The Biden impeachment inquiry falls flat

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives is thoroughly botching the most important role assigned to it by the US Constitution, that of funding the government. With all the attention focused on that impending disaster, you can be excused for not noticing that that is not all they are bungling. While they play brinkmanship games within their caucus that threaten the livelihoods of vast numbers of people who will be adversely affected by a shutdown, they seem to have the time to waste on pointless activities, such as the impeachment of Joe Biden.

Yesterday saw the opening day of the impeachment inquiry headed by James Comer and it too was a bust, with even their opening witnesses, the people who were supposed to play starring roles, saying that they did not see any evidence on any crimes by Biden.

Forensic accountant Bruce Dubinsky, one of the GOP witnesses, undercut Republicans’ main narrative by saying there wasn’t enough evidence yet for him to conclude that there was “corruption” by the Bidens.

Conservative law professor Jonathan Turley also said that the House does not yet have evidence to support articles of impeachment against Joe Biden, but argued that House Republicans were justified in opening an impeachment inquiry.

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Let’s stop calling these debates

I did not watch the second Republican debate. I could not watch it because it is on Fox News and its related cable and streaming channels and I do not subscribe to cable. But even if I had access, I would likely not have watched because all indications were that it would have hardly anything of substance.

And so it proved. In reading about the debate afterwards, it looks like it was a shambles.

It took about a half hour for the Republican Presidential debate on Wednesday night to descend from merely being very boring to unrecoverable chaos.

This was the “thank you for speaking while I’m interrupting” debate, the event at which the confusion and aimlessness of the Republicans challenging Trump for the Presidential nomination became apparent to all. Trump, far ahead in every poll, had opted out of the event, held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, in Simi Valley, California, a venue whose leadership he has sometimes sparred with. In his absence, the debate was billed as a chance for the other Republicans on the ballot to change their fortunes: for Haley to establish herself as the mainstream alternative to Donald Trump, for Scott to make clear what he is campaigning for, and for DeSantis to find a way to reverse his slide in the polls, which has now lasted several months and still defines the campaign.

On that count, DeSantis failed from the beginning, when it took a full fifteen minutes for the moderators to call on him. When he did get a chance to speak, generally looking a little glum, he tended to rattle off some suspiciously rehearsed-sounding lines. Of his plans to expand domestic oil drilling, DeSantis said, “We’re going to choose Midland over Moscow. We’re going to choose the Marcellus over the Mullahs. We’re going to choose the Bakken over Beijing.” Stop this man before he alliterates again.

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Meat, manliness, and the search for the perfect diet

There seems to be an endless fascination in America with diets. This is different from simply a fascination with food, where people seek new kinds of dishes. The diet craze is more about the belief that there is some kind of magic diet that will make you healthier, cure all your ailments, make you live longer, and other goals that vary from group to group. One of those other goals for a certain subset of diet enthusiasts seems to be manliness and the diets that are promoted by its advocates seem to be very much meat-focused.

Manvir Singh writes about the appeal of these diets, the latest of which is called carnivory, which emphasizes eating only meat. This one strongly associates the diet with manliness.

Pore over materials on carnivory and the overwhelming impression is that men are endangered. They were once strong. They lived with nature and had stone-hard chests. They killed or were killed. But not anymore. Now they are either scrawny or obese. They have plummeting sperm counts and middling testosterone levels. “Alexander the Great conquered the world at age 25,” posted Carnivore Aurelius (IG followers: 717K), an anonymous meme-maker who dances between satire and sincerity. “The average 25 year old today has a panic attack if they leave their vape at home. WTF happened to men?”

Carnivory conjures up an Edenic past that contrasts with our current discontents: a mythical time when men were manly and bodies were fit and food was real and natural. Cleanse yourself of modern corruption, it urges, and the world and your body will be renewed. You will be strong. Your family will be healthy. The land will recover.

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Trump loses again in fraud lawsuit

New York’s attorney general Letitia James had brought a lawsuit contending that serial sex abuser Donald Trump (SSAT), his sons Donald Jr. and Eric, and two officers of his companies Allen Weisselberg and Jeffrey McConney and the various Trump organizations engaged in systematic fraud by inflating the value of their properties by outrageous amounts.

New York State Supreme Court justice Arthur Engoron yesterday awarded summary judgment to James on the first and most important claim. This means that the claim was established already and that it did not need to go to trial and the trial could go straight to the penalty phase which will undoubtedly include monetary damages but may also strip the family of control of the properties.

