To Michael Cohen’s health

Connecting the dots.
(1) Cohen declines to talk to Congress before going to jail, out of “fear for his family.”
(2) Individual-One himself is dropping bread crumbs about Shusterman and the mob, in effect putting a price on Cohen’s head should he talk. The GOP will run with it; in their small calculations it’s a “whatabout” diversion from Individual-One’s activities. It just happens that this is more pressure on Cohen not to testify.
(3) “Lawyer” Rudy Giuliani had let it slip that Cohen’s father-in-law, Fima Shusterman, was a mobbed-up, and convicted, Ukrainian businessman. His ties to Trump’s business was in the capacity of a go-between for Russian investors in Trump ventures; and Cohen got the job with the Trump Org as a favor to father-in-law Shusterman.
You see, it’s all about who you know.
(4) If Cohen talks about WHAT he knows, once he’s behind bars with deadlier felons, he could get the same health treatment that Whitey Bulger got.
(5) Giuliani and Trump are doing the equivalent of witness tampering: threatening a witness. Can’t they just send the cops to arrest a witness tamperer on the spot? Too logical, I guess.
(6) Whether Cohen talks or not, he is not out of the woods; mafia justice has a long memory.
Woulda-been coulda-been mobster Cohen should be worried. The people he worked so hard for… and tried so hard to belong… they don’t give a damn what happens to him.
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La venganza no es mi fuerte

“Revenge is not my strength.” The phrase has historical resonance in Mexico. In 1857, Ignacio Comonfort had been accused of treason. In the face of a full invasion by French forces, he begged President Benito Juárez to reinstate him as a private in the Army. Instead, the leader appointed Comonfort to the command of a unit in Michoacán, giving as his reason for this extraordinary degree of pardon: Revenge is not my strength. La venganza no es mi fuerte.

Mexican President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador used the phrase when asked if his new administration would jail outgoing President Enrique Peña Nieto on the basis of corruption in the outgoing government.

In reality, a President has no powers in the Constitution of Mexico to jail anyone. That is a kind of power that lends itself to all kinds of abuse… the impeachment of judges and anyone likely to stand in the way of a leader’s plans, legitimately or otherwise.

But to some observers, the forgiveness in these words implied a little too much continuity with Mexico’s tradition of impunity.

AMLO was elected on a wave of public desire for accountability and transparency; and public disgust with the impunity and the coziness of the leadership with that corporate handshake bearing simultaneous gifts of cash and exchanges of favors.

Far, far from a socialist state and the hysteria that idea can generate in Latin American politics… this is a history of government in a close and compliant relationship with capital, and the public said “basta!”… “enough already!” to that corrosive relationship… yet they were able to do this without ever wanting to cross the line into radicalism of the left.

López Obrador’s speeches in the campaign and on election night resonated with these themes, and reflected this balancing which the Mexican voter had already mastered. And now the transparency President seemed to be promising a general amnesty for likely crimes of corruption and influence.

AMLO had said the same words in his campaign… declaring that he didn’t stand for revenge, but for justice. He said in effect that “we will pardon them… but we do not ask anyone to pardon us.” Indeed, revenge and justice have little to do with each other; a thing that should be obvious to anyone thinking in constitutional terms accepting the premise of rule of law.

The mixing of justice and vengeance, even rhetorically, is uncomfortable. You want a leader who is clear that the application of justice is never revenge… in part to assure the public that the rule of law in Mexico is, at last, something real and not something arbitrary. Mexico needs its own new deal to heal the chronic cynicism and the futility that colors expectations about how this government, the previous, and the next is going to behave.

So what just happened here? Did AMLO just disappoint the nation that elected him on a promise of a new deal of transparency? Does impunity itself have impunity forever? Is it enough that he desires no pardons for himself and his administration at some time in the future?



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Political players gonna politically play

It’s important to know who the real political actors are.

