Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Whatever Happened To That Democratic Blue Wave? Blame Madam Speaker.

So much for that Blue Wave.   
In the seven months since Democrats swept to power in the House, two unmovable obstacles to taking decisive action to rein in, if not remove, a rogue president who daily brings us to the precipice, have emerged.  There is, of course, Donald Trump.  And then there is Nancy Pelosi.   
America nearly went over that precipice this week, and that's just the first four days.   
On Sunday, there was Trump's vilely racist tweetstorm against The Squad, four minority Democratic congresswomen who have spoken truth to power and gotten little but grief for their principled stands.   
On Tuesday, the House passed a non-binding resolution condemning Trump's racism with a meager four out of 191 Republicans joining the Democrats amidst the inevitable lie-strewn White House pushback, including the president's pious assertion that "I don't have a racist bone in my body."   
And then on Wednesday, there was a floor vote to impeach Trump for his racist attacks with Democrats joining Republicans to scuttle the measure.   The bill died aborning, tabled by a 332-95 margin as 137 Democrats joined all 195 Republicans shortly before the racist-in-chief led a raucous reelection rally in North Carolina punctuated by his bigoted calls of "Tell them to leave!" and "Send her back!" responses targeting Representative Ilhan Omar.   
Pelosi and her Democratic leadership loyalists continue to insist that the way forward is taking a slow boat with endless committee hearings on Trump's various crimes and misdemeanors -- a war of attrition they cannot win -- and then maybe impeachment will be considered.   
Pelosi is a master parliamentarian.  She can herd cats.  Her pushbacks against The Squad are not as egregious as some make them out to be, and no the Far Left is not taking over the Democratic Party.  And she means well, something of which the president certainly cannot be accused as his destruction of American values continues apace.  But she believes that "prematurely" impeaching Trump, whatever the frick that is, would be divisive and even spell defeat in the 2020 elections.  
The problem here is twofold: That destruction is not just continuing apace.  It is accelerating.   And it is occurring with Pelosi's Democrats in disarray.   
Those Blue Wave victories and sundry stump speech promises of the winners last November to get that bastard Trump are a fleeting memory, kind of like the Dodgers winning the World Series a week before the election.  Or was it the Red Sox? 
The Democrats -- and Pelosi must share most of the blame -- keep blowing it with unforced errors. 
Their message about the powerful conclusions in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's final report on the Russia scandal were weak and confusing, which allowed Attorney General William Barr's whitewash of the report to stick.  And once it became obvious that the whitewash was working, Pelosi punted. 
There are so many Democratic-led committee hearings, subpoenas issued and rebuffed and contempt citations citationed that, as far as most observers would deduce, the slow boat is caught in a fog bank. 
Pelosi won't even consider a bill to censure the president.  "That's not on the table either," she has said reflexively.  "I think censure is just a way out.  In other words, if the goods are there, you must impeach." 
Of course impeachment would be a fraught process.  But, Madam Speaker, the goods have been hiding in plain sight for two years.   
Andrew Sullivan captures the unreality of the moment perfectly in New York magazine:
It turns out . . . the Democratic House majority didn't matter much at all. Whenever a serious administration abuse of power seems to demand investigation, Speaker Pelosi springs almost instantly into inaction.  There is nothing she won’t not do. 
Keeping Trump from winning a second term was a matter of national interest.  Now it's a matter of national emergency.  It's long past time for Pelosi to jump off the slow boat, but she won't.        

Trump May Not Be Hitler, But He's Doing A Horrifyingly Good Imitation Of Him

Donald Trump is not Adolph Hitler.  Nor was Hitler a rapacious Manhattan real estate developer and reality TV star who stole a presidential election.    
But there are deeply uncomfortable similarities between Hitler's satanic quest to Make Germany Great Again and Trump's campaign to do the same for Amerika . . . er, America. And woe to those who still don't see the similarities and the menace a Trump presidency represents in this context two and a half years since the narcissistic boy-man took and promptly violated his oath of office with a smorgasbord of pronouncements, actions and racist diatribes -- which reached a new level of repugnance lat Sunday with his racist tweetstorm against four minority congresswomen -- that are strikingly similar to those of Der Führer.    
