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      Chao has been, shall we say, self-interested for a long time, starting with Reagan and working for both Bushes. Maddow: Chao is one of four Trump cabinet members referred for criminal prosecution for corruption https://t.co/XVP7cdLA1W — Don Winslow (@donwinslow) March 4, 2021
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      So, another mess. Even before this much of the water was unsafe and probably lead poisoned. There are no high level talks between the State and the city (which is the State capital!) American un-development continues. What is also striking is the complete incapability and unwillingness to handle problems. In the third week and the […]
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Well, HERE’S your problem.

Check out this interview with the QAnon Shaman’s mom with journalist Laura Segall:

As I watch this, once again I’m bewildered why journalists like Segall don’t ask about how the rest of us, you know, the 81 million Biden voters, might have reacted if the insurrectionists had succeeded. Instead, the focus continually remains on the deluded Trump voter. We are told there are many of them who believe the vote was stolen from Trump and that their numbers are “significant”. But significant is not a “majority” of either total number of voters or electoral college votes or their representatives.

Is it any wonder that Shaman’s mom thinks that she and her cohort are the only ones that matter? We’ve only heard from their side for four GD years. The media hunts them down in diners in rural Indiana or at a Trump rally or on the street. It’s like the rest of us are completely absent. If you only watched the US media, you would get the impression that there is a bunch of righteously indignant Trump voters who are the equivalent of the Orange movement in the Ukraine and the whole country is behind them because there’s a complete void where the majority of voices should be.

Should we be surprised that Shaman, his mom, Richard Barnett et al feel entitled to special treatment and pardons? No one has told them yet that they are the bad guys. They’re feeling a bit Clint Eastwood in a spaghetti western about it. Or Clint Eastwood in a Dirty Harry movie. Or just Clint Eastwood on a good day.

The fascination of the media trying to decipher the way their screwed up minds work, coupled with the extraordinary amount attention they are getting, is giving them the idea that they really are special people in the most destructive, narcissistic meaning of that word. If they don’t get what they want, they will simply bulldoze their way through any democratic process and obstacle and then they will wait for the presidential medal of FREEEEDOM! or something from their newly reinstalled leader.

No. No, Ms. Segall. You missed an opportunity to get a once in a lifetime reaction from someone like Shaman Mom and capture the moment her head short circuited like a Fembot. You should have asked her about the other 81 million of us. You should have done your homework and told her that the Pennsylvania legislature dominated by Republicans passed the mail in ballot bill in October 2019, well before Covid or Louis DeJoy. You should have asked her if she knew that Biden’s win in PA was independent of any mail in ballots that arrived in the three day period following Election Day. In other words, regardless of how the PA state Supreme Court ruled on how equitably the vote was administered according to the state constitution, Biden won without those late ballots.

Segall could have asked if the vote was conducted fraudulently, why was Trump et al challenging PA, GA, MI, AZ? Why not go after the motherlode of potentially illegal ballots- California? Wouldn’t that have been a lot more convincing? He could have eliminated 55 electoral college votes in one fell swoop. Could it be that California doesn’t have a cooperative state legislature that wanted to get involved and some of these other states did?

Ask Shaman Mom to do a thought experiment: your son and his friends have successfully staged a coup, shot some members of Congress, hung Mike Pence and halted the electoral college certification. Then what? In a country chock full of guns and a majority angry enough to use them, what would have happened then? Would Trump impose martial law? Was that the end goal? Would his droogs have shot protestors in the streets? What kind of American carnage was she trying to achieve?

But no, Segall asked none of these questions. So Shaman Mom blithely goes on with her day believing the Big Lie, oblivious to the fact that more than half the country out there doesn’t agree with her and isn’t going to leave or put up with her s^*%.

Meanwhile, her slow witted son languishes in jail betrayed and depressed about not getting a pardon. Yet no one has told him yet that Trump couldn’t and wouldn’t pardon him without incriminating himself.

Plus, shaman doesn’t have the money or connections that Manafort and Steve Bannon had. You’ve got to have money if you want a “Get out of jail free!” card.

So, shaman and his mom and all their friends continue to live in their own little universe, convinced that they deserve grace of some kind, internally not accepting that their leader, and his party, is no longer in charge.

And we can’t force them off the airwaves. Instead, we gloss over the domestic terrorism and ask them for more interviews where they can profess their faith and hawk images of dangerous propaganda.

Jeez.

Am I the only one…

… who is fascinated by the way Republicans are frrrrreaking out over HR1?

They have just as good a chance of winning with a fair election free of interference as Democrats. All they have to do is propose policies that will actually improve the country and the lives of the people who live here. Should be a piece of cake.

Jeez, they act like their most effective propaganda mouthpiece just died and their leader won’t be able to campaign from prison.

With All His Other Tasks, President Biden Has to Somehow Save Voting Rights

I read a disturbing article yesterday, not that it said anything I hadn’t realized. It is from Ronald Brownstein, writing in The Atlantic; and the article, not behind a paywall, is titled, “Democrats need HR 1 and the new VRA to protect voting rights.’

