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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  From Deposed to Deposed
      •  McCarthy Turns Traitor
      •  Government Shutdown Averted
      •  Oregon's Next Governor's Ain't Nick
      •  Facebook's Feed Frenzy
      •  This Week in Schadenfreude
      •  Looking Forward: The Readers Predict 2022, Part IX: The Economy

Sorry it's late; another one of those kinds of days.

From Deposed to Deposed

For most people, it's "you win some, and you lose some." However, for Donald Trump these days, it seems to be "you lose some, and then you lose some more." Seriously; when was the last time he won in court? Not just an overall case—we'd even consider a win on a substantive motion. He temporarily won one of his "stop the steal" cases in Pennsylvania, on a technicality, but then ultimately lost that one and about 50 more of them. And since then, he's been smacked down by the Supreme Court (multiple times), and by state courts in several different states, and by the D.C. courts, too. Unless we're overlooking something, he may be getting close to 100 straight legal defeats. He's the Washington Generals of the judicial system.

The latest judge to pile on the former president is New York Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron, who ruled yesterday that Trump and two of his kids, Donald Jr. and Ivanka, must sit for a deposition with the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James. So, having experienced one meaning of "deposed" in January 2021, Trump will get to experience the other sometime in the very near future.

On some level, it must be kinda fun to be a Trump lawyer. You shouldn't expect to get paid, of course, and you're probably going to lose in court. However, getting out the Trump file must be a welcome respite from the daily grind, since preparing his legal briefs is more like an exercise in creative fiction than it is legal writing. In this case, for example, Team Trump argued that his constitutional rights were being violated because James is simultaneously considering civil and criminal charges. That would certainly be a novel defense, if it had held up.

The Trump legal team also made the argument that because the former president's (now-former) accountants, MazarsUSA, had publicly decreed that his financial statements from the last 10 years are unreliable, there is no further need to James to investigate any further. In other words, we now know all we need to know, and that's that. Easy-peasy! To say that the judge was unimpressed with that assertion would be an understatement; in his ruling he wrote:

The idea that an accounting firm's announcement that no one should rely on a decade's worth of financial statements it issued based on the numbers submitted by an entity somehow exonerates that entity and renders an investigation into its past practices as moot is reminiscent of Lewis Carroll ("When I use a word, Humpty Dumpty said ... it means just what I chose it to mean -- neither more nor less"); George Orwell ("War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength"): and "alternative facts."

Kellyanne Conway must be pleased to have her ideas included with those of two of the leading literary lights of the last 150 years. Although they both had opium habits, so maybe not.

Anyhow, Engoron gave Trump 21 days to show up for his deposition, even if he has to remove all of his clothes to count down that many. The former president also has 14 days to cough up documents that James has demanded. Trump seems unlikely to give in and do 100% of what is demanded of him; he's either going to withhold documents, or answer every question with "I plead the Fifth," or something like that. So, he could well be before Engoron again before long, with a chance to extend his legal losing streak even further. (Z)

McCarthy Turns Traitor

No, not against the United States government, though that might not be far away, given the direction that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is headed. Instead, the victim of McCarthy's betrayal is Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY). Although it is customary for party leadership to stay out of primary election contests, the Minority Leader talked to The Federalist on Thursday, and decreed that he is backing Cheney's main challenger, the Trump-endorsed Harriet Hageman: "After spending time with Harriet, it is readily apparent she will always listen and prioritize the needs of her local communities and is focused on tackling our nation's biggest problems. I look forward to serving with Harriet for years to come."

We very much doubt that a single person in Wyoming will be swayed by this endorsement. If they are inclined to punish Cheney for being anti-Trump, and to support the person most likely to send Cheney packing, they don't need McCarthy's encouragement. So, this story is far more significant in terms of what it says about the Minority Leader, and not what it says about Wyoming's House race. McCarthy wants the Speakership so badly that he can taste it. And that means he's got to keep both the Trumpy and not-so-Trumpy members of his conference behind him. He's clearly decided the not-so-Trumpy faction is smaller and/or more pliant than the Trumpy faction, so he's gone all-in on pandering to the Trumpers. Yesterday, it was his Cheney virtue signaling. Last week, it was his support for the RNC resolution censuring Cheney and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL). And so on and so forth.