Okay, okay.  Trump merely told the women -- recently nicknamed The Squad -- to "go back" to their "crime infested" countries, whereas Hitler packed them in boxcars and sent them to his death camps.  But to both, Caucasians are the archtypally ideal citizens while people of color are inferior and interlopers.  And worse.  
Using Nazi analogies is typically a loser's game.   
Comparing someone or something to Hitler or the Third Reich stifles debate, almost always is in bad taste and triggers inevitable side debates about whether calling someone a Nazi is as bad as calling them a "kike" or "nigger."   
Then there is Godwin's Law, which states that as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches inevitability.  
In the interests of full disclosure, I have broken what for me has been a cardinal rule about not using Nazi analogies.  This is when I have written about the Bush administration's embrace of torture techniques right out of the Nazi playbook, as well as the deafening lack of response from most Americans to this and other outrages not unlike the Germans who failed to speak out against the excesses of the Third Reich.  
My first such reference was in 2007, and I feel even more strongly now that these analogies have been apt given the circumstances, and certainly are fitting in the here and now since Trump is now so firmly ensconced in the pantheon of history's greatest racist and zenophobic madmen.  
But Mr. Godwin can rest easy, because in a coincidence that is seriously serendipitous, an acclaimed biography of Hitler makes the case that there are deep similarities between Herr Donald and Der Führer without intending to do so.    
The book is Hitler: Ascent (1889-1939) by Volker Ullrich, and the similarities -- again, without intent -- laid out by the German historian-journalist are so unsettling that there are accusations that Michiko Kakutani's September 2016 New York Times review of the book was a thinly-veiled Trump comparison at the time when he was still a long shot for the presidency.  It is not hard to see why.  This is because just about everything that Kakutani says about Ullrich's book reflects warnings that Trump should not be dismissed as just another crackpot who was born with a platinum spoon in his mouth.    
Chillingly, Ullrich sets up his 1,008-page portrait by stripping away the mythology that Hitler created of himself in Mein Kampf as just another talented guy.  (The comparison's to The Art of the Deal, Trump's Mein Kampf, which means "My Struggle," are mindblowing.)  
Ullrich warns in an introduction that "In a sense, Hitler will be normalized -- although this will not make him seem more 'normal.' If anything, he will emerge as even more horrific."   Ditto for The Donald.  
Let's go to the comparisons -- yet again without intent -- in Ullrich's own words:  
Hitler was an egomaniac who "only loved himself," a narcissist with a taste for self-dramatization and a "characteristic fondness for superlatives" who had a "keen eye for the strengths and weaknesses of other people."  
* Hitler had a "bottomless mendacity" that took advantage of the latest technology to spread his message and "was so thoroughly untruthful that he could no longer recognize the difference between lies and truth."  
* Hitler was an effective orator and adept at assuming various masks and feeding off the energy of his audiences, concealing his anti-Semitism beneath a "mask of moderation" when trying to win the support of middle-class liberals.  
* Hitler specialized in big, theatrical rallies staged with spectacular elements and adapted the contents of his speeches "to suit the tastes of his lower-middle-class, nationalist-conservative, ethnic-chauvinist and anti-Semitic listeners."  
* Hitler peppered his speeches with coarse phrases and put-downs of hecklers and fomented chaos by playing to crowds' fears and resentments in "offering himself as a visionary leader who could restore law and order."  
* Hitler presented himself in messianic terms, promising "to lead Germany to a new era of national greatness," although he typically was vague about his actual plans while painting "the present day in hues that were all the darker."  
* Hitler virtually wrote the book on modern demagoguery by using repeated emotion-based "mantralike phrases" consisting largely "of accusations, vows of revenge and promises for the future."  
* Hitler's ascension was abetted by the naïveté of adversaries who failed to understand his ruthlessness and tenacity, as well as partners who believed "he was not serious or that they could exert a moderating influence on him."  
There is another comparison to be made between Hitler and Trump: Cowardice.  
Like Hitler, Trump never does dirty work himself.   And Trump hides behind his enforcers, as did Hitler, while even his setbacks -- be it his Muslim ban, stanching the flow of jobs overseas or census citizenship question, to name but two examples -- merely embolden him to new and greater outrages.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Nature Marches On Relentlessly & Now It's Taking Back My Beloved Old House

It was, after all, only a house, but I loved it with all my heart.   
brought my newborn children home to its welcoming embrace, cherished it in summer heat and winter cold, and worked tirelessly to keep it from the fate that befalls far too many historic structures, in this case a house that rose from from the verdant creek lands of southeastern Chester County, Pennsylvania over 300 years ago.   
