Sunday, September 27, 2020

The NY Times has Trump's tax returns

Not surprisingly, this is likely to prove embarrassing to the president. It appears the Times is being intentionally vague on some details, almost certainly to protect their source(s). On which note, somebody, maybe multiple somebodies, have broken some pretty serious Federal laws. Long time readers of this blog will know that I am a fierce critic of this president. But somebody, obviously for political reasons, just violated the rights of an American citizen to basic privacy with respect to their finances. Reasonable people can disagree with a law that allows presidential candidates and persons who occupy high office to shield their finances from public scrutiny. But the law is what it is, until it is changed. In this country, even villainous scoundrels have rights. And Donald Trump's rights have just been violated. This is an outrageous abuse and whoever is responsible needs to be identified and named as the winner of an all expense paid vacation in the Federal cross barred hotel. 

The Times' story can be found here.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

On this date 1941

US intelligence intercepts a coded message from Tokyo to the Imperial Japanese Consulate in Hawaii. However, the interceptors do not have any decryption capabilities as MAGIC (the American military code breaking operation) is a closely guarded secret. Accordingly, the message along with others, is marked for dispatch by air courier to Washington. Unfortunately, the weather is dreadful and the weekly flight scheduled for the 26th is cancelled. So the still coded message, along with the others, is placed on a ship bound for the West Coast. It eventually arrives in DC on October 6, 1941 and is placed in que for decoding. Several days later, the message is decoded.

It directs the consulate to divide Pearl Harbor into zones and report the number and types of ships in each zone, with names where possible. This is referred up the chain of command as possibly significant. But the intelligence brass conclude it is routine. Diplomats are always keeping an eye on the military activities of their host countries. Other intercepted messages show that similar orders have been sent to Japanese diplomatic outposts in the Philippines, the Dutch East Indies, Australia, and the British colonies at Singapore and Hong Kong. 

Nothing to worry about here. 

Monday, September 21, 2020

Woke toys

 EAST AURORA, NY—The toy geniuses at Fisher-Price have announced a brand new toy made just for leftist parents and their kids: the My First Peaceful Protest playset. The kid-size clubhouse will come with several varieties of spray paint so kids can tag the tiny building with their own empowering slogans. It will also be made out of cardboard, allowing the cute little tikes to burn the whole thing down if their demands are not met. 

"Here at Fisher-Price, we are steadfastly committed to social justice," said toy designer Camden Flufferton. "We need to teach our kids what democracy looks like, and there's no better example of democracy in action than violent vandalism and arson. We hope this new playset will serve as an inspiration for parents wanting to teach their kids how to threaten citizens with violence whenever their demands are not met."

The set will also come with toy televisions, cell phones, jewelry, and clothing, allowing kids to simulate looting before they torch the entire set. The set will be available in stores for $399 because of capitalism.

Experts are questioning the wisdom of this move by Fisher-Price, mainly because people in the target market don't typically have any kids. "We know we'll probably only sell, like, 3 of these," said Flufferton, "but selling them isn't the point. We just need you to know we're on the right side of history."


Saturday, September 19, 2020

Court Packing: A few quick thoughts

This is getting interesting. The Democrats, realizing they may not be able to stop the GOP from filling Ginsburg's seat have trotted out the threat to pack the court by adding seats, presumably at least four. A few quick thoughts...

* Mitch McConnell is the smoothest political operator to head the Senate since Lyndon Johnson in the 1950s. If he is moving to fill the vacancy he has probably judged the risk of court packing in retaliation to be low.

* For the Democrats to pack the court they need Biden to win the general election and probably more than the razor thin majority they are looking at in a best case scenario in the Senate.

* By my count there are around six GOP senators who are in tight races this year. The GOP currently has a majority of three. If the Democrats run the board they would essentially flip that and hold a majority of three. Except that the Democrats are all but certain to loose a seat in Alabama. So that means their best case is now a majority of two.

* Expanding the SCOTUS is a matter of law, so it is in theory subject to the filibuster. But that has been on life support ever since Harry Reid ended it to allow Obama to appoint lower court judges that the Republicans were blocking. Mitch further rolled back the filibuster to get Trump's two SCOTUS nominees through. So there is no reason to believe the Democrats won't end what's left of it. But...

* They would not be able to change the SCOTUS if they lost three votes. (A 50/50 tie would likely be broken by a Vice President Harris in their favor.)  The Democrats are not as ideologically homogeneous as the GOP. Which is to say they have a few fairly centrist senators. It is not at all certain every Democrat would vote for such a radical act that would inevitably be countered the next time the GOP regained the levers of power in DC.