In contrast to the other minority leader, namely Mitch McConnell (R-KY), we've never been particularly impressed with McCarthy's political skills. And he certainly does not seem to be playing his hand very well right now. On one hand, he's veered too far in the direction of Trumpism. McCarthy has now set himself up in direct opposition to McConnell, who is actively trying to undermine Trump, and is also alienating the not-so-Trumpy faction of his conference. Maybe they are fewer in number and more pliable, but he still needs the support of most of them, and he appears to be losing that support with stunts like the one yesterday. Any of the remaining moderate Republicans who see what McCarthy's done to Cheney will realize that they could easily be next up.

At the same time, paradoxically, McCarthy has not gone far enough in the direction of Trumpism. That is because for many of the Trumpers, a party leader can never go "far enough." Just last night, the very Trumpy Lou Dobbs smeared the minority leader as a RINO who does not deserve to be speaker, while Dobbs' guest—Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL)—nodded in agreement. And McCarthy is perpetually in the situation that part of his anatomy—and it ain't his ears, or his feet, or his fingers—is always in Trump's hands. The former president, who is just lukewarm on McCarthy, need only squeeze and dreams of the speakership go out the window.

Time will tell, of course, but at this point you have to figure that "McCarthy never becomes Speaker" is a much more likely outcome than "McCarthy succeeds Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)." (Z)

Government Shutdown Averted

The federal government was set to run out of money tonight, as the stopgap funding bills passed in December were going to expire. However, just as Congress approached the precipice of disaster, a deal was worked out, another stopgap bill was passed, and the can was kicked down the road. Phew! That was close, right?

Ok, maybe it's hard to get too riled up about this particular situation. Just as we all know that Jason Voorhees isn't really dead, no matter how definitive the end of the movie seemed to be, we also know that Congress is unlikely to actually let the government shut down. And even if they do, it will probably be brief. And even if it isn't brief, the effects won't be disastrous (in contrast to allowing the national debt limit to be reached).

Yesterday's deal was approved 65-27, which is obviously a total that is both bipartisan and filibuster-proof, so it's not like it was close. The big question is whether Congress can actually agree on a budget for the whole fiscal year (well, now it's more like the whole fiscal 6 months) before the can stops rolling again (March 11 is the next potential shutdown). One would think that if a supermajority can get behind a stopgap bill, then it should be possible to find 60 Senators willing to vote for a regular funding bill. But Congress in general, and the Senate in particular, are strange places. (Z)

Oregon's Next Governor's Ain't Nick

Well, that didn't take very long. After Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan (D) found that former (?) New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof (D) was not eligible to run for governor due to falling short of the state's residency requirement, he vowed to fight on until the bitter end. Well, the end came yesterday, and it was definitely bitter for him, as the Oregon state Supreme Court ruled that Fagan was correct and he can't be on the ballot. In this case, it's two strikes and you're out.

What the now-former candidate will do next is anyone's guess. Presumably, the Times would be happy to have him back. Alternatively, he raised millions for his campaign that he could now dump into a super PAC and use to support other candidates and preferred causes. Or, he could do what it takes to fulfill the Oregon residency requirement, and run for office in the future. That said, the governorship obviously won't be up again until 2026, which is also the same time that there will be another U.S. Senate election. Does Kristof want to begin a political career at 67 years of age? That's a little old for most political offices, and at the same time a little young to be running for president. Well, these days, at least.