But the love was not reciprocated and the house was killed twice over.    
It was first killed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which was gifted what is . . . or was formally known as the John Evans House and the lands around it by an act of Congress.  Its response was to willfully neglect an historic structure that predates the commonwealth itself by nearly 75 years and then list it for demolition.  And then it was killed again in September 2017 by what in all likelihood was an arsonist. 
But nature marches on relentlessly.  Now my beloved old house is slowly but inextricably being taken back, witness the vines cascading down the walls and the fern growing from the rubble of the cellar floor beneath what was once the living room (top photo) and the vines insinuating themselves into what was once the dining room (bottom photo).   
Rick Darke took these haunting (to me anyway) photos on a recent morning.  Besides being a friend, Rick is a landscape ethicist "whose work blends art, ecology, horticulture, and cultural geography in the creation, conservation and management of broadly functional living landscapes," as a blurb on one of his several outstanding books explains. 
Rick, who certainly would know, had this to say about about that nature-taking-back thing:
The plant growing from the basement floor level in line with the fireplaces is not a fern, but staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina), a locally indigenous species.  
Sad as the state of the house is, there's something sunny in the resiliency of local vegetation.  Unfortunately this year's abundant rains have accelerated the establishment of opportunists including the sumac, various grasses and multiple vines including oriental bittersweet and mile-a-minute vine.  The vines are especially damaging to the mortar.   
The building still seems sturdy enough to be a candidate for stabilization and preservation as such.  Not that there seem to be any funds.  
As I wrote here, despite the deterioration of the roof, attic and floors, the walls of the house remain structurally sound and survived the fire pretty much intact, a monument to the built-to-last craftsmanship of the 18th and 19th centuries.  And despite much hankie-wringing in recent years among wannabe preservationists that the house was about to fall down, no such thing was going to happen. 
But Rick is right.  There are no funds. 

Monday, July 15, 2019

Trump Is A Racist Pig & Republicans Are Complicit. What Are We Going To Do?

The most shocking thing about Donald Trump's explicitly racist tweets targeting four minority Democratic congresswomen and the near universal silence with which groveling Republican Party leaders greeted them is that they were not shocking.   
It is beyond time to stop belaboring the obvious. 
If you are a Republican, even a sweet, apple pie-baking church lady who never has a discouraging word to say about anybody, you are a racist by association and should be deeply ashamed.   
If you are a Democrat, even a sweet, apple pie-baking church lady who never has a discouraging word to say about anybody, you should be deeply ashamed if you don't speak out loudly. 
By telling the four women -- three of whom were U.S. born and the fourth a childhood migrant --  to "go back" to where they came from in a Sunday tweetstorm, Trump eviscerated the last shred of decency we expect in our presidents by implying that anyone who is not white and native born has no place in his -- which is to say Republican -- America. 
What exactly did Trump tweet in targeting Blue Wave victors Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna S. Pressley of Massachusetts? 
How about:
So interesting to see "Progressive" Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly . . . 
. . . and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run.  Why don't they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.  Then come back and show us how. . . . 
. . . it is done.  These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!
Ocasio-Cortez's parents are of Puerto Rican descent, Omar emigrated from Somalia, Tlaib’s parents are Palestinian immigrants and Pressley is black.  
The four congresswomen said that they were not surprised by the attacks and vowed not to be silenced by them.  "This is the agenda of white nationalists. . . . This is his plan to pit us against one another," Omar said. 
Beyond the in-your-face vileness of Trump's libels and the struck deaf-and-dump non-response of Republicans who will abide anything the president says and does so long as he hews to their conservative political agenda, what is so utterly mind blowing is that identity-politics bigotry is the law of the land for the president and the onetime Party of Lincoln a half century after the civil rights movement of the 1960s.   That the consciousness raising and signal accomplishments of that era were pretty much for naught.   
And thanks, Nancy Pelosi, your altruistic intentions notwithstanding, for your knack of playing into Trump's hands.   
