[1] is a very smart column.

[Michael] Bloomberg has adapted his policy views to better fit the current liberal consensus, and his views on social issues were liberal to begin with. But he has the record of a deficit and foreign policy hawk, the soul of a Wall Street centrist, and a history of racial and religious profiling and sexist misbehavior. More than any other contender, his nomination would pull the party back toward where it stood before the rise of Bernie Sanders and Black Lives Matter and #MeToo, and root liberalism once more in professional-class interests and a Washington-Wall Street mindmeld.[2]

Douthat also points to how as mayor of New York City, Bloomberg accomplished what Donald Trump can only aspire to as president and is thus, potentially, even more dangerous, concluding that his victory would amount to “[a]n exchange of Trumpian black comedy for oligarchy’s velvet fist.” Douthat does not think Bloomberg can win.[3]

I don’t believe it either. Even if Bloomberg were to win the Democratic nomination, he would be an elitist—a New York City mayor, for crying out loud—to authoritarian populists, would fail to advance a social conservative agenda, and would be a billionaire to the Left. He would rely on votes from a mythical “center,” but truth be told, on some level, pretty much everyone knows, on some level, that it was Wall Street that precipitated the 2007-2008 financial crisis. And everyone knows, on some level, that the bankers got away with fraud and are now even richer than before. Then there’s Charles Blow:

One of the lessons I’ve taken from talking with Blacks since arriving here in Pittsburgh is that to live with the incredible racism here[4] and yet still to function requires one of two responses: Either, as I think most Blacks do, one adopts a suspension of disbelief, or as some Blacks do, one buys into “respectability.” Bloomberg is relying on the latter, which Bill Cosby made himself the face of.[5] Cosby has since been convicted of sexual assault and labeled a “sexually violent predator” by a judge, requiring him to register as a sex offender for life.[6] I’m pretty sure that only gets you so far.

Ross Douthat, “The Bloomberg Temptation,” New York Times, February 15, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/15/opinion/bloomberg-trump-2020.html


  1. [1]Ross Douthat, “The Bloomberg Temptation,” New York Times, February 15, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/15/opinion/bloomberg-trump-2020.html
  2. [2]Ross Douthat, “The Bloomberg Temptation,” New York Times, February 15, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/15/opinion/bloomberg-trump-2020.html
  3. [3]Ross Douthat, “The Bloomberg Temptation,” New York Times, February 15, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/15/opinion/bloomberg-trump-2020.html
  4. [4]Colin P. Clarke, “One Year After Tree of Life, We Still Aren’t Talking Enough About Violent White Supremacy,” Rand, October 27, 2019, https://www.rand.org/blog/2019/10/one-year-after-tree-of-life-we-still-arent-talking.html; Eric Heyl, “Neo-Nazi, White Supremacist, Islamic Hate Groups Active In Pittsburgh,” Patch, August 16, 2017, https://patch.com/pennsylvania/pittsburgh/neo-nazi-white-supremacist-islamic-hate-groups-active-pittsburgh; Moriah Ella Mason, “Pittsburgh Doesn’t Need More Guns — We Need Less White Supremacy,” Forward, October 29, 2018, https://forward.com/scribe/413104/pittsburgh-doesnt-need-more-guns-we-need-less-white-supremacy/; Charles Thompson, “Pennsylvania housed 36 active hate groups last year, ranking 8th in the country: report,” Penn Live, February 21, 2019, https://www.pennlive.com/news/2019/02/southern-poverty-law-center-counts-36-active-hate-groups-in-pennsylvania-in-2018.html
  5. [5]Associated Press, “Cosby berates blacks for abuse, failure as parents,” NBC News, July 2, 2004, http://www.nbcnews.com/id/5345290/ns/us_news-life/t/cosby-berates-blacks-abuse-failure-parents/
  6. [6]British Broadcasting Corporation, “Bill Cosby sentenced to state prison for sexual assault,” September 26, 2018, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-45644374; Manuel Roig-Franzia, “Bill Cosby sentenced to 3 to 10 years in state prison,” Washington Post, September 25, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/bill-cosby-sentenced-to-3-to-10-years-in-state-prison/2018/09/25/9aa620aa-c00d-11e8-90c9-23f963eea204_story.html

Staying where I am

Gig economy

There is a new blog post entitled, “Ridesharing traffic woes illustrate a defect of (not just) high tech thinking.”

