… although it may or may not be a shark. Marine biologists say the dorsal fin is wrong.

Tarpon, maybe? But still, that’s one big backyard fish.

Legends of backyard sharks creep in after every storm, but this is the real deal.


It was a bad day for Trump. It was a far worse day for Judge Cannon in Florida. The appeals court ruled that every element of Judge Cannon’s ruling was incorrect, and totally agreed with the DoJ in every particular.

Trump’s declassification argument was ruled (1) unproved; and (2) even if it had been proved, irrelevant. It is irrelevant for two reasons: (1) declassification does not impact the content of the documents, and none of the cited criminal statutes are affected by whether any documents are classified; (2) even if everything was declassified, the documents would still belong to the United States, not to Trump, and the government agents therefore had the right, and obligation, to seize them.

The appeal was reviewed by a three-judge panel, two of whom were Trump appointees.

There is another issue with declassification that nobody has mentioned but (surprisingly) Bill Barr. If Trump did in fact declassify some documents that include material that needs to be secret for the security of the United States, thus making them accessible to anyone through the freedom of information act, that would be an act of recklessness more dangerous than anything else Trump has ever done.

To make an extreme example, suppose some documents showed that Al-Qaeda was developing a nuclear weapon, based on a tip by our spy within Al Qaeda. If declassification allowed Al-Qaeda to find out about the spy and to move their base of operations, and thus to continue the operation while eliminating our eyes on it, that would be providing aid and comfort to an enemy of the United States.

Declassifying that kind of information would meet the precise constitutional definition of treason. If I were in his shoes, I’d be less concerned with a charge of mishandling some papers than a charge of treason. I think it would be wise of him to drop that “I declassified everything” argument.

But then again, when has he ever been wise?

Note: The fact that somebody has the POWER to do something does not automatically make it legal. A President of the United States has pretty much unlimited power to grant federal pardons, but if he offered to grant pardons for ten million dollars each, it would still be corrupt and would be prosecuted (after the President left office) under the RICO and other statutes.

Similarly, the Vice-President has the POWER to break a tie in the Senate, but if she were to do so in return for a massive kickback from the Pharma companies, it would be criminal.

The same logic applies to declassification. If the Presidential declassification of a necessarily secret document provides aid and comfort to America’s enemies … well, he has the POWER to do that, but it could be an act of treason.

(Those are hypothetical arguments. I have no idea what is actually in the secret papers because … well, mainly because if a schmuck like me knew, they wouldn’t be very secret, would they?)

HUMOROUS SIDEBAR: I assume that back in his school days, Trump’s excuse for not having his homework was that he did it in his head. Today he said there is no documentation of declassification because he did it in his head!

“If you’re the president of the United States, you can declassify just by saying, ‘It’s declassified.’ Even by thinking about it.”

He also speculated that the FBI may have been looking in his desk for the missing Hilary Clinton e-mails, a speculation which is utterly demented even by his own lofty standards.


Although the words below were composed two years ago, I think Charles Pierce wrote the appropriate eulogy:

“If a more sanctimonious toad than Kenneth Starr ever has crawled through American politics, I’m hard-pressed to know who it was.”

Despite his often pious public pronouncements, Starr simply had no moral compass at all. He once wrote a letter of support for convicted and confessed pedophile Christopher Kloman, who was sentenced to 43 years in prison, despite Starr’s absurd suggestion that a more appropriate punishment would be “community service.” He didn’t have to make such an argument – he was not on the defense team. He just felt it was an appropriate recommendation to provide justice for a man who was convicted of molesting five children, accompanied by “strong evidence” pointing to the abuse of 26 more, with the accusations ranging from inappropriate touching to rape.

But then again, seeking sweetheart deals for child molesters was really Starr’s specialty. He also helped to secure a ludicrously lenient deal for the notorious Jeffrey Epstein, and was removed as President of Baylor when he did his best to sweep a campus rape scandal under the rug.

Satchel Paige, possibly America’s greatest pitcher and certainly its greatest philosopher, once said of his deeply lined face, “We seen some sights, it and I.”

Queen Liz saw some sights herself.

When she assumed the throne, her Prime Minister was Winston Churchill, and Stalin was Russia’s evil dictator du jour. Mao Tse-Tung was China’s leader and David Ben-Gurion was Israel’s PM. Harry Truman was President of the USA and Le Grand Charles would not be the President of France for another six years.

