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TPM has the Running Dialogue between Stone’s Attorneys and the Court – Update

Click on the link and scroll down to the beginning

Roger Stone Is Sentenced

“Tierney Sneed is at the federal courthouse in DC.” Live Blogging

I believe Judge Amy Berman Jackson is getting close to Sentencing Stone.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson is back and starts off: “Unsurprisingly, I have a lot to say,”

Judge Berman Jackson signals that she is also not going to go with Stone’s proposal for only probation.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson has sentenced Trump ally Roger Stone to 40 months in prison.

Updated developments during the Hearing beyond the Leap

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How to roast the planet with good intentions: The Climate Equity Act

I have suggested (here and here) that idealism is leading progressives astray.  Unfortunately, climate policy offers many examples.

Consider the Climate Equity Act of 2019.  The CEA was, I believe, the first concrete piece of legislation proposed as part of the Green New Deal.  Unfortunately, it illustrates several of the problems with progressive idealism.  The CEA is moralistic rather than strategic.  It does not take policy analysis seriously; it assumes that Congress can simply write a law requiring justice and that justice will magically appear.  In practice, the CEA will do little to promote justice, but it will put a powerful weapon in the hands of opponents of a clean energy transition.

The purpose of the CEA is to ensure all people a right to a healthful environment, and to address systemic environmental injustices and inequities.  To achieve these goals, the CEA imposes extensive procedural and analysis requirements on federal rules that affect “frontline communities”, which the act defines as low income communities, indigenous communities, communities of color, deindustrialized communities, vulnerable elderly communities, unhoused populations, people with disabilities, and communities dependent on fossil fuel industries.

Protecting frontline communities is a worthy goal.  However, the federal rulemaking process is already too cumbersome to address a problem like climate change, which will require rapid, economy-wide changes.  The CEA will make the problems with the federal rulemaking process much worse.  The CEA 1) requires agencies to engage in a comprehensive review of proposed rules and possible alternatives to proposed rules that minimize negative economic, environmental, and health consequences on frontline communities, or maximize benefits to these communities, 2) fails to specify a clear standard for agencies to use when evaluating alternative rules, and does not explain how conflicts between or within frontline communities should be resolved by government agencies, and 3) gives members of any aggrieved frontline community the right to judicial review, including the right to block enforcement of agency rules.

If progressives care about preventing climate change, this is insane.  Requiring agencies to evaluate multiple options using vague standards and giving a wide array of groups easy access to the courts will turn the CEA into a powerful weapon against all federal rulemaking, including rules that are essential for stopping climate change.

For example, creating a renewable energy system may require construction of a new network of high voltage power lines to shift electricity from areas where the wind is blowing and the sun is shining to areas where it is calm or cloudy.  It is far from clear that our political system will be able to overcome the NIMBY forces that will predictably resist every power line location decision.

Instead of helping to solve this problem, the CEA will make it far worse.  The government will have to investigate the impact of multiple power line routes on different frontline communities.  There will be conflicts between frontline communities and within such communities.  The law is silent on how these conflicts should be resolved, but everyone gets to go to court.  Fossil fuel producers resisting clean energy growth will have no trouble creating “astroturf” organizations to challenge rules they dislike.  The same problems will arise with siting decisions for wind and solar farms and the location of dams for hydro power.  Stalemate rather than progress will be the order of the day.

Even rules limiting the burning of fossil fuels will be snarled in lawsuits.  Suppose EPA tries to limit the burning of coal to generate electricity.  Such a rule would be vulnerable to attack by coal producers (recall that communities dependent on fossil fuels are frontline communities).  Coal producers or their allies would not have to argue that regulation is impermissible, they would just have to argue that the agency failed to consider an alternative rule that would be less economically harmful to communities dependent on fossil fuels – say, a rule with a somewhat slower timetable for reducing coal use.  On the other hand, children with asthma could sue the agency for not reducing coal use fast enough.  (Are children with asthma covered by the CEA?  This question seems to turn on whether asthma counts as a “disability” under the law, because people with disabilities are a frontline community.  No matter how an agency decides this question, it will be vulnerable to a lawsuit.  The possibilities for legal wrangling and delay are literally endless.)