Eliot Brown, “The Ride-Hail Utopia That Got Stuck in Traffic,” Wall Street Journal, February 15, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-ride-hail-utopia-that-got-stuck-in-traffic-11581742802


Housekeeping

As my regular readers know, I’ve been anguished by evidence of racism, white supremacism, and even possible militia activity in the Pittsburgh area.[1] I’ve been photographing the gratuitous displays of guns, tanks, and other munitions that really seem like ludicrous overkill, that often seem really to form a white supremacist message for Blacks.[2] I have witnessed and been profoundly distressed by police behavior I’ve witnessed.[3]

None of this is okay with me and some of you know I’ve been considering moving, possibly to a less gun-nutty state, possibly to within Pittsburgh city limits.

In the meantime, I’ve been managing to make my apartment nicer and nicer. And the prospect of another move is, well, less than enticing. As I’ve been looking around, it seems increasingly clear that I need a real job, for which I still have no prospect, to significantly improve my situation and increasingly likely that I would otherwise be, at best, exchanging one set of problems for another.

Today, my car registration renewal notice came in the mail. It had an option to renew for one or two years. It wasn’t that expensive to do so, so I renewed it for two years. I’m staying where I am, or at least in Pennsylvania, at least for the foreseeable future.


  1. [1]David Benfell, “Militia territory,” Not Housebroken, November 22, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/11/22/militia-territory/; David Benfell, “The place where I live,” Not Housebroken, December 26, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/26/the-place-where-i-live/; David Benfell, “How am I to respond?” Not Housebroken, December 31, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/30/how-am-i-to-respond/
  2. [2]David Benfell, “The banners and the guns: Flagrant racism in Pittsburgh,” Not Housebroken, October 12, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/09/20/the-banners-and-the-guns-flagrant-racism-in-pittsburgh/
  3. [3]David Benfell, “Hey cops! Do you know what year it is?” Not Housebroken, August 27, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/08/27/hey-cops-do-you-know-what-year-it-is/

Michael Avenatti convicted

Michael Avenatti

Michael Avenatti gained fame representing Stormy Daniels, a porn star whom Donald Trump paid off to keep quiet about a sexual encounter, and exposing other skullduggery along the way.[1]

It was never clear to me how Avenatti got some of his information that was unrelated to Daniels and I always thought his style was too much that of a braggart and much louder than I’m comfortable with. But I was hoping I was wrong—it’s not like I run a successful public relations operation—and I was certainly cheering him on.

Avenatti has now been convicted of attempting to blackmail Nike and still faces charges in two other cases, including one in which he allegedly embezzled Daniels’ money.[2] If I pick up the pieces correctly, the latter case is why he no longer represents Daniels.

I assume Avenatti will be appealing.

Rebecca Davis O’Brien, “Michael Avenatti Found Guilty in Extortion Case,” Wall Street Journal, February 14, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/michael-avenatti-found-guilty-11581708458