Brownstein is probably the best political writer in the country. I well remember so many great articles he wrote for the LA Times for decades. When he writes something, it is worth paying attention to. I will not discuss his article at length, the essence of it is that the Republican are waging an all-out war on voting rights in this country. More than a few people say that it is the biggest assault on those rights since the Jim Crow laws. And the really scary thing is that they are intended not only to win the next elections, but to cement a permanent Republican majority which in unremoveable, because the voting laws cannot be changed if they forever keep Democrats out of power to change them.

We know that these various bills do everything but state, “Only Republicans can vote.” They wouldn’t need to go quite that far, all they need is to take away 10% of the Democratic vote in key states, and they can’t lose. The bills cut voting hours, limit mail-in voting, make people keep re-registering, impose rigid signature verification. They do everything but re-institute the poll tax, the grandfather clause, and the literacy tests, which were the three-cornered foundations of White supremacy in the post-Reconstruction South.

The Supreme Court just heard a case on an Arizona bill, which the Republican counsel essentially said that suppressing the Black vote was necessary to help Republicans win. Blatantly admitting that will not hurt them; the case will go 6-3, or maybe there is a very small chance of 5-4, for the Republican voting suppression side. That is the most important endgame of the Republican court-stacking; from getting GW Bush elected over Gore; to blocking Garland and getting Gorsuch instead; from paying off Kavanaugh’s debts and ramming him through; to getting Barrett in a few weeks before the election. Those events were all awful for many reasons, but the most important was that it was part of the plan of the Republican Party to guarantee control of the United States government in perpetuity. Now is when they expect it to pay off.

The “Big Lie” about the election is part of that. The term “election integrity” is another Orwellian phrase they have concocted to gain public support, and to rationalize this assault. The Republican-controlled state legislatures have already introduced 156 bills to suppress the vote. They revel in this, it is their sustenance. Power, power, power without end.

So what can be done about this, before it is too late? People credulously voted in all these Republicans when Obama was president, in 2010 and 2014, and not enough of them can be dislodged in the state legislatures. And, now it may too late, as once these bills go through, and are either signed by a Republican governor; or vetoed by a Democratic governor and then brought to the Supreme Court to be validated, they will control the results in 2022, and inevitably give the Republicans control of the House and Senate; and then more gerrymandering, which the Roberts Court has already said they will not touch, so more power, and more laws, and so on. One can easily imagine how this would play out.

But there is the House Bill, HR1,which if it became law, could fix most of this–unless the Supreme Court declared the bill unconstitutional,in the same way that the Court of the early 1930’s invalidated FDR’s New Deal legislation. This bill will pass the House. But in the Senate, there is the problem of getting 50 votes for it, which it is likely that they will get with an actual vote. But how do we stop the Republican filibuster, the timeworn tool of the Southern Democrats and then the Radical Right, to stop progressive legislation? The only way is to get rid of the filibuster, but that would take sufficient votes. Democratic Senators Manchin and Sinema have expressed opposition to getting rid of the filibuster, the result of which would ironically likely knock both of them out of the Senate, plus guarantee a permanent Democratic minority in that body. This seems like a completely ridiculous plan of action; can anyone convince them otherwise, in time?

Another suggestion is to get rid of the filibuster just for this bill, keeping it for other ones. I don’t think this would work, because it would essentially allow a party to do it for any bill if they had a majority, but it would fall under Senate Rules, so maybe. And perhaps there is some chance that those two Democratic senators would vote for that, and that the Supreme Court would not disqualify it? Then there is adding Court seats, but they would filibuster that, too. Democrats in the Senate, all of them, must understand that when the Republicans have control, they tyrannically impose it. Trying to keep Senate rules that help them when they are out of power, is utterly foolish and futile.

I do not like having to worry about these things, not when we thought we had perhaps saved democracy, for at least a while. We need a respite. But Brownstein thinks that this is an inflection point, which of course connotes that if Republicans get away with it, they win, and for many decades, maybe forever. If you can fix a game so that you can never lose it, because you control the referees and the scoreboard, how are you going to be dislodged? Not when you have a Supreme arbiter which lets you do it, and which you can keep stocking with the spoils of your cheating.

And it is not fair, but this is another weight that President Biden has to deal with. We can’t just wait for two or four or eight years, like maybe we used to think. The strategy the Republicans use is to win at all cost, and keep winning. If the only way they can do that is to stop 10% of the Democrats from voting, they will do that if they can. And they have the Supreme Court for backup. Most Democrats, in or out of office, never really understood what was going on, they let the Republicans have their way too much.

I heard an interview with former Majority Leader George Mitchell about five years ago, and he said he was proud of how he and Minority Leader Dole worked together on the Thomas hearing. Some senators wanted to filibuster, but Mitchell would not. So we let Thomas get through; and years later, too many Democratic voters never listened to Hillary, who said over and over how important the 2016 election was in terms of the Court. Too much of the Left couldn’t be bothered, they cast a “conscience vote” for Stein, or just didn’t vote.