In the entire history of our world, only one head of state ever ruled longer, France’s famous Louis XIV, and Liz was even closing in on the Sun King, but now she’ll have to settle for second.

The new king is officially styled Charles III. He already owns a record of his own. No monarch in English history first assumed the throne so late in life. In fact, nobody ever came close. King Chuck broke the previous record by nine years. King William IV, son of Mad King George, ascended to the throne at 64 in 1830. He took over when his older brother died with no living legitimate children. (Although he seemed to have plenty of offspring. Long story for another day.)

Far be it from me to debate Almighty Science or Almighty Headlines (the real culprit here, for oversimplifying the study’s conclusions), but I think the differentiation might not be in degree of motivation, but the target of that motivation. Yes, I would be just as motivated if I were stoned, but instead of being motivated to code the blog, drive to the store to get things I need, or solve some fun logic puzzles, I would be motivated to watch some comedies, eat some pizza and take a little nap, and I would probably be much happier than I am at a keyboard.

By the way, where would jokesters be without new studies? The studies, and the often errant headlines describing them, are the very lifeblood of humor for people like Seth Meyers (yes, and me).

So, a prominent figure who opposed Putin has died. There’s a shocker.

According to his company’s statement, Maganov “passed away following a severe illness.” However, the Russian news agency Interfax reported that he died after falling from a window.

That all makes sense. They didn’t say he died FROM the severe illness, just “following” it. Here’s my theory: the dizziness from the severe illness caused him to lose his balance and fall from the window. That could happen to anyone.

Well, anyone in Russia.

Philadelphia was rated the rudest.

Who knows? Could be, I guess. Philly has always had this reputation. It’s the city where they once booed Santa Claus, and my dad claimed that they booed him for “only” hitting a ground-rule double when he was playing for the legendary Philadelphia Cheesesteaks. Of course, if you are familiar with my dad’s stories from reading this blog over the years, you’ll know that almost nothing he ever said in his life was true or even close to it, so there is no reason to expect an exception here, but that Santa thing is true, more or less.

Note to those unfamiliar with the Danny Sparrow stories:

I was fortunate enough to have the greatest big brother any man ever had. What made it complicated is that he was actually my dad, a fun-lovin’, tale-tellin’, incredibly entertaining man who was on the one hand totally irresponsible, but on the other hand, and for pretty much the same reasons, always fun to be with. I gave a more serious explanation of my complicated relationship with my dad in my review of Big Fish, a movie which felt like a Danny Sparrow biopic.

The whistleblower claims that Twitter has lied about the number of accounts consisting of bots or false identities.

It doesn’t seem all that difficult to understand that Twitter’s claims about genuine, human accounts must be false. If you’ve ever had a fairly large following on Twitter, as I once had, you realize that your number of followers was suspiciously large and took completely impossible leaps from time to time. I discussed this at length some time ago.

But if you don’t believe me, just do a search for “buy Twitter followers.” I just did. One company claims that they will deliver you 100,000 followers in about two weeks for $500, starting in ten minutes, at the rate of several hundred per hour. Those followers may or may not be false identities and/or bots, but the number is obviously a bunch of hanky-panky, and if I sell advertising on my Twitter account based on reaching those 100,000 followers, my claim might be literally correct, but would be bogus.

The Presidential Records Act is clear in one way: Trump absolutely does not have the right to retain any of his Presidential records in his personal possession. In that regard at least, there is no debate. The rest of the issues are complicated.

In simplest terms, while Trump clearly does not have the right to possess the documents, he may be able to keep most people from accessing them.

The archivist can’t just allow public access to records without warning. If he is to make a previously undisclosed document public, he must make certain filings to that effect, including a notice to the affected former President, who has a certain time period to file his claims of privilege.

However …

The current President is the one who determines whether to uphold a former President’s claim. Executive privilege is held by the current executive branch, not by a private citizen, so Trump’s claim of privilege is valid only if Biden upholds it, which he might well do if it involves secret matters of national security, but which he obviously would not do if it involves Trump committing or conspiring to commit a crime. In between those two clear-cut extremes, there may be many shades of gray.

However …

Biden’s decision can be appealed, and the archivist can be forbidden by a court order from making the documents public.

(c)

(1) If a claim of constitutionally based privilege against disclosure of a Presidential record (or reasonably segregable part of a record) is asserted under subsection (b) by a former President, the Archivist shall consult with the incumbent President, as soon as practicable during the period specified in paragraph (2)(A), to determine whether the incumbent President will uphold the claim asserted by the former President.

