dude ought to be impeached.

Trying to distill a 448 page report down to the point where it can be encompassed in a blog post is a mug’s game. I’m not even going to attempt it. Instead, I’m going to point to one thing — a single line on page 213 of the Mueller Report. This is part of Mueller’s explanation why he’d decided neither to accuse Comrade Trump of obstruction of justice nor to exonerate him. Here’s the line:

“…we recognized that a federal criminal accusation against a sitting President would place burdens on the President’s capacity to govern and potentially preempt constitutional processes for addressing presidential misconduct.”

It’s that last bit I want to draw attention to. That potentially preempt constitutional processes for addressing presidential misconduct bit. In effect, Mueller is saying he and his team decided NOT to accuse Trump of a crime in part because it might bugger up another process designed for dealing with him. And what constitutional process exists for addressing presidential misconduct?

That’s right. Impeachment.

I actually mentioned this as a possibility last month (yeah, this is me showing off now). The Principles of Federal Prosecution manual includes a section describing conditions for declining prosecution — one of which is if ‘there exists an adequate non-criminal alternative to prosecution.’ And when the accused is the president that non-criminal alternative is…that’s right again. Impeachment.

It’s important to remember that impeachment is a process, not a result. Congress has filed articles of impeachment against two presidents in recent history: Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. Nixon resigned before any impeachment hearings could be held; Clinton was impeached in the House but acquitted by the Senate.

In both cases, however, the articles of impeachment had some common elements. Here’s one of Nixon’s:

In his conduct of the office of President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon, in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has prevented, obstructed, and impeded the administration of justice.

And one of Clinton’s:

In his conduct while President of the United States, William Jefferson Clinton, in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has prevented, obstructed, and impeded the administration of justice.

Change the names and the text is exactly the same. In each case the president is accused of preventing, obstructing, and impeding the administration of justice in violation of their constitutional oath of office. It’s important to remember that neither Nixon nor Clinton was actually charged with the crime of obstruction of justice. The credible accusation of obstruction based on evidence was, in itself, a reason for the impeachment process to begin.

I think you can see where this is going. It’s my opinion the Mueller Report is basically a solid, well-crafted, meticulously researched foundation for the impeachment of Comrade Trump. It’s jammed with credible evidence that Russia deliberately interfered with the 2016 election, that the Trump campaign was eager to cooperate with Russia, that the president and his staff repeatedly lied about their interactions with Russia, that the president publicly and privately undermined the investigation, and that the president actively encouraged (and even ordered) his subordinates to impede the progress of the investigation.

It’s a long document, no mistake. It’s not light summer reading. But all the same, you  should consider reading it. This is an historical tipping point.

Comrade Trump swore an oath when he was inaugurated. He promised to faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Trump lies a lot. I don’t know if he was lying when he swore that oath; I don’t know what was in his mind or heart. But if you read the Mueller report, it’s clear he hasn’t even tried to preserve, protect, or defend the Constitution.

Dude ought to be impeached.

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window treatments of winterfell

Look, it wouldn’t solve all the problems of Westeros, but a LOT of the pain and suffering and angst that takes place in Game of Thrones could have been avoided if the Starks had installed window treatments in the keeps of Winterfell.

A nice set of pleated drapes, maybe a panel pair with a modest valance, a simple opaque panel — hell, even an old tarp would have enough. It would have prevented Bran from peeking in the high window on the First Keep. If he hadn’t peeked in the window, he wouldn’t have seen Jaime shtupping his sister. If Bran hadn’t seen that, then Jaime wouldn’t have had to push him off the window sill, plunging him (okay, how far did he actually fall? Let’s see, the books say the First Keep was the original stronghold of Winterfell, so it likely wasn’t the tallest keep in the castle — but it still would have been taller than the walls, and according to the books the inner walls were 100 feet tall, so let’s say Bran had to have fallen at least 115 feet — holy crap, that’s a LONG fall) around 115 feet to the ground.

Oh c’mon, you’d have peeked too.