A judge ruled Tuesday that Donald Trump committed fraud for years while building the real estate empire that catapulted him to fame and the White House, and he ordered some of the former president’s companies removed from his control and dissolved.

Engoron ordered that some of Trump’s business licenses be rescinded as punishment, making it difficult or impossible for them to do business in New York, and said he would continue to have an independent monitor oversee Trump Organization operations.

If not successfully appealed, the order would strip Trump of his authority to make strategic and financial decisions over some of his key properties in the state.

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Republicans get slapped down on gerrymandering efforts

Ever since the US Supreme Court ruling in Shelby County v. Holder in 2013 that Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was no longer constitutional because more than 40 years had elapsed since the law was passed, Republican controlled states had felt that they were now free to gerrymander electoral districts to minimize or even eliminate districts that had majority Black populations which were more likely to elect Democratic candidates. And they proceeded to do so, with Alabama being one of the first off the mark.

They drew a map that had just one Black majority district even though Alabama has 25% Black population. An Appeals Court rejected that map and Alabama appealed to the US Supreme Court.

A three-judge panel struck down the map last year, deciding the state could have easily drawn a reasonably configured district that gave Black voters a majority in a second district. The supreme court agreed with that determination in June, with chief justice John Roberts and Brett Kavanaugh joining the three liberal justices to form a majority.

Although that verdict surprised most observers, you would think that it would have ended settled the issue. But no. Republicans drew another map that still did not have two Black majority districts. It was clear that they were trying to run out the clock, and squeeze in the 2024 election under the old map before being forced to redraw it. They were promptly sued again and the Appeals Court had had enough of Alabama’s shenanigans and scolded the state for ignoring the Supreme Court order and went even further and took away the map drawing ability from the legislature and gave it to a special master.

Alabama then sued to prevent that but today, the Supreme Court rejected that appeal so the special master will draw the map.

“It has been a long and frustrating battle holding the Alabama legislature accountable, but today it is a rewarding one,” lawyers from a coalition of civil rights groups, which represented the plaintiffs in the case, said in a joint statement. “Even after the highest court in the land sided with Black voters in June, our elected officials still chose power over people by outright defying multiple court orders and the loud cries of their constituents to do the right thing.”

In the age of serial sex abuser Donald Trump (SSAT), Republicans have become increasingly shameless in trying to ignore court rulings that go against them. Once priding themselves on being the party of law and order, they are now a party of scofflaws..

Is the enabling behavior driving Trump insane?

In the TV comedy Kim’s Convenience, there is an episode in which a mother comes with her young son into the convenience store run by Mr. Kim, a Korean immigrant who believes in being stern when bringing up his own children. The mother’s child-rearing philosophy is that one must never use the word ‘No’ with children because its stifles their creativity or something. Mr. Kim is horrified as the child runs berserk in the store, toppling racks, breaking things, and so on with the mother not able to prevent him, and when he orders the child to stop, the mother remonstrates with him for using the ‘No’ word.

I was reminded of this episode when serial sex abuser Donald Trump (SSAT) went to a tear this weekend on his social media site, issuing volleys of deranged missives on all manner of things.

Here’s one where he is urging Republicans to shut down the government unless they get all his demands.

The Republicans lost big on Debt Ceiling, got NOTHING, and now are worried that they will be BLAMED for the Budget Shutdown. Wrong!!! Whoever is President will be blamed, in this case, Crooked (as Hell!) Joe Biden! Our Country is being systematically destroyed by the Radical Left Marxists, Fascists and Thugs – THE DEMOCRATS. UNLESS YOU GET EVERYTHING, SHUT IT DOWN! Close the Border, stop the Weaponization of “Justice,” and End Election Interference – WE MUST HAVE HONEST ELECTIONS. It’s time Republicans learned how to fight! Are you listening Mitch McConnell, the weakest, dumbest, and most conflicted “Leader” in U.S. Senate history? HE’S ALREADY GIVEN THE DEMOCRATS EVERYTHING, THEY CAN’T BELIEVE HOW LUCKY THEY GOT. WE NEED NEW, & REAL, REPUBLICAN LEADERSHIP IN THE UNITED STATES SENATE, NOT A CLONE OF MITCH, & WE NEED IT NOW!!!

