More evidence that Rudy Giuliani is an idiot

A grand jury in Arizona recommended indictments against Rudy Giuliani and 17 other people for their involvement in the fake electors scheme they concocted to try and overturn the 2020 election.

Among the defendants in the Arizona case are 11 Arizona Republicans who submitted a document to Congress falsely declaring that Trump won in Arizona in the 2020 presidential election — including a former state GOP chair, a 2022 US Senate candidate and two sitting state lawmakers. The other defendants are Mike Roman, who was Trump’s director of election day operations, and four attorneys accused of organizing an attempt to use fake documents to persuade Congress not to certify Biden’s victory: John Eastman, Christina Bobb, Boris Epshteyn and Jenna Ellis.

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Agility champion

At the recently held Westminster Dog Show, a small mixed breed dog named Nimble turned in an amazing performance in the agility event.

Stephen Colbert showed the clip on his show and said that the reason the dog ran so fast was that he saw that Kristi Noem was one of the judges.

What, no more Jesus on toast?

For the longest time, Catholic churches and individuals have made money from claims of the supernatural, such as religious statues weeping or bleeding or the image of Jesus appearing on toast or in stains on walls, people claiming to have seen visions of Mary, and so on. Some of these claims were given credence by local priests and bishops.

The Catholic church has decided that this nonsense has gone too far and is exposing the church to ridicule and has decided to crack down, at least on some of the sillier claims.

Apparitions of the Virgin Mary and weeping statues have been part of Catholicism for centuries, but the age of social media has prompted the Vatican to issue a crackdown against potential scams and hoaxes.

New rules issued on Friday say that only a pope, rather than local bishops, can declare apparitions and revelations to be “supernatural”. The document, Norms for Proceeding in the Discernment of Alleged Supernatural Phenomena, updates previous guidance issued in 1978 that is now considered “inadequate”.

There was “the possibility of believers being misled by an event that is attributed to a divine initiative but is merely the product of someone’s imagination, desire for novelty, tendency to fabricate falsehoods (mythomania), or inclination toward lying”.

The new rules strip bishops of the power to recognise the “supernatural” nature of apparitions and other purportedly divine events. Instead it offers bishops six potential conclusions, ranging from nihil obstat (nothing hinders), which would allow and even encourage popular devotion, to a declaration that a phenomenon is not supernatural.

Well, there goes a great source of amusement.

Senator Robert Menendez must be really stupid

On The Daily Show, Jon Stewart looks at the corruption trial of New Jersey senator Robert Menendez and his wife Nadine on charges that in his capacity as a senator, he did favors for individuals in exchange for bribes. Officials who raised their home found gold bars and stacks of cash all over the place.

As Stewart says, this shows that Menendez is kind of stupid to indulge in this kind of cartoonish corruption when he could learn from his colleagues in Congress how to make much more money such as using their access to inside information to make highly profitable stock trades with no risk of being arrested.

What political news reports should contain – but often do not

News reporters are supposed to use as a maxim that their articles provide answers to five questions: who, what, when, where, and why. But very often, they short-change the first four and go straight to the ‘why’ question, instead of first telling us the first four and letting us form our own opinions.

Some of the irritants are:

  1. In talking about upcoming elections, not giving the exact date but saying things like ‘next month’ or ‘three weeks from now’.
  2. In reporting election results, not giving us the actual votes or the percentages of at least the main candidates but instead just giving us the margin of victory or, even worse, using words such as ‘won easily’ or ‘won narrowly’ and similar formulations.
  3. In opinion polls, not giving us the numbers in favor of the candidates or positions but instead just telling us who or what is ahead. They also often omit important information as to whether the people polled were all citizens or registered voters or likely voters, and what the sample size (or margin of uncertainty) was.
  4. In economic news, they report in general terms, such as that ‘inflation has increased’ rather than telling us what the actual change was and whether it was year over year, or month over month, and what measure was used.
  5. When there is a vote in Congress in either body, they do not give the actual votes in favor or against the motion and the way that the parties split on it.
  6. In major legal decisions (say at the Supreme Court or Appeals Court levels where the result is by a panel of judges), not giving the votes in support of the majority and minority opinions and the names of the justices who voted on either side. Instead, they talk of how the ‘liberals’ and ‘conservatives’ voted and only give names when there are unexpected alliances. They should also provide links to the actual opinions, but almost never do.

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Biden-Trump debates arranged

In a surprise development yesterday, Joe Biden and serial sex abuser Donald Trump (SSAT) have agreed to two debates, one on June 27 hosted by CNN and the other on September 10 hosted by ABC. Both will start at 9:00 pm (ET). I say ‘surprise’ not because I did not think it would happen but because they came together so quickly, when usually these negotiations are quite protracted over all manner of details, such as who will host, the moderators, the venues, the format, and so on.

There will be no audience at the debates. This is a good thing. Audience reaction is very distracting. To take part, a candidate must get at least 15% in four national polls, a bar that is high enough to likely rule out third party and independent candidates.

SSAT’s acceptance of CNN and ABC as hosts signals a capitulation on his part since he has constantly whined about how they are biased against him. He must think that he will be so good in the debates, or is so desperate, that he can accept any terms.
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UCLA counter-protestors revealed to be neo-Nazis

The campus protests against the atrocities committed by Israel in Gaza were largely peaceful, with much of the violence occurring due to heavy-handed and brutal acts by the police, at the instigation of university administrators.