Because he survived that long fall (which is improbable but certainly possible; when I was a medic I had a patient who’d fallen about that same distance off a water tower, and he survived…well, for a while), Bran was a threat, because he might tell folks he’d seen Jaime and Cersei boinking. Which meant they had to send an assassin to whack him in order to protect their secr…wait. Wasn’t it Littlefinger who sent the assassin? Why would he do that? I mean, how would he know Bran saw the Lannister siblings making the beast with two backs? And how would whacking Bran benefit Littlefinger? That doesn’t make any sense.

Never mind. Ignore that whole assassination business. My point, if you can call it a point, is that if the Starks had just tacked up a ratty old tarp or bodged together a pair of shutters in the First Keep, then they’d have saved themselves a LOT of fuss and bother.

A nice set of drapes and this wouldn’t have had to happen.

Like I said, it wouldn’t have solved all the problems of Westeros. Ned would have still gone to King’s Landing. And regardless of Winterfell’s window treatments, he’d still probably have lost his head. And yes, okay, the curtains wouldn’t have made a lick of difference with that whole Daenerys–Dothraki–Mother of Dragons business.

But there’s a pretty good chance that if the First Keep had a pair of curtains, Hodor wouldn’t have found himself north of the Wall and eaten (wait, does the Army of the Dead eat the folks they kill? No, I don’t think so; I think they just sort of tear them to death, which is pretty nasty, isn’t it) killed by dead folks. So there’s that. That’s worth the cost of a pair of curtains.

And yes, I know this is silly and a waste of time, but it was either this or think about Comrade Trump and his attacks on democracy and rationality.

the cat

Somebody asked me why I’ve never written anything about the cat on this blog. By ‘the cat’ I mean, of course, the cat that shares this living space. My reply was something to this effect: “Dude, I have written about the cat. Probably.”

And hey, it turns out I wasn’t even lying. Not entirely. I actually did write a thing about my morning routine with the cat. But aside from that, the cat doesn’t feature heavily in this blog (though the wee creature appears with alarming regularity on Instagram and Facebook). I mean, she’s been mentioned–and mentioned prominently, I might add, not just a casual passing reference–a couple of times. Once in a thing about Buddhism and shoveling snow and once in reference to the Cassini-Huygens satellite. That’s not bad, really, considering the cat is just a cat.

But the fact is I haven’t really written about the cat as the other species with whom I share a living space. So. The cat. She has a name: Abby. I didn’t give her the name and I don’t use it, but it’s traditional for house cats to have names and veterinarians insist on having a name for their records, so there it is. Abby. I generally just call her “the cat”. Or “little cat”. Or, when she’s eating, “you wee swine”.

Why don’t I use her name? I really don’t know. When people ask (and why do people ask? it seems weird, but they do) I tell them it seems presumptuous to put a human name on any non-human, and especially on a cat. But I’ve shared space with other non-humans and other cats, all of whom had human names. So why not this cat? Again, I don’t know. It’s not any sort of distancing technique; the cat and are pretty much bonded. It doesn’t make any sense, but there it is.

I photograph her occasionally. Okay, that’s a lie. I photograph her a lot. I delete most of the photos immediately because it’s not like the world needs more photos of cats. But at the same time, cats are just so fucking photographable. What’re you gonna do? Not photograph them?

In the end, I guess I don’t write about the cat because she’s a cat. Just a cat. She eats, she sleeps, she shits in the litter box (almost always), she chews grass and vomits (on rare occasions), she sits on my lap (she’s insistent about that; she’ll come sit in front of me and just stare at me until I invite her up — or until she decides the invitation exists even if I don’t offer it, and even if there’s a plate in my lap), she makes an odd grunting sound instead of purring, she sometimes likes to attack my feet from hiding when I walk through the house, she mostly stays in the house (which is good on a number of levels, including the fact that she absolutely sucks at hunting and so would starve to death in a week if she were on her own), she sheds very little until she’s sitting on my lap, if she’s not on my lap or on her perch she’s somehow managed to disappear into another dimension (because she’s nowhere to be found), she knows I go back to work around 8:30-9:00 at night and will return from her inter-dimensional travels around that time and insist on being petted and fed. I have absolutely no idea how she tells time, but she does. Go figure cats.