Decarbonizing the United States economy will be a massive undertaking, and even progressives who care about a just transition to a carbon-free world should think twice about turning administrative procedure into an all-purpose weapon at the disposal of anyone seeking to block change.  This doesn’t mean that we should ignore the very real burdens imposed on disadvantaged groups.  But instead of adding more veto-points to our already creaky environmental rulemaking system, we need to figure out what types of assistance different communities need and get it to them directly.  Fossil fuel workers and communities need job training, relocation assistance, pensions and other forms of assistance.  Unhoused populations need housing.  Giving people the assistance that they actually need will do far more to alleviate hardship than suffocating the rulemaking process in a blanket of CEA lawsuits.

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Engel Criticizes Trump On Soleimani Assassination

Engel Criticizes Trump On Soleimani Assassination

Juan Cole reports that House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair, Eliot Engel (D-NY) has criticized the administration for its assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in response to a report fresh out of the DOD that said the attack was for past activities by Iran in attacking tankers and oil facilities in Saudi Arabia without any mention of a threat against US personnel in Iraq, the ostensible reason and the only legal reason for doing this.

Cole also reminds that Soleimani had been in Baghdad to negotiate peace with Saudi Arabia at the  invitation of the Iraqi prime minister.  He also reminds us that the Iraqis are denying that the original attack that killed the American contractor and initiated the escalation by the US before the Soleimani attack almost certainly did not come from Kata’ib Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed militia the US claimed was respoinsible because that Shia militia has not been anywhere near the base in Kirkuk that was attacked for 18 months, with the attack almost surely having come from ISIS/ISIL/Daesh.  This puts the US attack that also killed the Iraqi general who commanded Kata’ib Hezbollah to be utterly illegal and essentially just murder and a war crime.

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Andrew McCabe is not a Ham Sandwich

I am not a lawyer, but I think lawyers agree that grand juries are a pointless relic of the middle ages. There’s nothing to be done, because they are mentioned in the 5th amendment, but they are silly. Over here east of the English Channel they don’t exist. Decisions about possible indictments are made by judges.

One problem with grand juries is that the prosecutor is the only lawyer allowed in the room (unless a witness happens to be a lawyer). Also, since there isn’t yet a defendant, targets or possible future targets can’t present their case. So, the cliche is that a commpetent prosecutor could convince a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich. There is, it seemed, no limit to the feebleness of a case sufficient to enable a prosecutor to convince jurors to indict. Note the past tense of “seemed”.

Thus my interest in the extremely boring case of former sometimes acting FBI director Andrew McCabe (they guy who was fired 2 days before his pension vested). He is accused of being other than frank when discussing the possibility of misconduct which harmed Hillary Clinton. This makes him a minor player in Trump’s deep state fantasy in which everyone who has anything to do with any investigation of Trump is alleged to be an anti Trump criminal based on any alleged misconduct (which is usually misconduct harmful to Hillary Clinton because there was a whole lot of that).

The DOJ has just announced that the investigation is closed and that no charges will be sought (note the difference from the Comey press conference about how no charges against Clinton would be sought even though she dd not meet James Comey’s exalted ethical standards and respect for rules [other than the one he was breaking by calling a press conference]).

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Can The US Assassination Of Qasem Solemiani Be Justified?

Can The US Assassination Of Qasem Solemiani Be Justified?

We know from various Congressional folks that briefers of Congress have failed to produce any evidence of “imminent” plans to kill Americans Soleimani was involved with that would have made this a legal killing rather than an illegal assassination.  The public statements by administration figures have cited such things as the 1979 hostage crisis, the already dead contractor, and, oh, the need to “reestablish deterrence” after Trump did not follow through on previous threats he made.  None  of this looks remotely like “imminent plans,” not to mention that the Iraqi PM Abdul-Mahdi has reported that Soleimani was on the way to see him with a reply to a Saudi peace proposal.  What a threatening imminent plan!