Meanwhile, Kristof's departure from the gubernatorial election makes things very interesting. Former House Speaker Tina Kotek (D) and state Treasurer Tobias Read (D) haven't exactly caught fire, but one of them will almost certainly be the Democratic nominee, now that the decks are clear. Meanwhile, former state Sen. Betsy Johnson, who is now also a former Democrat, has caught fire a bit, and has landed the support of Oregon's wealthiest man, Phil Knight. Inasmuch as this is a state election, he can spend as much of that sweet, sweet sneaker money as he wants to try to get Johnson elected. If she can cobble together a coalition of moderate Democrats, independents, and Republicans who would prefer her to the more liberal Reed/Kotek, she might just win. Not likely, since Oregon Republicans tend to be pretty fanatical and are likely to back only a MAGA type, but possible. (Z)

Facebook's Feed Frenzy

There is a 1996 sketch from Saturday Night Live called "The Heyward Foundation." It is apparently old enough and/or obscure enough that NBC hasn't digitized it and put it online (though you can read the transcript here). The sketch is framed as a public-service message from the (fictional) "Heyward Foundation," and the actor Bill Pullman comes on screen as "John W. Heyward" to explain:

I'm a very wealthy man. I'm worth billions, and always have been. But I haven't always been a man with a conscience. Time was, I thought my money was all I needed to be happy. But all that changed one day when I came across [holds up Bible] this book. The Bible. And I saw where it said, "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven." That passage changed my life. It moved me to start putting my riches towards a worthy cause. And that's why I established the Heyward Foundation. The Heyward Foundation For The Development Of A Way To Make It Easy For A Camel To Pass Through a Needle's Eyes. I'm not going to Hell if my billions have anything to say about it! And I think they do. Let me show you..

What follows, as you might imagine, are an array of very large needles and very small camels.

We were reminded of that level of "missing the point, probably deliberately" on learning that Facebook has implemented a solution in response to complaints that its news feed has vast amounts of misinformation and propaganda masquerading as news. That's right, they've changed the name from "news feed" to just "feed." Can't gripe that there's non-news in the news feed anymore, right? Problem solved!

This, of course, isn't the first bit of tactical rebranding coming from Mark Zuckerberg—the name of the parent company was changed from Facebook to Meta just last month. And in this case, the change is not just an effort to pass camels through the eyes of needles. No, it arguably gets worse. Facebook... er, Meta apparently wants to get into the business of producing news coverage—it has just launched a site called "Facebook News" in France. So, this week's rebranding is partly meant to separate crappy content produced by users from crappy content produced by the site itself.

In any event, we are disinclined to think that the world becomes a better place when Mark Zuckerberg & Co. get into the business of producing (or even just aggregating/curating) news content. However, for some reason, he does not call us and ask us for our input before making these sorts of decisions. Who knows why. (Z)

This Week in Schadenfreude

We don't believe we've mentioned this story before, but one time about 10 years ago, (Z) traveled to Canada to attend a wedding in Montreal. And driving across the border, he was aggressively questioned by the person working the entry booth at which he stopped. It is not clear, and presumably never will be, whether he looked like a particular wanted person, or he just generally failed some sort of anti-crime/anti-terrorism checklist, but the order was given to leave the line of cars and to park in a designated area for further questioning. However, those instructions were delivered in a vague manner, such that—and again, it's not clear what happened here—he ended up encircled by a dozen Canadian commandos with their assault rifles drawn. Then there were three different interrogations and two searches of the car before (Z) was allowed to go, never having been given an explanation or an apology. True story.

Some might call that "the final piece of the puzzle."

Anyhow, that incident came to mind this week when MyPillow guy Mike Lindell, who always loves an opportunity to perform Trumpism publicly, tried to gain entry to Canada. As you can probably guess, if you didn't already know, he was trying to lend his support to the anti-vaxx Canadian truckers convoy, and he planned to distribute 10,000 free MyPillows, including 1,000 of the model that has Bible verses printed on them. Because how well can a person sleep, really, if their head isn't resting on the fourth Psalm?

It would seem that the 'Nades concluded—hopefully correctly—that Lindell is a bigger threat than (Z), because while (Z) was eventually allowed to enter the country, Lindell was turned away. And in contrast to what happened a decade ago, there's no mystery this time. Canadians don't have a problem with cheaply manufactured bedding aids that tend to fall apart after a few months' usage, but they do have a problem with unvaccinated people who also don't have a negative PCR test in hand. Lindell and his two traveling companions (truck driver, videographer) are all unvaccinated, of course, so it was "Take a hike, eh."