One… Corporations with multi-national and multilateral interests… their priorities are profit and stable relationships. For them, citizen democracy is optional.

Two: Disruptive business defying conventional models. So-called “sharing economy” libertarians needing maximum latitude to make a profit without troublesome protections and rights for workers. Disruptors include Russian interests overlapping with government, petroleum, organized crime and category three immediately below. Actively hostile to citizen democracy.

Three… surprisingly, foreign government strategists and intelligence agencies through their propaganda and media activities. Master disruptors.

Four… old-school, moderate Americans, today, mostly Democrats; formerly Republicans also. These (we) were blindsided and overwhelmed by the general criminality and cynicism, believing that the system had more immunity than it actually has.

These are four of the big forces (if not the only ones) shaping new goals for nations and political systems. Representatives of these forces appear daily on the news, sit in legislative bodies, are corporate leaders, and are some of the brand names that sell us everyday goods and services. Their priorities have a lot to do with minimizing risk and social responsibility, and evading accountability. As they pursue those narrow “freedoms” of pure self-interest, they steer our national politics away from the declared goals of founders, away from humane ideals and away from real service to citizens.

And consider this: the sharing-economy entrepreneurs, disruptors, offshore corporations, and spy agencies on this list of “shapers” of our politics… are unelected participants in our politics.

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Columbus Day and “la leyenda negra”

October 8, Columbus Day, is an ideal moment to balance the traditional “discovery of America” story with the real accounts written contemporaneously with the expeditions and the conquest of the Americas.

Read up here on Bartolomé de las Casas, a Spanish monk who wrote “La Historia de las Indias”… an exposé of the “sin” of domination, oppression, and injustice that the European colonization was inflicting on the peoples of the island colonies. As a religious person, it was Las Casas’ intention to warn the Spanish crown of misfortune and “God’s condemnation” of this injustice.

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What it’s like to sit for a polygraph.

turned on pendant lamp

Photo by Burak K on

“Hi, good afternoon. Can I see your ID? Thank you. We’re going to administer a polygraph examination at the request of your prospective employer. Please have a seat right here.”

You sit on a straight-backed chair with a plastic foam seat. You haven’t noticed the wires trailing out of your chair yet, but you will. The interviewer explains things patiently, coolly… as he puts sensors on your fingertips, wraps a band around your chest and makes preliminary small talk.

“Some people think they can beat a polygraph,” he starts, dead cold. “This is the latest equipment. It’s all tested and calibrated. These sensors… the heart rate and respiratory monitor… even that chair you’re sitting on will detect the physiological signs of stress if you decide to lie to me here today.”

Your options are framed just that bluntly: to tell the truth, or to lie. There’s no in-between; no refuge in the details, no persuading anyone of anything. If that isn’t clear yet, it will be.

The examiner looks at a form you filled out previously with some basic facts. He asks these as questions, and you answer truthfully. Your name, your age, your address, “are you married?” The machine is graphing all this, setting a baseline for your body’s responses to a completely abnormal situation: your answer to one question will determine whether you get this job… or not.

Satisfied with his calibrations, the examiner gets to the meat of the matter, and here it is, dead cold: “Have you ever been released from a job by your employer?”

“Remember,” he says, with special emphasis: “It doesn’t matter about the circumstances, there’s no ‘laid off’, no extenuating circumstances. Have you ever been released from a job by your employer?”

As the emotions and the trauma well up in your body, as you remember how unfair it was: everything that led up to that awful moment: a downsizing? A mistake or a misunderstanding? Or were you just a casualty of a branch office closing or a bad quarterly result and an impersonal order from headquarters? Your guts roil with the feeling of being betrayed: your work “friends”, people you’d gone to bat for in budget battles, avoided you; as if you were contagious. And the needle on the machine is recording it all.

You had been released from that job by your employer, and that’s a fact.