As it is, despite the apparent lack of “imminent plans” to kill Americans, much of the supporting rhetoric for this assassination coming out of Trump supporters (with bragging about it having reportedly been put up on Trump’s reelection funding website) involves charges that Soleimani was “the world’s Number One terrorist” and was personally responsible for killing 603 Americans in Iraq.  Even as many commentators have noted the lack of any “imminent plans,” pretty much all American ones have prefaced these questions with assertions that Soleimani was unquestionable “evil” and “bad” and a generally no good guy who deserved to be offed, if not right at this time and in this way.  He was the central mastermind and boss of a massive international terror network that obeyed his orders and key to Iran’s reputed position as “the Number One state supporter of terrorism,” with Soleimani the key to all of that.

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At This Point Richard Nixon Resigned

At This Point Richard Nixon Resigned

Richard Nixon resigned as president after the House Judiciary Committee recommended he  be impeached, the vote that just happened yesterday for President Trump.  In the case of Nixon that vote was followed by a famous visit from three powerful GOP senators, including Barry Goldwater, who informed Nixon that he had lost the support of the GOP in the Senate.  Of course now we have the GOP Senate Majority Leader McConnell going on Sean Hannity to promise that Trump will not be convicted and that he will “coordinate” with Trump’s lawyers to make sure there is no conviction.

Curiously, public polling support for impeaching Nixon only got ahead of opposition to it after the SCOTUS ruling that led to the public  release of the so-called “smoking gun” tape about a month before Nixon resigned.  In contrast, support for impeaching Trump has exceeded opposition to it since soon after it was announced the impeachment hearings would happen and appears to be holding steady, even as the Trumpists run all over the place declaring how he is  going to gain or is gaining from the impeachment proceedings.  It may be that his base is all riled, but so are those who do  not like Trump.

I also find it a bit weird that Trump and his supporters are running around threatening that the next time they control the House under a Dem prez, well, they will just go and impeach him.  They seem to forget that we have already seen this show with the Clinton impeachment, also a thoroughly partisan affair, and which never had support from more than about 30 percent of the population.  That one went to trial with all the GOPs voting for conviction, with one Dem also voting for it, Mr. Clean Russell Feingold of Wisconsin.  Of course the current GOPS say Clinton committed a crime called perjury and claim Trump has not, although last time I checked, bribery is still a felony.

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If you are a conservative, you have no memory. Jonathan Turley

I learned a long time ago at much personal expense, that there is a personality type which function within reality, but only in the present moment of reality.  That is, what ever I say now has no bearing or relationship to what I just said or what I am about to say.  I will deny what you thought you heard.  If that is not enough, I will qualify it but…it has no bearing on what you believe I am saying.  You can just never know and ultimately have no conversation that resolves.

It’s as if they can time shift.  You can just never know and ultimately have no conversation that resolves.

That is what I believe we are witnessing today with the republican party.  They are not protecting Trump.  They are protecting an image they believe in at the moment fully dependent on what they believe is the reality which as I noted is only for the fleeting moment.

Being today was the day for debate club at the House Judiciary committee, and one Jonathan Turley is the republican witness as to what is or is not impeachment, I thought it is only proper preparation to have gone back and see what he has stated in the past.  Sadly, it is apparent that none of the Democratic members did this simple activity in preparation.

I give you Mr. Turley on with Keith Olbermann during the Bush years regarding torture and surveillance the constitution and presidential power.

This clip is most telling as to his sincerity testifying today.

 

But, here he is regarding the president’s ability to continue a war even if congress cuts off funds.  It’s a constitutional question in which he defends congress.  When asked, he responded: No.  It’s as simple as that.

Last and more relevant for today’s presentation, here is Mr Turley regarding Bush regarding the Constitution as just a piece of paper.  That is, Bush thumbing his nose at the law.   And note how Mr. Turley lists those in the administration that have run into legal conflicts.

“First of all, this president and his theory of power, is now I think so extreme, that its unprecedented.  He believes that he has the inherent authority to violate federal law.  He has said that…that he could in some circumstances order federal officials to violate federal law…Frankly I’m not to sure what he thought he was swearing to when he took the oath to uphold the constitution and our laws.  I’ve never seen a president who is so uncomfortable in his constitutional skin. ”

“Unfortunately, civil liberties don’t swing back like other issues.  Civil liberties is a very precious commodity.  When you lose them, it tends to run out of your hand like sand. Its hard to get it back, and that’s one of the dangers here.  That presidents, when they acquire power rarely return it to the people.   And so, we have to be very concerned.  This country is changing in a very significant way…We’re really at a point where the president is arguing about his own presidential power in ways that are the antithesis of that constitution and the values that it contains.”

