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Are perjury traps real?

November 13, 2018

There is a technical notion of a perjury trap, in which a prosecutor calls a grand jury witness not suspected of other crime, with the expectation that they will commit perjury, in an abuse of process. Even that notion is questionable:

There are no federal cases granting a motion to dismiss because of a perjury trap.

The misusage now is the notion that a clever attorney can trick someone into making an intentional and material lie. Which is nonsense. Normal people have no trouble simply telling the truth, even under intense and adversarial questioning. Hillary Clinton was not worried about a perjury trap when she testified about Benghazi before Congress for eleven hours.

Those who worry about so-called perjury traps are those who cannot stop themselves from lying, those who have large crimes to conceal, and their supporters. The “trap” there is simply having to testify under oath while criminally and deceitfully inclined.


Hold your breath

November 12, 2018

Metabolism is central to any animal’s lifestyle and range of behavior. The Bajau, the sea nomads of southeast Asia, carry a genetic adaptation that gives them a larger spleen, enabling their breathtakingly long dives. There are at least three different adaptations in populations living at high altitudes, the Tibetans having larger lungs, the Andeans higher concentrations of hemoglobin, and Ethiopian highlanders having their own mutations related to blood (cite). That isn’t surprising, when we observe the wide range of metabolic paths of vertebrates.

The Bajau are unlikely to continue their traditional ways too much longer. And in the Amazon, tribes living from nature more directly face increased risk to their home and ways, given Bolsonaro’s alliance with the mining and logging companies in Brazil.

Around the world

November 8, 2018

Vietnam is experiencing a wave of economic growth. I wonder what they teach American school children today about the Vietnam War? “We lost, and the domino theory that justified it was proved wrong.”

Poland is struggling in its democratic endeavor. The populist party PiS unfortunately retains power. EU President Tusk, himself a former Polish prime minister, cautions that if Poland slips out the EU’s back door, there won’t be as many tears shed as over the UK’s exit.

It’s all too easy to imagine a variety of future paths for the EU.

Photo shows the Hereford mappa mundi.

I love NYC

November 7, 2018

So, too, does a wayward Mandarin duck.

Go! Vote!

November 6, 2018

Joshua Holland points out the very real uncertainty of what will happen today. As does Nate Silver. Polls and models are like point spreads before a football game: informative, but far from determinative.

Go. Vote.

The world is watching.

Go. Vote.

Especially if you are young: go, vote. Then text your friends and make sure they do the same. Never has the youth vote mattered so much.

Politics and families

November 5, 2018

Stephen Miller, the architect of Trump’s zero-tolerance immigration policies that intentionally separated children from their parents, is from a family of Jews who fled Russia and the anti-Semitism practiced there. His maternal uncle and his childhood rabbi have publicly excoriated his turn toward fascist politics.

Laura Ingraham’s brother opposes her racist views, and provides some insight into how deep-seated they are. That must make for some chilly pauses between Thanksgiving dinner and evening wine.

Politics sometimes creates tensions within families. There is a difference now. It’s easy to imagine family members having friendly disagreements over tax policy or military spending or healthcare, even though one supported Mitt Romney for president and the other Barack Obama. Trump defeated his conservative opponents in the primary by turning to more extreme rhetoric: damning immigrants, spouting conspiracy theories, cheering torture, treating women like dirt, encouraging violence, painting existential threat, and promising his followers that only he could defeat all those enemies. That style of politics goes much more to personal values than do policy differences.

There is related element. Trump’s firehose of lies and other strongman tactics have many seeing this as a struggle for the very nature of our democracy. When George Conway tweets about Trump’s lies, he tacitly is accusing his wife Kellyanne of being a charlatan who daily helps corrupt our government. Lies are corrosive to relationships, even when their purpose and subject are tangential to it. George Conway knows that his wife’s job is to defend the president’s lies. She knows he knows that. How does that not create at least some cracks in their personal relationship?

I suspect holiday celebrations will not so easily set aside political differences as they did in years past. Alas, the reasons for that are all too real and ugly.

Though I live in a red neighborhood of a red state, the Republicans I know are conservative in the former sense of that word, and therefore quite demure about Trump. They got the tax cut they wanted and the conservative Supreme Court they wanted, but try to distance themselves from his political movement. Trump offends their sense of decency. They say they don’t like Trump as a person and would have preferred some other Republican candidate. They act as if his hate mongering and conspiracy broadcasting were mere impolitenesses, like picking your nose at a party, rather than its signal feature. I will give a cheer for the Republicans acting on their sense of decency, who are rejecting Trump’s GOP because of that. Chesley Sullenberger III provides the current example. He won’t be the last. But just one cheer. The movement Trump rode to power was there before him. Why did it take Trump’s rise, for decent Republicans to see it?

“We did have two maniacs.” Two?

November 2, 2018

Consider another typically Trumpian complaint: “We did have two maniacs stop a momentum that was incredible, because for seven days nobody talked about the elections.”

There are a few reasons that complaint causes recoil. First, there were three acts of right-wing terrorism splashed on the front pages that week. Not two. We can only guess which act Trump overlooks. My guess is that he isn’t all that concerned when the victims are black.

Second, of course, is that those acts of terorism did not stop talk about the elections. They focused it. On what relation there was between Trump’s own campaign of conspiracy theories and hate, and the motivations for those acts. They didn’t deflate his campaign as a distraction. They deflated it as a reminder.

There aren’t three maniacs discussed in this post. There are four.