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CSotD: Weekend Update

Jack Ohman (Counterpoint) notes the lack of conflict-of-interest rules for Congress, in light of a proposal by Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) to prevent senior government officials, including Supreme Court Justices, from playing the stock market.

It seems ridiculous and unnecessary, but the fact that it is necessary explains why it is not ridiculous.

It’s not entirely fair to describe our government as a plutocracy, but it’s certainly accurate to note that we don’t have a lot of shoeshine boys and babysitters in Congress, and the handful of middle- and working-class people there stand out among the millionaires. The days when an Abe Lincoln or Harry Truman could pull himself up out of the dust seem long gone, and, even then, the “born in a log cabin” story may be more political hype than a strict accountant’s analysis.

As an example, here — shorn of its paywall — is an interesting account by Philip Bump of the far more complex reality behind the commonplace claim that Jimmy Carter put his peanut farm into a blind trust. It’s worth reading because even a sincerely ethical man like Carter found it hard to disentangle himself from his holdings, and he was trying.

Not everyone makes that effort, and sometimes it’s because of greed, but other times it’s a matter of trying to explain “wet” to a fish. They’ve lived in a world of stock-swapping for so long that they don’t recognize it, and they certainly don’t realize that not everyone lives that way.

While Marie Antoinette didn’t say it anyway, the old “let them eat cake” was based on the blind assumption that, if the people had no bread, they could instead eat brioches and other baked goods, because — ma foi! — everyone has those.

Another metaphor is to consider how we hurtle down narrow roads at 55 mph, protected from oncoming traffic by stripes of paint on the asphalt.

It works very well until it doesn’t.

Similarly, we have, through this whole sordid coup attempt, realized how much of our system is based on the good faith and honest intentions of the participants, and how easily it can implode when somebody decides to exploit the lack of actual restraints.

The biggest laugh being that, when I was hired as a reporter, I was told it was okay to own stock, but I was not to make a lot of trades and swaps and such, which might have mattered at the Washington Post or the NY Times, but seemed a little silly at our little paper, since I kinda doubt my writing a story about the new crosswalk down by the paper mill was going to have much impact on Georgia-Pacific stock prices.

But we had those rules because ethics mattered.

Past tense.

 

Juxtaposition of the Day

(Bill Bramhall)

 

(Ann Telnaes)

Even conceding the limited restraints of existing law, it’s plain that outright lying and fraud are not a matter of ethics but of legality.

As Bramhall suggests, it’s taken Tish James awhile to set the hook in that lying Pinocchio nose, and she hasn’t landed the fish yet, while Telnaes points out that her catch includes the whole family, regardless of Bill Barr’s defense of the poor orphan children who had no idea what was going on.

 

It’s not just that people in their forties are far too young to be held responsible for their actions. That’s obvious, and it’s precisely why there is nobody under 50 in any of our prisons.

But there’s an additional defense in that, when the President-Elect held a press conference to lay out how he was going to turn all Trump operations over to the little Trumplings, the folders of information upon which they were expected to rely appeared to be blank.

Poor kids had no guidance!

As someone who covered real estate development for years, my expectations of the trade are modest. “The Art of the Deal” is well-phrased: Far more shopping centers are nailed down on golf courses than are meticulously planned in boardrooms.

Thus, when — after millions of Scaife dollars and months of highly publicized but vague accusations — the facts of the Whitewater Deal finally emerged, it may have shocked the rubes, but those of us who covered commercial real estate were astonished, because that’s how it works and we could point to a thousand deals just like it.

Which may have put us off watch when Trump assumed the throne, because he came across like one more loud-mouthed, corner-cutting, self-promoting bullshit artist. A good one, mind you. A very good one. But familiar nonetheless.

However, most snake-oil salesmen are careful to wander right up close to the line without quite crossing it.

Every once in a while, some high-flying tyro gets his tail caught in the crack, and the industry vibrates with a combination of schadenfreude and existential dread.

Because nobody — grifters or reporters — really expects a Tish James to come along and make the charges stick.

I think I’m in love.

 

Still on the topic of grifters, I got a laugh out of Drew Sheneman’s cartoon, in which he notes that DeSantis and Abbott can honestly say they’ve sent those Venezuelans to a far, far better place.

It could be argued, for instance, that spending money on Texas’s failing electric grid might be a smarter move than using it for election stunts, but, then, the fact that an overwhelming majority of people support a woman’s right to control her own reproductive health hasn’t stopped them from imposing a minority view on their states.

Practical considerations be damned.

I’m more concerned with the people — including some cartoonists — who continue to parrot absurd, absolute lies about the Martha’s Vineyard gambit. I worry about a nation in which people honestly believe such transparent, hateful nonsense.

 

For that matter, I’m puzzled by Floridians who take pride in having fled Castro, but have no compassion for those who flee the Communist government of Venezuela.

Salazar also boasted on Twitter of hating Chinese Communists, only to have users ask her why, then, she voted against the CHIPS act to bring high-tech production home.

Silly question. It’s all about team loyalty.

We don’t care if they win or lose or cheat or play fair, as long as they’re on our team.

 

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