Obama did not complain enough about Garland, and start redlining bills that benefitted Republican senators’ districts unless they gave him a hearing. Kennedy was somehow forced to retire. They finally woke up for Kavanaugh, but it was too late. Now Biden has to somehow get HR1 through. Maybe Attorney General Garland, if the Republican ever confirm him, can crack down on vote suppression schemes, but the Court leaves voting laws to the states. So we need the voting rights act, or we need to add four or so Supreme Court seats, and we’ve got about a year to do it. Meanwhile, Senator Ron Johnson is going to demand that every sentence of the Covid Relief Bill is read on the floor, to delay passage. The Republicans obstruct everything, including the legal right to vote. We can’t wait until 2022. Our future is now.

Like clockwork

I applied for a bunch of jobs last week and like clockwork, I get a notification from LinkedIn that 7 people have reviewed my profile. Like my resume wasn’t enough to tell them exactly what they needed to know, they go straight to LinkedIn to dig.

🙄

Yes, I know I can buy the premium subscription to find out who these people are. Don’t think I haven’t considered it.

*************

A recent poll showed that 73% of Trump voters believe that the election was stolen from him.

That’s 74 million voters * .73 = 54,020,000 million Trump voters.

A loss of roughly 20,000,000 voters.

Progress.

We may break this delusion yet or lower the number of deluded to a more manageable percent.

(I’m a half full person)

Social Darwinism At Its Worst

Texas Governor Abbott today issued an executive order ending the mask mandate in Texas. Dr. Kavita Patel, always smart and caring, notes that Houston has all four variants of Covid. Undoubtedly they will have more. Did Abbott not ruin enough people’s lives with the power failure ten days ago? Or maybe he thinks that his order will divert attention from it.

Abbott is doing more than even risking lives, he is assuring that cases will spike in Texas, and probably will spike in the rest of the country, too. President Biden said today that we can likely have vaccines for everyone by the end of May. That is incredible. Abbott couldn’t wait for two months? Obviously not. He has been vaccinated, which probably is enough for him, because he and his rich oil buddies don’t care about anyone else. This is social darwinism in its most immediate and evil form. If he survives, anyone who doesn’t is expendable or deserves it. Aristocrats in Dickensian London, and rich businessmen in Gilded Age New York stepped around or over the penurious, sick and freezing men and women lying in the streets. Abbott is a recognizable current version of those people.

How does somebody like Abbott get elected? Of course, they’ve elected Cruz and Cornyn there, too. Something about “freedom,” I guess, which shows the power of worthless slogans. I would like to think that the freedom to be able to be protected from a dreadful virus is more important than the freedom to make another billion dollars by keeping the energy supply and the power grid in the hands of a few people, or the freedom to do whatever you feel like, no matter how many others you endanger.

Maybe there will be calls for Abbott to resign, or be impeached or recalled? No, that is only going on in New York. I wish that we could build a wall around Texas for at least the next few months, but we can’t.

FBI Director Christopher Wray

I am watching FBI Director Wray being questioned by the Senate Judiciary Committee I haven’t seen all of it, and I wonder if anyone who has, is having a similar reaction to mine, that Wray is far from great? I guess that the measure will be in his work, but we don’t know that much detail about it, nor as compared to how someone else might do.

My feeling after the election was that anyone whom Trump appointed, should be removed. His appointments, never good, had increasingly become more than partisan, they were obviously people who were chosen do exactly what Trump wanted. DeJoy. That late appointee to the Defense Department, who was said to be ready to call Georgia officials, lie about voting fraud, and thus overrule them and have it all go to the Supreme Court. These were like Mafia “appointees.’

After Trump fired Comey, he picked Wray, and said that he wasn’t sure about him, but “maybe he’ll be all right.” Wray does not seem like a partisan hack, but he seems today to be trying very hard not to upset the Republican senators. When asked by Democratic Senator Coons if he has seen any evidence whatsoever that people at the insurrection were posing as Trump supporters, or that Antifa or BLM had any part in these riots, he said, “not at this point.” He also said that some parts of the insurrection were organized. Maybe that is true. only parts? What other parts were there?

There had been some media discussion as to whether President Biden was going to keep Wray. After being elected, Biden said that he would keep him. I guess that it would look bad if he changed his mind now. The concern is that this is a time of great danger to the country, from White Supremacists, Nazis, and Fascists; and we need an FBI which fully understands this danger, and does everything it can to deal with these threats. We cannot afford to just try not to make waves, as President Obama did when he re-appointed Comey, who already had a history of adversity with the Clintons. We don’t want an FBI Director who is so concerned about upsetting Republicans, that he hedges, and tries to purvey some “both sides” narrative. We want precise and effective law enforcement.

