A Third Rate Drama

The banner headline in this morning’s New York Times was Trump’s Trial Opens as New Evidence Emerges. That paper’s editors desperately want us to take this show seriously. Apparently, nobody told them that it’s a third rate drama and that everybody already knows how it ends.

In contrast, a Supreme Court seat was at stake in the Kavanaugh hearings. Were Blasey-Ford’s accusations credible? Were the Democrats and the media giving too much airtime to unsubstantiated allegations from the media-celebrated porn-star lawyer Michael Avenatti? Would Kavanaugh be confirmed? If confirmed, would he be terribly wounded by the accusations? Everything depended on a few conspicuously undecided Senators. Both sides were genuinely angry. The outcome hung in the balance. America was riveted...

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Truth-Teller Trump

I recently had a somewhat testy email exchange with a friend. I was asserting that a well-known progressive columnist for The New York Times had demonstrated an unmistakable affinity for authoritarian governance – when my friend, unhappy with my quotations of the columnist’s own words, switched topics suddenly to the hated (by him) Trump, writing:

“Once the Prevaricator-in-Chief leaves office, either by hook or by crook (pun intended), I will be much more open to differing political viewpoints.”

In order to preserve our friendship without conceding the point, I de-escalated as best I could by noting simply in response that on that, too, we differ.

I couldn’t help but wonder, though, about the substance of my friend’s Trump outburst...

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Freedom, Constrained

Laws and culture constrain our freedoms; at the heart of most political issues is the question of just how constraining they should be. Those on the left generally argue for more constraints – higher taxes, tighter laws and punitive social disapproval for violations of “PC” norms and expectations – all in the name of the common good. Those on the right favor fewer such constraints, seeing a freer society as both more creative and more individually just than ones that are less so.


George W. Bush famously said that “The desire for freedom resides in every human heart.” Well, … sorta.

Bush’s statement was undoubtedly true in the narrow sense that everybody wants freedom of action for him or her –self; but not everybody is happy for others to be similarly free...

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An Interesting Comment

A longtime Civil Horizon subscriber named Vivian Wadlin left a comment a few days ago in reaction to Reality Checks that spurred me to further thoughts regarding the deep-seated basis of opposing political tendencies, including my own. She wrote:

“I just read this after lying awake last night pondering the improbability of me. All the past generations of DNA that had to survive and intermix, the fact that my parents met, that I survived childhood, that I was born in the USA, that I have (so far) survived three deadly diseases–my universe may or may not be expanding. I, however, stay small, inconsequential, and entirely grateful.”

My initial response was to write that none of us really knows how consequential or inconsequential our acts might be. In It’s a Wonderful Life, Geo...

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What’re The Odds?

If I were to take a coin and flip it 17 times, the odds that it would come up heads every time are 1/131,072. In theory, then, those might be the odds that all 17 “mistakes” in the four Carter Page FISA applications would point in the same, pro-spying direction, assuming that they were innocent mistakes.

But if you think about it, the chances that the “mistakes” were random are considerably, if less precisely calculably, worse than that. First, one would have to think about the chances that there would be 17 “mistakes” on any random four FISA applications...

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Obama’s Guilt?

What if Obama did it? What if he directed the FBI to extralegally exonerate Hillary Clinton and to find or make excuses to spy on the Trump campaign? Should he be prosecuted?

There is evidence for these horrifying possibilities in text exchanges between Lisa Page, a now-former FBI lawyer and her then-lover Peter Strzok, who had leading FBI roles in both the Clinton “exoneration” and the investigation of the alleged, but nonexistent, Russian collusion by the Trump campaign.

The first of these revealing texts shows that, contrary to Comey’s testimony, he had given then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch advance notice of his intention to let Hillary off the hook (or perhaps she had ordered him to do so):

On July 1, two days before Comey addressed the Clinton email case, the ...

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Reality Checks

Twenty-five years ago, I got into the habit of competing in bicycle races in Prospect Park. On Sunday mornings, I would carpool along with two similarly cycling-besotted friends, leaving our homes at 5:00 or 5:30 AM in order to get to Brooklyn in time for our warmups and registration; then we would race and generally be back at our homes in Westchester County by 9:00 or 9:30. I loved the pounding-heart exhilaration that the races afforded me, and gradually learned something of the physics-driven complexity of bicycle racing strategies. It was great fun.   

I quit when I learned that cheating in the form of illegal doping was rampant among the most apparently successful of those with whom I was competing...

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Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas and/or Happy Chanukah to you and your families. And for those of you who are determinedly secular, I hope you had a satisfying airing of grievances on Festivus, and feel much better.

No post today – just well wishes.

M.H. Johnston

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The Best and Worst of Popular Culture

When it’s cold outside but there isn’t any snow to play in, I exercise in my basement, so that’s where I was this morning. As is usual for me on inside mornings, I listened to country music to fight the monotony of working out in place. My old iPod shuffled through the thousands of songs on my playlist and among others alighted on two by John Prine that, in my view, manage to exemplify the best of country music and the worst of contemporary culture respectively.

The first, The Other Side of Town (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2g0CaneKXY), is really everything I love about country music...

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Now that Nancy Pelosi has settled on two really serious impeachment charges, Having Impure Thoughts and Ignoring My Commands, I think we should cast a sidelong glance at the actual corruption that most of us – myself included – wouldn’t have known anything about if not for the Democrats’ mind-boggling use of President Trump’s famous conversation with President Zelensky as an excuse to try to give Trump the old heave ho.

Thirty-five years ago I was offered a bribe. I was a newly-minted bank Vice President at the time, co-head of a group that dealt with media companies. I was having lunch at the Bull & Bear with a guy who owned a couple of radio stations and had an agreement to buy others...

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