Please, dear House majority leader, try to remember that the Blue Wave is not a dandruff treatment shampoo the next time Trump baits your caucus and the Democratic Party, because so far he's succeeding in directing the anger of the AOC bloc and other progressives against you and not where it belongs -- against him.  Internecine squabbling is exactly what Trump wants. And isn't he clever in diverting attention from his sexploits with former fuck buddy Jeffrey Epstein?   
So how, beyond recalling which "shithole" country your ancestors might have been from, do you fight back? 
Although I have advocated ignoring Trump's blasts in the past, we must move beyond our weariness, and what must be done is actually very simple:
Demand that congressional Democrats begin drawing up articles of impeachment against Trump and that one of the articles charges him with violating his oath of office because of his overt racism. 
Work to deny Trump the moderate votes he must have if he is to be reelected, and he will be denied a second term if his toxic brew of hatred is kept front and center in the 15-month run-up to the election. 
Okay, so maybe these things are easier said than done. 
But let's be perfectly clear that while Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan found ways to appeal to white resentment, Trump isn't even trying to finesse his racism.  Remember his attacks on Barack Obama, the Kenyan-born Islamofascist predecessor, that began long before he even ran for president? 
Trump's racism is all the more vile because it's an in-your-face tactic to hold his "base," that all-too-real one-third of the electorate.  No dog-whistling here. 
The president's agenda rests on the idea that the boundaries of rights and citizenship are conterminous with race, notes Jamelle Bouie in a New York Times op-ed: "Those within Trump's boundaries enjoy the fruits of American freedom, while those outside them face the full force of American repression. White European immigrants like the first lady, Melania Trump, are welcomed; dark-skinned migrants from Latin America are put into cages and camps."   
What is especially pathetic about the Republicans who should be pushing back against Trump and the racists in their midst is that, contrary to appearances, they haven't gone mute.  Witness the indignant cries from party leaders whenever Trump goes off on John McCain, the late war hero and GOP lion. 
When Republican pols crawled out of their hidey-holes and finally began finding their voices on Monday afternoon, they were so hard up for explanations that most simply said Trump really hadn't said what he really had said. 
There were exceptions. 
In welcome -- if predictable -- remarks, Justin Amash of Michigan called Trump's directive to the freshman Democrats "racist and disgusting."  The son of Palestinian and Syrian immigrants, Amash was the only Republican to publicly support impeachment before he announced earlier this month that he was leaving the party. 
Even Chip Roy of Texas, a freshman congressman from Texas, fouled his message in being one of the very few Republicans to criticize Trump.  Roy said the president was "wrong to say any American citizen, whether in Congress or not, has any 'home' besides the U.S.," yet he agreed with Trump that lawmakers "who refuse to defend America should be sent home." 
But leave it to Lindsey Graham, fresh off a golf outting with Trump, to hit the perfect note. Not only did the president's favorite lawn ornament refuse to condemn the racist tweets, he called the four congresswomen a "bunch of Communists.  They're calling the guards along our border, the border patrol agents, 'concentration camp guards.'  They accuse people who support Israel of doing it for the Benjamins.  They're anti-Semitic.  They're anti-America."  
All of which Trump, of course, immediately retweeted. 
And kudos to that ever vigilant mainscream media, which just can't bring itself to call Trump a racist head-on, instead tippy-toeing around the rhetoric of a boy-man who has lied over 10,000 times since becoming president and predictably declared that it was the four congresswomen who were the real racists. 
Peter Baker, The Times' chief White House correspondent, was a rare exception, writing of the president's latest strut on the dark side, "When it comes to race, Mr. Trump plays with fire like no other president in a century. No other modern president, he wrote, has "fanned the flames as overtly, relentlessly and even eagerly as Mr. Trump."   
Early in the first part of PBS's magnificent new "Chasing the Moon" docuseries, an awestruck television commentator watching the historic launch of Apollo 11 in July 1969 declares in reverential tones that "This is just perhaps a new chapter in the evolution of the species."  In the context of racism, along with a bunch of other stuff, how utterly wrong he was.
If we don't fight back, how else do we not trash the memories of Dr. Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers, Addie Mae Collins and the more than 40 other martyrs who were killed during the 1960s in the struggle for equal rights?  How can we even look at ourselves in the mirror? 
Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, Tlaib and Pressley are not just the future of the Democratic Party. They are the future of a better America, and defending them while fighting the abhorrent Trump and Republican complicity is an act of patriotism.     

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Broccoli Pesto: A Deliciously Different & Nutritious Twist On An Italian Recipe

This time of the year means different things to different people, but for us it's hot days with abundant sunshine, generally cool evenings, walks with the woofs and dips in the mountain spring-fed pool.  And it's also time to think about harvesting the first of several batches of basil in the next few days and making pesto. 
With minor tweaks, we've been using the recipe below for years, the major difference between it and traditional Italian pestos being the addition of broccoli, which adds a nutritious and tasty but subtle element while cutting some of the bitterness of the basil.  (Meat eaters may want to go full Tuscan and add a bit of prosciutto.) 
Two caveats: 
Pine nuts not harvested and processed in China, which exports too many contaminated foodstuffs for our taste, are outrageously expensive, but there really are no substitutes if you want a genuine pesto taste.  Some thrifty chefs use chopped walnuts, but they don't quite measure up for us.  
And making single-serving batches of pesto is labor intensive, so our recipe is for a larger quantity.  This means shopping for basil at a farmer's market or co-op farm if you don't grow it in quantity yourself.  
The following recipe can be reduced by half, or for that matter any amount, but the idea is to make pesto in bulk. 
3 Full-leafed basil plants = 10 cups of slightly compressed basil leaves with stems and any flower heads removed.  
1lb Broccoli with stalks trimmed and steamed, then chopped into smallish pieces.  
3.5oz Pine nuts.  
1 Medium-sized head of garlic, or about 8~10 cloves.  
1 cup-plus Extra virgin olive oil.  
2.5oz-plus Parmigiano-Reggiano or Italian shredded cheese of your choice.  
Serve with farfalle, fusilli or a pasta of your choice. 
Depending on the size of your food processor, make pesto in one or two batches by first putting the pine nuts and garlic cloves in, pulse until they have begun to break down, then add the basil, chopped broccoli, olive oil and cheese to the mix and resume pulsing until the ingredients are thoroughly mixed but not pureed.  Do not be concerned if it appears that you have more basil than the processor can handle.  Basil is mostly water and will soon break down and fit comfortably in the processor. 
Taste and add a bit more oil and cheese, if needed or desired. 
This recipe makes 4 cups of finished pesto.  One cup is perfect for a pound of pasta, so put that aside for the evening meal.  At serving, drain the cooked pasta, put it back in the pot immediately and thoroughly stir in the pesto.  Sprinkle servings at the table with additional cheese, if desired.  
Put the remaining three cups in freezer bags and freeze them.  Pesto freezes beautifully and you'll have the pleasure of a delicious and nutritious green meal in the dead of winter.  

Friday, July 12, 2019

(UPDATED) Acosta Is Yet Another Casualty Of Flying Too Close To Trump's Sun

Donald Trump's Health and Human Services secretary was forced out for racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars in travel bills for private flights.  He fired his secretary of state for wanting to get tough with Russia.  His EPA administrator and Interior secretary had so many ethics conflicts that they were really stinking up the joint and had to go.  His attorney general got the ax for refusing to break the law.  His Defense secretary couldn't abide the president's foreign adventurism and split.  Then his acting Defense secretary left to spend mote time with his family (gak!) because of domestic abuse allegations.  His Homeland Security secretary quit amidst the uproar over migrant concentration camps. But his Labor secretary has broken new ground in a profoundly dysfunctional administration where no fewer than an astonishing eight Cabinet members and 46 other ranking officials have now been forced out or resigned. 
It is not surprising that Alexander Acosta did not survive the shitshow over the secret 2008 plea agreement he brokered with the powerful lawyers for sex trafficker and onetime Trump pal Jeffrey Epstein in South Florida. 
Acosta submitted his resignation to Trump on Friday morning, and while the president publicly said he didn't want Acosta to go, he was privately unhappy with how the Labor secretary was handling the uproar and how it might effect his struggling reelection campaign, so it is probable that he was forced out.   
The likelihood of Acosta not surviving increased by the day as details trickle out about the sweetheart deal he brokered for the politically-connected maybe billionaire, which turned a potential life sentence into a wrist slap and enabled the dutiful Acosta to get his ticket punched for bigger and better things in the Republican Party, which eventually included a post in Trump's revolving-door Cabinet. 