(2) Not later than the end of the 30-day period beginning on the date of which the Archivist receives notification from a former President on the assertion of a claim of constitutionally based privilege against disclosure, the Archivist shall provide notice to the former President and the public of the decision of the incumbent President under paragraph (1) regarding the claim.

If the incumbent President determines not to uphold the claim of privilege asserted by the former President, the Archivist shall release the Presidential record subject to the claim at the end of the 90-day period beginning on the date on which the Archivist received notification of the claim, unless otherwise directed by a court order in an action initiated by the former President.

However …

Even if a former President’s claims of privilege are upheld, his records can still be accessed as evidence in a criminal proceeding (subject to a court order), and those records are always available to the current President, since he needs them to conduct the duties of his office. (Most obviously, the current President can’t know whether to uphold a predecessor’s claim of privilege on a specific document if he doesn’t know what is in the document.)

In summary, there is no procedure that will allow Trump to regain possession of the documents, and there is no procedure that will allow Trump to shelter the documents from Biden’s eyes, but Trump may be able to keep Congress, the press and the public from access to those documents, subject to review by Biden and the courts.

“By 2040, if population trends continue, 70% of Americans will be represented by just 30 senators, and 30% of Americans by 70 senators.”

In contrast to the underepresented majority, the 30% of Americans represented by those 70 senators would be white, rural, and poorly educated.

Even if the remaining 70% could manage to elect a President, it would be meaningless if the opposing party can control the House and 67 senators because, in the worst case scenario, the President and Vice-President could be impeached and convicted almost instantly after their inaugurations, thus making the Speaker of the House the President. (Per the Constitution, the House need not choose a member as its speaker. It could, for example, choose the person who just loss the election for the presidency.)

It is not realistic to expect the House of Representatives to maintain the sanity of the political process, because that body is increasingly filled with extremists from both sides of the spectrum, thanks to the widespread gerrymandering of “safe” districts.

“Sean Hannity claims that Trump being sent to jail would not necessarily be a road block of any kind in terms of him deciding to run for president in 2024.”

Interesting point and basically correct.

Eugene V. Debs was in a penitentiary, serving a ten-year sentence, when he lost the 1920 presidential election.

Professor Laurence Tribe of Harvard Law, a pre-eminent constitutional scholar, has pointed out that Trump could run and even govern from his cell, quipping that Trump could even deliver the State of the Union address ‘via Zoom while wearing orange prison garb.’” Other legal scholars seem to be in unanimous agreement.

The original Constitution, amended by the 14th and 25th Amendments, covers the qualifications for the office of President, as well as the reasons and procedures for removing him or her. The bottom line is this: Political office is the one job where the candidate is not required to have any employment-related qualifications. You don’t need an education. You don’t need to be intelligent. You don’t need to be sane. You don’t need a clean criminal record. You can literally be in jail. As long as you will turn 35 before assuming office, have lived in the country for at least 14 years, and are a native-born citizen, you’re golden to be President as long as you win the electoral college. Basically, the President of the USA has a lower bar to clear than a KwikStop night clerk.

The 14th amendment does add another requirement:

No person shall hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same.

So Trump could be disqualified if he is convicted of that specific crime.

Some liberals have quoted 18 U.S. Code § 2071, subsection b, to say that Trump could be disqualified for mishandling the documents sought in the Mar-a-Lago raid, to wit:

Whoever, having the custody of any such record, proceeding, map, book, document, paper, or other thing, willfully and unlawfully conceals, removes, mutilates, obliterates, falsifies, or destroys the same, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both; and shall forfeit his office and be disqualified from holding any office under the United States.

While it is technically correct that Trump could have violated this law, and that a conviction would disqualify him under the law’s terms, that paragraph is clearly unconstitutional. If Trump were convicted of that and wanted to run for President again, he would petition the courts, and the Supreme Court would allow him to run without even debating it. The Constitution specifies the requirements to install or remove a President, and the Congress can’t declare new procedures on its own. That’s obviously a violation of the separation of powers, but over and above that it’s just plain silly. If the Congress had unchallenged power to establish new requirements for the Presidency, today’s Democrats could write a new law disqualifying anyone who was over 180 pounds. Such shenanigans are unconstitutional, and the Constitution itself is difficult to amend.