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Menendez is just an old-fashioned guy

New Jersey Democratic senator Robert Menendez has long been dogged by allegations that he is sleazy and in an earlier federal trial in 2017 for corruption he avoided conviction because a hung jury resulted in a mistrial. So it was not a surprise when an FBI raid on his home was conducted to find evidence of corruption. What did surprise me was what they found.

Gold bars worth more than $100,000. A new Mercedes-Benz convertible in the garage. Wads of cash stuffed in the pockets of a jacket with “Bob Menendez” embroidered on the breast.

Nearly half a million dollars in cash was found stuffed inside envelopes and stashed inside the pockets of clothing hanging in the closets of the Menendez’s home in Englewood Cliffs, including a big roll of bills in a jacket from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus with Menendez’s name on it.

Fingerprints belonging to the driver of co-defendant Fred Daibes were found on at least one of the envelopes, as well as his DNA and his return address, prosecutors said. “Thank you,” Nadine Menendez texted Daibes around Jan. 24, 2022, according to the indictment. “Christmas in January.”

Patrice Schiano, a former FBI forensic accountant who is currently a lecturer at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said that’s “pretty damning.”

Today, Menendez defiantly addressed the press and his explanation of why he had these things was a doozy, that he is just an old-fashioned guy who does not trust these new-fangled things like banks and believes that you need to keep your money close to you in case of some kind of apocalpyse.

In his press conference, the senator addressed the money. “For 30 years, I have withdrawn 1000s of dollars in cash from my personal savings accounts, which I have kept for emergencies and because of the history of my family facing confiscation in Cuba,” said Menendez, whose parents are from the island.

“Now this may seem old fashioned, but these were monies drawn from my personal savings accounts based on the income that I have lawfully derived over those 30 years. I look forward to addressing other issues in trial.”

So what exactly was he afraid of? The collapse of the banking system in the US? And how exactly are gold bars helpful in an emergency where you need to pay some urgent bills and the banks are closed, unless the emergency is that you need to flee the country?

In the 2017 trial, the evidence was less dramatic.

Prosecutors say the senator accepted more than $600,000 in political contributions, a luxurious hotel suite at the Park Hyatt in Paris, and free rides on a private jet from a wealthy ophthalmologist, Dr. Salomon Melgen, in exchange for political favors.

Given their failure to get a conviction previously I suspect that the FBI would be determined to make sure that they have a much stronger case this time and had, before they raided the Menendez home, already explored the possibility that all this money came from his own savings accounts.

The trial should be interesting. I look forward to other tips from the Menendez couple in the days to come about how to keep one’s money safe.

The puzzle of why Tucker Carlson was fired by Fox

The defamation case filed by the Dominion voting machine company against Fox News was settled on Tuesday, April 18, 2023, the day when the trial was supposed to begin, for a whopping $787 million. That Fox wanted and needed to settle the case was evident since the discovery process had revealed all manner of highly damaging information that the upper echelons at Fox knew the serial sex abuser Donald Trump’s (SSAT) claims of election fraud and of Dominion’s involvement were without merit even as they publicly supported them.

Fox News’s most high-profile personality Tucker Carlson was abruptly fired on Monday, April 24, just six days later, reportedly on the direct orders of Rupert Murdoch, even though Murdoch reportedly liked Carlson and got on well with him on a personal level and he brought in good ratings and revenue for the network.
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Controversy over consciousness

The question of what constitutes consciousness arouses quite a bit of controversy, around what is known as ‘the hard problem of consciousness’. Here is a description of what that is.

The hard problem of consciousness is the problem of explaining why any physical state is conscious rather than nonconscious.  It is the problem of explaining why there is “something it is like” for a subject in conscious experience, why conscious mental states “light up” and directly appear to the subject.  The usual methods of science involve explanation of functional, dynamical, and structural properties—explanation of what a thing does, how it changes over time, and how it is put together.  But even after we have explained the functional, dynamical, and structural properties of the conscious mind, we can still meaningfully ask the question, Why is it conscious? This suggests that an explanation of consciousness will have to go beyond the usual methods of science.  Consciousness therefore presents a hard problem for science, or perhaps it marks the limits of what science can explain.  Explaining why consciousness occurs at all can be contrasted with so-called “easy problems” of consciousness:  the problems of explaining the function, dynamics, and structure of consciousness.  These features can be explained using the usual methods of science.  But that leaves the question of why there is something it is like for the subject when these functions, dynamics, and structures are present.  This is the hard problem.
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