Thursday, June 8, 2017

If It Quacks Like Obstruction....

Donald Trump
Credit: whitehouse.gov
Let's talk about obstruction of justice. There are apparently a lot of people who do not believe that President Donald Trump has been involved in obstruction of justice regarding the FBI investigations of his campaign and associates. They come up with various lines of reasoning to explain why Trump's requests to former FBI Director James Comey to back off of his investigations are not criminal, or are not technically obstruction, or whatever.

So let's examine this a little bit. Play along with me, you will enjoy it.

First, let's look at perhaps the key incident so far: Comey's statement that after a meeting in the Oval Office, Trump asked him to "let this go," referring to the FBI's investigation of former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn. Here is a synopsis of how Comey recounts this story:

Trump had a meeting in his office with a large group of his advisors. After the meeting ended, Trump stated that he wanted to speak to Comey alone. Everyone left except the Attorney General and Trump's son-in-law (the trusted family advisor). Both of them lingered behind, until Trump asked them to leave so he could speak to Comey alone.

Then, after various discussions, Trump got down to the nitty-gritty and said to Comey, "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go."

Did you just hear "obstruction of justice"?

No? Okay, let's try a fun little exercise. Let's change a name and a title, but otherwise leave the story the same, and see what happens.

We want a new name for Trump. We don't want him to be Donald Trump anymore, we want him to be some other name.... some name at random... let's see.... let's call him.... "Vito Corleone."

Yes, that's a fine name. We'll call him Vito Corleone. And the Attorney General will become the consigliere.

Now let's run through the story again. We'll do it pretty much word-for-word from above. But before we get to the key quote, we'll pause for a brief instruction.

Corleone had a meeting in his office with a large group of his advisors. After the meeting ended, Corleone stated that he wanted to speak to Comey alone. Everyone left except the consigliere and Corleone's son-in-law (the trusted family advisor). Both of them lingered behind, until Corleone asked them to leave so he could speak to Comey alone.

Now the pause for the brief instruction. For this next part, I want you to hear the quote in your head in your best Marlon Brando/Godfather voice. Go all out for it. You know you can. Okay, here we go...

Then, after various discussions, Corleone got down to the nitty-gritty and said to Comey, "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go."

So.... Did you hear "obstruction of justice" this time?

Try it again, in your best Brando:

"I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go."

I'll bet you heard it that time. So there are only two choices.

One, obstruction of justice can only happen when the person involved has an Italian name and speaks with an Italian accent.

Or, two, Donald Trump has been involved in obstruction of justice.

Go back through the second scenario one more time and really visualize it this time. Get into it. Use your imagination. Watch Corleone behind his desk. See the consigliere and the son-in-law. Hear Corleone speak. You'll get the idea.....

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Letter to Texas Senator Bryan Hughes re: SB6, the bathroom bill


Dear Senator Hughes,

I see that you are a co-author of SB6. However, I am writing to express my strong opposition to this type of legislation.

On the practical side: It is a waste of time and money. It is unnecessary. It will not solve any "safety" problems that it is purported to be the solution to. It is unenforceable. Its backlash, as demonstrated in other states, will cause significant harm to the Texas economy.

Those are just the practical elements. But they pale beside the principles involved.

This type of legislation is a gross invasion of individual privacy. It is none of the government's business which bathroom anyone uses. Period.

Republicans continually campaign on platforms of "less-intrusive government," yet you and others continue to support this type of highly intrusive legislation.

I could go on, but I will not. I simply urge you to withdraw your support for this proposed legislation, and instead to oppose it strongly, both on practicality and on principle.

Ed Perrone

Great Texas Pee-In - March 7, 8:00am, Capitol Extension, E1.036, Austin (updated location!)

The Texas Senate Committee on State Affairs has scheduled a hearing on the Texas "Bathroom Bill" (SB 6).

Tuesday, March 7, 2017
Room E1.036
(Senate Finance Room)
Capitol Extension
Austin, Texas 

I have visions of great crowds of people lining up to pee in the "wrong" bathrooms!!

Of course, if you can't do that, you CAN contact your senator and the committee members and tell them what a great waste of time (not to mention invasion of privacy) this is. This post has contact info.

Pee on!!


Note: Post edited on 3/3/17, as the Committee changed the location of the hearing. Perhaps they are expecting a big crowd....
 

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Texas "Bathroom Bill" referred to committee


Texas SB6, the Texas "bathroom bill," has been referred to the Senate State Affairs Committee. No date for a hearing has yet been set.

The Committee contact information, if you care to badger them, is:

Senate Committee on State Affairs (C570)
Clerk: Addison Reagan
Phone: (512) 463-0380
Room: SHB 380

Committee members are:

Vice Chair: Sen. Bryan Hughes
 
Links go to the senators' respective individual pages, which contains their individual contact info and an email form. Of course, if you contact them, it's probably helpful if you actually live in Texas....
 
Hopefully someone will pick up on The Great Texas Pee-In, to be held on the date of the committee hearing.


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Texas "Bathroom Bill" - Go Pee in the "Wrong" Bathroom!