  1. [1]Aaron Blake, “We finally got an answer about whether Trump knew about the Stormy Daniels payment,” Washington Post, March 29, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2018/03/29/we-finally-got-an-answer-as-to-whether-trump-knew-about-the-stormy-daniels-payment/; Jonathan Chait, “Michael Cohen Apparently Flipping Is Extremely Bad News for Trump,” New York, July 2, 2018, http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/07/michael-cohen-apparent-flip-is-extremely-bad-news-for-trump.html; Anderson Cooper, “Stormy Daniels describes her alleged affair with Donald Trump,” CBS News, March 26, 2018, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/stormy-daniels-describes-her-alleged-affair-with-donald-trump-60-minutes-interview/; David Frum, “Trump’s Legal Threats Backfire,” Atlantic, March 26, 2018, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/03/trumps-legal-threats-backfire/556505/; Michael Gerson, “The strange, unexpected public contribution of Stormy Daniels,” Washington Post, March 26, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-strange-unexpected-public-contribution-of-stormy-daniels/2018/03/26/2c2bce4e-312a-11e8-8abc-22a366b72f2d_story.html; Elie Mystal, “Trump Goes On Television, Destroys Two Legal Cases, Will Blame ‘Fake News,’” Above The Law, April 26, 2018, https://abovethelaw.com/2018/04/trump-goes-on-television-destroys-two-legal-cases-will-blame-fake-news/; Elie Mystal, “It’s Giuliani Time! Rudy Ritualistically Suicides One Case To Try To Save Trump From Another,” Above The Law, May 2, 2018, https://abovethelaw.com/2018/05/its-giuliani-time-rudy-ritualistically-suicides-one-case-to-try-to-save-trump-from-another/; Philip Rucker, “Trump says for first time that Cohen represented him in Stormy Daniels case,” Washington Post, April 26, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-says-for-first-time-that-cohen-represented-him-in-stormy-daniels-case/2018/04/26/43c48962-4951-11e8-827e-190efaf1f1ee_story.html; Amy Davidson Sorkin, “Trump’s Stormy Morning on ‘Fox & Friends,’” New Yorker, April 26, 2018, https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/trumps-stormy-morning-on-fox-and-friends; Jacqueline Thomsen, “Giuliani: Trump reimbursed Cohen for $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels,” Hill, May 2, 2018, http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/385965-giuliani-trump-reimbursed-cohen-for-payment-to-stormy-daniels; Staci Zaretsky, “Porn Star Stormy Daniels Files New Defamation Suit Against President Donald Trump,” Above The Law, April 30, 2018, https://abovethelaw.com/2018/04/porn-star-stormy-daniels-files-new-defamation-suit-against-president-donald-trump/
  2. [2]Rebecca Davis O’Brien, “Michael Avenatti Found Guilty in Extortion Case,” Wall Street Journal, February 14, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/michael-avenatti-found-guilty-11581708458

William Barr’s bullshit

As controversy swirls around some candidates’ allegedly “unrealistic” promises, it might not be a bad idea to revisit a blog post from last year entitled, “Cats are smarter than we are. Really.


William Barr

William Barr’s complaint that, “To have public statements and tweets made about the department, about our people in the department, our men and women here, about cases pending in the department, and about judges before whom we have cases, make it impossible for me to do my job,”[1] reeks of bullshit from top to bottom. As Jon Allsop writes,

[William] Barr’s ABC interview, it seems, was an effort to wind back the clock. Did it work? News stories in the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal credited him, respectively, with a “remarkable rebuke” and “striking criticism” of the president. Barr, the Times added, had “publicly challenged Mr. Trump in a way that no sitting cabinet member has.” Elsewhere, however, skepticism of Barr’s motives abounded. On CNN, Cuomo—who changed his tune on Barr during the Mueller episode—said the interview was “a slap right in Trump’s piehole” but that he suspected it was a ploy to “distract the media with the drama while ignoring the fact” of the Stone case. (Cuomo and others suggested that Trump may have authorized Barr’s criticisms—Trump’s response to them, that they didn’t bother him, was suspicious, they said, since Trump isn’t typically sanguine about expressions of disloyalty. Reporting in the Times and the Post seems to contradict this theory.) In a tweet, Ari Melber, chief legal correspondent at MSNBC, offered a pithy rewording of what Barr said: “I stand by intervening to help a convicted Trump adviser, but I wish Trump did not admit what we are doing on Twitter.”[2]

Allsop argues that it’s more likely simply that Barr is a true believer in “the centralization of presidential power—just to the point, critics say, where the president is effectively above the law”—than that he coordinated this outburst with Donald Trump.[3]

One way or another, what we’re seeing is either a culmination of or, as it seems to me, a step beyond the neoconservative theory (or at least a theory they favored when they were in power) of the unitary executive, which while consolidating considerable power in the presidency, never seemed to me to allow for the president to be entirely above the law. Neoconservatism, a backlash to the social uprisings of the 1960s and 1970s, rather deploys law (ask, whose law, passed by whom, protecting whom, from whom?), order (ask, whose order?), and proactive war—even imperialism—to protect the Amerikkkan system of so-called democracy (really a republic[4]) and capitalism from challenge, whether foreign or domestic.[5] That should leave Trump subject to legal constraint. Instead, as Allsop notes, the lesson he takes from impeachment, Susan Collins and colleagues notwithstanding,[6] is that “he can break the rules with impunity.”[7]

In any event, Trump didn’t take long to “declar[e] that he has the ‘legal right’ to ask his top law enforcement official to get involved in a criminal case,” the very sort of intervention that prompted all this.[8] It will be Barr’s response to this, if any, that I think will be most instructive.