Your respiration speeds up along with your heart rate. Your chest tightens. Your thighs and glutes clench in that wired-up chair. The needle is graphing it all. Maybe you try to bargain with the examiner, maybe you get angry or tearful. Fools, perhaps, get angry; and act out. You’re not a fool. But despite all you know and remember about how it happened, you might as well be bargaining with that mechanical pen tracing your vitals on a roll of paper.

“Yes” is the only possible answer. Your body already told the truth. And the corollary to that truth is that you were never going to get that job where the employer’s number one requirement was a person who had never been fired, not even laid off or downsized or for any or whatever reason.

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How to be a good tourist

action america architecture avenue

Photo by Nout Gons on

On escalators and moving walkways: Stand on the right, let people walk on the left. People have places to go even if you’re on a relaxed vacation pace.

Don’t congregate at the foot of the stairs or in entrances and exits to regroup with your people or check the map. Don’t be like a f—ing iceberg blocking the path of people who have to be someplace.

In large groups, walk single file… don’t form a wall across the sidewalk walking side by side with baby carriages and luggage.

On mass transit, no feet or luggage on the seat. Minimize your size. Or just forget about sitting down. Stand with backpacks between your knees. The seats (this is a locals’ secret) are filthy anyway.

bullet train interior photography

Photo by on

If you’re not moving as fast as the locals, or need to stop to navigate or take a selfie… find a light pole or a trash bin or whatever, and tuck yourself in next to it out of the flow. People got places to go. I think maybe we said that before.

If you think the locals are cold, it means you showed up in their town with a chip on your shoulder.

If you think they are rude, it’s because you’re too slow. Or you showed up unprepared, and you’re keeping other people waiting. It’s not too late. Observe the locals. Get into their mindset, their food, their language, and their rhythm if you can. Join the flow, don’t be a block. This alone could be the whole point of traveling.

Those locals are working schlubs who have forgotten what it’s like to get enough sleep, and your indecision over your complicated Starbucks order is what’s between them and a precious ten minutes of quiet with a cup of coffee.

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BBC World Service – Newshour, Berlin station to use atonal music to deter drug users

Berlin’s transit authority plans to use atonal music to “drive away drug users”, but the city’s long experimental art history suggests the enforcement gambit might have completely unforeseen results, even drawing in aficionados of the dissonant musical form. “We think it will become a spectacle”, said the interviewee in this clip.

Source: BBC World Service – Newshour, Berlin station to use atonal music to deter drug users

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Was Coco Chanel a Nazi Agent?

The facts do more than “contend”. There is a risk in putting Chanel’s actual life at a comfortable arms-length… as if her notorious anti-Semitism and less-known espionage duties were balanced by her considerable success, fame and a general atmosphere of seduction and glamour. Myths (and more importantly, brands) are protected first of all things, and this permits the repetition of history.

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New York’s Oldest Subway Cars, Beautiful Symbols of a Sad Decline | The New Yorker

The R32s were built by the Budd Company, and because of their corrugated stainless steel construction, they were called Brightliners. They boasted modern intercom systems with crisp sound. Their plastic benches were a huge step up from the tattered rattan-wicker seats of older cars. Over 40 years later, and well past their original design life, roughly two hundred of the original R32s still operate on New York City’s C, J, and Z lines. They are the oldest subway cars still in service in the city, and among the oldest still operating in the world.

“The Budd Company filed for bankruptcy in 2014, meaning that the R32s have not only outlasted their intended period of service but have outlasted their manufacturer. They have lived through eight mayoral appointments and ten Presidents. They are essentially your grandmother’s Volvo from the sixties, if that Volvo had millions of miles on its odometer and was responsible for getting your entire family to and from work, and if Volvo had gone out of business several years ago.”

Source: New York’s Oldest Subway Cars, Beautiful Symbols of a Sad Decline | The New Yorker

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Meet NYC’s Best New Slice Of Pizza: Gothamist

Gotham West Market, 600 11th Avenue

Source: Meet NYC’s Best New Slice Of Pizza: Gothamist

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