Month: April 2018

Are You Tilting at Windmills or Can You Handle the Truth?

We at the Colonies welcome people of all beliefs, including those who believe in alternative facts; even those who tilt at windmills.  The phrase, alternative facts, was coined by Kellyanne Conway, to explain why the new administration had claimed its inauguration crowd was bigger than that of the 2009 Obama inauguration.  The National Park Service tweeted a side by side photo comparison showing the claim couldn’t possibly be true.  The Department of the Interior promptly shut down the NPS twitter account. 

For example, one of our readers who I will call Sasquatch (the mythical hairy, upright-walking, ape-like being)  did not agree with the latest post about the impact of the Michael Cohen investigation moving to New York.  Sasquatch concluded that I was a loser and a whiner. Now, I did lose a pair of gloves over the winter, but Sasquatch could not have known that.  Furthermore, I never whine, although sometimes I rhyne. That’s rhyme.

I decided to see who Sasquatch was and whether there were other “facts” which Sasquatch believed, but in fact were false.  I went to Sasquatch’s Facebook page and found this meme: 

The meme, with a quote by Thomas Homer-Dixon, a Canadian ecologist, allegedly concludes that the windmill pictured above requires so many hydrocarbons to build that it could run indefinitely and never generate enough power to save the hydrocarbons discharged in construction.  Is that the truth?  No, it’s not, unless the windmill is set down in a windless spot.

If the windmill is erected in a place that is windy, it will recoup the carbons in clean energy savings in as little as 3 years. If poorly placed,  it may never recoup its carbon cost. 

The meme based on the quote from Dixon’s book, Carbon Shift, purposely left out an important sentence.  According to fact-checking site,

In August 2015, a meme posted to the Google+ group “The Secret Society of Anti-AGW-ACC Cultism,” an organization that claims climate change is a hoax, started circulating online. While that meme (shown above) does reproduce the words of Thomas Homer-Dixon, the Associate Director of the Waterloo Institute for Complexity and Innovation, it elides a crucial section of the passage to significantly change its meaning.

“In his book, “Carbon Shift: How Peak Oil and the Climate Crisis Will Change Canada (and Our Lives),” Dixon wrote that some windmills might not recoup their energy construction costs, a windmill at a good location could pay back the energy costs of creating it in under three years. That section was omitted from the above-displayed version of the quote:

‘The concept of net energy must be applied to renewable sources of energy, such as windmills and photovoltaics. A two-megawatt windmill contains 260 tonnes of steel requiring 170 tonnes of coking coal and 300 tonnes of iron ore, all mined, transported and produced by hydrocarbons. The question is: how long must a windmill generate energy before it creates more energy than it took to build it? At a good wind site, the energy payback day could be in three years or less; in a poor location, energy payback may be never. That is, a windmill could spin until it falls apart and never generate as much energy as was invested in building it.’

The meme distorts the truth. By example, drilling an oil well that turns out to be dry will be a net loser, just like a windmill set up in a windless place. The meme leaves out this critical fact, and Sasquatch, who didn’t bother to question it, is none the wiser and in fact propagates the lie by reposting it.  Alternative facts are lies—untruths and half-truths, told to advance a false agenda.  Really, Sasquatch, you also need truth-tellers on that wall.

The Pardoner’s Tale

Riding the Scooter

Scooter Libby, an adviser to former Co-President Dick Cheney, can rest easy now that Donald Trump has lifted his cloak of infamy. Libby is no longer a felon, convicted of lying to federal investigators about his outing of Valerie Plame, a CIA operative. President George Bush II commuted the sentence but refused to pardon him.   I disagreed with many of Bush’s values, but at least he had some. Disclosing the identify of an American spy is wrong.  Libby did it to protect his boss, for which he got a slap on the wrist. Bush would not remove the taint.