Was Lindell just trying to get turned away, so he'd have something to gripe about? If so, then it seems a rather big waste to take a giant semi truck along for the ride; he could have gotten rejected without it. Alternative, is he really so foolish or arrogant that he believed Canada would just spontaneously waive the rules for him? The people who actually enforce the rules are just low-level grunts who don't have any leeway if they want to keep their jobs. And anyone who does have leeway isn't going to be interested in letting a bag of hot air like Mike Lindell do whatever he wants.

So, one of TrumpWorld's most obnoxious denizens just got poked in the eye by the folks up north. That's certainly cause for some schadenfreude, not to mention a round of congratulations for the Canucks. Oh, and if Prime Minister Justin Trudeau & Co. are reading and have finally finished writing up that apology, they can send it to (Z)

Looking Forward: The Readers Predict 2022, Part IX: The Economy

As a reminder, we dropped to running two installments a week so as to not overdo it. Here are the previous entries (and by the time this feature runs again, we're going to make this much prettier, somehow):

Now, some reader predictions for the economy, along with our judgment of how many boldness points are available if the prediction proves correct.

  • D.C. in Delray Beach, FL: The NASDAQ will end the year at 19,047. Given my stellar performance on predicting 2021 (clink the link immediately above), I'll be waiting for a consultant job offer from CNBC.

    Comments: The specificity gives this pretty high potential, but you'll have to come about as close to the bullseye as you did last year to earn full credit. Potential Boldness Points: 4

  • S.S. in West Hollywood, CA: Another good year for the stock market. Not as good as 2020, but still finishing up just over 20%, the same as 2021.

    Comments: A little bold, but not a lot. PBP: 2.5

  • W.R. in Tysons Corner, VA: Inflation will continue at high level, above 5% on an annual basis for 2022. The stock market will return over 10% for the year.

    Comments: This seems pretty plausible to us. PBP: 2

  • K.I. in Milwaukee, WI: Officially-reported inflation will stay above 7% for all of 2022, despite three Federal Reserve rate hikes.

    Comments: Inflation that high coupled with that many rate hikes? Seems pretty bold to us. PBP: 4

  • N.H.R. from London, England, UK: Inflation will remain high throughout the year, this will be good for the price of gold, which will go to a new all time high (current high is $2,067 per troy ounce).

    Comments: Gold has only crossed $2,000 once (back in August 2020), and has been pretty steadily in the $1,800-range since, so we think this is pretty bold. PBP: 4

  • S.B. in New Castle, DE: The Metaverse will rapidly expand in the United States, giving people the opportunity to live in a fictional reality that many will prefer to the "real world," as well as a new platform for Big Tech, politicians, and social influencers to "connect" more intimately with their targets. Cryptocurrency will help facilitate this.

    Comments: As far as we can tell, 74,216,154 Americans were already living in a fictional reality by November 2020 (just joking!). Anyhow, the spread of the Metaverse is a near-certainty, but the short timeline for full exploitation by politicians, and for the introduction of crypto, seems pretty far out there. PBP: 4

  • T.B. in Bay Shore, NY: Crypto and other e-currencies will become FDIC insured up to $100,000 in order to prevent a crash.

    Comments: We think this is very unlikely in the next 10 months, which makes it very bold. PBP: 5

  • S.H. in Broken Arrow, OK: Gas prices will average 20 DOGE/gallon nationwide (approx US $3.44/gal at time of writing this) as Shell and BP will announce that they will accept crypto at the pump. Chevron, QuikTrip, and Citgo will follow shortly behind.

    Comments: The price seems very plausible. Crypto at the pump, by contrast, seems quite bold. PBP: 3.5

  • D.C. in Portland, OR: Anti-Amazon sentiment will increase and a movement to break up its monopoly will gain national traction.