Today he’s defending all that he protested against while on with Keith Olbermann.  No memory.  Only in the moment.  What I say now has no relation to what I said or what I’m about to say.

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Wealth Taxes

There is an interesting discussion among smart, expert, thorough economists about wealth taxation. It is clearly stimulated by Warren’s proposal to tax wealth. Gabriel Zucman, Roger Farmer, and the much less famous but also super smart Noah Smith are debating the issues. I’m sure AngryBear readers can benefit from their discussion (to which I don’t link cause I just saw one tweet).

I am also sure that it will be a waste of time to click “more” and read my thoughts on the topic. Caveat lector.

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What quid did the president quo and when did he quo it?

What quid did the president quo and when did he quo it?

Aside from the headline news about a July 26 phone call, I learned four big things from the impeachment inquiry hearing this morning. First, the specific corruption surrounding Burisma Holidings had to do with self dealing by company founder Mykola Vladislavovich Zlochevsky — issuing oil and gas licences to his own company when he was Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources. In other words, Zlochevsky did exactly what Donald J. Trump attempted to do with his Doral Golf Club and the G7 summit.

The second thing I learned is that President Trump was nursing a grudge against Ukraine because some Ukrainian politicians said some nasty things about him after he made a comment about letting Russia have Crimea. That’s why he felt Ukraine “owed” him. The third thing is that the Ukraine shit made fanfall just about exactly the time that Trump was extemporizing about Hurricane Dorian hitting Alabama. Who knew Trump could multi-task?

The fourth thing I learned is the big one. There was not one quid pro quo but two. One involved Zelensky, the other Putin. That’s the significance of the timing of the Trump-Zelensky phone call — the day after Robert Mueller’s congressional testimony was a dud. Humiliating Zelensky by forcing him to make a public announcement of a politically-motivated investigation of Biden-Burisma-2016 would hand to Putin his reward — a weakened negotiating partner — for the favor of having helped put Trump in the White House. The art of the deal, indeed.

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The rise and fall of the Roman Republic: part 1 of 4: Structure and Background

The rise and fall of the Roman Republic: part 1 of 4: Structure and Background

“Mortal Republic: How Rome Fell into Tyranny,” by Edward J. Watts
“The Storm Before the Storm,: The Beginning of the End of the Roman Republic” by Mike Duncan
“Ten Emperors: Roman Emperors from Augustus to Constantine,” by Barry Strauss

I’ve recently mentioned that lately I’ve been unable to read most American history books, with their currently unwarranted chipper optimism. Instead my recent reading has focused on other periods of crisis.

One question I’ve been considering is, just how rare, and how stable have Republics historically been? There are few antecedents for the experience of the US, because it has aspires to both be a Republic under the rule of law and simultaneously a superpower.  In fact I believe there are only four, in reverse historical order:

  1. The British Empire (yes, I know, it’s technically a monarchy, but it has been a parliamentary democracy really ever since the Glorious Revolution 400 years ago).
  2. The Dutch Republic (I’m not sure if this really qualifies, since it was more a confederation of principalities, but it was styled a Republic, and it did have global interests.)
  3. The Republic of Venice (this is a dark horse contender, but this Republic lasted almost 1200 years, from roughly 600 A.D. until it was conquered by that other “republican,” Napoleon, in 1797).
  4. The Roman Republic.

In these four posts, I’m going to summarize what I’ve learned about the Roman Republic from the three books that lead this post.

While we’re all familiar with Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon, and probably all had to read Shakespeare’s Tragedy of that name (but really about Brutus and Cassius) in high school, I don’t think much attention has been paid in modern education to the Roman Republic, which lasted 450 years – almost as long as the subsequent western Roman  Empire – and was avowedly the model that inspired the Framers of the American Constitution. None of the books that have come out in the past few years, to my knowledge, have discussed either the Roman Republic or other historical antecedents to the US. I believe studying the rise and demise of the Roman Republic, which during its existence was extremely – probably too – successful, is well worth the effort.

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