Well, it’s just my reactions, but as I watch more of Wray, I am not fond of his affect, including facial expressions,and a bit of condescension when responding to Democrats. Maybe he did not like it when Senator Whitehouse blasted him for not cooperating in terms of statements and press conferences. My armchair suggestion would be to get a new Director, but very possibly that would cause real problems with FBI morale, so I guess that we are stuck with him. Maybe he will do what is necessary, we must all hope so.

Politics and Harassment

This is a very difficult issue but that doesn’t mean that we can’t write about it and discuss it. In fact, that is perhaps the reason why we should, because otherwise it takes its own course; and there are potential injustices going both ways.

The issue is sexual harassment in the workplace. This has likely always existed in societies, certainly not that this makes it any more acceptable. In our country, the first real public discussion of sexual harassment at work came from the Clarence Thomas hearings, where Anita Hill said that Thomas had more than a few times tried to have conversations about pornographic films, and had made a “joke” about pubic hair in his coke. The issue then was of course the fitness of Thomas to be put on the Supreme Court. He was confirmed despite Hill’s testimony; and perhaps because the Senate did not allow a woman who could have validated Hill’s statements, to testify And he is still there, one of the worst and most legally rigid and incurious Justices in history. And the issue of whether anyone at work should be required to put up with sexual harassment, and exactly what it is, has never gone away.

Sexual harassment is ordinarily looked at as something done by a man to a woman at work. Of course, there is no reason that it could not go the other way, and there are some such cases, as well as same-sex ones. The early concept of sexual harassment was usually focused on a man, a superior in position, making it obvious, or just suggesting, that if the woman does not sleep with him, or at the least go out with him, he will damage her career. In the days of say, the 1940’s, it was not uncommon for a powerful executive to hire a secretary for her looks, then have an affair with her, and then after he broke it off, to fire her This is certainly morally reprehensible, and it should be legally wrong. as well.The problem, as always, is proving the facts.

The concept of sexual harassment expanded, to include “hostile workplace environment,” which to me is an overbroad term, although of course in obvious cases, it should be punishable. For example, a “jocks’ club workplace,” where a bunch of men feel free to make remarks about sex, about women’s bodies in general, etc, is a classic case of hostile environment. But the term was expanded in a case two decades ago, to include a large judgment in favor of a woman who overheard a consensual conversation between a couple of men and women there who were telling sex jokes. She found it offensive to overhear, and got a monetary award. There was a situation where a woman objected to a man who had a picture of his wife in a bathing suit on his cubicle desk. I don’t know whether that was a legal case or not, but I did read that someone there ordered him to take it down. That kind of thing seems to me to go too far, and to be more about power and puritanism. But opinions always differ on these matters, of course.

There are so many examples. We could debate all day about what should be the boundaries in this area. Off course, there is more than legal damages at stake, there is the nature of the workplace environment. Companies desperately tried to protect against massive sexual harassment suits by making policies. Some made dating in the workplace absolutely terminable. Some made rules that any comments by a man about a woman’s clothes or appearance, no matter how complimentary, was to be considered sexual harassment, and punishable. How far do we want this to go? Some might say, all the way, the Mike Pence approach of never having any conversation at all with a woman unless your wife, or a third party, is present. Others would say that this is an overreaction; that many people have found romance in the workplace, and that it may well be their best chance to meet someone whom they can get to know over time, and maybe develop a deeper attraction than might be found n bars or matchmaking services. Do we want to throw all of that out, in the effort to balance the goal of having no one ever feel uncomfortable, without wanting to completely try to control nature? Put that way, it is not a simple balance.

Eventually,, businesses seemed to solve some of this, by hiring strong Human Resources departments, and instituting an approach where there were levels of complaints and punishments. The woman had to first go to an H.R. person and complain; then there usually was a disciplinary hearing in that department, and so on. Multiple or continued offenses would be grounds for termination, and there was a record,, to refute a claim of wrongful termination by the accused. Of course, that still did not stop all injustices either way, but it was an improvement.

In my legal field, I was aware of three male judges fired for sexual harassment. I knew them all, but of course don’t know all of the exact details. One involved a mild mannered-appearing judge who was accused of closing the door to his office when a female attorney was talking to him, and then trying to grab her in some fashion. Several people, including female attorneys, told me that they were pretty sure that this was a set-up, that the woman in question worked for a large entity which did not think that this judge was treating them fairly in cases, so they trumped up this charge. I have no real idea as to whether that was true or not. One was the presiding judge at one of the local courts,who was accused by a newer female judge at that court, who had actually been Anita Hill’s roommate at Yale; she was always very nice to me and the other attorneys in her courtroom. The male judge said that he was only trying to give her a hug after she had tried her first case. That sounded like a weak explanation, but it still seemed that firing was a strong punishment. However,, there may well have been some kind of internal investigation, to warrant the action. The other one involved an obvious firing of a judge who actually wrote what I guess used to be called “mash notes” to some female attorneys. He always seemed to be a nice enough guy, but that cannot be countenanced.