Now comes before us Donald Trump, future ex-President of the United States. In his first year in office he pardoned Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the sadistic xenophobe who incarcerated and tortured undocumented immigrants. A federal court held him in criminal contempt for his miscarriages of justice. Enter Donald Trump. With a wave of the executive baton, he exonerated Sheriff Joe.  This pardon sent a message: Illegal measures taken to rid America of illegal immigrants are no crime.  They are acts of heroism.

Trump’s pardon of Libby last week sent another message:  I’ll scratch your back if  you scratch mine.  Trump loyalists facing charges or guilty pleas for lying to the FBI need not fear the power of the Deep State. The magic wand of the Shallow State will release them.

Comic Timing

The pardon was issued at a fortuitous time, as the Mueller investigation was sending its case against Michael Cohen, the President’s own Ray Donovan, to the US Southern District, James Comey’s old stomping grounds. Many of the career prosecutors in that office were outraged by the Comey firing. They signed a letter to the Deputy Attorney General, petitioning for the appointment of a Special Prosecutor to investigate Trump’s involvement. The NY attorneys and FBI agents have now been presented with the opportunity to vindicate Comey themselves. How’s that karma thing working for you, Mr. President?

Right out of the box, the government agents obtained a warrant to seize Michael Cohen’s belongings, which they did.  Cohen’s lawyers petitioned the court to restrain the government from reviewing the records. Judge Kimba Wood, an unsuccessful Clinton era nominee for Attorney General (see Nanny-Gate), turned down the request. The Cohen motion backfired, with Cohen’s lawyer coughing up the name of Sean Hannity as client no. 3 in Cohen’s portfolio. Hannity places third behind Trump and Eliott Broidy,  whom Cohen extracted from a sex scandal of his own.  He’s currently under investigation for a bundle of white collar crimes.

Pulling Hannity’s name out of this pie was a plum for the media, Fox excepted, and possibly for the government investigators as well.  Hannity has been something of an off-campus Chief of Staff for Trump and his loyalest media supporters.  Clearly, Hannity wouldn’t have gone to Cohen for a house closing or a new will.  Something sleazy that way lies.  We’ll know soon enough.

Coming Home to Roost

While all of this is bad news for the part-time occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, there is possibly worse news.  Now that Trump’s road show has gone on tour, it’s a new ballgame, especially in New York, where it can play in two locations.  There will be federal charges against Cohen for sure.  But there also may be state charges against Cohen and possibly Hannity.  Once the production opens in New York’s criminal courts, the rules change dramatically.

Manhattan D.A.  Cyrus Vance, Jr. didn’t have the grit to take on the Trump family when they and their Russian partners raked investors in the Trump Soho. He hasn’t’t shown the grit to bring many high profile cases.  He’s not the kind of tough-minded, big city prosecutor New Yorkers expect.  In fact, Vance accepted a $50,000 campaign contribution from a Trump lawyer after he dropped charges against Ivanka and Don Jr. for defrauding Trump Soho investors.  He’s timid, and he’s been bought.

Still, Vance won’t have to do much.  If the feds send over some state-based charges against Cohen, if may be enough to rattle Trump’s teapot. The Presidential pardon power does not reach state charges or state prosecutions. The smart money says that the Cohen files are full of material on state-based schemes to tie him and at least two of this three clients up.

A well-founded state claim against Cohen especially or a number of other acolytes is Kryptonite for the Trumps.  There are several contingencies in this scenario.  It’s not hard to see one of them falling into line.

Without the protection of a pardon, Cohen is as good as under the bus. If Cohen is forced to plead out his case and turn government witness, he will do it. By now, he has seen that in  Trumpland, loyalty is a one-way street. He’s not bailing Cohen out.  Let’s say, though, that Cohen fixed something for Jared and Ivanka.  Trump just might fall on his sword for Ivanka.