Reddit: Shdiggy
http://i.imgur.com/g0LkmtA.jpg
So... They are planning to introduce one of those "bathroom bills" in the Texas Legislature. The bill number is SB 6. You can read it here.

Here is what I think should happen:

On the day the committee is holding a hearing on the bill, everyone should show up at the state capitol, and line up to pee in the "wrong" bathroom. Thousands and thousands of people. All going into the "wrong" bathroom to take a leak.

If I were in Austin, I would organize it. But I'm not, so I need help to spread it around and get it going. Tell all your friends. Especially tell all your friends in Austin. Let's make this happen.

I will post the committee hearing date(s) when I have them.

Comment/follow/share this blog post to keep updated and to spread the word.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Ho Votato "No"

My ballot for the Italian Constitutional Referendum,
before I marked it and sent it in.
A week after I voted in the U.S. presidential election, I sent in my ballot for the Italian Constitutional Referendum, which is taking place on December 4th.

I voted "no." 

The referendum is a rather complex beast which I suspect a lot of Italians who live in Italy don't altogether understand, let alone those of us Italians by blood who live elsewhere. It is billed by its proponents as a series of reforms intended to make the Italian government more stable and efficient. That's an admirable goal, especially in a country like Italy, where the bureaucracy often moves at slower than a snail's pace, and where good-ol'-boys networks often dominate. But the problem in this case is that the medicine may turn out to be worse than the disease. That, at least, is the opinion I hear and read from a lot of people, both in Italy and outside.

The referendum's chief proponent is Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who has stated that he would resign if the referendum fails. The "yes" proponents, as well as some news outlets and commentators, are predicting chaos if "no" wins -- from political chaos in Italy itself, to the absolute disintegration of the European Union.

I think those fears may be a bit overblown.

You can read a summary of the referendum's issues at Wikipedia. I just want to touch on one issue and how that issue made up my mind to vote "no."

The main point in the referendum is a reform of the Italian Parliament, which is made up of two chambers: the lower "Chamber of Deputies" and the upper "Senate of the Republic." One problem with the stability and efficiency of the government is that a law cannot be enacted unless both chambers pass the legislation in exactly the same form. This means that a bill just keeps going back and forth from one chamber to the other until, finally, at long last, maybe, the exact same language may pass both houses. At that point, the bill can become law. But the process is inordinately slow and unwieldy.

The referendum's solution to this is to drastically reduce both the membership and the power of the Senate. The Senate currently has 315 members who are elected by the voters. Under the reforms, the Senate would have 100 members who are appointed by regional authorities. The Senate would also be mostly taken out of the legislative process -- being reduced in most cases to an advisory role.

Thus, all but the most important legislation would simply need to be passed by the Chamber of Deputies, essentially making the Italian Parliament a unicameral legislature for most purposes.

But it occurred to me while thinking about these issues that the U.S. Congress solves this same problem in a much simpler way: When a piece of legislation passes the House in one form and the Senate in another, the two houses create a conference committee, work out a compromise bill that all can agree on, and then that bill is sent back to both houses for a vote.

Voila! No endless back-and-forth changing a word here or a paragraph there every time. No years-long deadlock because two chambers can't agree on exact wording. Instead, a simple solution. And the compromise bill is voted either up or down.
 
This thought demonstrated to me that the Italian referendum is indeed medicine that's worse than the disease it's trying to cure. Altering the Senate is only one of a myriad of changes to be enacted by this legislation. It is complex, unwieldy, draconian in some ways, and somewhat anti-democratic in others. It removes a great deal of representation from the people.

There's been a good deal of discussion of the referendum in a dual citizenship group that I belong to on Facebook. (And we can actually discuss politics without calling each other names!) Most of us appear to be coming down on the side of "no" because of these considerations. From what I understand, the views in Italy are much the same.

Reforms are indeed necessary. But I don't think these particular reforms are the way to go about it. They seem worse than the original problem.

So I voted "no."
 


Saturday, November 5, 2016

Double-neck Guitar Project, Part 1 - Will It Work?

Double-neck guitar kit.
Here is a little toy/project I picked up on eBay last week. I've been wanting to try one of these for a long time, and I finally found one at a bargain-basement price.

Actually, I've sold this guy to pay for most of it. So it's going to turn out to be an even better bargain. I'm trading a guitar that sort of duplicates what I already have for something unique and different.

I've never built anything like this before, so it's going to be an adventure. 

This is, in fact, not the kit I originally ordered. To make things easier on my novice self, I ordered a kit with bolt-on necks. But then the company emailed me saying they had made an inventory error and they were out of the bolt-ons. Could they send me this other kit instead? "This other kit" happens to have set-in necks.

After a bit of back-and-forth (I asked them, among other things, if they thought a total novice could handle assembling set necks), I told them to go ahead and send it, I would give it a try. They said if I found out I couldn't handle it, they'd let me return it to them, even if I'd begun finishing, etc., so that was nice of them.

Hopefully this guitar can add a number of new tones to my arsenal. It is a mahogany body with 24.75" scale, neither of which I have on any of my current guitars. Plus, obviously, the electric 12-string sound. Maybe I can become John McLaughlin...

Now all I have to do is put it together without screwing it up. Stay tuned for updates as we go along.