Then there are the longer term screw-the-victims consequences of that horrific deal which continued right up to Epstein's arrest last Saturday as his lawyers continued to exert pressure to get him out from under a legal cloud and he continued to live a lavish life of impunity.
Acosta was caught in the harsh glare of that most malleable and elusive of commodities in Trumpworld -- the truth. 
This is because a new sex-trafficking indictment against an unrepentent Epstein -- who watched the ticker tape parade up Broadway on Wednesday for the Women's World Cup champion U.S. team from his holding cell at the Manhattan Detention Center, if at all -- charges him with running a sex-trafficking operation that brought dozens of girls as young as 14 to his opulent mansion on the Upper East Side of New York where he could satisfy his cravings and pay some of the the girls to recruit other girls in a kind of carnal pyramid scheme.   
The new indictment is a consequence of an award-winning series by Miami Herald investigative reporting ace Julie Brown that included interviews with Epstein's victims and the seamy details of the secret plea agreement. 
Brown repeatedly sought comment from Acosta and he repeatedly ducked her, blowing an opportunity to speak out against sex trafficking.  And rather unbelievably, he again blew that opportunity on Wednesday afternoon at a press conference where he "took a page from Donald Trump’s sexual assault impunity playbook," as Slate's Dahlia Lithwick aptly put it, and dug a deeper hole for himself by refusing to resign or apologize while inferring that Epstein's victims were to blame.   
Trump, of course, never apologizes and demands that his lackeys also never do since loyalty always is more important than doing the right thing.  Even in a case in which possibly hundreds of young women and girls were victimized.  As Trump told journalist Bob Woodward last year in a fit of candor, "You’ve got to deny, deny, deny and push back on these women.  If you admit to anything and any culpability, then you're dead.  That was a big mistake you made."
Trump, as we have been reminded, was a long time skirt chaser and Mar-a-Lago party animal along with Epstein.   The president once called him a "terrific guy" and "It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side."  But now says, "I was not a fan of his."  
"Facts are important and facts are being overlooked," Acosta told reporters at his press conference without saying what those facts are in asserting that he had secured a reasonable sentence facing an uncertain trial with reluctant witnesses.   
"These cases are complex, especially when they involve children," he added.  "I wanted to help them.  That is why we intervened.  And that's what the prosecutors of my office did — they insisted that he go to jail and put the world on notice that he was and is a sexual predator." 
Alas, the world was unaware, as were Epstein's victims, that Acosta allowed Epstein's attorneys an unusual amount of control over the deal's terms. 
Brown wrote that Florida officials believed the evidence against Epstein was already "overwhelming, including phone call records, copies of written phone messages from the girls found in Epstein’s trash and Epstein's flight logs." 
Then came the secret plea agreement, which rather unbelievably allowed Epstein to serve 13 months not breaking rocks in a penitentiary yard but lounging in the private wing of a county jail with the right to leave for up to 12 hours six days a week so he could hang out at the scene of the crime -- his opulent Palm Beach mansion.  The deal effectively ended an FBI investigation, and under its generous terms Epstein and four alleged accomplices were shielded from far tougher federal prosecution.  Until now.  
Acosta described his so-called predicament as an either-or situation -- a plea agreement or state charges that were insufficient or a federal trial that might fail.   
But as Aaron Blake notes in The Washington Post:
Why did that decision have to be made right then and there?  If the evidence wasn't there yet to be confident in a large-scale federal case, why not investigate further and hopefully uncover what federal prosecutors in New York revealed on Monday?
The answer, of course, is that Acosta didn't want a large-scale federal case on top of Florida prosecutors' overwhelming evidence because Epstein's lawyers were rightfully fearful of the consequences, so a sweetheart plea agreement was struck, a deal that smells like it could have included a bribe.  We shall see.
As shitshows go, Acosta's was a multi-layered beaut.   
Although few people are likely to make the connection, those "Equal pay!" chants that have become the mantra of that championship U.S. team point up not just an egregious wage disparity between woman soccer pros and their male counterparts, but in society as a whole.   
Whose job is it to address such matters?   Acosta.  But then the attitude of the Trump administration and Republican Party towards women is not exactly a state secret.  