But now let’s look at the political world, and how sexual harassment allegations, in or even out of the workplace, have been used to ruin careers. That is not to imply that these allegations are made up, though sometimes they are. They are powerful, because the first reaction is often, “Oh, what a jerk, we must punish him and he must resign and never run for anything again!” There are many problems with that, most important of which is, the charges may not be true. Or they may be partially true, but exaggerated, or with parts made up; the power of wrapping lies or overstatements around one observable fact which makes it look like the others are also true. Or they may be out of context. There is no real way to know, and there is no trial, not even something equivalent to a workplace H.R. hearing.

We saw Eric Schneiderman, the Attorney General of New York, have his career destroyed by an article in the New Yorker which alleged that he had affairs with women subordinates, with whom he engaged in “rough sex.” This did not exactly fall under the usual definition of sexual harassment, but the effect was to force him to resign. No charges were ever filed, and it may have been that the crucial female who gave the story to the magazine, had been with him for over a year, engaging in a sexual relationship which he later wanted to break off. I did not study the case closely, and Schneiderman seemed like a jerk, but of course that was just in the story, not proven. Anyway, down he went.

We had Al Franken, where we first saw a photo, given to outlets by a model/TV personality named LeAnne Tweeden, whom I first knew about because she co-hosted a sports talk show in Los Angeles. She knew some sports; she had a relationship with a Dallas Cowboys player for a few years. She was a friend of Fox News, and apparently Roger Stone. She had a picture of a USO tour that she did with Franken, where she was supposedly asleep, and Franken was poised over her with a lascivious grin and his arms stretched out like in a horror movie. It seemed obvious to me that this was a staged photo, why else would it be there? I believe that the photographer said that it was staged There were other photos of Tweeden on the tour in provocative poses. That is sort of par for the course on USO tours. But when the Tweeden photo hit the media, there were immediate calls by some for Franken to resign. Then there were more women making various allegations of different sorts. One claimed that he put his arm around her for a publicity photo at a political event, and she felt that she was overweight, and was uncomfortable. A woman said that after Franken did a radio show which she was some part of; he tried to kiss her after the show but she turned her head away.

Eventually, there were eight or so women making various claims that Franken had done something or other that exceeded sexual bounds. None of these were investigated, apparently many people were ready to believe the women, thinking that there were so many of them, that they must be true. There were more widespread calls for him to resign. Franken denied the import of all the charges, and asked for a Senate investigation, as is the right of any senator. But the drumbeat was louder, and various Senate Democrats demanded that he resign, and he did. Some suggest that Democrats were concerned that if they let Franken have the investigation, they wouldn’t be able to go after Roy Moore. But there was immense difference between what Franken was accused of, and what Moore did. Meanwhile, Brett Kavanaugh is on the Supreme Court for life, and Franken is out of office. There has to be a lesson there, and if it is ignored, Democrats are perennial suckers.

Later, an article by Jane Mayer in the New Yorker, the same journalist who had worked with Ronan Farrow on the Schneiderman story, said that her interviews and followups with Franken accusers convinced her that they were all lying. This did not do Franken any good at that point, of course. The other day, I saw some random person ostensibly trying to defend Franken as compared to Trump, and saying, “At least Franken resigned for his actions.” What actions?

I believe, and I am certainly not the only one, that Franken was the victim of a planned and orchestrated political attack by Republicans. He was one of the most articulate and effective senators, he is the one who forced Sessions to recuse himself from the Russian collusion investigations, leading to the appointment of a Special Counsel. He was a threat to Trump, and Stone, and all of them, and they got rid of him, because they knew that Democrats would react in the way they did.

Katie Hill was a different story, but once again, we can note that no one said that she had an affair with Congressonal sttaff, she had one with a campaign staffer, a different matter. She chose to leave Congress, and we lost her seat; and I thought that she was a very effective Representative.

That brings us to Andrew Cuomo, not always popular in his home state, but who gained a great deal of praise for his leadership during an awful part of the Covid crisis. Then there was a recent story about nursing homes, and under-reported fatalities. He gave a news conference to try to explain. I do not know the details, I do not know if he is blameworthy. I do think that he has tried very hard to deal with the pandemic, and we know that Trump hates him. After this story, we now have two former female aides who claim that he sexually harassed them. Again, I have not read all the claims; they will change, anyway; there may be more, as with Franken. I have read that one woman claims that he asked her if she had ever had sex with an older man. There was another story that said that he mentioned strip poker. There are calls for him to resign, based on these allegations by the two women.

Even with all the problems and crises in this country, this story gains traction in the New York Times. One reason is obvious:sex sells. Another reason is that people who cannot figure out economics or political science, would rather latch onto something like this. A third reason, is that this is at least significantly engineered by Republicans, to get the focus off the insurrection and their votes against relief, and their cult. “Let’s get Cuomo!” is a fun game for them. And again, Trump, their idol, the person who had some kind of golden statue made of him, hates Cuomo.