* The Democrats may be playing into Trump's hands. They are dangerously close to making the election a referendum on whether or not to pack the Supreme Court instead of a vote of no confidence in Donald Trump. That is not likely to be a winner for them. I can see Trump's campaign slogan now; "A vote for a Democrat is a vote to pack the Supreme Court."

The bottom line is that if the GOP wants to fill the seat before the end of the year, they might be able to do it and the risks of retaliation may be lower than some want to believe. The main obstacle is that the GOP, with a majority of three, cannot afford to lose four votes.  And they have probably already lost one vote from Alaska. 

The GOP is all but certain to lose seats in Arizona and Maine where the incumbents are behind by margins that do not appear to be surmountable. McSally in AZ, who appears to be electoral toast, is a strong Trump supporter and with nothing to lose is unlikely to vote against a nominee. Susan Collins of ME is also on her way out, but she is the last New England moderate Republican in the Senate. Her vote is dicey at best. The other Senate races are tight enough that my guess is no sitting GOP Senator hoping to be re-elected will risk ticking off Trump's base. One further complication is a quirk of law in Arizona. Barring a miracle the Democrats will win that seat, and under state law the new Senator elect can take office as early as November 30. If the new justice has not already been confirmed that will cut the GOP's margin down by a vote. 

So yeah, this is going to be damned close.

But if someone put a gun to my head and said "place your bet," I'd put my money on the turtle. Where most folks go to bed at night counting sheep, Mitch McConnell nods off counting votes and reciting long memorized arcane parliamentary rules of procedure. If something is doable in the Senate, and Mitch wants it done, I would take a very very deep breath before betting against him.

Supreme Court Historical Trivia: Dying in office

With the passing of Justice Ginsburg there has been much discussion about her refusal to resign, presumably in an effort to deny President Trump the opportunity to appoint her successor. And it has been noted that since 1953 Ginsburg is just the fourth Supreme Court justice to die on the bench. The others being Justice Scalia in 2016, Chief Justice Rehnquist in 2005, and Justice Robert Jackson all the way back in 1954.

But a look at the history of the court suggests retirement as the norm for justices is fairly new. Prior to the 1950s and especially in the 19th century, it was extremely common, arguably normative, for justices to remain on the job for life. To date there have been 114 Justices of the Supreme Court. What follows is a list of the 52 who died in office in the order they were appointed to the high court.

William Cushing

James Wilson

James Iredell

William Paterson

John Rutledge

Samuel Chase

Bushrod Washington

John Marshall

William Johnson

Henry Brockholst Livingston

Thomas Todd

Joseph Story

Smith Thompson

Robert Trimble

John McLean

Henry Baldwin

James Moore Wayne

Roger B. Taney

Philip Pendleton Barbour

John Catron

John McKinley

Peter Vivian Daniel

Levi Woodbury

Nathan Clifford

Samuel Freeman Miller

Salmon P. Chase

Joseph P. Bradley

Morrison Waite

John Marshall Harlan

William Burnham Woods

Stanley Matthews

Horace Gray

Samuel Blatchford

Lucius Quintus
Cincinnatus Lamar II

Melville Fuller

David Josiah Brewer

Howell Edmunds Jackson

Rufus W. Peckham

Horace Harmon Lurton

Edward Douglass White

Joseph Rucker Lamar

Pierce Butler

Edward Terry Sanford

Benjamin N. Cardozo

Frank Murphy

Harlan F. Stone

Robert H. Jackson

Wiley Blount Rutledge

Fred M. Vinson

William Rehnquist

Antonin Scalia

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Friday, September 18, 2020

Justice Ginsburg has died

Prayers for her family and the country. 

This election just got even more serious. I don't think Trump/McConnell have the votes to ram a nominee through the Senate before the election. Too many GOP Senators are fighting for their political lives. If Trump is reelected then obviously he will have an uncontroversial right to nominate Ginsburg's replacement. But things could get very ugly if he loses and Trump tries to push through a nominee before the next president takes office and the next Senate is seated. That kind of bare knuckled power play would likely provoke the Democrats, assuming they have a majority in the new Senate, to pack the court in retaliation. 

It's far too soon to get a handle on how this is going to play out. But one possible scenario is the GOP and the Democrats may cut a deal along the following lines... no new nominee until after the next inauguration in exchange for a pledge from Democrats not to pack the court if they win both the presidency and the Senate. Unfortunately the political atmosphere, both in DC and the country more broadly, is so acrimonious right now that I am not sure there is a sufficient level of trust to cut a deal of that magnitude. There will be heavy pressure from the far wings of both parties to stake out extreme positions. 

If this isn't handled right, we could be on the cusp of a serious constitutional crisis. 