She has NO interest in boxes. None. Or paper bags. What kind of cat dismisses boxes? It’s unnatural, right?

But that’s just it. The cat is your basic cat. Weird, distant, clinging, imperturbable, occasionally boneless, contradictory, curious, predictable, unpredictable. I can’t say I understand her. But she makes me happy. I’d like to think I make her happy, but I recognize that I may just be the one who feeds her.

Who the hell knows what a cat is thinking?

head explodes

One of the many unacknowledged problems with having a fuckwit as president is the frequency with which logical folks have to hip-check less-than-logical folks about really stupid stuff. Take, for example, this recent adventure in Trumpian fuckwittery:

“[T]hey say the noise [of wind turbines] causes cancer.”

It’s blatantly and profoundly stupid, right? But in an effort to be fair to Comrade Trump, some folks — even intelligent folks — might ask if there’s any basis in reality for the claim. Here’s a non-Barr summary of a conversation I had this morning:

Friend: I dunno, maybe the deep thrum of a wind farm can maybe possibly cause some form of cancer? Maybe?
Me: Nope.
Friend: I mean, if noise at a certain frequency can make your head explode, then why can’t it also cause cancer?
Me: What? I mean, what?
Friend: Sound at a specific frequency can make your head explode. You know…like glass.
Me: No it can’t.
Friend: I think it can.
Me: I’m pretty sure it can’t.
Friend: Pretty sure?
Me: Fuck you, it can’t. It just can’t.
Friend: Pretty sure?

So I — and I can’t believe I’m actually writing this — checked. And hey, I was right. It turns out a dry skull does have some acoustic vulnerabilities, mostly between the 9 and 12 kHz frequencies. But even prolonged exposure to concentrated sound in that range will, at most, cause a dry skull to vibrate a bit.

But here’s the problem: we’re not walking around with dry skulls. We’ve got them encased in layers of soft, soggy tissue and muscle. It’s like wrapping your head in a thick coat of bacon. That’s not all; inside that skull is a thickish fluid, and floating in that fluid is a hefty wad of squishy brains. All of that wet material would act as an acoustic dampener and would prevent your skull from shattering and your head exploding.

The low-frequency infrasound of a turbine farm might give you a headache, but it’s not going to give you cancer. And sound can’t make your head explode. Listening to Comrade Trump speak might make you wish your head would explode. But sorry, nope, ain’t gonna happen.

continuing conversations between knur and gary

Gary: I am listening, Knur.
Knur: Gary, before my life functions terminate, I request communication with the principal overseer of your planet.
Gary: Our planet had no principal overseer. We are ruled by various individual sovereign states.
Knur: I request communication with the principal overseer of your sovereign state.
Gary: Purpose?
Knur: A warning about the germ spores that infest your planet.
Gary: Communication may not be possible.
Knur: Explain.
Gary: The overseer may be engaged in an event in which a small globe is propelled across varied terrains by striking the globe with differently sized sticks.
Knur: The purpose for propelling the globe?
Gary: To insert the globe into an awkwardly placed cavity.
Knur: Would it not be more efficient for the overseer to utilize its appendages to insert the globe into the cavity?
Gary: Efficiency is irrelevant in this matter. The use of globe-propelling sticks is mandatory.
Knur: Curious. The globe-propelling event is religious?
Gary: Debatable. The general purpose is competition.
Knur: Define.
Gary: An event in which at least two parties strive for a goal which cannot be shared.
Knur: For what purpose?
Gary: Enjoyment.
Knur: Remarkable. Query: may I communicate with your overseer when he has succeeded in inserting the globe in the cavity?
Gary: Uncertain. The globe must be inserted into eighteen separate cavities before the event is completed.
Knur: …
Gary: …
Knur: Gary, the germ spores that infest your atmosphere may also threaten the life functions of multiple species on your planet.
Gary: Affirmative.
Knur: Including your own species.
Gary: That is consistent with our own research.
Knur: The germ spores threaten multiple species and ecosystems.
Gary: Understood.
Knur: Therefore, would it not…
Gary: No.
Knur: And yet…
Gary: No. The elimination of germ spores cannot be achieved.
Knur: Explain.
Gary: It would inhibit the ability of the ruling classes to accumulate valuable resources and occupiable land mass.
Knur: Illogical. The germ spores threaten all resources and land masses.
Gary: Agreed. The ruling classes contend the accumulation is inherent in the normative rules inscribed and certified by our progenitors.
Knur: Hail the progenitors!
Gary: Hail the progenitors!
Knur: The germ spores will proliferate.
Gary: It is known.
Knur: Multiple species and ecosystems will perish.
Gary: It is known.
Knur: …
Gary: …
Knur: It is possible the principal overseer will interrupt the globe-propelling event to avoid unnecessary destruction?
Gary: Possible, but improbable.
Knur: …
Gary: …
Knur: Dude, that’s fucked up.