I certainly don’t know what Cuomo said or didn’t say. I am not about to say that the allegations are completely false, or taken out of context, but they could be. What could out of context mean? Oh, if somehow he and the woman were talking about their dating lives, and he then asked her if she has ever had sex with an older man. If he said it, does it sound like a blatant come-on? Yes, the kind of thing some man might say if he hopes that the woman would evince an interest in him. It is not classy, and not appropriate in the workplace. I do not think it is awful, though. I don’t know how friendly they were. She could say, “Oh, I actually am only attracted to men younger than I am!” That would stop it. Or just honestly say, “Governor, I think we should get back to talking about our work.” Now, if she said that, and he persisted, that would be another matter. But one or two remarks, told out of context, in a work relationship of years, should certainly not be deserving of having Cuomo’s political career ruined. Who knows what she said before or after that? She is not going to tell us, of course.

And we should always remember that it is virtually impossible to prove the negative, unless it is a matter of locale; there is a bank robbery in Boston, and you can show that you were in Santa Fe on that day, with witnesses and hotel bills. But trying to prove that you did not say something, or that you only said it in response to what someone else was saying, is obviously futile. Far too many people think that allegations are almost equal to facts, but they are not. That is why we have a legal system, with rules of evidence. But in this era, people are virtually tried and convicted based on allegations alone,which seems terribly wrong.

Why would someone ever invent or exaggerate clams of being sexually harassed? Many motives come to mind. Money. Publicity. You are running for office and want to vault on this. One of the accusers of Cuomo is running for office. Dislike. Jealousy. Spite. Wanting attention. I am not saying that any of these are the case here, how would I know, but they should be taken into account. I am certainly not saying that most workplace claims of sexual harassment have any of those motivations, but some may. I am saying that when you are dealing with major political figures, there are those who want to destroy their careers, perhaps get someone in there who might be more favorable to them.

And we know that Republicans almost never resign in such situations, they just deny it all and go on. It is Democrats who are very willing to call for other Democrats to resign. It is a weapon which is ideal for Republicans, because it is never effectively used against them. Kavanaugh is on the Court, so is Thomas. Jim Jordan is a powerful Republican figure in the House. Meanwhile, Schnneiderman, Franken,and Hill are gone,and so may be Cuomo. Democrats need to think more about this issue, and not be so reflexively willing to accept allegations, particularly when they are almost always about words.

Our country is under serious assault from Republicans who are actually fascists.We cannot afford to let them pick off Democratic officials one by one, because of charges that one or the other said something a bit suggestive or inappropriate, unless we are trying for complete purity in our party, while the other party just focuses on winning and power.

One wishes that we could have both, but it is virtually impossible, by definition. We don’t want sexual harassment in the government workplace, but the definitions are not so easy to make. It is not like the criminal law, where there are well established and codified definitions of the various degrees of murder. They may slightly vary from state to state, but they are something that a prosecutor or defense attorney, a police officer,. or defendant can rely on as consistent. Beyond the obvious extremes, the area of sexual harassment, not a criminal offense, is open to interpretation. So what we have, in these public cases, are women coming forward at some point, maybe a year or five years later,, and saying that he said this, or made this joke, or asked them out, or leered at them, or said anything with any romantic or sexual connotation at all. And we don’t know if he said it, or in what tone, or following what conversation. And of course, if the accused person tries to explain or elucidate, he has probably lost from the start.

If I were an amoral political operative, which I would never be, and I wanted to eliminate a male political rival, I would try to do it through a sexual harassment allegation. You don’t have to prove it; it is amorphous in most cases, and there is no hearing or trial. Just amp it up through media, get a bunch of bots or followers to keep tweeting about how awful it is; wait for a few ambitious media members to write about it, and you’re about 80% of the way toward removing him from public office. Unless it is a Republican,of course, they just ignore it until it gets supplanted in the headlines.

This is not a game, of course, but I think it is to Republicans, who gleefully get Democrats removed from office in this way. It is their revenge for Anita Hill and Christine Blasey Ford, whose testimony did not even stop Thomas and Kavanaugh, but angered Republicans, who always want to get their way at every stage. When the facts are almost always ambiguous, trying to win some virtue points by sacrificing your own officials, is ultimately ineffective, and damaging to the interests of the people who need Democratic policies to be enacted,and to keep the fascists from seizing control, which is really what all this is about for them, just another “game” to try to rig in their favor.

Matinee at the Ballet: Prodigal Son

NYCB is having another digital season. You can see one of George Balanchine’s masterpieces, Prodigal Son, until March 4 on YouTube.

The ballet is free but make a donation if you can. Ballet dancers are some of the most highly impacted artists during the lockdowns. They need to condition their bodies everyday and if they can’t perform, there’s a good chance they’re not getting paid in some companies. That’s the way we roll here in the US. This art is almost totally dependent on charitable contributions and performances, unlike European ballets that are benefiting from governmental stipends.

So, enjoy this ballet. The role of the siren is especially good here.

Bad Beats and Arduous Wins

I thought that I would briefly divert from political discussions, to tell a few stories from the world of gambling, specifically, betting on sports. I know that this is not a subject which would interest too many people here, but the psychology of it, the ups and downs, is intriguing, even if one does not care a bit whether Duke beats North Carolina, or Penn State triumphs over Pittsburgh. And I have few stories which you might enjoy.