However, there was one highly publicized fracas on the UCLA campus when masked counter-protestors arrived on the scene and attacked the demonstrators.

Many witnesses to the 30 April melee observed that the small group of assailants – many of them masked – did not appear to be students. More than 30 people were injured, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (Cair). Authorities are still working to identify the perpetrators, and have not made any arrests.

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Update on Chinese EVs

Two days ago I wrote about an article that said that Chinese electric vehicles are superior to the ones made in the US though they have not penetrated the market here as yet. Just today, an article appeared that seemed to reinforce the idea.

A tiny, low-priced electric car called the Seagull has American automakers and politicians trembling.

The car, launched last year by Chinese automaker BYD, sells for around $12,000 in China, but drives well and is put together with craftsmanship that rivals U.S.-made electric vehicles that cost three times as much. A shorter-range version costs under $10,000.

Tariffs on imported Chinese vehicles probably will keep the Seagull away from America’s shores for now, and it likely would sell for more than 12 grand if imported.

But the rapid emergence of low-priced EVs from China could shake up the global auto industry in ways not seen since Japanese makers exploded on the scene during the oil crises of the 1970s. BYD, which stands for “Build Your Dreams,” could be a nightmare for the U.S. auto industry.

“Any car company that’s not paying attention to them as a competitor is going to be lost when they hit their market,” said Sam Fiorani, a vice president at AutoForecast Solutions near Philadelphia. “BYD’s entry into the U.S. market isn’t an if. It’s a when.”

Even with the 100% tariff on Chinese EVs proposed by Biden, the Chinese cars may still be competitive.

The situation is starkly similar to what happened with cars in the 1960s. While the US continued to make huge gas guzzlers, the Japanese automakers focused on small, fuel-efficient ones and once their quality improved, they dominated the market.

This time around, US automakers seem to be going for large EVs (like the Tesla Cybertruck monstrosity) that can attain high speeds and go off-road, while the Chinese makers seem to be going for smaller vehicles that are cheaper with smaller batteries that are quick charging and thus ideal for city use. It is not hard to guess which market is larger.

A Trump trial puzzle

[UPDATE: I read this article today by a former federal prosecutor that also makes the point that lying about his liaisons with Daniels and McDougal was a bad strategy.

But it’s also clear that Trump’s lawyers are pursuing a flawed and risky strategy. Why? Most likely it’s not them, but him. Trump is the client, and he gets the final word on major decisions. So far as I can tell, this team has managed to stay on Trump’s good side by indulging — perhaps necessarily — his worst traits and instincts. It may be their downfall.

Most devastatingly, lead attorney Todd Blanche, in his opening statement, repeated Trump’s claim that he never had a sexual encounter with Stormy Daniels. That was followed by days of testimony last week that — if you believe Daniels’ very persuasive account — effectively demonstrated that a central plank of Trump’s defense is a lie and has been a lie for years, and that the jury cannot trust even Trump’s lead counsel to tell them the truth.

A bunch of Trump-supporting legal commentators have claimed that Daniels’ testimony was irrelevant to the case — a truly baffling interpretation of events given what actually happened. Prosecutors had no choice but to put Daniels on after Blanche affirmatively called her a liar in his opening statement, and they had to elicit considerable detail about the sexual encounter in order to establish her credibility in response to Blanche’s attack inside the courtroom and Trump’s years of attacks outside of it. Not only was that the appropriate way for the government to defend the integrity of its investigation and its witness, it was also an unmissable opportunity for them to tank the credibility of Trump’s entire legal defense.

But the author does not speculate as to the motive behind this poor choice of strategy.]

We are in the fourth week of the trial of serial sex abuser Donald Trump (SSAT) and it has been as tawdry as expected. The main (but not only) charge is that SSAT falsified business records to claim that $130,000 given to his former fixer Michael Cohen was a retainer for legal services when it was actually reimbursements to Cohen for payments made to suppress damaging information emerging just before the 2016 election. The latter reason would constitute an illegal campaign contribution. The statement issued by Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg when the indictments were first announced in April 2023 has the following:

In one instance, American Media Inc. (“AMI”), paid $30,000 to a former Trump Tower doorman, who claimed to have a story about a child TRUMP had out of wedlock.  

In a second instance, AMI paid $150,000 to a woman who alleged she had a sexual relationship with TRUMP. When TRUMP explicitly directed a lawyer who then worked for the Trump Organization as TRUMP’s Special Counsel (“Special Counsel”) to reimburse AMI in cash, the Special Counsel indicated to TRUMP that the payment should be made via a shell company and not by cash. AMI ultimately declined to accept reimbursement after consulting their counsel. AMI, which later admitted its conduct was unlawful in an agreement with federal prosecutors, made false entries in its business records concerning the true purpose of the $150,000 payment. 

In a third instance – 12 days before the presidential general election – the Special Counsel wired $130,000 to an attorney for an adult film actress. The Special Counsel, who has since pleaded guilty and served time in prison for making the illegal campaign contribution, made the payment through a shell corporation funded through a bank in Manhattan.

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