we’re not that stupid

Now that we’ve had a couple of days to calm down and/or sober up, let’s take a more rational and dispassionate look at AG William Barr’s letter summarizing the Mueller report. Specifically, let’s look at the way ‘coordination’ is defined in a footnote.

Before we can look at the footnote, we need to read the sentence referred to in the footnote.

As the report states: “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

On the surface, that seems pretty clear, doesn’t it. But it’s not. I mean, Barr doesn’t even give us the entire sentence. We don’t know if the phrase that precedes that bracketed [T] reinforces or undermines the conclusion of the sentence. For all we know, the entire sentence could be something like this: “Despite extensive circumstantial evidence to the contrary, the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government.” Until/unless we get to see the unredacted version of the report, we’re expected to assume Barr is accurately stating what Mueller found.

Even if Barr IS being accurate, there’s the problem of the footnote. It contains the operative definition of the term ‘coordination’. It’s a very narrow definition. According to Barr, coordination is:

an “agreement — tacit or express — between the Trump Campaign and the Russian government on election interference.”

I’m no counter-intelligence expert, but I’ve been around the block a time or two. I know enough about people and conspiracy to know that definition is absurd. That’s not how intelligence services work. Hell, that’s not even how normal people operate.

Now THERE’S some collusion. (Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour)

Here’s a simple example. Let’s say you’re the sort of dick who wants to upstage your ex-spouse by giving your kid a better birthday present. You don’t call up your ex and ask what she’s going to give the kid; you get a friend to chat with your ex and find out what she’s giving the kid. You don’t tell your friend you want the information so you can be a dick. You might just say you want to give the kid something of similar value.

Guess what: intelligence agents are just as smart as you are. I mean, the whole point of having spies and covert intelligence agents out doing shit is to avoid tacit or expressed agreements. It’s all about plausible deniability, putting distance between what you seem to be doing and what you’re actually doing.

Barr’s definition becomes even less useful because he restricts coordination to the actual Russian government. When Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort and Comrade Trump Jr. met with Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya in Trump Tower to discuss ‘dirt’ on Hillary Clinton, they could deny she was there representing some facet of the Russian government. When Maria Butina hosted a party attended by Trump campaign aides, they could accurately claim she  deny she wasn’t actually employed BY the Russian government. Veselnitskaya and Butina might be serving the interests of the Kremlin while not actually being directly paid by them.

Finally, Barr’s definition of ‘coordination’ caves in on itself when he confines it to deliberate electoral interference. When Manafort shared polling data with Konstantin Kilimnik, who has ties with Russian intelligence agencies, he could claim he wasn’t trying to interfere with the election — he was just trying to demonstrate the probability of Trump being elected.