Calling Cousin Vinny

Citizen Trump is not locked in a holding cell in Wazoo City, Alabama, flat broke and accused of murder. Cadillac One will never be confused with a 1964 Buick Skylark, with or without posi-traction.  But Vincent Gambini may be the only criminal defense attorney left in the country with the rare constellation of skills needed to face off with Robert Mueller and his team.  At least, he may be the only one willing to take on the case.  Gambini won the acquittal of two New York youths in a criminal murder trial in Beechum County, Alabama. The prosecutor, the judge, the jury and the witnesses were all ready to convict but Gambini’s brilliant cross-examination of the prosecution witnesses saved them from execution.  Never underestimate a Gambini.

Mr. Gambini could not be reached for comment.  He and his wife, Mona Lisa Vito Gambini, are celebrating their honeymoon, after a protracted engagement, in the foothills of the headlands of the Pocono Mountains.  However, Mr. Gambini’s answering service, who sounds quite a bit like Mrs. Gambini, said that he would call back right after Easter.  Gambini has a few DUI and turnstile-jumping cases to hand off and is otherwise prepared to take on his new client.  A senior White House adviser, whose information is normally dead-balls accurate, has stated that the Gambini’s Cadillac convertible received an oil change and lube last night.  It is gassed and ready to go.  For the record, the Chinese in D.C. is not terrible.

The Future Ex-President was advised sometime last month that he was a subject of the Special Counsel’s investigation for “conduct while in office,”   likely referring to the Comey firing at least.  He declared that he was exonerated (“No Collusion!”), assuming that as long as he was the subject rather than the target, he had nothing to fear He reiterated his willingness for face-to-face interview with Robert Mueller.  It was probably then that Trump’s chief counsel, the deeply experienced John Dowd, headed for the exits. He leaves the Trump ship of state manned by a crew of people who have never sailed in such dark and deep legal waters.

Most highly prized white-collar defense attorneys begin their careers as Assistant U.S. Attorneys, one of many line prosecutors in the Department of Justice. They know the defense because they know the prosecution. They have put together the cases so they know how to dismantle them. For the best, it is as easy as correcting the ignition timing in a 1964 Bel Air (4 degrees before top dead center).   Gambini has never been a federal prosecutor, and that may be to his advantage.  He won’t be deterred by the usual course of dealing of the seasoned pros. In addition, Gambini is willing to work without a retainer, unlike his more experienced colleagues.

Gambini stands out because he is willing to work day and night for as long as it takes to read every document,  review every surveillance recording and take an accelerated course in federal criminal procedure (it wasn’t on the bar) to prepare himself to joust with the prosecution. For his prospective client, it’s ten minutes to midnight, so there is not much time to prepare.  Vincent Gambini is willing, able and almost ready to serve.

Trump has been designated a subject It means that the prosecutor or the grand jury has some evidence of the possible commission of a crime. For example, one witness may have implicated the subject but the testimony is unsupported by a document or another witness.  There could be an email to or from Trump reciting facts that fall within the subject matter, but it’s not clear what or when the correspondent knew the information and, more importantly, the nature of his intent.

For example, Hillary Clinton was the subject of a federal investigation over the use of private email servers for official business during her tenure as Secretary of State. As far as it is publicly known, she never became a target of an investigation.  James Comey suggested that she was not a target when he stated during the 2016 campaign that the FBI did not believe there was evidence sufficient to convict her of a federal offense.

A target is someone already in the crosshairs.  The prosecutor believes that there is enough evidence to convict a target.  The prosecutor informs the target of the status, at which point the target can expect an indictment. 

John Dowd’s resignation suggests that he already knew that his client had been named a subject. He quit because there was a split of opinion between him and his client, who no doubt was buttressed by the lawyers.  Dowd recommended not volunteering; at least Trump wouldn’t bury himself.  Even if Mueller issued a closing report raising the possibility of a crime, the Republican-controlled Congress would not vote to impeach.  If he were presented as a target based on substantial evidence, even the die-hards in the House would have to consider impeachment.  In any case, Trump would become a lame duck. He has nothing to gain and everything to lose by talking to Mueller.   Dowd, thinking like a litigator, gave him correct legal advice.  On the political side, he will look guilty if he doesn’t agree to meet. He’s forked but good.