    Comments: Dunno, people really like being able to get shoelaces and granulated honey delivered to their front door in 24 hours without having to pay for overnight shipping. PBP: 4

  • D.S. in Portland, OR: At least one major national retail chain will partner with Amazon and become primarily a mail-order business. Imagine 2022's Target being 1922's Sears.

    Comments: This is pretty bold, since the retail chains seem to prefer to operate alone in that space, and since Amazon doesn't have much need for a partnership with Walmart or Best Buy. PBP: 5

  • D.C. in Portland, OR: Working from home will continue at today's rates, or increase further.

    Comments: We think this is bolder than it may seem, since nearly everyone who can work at home is already doing so (in other words, limited growth for that demographic), while there are plenty of people (say, teachers) who were working at home but who really need to be back at work, if at all practicable. In other words, the number of "at home" --> "back at work" Americans seems sure to be larger than the number who go in the opposite direction. So, a steady rate/an increase seem unlikely. PBP: 5

The topic for next week is foreign affairs. We suspect Ukraine will make an appearance or two. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Feb17 Biden Orders Trump Visitor Logs Turned over to House Select Committee
Feb17 Lots of Legal Action Coming Up This Year
Feb17 Senate Republicans Are Blocking Fed Nominees
Feb17 2022 Elections May Be Underfunded
Feb17 Do Republicans Stand for Anything?
Feb17 Missouri Senate Race Is Up for Grabs
Feb17 Portman Backs Timken
Feb17 Three School Board Members Recalled in San Francisco
Feb17 Election Denier Is Running to Run Elections in Colorado
Feb16 Democrats Have Seen the Enemy, and He Is... Tough to Beat
Feb16 Sandy Hook Families Reach $73 Million Settlement with Remington
Feb16 Palin Completes the Sweep
Feb16 Biden Administration Will Restore California's Vehicular Emissions Waiver
Feb16 Another Long Island Iced (D)
Feb16 P.J. O'Rourke, 1947-2022
Feb16 Looking Backward: How Did The Readers Do?, Part IX: The Economy
Feb15 What McConnell Is Up To
Feb15 Rats Desert Sinking Ship
Feb15 Eastman Has Many Secrets (or So He Claims)
Feb15 Palin Loses Once--Do We Hear Twice?
Feb15 Manchin Would Definitely Probably Maybe Possibly Support a Second Supreme Court Nominee
Feb15 But Her E-mails, Vol. CCXLV
Feb15 Abbott Is a Beto Blocker
Feb14 Tensions over Ukraine Are Running High
Feb14 Giuliani Is Negotiating with the Jan. 6 House Select Committee
Feb14 Trump Proactively Tried to Cover His Tracks on Jan. 6
Feb14 Democrats Are Beginning to Campaign on Supporting Democracy
Feb14 Voters Are Split on Who They Want in 2024
Feb14 Trump Is Now Battling People Who Used to Support Him
Feb14 Florida Is a Breeding Ground for Far-Right Groups
Feb14 Val Demings Pushes for More Police Funding
Feb13 Sunday Mailbag
Feb12 Saturday Q&A
Feb11 Papersgate Becomes Toilet Papersgate
Feb11 Ukraine Might Soon "Go Crazy" (or Not)
Feb11 Iran Nuclear Deal En Route to Being Resurrected
Feb11 All the Way with the ERA?
Feb11 Susan Collins May Have Some Trouble on Her Hands...
Feb11 ...While J.D. Vance May Have a Different Kind of Trouble on His
Feb11 This Week in Schadenfreude
Feb11 Someone's Gonna Get Killed
Feb10 What Is McConnell Up to?
Feb10 Democrats Are Divided Over Stephen Breyer's Replacement
Feb10 Select Committee Subpoenas Peter Navarro
Feb10 McCarthy Tries to Diversify the GOP
Feb10 What Could Biden Do If Putin Invades Ukraine?
Feb10 National Archives Wants the DoJ to Investigate Trump
Feb10 Could Cawthorn Be Disqualified?
Feb10 Republicans Block a Bill to Name a Post Office
Feb09 Fulton County DA: Presidential Immunity Won't Save Trump