Barr limits the meaning of coordination to tacit and express agreements, then restricts it to actual members of the Russian government, and further confines its use to blatant election interference. By doing so, he basically claims there couldn’t be any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia unless somebody from the Russian government met with somebody from the Trump campaign and clearly stated he wanted to work with them to disrupt the election.

The Russians aren’t that stupid. Barr isn’t that stupid. But apparently he thinks the American public is that stupid.

One more example. Let’s say you wanted to be the Attorney General in order to protect the President of the United States from being impeached and/or indicted for a criminal act. You wouldn’t announce that, would you. No, you’d write a 19 page memo arguing that the president could only be guilty of obstruction of justice under very specific circumstances, then you’d repeat that argument in a confirmation hearing controlled by supporters of the president, and you’d tell the opposition party that of course you’d obey the law, and you’d promise to give the public as much of the Mueller report as possible.

Plausible deniability, y’all. We can’t allow ourselves to be that stupid.

something to think about

In his letter summarizing the findings of the Mueller final report, AG Barr says this about his decision not to pursue an obstruction of justice case against Comrade Trump:

After reviewing the Special Counsel’s final report on these issues; consulting with Department officials, including the Office of Legal Counsel; and applying the principles of federal prosecution that guide our charging decisions, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and I have concluded that the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.

I highlighted that one section for a reason. There’s actually a Department of Justice manual that articulates the Principles of Federal Prosecution for criminal and civil matters. It lays out reasons for initiating or declining prosecution. The manual says:

[A]s a matter of fundamental fairness and in the interest of the efficient administration of justice, no prosecution should be initiated against any person unless the attorney for the government believes that the admissible evidence is sufficient to obtain and sustain a guilty verdict by an unbiased trier of fact.

Admissible evidence. Not all the evidence, only the evidence that’s admissible. Since Mueller’s mandate includes a counter-intelligence aspect, it’s possible — and maybe even likely — evidence exists that can’t be admitted in open court without compromising counter-intel methods and practices.

Remember too, that it’s Barr’s opinion that Trump didn’t commit obstruction — an opinion he’d actually argued for prior to being selected by Trump to be the Attorney General. Mueller, according to Barr’s memo, “did not draw a conclusion” whether Trump should face obstruction charges.

Why would Mueller decline to make that decision? The answer might be in that same Principles of Federal Prosecution manual. In the section that describes conditions for declining prosecution, the manual includes this:

[T]he attorney for the government’s belief that a person’s conduct constitutes a federal offense and that the admissible evidence will probably be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction is not sufficient standing by itself to commence or recommend prosecution. The prosecution must also serve a substantial federal interest, and the prosecutor must assess whether, in his/her judgment, the person is subject to effective prosecution in another jurisdiction; and whether there exists an adequate non-criminal alternative to prosecution.

In other words, the prosecutor can believe there’s enough evidence to convict the accused BUT still decide NOT to prosecute the case IF

  • he feels prosecution wouldn’t serve a federal interest. Mueller might feel that charging a sitting president with a crime would be harmful to governance.
  • the accused is subject to prosecution in another jurisdiction. We know Trump is facing possible criminal charges in the Southern District of New York, in the Eastern District of Virginia, in the District of Columbia, and in New York state. Perhaps Mueller thought one or more of those jurisdictions had a better case against Trump.
  • there’s a non-criminal alternative to prosecution. Like, say, impeachment.

Obviously, I don’t know what Mueller was thinking. What I do know — and what Mueller’s prosecutions demonstrate — is that every guilty plea or guilty verdict he obtained included the accused lying to Congress and/or the FBI. And what did they lie about? Their connections with Russia. Those connections might not directly link them to collusion, but there’s a pattern of behavior that’s obvious.

There was some seriously nasty skullduggery taking place between Trump, his people, and Russian agents. It may not have been actually criminal. It may have been criminal but not prosecutable. It may have been criminal and prosecutable, but not convictable. It may have been criminal and prosecutable and convictable, but not in the best interests of the US government.

But there’s a Russia-shaped piece of the puzzle that’s missing, and right now we can only guess what it represents.