Trump's Indictment Illustrates How the Wackos Have Hijacked Politics
Also: The sensitivity readers come for sci-fi anarchist Ursula Le Guin, how foreign trade can make American supply chains more resilient, and more...
Did everyone connected to the Trump indictment take crazy pills?
It was always obvious that any attempt to bring former President Donald Trump to justice for any alleged crime would be a total media circus—just like most other aspects of Trump's career in politics. That finally happened on Tuesday: Trump was charged in Manhattan with 34 felonies for filing false business records. It's the first time in American history that a former president has been indicted, arraigned, and hauled before a judge to enter a "not guilty" plea.
So the media circus surrounding Tuesday's events made perfect sense. Few other things did.
Let's start with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who brought the charges against Trump. He thought this was the best use of his taxpayer-funded office's resources? For weeks, there had been leaks suggesting that whatever Bragg was cooking up would be a bit outside the norm of a typical prosecution, but the charges unsealed on Tuesday look even weaker than those reports suggested.
"At bottom, however, this case is about a single hush payment that was criminal only if it is construed as a campaign contribution," summed up Reason's Jacob Sullum. "That interpretation is, at best, debatable…If the attempt to keep Daniels quiet does not strike you as an offense worthy of 34 felony charges, you are unlikely to change your mind simply because the Trump Organization kept pieces of paper that mischaracterized the reimbursement for that payment."
Some longtime Trump critics, like former congressman Justin Amash, say Bragg is pushing a flimsy case against the former president.
After reading DA Bragg's indictment of Trump and accompanying statement of facts, I'm stunned any prosecutor would move forward with this. It's even flimsier than we were led to believe. Thirty-four stacked counts, bootstrapped to an unstated crime, to manufacture felony charges.
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) April 4, 2023
Former federal prosecutor Ken White (formerly well-known on Twitter under the moniker "Popehat"), another outspoken Trump critic, posted on Mastodon that he's "unimpressed with the indictment and the statement of facts." Bragg has even generated some skepticism from Vox senior correspondent Ian Millhiser, who never departs from the Democratic Party's talking points on legal issues. (Notably, the White House has been totally silent about this whole matter.)
Who knows how this will shake out in court, but now that the charges are unsealed, it seems pretty obvious that Bragg will have a difficult time scoring a conviction here. Of course, prosecutors are trained (and incentivized) to do this sort of thing all the time and rarely face any consequences for it. If conservatives took a half step back from the specifics of Trump's case, they might find a good reason to support reforms like limiting the power that prosecutors can wield.
Prosecutors can file false charges, lie under oath, conjure fake evidence, impanel false testimony, coerce witnesses—and there is nothing you can do to hold them to account. They are the top law enforcement officer, and they are often above the law. https://t.co/Wc8hFMujSu
— Billy Binion (@billybinion) April 5, 2023
Ah, but alas, the crazy pills. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R–Ga.) organized a protest near where Trump was arraigned on Tuesday and in one interview compared the former president's legal troubles to the persecution of Nelson Mandela and—yes, really—Jesus.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA): "Trump is joining some of the most incredible people in history being arrested today. Nelson Mandela was arrested, served time in prison. Jesus! Jesus was arrested and murdered." pic.twitter.com/dSOeHvRnDE
— The Recount (@therecount) April 4, 2023
Trying to keep up, Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D–N.Y.) showed up to shout about how Greene should go home. These are not serious people at the best of times, and they're outright fools when the stakes get higher.
Of course, it also bears mentioning that none of this would be happening if a former Republican president hadn't paid off a porn star to cover up the fact that he'd cheated on his third wife. If we're going to add up the crazy points, that might still be the wildest part of all this.
Tuesday also gave us this wonderful illustration of Twitter But In Real Life, as Trump supporters and critics shouted at each other from behind opposing sets of police barricades.
Trump supporters and anti-Trump protesters are separated by metal barriers and heckling each other pic.twitter.com/aHGzqlrL74
— Tess Owen (@misstessowen) April 4, 2023
There are nearly 150 major professional sports teams in the United States and hundreds more if you include stuff like Major League Soccer and minor league baseball teams. My advice to these people: Pick one to root for. It'll be a lot more satisfying, even if they never win anything.
In the middle of this maelstrom of insanity, there was a least one glimmer of hope. Several couples showed up at the same Manhattan courthouse where Trump was being processed to get married on Tuesday. "Media crews and people carrying 'Trump 2024' signs and 'Lock Him Up' signs were in City Hall Park. Regardless of the frenzy nearby, [Jerica Guerra] and [Natalie Bonilla] were on clouds, focused on celebrating each other," The New York Times reported.
They weren't the only ones.
Good morning from downtown Manhattan where this lovely couple is getting married right next door to the media scrum waiting for the Trump indictment. pic.twitter.com/vJxcxZDgKX
— Soo Youn (@lalasoo) April 4, 2023
And, yes, maybe it takes a big dose of a different kind of crazy pills to do that sort of thing too. But here are some people doing what mattered the most to them and simultaneously doing their best to ignore the political wackos—from Bragg and Trump on down—who could have ruined their day.
America, there might be a lesson there.
The sensitivity readers have come for Agatha Christie, Roald Dahl, and now science fiction and fantasy writer Ursula Le Guin, whose feminist, left-anarchist politics are occasionally libertarian-adjacent and generally not considered "problematic."
The New York Times reports that Le Guin's use of words as innocuous as "lame" and "dumb" has been deemed too caustic for modern readers' delicate eyes. Theo Downes-Le Guin, Ursula's son and literary executor, has agreed to remove those words from future editions of the author's Catwings series, which is aimed at children:
At first, he was torn about whether he should approve the edits, which consisted of a handful of words across several books. "Ursula was extremely careful with her words, so a substitute is never going to have exactly the same meaning," he said in an interview.
He ultimately decided that the revisions would benefit readers. In the new editions, which will be released this fall by Simon & Schuster's Atheneum Books, a handful of words, including "lame" and "dumb," have been replaced, and a note has been added to alert readers about the update.
That's…well, lame and dumb. (If you've never read it, check out Le Guin's brilliant novel The Left Hand of Darkness before they get to that one too.)
Contrary to the belief pushed by some nationalist politicians, foreign trade didn't make the United States more vulnerable to supply chain disruptions during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, it was exactly the opposite, according to a new paper published by the Brookings Institution:
We demonstrate that global trade was remarkably resilient during the pandemic and that supply shortages would likely have been more severe in the absence of international trade.
In short, unless a sector is highly dependent on a single import source (as is the case with the dependence of the energy sector in Europe on Russia), international trade seems to contribute to resilience, not compromise it. Hence, it is unlikely that trade restrictions will improve countries' resilience.
Trade restrictions won't work, but lots of countries (including America) are trying them anyway.
• The most expensive judicial election in American history ended Tuesday night with a victory for progressives as Janet Protasiewicz, a liberal Milwaukee County judge, was elected to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The result flips the ideological balance of the seven-member court in a crucial swing state.
• Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, announced plans for widespread occupational licensing reforms.
• So you want to build a clean energy project? Hope you've got the proper permits!
The federal permitting process for transmission projects is absurdly bureaucratic pic.twitter.com/TKtY5kyVGK
— Alec Stapp (@AlecStapp) April 4, 2023