Jon Allsop, “Angry Barr and whether the press is getting played,” Columbia Journalism Review, February 14, 2020, https://www.cjr.org/the_media_today/william_barr_roger_stone_trump.php

Matt Zapotosky and John Wagner, “Trump bucks Barr’s request to stop tweeting about Justice Dept., declaring a ‘legal right’ to seek intervention in criminal cases,” Washington Post, February 14, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-appears-to-escalate-standoff-with-attorney-general-and-justice-dept-declaring-on-twitter-a-legal-right-to-influence-criminal-cases/2020/02/14/8c152c36-4f2f-11ea-bf44-f5043eb3918a_story.html


  1. [1]William Barr, quoted in Jon Allsop, “Angry Barr and whether the press is getting played,” Columbia Journalism Review, February 14, 2020, https://www.cjr.org/the_media_today/william_barr_roger_stone_trump.php
  2. [2]Jon Allsop, “Angry Barr and whether the press is getting played,” Columbia Journalism Review, February 14, 2020, https://www.cjr.org/the_media_today/william_barr_roger_stone_trump.php
  3. [3]Jon Allsop, “Angry Barr and whether the press is getting played,” Columbia Journalism Review, February 14, 2020, https://www.cjr.org/the_media_today/william_barr_roger_stone_trump.php
  4. [4]David Benfell, “The species we must become: On direct democracy, or why its alleged bugs are features,” Not Housebroken, June 16, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/06/16/the-species-we-must-become-on-direct-democracy-or-why-its-alleged-bugs-are-features/
  5. [5]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).
  6. [6]Seung Min Kim, “These Republicans said they hope Trump has learned a lesson from impeachment. He said he hasn’t,” Washington Post, February 5, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/these-republicans-said-they-hope-trump-has-learned-a-lesson-from-impeachment-he-said-he-hasnt/2020/02/04/fa68c18c-478e-11ea-ab15-b5df3261b710_story.html
  7. [7]Jon Allsop, “Angry Barr and whether the press is getting played,” Columbia Journalism Review, February 14, 2020, https://www.cjr.org/the_media_today/william_barr_roger_stone_trump.php
  8. [8]Matt Zapotosky and John Wagner, “Trump bucks Barr’s request to stop tweeting about Justice Dept., declaring a ‘legal right’ to seek intervention in criminal cases,” Washington Post, February 14, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-appears-to-escalate-standoff-with-attorney-general-and-justice-dept-declaring-on-twitter-a-legal-right-to-influence-criminal-cases/2020/02/14/8c152c36-4f2f-11ea-bf44-f5043eb3918a_story.html

Another fucking tank

Updates

  1. Originally published, February 13, 7:31 pm.
  2. I had given the wrong name of a location. It is the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial, not Veterans Hall. Corrected below, February 15, 7:47 pm:

Gratuitous guns

I found another fucking tank on display. This one (figure 1) is on display at the American Legion post in Plum.
IMG_0092
Fig. 1. Plum Borough (originally Township), Pennsylvania. Photograph by author, February 13, 2020.

I have updated the map (figure 2).


Fig. 2. Gratuitous guns map.

I don’t make it out to Plum very often and this is well outside the area of Mon Valley I have associated with white supremacism where most of the munitions to be found on the map are located. It’s a bit of a surprise. As I look at the map in figure 2, the three outliers now where I’m less certain that racism may be a factor are at the Veterans Hall Soldiers and Sailors Memorial (Corrected February 15, 2020) near University of Pittsburgh (known locally as “Pitt”), Monongahela (which is still in Mon Valley but at some distance upstream from the other sites), and Plum. I don’t get to either of the latter two areas often and I don’t know them. So I don’t know what’s going on with them.

But I’m deeply suspicious about the rest of these sites, including in South Park.