Then there is Trump's slowly dawning realization that his re-election is in grave jeopardy, hence his hilarious attempt to attract the moderate voters he desperately needs by reinventing himself as an environmental champion.  The reality, of course, is that he has been committed to destroying the environmental reforms of his predecessors.  In that context, sticking with Acosta was not a winner because it was likely to tick off moderate woman voters in particular, and rightfully so.    
Anyhow, my guess is that Trump stuck with his Labor secretary until the awful consequences of a plea agreement made with Acosta's acquiescence started to pile up. 
To wit:
The New York Times revealed that in 2011, Jennifer Gaffney, a prosecutor in the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., argued before State Supreme Court Justice Ruth Pickholz that Epstein's sex-offender status should be reduced to the lowest level, which would have kept him from being listed on a registry of sex offenders for life.  An appalled Pickholz rejected the request out of hand. 
"I have to tell you, I'm a little overwhelmed because I have never seen a prosecutor's office do anything like this," the Pickholz told Gaffney.  
The New York Post revealed that Epstein never once checked in with New York City police in the eight-plus years through to his arrest although Pickholz had ordered him to do so every 90 days as a registered sex offender. 
New York magazine revealed that the Department of Justice's Office of Professional Responsibility is investigating Acosta's handling of the case while SDNY prosecutors will be presenting evidence about Epstein's conduct that was the subject of the plea agreement. 
CNN revealed that there are many more victims of Epstein than have been reported, leading prosecutors to allege that he "created a vast network of underage victims for him to sexually exploit" in New York and Florida. 
And The Guardian revealed that Acosta tried to slash by 80 percent Labor Department funding dedicated to combating human trafficking.  When Congress balked, he returned to Capitol Hill two months later to advocate a second budget cut just as deeply.   
Meanwhile, Brown told CNN's Alysin Camerota that Acosta's investigators did such a slipshod job that Epstein's computers, a rich trove for SDNY prosecutors, were never subpoenaed as Epstein's victims were kept in the dark about the plea agreement. 
On Thursday, Epstein's attorneys asked a federal judge to allow him to be freed on bail  in advance of his trial on the new sex trafficking charges, saying that he was willing to put up his Manhattan mansion and private jet as collateral and agree to home confinement and GPS monitoring. 
The attorneys attacked the prosecutors' case and signaled they intend to vigorously challenge whether the charges are legal given his Florida guilty plea.   
Attempting to rebut the government's characterization of Epstein as an impenitent sex criminal, they described him as a "self-made" man who was being held "on dated allegations for which he was already convicted and punished."

Free Joe's Papers! What Are Biden & The University Of Delaware Trying To Hide?

Joe Biden is running on his record in his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination and a shot at a vulnerable Donald Trump in 2020.  Biden's largely positive record as a senator and Barack Obama's vice president is by far his greatest asset, which makes the decision by the University of Delaware to renege on its commitment to make Biden's senatorial papers public this year all the more confounding.  And deeply troubling because that decision -- almost certainly made at the request of Biden himself -- will backfire hugely, turning a bad decision into a controversy that didn't have to happen, tarnishing both candidate and institution.  The headline for that controversy might be What Is Joe Biden Hiding? 
The answer is that Biden probably isn't hiding anything since much of his public record is available anecdotally in newspaper and other media accounts.   
But Biden's senatorial papers, which he donated to his undergraduate alma mater in 2011 and consist of a mind-boggling 1,875 record center cartons and 415 gigabytes of electronic records, provide an intimate behind-the-scenes look at his 36-year Senate career and role in many of the biggest Washington, national and international stories of the era. 
The papers, which include committee reports, drafts and mark-ups of legislation, accounts of meetings with world leaders and correspondence, are a treasure trove for academics and historians.  And journalists fact-checking Biden's stump speech claims for misrepresentations and attendant controversies.  These include his mid-1970s stand on forced busing to desegregate northern Delaware schools, the target of a recent attack by Kamala Harris, his controversial 1994 crime bill, 1982 and 2006 reauthorizations of the Voting Rights Act, and his 1991 grilling of Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings, and early support for the war in Iraq. 
This controversy in the making is deeply personal for me.   