Monday, September 14, 2020

The sun sets on the Wilpon era

Multiple sources are reporting that Steve Cohen is set to buy the New York Mets for roughly $2.4 billion. That makes the Mets the most expensive sports franchise sale in US history. Beyond which it will mark the end of an era likely to be remembered for tight payrolls and lackluster performance by the club. In fairness the Wilpons suffered some serious financial reversals in their investments which were hammered by the 2008-09 panic and also the loss of a significant amount of money invested with Bernie Madoff. But Cohen, assuming his purchase gets the green light from 23 of the other clubs, is a man with comparatively deep pockets. 

The Russian Orthodox Church does not rule out the creation of a religious object on the site of Lenin's mausoleum

The Russian Orthodox Church does not exclude the possibility of creating a new religious object in Moscow, which will take the place of the mausoleum of Vladimir Lenin. The building is located on Red Square.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

This guy gets it

I don't care what your politics are. That's your business. But when I turn on the TV to watch a ballgame, I am not interested in a political lecture, political slogans, flags, or displays of how woke (or conservative) you are. If the price of watching a ballgame now includes being subjected to political propaganda for causes I am not interested in, I will go elsewhere for my entertainment. And I am going to take my money with me. 

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Schismatic Patriarch Filaret is hospitalized with COVID-19

Patriarch [sic] Filaret, 91, who leads the large Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Kyiv Patriarchate, contracted COVID-19 and was subsequently hospitalized, the church confirmed Friday in a statement shared on its website and on Facebook. In a follow-up statement shared Tuesday, the church said its leader’s health is “stable” as “treatment continues...”

Read the rest here.

Sunday, September 06, 2020

Navy cancels Catholic Masses at area (San Diego) bases- other religious services continue

 SAN DIEGO —  Catholic Masses at San Diego-area Navy bases have ended because the Navy, in what it says is a cost-cutting move, has declined to renew its contracts with Catholic priests, and there are not enough Catholic chaplains on active duty to fill the void.

Protestant services on bases, which are led by active duty chaplains, will continue, said Brian O’Rourke, a Navy Region Southwest spokesman.

The changes to the Navy’s religious ministries are part of a national realignment announced on Aug. 20. It is unclear how many priests this will affect.

“The Navy’s religious ministries priority is reaching and ministering to our largest demographic — active duty Sailors and Marines in the 18-25 year-old range,” O’Rourke wrote in an email. “To meet that mission, the Navy has had to make the difficult decision to discontinue most contracted ministry services.”

In the Navy message announcing the change, Vice Adm. Yancey Lindsey, the commander of Naval Installations Command, said it differently.

“We have a responsibility to use our limited resources wisely in meeting the needs of our personnel,” wrote Lindsey. “Therefore, we will reduce redundancies and capture efficiencies by realigning resources,” noting that religious services will be cut at bases where those services are readily available in the surrounding community outside the base.

Read the rest here

HT: The Deacon's Bench

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

LA launches retaliatory eviction against church lead by John MacArthur

 Outrageous. The church should sue LA and seek punitive damages for what is a naked abuse of power.

Post-Convention Polls Suggest Trump Has Narrowed Biden's Lead

Lots of polling data out over the last few days with some still showing Biden holding a commanding lead. But others from very highly regarded entities like Emmerson College and Suffolk University show Trump gaining ground. 


Tuesday, September 01, 2020

Report: Trump could appear to win on election night, and still lose

 A top Democratic data and analytics firm told "Axios on HBO" it's highly likely that President Trump will appear to have won — potentially in a landslide — on election night, even if he ultimately loses when all the votes are counted. 

Why this matters: Way more Democrats will vote by mail than Republicans, due to fears of the coronavirus, and it will take days if not weeks to tally these. This means Trump, thanks to Republicans doing almost all of their voting in person, could hold big electoral college and popular vote leads on election night.

Imagine America, with its polarization and misinformation, if the vote tally swings wildly toward Joe Biden and Trump loses days later as the mail ballots are counted.

That is what this group, Hawkfish, which is funded by Michael Bloomberg and also does work for the Democratic National Committee and pro-Biden Super PACs, is warning is a very real, if not foreordained, outcome.

What they're saying: Hawkfish CEO Josh Mendelsohn calls the scenario a "red mirage."

"We are sounding an alarm and saying that this is a very real possibility, that the data is going to show on election night an incredible victory for Donald Trump," he said.

"When every legitimate vote is tallied and we get to that final day, which will be some day after Election Day, it will in fact show that what happened on election night was exactly that, a mirage," Mendelsohn said. "It looked like Donald Trump was in the lead and he fundamentally was not when every ballot gets counted."

Read the rest here.