Gambini is one of those “what have you got to lose?” kinds of lawyers.  How much worse can it be with Vinny than with Ty Cobb, the White House process lawyer, or Jay Sekulow, and Victoria Toensing and Joe diGenova? They are TV lawyers who don’t have any more firepower than a 1963 Chevy Corvair with posi-traction.

So, will he give Vincent Gambini a chance?  He worked miracles in Wazoo City. He can do it in Washington.  

The Trump Base is Hitting a Wall

I ran in an election once. Each candidate had to give a speech before the assembled student body.  During my speech, I referred to the low pressure in the school water fountains, eliciting titters from the crowd.

I won the election but I got my comeuppance about a month later. A student passing in the hall asked, “How are you doing with those water fountains?” I hadn’t done anything.  In fact, I knew when I’d said it that I couldn’t get those fountains fixed.  I’ve harbored a certain cynicism about elections ever since.

The memory brings me to Ann Coulter, the chronically skeptical conservative commentator who led the charge for Citizen Trump.   He had her the moment he glided down his gilded escalator, railing against Mexican rapists and promising to build a Wall – a Big, Beautiful Border Wall — and get Mexico to pay for it. Coulter is now a Former Trumper because he is not fulfilling his promise to build a wall. She and her cohort were the voters who forgave him all his character deficits and vulgarity. They’d walk through a wall for him if only he would build it. 

  During her interview with long-time sparring partner Frank Bruni, Coulter expressed her growing  disaffection.  “He had absolute, rock-solid, locked us in, on support [sic] because we thought we wouldn’t be betrayed — finally. He could sell Ivanka Trump merchandise from the Oval Office if he would just build the Wall.  If he doesn’t have us anymore — no, that’s what he should be worried about because, you play those people for suckers, the ones who stood by him through thick and thin, and thought this was finally something different. Finally we have a politician who wasn’t going to lie to us. No, former Trumpers should put the fear of God in him.”   

The sad-faced Coulter looked like a vampire at dawn who could not find the keys to her crypt.  She elaborated on what she has coined, “Former Trumpers,” registering her utter disappointment. 

“Don’t act like I’m a nut for wanting a wall. That was the chant at every rally. I didn’t make this up…I promise you we want a Wall. We don’t care who pays for it.”

The constitutionally acerbic Coulter has been around long enough to know Trump’s playbook, and she’s nobody’s Pollyanna.  She wouldn’t be gulled by his wacky campaign promise.  She’s speaking for the Trumpers, those people who don’t care who pays for it.  She’s signaling Trump that his base is slipping. 

Trump heard the drumbeat.   That’s why he exploded with tweets this morning accusing Democrats of killing the DACA deal, the one he agreed to make and later reneged.  He’s accused Mexico of allowing Central American migrants to pass through the country and across the border.  In fact, despite Trump’s hawkish immigration policy, the number of people crossing has reached the same level as it was at its peak in the Obama era.

Coulter also must realize that her man’s Congressional support is flagging.  He had his best chance to get his wall funded within the first 100 days of his term.  It was a double bumble. Not only did he fail to make the Wall the first item on his agenda, but he and his party also squandered their pledge to repeal Obamacare by trying to ram a terrible health care bill down America’s throat.

He managed to get only $1.3 billion for the Wall in the recent spending bill.  That’s enough to cover the design and scale modeling, assuming they don’t go hog-wild on the dining room set. It’s not going to cover the cost of building a Beautiful Border Wall, unless in his classic form, Trump stiffs the contractors.  So there is not going to be a wall this year, and next year is not looking too good.  He and Coulter had to know it.  They must have thought that his supporters wouldn’t notice.

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