The term “bad beats” is used a good deal now, not only in sports betting, but poker or any gambling game. The term essentially means, a really upsetting loss, that you think should never have happened. Some use it about any loss in a bet, but it should be limited to those where there was no way you should have lost (you think), but unaccountable things happened. And sometimes that really is the case.

There is a sports anchor on ESPN, Scott Van Pelt, who during the football season, will devote a segment on Monday night to “bad beats.” It is quite entertaining. He shows moments from a particular game where it is almost certain that the bettors on one side will win, but then somehow they do not. Now, always note that one can bet either side of a game, so that one person’s bad beat is another person’s remarkable win.

Sports betting, in football or basketball, involves the oddsmakers coming up with a pointspread intended to equalize bets on either side, since they take an additional 10% on losing bets, which is known as the “vigorish.” So let’s say Penn State is playing Temple in football, and everyone knows Penn State is better, so they make them a 14.5 point favorite. That means that if you bet Penn State, they have to win by more than 14 points to win the bet. If you bet Temple, you can win the bet if they lose by 14 or less, or even somehow win the game. Winning a bet is known as “covering the pointspread,” by the team which does.

So there are all sorts of situations where the game winner itself is not in doubt, but every bettor is on edge as to whether the pointspread will be covered. And sometimes the two conflict. For example if you are taking an underdog in football, and getting 10.5 points, and your team is behind by six with a minute to play, you do not want the ball, you want the team which is ahead to simply run out the clock. If you have the ball, your team is going to throw passes to try to get the winning touchdown, and sometimes they throw an interception, and the other team runs it back for a touchdown, and wins by 13 or so points, depending how they play the extra point. In any case, you lose a bet which you should have won, your team was in the game all the way, but the score does not reflect it.

That has happened to me on a few occasions, and it is not fun. I well remember a Monday Night football game between Pittsburgh, the favorite, and Jacksonville. I was in Las Vegas, where I would go every weekend during the football season for about four years, until I was just worn out from the travel and the tension, and then having to go back to work and handle my legal cases. But it was a lot of fun an escape from the daily grind, and I did pretty well, though the $400 a week for plane trips and hotels and such things, obviously reduced my winnings. Anyway, I bet Jacksonville getting 5 points or so. They led most of the game. I then had to take a taxicab to the airport, but I got there in time to watch the game on TV while waiting for the plane. Pittsburgh had scored late to go ahead by two points. That was all right, unless Jacksonville threw an interception run back for a touchdown. What they did, was move the ball, trying to get close enough for a field goal to win the game by one point. They got to 4th and 1 at midfield, and I did not want them to make the first down with about 50 seconds to play, because if they did not, Pittsburgh would get the ball, take a knee, win by two, and I would win a nice amount.

Well, they made the first down, and drove down to around the Steelers’ 28 yard line, where they set up to kick a possible game winning field goal. There was only one possible way to lose the bet, which was if Pittsburgh somehow blocked the field goal attempt, and ran it back for an unnecessary but spread-covering touchdown. And that is what they did. As most of the people at the airport watching the game cheered loudly, I watched the Steelers block the kick, and then some guy run it back for 75 yards, rather than just running out of bounds, and Steelers coach Bill Cowher, apparently incensed that he did not, ran down the sidelines screaming at him all the way. Well, that was very disappointing, but fortunately I had won money for the week, so it just reduced it by a substantial amount. I have never forgotten it, though, nor so many stories, though not usually as dramatic as that.

Well, I could tell hundreds of these, but I promise I will not! I will just tell one rather amazing story, which I cannot remember having ever seen before or since. This was a basketball game between my alma mater, UCLA, and Texas A&M, in the second round of the NCAA tournament in 2008, I think. UCLA was a very good team, Texas A&M was dangerous, and both coaches slowed the game down, so I thought the pointspread of about UCLA -8 was too high. But I did not bet it; maybe the game had started earlier, as tourney games may do when they are the second of two, or I just hesitated.

So A&M played very well and led at half. by three, I think. So now I decided to bet, on the halftime line (you can bet just on the second half score) which meant I was getting worse odds than had I bet the game from the start. They made UCLA a -6.5 favorite, then it went to 7, then 7.5, but it kept jumping before I could make the bet. So I bet A&M at +6.5, not as good. It meant that A&M needed to win the game, or lose by less than four points. Now, for those who might ask, why would I actually bet against my school; well, UCLA could win by 1-3 points and then would win the game, and I would win my bet as well. And if they lost the game, I would feel bad enough, and I might as well try to win the bet, as I still thought it was a good bet.