I knew Biden when we were teenaged beach volleyball combatants on the sands of Rehoboth Beach.  His parents and mine were friends.  We both attended the University of Delaware, and serendipitously I worked in the university's Special Collections Department with students and visiting scholars through most of the 2000s, including the period when Biden's immense collection began arriving by the truckload and was stored in newly-installed moveable stacks in a basement room of Morris Library (photo, right) as the enormous process of cataloging it got underway. 
Secret Service marksmen were on the roofs of adjacent campus buildings in what was a celebratory if surreal day when Biden ceremonially presented his papers to then-university president Andrew Harker in a packed Mitchell Hall on September 16, 2011. 
Harker thanked Biden for providing "an abundance of materials that will illuminate decades of U.S. policy and diplomacy and the vice president’s critical role in its development." 
While Harker somewhat misspoke about Biden's tenure as vice president since a decision has not been made regarding what institution might get his vice presidential papers and that in all likelihood would be a Biden presidential library if he wins the nomination and defeats Trump, the terms of the release of his senatorial papers was unambiguous. 
Beginning with that 2011 ceremony and for eight years thereafter, the university described the terms of the agreement on its website as keeping the papers sealed "for two years after Biden retires from public office." 
But a funny thing happened on April 24, the day before Biden announced his presidential campaign. 
The university suddenly changed the way that it described those terms and instead of citing Biden's departure from "public office" as the trigger to open the collection, it said the collection would not be made public until two years after Biden "retires from public life" or after December 31, 2019, whichever is later. 
It did not define what is considered "public life," but when contacted by The Washington Post, which published a lengthy story on the switcheroo on Thursday, university spokeswoman Andrea Boyle Tippett told reporter Matt Viser that “The entire collection is unavailable." 
"Its contents will become available, as the website indicates, when Mr. Biden retires from public life.  As he is currently running for office, he is in public life," Tippett explained.   "Since retirement for anyone, not just public figures, takes different forms, I can't speculate beyond that." 
The university has denied public records requests for copies of the initial agreement that Biden and Harker signed, as well as any changes to it, and Tippett says that "the gift agreement signed when the papers were donated is not a public document." 
I attended (but did not graduate from) the University of Delaware in the late 1960s when it was pretty much a cow college with a highly-rated chemical engineering department, a product of the university's close affiliation with the Du Pont Company and family. 
In the intervening years, the university has grown by leaps and bounds.  Today it is a world-class institution with many fine academic departments, a national championship-caliber football team and perhaps the most beautiful college campus in America.   Morris Library (photo, below) and Special Collections, a library within the library with hundreds of thousands of books, many of them very old and very rare, and millions of manuscript pages, have grown with the university. 
Special Collections attracts scholars from around the world on the strength of some of its collections.  These include Irish and pre-Raphaelite literature, Abraham Lincoln books and ephemera, Delawareana and early science and technology texts, as well as its reputation for public service, which is to say openness.   
In my 11 years in Special Collections' Public Service Unit, many scholars told me that they had made the long trip to Newark not just because of the jewels in the collection, but the willingness of the staff to make available its holdings in contrast to many British and European libraries where the staffs make accessing and using materials excruciatingly difficult. 
(My most memorable interaction in the service of openness involved a Catholic nun visiting from California for a civil rights conference on campus who asked to see Special Collections' exceeding rare copy of a signed broadside edition of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation.  When the priceless document was brought into the Reading Room for her to examine and the box in which it was stored was opened, she wept tears of joy.)  
All of this makes the decision to keep the Biden collection closed, as well as the secrecy surrounding that decision, all the more galling. 
The Biden campaign says no change has been made to the agreement since September 2016, although it would not say what change was made then.  The campaign said it had nothing to do with the change announced by the university in April. 
"They [institutions] aren't keen on opening a lot of information when someone is running for office," Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian, told The WaPo. "I wish they were wide open for the public, but alas when politicians start running for the president, they try to make sure there’s not that kind of transparency or documentation." 
Biden's speech at the 2011 ceremony was inspiring. 
"In giving my collection of papers and other materials from my service in the United States Senate to the university today, I hope two things: One, they will not regale in the fact I do not know how to spell.  I never thought it a worthy undertaking," Biden joked before turning serious. 
"I hope they will take from my papers a deeper understanding of how true and honest compromise can advance the great national goals, and how it is through resolving differences that we shape our society we live in and we shape it for the better."