Here comes the really interesting part. Texas A&M continued to play well, and widened the lead, then UCLA started to catch up. With about a minute to go, they tied it up at 47-47. Then A&M missed a shot, and Russell Westbrook, who has since become a big NBA star (though I have no interest in the NBA) scored with about 12 seconds to go, to put UCLA up 49-47. So now what I wanted was for A&M to play for the last shot, as they would likely do, miss it, and the game would end. The big risks were that they would miss, and foul UCLA with one second to go, and UCLA would hit two free throws, and win by four points, and I would lose my bet by a half point. Or A&M would make the shot, tie the game, and it would go overtime, and UCLA might win by four points or more, and I would lose the bet.

So here is A&M, running the clock down for the last shot….6 seconds…5…4…. then suddenly Westbrook steals the ball from the A&M player, and starts dribbling towards their basket. He is ahead of them, all he needs to do is dribble out the last two seconds, but he is trying to score, and if he does, I lose the bet. I see the clock on the screen, there is a light over the basket which when it goes red, means the game is over, no matter what the clock says. He is at the basket with less than one second, the red light goes on, and he puts up the shot just it does, and he makes it. But the game is over, the referee waves off the basket, the final score is 49-47, UCLA wins, I win $450!

The online sportsbook (this is fully legal) credits my account $450. But as I am watching another game a few hours later, the station puts the earlier scores up, and they show it as UCLA 51 Texas A&M 47. ???? Apparently someone decided to count the basket. I call up the service which puts odds and scores up, and the man I talk to is also upset, says that he saw the light go on, but they simply ignored it, this is not right, but there we are; maybe they will fix this later. I do not think so, but maybe.

The next day, I look, and the score is still listed as 51-47. I lost the bet, because I did not grab the right halftime line, and because the basket which was originally waved off, got counted The account takes away the $450, also subtracts another $495 (the bet plus the 10% risked). I am not at all happy about this, but there is obviously nothing I can do. I keep checking all day, but it stays at 51-47.

The next day, I come home, and I look at the score again, just in case, and it is listed as 49-47! What?! Apparently when the score and statistics were to be officially recorded, the referee went to someone and noted that he had waved off the basket, so the right score should be 49-47, and they changed it for the official score. Now, they really did not have to do that, they could have left it, but they didn’t. And then, there was the real worry that the sportsbook, having presumably paid out the bets to the UCLA side, would simply refuse to pay out again. But I called them, said, “the score changed officially!” and they did credit me, and I won the $450.

If someone wonders if maybe bettors or oddsmakers got this changed to the right score, this did not influence the game bet, only the second half bets, which would almost certainly not be of major importance to very many people. So that referee, just wanting to be scrupulous, managed to fix the score, two days after the game was played!

Now, I found out that what had happened was that the scorer and timekeeper at that game, had made a mistake. He gave UCLA credit for the extra two points. He did not notice the referee waving off the basket. I knew him! He was an attorney in my field, on the other side. I often sparred with him, he was smart and would never give an inch in cases, but was honorable about it. He had been the scorer and timekeeper at UCLA home games for years. I guess he got this assignment because the game was played in Los Angeles, where that round just happened to be set. I ran into him in court a few week later, and said, “That was quite something at the end of the game.” He said, “Yeah,” tried to explain how he made the error. I said lightly, “You almost cost me $495!” He didn’t say much, and was probably embarrassed about his error, which did not mean much to him, but did to many others, as Brent Musburger would sometimes say when announcing a game

So that is a little foray away from the important news of the day, and the worries and concerns we have about the political landscape, and a little window into a multi-billion dollar industry. and the ups and downs which are part of it. Bad beats and arduous wins. As a host of a sports talk show used to say, “Those hotels in Vegas keep getting higher each year,” meaning that you don’t really want to seriously try to beat the house with money that you need. In my former career as a sports handicapper, I did meet someone who did, and who was a legend there, but he was very rare.

Food tastes better in Italy.

There, I’ve said it. It just tastes better. The tomatoes are more tomatoey, the beans are more tender, the lettuces and vegetables are fresher and more flavorful, the dried mushrooms are more pungent. California cuisine comes close but for all the praise we heap on ourselves about the food in America, it’s just not as tasty. It’s like that joke from the Jewish resorts area of the Catskills. “The food here is terrible.” “Yes, and the portions are so large”.

This video showed up in my YouTube recommendations. It’s from an American Ex-Pat who is back in the states for the pandemic. Let’s just acknowledge now that this is not the best time to be evaluating the food here. But the rest of this video is soooo worth watching. Those of us who have traveled outside the US for business or pleasure know what she’s talking about. Or if we have worked with foreigners and have listened to stories about how they live back home, we have some insight.

But the people who really need to watch this video are the people who have never traveled outside of the US or have limited their excursions to all inclusive Caribbean resorts or cruises where the idea is to isolate you behind the viewing window that the tourism industry has constructed between you and the other, unAmerican world.

This video is so so good. The speaker is not criticizing the US for being the powerhouse that it is. She is trying to say that Americans tend to go through life with blinders on and there is more to life than getting your amazon order in a 24 hour turnaround period or the petty, easily offended, gossipy social sphere we surround ourselves with.

Enjoy!